Put down your tea before you go any further! I don’t want anyone spitting out their drink in surprise. This post is also intended for readers over the age of 18.
The other day I saw a debate about Mr. Darcy’s sexual past. Oh, it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen the arguments. It’s always jarring to me because I read Pride and Prejudice nearly exclusively for ten years before trying Jane Austen Fan Fiction. I never once wondered about Darcy’s sex life. I read P&P for the first time at 17, just before I began dating the man who became my husband. The only real boyfriend I’ve ever had. My only real kiss. And I was the same for him. I’m sure you can guess that we were virgins too. However, I don’t think it was that which made me just never wonder about a fictional character’s past. I knew a large variety of people and was certainly aware that virginity until marriage in the 21st century is a rare thing. Throughout this decade-long embargo on any other books, I was a married adult and anything but celibate. I say all this to explain that I’m not a prude and don’t expect people to have no desires.
In the first JAFF I ever read, dealing with the wedding night scenario was the very first scene. I was surprised to read Darcy as a virgin. I was surprised it needed to be such an issue but I was not displeased. He had lots of good reasons and even admitted that it was never a very conscious decision. He didn’t take some religious vow of celibacy–which wannabe historians will tell you is a post-Victorian belief.
When I began writing JAFF, I chose to make every Darcy I’ve written be a virgin. It doesn’t always come up, but it does many times. The reasons are not always the same, but they are always rooted in logic, I think. I thought about weighing in on the debate, but then I decided that the pen is always mightier than the sword. Why argue when I can write? So here it is. The wedding night that would have happened if Darcy had been like all the other men for the era and used all the arguments that I have seen over the years for what is in effect reverse slut-shaming; you’re not a sexy man if you haven’t had dozens of partners.
Elizabeth turned from her seat at the vanity when she heard her husband’s gentle knock. Husband! The word was still so new to her. Everything in the grand London house was unfamiliar to her but the person on the other side of the door. She bade him enter, her heart in her throat.
“Elizabeth,” Darcy said as he took in her layers of frothy white. “You look beautiful. I could never have imagined anything more perfect.”
He came to her and kissed her deeply. Elizabeth melted into his arms, willing and even a bit eager for what would happen next. Unexpectedly, Darcy pulled back.
“I must confess something to you.” He avoided her eyes as he flushed. “I have never been with a woman.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth said. “I have not been with a man. Surely we can figure it out. Many unintelligent people find proficiency in the bedroom if their numerous children are any testament.”
“I fear that you will be disappointed,” Darcy frowned. “You see, men are often educated with women so they know how to please their wives.”
Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “Who are these women they are with? I can think of no lady whether she loves her husband or not who would take comfort in knowing he bedded a dozen before her.”
“It is far more than a dozen,” Darcy sighed. “Men of my status can find willing partners each and every night of their lives. Sometimes more than one a night—or more than one at a time.”
Elizabeth’s cheeks flamed scarlet at the thought. “How do they find women so willing to do this? Any lady I have known understands the value of her virtue. I do not doubt the women exist, only that they could be so easily found. You speak as though they are available en masse.”
“They are,” Darcy shrugged. “Women live and work in a house with others with one man or woman presiding over them.”
“Making love requires exertion.”
“So they are paid for taking men to bed?”
“Did you not know of such things?”
“I did, of course,” Elizabeth acknowledged. “However, I did not know it was available without condemnation for men to freely partake of. You sound as though you are the only man in the world who has not done this.”
“I might be,” Darcy said. “All others and I do mean all—your father and uncles, your rector, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Bingley, even that toadying cousin of yours—would have visited a brothel. We cannot control ourselves. We have desires, and we cannot stop them. The women are available, and if we have any coin at all, then we will go there.”
Elizabeth sat in her chair again as a queasy feeling invaded her stomach. “Why have you not?”
“Because I hate people so much,” Darcy acknowledged. “Could you imagine a stranger asking me questions let alone touching me?” He shuddered.
Tears welled in Elizabeth’s eyes. “I had thought maybe for other reasons.”
“Did you think that I objected to the double standard between men and women?” He laughed. “My naïve little heart. Think of your sister. She was ruined but did anyone call Wickham names?”
They did, actually, Elizabeth mentally corrected. Lydia had been thoughtless and stupid, but Wickham was branded as one of the worst men to walk the Earth. Perhaps it was so only in Meryton? But then Fitzwilliam seemed so sure that every other man would have had numerous lovers.
“Perhaps you thought I objected to the risk of disease.”
“Aye. There are terrible diseases amongst the sex workers. It spreads like wildfire, and there’s no cure for it. Husbands catch it in their youth then give it to their wives. Babes are born with it. The treatment can be worse than the ailment.”
“But you would not have risked that,” Elizabeth charged. “Who would be master of Pemberley if you were sick or mad or worst yet, died?”
“I’m afraid I was never so reasonable, my love. My elder cousin the Viscount surely is infected but it is no concern since Colonel Fitzwilliam may inherit should James perish first.”
“Colonel Fitzwilliam has been in the Regulars for over a decade! We are at war. There is no security that he may live. The Viscount has been very risky with his life.”
“It is only an earldom at stake. It can go to a distant cousin or descend into abeyance. I am not really sure.”
Elizabeth’s head began to pound. “But you will not risk this after we are married.” She licked her lips. “I mean, you said you did not want a stranger touching you, but perhaps you will learn what you have been missing and want it more often—you did make it sound as though one woman would be impossible to serve a man’s desires entirely and you said men are helpless to withstand the temptation. Please, Fitzwilliam! I do not wish to become ill, and you would not risk our future children!”
Darcy came and took Elizabeth’s hands in his. He pressed a kiss to each one before answering. “I cannot promise you any such thing, but you need not worry. After all, it is the same position every other wife finds herself in. You, too, might find comfort in the arms of a lover.”
She shrank back as though he struck her. “You doubt my fidelity and love for you?”
“Not at all,” Darcy stroked her cheek. “The pleasure of the bedroom has nothing to do with the heart. I know you love me as I love you but why should we limit our partners? I mean no disrespect by it. I am sure you understand.”
She did not understand it! Just saying it was the done thing did not suddenly make it appropriate in her mind! “Fitzwilliam, I am not that sort of woman. Surely you knew this before we married. I cannot be bidden to do things just because Society expects them to be so.”
“Then keep your standards and be unhappy,” he shrugged. “Your conscience does not trouble me. I am secure knowing I love you and can do what I want with my body. Your possessiveness only thrills me more.”
He would take pleasure in knowing that thoughts of him with another woman tormented her? The new weight of the wedding band on her finger now felt like a shackle. “Seek me first. I promise I will not refuse you.”
“There are times when I must be away. I cannot sit at the house all day with you. There are tenants to visit at the estate, my clubs in Town. We will be invited to house parties, and you may not always wish to go, such as when you are expecting or after the children are born.”
Elizabeth grew dizzy as Darcy spoke. He would take the wives of their friends? Or maybe the maids? The tenants? “Surely I am worrying for naught. You have not partaken of the flesh before. Why should I feel concern that you will do these things?”
“Because I am a man, Elizabeth,” Darcy said. “I am a man, and you are a woman, and this is the way things are. Now, enough talking.”
He scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed. She shivered in fear. Her maidenly instinct was to fear this moment. She had little to no preparation for the act itself. Now, she feared it for even more reasons. She supposed he had intended to be kind by telling her. Would she rather have heard it all now than find out later and be embarrassed and ashamed? She really could not say.
Above her, Darcy kissed her lips before sloppily going down her neck. His fingers trailed over her garments and plucked at odd places. Finally, he drew the closure to her robe open and let out a frustrated grunt when he discovered another layer. He began to lift her shift from the top only for it to remain pinned beneath her buttocks.
Elizabeth did not know what to do. Somehow, he must get his instrument into her body. How could that be when they were both fully clothed, and she laid stiff as a rod?
Next, Darcy pulled at her garments from her shoulders, attempting to slip them down. They also did not budge. He did not vocalize a desire that she should move and although she had dressed and undressed her whole life, it did not occur to her either. Finally, Darcy tore the thin fabric, splitting it down the middle. His fingers scratched at her body as he did so, ruining what would otherwise be a thrilling moment.
There was more pain to come, she told herself. That her chest now bled was of no concern. A part of her, however, had wished perhaps he had that training he spoke of. Darcy’s eyes flamed when he saw her body open to his inspection. His hands soon followed. He slipped them in various places—some of them drawing a pleasurable sigh from Elizabeth’s lips but he never lingered where her sensation was the strongest. He did not notice what touches she liked, and she never thought to tell him.
Likewise, the pressure of his touch varied. Sometimes it was too hard, almost bruising, and other times far too soft. As he circled her breasts, he seemed uninterested in the way her nipples hardened, and she was nearly lifting off the bed as that sensitive part of her body sought more of his hand.
His fingers trailed slower, tickling her thighs. A frisson of pleasure danced over her as he came near her sex but he was far more interested in her ankles. Soon, he nudged at her legs, and she let them fall open wide. He was still clothed. He undid a few buttons, and a gigantic member fell out. Elizabeth gulped.
Darcy tried to thrust into her core but could not enter. He persisted, however, and soon, he made his way in. Elizabeth felt ripped on the inside. She cried out in pain.
He grinned at her. “It feels amazing, does it not? I am happy to bring you pleasure too.”
He thought she liked this? She had known he had misunderstood her early in their acquaintance and that he did not have the social skills others did. However, nothing in their courtship could have prepared her for this. He was eloquent enough in his kisses and had always raised a feeling of yearning in her. She had looked forward to their wedding night and years of marriage. However, once he came into her room, it was as though she ceased existing as a person.
He continued to thrust into her, heedless of the tears streaming down her cheek. The pain had not abated. Each movement felt like rough sand irritating her skin. Finally, she felt some moisture but knew from the further stinging it would only be blood from her wounded parts. How did women do this for just anyone? Or was he inept because he had not been trained?
Darcy moved with rapidity and Elizabeth prayed the ordeal would soon be over. Suddenly, he withdrew from her and stroked himself with his hand. He let out a grunt as white fluid exploded from his member and Elizabeth found herself bathed in it.
Darcy looked down perplexed. “Next time, I will have to remember to stay inside you if we want to get you with child ever.”
Elizabeth nodded, confused more than ever by the entire experience. Darcy flopped on the bed and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I love you, Elizabeth.” He promptly fell asleep and began to snore.
For the remainder of their honeymoon, their encounters were the same. He approached her various times of day, and she did not refuse, as she had promised, even as she began to ache in earnest at all times. It took six or seven times for Darcy to remember to find completion in her body.
At last, their week at the seaside resort was over, and they journeyed to London. By the close of their first week as newlyweds, Elizabeth began to understand what Darcy had said. He was insatiable, but she was not the woman to teach him the bedroom arts. She could hardly tell where she wanted him to touch or what would feel good. It was as though her body was an alien thing to her. Fortunately, outside of their chamber, they were as devoted and happy as ever. Elizabeth was assured that if Darcy did seek further relief or education their marriage would not suffer. He was entirely correct, the bedroom had nothing to do with the heart.
A few weeks after they arrived in London, Elizabeth overheard two women at a soiree. One lady was in tears because her husband had come with his mistress. The other told her not to resent it and that she enjoyed what her husband had learned from the woman and a place called Sally’s.
That evening, before Darcy took her to their bed, Elizabeth brought up the subject. “Do you think I need teaching as a wife? In bed, I mean?”
“Surely you are adequate for now. It is I that should learn more. I feel like the boy at school who has finally learned to read and is insatiable for books.”
“Then your first complaint is now over? The thought of a stranger touching you no longer repulses you?”
Darcy puffed his chest out. “I could bear it for the pleasure that follows. I have always had many offers. I think I will take the next one that comes.”
“Why wait?” Elizabeth said. “I have heard of a place—Sally’s. You could go tonight?”
Darcy nodded. “After I finish here,” he said before thrusting into her.
A few minutes later, Darcy was asleep at her side. He roused after an hour or so of sleeping, his arousal digging into her. “I will go now,” he said. “I love you.”
Elizabeth smiled for she knew he did. What he went to learn was only out of love for her. She did not see him again for a week, but when he did return to her, it was the most glorious experience of her life. Suddenly, he knew where to touch and hold. He kissed her all over and thrilled her to the core. When they had finished, she lay panting and sweaty, eager for a renewal whenever Darcy recovered his strength.
Of course, he still had much to learn. He was a devoted student. Inexplicably, what he learned from one woman always worked on her. It was as if there was no difference whatsoever in the fact that she was a unique person. She also never wondered about his other partners, never felt inadequate, never compared herself to them or wondered if her husband found greater pleasure with them. She was always content to merely exist simply as his devoted wife and occasional play-thing. Elizabeth also never worried about any Darcy bastard children running around, it was not as though anyone needed to worry about people beneath them. They were practically mud on their boots and just as forgettable.
So it went for many years, and Elizabeth knew it was the key to their happiness in the bedroom. In time, she took a lover or two. The Colonel had always been dashing, after all. She did not even cry when the doctor told her Darcy and she both were infected, and it would hurt their children. She had safely born him an heir and a spare. She was uncertain who truly fathered the other three, but it was of no matter. She had been a good wife, discreet in her affairs. Of course, she had no choice but to have fewer partners than her husband since it was difficult to arrange no one seeing her comings and goings and servants were prone to gossip.
Many years later, on her eldest son’s birthday, Elizabeth smiled as she waved off her husband and son. They were going to Sally’s and maybe a few other places to give the Darcy heir a true education. Elizabeth knew her future daughters-in-law would thank her. Indeed, they would only entertain offers for their daughters from experienced gentlemen. When her daughters asked how she could allow her sons to go to a place which treated women so poorly, she told them of her wedding night and how without education a man just could not figure out how things worked. In this way, women—some women, at least—were the superior so really it was not abusive toward women. Indeed, allowing for so many partners was freeing. The daughters wisely nodded in agreement, even Chloe, the one who was born blind due to syphilis complications.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you enjoyed my tongue-in-cheek explanation of why I write virgin Darcys. The most basic point comes down to consideration for others and for himself. Also, there is quite the line between being an innocent and being stupid.