Nov 28, 2011

Posted by in Question | 23 Comments

Question – Are You Into Safe Sex?

We live in an era where safe sex is taught at an early age.  It shows up in our schools, on our television programs and in our books.  Well, actually, not always in our books…

You don’t often see talk of condoms or birth control pills in Paranormal Romance books.  Apparently supernatural beings can control their sperm count or the moon or some other such thing therefore making it impossible for humans to get STDs or pregnant by them.  Handy trick that.  I find you’ll hear talk of safe sex most in Contemporary Romance books and Urban Fantasy books.  And even then only if the UF book’s main character isn’t humping a creature of the night.

I must admit that the first time I read “please tell me you have a condom” I was surprised.  For some odd reason I was not expecting to see that in a book.  I mean, Romance books are supposed to be well, romantic.  And condoms are not romantic.  I know some of you may argue me on this point but no, they are not romantic.  Condoms are necessary and if done right can be sort of sexy, but they are not romantic.  But after getting past “Oh really?!  Interesting…” I was actually happy to see that condom mention as part of this story.  It made it more real and it made the characters smart.  It also made me think of how many books dont mention safe sex.

Now if I read a conversation between the hero and the heroine about safe sex, I smile.  I like it.  And I question if it’s not mentioned.  If the couple is married or engaged or if I’m reading a Historical Romance or PNR or UF book, I don’t question it.  But if the people involved are a new couple banging like bunnies, I’ll hope they had that very important conversation ‘off page’.  Or at least I’ll tell myself that so I can feel better.

So what about you?  Are you into safe sex in your romance books?  Does it matter to you whether or not safe sex is practiced in the books you read?

  1. I always write it into my books. You don’t have to hit people over the head with it (ahem!); a brief mention the first time they sleep together does the trick. My characters also have periods and go to the toilet on occasion; I’m that kind of writer.

    One of my pet hates in romance novels is when there’s no mention of contraception and then…oh no, she’s accidentally pregnant! (And I’ve read worse as an intern, with heroines intentionally not using contraception with strangers, just to make it feel more “romantic.”). What kind of moron doesn’t use a condom with a stranger, really? I don’t care if it’s a book, or if he’s a vampire–I stop respecting the characters at this point.

    I’m also the first person to rant at silly boys who “don’t like using them.” They’re more common than you think–and now, in the UK, so is syphillis.

    [Breathes into paper bag]

  2. Vicki Casso says:

    As a mom of a 19 year old girl and a mom of a 17 year old boy oh yeah I want to read about safe sex! We preach constantly about delaying sex as long as possible but if not, well someone needs to put a cap on it!

  3. I don’t really care if condoms are included in stories. My romances and other books are fantasy material. While I expect some form of realism, I’m fine with unprotected sex. I know that pregnancy and disease may result from unprotected sex. I expect my romance books to be about healthy people and what would kill the romance more than “Hey, babe. I just got treated for gonorrhea.” I don’t base my life decisions on literature, but I do understand the importance of including information which encourage women to make safe and appropriate decisions. So, yeah, I’m a little wishy-washy on the topic.

  4. Yes! Please use condoms. I’ll start to withdraw “liking points” if my H/H (in a contemporary romance) jump to bed without any protection. Now days everybody use condoms or should use them. In my opinion being irresponsible is just a sign of stupidity.
    I agree with you in regard to UF and PR. I don’t expect a vampire or a werewolf to use a condom but if my hero is a normal Homo Sapiens I expect him/her to use a condom ALWAYS.

  5. Yes in a contemporary but nowhere else, really. But I hate the “Are you clean?” method. My reaction to that is …EWWWWW. I actually read that this year. The response was something like, “I just had a physical (oh so convenient). You?” Her response? “I’m a virgin.” Head. Slams. Desk.

  6. Nothing pulls me out of a book faster than unprotected sex between people who aren’t in a monogamous, long-term relationship. It’s so jarringly unrealistic to me that I usually have to put a book down and take a moment to roll my eyes. People who are down with casual sex, IMO, are usually prepared for such occasions, and there are so many other things you can do if you are stranded without a condom! Gah, even thinking about it makes me frustrated.

    Even in a paranormal or UF, I need at least an explanation of why there’s no need for protection, though I would prefer to see condoms if given the choice. And at that, I can’t sympathize with human characters who are dumb enough to just believe a werewolf who says ‘trust me, baby’…

  7. I would love for the characters to use condoms until, they have another method of contraception sorted or have plausible explanation why they are safe to have sex with – i.e. paranormals who can’t transfer diseases on huumans or can’t get them pregnant.
    I find it appauling at how ignorant a lot of men and women still are about contraception, diseases, and I laugh out loud when they use coitus interruptus in modern romances. The same goes for movies unfortunately. And after that people get surprised at the amount of teenage pregnancies around *facepalm*
    I want those awkward moments described. The more we read about them, the more comfortable we are in such situation with our lovers.

  8. I’m going to go against popular opinion here and say I’d prefer to not see the whole condom issue drawn out in fiction. If the author feels they have to include it, it should be no more than a brief mention, but I’d MUCH prefer the details to be left off the page. It can feel a bit too much like an advertisement for safe sex to me. Taking me out of the scene and annoying me because I feel like the author is preaching. Everyone knows safe sex is important – I’ve never personally allowed any man other than my husband near me without a condom. I don’t need a fictional reminder of the importance of safe sex. If the author wants to include a line about the guy slipping on a condom before getting to the juicy bits then fine – but no conversations, or drawn out descriptions, please. 😉

  9. I agree with those who are saying that it doesn’t need to be a drawn out lecture by the author on safe sex, but I would like to mention that the act of putting on a condom can be very sexy!

    I think another reason that it jars me when there is no condom use is the massive pregnancy-scare trope in romance novels. I find it bizarre that some authors can write a one-night-stand-turned-pregnancy plot in one book, and then leave out condoms in the next book…

  10. It does not bother me if they do not mention it, I can just think that they are safe without saying so, cos else they are just stupid

  11. Good point, Sara O. I hate pregnancy scares in books. Every time two people end up together after a pregnancy (or pregnancy scare), I always feel like they are together because the chic got pregnant, not because they really loved each other enough to make it work. Very unsexy. And so often it’s thrown in completely out of the blue, and completely unnecessarily. It doesn’t move the plot forward at all. It’s just annoying.

  12. Lucy – Gah! Boys who say “they don’t like using them boo hoo’ tick me off. I mean,seriously? C’mon!

    Vicki – Hear hear!

    Scooper – That makes sense. It does take away from the fantasy aspect of the story… Something to think about. 🙂

    Bookaholic Cat – Yes!

    CK – I would have to agree with you on the “are you clean? yes. cool” chat you sometimes see in books. I mean, anyone can say yes. Anyone!

    Sara – I love how you said you have to put the book down to roll your eyes. LOL And ‘trust me’…Aug! I also agree with you about the pregnancy scare books. Just odd.

    kara-karina – I think you are very right about people being ignorant to it even though it’s in their faces all the time. Maybe by adding condoms in here and there to people’s entertainment (movies or books) they may be a little more educated and a little less naive about the whole safe sex thing.

    Jessica – I 100% agree with you about there not needing to be a whole scene about safe sex and who takes care of what. Just the casual mention of a condom is fine. Better even! And no one needs preaching in our “outlets”. Very good point there. And about questioning whether or not a couple is together because of baby or true love…who wants to be thinking that when we are supposed to be thrilled for out H/h and their HEA. All true.

    blodeuedd- Yes. Stupid. 😉

  13. Honestly, I don’t like having the condoms mentioned unless there is a specific reason for it within the story (other than to promote safe sex). Sometimes it can be done where it doesn’t stand out, but I prefer to just assume they are using protection unless it specifically comes out that they aren’t. I’ve read too many books where the author pushed it in there and it was awkward–becoming neither romantic nor sexy…just something that drew me out of the scene.

    I’m part of the books are my fantasy world crowd. *shrug*

    Having said that, condoms come up in my current work-in-progress, but aren’t mentioned every time just because it’d get really repetitive LOL.

  14. Seleste – I think saying it once is okay. I see your point in how it could be quite repetitive. lol And I’m like you: If it’s not mentioned, I pretend it’s there and it just didn’t make it through the final edits. 😉

  15. I’m all for a mention of safe sex – the stats just in the US say that just over 55% of women aged 15-44 don’t regularly use condoms during uncommitted sexual encounters and there are 19 million new STD infections every year. I’m with Kara-karina who wrote ‘The more we read about them, the more comfortable we are in such situation with our lovers’ – condoms and safe sex need to be made sexy 🙂
    *Lecture over*

  16. Thank you for raising this issue Julie, it has become one of my pet peeves! 😉 At first when I started reading romance novels mention of finding a condom at the heat of the scene jarred me a bit but now it’s the exact opposite: when I am reading a contemporary romance and the h/H are about to have sex without discussing protection or doing anything to prevent STDs, pregnancy, etc. I keep wondering and looking for the moment when they finally behave like responsible adults. So if a romance leaves out the detail on how the h/h deal with safe sex and e.g. the hero was a serious player before the heroine, I cringe for the heroine when she doesn’t ask him to wear a condom (and yep, the pill isn’t enough, sure it protects against pregnancy but what about all the nasty STDs?)

    So nowadays I require my romance novels to deal with protection and feature safe sex. The heroines deserve it as much as real women.

  17. I’m totally for safe sex in books and I find now I am uncomfortable if they don’t practice it. I find the couple then to be careless and unthoughtful. Even in the most erotic ones I am looking for the either the conversation or the sound of the crinkle foil.

    Love love your graphic. Great post and great question. I enjoyed reading the comments.

  18. I honestly don’t even think about this when reading PNR/UF due to your points above, but I do enjoy when a heroine asks her hunky immortal beforehand, or when the smexy beastie tells her of his own volition. Contemp romance for sure. And for YA, if any hanky panky happens (it does happen in some!) than I need a talk and condom use, or I will jump through the book and heads will roll!

  19. Shelleyrae – Lovely lecture. And you are correct too. The more they are around, the less uncomfortable people will be with them.

    Stella – Oh! When the hero was a player and no condom is used?! That is terrible. I mean…really?! Good that you brought that up!

    Michelle – The sound of crinkling foil. I like that. 🙂

    Smash Attack – OMG YA! Very good point Ash! If there is going to be sex in YA books, I think they NEED to mention it. I feel it goes back to the more you read about it and hear about it and see it, the more people will think of it and do it!

  20. I started out in the romance genre with Paranormal, and so I agree… the condom issue well, wasn’t and issue for me. And similar to you, it seemed that condoms are “unromantic.” So when I also read a condom scene in the book the first time, it caught me off guard. But then I realized it was really well written and I liked it. I’ve read some books since that have been the same.

    So this was on my mind just a couple days ago when a couple went to have sex the first time. He is human, she is not… but he doesn’t know this. And the topic of safe sex/condoms NEVER came up. And since it wasn’t written into the scene, I assume it didn’t happen. I have to admit… I didn’t like it. I wished the topic had been mentioned, or we saw a condom.

    It’s funny how preferences evolve over time!

  21. Great question! It bugs me sometimes when it’s not mentioned and like as you already stated that it’s often passed over in PNR as oh I’m a shifter I can’t catch human disease! Ridiculous.

  22. twimom227 – Your reading experience in this topic is exactly like mine was. Exactly! lol

    Ally – It is ridiculous but hey, why not? lol

  23. Another area we completely agree on! I can’t even remember what book I read this past year that actually had talk of safe sex in it and I did the same double take that you did. I was very surprised that they had even mentioned it but it did make me happy. Yes, it makes the characters more real. Yes, it makes them smart…and I think it makes it more realistic. So yes, definitely enjoy having safe sex mentioned in books!

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