Now, to bring this to a serious matter, I was also the only one in my high school with personal knowledge of the consequences of sex, HIV/AIDS. My uncle was diagnosed positive when I was 8, before people had a real grasp on what it was. Being the brainy child I was (okay, geek works, too), I researched the disease with every legitimate source I could get my hands on (still do, from time to time). When my first friend came up to me and said she'd had sex with her boyfriend, I dragged her in the bathroom and screamed at her for not using a condom, let alone no birth control. I am amazed still in the wave of this epidemic (and yes, it is an epidemic, 1 in 5 people in South Africa are infected, 22.5 million people world wide are infected), sex has seemingly become even more casual. And what scares me even more is the role models for today's teenagers, Britney Spears' pregnant obviously didn't use condoms sister and the numerous other, oops, I'm pregnant celebrities out there today. Not that I have anything against getting pregnant, if that's what you want, but when sex appears that casual, I think it causes serious problems. Personally, I like the romance novelists leaving heroines virgins, not only for us geeks who need the reassurance that we're not freaks of nature, but also to show that sex is not casual and should not be had simply as a means of fitting in.
The double standard? Absolutely! I think there is a feeling that there must be something wrong with a man who has never had sex. I have read a few books with virgin heroes and, while some I found ridiculous, I think they can be written and written well. How would they go over? Well, I admit I thought, "That's just ridiculous!" with a few of them. With historical romances in particular, before the knowledge of STDs I believe sex was much more causal at times, although I also think it has gone in cycles, especially in Christianized European countries. What I don't think is well understood at least generally is that marriage wasn't always the norm; in many countries in Europe it was costly to get married officially in the church and many poorer people lived together in common law marriages, which also made it easier to practice serial monogamy. No divorce, just move out. I know that is the case in colonial Brazil where I work; many couples did not marry till on their deathbed and then only after a law was passed that made only "legitimate" children eligible for inheritance. And there has also been the problem of marriage not being a love match for the elite until recent history; marriage was about wealth and power, plain and simple, love was something you found elsewhere, more easily if you were an elite male than female. This is my long, rambling way of saying what we may be seeing is not necessarily new; people have lived together for long periods of time as couples and separated rather easily throughout history. And men being "experienced" may be more accurate, although I would say that experienced women existed in the past at a higher level then discussed in romance novels as well, they just weren't elite women.
Okay, coffee kicking in, must do work, sorry for ramble. No idea if that actually answers any questions asked.