*smoke curls out of nostrils* I promise, I’m annoyed with me too.
Regardless, here was the gist of what she had to say: I’m beginning to feel more and more uncomfortable with the nature of the sex in modern romance.
She felt as though the sex in romance, especially BDS&M, was thinly veiled abuse. Or at least, that is the impression I got from her blog. (Goddamn it! I wish I could find the link.)
However, her concerns were expressed in such a way that it really caught my attention and then I remembered a post Smart Bitches, Trashy Books did on condoms and reality vs. fantasy in romance. That link I did find. You can read the post here.
So for the next week or so, I’m going to be doing a serial post on sex in romance hot spots. Also, I’ll close the serial posts with two reader and one writer interviews I’ve conducted on homosexual romance and condoms. All three of my interviewees are male, one is bisexual, one is straight and the other is gay.
So this is the line-up for this serial Brimstone Pub:
1. Contraceptives and Romance: Jiminy Cricket vs. Jimmy Hat
2. The Immaculate Orgasm: Who the Hell Was that Good for?
3. BDS&M: OMG! Wait. What? She Liked It?
4. Double Edged Sword: The Whore vs. the Bachelor
5. Sex in M/M Romance: True, False or Insanity?
Please note: I’m only familiar with contemporary, historical and paranormal romance, so those are the ones I’ll be talking about. If anyone is familiar enough with other romance sub-genres to do posts on them, Jen and I would love to have you. Also, please be advised: I’m fully of personality. Therefore, there might be cursing or offensive material. This post is not for the faint of heart.
Contraceptives in Romance
Jiminy Cricket vs. the Jimmy Hat
This is a reoccurring topic in the romance spectrum of the publishing sphere, for the same reason ‘forced seduction’ was probably a ‘hot’ topic. Times change, views change and opinions are like assholes, i.e. everyone has one—and unlike the latter, there are those who pride themselves on not being able to keep the former to themselves.
Generally, there are about three sides of this spectrum: those who believe contraceptives need to be addressed in romance, those who don’t think contraceptives need to ruin the ‘fantasy’ of a romance, and those who really could give less of a shit if John had a glove before he got some love.
Personally, I can see all three sides of the triangle. However, I think there’s a time and place for everything. Below, I’ve broken up my views and what not by genre.
Contraceptives in Contemporary Romance:
This genre is usually the target of the majority of ‘no glove, no love’ crusaders. Like I said before, I can see both sides. On the one hand, there are those who really don’t want to see a condom clog up the ‘fantasy’ flow. On the other hand, there are those who can’t seem to shake the ‘ick’ factor of having all kinds of sex without protecting yourself. Personally, I think there’s a time and place for everything—and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
What it Says About the Character(s): Personally, if a heroine and hero have unprotected sex within the first three chapters, I quirk my eyebrow and toss the book aside. Here’s why: Although readers read for escapism, there is only so far one can suspend their disbelief before a well-deserved ‘WTF?' Romance that set in today’s world should, for the most part, operate in this—albeit tailored to romance—reality. There are so many diseases floating around in the world today, that the idea that when you have unprotected sex with someone, you’re actually having sex with everyone they’ve ever had unprotected sex with is scary. If the heroine pays her bills on time, picks up after her dog in the park, I’m going to notice if she doesn’t ask the hero to where a condom—especially during their first encounter.
That’s just smart and hygienic, and personally, the heroine will seem all the more responsible. If the hero comes with his own condom (spermicide sold separately), I’m even more impressed because that means he’s prepared for anything, a responsible sexual partner, and he doesn’t have a bunch of kids free floating around the world. All the more perfect for the heroine, if ya ask me.
Hygiene: There are actually some publishers that will not accept manuscripts featuring a sex scene where the hero and heroine (we’ll talk about m/m a bit later) have anal and vaginal sex, without there being a condom involved. Um…I think on this topic, I don’t think I could stomach anything to the contrary. Anyone who’s had anal sex knows there’s a possibility there will be some…residue…from that particular orifice after the deed is done.
Not to mention, the swarms of harmful (to our sensitive twats, that is) bacteria that could possibly lead to some kind of infection. This is another one of those: if the hero and heroine suck on their thumb when they get a paper cut, wash their hands after they use the restroom, I’m gonna wanna see them use a condom in between….areas. (This is ridiculous, I can write ‘twat,’ but anal sex makes me blush. Figures.)
I kind of feel the same way as far as blow-jobs to anal to blow-jobs. I’m of the mind that I wouldn’t find sucking on my finger after I’ve stuck it…there…very pleasant because, for me, that’s a bit on the ick side. Plus, I’m of the mind that if it’s not clean enough for my mouth than its certainly not clean enough for anywhere else.
Ruining the ‘Moment:’ Than there’s the argument that if one of the parties produces a condom in the midst of a passionate encounter it would jerk the reader out of the story, ruin the moment, seem completely not sexy, etc. If a condom ruins the moment, then I’m of the mind that the ‘moment’ wasn’t all that happening to begin with. I don’t know if we’re talking about the same ‘moment,’ but when I’m in the moment or when I’m writing characters in the moment a freaking meteor could crash outside our door and we wouldn’t be the wiser. Perhaps the way it’s written is what ruins the moment. A while ago Jennifer said something that has always stuck with me:
We’re romance writers. We decide what’s sexy.
Frankly, I agree with her. However, the whole throwing caution to the wind and just living in the moment thing has happened often enough for everyone reading this post to know the potential horror such reckless behavior may bring. Hell, how do you think I got here? (No, seriously—in the back of grocery store, none the less. *sigh* I swear, my parents were a classy pair.) Besides, in the real world, one heated fuck could land you with a disease for the rest of your life. Personally, the greatest 'o' in the world isn’t worth my life.
Fantasy vs. Reality: Now, I know a lot of people are going to come at from the angle that romance is fictional, blah, blah, etc. Yes, I know. However, it seems odd to me that any writer would keep some things ‘realistic’ and completely disregards other things. It reads inconsistent to me. If your heroine has a disease, but AIDS doesn’t exist in the author’s fictional world—I’m gonna quirk my eyebrow. If the hero has a bunch of scars from a car accident, but has been having all kinds of ‘bare’ sex and hasn’t contracted something itchy ever, I’m going to arch both my brows. Likewise, if the heroine isn’t on the pill and has unprotected sex multiple times (and isn’t barren), but doesn’t wind up pregnant…I’m going to wonder whether the hero is shooting blanks and probably won’t care enough to find out.
So, in other words, if your heroine has bad breath in the morning, if your hero picks his nose while no one is looking…they should probably address the unpredictability of sex. But, hey, that’s just my opinion.
Responsibility: A lot of authors who are pro-contraceptives come from the bend of: we have a 'responsibility’ to portray women as responsible, blah, blah…I can’t say I agree. I’m of the mind, people have minds of their own and writers might have a message, but a responsibility to the community is irrelevant and doesn’t apply. Do I think writers should take responsibility for the message they put out into the world? I sure do. However, I don’t think they should be expected to take responsibility for the actions of other individuals. Can a book change your life? No, but it can nest an idea that eventually leads you to make the choices that change your life. Also, the idea that I would have so much influence over someone else’s choices bothers me, not only as an author but as an individual. Women have minds of their own. They make their own choices and they’ll suffer the consequences of said choices, whether those consequences be positive or negative—all I did was write a book.
Contraceptives in Historical Romance:
Historical romance authors are, for the most part, off the ‘contraceptive hook,’ however: I have seen it done and quite masterfully, might I add. I’ve also read historical romances where the heroine and hero don’t or won’t engage in anything that could potentially land her with child until after they’re married.
This is my only pet peeve with historical romance in this area: I can’t stand those heroines, who have sex and then when they get pregnant they can’t fucking believe it. Um…seriously? Listen girly, that bit only worked once in the history of mankind. If you have sex and he ejaculates inside of you, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get pregnant. How is this heroine shocked? I could understand if a heroine didn’t know about the consequences of such a ‘coming together,’ but damn, if she knew it might happen and it does—where’s the fucking mystery? If I run across that kind of nonsense, I roll my eyes and won’t finish the book because, in my mind, the heroine’s just been branded with a ‘TSTL’ on her forehead.
Now, I’m not talking about a situation where the heroine was raped, etc. I’m talking about the just the instance I described above.
Now, as far as, contraceptives done well:
I’ve seen some historical authors handle contraception beautifully. For instance, Lydia Joyce has her hero and heroine use a sponge soaked in vinegar to prevent conception. The fact that she incorporated that into a historical novel blew me away. Not only because it depicted how much she’d researched her era, but it showed me how responsible her heroine was. Yes, the heroine wanted the hero madly, but she didn’t lose her head and always kept in mind that she would not be able to give a child the life it deserved given her monetary situation at that particular time. Also, once the hero found out, he was amazed and admired her even more so because she thought to protect herself and she wasn’t trying to ‘catch’ him by getting pregnant. It was truly masterfully done.
Contraceptives in Paranormal Romance:
This is a gray area in the whole contraceptive debate because on the one hand, most paranormal romances are set in present day. However, there are paranormal creatures involved. Therefore, reality doesn’t really govern them, the way it would in a contemporary or historical romance. However, I think whether or not you include contraceptives in your novel should be consistent with your mythos, i.e. creature mythology.
For instance, if your witch is susceptible to a gun-shot, she should probably be worried about whether or not her werewolf boyfriend really intends to put his cock there after it’s been down there.
Consistency is the key.
As long as you keep things consistent, no one is really going to care about whether or not Big Foot wore a rubber. However, I will say this, if its contemporary romance (and in some historical settings) and the heroine doesn’t know the hero is a paranormal creature or vice versa, I think there should be some mention of contraception, but then that’s just me.
On a further, possibly offensive note: I know a lot of writer’s do ‘tongue in cheek’ posts concerning condoms, i.e. ‘I think my werewolf hero whipping out a condom would be slightly out of place, don’t you think?’ Believe me, I’ve seen a lot of those kinds of posts on contraceptives and romance and, please, let me go ahead and get this out of the way: I think you’re an asshole.
Yeah, that’s right—I said it.
Everyone who can tie their shoes knows werewolves, vampires, etc. are usually all immune from diseases that ravage the average human—not to mention; most vampires, etc. shoot blanks, seeing as how they’re dead. (Unless you’ve specifically structured your mythos so that there paranormal beings are susceptible to disease, and in that case: I want to read your book.) Now, I could also understand if the werewolf in question was using a condom so as not to impregnate his sexual partner—and in that instance, I think a condom would be entirely appropriate and nothing to snicker about. Another situation I think a condom would be appropriate, is if your werewolf is having anal sex with another male or anal sex and vaginal sex in the same session. Not only would I think your werewolf’s condom usage appropriate, I would commend him on his hygienic behavior.
So, once again, if you think you’re being clever…um…no, you’re not. Not really. I mean, if I’m wrong, feel free to enlighten me as to where the cleverness lies, but I think most people would agree, you’re insulting our intelligence and you’re not even doing it well.
On a final note: whether or not you choose to write your characters as pro-contraceptive or not, please remember it is your choice ultimately. These are your characters, your world and your ass on the line. If you’re okay reading and writing a romance novel where no one ever wears a condom, go for it. If you’re someone, like me, who needs the subject to be addressed than I promise you’re not alone. Everyone has their own comfort level, their own preferences and everyone should be entitled to express those however they see fit.
What about you?
What are your views on contraceptives and romance?
That being said…