CULTURE & ARTS

The Fictional Book Characters Who Sparked Our Sexual Awakenings

Oh hey, Laurie Laurence.

Young love: there’s nothing quite like it!

One day, you’re picking up Little Women for the first time, expecting a warm story about sisterhood; the next, you’re cursing the gods ("or whatever") for making Theodore "Laurie" Laurence a fictional character rather than a flesh-and-blood person for you to love and kiss IRL.

But the course of true love is rocky (read: not smooth), and what kind of person would you be if you let this little caveat stand between you and your star-crossed lover? You’ve been reading books for a few years now, so you know a thing or two about romance: never mind practical restraints! Go all in! WWJD? (What Would Juliet Do?) 

Jokes aside: crushes on fictional characters can be visceral. Which makes sense, when you consider that the objective of reading is to wander around in another person’s head. Is that not also a virtue of love? Getting to know a fictional character is a viable and fun means of exploring romance and sexuality -- as evidenced by the hordes of fan fiction that exist around popular books.

For preteen and teen readers -- especially those who identify as queer or otherwise don’t see themselves in popular representations of love -- reading is an avenue for sexual exploration. Imagining interactions with a made-up character is just one way to question, consider, and express oneself.

At HuffPost, we have a few fave fictional crushes. Gilbert Blythe’s kindness, Marcus Flutie’s red locks and Jacob Black’s sensitivity caught our attention. Here's a brief overview of the fictional characters who sparked our sexual awakenings:

Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables

I had it very, very, VERY bad for Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. Here was a sweet, caring man who valued intelligence over looks and encouraged you to have independent career pursuits. Plus, he was always there to lend a hand if your canoe sprung a leak during a poetry recital or when you happened to plummet from a rooftop. -- Curtis Wong, Senior Editor, Queer Voices

When it comes to my sexual awakening in fiction, specific characters figure very little. A prose adaptation of The Odyssey for young adults (hot goddesses were always making Odysseus act as their sex slave); a copy of Catherine Coulter's The Cove, a suspense novel with strong erotic elements, that was found on my parents' shelf -- odd books like that did the important work. But Gilbert Blythe, the love interest of red-headed Anne of Green Gables, was my romantic awakening. He and Anne have a bit of a competitive spark between them, but for the most part it's friendly, not a dramatic cycle of fights and reconciliations and secret resentment. They push each other, admire each other, and share a sly sense of humor. They're friends first, love interests second, and ever since I read the Green Gables books, that relationship was what I desperately aspired to have: a collaborative, complementary, mutual appreciation society with my best pal. Plus, he sounded totally dreamy. -- Claire Fallon, Books and Culture Writer

Sandy and Dennys Murry from A Wrinkle in Time

Not to objectify the objects of my grade school affection, but Sandy and Dennys Murry are pretty much interchangeable. In fifth grade, when I considered A Wrinkle in Time the greatest book to have ever been written (today I still rank it among the best), I would’ve gladly hung out after school with either of them. A Wrinkle in Time, and the rest of the series, is in many ways a book about misfits, which is why my tomboyish self couldn’t stop re-reading it. And as a young misfit, there was nothing more appealing to me than normalcy. While Meg is bullied and Charles Wallace can’t seem to connect with others, Sandy and Dennys are the aloof, composed boys next door. They’re practical, grounded, smart, and remarkably blond. They grow up to be a doctor and a lawyer, respectively. I’ve since outgrown my interest in the all-American type -- Ben Higgins would not have been “The Bachelor” for me, and Captain America is the least-sexy Avenger in my book -- but at 10? Gosh. -- Maddie Crum, Books and Culture Writer

Dirk from Weetzie Bat

Dirk represented the kind of boy I desperately wanted but sadly didn’t exist at my high school -- beautiful, mohawked, sensitive and oh-so-unattainable. He comes out as gay to his best friend Weetzie Bat pretty early on in the story, so she never ends up pining for him. But I’m sure I would have been a hopeless case for a while, fantasizing about him taking me to a Jayne Mansfield film festival in his red '55 Pontiac and maybe, just maybe, getting to caress his black leather. -- Tricia Tongo, Arts and Culture Social Media Editor

Marcus Flutie from Sloppy Firsts

Marcus Flutie in Sloppy Firsts and all of Megan McCafferty's sequels -- he was a brooding bad boy with a heart who wore Backstreet Boys T-shirts ironically. He got a little weird in the later books, but I still spent much of my teenage years waiting for a mysterious rebel like him to sidle up to me in study hall. It probably ruined me to be predisposed to dudes who ghost on you for a little bit only to charm you all over again, but whatever. -- Jill Capewell, Entertainment News Editor

Artemis from Artemis Fowl

When I was in middle school, I started reading the young adult fantasy series Artemis Fowl and I just remember thinking in my mind that this guy (he was a 12-year-old in the book) was my absolute dream guy. If I could describe him now, it was like he was a kid version of Don Draper and Christian Grey minus the sex and alcohol stuff. Why Artemis was so sexy in my pubescent head (can I say that?) is mostly because he's a prodigy who also is really invested in finances and all this stuff, and I remember just being so sad that all the guys in my class were more interested in farts and baseball. I wanted all the guys in my class to dress in suits like Artemis and be well-read and zip around in helicopters. -- Melissa Radzimski, Entertainment Social Media Editor

Sonny from Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown

My childhood was largely defined by exposure to things that were completely inappropriate for my age level, i.e. accidentally watching “Eyes Wide Shut” on VHS in fifth grade and wondering why everyone was moaning all the time. Another example? Claude Brown's fictionalized account of his experiences growing up in Harlem in the 1940s and '50s. When I picked Manchild in the Promised Land off the shelf in middle school, I certainly wasn't prepared to read the harrowing account of Sonny, a kid not far from my own age at the time, who struggled to survive in a world rigged against him. Even though our circumstances couldn’t have been more different, my younger self identified with Sonny, as he did his best to escape a world of warring gangs, abusive fathers and the streets of Harlem. And then that bond developed into an attraction. It’s been a while since I’ve reread the novel, but I can still remember Sonny’s first sexual encounter, described by Brown. It was my first exposure to sex, especially presented in such a graphic manner. Needless to say, it stuck with me. -- Cole Delbyck, Entertainment Writer

James Potter from Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

One throbbing childhood fictional crush of mine was James Potter, father of Harry -- but as a teenager, in the brief but smoking hot flashback in The Order of the Phoenix. In one of Snape's flashbacks from the Pensieve, we see James as a fifth-year Hogwarts student, a skinny, arrogant Gryffindor with purposefully messed-up greasy hair, thick glasses and a bad attitude. I loved how he was clearly this talented wizard student but also a cocky smartass who was a stud on the Quidditch field. Yum. Except for the way he bullied Snape, my second runner-up crush. Not cool, James. -- Priscilla Frank, Arts and Culture Writer

Jacob from the Twilight Series

If I'm going to be honest -- really honest -- I loved Jacob Black from "Twilight." Not Taylor Lautner's Jacob, but the literary Jacob, who was always there for Bella, even when Edward Cullen wasn't. When everyone was "ooohing" and "ahhhing" over the hot, but chilly, vampire, I was transfixed by Jacob's sensitivity, background, and, well, good looks. I mean, I was a teenager when I started to read the series. (Sidenote: While studying abroad in 2008, I went to the "Twilight" premiere in London, where I wore a "Team Jacob" shirt and waited for 10 hours in the freezing cold to meet the cast. #NothingBetter.) -- Leigh Blickley, Senior Entertainment News Editor

Theodore "Laurie" Laurence from Little Women

I was definitely in love with Laurie Laurence. He was just the right amount of sweet and dorky, and I read Little Women for the first time when I was 12 and going through my "curly brown-haired dude" phase. I now realize, however, that he was a total fuckboy. I also had/have a big crush on Jonathan Strange from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. My favorite line/description: "In person he was rather tall and his figure was considered good. Some people thought him handsome, but this was by no means the universal opinion. His face had two faults: a long nose and an ironic expression. It is also true that his hair had a reddish tinge and, as everybody knows, no one with red hair can ever truly be said to be handsome." -- Zeba Blay, Voices Culture Writer

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