Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Condoms: Yay, nay or doesn't matter?



There are no right or wrong answers to this one but I'm curious what your opinion is on using of condoms in romance books. I've heard two different sides to the debate. The first is that stopping the scene to have the hero put on a condom can take the reader out of the story. Personally, I don't see that as an issue. Most of the time the condom reference is a short one liner basically saying he ripped open the package and sheathed himself. Quick, to the point and then you can get on with the hot lovin'. I've also heard some people say that they read for escapism, fantasy where real life problems don't exist hence the reason that condoms aren't needed. As long as the heroine in on the pill, STD's are non-existent in the romance world. Sure there are references that the partners are clean but that's it. Those readers don't want to be reminded about all the repercussions that exist when sex is involved with real life couples. The other side of that same opinion is the fact that in real life pregnancy and STD's are a real issue and should be reflected in the books we read. That's makes it more realistic, but do we want realistic in our fantasy? When you read a romance scene do you want to be lost in that sexy, steamy moment and not have to think about real life issues like pregnancy or disease? After all, this is fantasy. Do we treat it as such or do we owe it to the teenage girl who grabbed a romance off her mom's shelf to present couples that engage in safe sex? Does it really matter at all? What about erotic romance? Is it easier to get by without using condoms if you're writing erotic romance compared to mainstream? Or are you like me and each specific story dictates if condoms should be used or if the couple can get away with not using them?

35 comments:

Laura J. said...

Morning Kelley!

I don't really care either way. Stopping to put on a condom doesn't distract from the story at all. But I think if there are younger kids (teens) reading romance books then the characters having safe sex would be a good idea. Pretending that STD's and pregnancy don't exist even in a fantasy world to me is a bad idea.

Anne Rainey said...

Ugh!!! I'm so struggling with this right now. The story I'm writing has a hero who lost his wallet and his memory. Well, his memory comes back pretty quickly, but when he and the heroine make love, I nearly had him getting a condom out of his wallet...oops, no wallet. So, I had to make it so the heroine had condoms, which is totally believable considering she's a single woman, but still I hated to have to write it that way. Not sure, it just seems manly to have the guy carrying and grabbing for the condom. But we are living in the age of AIDs...so, I guess I need to just deal.

My answer to the question. I used to feel that the author should decide the condom issue based on the storyline. These books are fiction, we don't need to be that realistic. But I've reconsidered and now I feel it should be based on realism and it's unrealistic in a contemporary romance to have no condom.

On the same token, if we're talking a paranormal then condoms aren't necessary, because vampires and shapeshifters arne't real, so condoms aren't necessary, imo. You can write it into the story (I've seen it done) to have the hero unable to carry diseases, etc...

Now, in real life. My daughter and I just talked the other day and I asked, 'does B**** have condoms?'. She answered, 'yes, his dad is real serious about him always carrying one with him'. (to which I inwardly cringed, because like it or not she'll always be my baby) But, then I said, 'when you two are ready, tell me and we'll go to the doctor's and get you started on the pill'. She said, 'Okay, but I already picked my age and I'm not ready yet to go all the way'. (big sigh of relief from mom, lol)

Desta said...

Hi Kelley:

I feel the use of condoms is unnecessary if the woman is on birth control, because if they have oral sex, that is still the possibility of getting an STD.

Valerie T. said...

Great question. I agree with Anne - if this is a paranormal story, then no condoms needed (vamps and weres can't carry diseases).

I think it still needs to be addressed - if she's on the pill and they're both clean, then fine - no condom. But it still should be discussed. It can be a quick discussion, but I feel it should be addressed.

Molly Daniels said...

I've gotten some flak over my books, which are set in the mid-1980's and in the midwest. AIDS wasn't considered a huge threat among the girls I knew; the Pill was the birth control of choice, so I wrote it that way. It wasn't until '87 or '88 that we 'woke up' to the fact that no, gays and drug users weren't the only ones who could catch it. We started being more responsible after that, and my series reflects this.

But in my stories I'm currently writing, yes, the condom is used. I've slipped up a few times, but I try to have my characters acting responsibly!

Anne Rainey said...

Desta--good point!

Valerie--You're thoughts reflect my editors. And I've been told I take the chance of getting a bad review if I don't address the condom issue.

Molly--you've stuck true to the time period, kudos to you!!!

Sophia Danu said...

Hi Kelley! Great blog! I don't personally write in using a condom in my love scenes mostly because I write about paranormal characters who can't get pregnant or carry STD's. LOL I've read stories where they were used and the authors did a great job not halting the flow of action and it was nice to see that safe sex was being promoted in that case. It doesn't bother me if they are not used however; I am fine with it either way. As far as teens go, I would prefer to think that teens are not reading the types of books I read. :)

Kelley Nyrae said...

Laura- The hard part about the teen thing is our books aren't written for teens to read BUT we have to be realistic in that some teens are reading them. Sneaking them from their parents, the bookstore, whatever. They'll find a way.

Anne-I've personally always used condoms in my books because they are indeed a fact of life BUT it doesn't bother me at all if another author doesn't use them. I think the author and the story should dictate how it should be written.

Desta- Good point!

Kelley Nyrae said...

Valerie- totally agree that condoms aren't needed in a paranormal!

Molly- You wrote what was realistic for the times and now you're doing the same :)

Sophia- Thanks!!

Regina Carlysle said...

Great post, Kell. I've just started writing some paranormal and boy, do I EVER like not dealing with the condom issue. But yes...in the other stuff I deal with the condom issue, just in case. You know when you pull up at McDonald's and they have a sign that says "Be Careful. COffee is HOT." Okaaaay DUH. They are covering their butts with this notice. We must do the same. So CONDOMS. We can't assume anything.

In one scene I took care of the awkward condom moment like this..

"Do you have a-?
"YEah, in my pocket."
"Good. That's good." Then they resume the hot scene without further interuption. Applications like this can work, I think.

Selena Blake said...

On one hand, safe sex is important. But I do read for the escape and sometimes it does detract from the story to stop and put a condom on. I think it depends on how the story is written really.

Books fall into two categories for me. There's the Charlies Angels version where everything is light and fluffy, even battle scenes. The heroine and hero don't get hurt and there's a level of suspended realism here. To pull out a condom here would be out of context b/c STDs don't exist in this world. And pregnancy... well, that probably doesn't exist either.

Then there's the grittier, realistic book where condoms are appropriate.

Judith Rochelle said...

I'm so torn between dstracting from the mood I bujild in a scene and being a responsible writer and not sending the wrong message to readers. I like to think the use of the condom is implied but of course that doesn't always work, either. I think one of the best insertion (if you'll pardon the pun) of the use of condoms and the Are you clean? question is in Linda Howard's Cry No More, the book that reallt started it all for me. The sexual tension between Milla and Diaz has been building from the very beginning. After a very dicey situation he tells her he wants to sleep with her and in a very quirky but earnest conversation they get the discussion out of the way on the drive back to the motel. That was when the condom pops up the mention is very incisdental. But what do I know? I grew up in an era where condoms were a fact of life because of pregnancy, not disease.

Cindy Jacks said...

Great blog topic, Rita! I'm like you, I let the story dictate if safer sex is warranted. When I write more realistic contemporary books, birth control and condoms of course are going to come up because real people disucss such things. But if I'm writing a down and dirty love fest that NO teenager should get their hands on (lol), then I don't bother injecting that kind of realistic detail into them.

Tess MacKall said...

Hi Kelly,

I don't mind seeing the use of condoms in a book. Doesn't really rip me out of a story. And I've seen some authors make it steamy--case in point, Regina Carlisle.

I certainly don't want to see it done just to satisfy political correctness or to teach lessons though.

Sometimes as an author you have to think about the storyline as well. If you are writing erotica and there are multiple partners, for the sake of realism you might want to use condoms. I do enjoy realism in some of my books. And I think a responsible individual engaging in sex with multiple partners might be thoughtful enough to use condoms.

However, strict romance stories with a monogamous relationship and that sweet happily ever after--I would never write in a condom. But that's because I know how it is going to end and know it isn't necessary. lol

Thanks for the great post!

Kelley Nyrae said...

Selena- Great point! If the scene is written well the condom shouldn't tear you out of the story!

Cindy- Thanks! But just because no teenager SHOULD get their hands on it doesn't mean they won't :) On the other hand, we're still writing a story, creating a getaway for readers so should we have to be so responsible? I don't know.

Tess- Glad you enjoyed the post!

Liza James said...

I have no preference either way. Sometimes I want a pregnancy to result, or a pregnancy scare, so I don't have them use one. Sometimes they do, just depends on the story. The only way condom use would pull me out of the story is if they had a page long discussion about it...LOL In one of my stories the hero thinks about the fact afterward that he didn't use one, and has to admit to himself that it was on purpose, he wants to trap the heroine. Then he silently scolds himself for being a damn hypocrite because if a woman ever did that to him, there'd be hell to pay.

CRY NO MORE is an amazing book (I'm a huge Linda Howard fan), I remember not being able to stop crying for like three days. My husband was like, "What the hell is wrong with you?" LOL

Lisa Logan said...

I can't write erotic scenes worrying about who might see it (well, my mother, perhaps LOL), or else why write naughty scenes at all? Some of my stories featuring a condom, others don't. Depends on the situation, and whether to use them is a good character device.

For instance, in SUITE SEDUCTION the presence of a condom is significant to the female MC, because it denotes the change in relationship when she agrees to sleep with her almost-ex husband. It also serves as a clue for a little twist that crops up soon after.

Regina Carlysle said...

Liza and Judith, I had the same response to Cry No More. As mothers we can't imagine anything worse. I bawled over this book and recommended it to everyone. One of her best, IMO.

Anny Cook said...

Hmmm. Well I write a paranormal series with blue people where the entire objective is to get pregnant. Um, no condoms. However, there is a scene in one book that takes place out-valley. The hero has condoms stashed all over, drawers, boxes, kitchen drawers, so it's part of the "action".

In a couple of other books, Winter Hearts and Kama Sutra Lovers, it was part of the action. I think it can be written in where it's a very sexy part of the action.

I think it has to be on a case by case basis and in a contemporary "realistic" story, I actually get annoyed when it isn't part of the action unless there is a prior discussion between the h/h explaining why.

My daughter has an STD that has led to pre-cancerous cervical cells. I really don't care whether people want fantasy or not... I think that saving a life might be more important.

cindy said...

Hey Kelley, I'm not sure if it's such a big deal, but I do notice when they dont use a condom, I wonder if she is going to get pregnant, & when one is used in a book, it doesn't take anything away from the story as for as I'm concerned, it can add something to it, it can be short like you talked about orit can also be made sexy.
thanks,Cindy

Anita Birt said...

Thanks for posing the condom question.Quick and easy it is but in historical romance, condoms were rare and the loving was easy. Sure the heroine gets pregnant (in my book, Isabelle's Story)but ... I will say not more. I guess it depends on whether you are writing fantasy as I was in my time travel and hopefully, young women readers will recognize fantasy isn't reality. It's when the couple make love and immediately want to make love again, when to do with the icky sticky condom?

Regina Carlysle said...

Hi Anita. The icky sticky condom is a BIG problem for me. Especially if they aren't in a bedroom at the time. Keep wondering...um NOW WHAT???? Can I write a TRASH can in here???

I did find it interesting that in Victorian England they had tie-on condoms that featured the face of Queen Victoria at the end. Of course, as you know she was a famous PRUDE so I thought it was hysterical.

Anny Cook said...

Hmmm. I have a condom scene in a plane crash... Getting rid of it. Tissue. That's the ticket. Tissue.

Lara Dien said...

Interesting question--my first ero/rom: no condom. But, I was targeting a publisher that didn't require them (the "it's fantasy" argument). Then I got contracted by another publisher, and an editor asked me to make the sex safe. The only challenge I had was that I'd already written the story without them, and, you know, the whole spontaneity thing....

Much easier to deal with when writing the rough draft!

As a reader, it really doesn't matter to me. I'm an adult, I can separate fantasy from reality (and frankly, so should a teenager, but I'm not going to argue we shouldn't set a good example.), and I don't read romance novels for anything other than escape, so ...

I will say that I've gotten so used to seeing them, that I do wonder--at least, when I'm reading non-ero,--what's going on. Reading something the other day--an r/s--and got to the first (reasonably explicit) love scene and thought...oh, yeah, there's a baby going to mess up this story line....LOL

Kelley Nyrae said...

Loving all the opinions everyone! Thanks :)

Regina Carlysle said...

Yeah, Anny. That's an idea. Keep boxes of kleenex sitting around everywhere for easy condom disposal. SNICKER>

Connie Northrop said...

Anne, I love your talk with your daughter. That was how my mom treated me. My son will be taught to be safe. That kind of trust goes along way.

I think condoms should be used most of the time in contemporary stories. This isn’t just for the kids to learn, but honestly, picture a newly single person over 40, male or female, reading contemporary stories. They dated in a non-aids world. They need reminders too. Once a committed relationship has begun then condoms aren’t necessary. Paranormals don’t need them except for pregnancy, but if they are trying to pass as non-paranormal, then it would be expected.
Is any of this an author’s responsibility? No, it’s not. Is it good policy? Yes, it probably is.

I’ve read stories where even putting on the condom was not just sexy, but was a sex act in itself.

Connie

blessedheart said...

I think using a condom doesn't have to interrupt the story or the fantasy. The act of putting on the condom in itself can be very erotic.

Rhonda :))

flchen1 said...

Kelley, I'm with a lot of other commenters--because of the times we live in now, it almost pulls me out of the story when they DON'T use a condom. Then I'm always wondering, hmm... are they setting up a pregnancy scare? Because yes, babies and diseases are both pretty life-changing possibilities. It seems like in general, the whole issue can be handled pretty swiftly, and how can definitely depend on the story. But I do think it's responsible and realistic to have it be a concern. And yes, I do read romance to escape, but unless it's a paranormal, protection is not something to escape.

Kelley Nyrae said...

Thanks for all the opinions everyone!!

Grace Tyler said...

Kelley, I'm with a lot of other commenters--because of the times we live in now, it almost pulls me out of the story when they DON'T use a condom. Then I'm always wondering, hmm... are they setting up a pregnancy scare?

****

In my past reading experiences, if there wasn't a condom, there was a baby or the issue of the possibility. So if nobody gets one out, talks about BC, etc, I'm always waiting for the baby to show up. I don't think you can leave it out. If there's sex, there's got to be responsibility. IMO, un-safe sex is un-sexy.

Grace Tyler said...

HIV/AIDS is only one STD. I went to college just after AIDS was really a public issue, and we still didn't think about getting it because it was for gay men and IV drug users at the time. We still did worry about STDs, people! As a 40yo who had a very nasty, you have the HPV-related almost cervical cancer scare last year--I think about these things! A hysterectomy at 39 from an STD-related disease, something I never had a single symptom of, is freaky. Thank heaven I didn't have to have it, and the more moderate treatments worked. But that was a life-changing experience. I NEVER had a bad Pap in my life, and I have them every year. And my DH and I have been together for 15 years and monogamous.

Oh yeah. Bring out the condom, please. You can even be a really thoughtful guy and go get a warm washcloth for your woman to wash up with when you toss your condom in the bathroom. That's romance!

And get your yearly if you haven't.

Anny Cook said...

AMEN Grace! Now your talking!

Lynnsplanet said...

Ok, so I missed a good topic. lol - I couldn't tell you if it's even night or day right now.

But - I think condoms in books has to be a natural thing for the characters to think about, and definitely the author needs be comfortable with writing it.

I've heard some have had to go out and buy condoms to even see what they look like, feel like and which ones are more effective. Now, that's my kind of research. ;)

I've had some chew me out for not using them. Oh, well. I'm sorry, but it wasn't something the characters did.

In another story, they go through so many condoms they should own stock.

I don't feel a responsibility to lecture or impose my views of safe sex on adults. I just want to give them a terrific story to enjoy.

Bekki

Grace Tyler said...

I agree with you, Bekki. We aren't writing to impose our views on others but to tell a good story. However, my books are me in some way, naked to the world on the page. So what's important to me, what is beautiful to me is laid bare for everyone who cares to see it.