I’m having a really interesting discussion with several authors at Romance Divas about condom use in contemporary erotic romance.
My personal belief as an author and also as a reader is that it’s something that should be included in contemporaries, if not, an explanation of why not should be there.
Now you don’t have to put in a big thing every sex scene, just something that lets the reader know even once at the beginning of the book, that condoms are being used is enough. In Giving Chase there’s a point when Kyle and Maggie have been together for many months and they’re living together and both have been tested for STDs that they stop using condoms and I mention that.
I know it’s fiction but with contemporararies there are real life rules that IMO, shouldn’t be ignored. I can’t have my heroine swallow poison and not get sick or eat a nail either. For me, AIDS and STDs are a big enough tragedy in real life I’d feel irresponsible not to have condoms in my books.
Some folks feel like it takes away from the fantasy to use condoms and that writing in condoms is giving in to some kind of pressure to be responsible for readers’ choices.
In paranormals, I’m freed of this, I can explain away STDs and pregnancy, which is why they’re so much fun, but contemporaries are grounded in a certain level of reality that I find inescapable. I think this is especially the case with my erotics.
what do you all think?
July 18th, 2006 at 11:24 am · Link
I’m with you, Lauren. The fact is, as a reader, if I’m with a couple and condoms are not at least referred to, I get thrown out of the story. Because I’ll be wondering if the hero and heroine are stupid or irresponsible or whatever.
I don’t need long descriptive paragraphs, even one sentence that lets me know they’re taking care of each other will be fine. Or that they got carried awayâ€”though that has to be handled with a fine hand.
July 18th, 2006 at 11:36 am · Link
I’m going to copy and paste my reply on RD here, as well. Sorry it’s so lengthy, but this is one of those topics I can get into 😉
I’ve entered into similar discussions before, surrounding the inclusion of condom use in contemporaries and I’m going to gleefully jump into this one because I think it’s a fun debate. I’m speaking strictly of contemporaries now, not paranormal, fantasy or historicals.
One of the catch phrases I see readers throw around is “TSTL”or too stupid to live. Generally applying to a heroine who takes an action that feels so unbearably stupid we can’t respect her or believe she had the lack of brain cells to do it because it endangered her life, it endangered someone else’s life and anyone with a whit of common sense would know better.
As a reader, this is what a contemporary heroine sleeping with a man she just met or has only known for a short period of time becomes for me if there’s no condom use. Because of AIDS and STDs and yes, even pregnancy, for me, lack of responsibility during sex with someone whose sexual history she doesn’t know ranks right up there as the most life endangering, TSTL act I can think of. It’s like playing Russian Roulette and takes either sheer arrogance or sheer stupidity to believe that the heroine’s partner is safe just because she has good vibes about him. Or that lust overcame her brain so much that she became careless of her own safety–or his and clung to the belief that “it could never happen to her”. (I’m speaking of the heroine, not because I don’t feel similarly towards the hero, but because in books, as a reader, I tend to most identify with the heroine).
It’s what I call magical thinking. It will be okay, and it won’t happen to me, because I believe it won’t. In reality, STDs are incredibly prevelant in the general population. Not just AIDS, but chlamydia, herpes, genital warts, HPV…things easily transferrable and easily caught. So if you’re writing a contemp, and you want your readers to believe that the events can happen, that it’s just possible it’s taking place right now, why would you ask them to disregard that feeling because of the minor inconvenience of a condom? Yeah, it’s fantasy, it’s not real, but then why bother researching the hell out of every other fact and plotpoint in your book regarding setting, what methods the CIA uses, what caliber bullet that particular gun shoots–why bother researching those facts and making your book as “real” as possible if you’re going to ask your readers to disregard the very real existance of STDs and pregnancy. You’re basically asking your reader to only believe in certain parts of your book.
In my opinion, not using a condom paints both the hero and heroine in an unflattering light because it shows a lack of unconcern about their partner’s health. Truly, what could be sexier than a man who wants to protect you and has your best interests at heart, so he’s prepared and willing to use it. Or a woman who is strong enough to say “hold on, suit up, please” because she’s savvy and smart and all about taking care of herself? Your heroine wouldn’t enter a burning building just to save her favorite teddy bear from destruction because she knows she might be injured or die…so why would she let the hero enter her with the possibility of passing on illness and/or death?
July 18th, 2006 at 12:18 pm · Link
I think that’s really well put, Angie.
And Jorrie, yeah, people do get carried away and I’ve addressed that before too.
July 18th, 2006 at 12:55 pm · Link
Carried away, doesn’t have to mean unprepared. It does not bother me at all, to be reading a hot story and have the couple slow down, or even stop, if they don’t have protection. For me, as reader, it shows the couple have a chance, literally, of making it, because no matter how hot the sex gets, they care about each other enough to protect
Lauren, I do like the way you have hadled this subject in your stories!
July 18th, 2006 at 1:13 pm · Link
Condoms In Contemporaries?
I think if you’re writing in a contemporary world a condom should be used. Because my thought is- as an author we DO have responsibilities. I have a seventeen year old daughter who reads romances.
And if a character isn’t smart enough to think of the “what ifs” of taking a chance, well then they’re running the risk for being TSTL.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Comdons have been known to break. And if the man goes soft before he pulls out, he can spill. I can see even a heat of the moment thing happening between lovers…but it better be explained afterwards. Like geez where was my brain? There better be panic.
However a author decides to approach the situation should be handled with care. Don’t leave reality at the bed.
In our world we don’t just have to worry about pregnancies, but STDs and AIDS–that very much kills. ;(
July 18th, 2006 at 1:49 pm · Link
I don’t write contemporaries myself, but I do write paranormals / urban fantasies where there’s no easy “out” for the hero. Psychic vampirism doesn’t come with the same benefits that sanguines have. 😉
In this particular case, the hero’s going to use a condom, because I think it would be unrealistic for the characters not to.
As a reader, though, I can’t say it really affects me much either way.
July 18th, 2006 at 2:57 pm · Link
I think it does take away from the fantasy, but we’re kind of stuck with it. So the only thing to do is make it part of the story and not something that sounds like a public health announcement.
In the contemporary I just finished, I actually had a lot of fun with condoms. *g*
July 18th, 2006 at 3:42 pm · Link
I’m not really sure I buy that it takes away from the fantasy. I mean, characters having to eat food and breathe don’t take away from the fantasy, why would any other thing necessary for health do that?
In the end, a romance is about two made up (or more) people, the story is made up, it’s all made up – I don’t buy that it’s less a fantasy to write in a line or two about a condom.
July 18th, 2006 at 4:39 pm · Link
I think the people who say it “takes away from the fantasy” may be thinking in terms of condom use = lack of trust (as in, ewwww, you could give me an icky disease, how unromantic is that?)So, using that logic, condom use takes away from the fantasy of perfect sex and the perfect partner.
The thing is, though, if you’re writing fiction you want to come across as realistic, you have to conform to the realities of the present day:
“You should also be aware of the sexual concerns of the time you are writing in. Today we have AIDS and there are many campaigns on safe sex, so 20th century characters are going to be aware of that and it WILL influence their behavior. Even if the character doesn’t practice safe sex, the knowledge is there and it will influence the character.”
Got the above from a post on http://community.livejournal.com/seriouswriters/100425.html
July 18th, 2006 at 7:44 pm · Link
The way I see it is we write fiction so I’d like to think that in a “perfect world” condoms wouldn’t be necessary. *lol*
Personally as a reader, the fact that condoms are brought up in a scene is quite jarring. I was just recently critiquing a story for one of CPs, and during the sex scene the heroine opens the condom and puts it on the hero. The whole thing is about a line or two. But it completely janked me out of the scene, and I was no longer in the mood to read the sex scene. I totally skipped it.
July 18th, 2006 at 8:36 pm · Link
It doesn’t pull me out of the scene to have condom usage. In this day and age in a contemporary, well I think it’s needed.
I’ve just written a couple of sex scenes in the contemporary I’m working on. It gets talked about because I felt it had to.
July 19th, 2006 at 4:27 am · Link
I believe that yes, the subject of condoms needs to be addressed in a contemp. It’s an expliantion of the ‘rules’ of the world you’ve created in your book. In a contemp., that world is based in the reality of today’s world. You wouldn’t write a paranormal and leave out an important issure relevent in that world, and I don’t believe yuou can with a contemp. either.
Yes, it does dimminish the fantasy, but in a world of AIDS (as well as other STDs), I believe it’s an unfortunate plot piont that needs be addressed.
July 20th, 2006 at 12:25 am · Link
If a condom isn’t used in a contemporary, I need a good reason to explain away the lack. Evidently my husband does, too, because when he proofed a story for me the other day he said, “They didn’t use condoms, and then you explained it so that was okay.”
As a reader, the use of condoms doesn’t pull me out of the story. If there’s no condom I’m thinking TSTL.