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*

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