As author Tiffany Reisz says, erotica is much closer to Horror than Romance. The fear, intensity, and titillation are key themes in Erotica, Horror, and Tragedies. While Firsts isn’t technically in these genres, it’s pulling from all of them in it’s use of the Fallen Woman archetype and resembles them far more closely that Romance. From The Scarlet Letter to Cruel Intentions (Les Liaisons dangereuses), the central focus of the Fallen Woman story is the fear of discovery that builds tension, the climatic exposure, shame/public humiliation, and sometime the redemption of forgiveness.
[Spoilers Abound: No Seriously there are a ton of spoilers in this review. Consider yourself warned.]
Angela, Mercedes best friend, doesn’t make it out much better than Mercedes mom. From the moment she is introduced it’s well established that much of the rifted between them (of which Angela is not aware of at all) exist because of her religious beliefs and Mercedes sexual activity. What is also very plain is that Mercedes resents her friend a lot. She uses a notebook Angela gave her to track her exploits with the boys, and repeatedly mentions how scandalizes Angela would be by everything she does. While I theorize these resentment lies in Mercedes’ envy that her friend still has her innocence and virginity intact, that is never explored.
Time and again boys are prioritize before girls. Mercedes thinks far more about the boys she’s teaching than the feelings of their girlfriends or even herself. This is demonstrated so painfully when she has sex she actually enjoys it and immediately is concerned about it. Since she has effectively made sex her job, Hell her mission even. Her own pleasure isn’t even considered. Which bothers me so much. There is a notable very little pleasurable/enjoyable sex in the entire book. Another huge red flag. Sex is work. Sex is a lesson. Sex is distraction. Sex isn’t fun. That’s not sex positive, at all.
As for the love interest, Zach, he’s the worst kind of “nice guy” cliche. I lost any respect I had for him the minute he tired to put his dick in Mercedes without wearing a condom. Even though he knew she as a rule about only practicing safe sex. One strike he is out. The other boys and the remaining cast are forgettable faceless cardboard cut-outs. Even the villain is a boring cliche and I saw him coming a mile away. Don’t even get me started on the Spanish exchange student who coerces Mercedes into consenting to sex, which is in fact rape, who was a really gross racist cliche from his ridiculous broken English dialogue to his “chocolate brown eyes.” Because of course the only character of color in the story is a rapist. *heavy sigh*