Safe Sex in Erotic Romance Fiction

I’ve noticed a rising tide of readers and reviewers commenting on books in which the characters either do or don’t engage in safe sex.
This is an interesting issue since it’s become something of a trend to criticize books in which characters, particularly gay characters don’t glove the love.
Where do I stand on this topic?
When I first started out writing M/M novels three years ago, I didn’t address the issue since, like politics, bills, debt collectors and other ‘facts of reality’ were not encouraged by publishers.
Also, my first books were the Phantom Lover series and Kimo and Lopaka were a monogamous gay couple whose single foray into a threesome was with Lopaka’s ex lover. No condoms were mentioned.
At the time of writing that, it didn’t seem romantic to introduce the idea, especially since the sexual act was not supposed to include actual penetration, but ended up doing so. It would have spoiled the shock of the moment – and a major story arc.
We are writing romantic fiction and let’s face it, condoms were not addressed for decades. Neither was the pill, STDs etc etc etc.
In my more recent books, I have characters using condoms. In Cops and Rubbers, I even have an HIV character who insists on plastic wrap even for rimming.
But how safe is safe? And how badly do fictional authors really need to address this issue?
If my characters were to be completely safe, there’d be no rimming AT ALL since there is risk of several diseases including hepatitis this way.
They wouldn’t suck a single cock – again, risk of infection.
Where would the romance be if we eliminate everything?
How about let’s stop kissing – bacteria, you know.
I have just written a World War II romance about a gay Honolulu prostitute in Vagabond Heart, which is being published by Total eBound on November 15.
They didn’t wear condoms back then, but true to the era, the character and the men he services who are US military, they are required to wash in a silver solution and submit to weekly ‘clap’ checks.
I personally don’t feel condom use is always required in fiction, particularly romantic fiction.
My job as an author is to take the reader away from every day troubles to a world of make believe.
I’ve had more comments from women readers than male readers on the condom issue. In fact, a very good author friend of mine received a negative comment from a male reader who felt he’d been “bashed over the head” with the condom use in sex scenes.
That note surprised me, since this has become something of a trend in fiction.
I am glad the awareness exists, but readers should keep in mind we are not writing non fiction.
In the real world, people don’t use condoms. Of course, they should unless they are in a committed relationship.
In the real world, most gay men don’t have threesomes and foursomes either – unless they are porn stars. In a genre in which we write about vampires, shapeshifters, zombies, immortals, etc, things like condoms, phone bills, hemorrhoids, etc. aren’t sexy.
Where do we draw the line?
Should werewolves carry rubbers?
That’s not to say I don’t think all books should be about rich, healthy, tall, muscular guys with huge dicks. Far from it. I just think we need to embrace fantasy and romance, and yes, there are times when condoms should figure in the equation…however, there are exceptions.
I just read a book where the author magically had condoms on standby in a situation where it would have been ridiculous and this, in its own way threw me out of the story.
Where do you stand on this subject?
Please leave me a comment and the best one wins a free ebook from me!

Aloha oe,

4 Responses to “Safe Sex in Erotic Romance Fiction”

  1. for me the books are a way of escaping everyday life. i also realize they are a work of fiction, so i do not expect or always want them to come across overly realistic. the only time a lack of protection really bothers me is when one of the main characters has multiple instance of unsafe sex before sleeping with the other main character. when neither of them seem to be worried about the possibility of disease, then i think the fiction has gone a little to far the other way.

  2. I was horrified to see in a Public Health Bulletin earlier this week that HIV rates are increasing significantly in two distinct segments of the population, young gay men and older men and women. In addition to the feeling of invulnerability that young men often possess, they have not grown up hearing the same dire warnings as those in the previous generation. With older men and women, Viagra and it’s ilk seem to be a major factor as older men feel free to experiment more and as a result STDs are contracted and then transmitted to their partners.

    The idea of including safe sex in romance writing was, I think, to serve as a reminder…a type of Public Service Announcement. With the two groups mentioned above, I don’t know how much of an impact is being made. Maybe it is time to accept that fiction is exactly that and to do a better job being more open about sex eduction with families, physicians, schools, and non-fiction books.

  3. As a writer of fiction–and rather fluffy fiction at that–I don’t feel it’s my job to educate. I’m writing to take readers away from the real world for a while, like you said. Though I may have the couple talk about condoms or histories, etc., I do it because who doesn’t anymore and not because I ought to or am in fear of negative reader response. Sure, there are some really great scenes that have a condom at their core–the lack of one, the one that glows in the dark, the broken one, the missing one–but they aren’t there (or not) because it’s educational. Usually, it’s frickin’ funny. The purpose of the condom in fiction should be to add to the scene or characters just like all the other elements of the writing. Pausing for a PSA? No thanks.

  4. Hi Missy,
    Thanls for stopping by! I totally adored your comment. This has become such an issue – particularly in my genre of gay erotic romance – that I think we’re getting away from the core issue here. You are so right, we are here to take people away from the real world. We’re not doing a PSA. I have been stunned to have reviews where they comment on my characters not using condoms – and these are often monogamous, long-term couples. Thanks for laugh – glow in the dark condoms are funny!

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