Why there are no condoms in my trashy books

Update 3/19/2012: This is the disclaimer I wrote for Her Twisted Pleasures. Let me know what you think and if I should change or add anything. Thanks!

I write fiction. I give my readers the benefit of the doubt and assume they know erotic fiction sex is fantasy sex, and in fantasies, we’re allowed to break the rules. I believe in practicing safe sex, but my characters do not use condoms because this is a fantasy, an escape from the harsh realities of everyday life. My readers are smart enough to know the difference. 

~~~

The issue of condoms in romance novel sex scenes has come up recently, and to tell you the truth, I haven’t given it much thought as a writer. I rarely read a love scene where a condom is used, but then I typically read historical romance. I write contemporary romance/erotica. I published two novels and more than a dozen short stories and none of my characters have ever used a condom.

Is that irresponsible? Probably, but keep this in mind: I write fiction. I give my readers the benefit of the doubt and assume they know romance novel sex is fantasy sex, and in fantasies, we’re allowed to break the rules. No one needs a lecture from me about the dangers of unprotected sex.

Escape. That’s why I write fiction. Getting away from the harsh realities of everyday life. That’s why people read fiction. Who wants their fantasy getaway interrupted by practical details? Do contemporary romance novels include scenes dealing with morning breath, bathroom breaks, paying bills, or doing laundry? Not that I know of. (Although I did read one historical romance where the hero got out of bed for his “morning piss.” It was a little disconcerting and it’s the only thing I remember from that book.)

I don’t use condoms in my sex scenes because I don’t want reality spoiling my fantasy. I don’t intend to use them unless it furthers the plot or character development. I read and write romance for fun. Don’t make me be responsible.

How do you feel about condoms, or lack of them, in sex scenes? Are they an interruption or a necessity?

About Amelia James

Amelia James started reading steamy romance novels in junior high, but her mom took them away from her, so she started daydreaming instead. After she got married, she wrote some of her naughtier daydreams down and sent them to Playgirl magazine. Two of them got published. She kept daydreaming and writing stories until her dirty stories turned into trashy books. She lives in Colorado, but she’ll always be a loyal Wisconsin Cheesehead. When she’s not lusting after her next bad boy hero, she looks for inspiration in sci-fi and action movies, football players, bloodsucking lawyers, muscle cars, and kick-butt chicks.
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22 Responses to Why there are no condoms in my trashy books

  1. jabelfield says:

    I never used to give protection for my characters much thought either–though, on reflection, I presume it’s because when you’ve been with the same man for 21 years yourself you no longer tend to contemplate the necessity of it.
    In my current NiP, however, a condom is used in the intimate scene–simply because I felt it would be ‘untrue’ to the female character involved if she didn’t use one (a once bitten, twice shy, kind of rule she’d have going on). I’ve been told I weaved it in well enough that it only adds to the scene, rather than takes the reader out of the moment. BUt on the whole, unless it pertains to the story or characters, then having the characters pause to roll one on can disurb the flow of the scene.

  2. Ranae Arnold says:

    I totally agree! Thank you for making these points, it is exactly my thinkng as well! And now I don’t have to struggle with “what should I do?” To condom or not to condom? You get the drift! Glad you wrote this!

  3. I’m fine with it either way as long as it rings true in the story. I usually get around it in my writing by having sexual history, etc, come up organically in a conversation between the future lovers. It really is a scene by scene, couple by couple, decision. But NEVER have a read a sex scene that was sans condom and thought, “Well, that’s just irresponsible.” I simply assume the characters are using some kind of birth control and the writer decided not to include that information. I don’t need to know penis size and what color the wall paint is either to enjoy a scene.

    Good post.
    Tiffany!

    • I remember reading a scene that described the color of the floor tiles (black and white). Did I care? Nope. If the object doesn’t further the story, whether it’s tile or rubber, it isn’t needed.

  4. Ni_kii says:

    Thanks for this post, I have to say that it completely depends on the story for me. In the usual erotic romances, I rarely pay attention to the whole safe sex thing. It’s not about reality (although it would be nice if every delivery man I met was as hot as Brad Pitt :D) so I’m not bothered. However, I recently read a book that didn’t feature any sort of safe sex and that did bug me. She was a prostitute and I thought it was uber irresponsible that she was involved in M/F, M/F/M, F/M/M, M/F/F/F sex, with strangers, without protection. The condom issue is completely contexual for me and I know, from other reviews, that it bugs some people more than others.

    • Yes, I think that context does require some sort of protection. I’ve read a few books with disclaimers in the front pages explaining that the story is a fantasy and the author is not advocating unprotected sex. I guess it depends on what the reader is willing to accept.

  5. D Rotterman says:

    I used a condom in my first YA novel. Thought it was a way to promote it to youthful readers. None of my beta readers thought it detracted from the story line. In the erotic fantasy adventure I’m writing, no condoms are used, and I think, as you do, they would detract from the fantasy.

  6. Phantomimic says:

    After watching program after program on TV and reading book after book where these young people hop in the sack with no mention of condom use whatsoever I did wonder whether this is promoting unsafe sex. I understand the argument that it is fantasy, but what you see day after day over and over tends to create a perception in the mind of some people that may overwhelm any rational notions that they gathered from their health classes. I am not going to suggest that writers HAVE a social responsibility and that they SHOULD modify their work accordingly. But I do believe we have to give some thought to what effect our collective work has on creating a frame of mind in certain sectors of society.

    Having said that I think that there must be many ways of working safe sex and birth control into romance books and sex scenes (not all of them of course, just some), specially with all the wild condoms out there. I mean, some glow in the dark, some play music, etc. I think this could be exploited for humor. Also, if the guy REALLY loves her, isn’t he concerned about getting her pregnant or giving her that itch that he had “down there” a few days ago? I mean, if his attitude is “that is not my problem” does he really care for her? And if that is the case, what woman would go to bed with a guy who thinks like this?

    I am all for fantasy but I think we also have to consider inserting certain elements of reality into our work.

    • You make an excellent point; however,I still feel that the key is context. It’s the characters’ choice whether to use protection. They can think for themselves. So can readers. Our society loves to blame others for their problems. Very few people take responsbility for their own actions. Romance novels are not to blame for failed marriages, poor relationships or women’s health issues. There will always be some people who make bad choices.

      I’d love to see one of those musical condoms. ;)

  7. Phantomimic says:

    There is one condom that plays Rossini’s William Tell Overture (the theme from the Lone Ranger) when it is “engaged”. This is very appropriate music for sex, they used it in the movie Clockwork Orange.

  8. eden baylee says:

    Good post Amelia.

    The story/characters always dictate, of course, but I know that some traditional publishers want it, and will not publish unless a condom is quite clearly stated in the plot. I tend to agree with you that it breaks up the flow of the scene, and as a writer of fiction, it’s not my job to educate readers about safe sex. On the contrary, if they’ve picked up a romance/erotica book, they’re expecting sex like they would never have in real life – safe, missionary position, with their spouse in bed for 7.8 minutes (you know what I mean). Readers want escapism, and it’s why most people read in the first place.

    You want to be educated? Go to the library and pick up any “how to” or “sex advice” book. The responsibility certainly does not fall on fiction romance writers.

    eden

    • Just like romance and erotica writers aren’t responsible for educating the public, we’re also not to blame for their problems. Romance novels have been accused of causing everything from bad relationships to women’s health issues. I believe in personal responsibility. People make their own choices and they need to be accountable for their own actions.

  9. Kendall Grey says:

    See, I like to keep my stories real. My hero uses condoms (for a couple of reasons, not the least of which, the dude is a rock star who basically screws women for a living. But I digress). My heroine rushes out of bed to brush her teeth first thing the morning after. She makes mention of wanting to wake up to the sounds of Hero’s snores and the smell of his morning breath (jokingly, but still) and wanting to shop at Ikea together. They brush their teeth side by side, spit and all.

    I guess I throw all this TMI in because my world is a fantasy one, and sometimes characters (and readers) need to be grounded in the familiar when everything around them is so…not familiar. Using “I gotta pee” as an excuse to escape an uncomfortable situation totally works for me. And also, I’m a push-over for realism even in a fantasy setting. I like explanations and reasons for why people do what they do. If the characters don’t use condoms, why not? Are they immune to diseases because they’re undead? I want to know this stuff!

    To each her own, right? Just my two cents. This is a great topic for discussion, btw!

  10. Elizabeth Knightbridge says:

    I agree…when I read erotic romance it is a fantasy I am wanting…not reality. It is like cyber sex….hopefully folks know some of the things going on in cyber sex defy gravity and reality but again….it is a fantasy.

    Cheers!
    Elizabeth Knightbridge

  11. loriwhitwam says:

    I don’t write them in my scenes, either. It’s fiction, fantasy. I find them an interruption, and if I have to hear one more description of ripping open foil packets, I might scream. Our readers are smart enough to know that in real life, if they’re with someone new, until they are certain of STD and birth control status, a condom should certainly be used. But in my books, I don’t talk about it. If a reader wants to imagine in those moments before, um, consummation a condom is brought into play, fine. But writing that detail interrupts my thought process. Plus, if you write about using a condom, shouldn’t you also talk about the removal and disposal? And… yuck.

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