How much is too much?

Condoms in romance fiction… yes, fiction. I’m surprised by what I read yesterday at Murder She Writes and Dear Author (this is a slightly older topic, toward the middle of January), but I caught on to it through Roxanne St. Clair’s blog on Murder She Writes, which is a great blog, by the way. I definitely recommend romantic suspense and mystery readers and writers to check it out. The Dear Author poll was about Condoms in Contemporary Romance, but I know a few other genres were thrown in here and there like Paranormal/Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Romantic Suspense obviously since it came about regarding Ms. St. Clair’s latest Bullet Catcher trilogy.

Some readers automatically said the characters were TSTL (too stupid to live) if there isn’t the mention of condoms, which I don’t think is fair. My take on this topic is that just because characters aren’t shown eating three meals a day or using the restroom to relieve themselves, does that mean they aren’t doing those things? Does an author need to mention that when a character gets into the car and drives to work, he has a seat belt on? Isn’t that commonsense… let alone The Law? Can’t some situations like sexual protection also be implied?

Also, what about for authors? Some readers noted that it takes them out of the fantasy of reading romance fiction, which is fiction, not real life stories. For me, I always used to read as a way to escape real life. Can’t authors do what feels natural to them in their stories without wondering which camp will disagree on the given choice of to-include or not-include question?

I will disgress that I do find it important for the YA genre to have mention of condoms and safe sex, since young adults may not assume that the characters are having safe sex and using preventatives, which adults readily have the knowledge and/or experience of.

I’ve used condoms in my writing, and I think about the potential consequences of unsafe sex for my characters, the most notable being a plot point in a paranormal romance of one breaking and causing the hero stress throughout the book of the heroine becoming pregnant. I’m not sure what happens since the book hasn’t been finished yet. Also, if it’s a sexy situation, great, that’s nice, too, but are authors obligated to give step-by-step details on how two characters make love?

I agree with Ms. St. Clair that love scenes and the characters who act them out help decide how an author handles this condom situation. Last night, I saw The Last Templar movie on TV, and the hero/heroine were in a desert in the middle of nowhere. When they entered the desert, neither were really romantically interested in one another, giving no cause of bringing a condom, but they seemed to be getting real close. What should they do? Is the heroine or hero too stupid to live (TSTL)? And, on that note, why should books be held to one standard and a movies and television held to another? How many movies and TV shows have we seen where the hero or heroine stop in the middle of a love scene to put on a condom? Honestly, I can’t call any to memory.

Through and through, what a reader likes or dislikes is ultimately up to them, and I think they have the right to read, or not read, what they feel comfortable with, but I personally don’t think that whether an author uses condoms, or doesn’t, in fiction should be held against them since each writer has their own writing style and do what they feel comfortable with doing.

Goodness, I feel like I’ve written an essay. Let me know what you think. I’m open to hearing thoughts. *smiles*

7 Responses to How much is too much?

  • Oh lord, Sarah. The Last Templar was really stupid the first night. But it showed a developing romantic interest. I had meant to watch the second half. But forgot. I guess that tells you how bad the first half was… I can’t believe the heroine got away with everything she DID. But the romantic growth was ready for the donning of a condom if that’s what you’re implying happened in the desert. 😉

    On the other hand, can you imagine all the mundane daily activities being described in historicals to flesh out daily lives–ad nauseum? I think it’s a given that if a character uses something for protection against venereal disease or pregnancy that said character is motivated to do so. Motivation makes the scene an author has set and creates the ambiance of risk or love. ~Skhye

  • i think that its important to make comdoms part of the scene if you not going to make your heroine pregnat.

    in todays life it is very impornat that we get the message across that its better to have safe sex. and you never know how much a story can get it across rater that being told over and over again ( which some think is uncool) but if its in a book its (becomes cool) i spoke to some tens that told me that they take more notice if its in most of the books they read rather that from parents or others

  • Skhye, thanks for the great comment. I really agree. I thought some of the things the heroine did in The Last Templar movie stretched belief. The hero (Sean Daily), on the other hand, was quite yummy, and I enjoyed his character.

    I agree that the romantic growth was ready for donning a condom, but with the fact that they didn’t really have as much romance as one would thing to sleep with each other before they went into the desert, then it’s rather unlikely that either of them had one handy in case the mood hit. And at the end of the movie, nobody expected the heroine to become pregnant, so why does that happen in books?

  • My enter finger jumped the gun, Skhye. LOL

    Being a reader of historical novels, I know what you mean, although with those mundane daily activities, I don’t really have a problem with being shown what they do since it’s different in its way from what we do today.

    I agree that the characters having the motivation to protect themselves against diseases and pregnancy is solid and should be taken into consideration, but what about just having a intelligent, self-respecting character? Does the reader need to be told they use a condom, etc?

  • Angietheresa, thank you for your great comment. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. =) You make a valid point, but what about condoms being implied by the fact that other mundane daily things aren’t shown? With most of my novels being dark urban fantasy/dark paranormal romances, there’s pretty much a 99% chance of there ever being a pregnancy in one of my books.

    You make a really valid point, and one that I agree with for young adult novels. Some teens might take more notice from books than their parents, which isn’t very good.

    I am very much for safe sex, but going back to my question about the publishing industry vs Hollywood… Teens are watching movies probably more than reading books, but Hollywood hasn’t really addressed this issue of condoms/safe sex (in the movies I’ve seen). Why do authors need to?

  • That’s something I’ve wondered about, even though in my own writing I portray monogamistic, devoted couples, and generally not strangers having sex for the first time. However, that does happen in a couple of stories I’m working on, so maybe I can figure out a way to make it erotic to put on a condom? We’ll see. . .I welcome the challenge *s*

    As for why it’s important for authors to do so and not movies, well, I think it’s equally important for both forms of entertainment to show safe, responsible sexual practices. If there is any reason that authors have more of a responsibility than movies, it’s because books are more interactive than movies. Books require the reader to visualize what’s goes on; books fire up the imagination and sometimes the loins *s* Movies show fantasies, books create fantasies, if that makes sense. So, because we’re more mentally interactive than movies are, maybe we do have more a responsibility to make sure that those who try to follow the fantasies we’ve engendered do so in a responsible way? I don’t know. . .I know that fiction is fiction and the rules are different in the real world, but can make the assumption that all our readers will do the same? Can we serve them better by including condoms and birth control and safe sexual practices? I don’t know if I can answer that question for anyone but myself, and really, I don’t even have an answer for myself *s*

    You’ve given me something to think about, Sarah. . .and a challenge to make safe sex erotic *s*

    Pandem

  • Thanks for the comment, Pandem. I appreciate your thoughts. Glad to have been of service on your quest for erotic safe sex.

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