kaleidoscope of tropes #4: the premonition sex

kaleidoscope of tropes.(1)

Hello, friends!

Welcome to another post in this series! This one will be slightly different, though, because I’ll actually be discussing a trope I don’t like, instead of one of my favorites.

WHAT IS A TROPE?

In storytelling, a trope is just that — a conceptual figure of speech, a storytelling shorthand for a concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly. Above all, a trope is a convention. It can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom… you know it when you see it. (source)

Our trope for today will be

THE PREMONITION SEX

That’s what I like to call whenever books or shows have the main characters have sex right before the biggest twist in the story. It has a “premonition” feel to it, because it’s almost like by having sex they were already predicting something bad was about to happen and break them appart, even if temporarily.

in books

I feel like most people don’t even notice that they’re doing this when they’re writing a story. But, it’s always bothered me, especially in YA.

This is a small list of books I remember having this trope:

  • Alex, Approximately, by Jenn Bennett
  • All The Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven
  • When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon
  • My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fitzpatrick
  • The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland, by Rebekah Crane
  • Queens of Geek, by Jen Wilde
  • Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

I am sure this is present in a lot of other books, but I don’t remember that many details about some titles.

IMG_3929And this is *why* I think this is such an annoying trope:

First, because it pitches “sex” as a life-changing event. I know everyone will have their own personal view on sex, intimacy and what it means to them. But, from a strict biological point of view, there’s nothing life-changing about sex. (And, no, I will not be talking about hymens and whatever, because that assumes a heteronormative kind of sex that does not apply to everyone).

However, when authors put their character’s first time right before the major plot twist, where actual life-changing circumstances will come to play (main character’s mom just announces she’s adopted! Love interest gets accepted in college in the other side of the country! Major fight breaks between them – will they find each other after such fall out?), it becomes impossible not to associate the two.

IMG_4049And they should *not* be associated. I remember reading All the Bright Places for the first time and feeling so bad, because I knew that the moment they had sex, something bad would happen in the story. And that’s not how sex should be perceived! I should not fear for my characters to finally do the deed, because I know the tone of the story will change dramactically, because this is not how it happens in real life. Your life doesn’t go from bubbly roses to emo soundtrack just because you had sex!

Another reason why I hate this trope is because it can add even more drama to the storyline. Let’s say that these characters have been together for a while, but have yet to do *it*. There’s typically a lot of anticipation – in most cases, because all the books I mention feature straight couples, the girl will be nervous and the guy will be fucking ready to do it from day one – and so when it happens, it really feels like a milestone for their relationship.

Just so they can break up the next day because of whatever tragic event the story brings to us.

IMG_4051You can almost always expect a regretful inner monologue from one of the characters saying that they wish they hadn’t done it. And, honestly, it’s understandable! If you trust that person enough to have sex with them, just to have that truth be broken, it hurts a lot. And that’s why I feel like the sex always have to come before the “fall out” in these books – because this trust has to be marked with this event, just so the characters can feel even worse when they do break up.

(Is this post even making sense? I hope so).

All of this to say that this is *not* necessary. You can show a really emotional trust bond between characters without them having sex – that is not the only way you can show to another person you’re comitted to them. And it also does not sit well with me that this is only used to add drama to a story.

in television

 

kheigledit | Tumblr

One of my favorite movies of all times is guilty of having said trope – 27 Dresses. The only reason why I feel like this one doesn’t bother me as much is because there is no implicit expectation in the sex. It’s not the “first time” for any of the characters, and it happens sort of out of the blue, without them having an established relationship beforehand.

I think this lack of expectation doesn’t make this sex feel like a huge premonition, even though it pretty much is. And in this case, sex is also used to show the trust between the characters, that is obviously broken the next morning due to a huge misunderstanding.

3x22 gg | Tumblr

The last episode of season 3 of Gossip Girl also features an amazing example of this trope. The way Gossip Girl deals with sex has always been problematic. Not only there’s way too much implication of these TEENAGERS having kinky sex at 17, but it is also pitched as this life-changing event that bonds these characters together forever. Like, no thanks.

Let me know in the comments if you’d ever noticed this trope in the past and if it bothers you as much as it bothers me, hahah. Do you remember any books or shows/movies where sex was used as a premonition for the big twist in the story?

18 comentários sobre “kaleidoscope of tropes #4: the premonition sex

  1. Aditi 20 de maio de 2020 / 19:17

    I haven’t read any of these or even seen this trope ahha but I feel like I know it? And everything you said in this post is so true!! Sex shouldn’t be given this association with a life-changing event.

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    • Lais @ The Bookish Skies 26 de maio de 2020 / 17:55

      Hahahah, I think it’s not as obvious in some works. It really perpetuates a bad idea, especially for teenagers.
      Thank you so much for stopping by, Aditi! 💞

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  2. Sophie @ Me and Ink 21 de maio de 2020 / 10:24

    I have never really considered this trope but it is a thing and I do think sex can be handled a lot better in YA especially as it is treated as a really big milestone and obviously it depends on different people but we don’t get much diversity within how sex is handled. And like you said I totally get the feeling that after a couple have had sex things are going to change, it is weird how we have that feeling because it is used so much !! I so agree that there a more ways to show an emotional connection between two characters, in fact there are thousands !! Also the girl being nervous and the guy being ready immediately is definitely a common thing I have experienced as well, it definitely builds up anticipation making it seem like a milestone and it isn’t one of my favourite tropes either.
    I love that you mentioned 27 dresses though but it definitely isn’t as frustrating for all the reasons you said. I hadn’t paid much attention to this trope before so this was a really interesting read and I loved hearing all your thoughts and definitely agree with them !!

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    • Lais @ The Bookish Skies 26 de maio de 2020 / 17:51

      That’s so true! I think we really need more diverse perspectives on how people view sex, especially in YA!
      Thank you so much! I think it’s a trope I had never totally noticed before, but when I started thinking more about it, I realized it was actually super common. It was really interesting!
      Thank you for reading! 😊

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  3. Emily 21 de maio de 2020 / 15:45

    This is a trope that I have never really thought about before, but I do think that it is super common! The main example I can think of is from the tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love that show, but the second season has the main character lose her virginity, and literally this causes the world to almost end. It’s kinda confusing if you haven’t seen the show, but the act of her having sex literally almost causes the end of the world. It’s ridiculous if you think about it!

    I definitely think that this trope needs to see its end. I think it teaches the idea that sex has to be the be all and end all of a relationship, as well as produces a lot of stupid drama.

    What a great and insightful post!

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    • Lais @ The Bookish Skies 26 de maio de 2020 / 17:46

      Oh my God, that’s so funny, hahahah. I mean, I’m sure it was pretty tragic in the show, but for those two things to be so forwardly associated like that, it’s kinda funny, hahah.
      Thank you so muchhh! And thanks for the comment! 😊

      Curtir

  4. Caitlin @ Caitlin Althea 24 de maio de 2020 / 03:06

    Yes, this!! I had never realized that premonition sex was a trope until you posted this, and I realized just how many books I’ve read where the characters have sex for the first time, and then some plot twist happens after. Like you said, it’s so harmful because sex doesn’t have to be this life-changing event. And I feel like it’s the author’s way of giving the characters a happy ending near the end of a book, so that they can throw in some last-minute conflict which gets resolved in the last few chapters.

    Also, I just dislike sex scenes in books in general :-((( maybe it’s just me being ace-questioning, but in my opinion, (YA) authors usually throw sex scenes in to show that the characters are *truly* in love, and it’s like, there are so many ways to show love that isn’t sex???

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    • Lais @ The Bookish Skies 26 de maio de 2020 / 17:24

      it took me a while to realize this trope too, and i think it really is more common than we notice.
      and i completely agree! i don’t think sex has to be the only way to show commitment or an emotional bond, and i think authors should explore more beyond that.
      thank you so much for reading, caitlin! 💛

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  5. Marta @ the book mermaid 30 de maio de 2020 / 10:02

    oh my, I actually had never thought about this and didn’t even realize this happened until you wrote it! I have read some of the books on your list and yea, now I can totally look back and think about it. And I totally agree with you! It offers a really harmful view of sex, that it shouldn’t be put into this way. I also agree with what Caitlin has said on a comment above – sex is not the only way to show commitment. I love this feature!! <3

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    • Lais @ The Bookish Skies 30 de maio de 2020 / 18:01

      Thank you so much, Marta!!!
      I think after putting into words, this trope became more “real” in my mind, if that makes sense, and I was able to identify it in a lot of books, hahahh.
      Thank you for stopping by! 😌

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  6. Young Artemis 3 de junho de 2020 / 08:16

    I haven’t really thought of it that way but I sure feel like something bad is gonna happen after characters have sex. And I agree that sex is not the only way to ensure trust.

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    • Lais @ The Bookish Skies 5 de junho de 2020 / 14:12

      I think we’ve internalized this trope now and I too expect that something bad will happen after the characters have sex, which is not how it should go at all!
      Thank you so much for stopping by! 💞

      Curtir

  7. Malka @ Paper Procrastinators 3 de junho de 2020 / 21:21

    I read a ton of romance and I’ve never noticed this trope before! But now that you mention it, I can recall seeing this happen in SO many books! And you’re right, it’s done to build trust and heighten drama, and I absolutely detest drama! I think after reading this post, I’ll start seeing this unfortunate trope everywhere I look because of how common it is!

    Great post!

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    • Lais @ The Bookish Skies 5 de junho de 2020 / 12:37

      Hahahh, that’s so interesting! I mostly remember seeing this trope in YA contemporaries, but I’m sure it’s present in a lot of romance books as well.
      Hahah, I think that’s accurate. I hope it hasn’t ruined any stories for you, though!
      Thanks for reading, Malka! 😌

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