Mo (mofic) wrote,
Mo
mofic

Jumping into Harry Potter Meta

Oh, I suppose I should precede this with “I have a bad feeling about this.” I'm a little frightened since it seems that so much in HP meta gets so heated. On the other hand, a lot of the topics seem very interesting. I'm not in HP fandom. I'm a fan in the sense that I love the books but I don't belong to any of the HP communities and I have read very little of the fanfic, so I mostly don't know what I'm talking about, not that that has ever stopped me before.

I started by writing a comment on an entry in another journal, only it got too long for that. I won’t mention where I was trying to comment because it was f-locked, but it probably doesn’t matter. The topic was one that I’ve been reading a lot about lately in a few places: the controversy over “Is Ginny a slut?” It must be a pretty actively discussed question, since without being in any HP communities or reading any HP fanfic I keep hearing about it. I was surprised by it the first time I heard it, and now I’m mostly dismayed.

My claim to brilliance (well, my kids think it was brilliant) was that when Ginny Weasley showed up for about two seconds in the first book I said she would end up with Harry. I really saw no other reason for Ron to have a sister. The way I see it, the core of the tension in the Harry/Ron friendship is that Harry wants Ron’s family and Ron wants Harry’s fame. So in the final book that tension is resolved when Ron distinguishes himself in a big way and Harry and Ginny get married, or at least engaged. My brilliance was revealed to my kids {g} in HBP when the Harry/Ginny romance becomes canon. I have some quibbles with how Ginny was portrayed (basically it seems out of character to me, based on what we know of her before, that she doesn’t respond to Harry’s noble “I can’t be with you because my enemies would take advantage of my love for you” with “Screw that! We’ll fight them together") but that's kind of neither here nor there. I think in general Ginny is depicted as someone worthy of the hero of the series – resourceful, plucky, able to endure all manner of problem with her basic goodness intact and a mostly positive outlook on life.

So, I think it strange that anyone would think that JKR is writing her to be a “slut.” Let me further say that I think calling a teenage girl a “slut” or “whore” or “the school bicycle” because she has three boyfriends in as many years is pretty disgusting and reflects badly on the person who says it, not the person it’s said about, whether the object of that slur is real or fictional. I think that view shows both a misogynistic and a sex-negative bias. I think others, carlanime in particular, have spoken well on this theme and I won’t add to it, because I don’t think I have anything interesting to add.

One side issue that interests me, though, is the question of whether the kids at Hogwarts do have sex. A lot of the “Ginny is/isn’t a slut” question seems to devolve into whether or not she really had sex with those three boys, rather than just “snogging” them. It’s still misogynistic and indicative of a double standard to label her a slut if she did, don’t get me wrong. But I’m also intrigued by the question itself: Did Ginny have sex with her boyfriends? More generally, do the students at Hogwarts have sex?

I mean, on the surface, it’s a simple question to answer: they don’t in the books and movies; they do in the fanfic. But part of what fanfic does is fill in the stuff that we don’t see. Part of what I deem quality in fanfic is that it can feel more real than canon by that filling in process. So, aside from what isn’t shown in the books, should we assume that kids at Hogwarts don’t have sex?

I found the following comment to the post I was originally commenting on:

it would be a strange co-ed boarding school where no one was having sex

I think it's fair to say that Hogwarts is a strange co-ed boarding school. {g} But if we take that strange school and try to make it as much like a real school as we can, what do we get?

It seems to me that a really salient point is that these are books written for children. Sex is edited out of it before it's written, in effect. The reader can assume that some of the characters are having sex (the married ones, perhaps, for starters) but sexual behavior is neither depicted in the narrative nor discussed. The closest JKR ever gets to mentioning sexual activity that I know of is in HBP when Dumbledore says that the townspeople thought that Merope had tricked Tom Riddle into marrying her by getting pregnant (but it's clear that they are wrong and she did not conceive until after they are married). Bill and Fleur - who are engaged, for Something’s sake – sleep in separate rooms; boys aren't allowed in girls' dorm rooms at Hogwarts; wild and abandoned behavior by romantic couples during the last war was throwing caution to the wind by getting married.

None of this is how real people behave. I would certainly assume (pretending for the moment that they are real people) that at least some of them are having sex some of the time. We don’t take the fact that Arthur’s and Molly’s sex life is not referred to at all as evidence that they aren’t sexually active, and we shouldn’t for anyone else. Most people do have sex at some point in their lives. Many begin doing so during their teen years. It’s unlikely that all of that “snogging” described in HBP would be totally unaccompanied by sexual activity beyond kissing, if they were real people. So, one could view the kissing as representing more advanced sexual activity which JKR chose (for obvious reasons) not to describe.

I do think that one should assume that some and not all of the kids who are dating are having sex. How many? Who knows? It’s all imposed on the text anyway, since the text is purposely written to be unrealistic in that respect, following the convention that sex is not discussed in children’s books (although mass murder and torture to the point of insanity are not adult topics unsuitable for innocent children).

My general assumption in the real world is that most people have sex, and that people who are in couples are having sex with each other. I don’t think about it much. I don’t sit around saying “Soandso’s married. I bet she and her husband have sex.” I think it would be absurd to do so. I think it is absurd when people apply that IT’S ALL SEX view to gay people, as heterosexuals often do in our society. But I do think most people in couples have sex, and I think 15/16 is a very frequent age for first sexual experiences, so I would think it a reasonable assumption that Ginny does indeed have sex with at least one of those boyfriends, and wouldn’t think it unusual if she had with all three.

How that sexual behavior in a teenage girl would be judged depends on how sexuality and sexual behavior are viewed by the person making the judgment. It seems to me that whether Ginny was only snogging or whether she was having some form of genital sex with one or more of those boys, she’s well within expected range of behavior for a person of her age. I also think that any and all of those behaviors – from kissing to various sexual activities, from one boyfriend to three – are morally neutral ones. On the other hand, I’m no longer surprised that some readers view her negatively for her presumed sexual adventurism. After all, in canon her own brothers feel similarly, and the canon itself presents such a negative view of sex that it’s not mentioned at all. So, it can certainly be a comfortable fantasy world for those who have a negative view of female sexuality. It makes sense that those with that kind of Weltanschauung would judge her negatively for presumed sexual activity. And that’s kind of where I came in on this one.

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