Safe Sex?

I love Twitter. You just learn all kinds of things.

Today someone on Twitter posted this article from Mrs. Giggles about Things That Should Be Banned From Romance Novels. I’m not going to go through the whole list, but I will point out this part:

Safe sex – or why we protect ourselves during sex
If I see another author having her heroine tell the hero that it is okay if he sticks his pee-pee into her unchartered waters without a condom because she is on the Pill, I will scream. Please don’t tell me that these authors honestly believe that safe sex is only to prevent pregnancy. Actually, I once had an angry email from an author that convinced me that this could indeed be the case for some authors, shudder. They genuinely believed that the Pill is a method of protection during sex. I’m going to say this in caps because I’ve been saying this for so long, I think it should be tattooed on the forehead of these authors:


Okay, so I get what she’s saying. But. Let me ask this: name ONE romance novel you have read where the hero/heroine had safe (condom) sex and then later one or the other admitted they had an STD.

I can’t think of one!

Let’s get real. Safe sex in “Romance” novels is pretty much there to address the whole pregnancy issue. I can’t think of a single romance novel I’ve read where the condom sex thing was really there to prevent one or the other from getting an STD. Romance novels are fiction. In a happily ever after fiction world, STDs don’t exist. So this whole thing about the Pill vs condoms…doesn’t even register for me.

Would I want to read a romance where one or the other has an STD? Ah, no. Because that’s not a happily ever after moment for me. “Here, I love you, honey, but I have AIDS. We’ll have an HEA until I die.” (Sounds like a Nicholas Sparks book…which we all know is NOT romance.) So um, yeah. In romance novels, I really don’t have a problem with this. Obviously, because my characters have had condom sex and non condom sex. I think a conversation between the main characters addressing the issue is important, but so long as both characters are on the same page and no one’s taking advantage of the situation, I’m good with it.

Now one thing that DOES irritate me about the whole safe sex thing in romance novels is when the author makes a big deal about the characters having safe sex the first time they’re together, then never mentions it again. I’m often left thinking, “Um, wait. Now they don’t even think about it again? And no one’s using a condom, and they aren’t discussing if she can get pregnant. WTF???” If you’re going to bring up the whole safe sex thing, then carry it through and at least have them discuss it later. If you don’t want to even mention it, I’m fine there too, just so long as the author is consistent.

How about you? What’s your take on the whole safe-sex issue in romance novels?

11 comments to “Safe Sex?”

  1. Mary G
    February 17th, 2010 at 2:52 am · Link

    Hi Elisabeth
    Great topic! If the author doesn't mention condoms, I'm like "whoa there" but if they mention them each time thay have to find a novel way to say it each time.
    Most often, from what I've read, they forego condoms when she's on the pill because they never not used them & therefore they are both "clean".

  2. Nutty Mother
    February 17th, 2010 at 2:59 am · Link

    It is FICTION people! And ROMANTIC FICTION at that! I do understand about being socially conscious but I agree with you about not wanting STDs to be a part of my romance novels. Granted sometimes we do read about characters peeing but do we read about them doing other bathroom matters? Do we hang out with the female characters in the bathroom during their cycle to learn about their feminine product of choice? No we don't! To me, like the birth control conversations/actions, these things are part of every day life for couples but I don't want to read about them in my romance books! 🙂

    I remember a big time author once saying that once the condom discussion was done the first time it didn't need to be mentioned again b/c the reader gets that the couple is having safe sex. However, I agree with you b/c when I don't read about it again, I wonder if this is lining me up for the "Oh we are pregnant" ending!

    For me, I don't care if the birth control discussion happens at all. I don't depend on romance books for my health/sex education. And it is not the responsibility of the authors to educate the public on such matters! So I guess I have never understood why it is such a big deal.

    Why can't we have really great stories with really great characters that have really great sex and just leave it at that?

    But I really don't have an opinion on the matter 😉


  3. Elisabeth Naughton
    February 17th, 2010 at 3:08 am · Link

    LOL, Nutty Mother. I couldn't agree more.

    There are a whole host of "everyday things" writers don't add into their books, and all I can say is, "Thank goodness." My hubby and I actually had this discussion the other day. He was reading STOLEN SEDUCTION and got to the part where Shane and Hailey are kissing in the bathroom. And he said, "Yeah, it was a hot scene, but all I could think was, 'she got sick the night before and didn't brush her teeth and he now has his tongue in her mouth.'" I–of course–rolled my eyes. Hello? This is one of those "everyday things" like peeing and tampons that I don't think the author needs to spell out. She brushes her teeth. I can guarantee my heroine wouldn't even THINK about kissing him after puking if she hadn't.

  4. Elisabeth Naughton
    February 17th, 2010 at 3:12 am · Link

    Good point, Mary. If you're going to bring it up, then you need to at least show your characters are thinking about it later on. There are plenty of romance novels where condoms aren't even mentioned (Nora rarely mentions condoms in her books), and I'm fine with that so long as the author stays consistent.

  5. Mary G
    February 17th, 2010 at 3:22 am · Link

    Good point about the "everyday things". I always think it's funny that hardly anyone goes to the bathroom in novels. Probably considered info dump LOL. Seriously I think birth control is mentioned because it's politically correct and authors must feel a responsibility.

  6. jacabur1
    February 17th, 2010 at 11:26 pm · Link

    Elisabeth this is a fun one today. The last discussion I saw on this one in a book was for having "safe sex" the hero pulled out before he "spilled his seed", come now you tell me what is safe about that? Nothing it was simply done as a pregnancy preventative measure, which by the way was nullified by the pre-come which dripped everywhere prior to his entering her "tight sheath"!!! It was fun to read the book and just like Nutty Mother do not expect my sex education from my reading material, that is what Playgirl and Playboy is for after all, har har!!!
    BTW no where in the book was it indicated that the heroine finally got pregnant before marriage from their "rhythm method" of safe sex which I personally find hard to believe of people who were at it day and night like rabbits….

    jackie b central texas

  7. Melissa
    February 18th, 2010 at 2:24 am · Link

    I'm w/ you Elisabeth ~~ It's FICTION!! It's all about the HEA!! I'm reading to suspend my sense of reality here!! HELLO!!
    If there is mention of SAFE sex, I'm definently NOT thinking STD or AIDS…I'm thinking BABY!! Yeah, I've read many romances where the hero and heroine assure one another they're SAFE, they've been tested…but, uh, not really going there in my head while I'm reading a romance, thankyouverymuch. NOT.
    I CAN think of scenes in romances where condoms have become big parts of the scenes ~~ Linda Howards Open Season anyone?? ~~ and totally added to the book, but truly I'm not the type of person to pick my fiction apart like I do the 6 O'Clock news. I'm not reading fiction to get that ~~ I'm reading it to suspend my reality, not get more of it.

  8. Elisabeth Naughton
    February 18th, 2010 at 2:29 am · Link

    OMG, Jackie. I just spewed Diet Dr. Pepper all over my laptop screen!

    That was hilarious! Yeah, I'd love to see a discussion about the rhythm method in historical romances. Why is THAT never a major issue with these people who go on and on about safe sex in romances novels? A good friend of mine, historical author Delilah Marvelle, knows all kinds of interesting facts about sex throughout history. I think I might have to ask her.

    LOL. Thanks for the great comment. I'm still chuckling here…

  9. Elisabeth Naughton
    February 18th, 2010 at 2:30 am · Link

    Oh, Melissa. I think I have to run out and find a copy of Open Season now!!!

  10. wavybrains
    February 21st, 2010 at 6:41 am · Link

    It's fiction. I don't want to be hit over the head with the condom issue, and god bless the authors who take risks (pun intended)with this issue–Shannon McKenna and Sasha White come to mind. White often simply forgoes their mention all together, which works in the context of her books which are pure fantasy (leaving it for the reader to assume that the characters are adults and have that conversion off screen or not), while McKenna is the mistress of finding reasons why no condom is at hand or why they are forgone. However, White is the exception to the rule here, and I have often balked at "sweeter" books that seem to have no good reason for skipping the condom and where it just doesn't fit the story for it to not be mentioned. Honestly, one of the reasons why I love historicals is because there is no clumsy mentioning of the condom issue. I think others might like paranormals for similar reasons. Handled well the condom should be a very, very brief one liner, unless otherwise is dictated by a true plot need. I totally agree with you that romances exist in a universe without much STD, but I have to say that I do know of one book where STD's ARE part of the hero/heroine backstory. It's a Suzanne Brockmann, and I won't mention the title b/c it's interconnected to the series and a bit of a big reveal, but yet again, another exception to the rule. I think you have to just do what works for your particular story and trust that.

  11. Mitzi H.
    February 21st, 2010 at 7:03 am · Link

    I prefer not to have condoms play a big role in my romance novels. I find it distracting. I know that is not PC…but oh well.

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