I’ve been doing some very unscientific research into condoms in contemporary romances and thought I might as well throw it open on the blog and see what others think.
As writers, are we responsible for teaching/education about safe sex in our novels? Any novels, not just romance. When I think back to my favourite books, particularly all the John Sandford ‘Prey’ novels that I love for their lothario hero Lucas Davenport—until Sandford made him settle down with the woman of his dreams and get married—rarely (like almost never) do condoms get involved in sex scenes. And what about Bond? James Bond? No crinkling sound of foil wrappers in any Bond movie I’ve ever watched!
So here’s what I think. Condoms aren’t romantic to me. Neither, should I say, are STDs… please don’t get me wrong. But we’re writing for escapism surely, not realism? And when it comes to romance… I mean, how many of our plotlines are 200% realistic? Romance is about dreams and emotion and feelings and instincts and (insert dammit here) futzing about with a condom gets in the darn way. IMHO.
I have opened this as a discussion item on my Goodreads page, and I’ve asked around in a couple of forums that are mostly US-based. Out of 6 replies, only 1 says she looks for “escapism not realism” in books.
But, to a man (err, woman) every other comment said they find it “distracting” if the issue of condom use isn’t raised and/or doubt the intelligence of the hero/heroine if they don’t at least discuss the use of a condom, or their sexual health. So maybe I’m hugely out of touch!
Here’s a snapshot:
“I find it distracting if condoms aren’t mentioned in a scene, if not during than at least the morning after some mention of throwing out the wrappers. I like it when the couple discusses birth control and what steps they’re taking. I find it unrealistic in a contemporary romance when that discussion doesn’t take place or isn’t at least alluded to.”
“I also find it distracting if they’re not mentioned at all. As far as I’m concerned, condoms are a required part of sex (unless the hero and heroine are already in a long term relationship, I suppose)…not using a condom just seems rather idiotic in my mind.”
“Yes, I want to see condoms in contemporary romances. Not using condoms without any sort of discussion just seems dumb and irresponsible to me.”
“Lack of condom use doesn’t make me think the characters are less promiscuous and clean but rather stupid and dangerous… There’s no need to stop the action and give a Health Class presentation on the proper use of condoms. The crinkle of a wrapper before or after, a reach for supplies (purse, wallet, bed side draw), disposing of a condom after etc – would suffice.”
“I agree with everyone else. Writers can make it subtle –the heroine hearing the crinkle of a foil wrapper is popular — but if it’s not there, I get distracted and concerned. My biggest pet peeve is the 2 second “I’m clean” conversation that has also unfortunately become popular.”
“I find the condom mention and also all-clear of STD mention a huge distraction. Too much realism for me as I read to escape reality not see every gritty part of it.”
Where do you sit? Any erotica writers out there – how do you handle it? Do you write every sex scene in a book using a condom – because if we were in the 100% safe sex, unless we have two virgins going at it in erotica – we need a condom every time.