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Condoms in Contemporary Romance

[poll id="140"]

In Janet’s positive recommendation   of Roxanne St. Claire’s Bulletcatcher series, she mentions the lack of use of condoms:

There is one thing that drove me absolutely crazy in all three books, but it is more of a pet peeve than a strike against the work itself:   no condoms.   Now I know that some feel that because Romance is a fantasy condoms aren’t part of the romantic fantasy, but in a contemporary, where I am supposed to respect these women as intelligent, independent, and self-sufficient, I just cannot take that leap when a heroine begs for the hero to "come inside me,"  especially  before any declaration of love or commitment.  

Where on the line do you fall? Condoms or no condoms?   I know I didn’t allow you for “doesn’t matter” because I’m asking if you had to choose, which would it be?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

172 Comments

  1. JC
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:15:59

    I think there needs to be a third choice. In a modern day romance, I make a reader assumption that the condom is there even if it is not mentioned unless I’m told otherwise. I give bonus points to the author, to the characters, and to the book if it is there and done well. If it isn’t there and later it becomes a plot point (ie pregnant) normally that makes me respect the characters less.

    Historicals, I assume it isn’t there unless otherwise stated.

    I’m not sure if that’s just me though

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  2. joanne
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:18:31

    Well the word actively gave me pause because I don’t think about the use of condoms in fiction until I’m reading a sex scene without one. But since I think it’s so important to mention the use of them, for all the obvious reasons, I voted that I am indeed disappointed when they are not mentioned.

    Of course, that also depends a great deal on the protagonists and where/who/what they are in a given story.

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  3. Sandy
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:20:32

    I don’t read much contemporary romance, but when I do and condoms are used, it doesn’t bother me at all.

    Sci-fi romance, fantasy romance, yeah, it interrupts the flow of the scene.

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  4. Sarah Frantz
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:23:05

    Makes me batshit crazy if it’s not there, especially in m/m romance. I recently read one where the characters didn’t use lube (Spit and “precum” counts, right?! It’s as good as KY!) OR condoms. Made me insane. Completely ruined book for me.

    In fact, the “fantasy” is ruined for me if there are NO condoms. Pulls me out of story because it’s not “real.”

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  5. Lori
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:30:52

    I’ve rarely used condoms in my own life so I don’t expect it when I read. There are other forms of birth control and as far as disease goes, I haven’t been high risk nor have my partners. Birth control pulls me out of the scene, especially if he just happens to have a condom in his pocket while they’re succumbing to lust in the great outdoors, or wherever.

    Although I am like JC and cringe at the unexpected pregnancy from the lack of birth control. Why isn’t an intelligent woman on birth control?

    And Sarah… I so agree, Anal sex without lube is like driving without a car. You ain’t gonna get anywhere and it’s not going to be a fun ride reaching that destination.

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  6. theo
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:32:40

    I don’t read any romance for the ‘real’. I read it because I want the fantasy. Condoms pull me completely out of the moment and I can’t stand that. Maybe I’m too out of the loop, who knows, but if I want reality, I’ll stick a condom on my husband in the middle of the hot and heavy. Just as much a mood killer there!

    No thanks. Leave the condoms out of the story for me.

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  7. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:35:41

    While I voted No, there are some caveats. First, we can’t know, unless it has been stated if the woman is on birth control. And yes, I know the pill doesn’t prevent diseases, but really, I don’t want the thought of disease to add a nice little ick factor to my romance reading. I will admit to asking an author once about the lack of preventive measures and I got an acceptable answer. So, it’s not that it isn’t thought about.

    Then again, it could also have to do with my own experiences that it really doesn’t impact me. They are what they are and I usually assume that a girl is on some form of birth control. Besides, when you are totally out of control (and a lot of the scenes paint things that way), are you really thinking about that? Then again, I rarely read contemps, so as Sandy said, it really interrupts the scene in a scifi/fantasy/urban fantasy romance.

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  8. MoJo
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:38:57

    I actively look for it and am disappointed when there is not one.

    Couldn’t choose this one because I don’t ACTIVELY look for it, thus am not disappointed when there isn’t one.

    No, it interrupts the fantasy

    Couldn’t choose this one because if the characters in the story display some sexual maturity throughout, the LACK of it interrupts the fantasy.

    So…it depends.

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  9. Jennifer
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:44:45

    I could care less about condoms in romance novels. Often times, the use of condoms interrupts the flow of the scence because well, it feels as if the author is making an obligatory mention. I understand the reasons behind this and am not bothered when it happens, but I do then to skip over those sections. I am bothered much more by the way that couples (most often in erotic romance) have a conversation about how they are both clean (with recent physicals to back this up) and how the woman is on an alternate method of birth control so that they can avoid using condoms. That to me is much more disruptive – and irritating because they are knowingly skipping protection.

    Like someone else mentioned, I tend to just assume that the couple is using condoms or appropriate birth control methods when not mentioned. So, I guess I would have to say that I prefer that no mention is made of safe sex practices or birth control.

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  10. joanne
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:46:37

    Now you guys are scaring me.

    I’ve lost so many family members and friends to AIDs and I know so many sexually active (I assume *g*) young people that I thought that in “real life” condoms were a given.

    No? Well, Hell.

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  11. DS
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:48:07

    Birth control isn’t the issue for me. It’s the exchange of bodily fluids with another person in a contemporary. Lesbian sex is considered lowest risk (or was at one time) for transmitting STDs BUT if I read a lesbian sex scene in a contemporary I want a dental dam involved.

    This may have something to do with the amount of havoc in the lives of people I know due to an STD and the circumstances where it wasn’t recognized risky behavior that led to the original infection– a blood transfusion, rendering emergency aid in a knifing, a dirty tattoo needle or an unprofessional tattoo.

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  12. LoriK
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:49:20

    I wouldn’t have used the word disappointed, more distracted. Far from enhancing the fantasy for me the lack of condoms pulls me out of the story because I start thinking about how foolish the characters are being. That’s especially true when they start getting busy after knowing each other only a short time. I won’t do my whole former social worker speech on safer sex, but you can’t tell someone’s risk of disease by looking at him/her and it’s dangerous to simply trust the word of someone you barely know.

    I also hate the trope where supposedly neither person has ever done it without a condom before and it’s only happening this one time because it’s Tru Lurv. That’s just wrong on so many levels and getting caught up in thinking about that can really kill a book for me.

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  13. MB (Leah)
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:57:32

    In contemps it totally bothers me if it’s not mentioned unless both parties have been celibate or only had one partner or such. I’m bothered even more so with m/m if it’s not mentioned especially if the characters are player types.

    I’m not bothered by it in other sub-genres, like paranormal, even if it’s a contemp paranormal.

    I’ve used condoms as my main form of birth control since the 80′s, even with my husband, and it doesn’t stop the mood or interupt anything. You just put it on and continue. So I’m not taken out of a scene by it and it does actually give me more respect for the hero that he’s respectful enough of the heroine to think of her safety and well being and also the heroine that she’s not being TSTL.

    Another thing that comes up for me in all that is that I came of age during the 70′s and it was always, always left to me to take care of being protected against pregnancy and STD’s and having to fight with guys to slap on that condom for STD protection. And to be honest it pissed me off that it was always my responsibility and that not only did I have to fight the guy on that, but they wouldn’t even consider it their responsibility at all.

    So when I read a hero just automatically doing that and not putting it on the heroine, I just love him. Totally! LOL

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  14. katiebabs
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:57:46

    When the hero or heroine do not mention the use of condoms as they are about to have sex, I am shocked. I expect it. If they don’t use protection that takes me right out of the story.

    There have been many contemporaries I have read where they H/H don’t use protection. It surprises me.

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  15. theo
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:59:31

    I’ve lost so many family members and friends to AIDs and I know so many sexually active (I assume *g*) young people that I thought that in “real life” condoms were a given.

    Not using this as an excuse, certainly, but we’re not talking real life. We’re talking fiction. Once the author starts getting into the step-by-step of the act, it no longer is a romance novel for me and becomes a sexual instruction manual and belongs in the educational section of the bookstore.

    I have two teenaged daughters. I would hope if they get to that point (and who knows, they may very well be) that they would be responsible however, we all know unfortunately how irresponsible anyone can be in the ‘heat of the moment’. And how easy it is to say, ‘but that wouldn’t happen to me’.

    I don’t think it’s the author’s responsibility to ‘educate’ her readers that way.

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  16. Laura K Curtis
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:00:30

    I am pretty much identical to MoJo. I am surprised/disappointed when there’s no discussion of sexual responsibility at all, but I don’t require the condom specifically.

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  17. roslynholcomb
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:09:10

    Sorry, it doesn’t faze me either way. In my latest, they used them most of the time, but there were times when they didn’t. I think it was part of their character arc. It demonstrated that they were young, impulsive and foolish. When someone asked about it, I explained it just that way. But, when I write older, non-crazy characters, I typically include them. Of course, I spent a decade browbeating young people about condom use. I’d hate for one of them to pick up one of my books now and see such a glaring oversight. I’ve got at least one former client who would probably highlight the omission and mail my book back to me. *Horrors*

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  18. eco
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:15:33

    In a contemp, I don’t care if condoms are mentioned. If the author works it into the story in a natural way, fine. My personal take on it is that if all other evidence in the story has presented the characters as reasonably smart, I’m going to assume that they take care of themselves during sex. Much like I’d assume they wash their hands after going to the bathroom or before preparing food, that they wear their seatbelts, and all other manner of daily sanitation / personal safety business that’s boring to read, but necessary to live. I don’t want the novel to become a public service announcement or a how-to manual.

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  19. joanne
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:19:58

    I don't think it's the author's responsibility to ‘educate' her readers that way.

    No, you are absolutely right Theo, it is not the author’s responsiblility to educate her readers. I guess it’s just such a hot button for me that I had hoped it would be a normal part of the sexual relations depicted in fiction.

    I also think that men and women reading fictionalized sex scenes that include some type of reality check makes it part of their mind set, of course I could be very wrong.

    I don’t want a ‘step-by-step’ instructional manual either in my fiction reading, but I’ve seen authors address the condom issue nicely, quickly, and even in very sexy ways.

    I’m probably way over the top in terms of thinking about what should and shouldn’t be included in a romance novel. The authors owe nothing but a good story.

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  20. Terry Odell
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:20:26

    If I don’t see it being used, I want something to indicate that they probably used one, or at least a discussion. It might be fiction, but it’s not fantasy. My first thought will be, ‘they’re nuts to do that in this world’, and my second is, “is the author trying to sneak in a pregnancy?” I don’t want a blow by blow description of the process, but I want to feel that the characters are mature and responsible. Like the way I raised my kids.

    If reading about it pulls the reader out of the story, then the author’s not doing the job. That moment can be just as intimate as anything else if done well.

    And once that responsibility is shown, then I’m more willing to accept that they’re doing it all the time.

    I’ll accept that we’re not with characters 24/7, and the author chooses which moments to include and which to leave out (like the hero who’s been unconscious for a day and a half and his first thought is that his stubble is scratchy? And the heroine shaves him. I was wondering why he didn’t need a bedpan or whatever you call the male equivalent — it stopped me, but I let it slide). But if you’re writing a scene where you are showing every detail and nuance, then yes, I want to know that protection enters into it. Even if it’s just, “no worries, I’ve got protection.”

    (And, like MoJo I also think the wording in the poll is a bit too rigid. I notice when they’re missing, but don’t seek them out.)

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  21. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:22:46

    Going condom free in a situation where it’s called for in real life (contemporaries, particularly when the hero and heroine are nearly unknown to each other) strikes me as a *glaring* TSTL moment. It almost always throws me out of the story, particularly when it’s not addressed by them after the fact. Whether the author means it to be or not, it’s a moment of characterization, and when the hero and heroine choose to be that reckless with their sexual health, it reflects badly on their self respect and intelligence.

    And it’s not like the author is fudging a fact about airplanes or epidemiology or european currency. This is a book – within an industry – whose primary focus is the romantic and sexual interaction of men and women. The need for safer sex – particularly with strangers – is a fact of modern life, it’s a fact of my life as a single woman of roughly the same age as most of the heroines in these books. It’s a choice *I* have to make every time I sleep with someone, in the same way I lose some respect for friends who tell me about unsafe sexual behavior, I lose it for the heroine (and the hero).

    I read people bitching and moaning about historical accuracy and for me, the question of condoms in contemporaries is absolutely a question of historical accuracy. And when I read about a heroine who’s supposed to be otherwise educated and self-possessed having bareback sex – particularly with someone she doesn’t know well, which is often the case in these stories – the book strikes me as a wallpaper contemporary.

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  22. jmc
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:33:43

    I hate reading descriptions of a hero coming inside of the heroine (spurting, squirting, bursting, etc.), especially if said bursting occurs without any talk about birth control and disease prevention. If the conversation happened, my frustration is may be lessened or alleviated entirely, depending on the content of the convo. I wish that mainstream contemporary romance included more open conversations generally, though. Usually it’s just “I’m clean”, without any mention of the last blood test or high risk behavior. Sounds clinical, which could yank a reader out of the story, but I’m knocked out of the story just the same when I stop and think, “Unprotected sex! With a modern day Duke of Slut! Do you know where that’s been?!”

    I abandoned a m/m novella a while back when the heroes talked and talked about safe sex. Then had unsafe sex. And then figured that since it was Twu Wuv, they didn’t need to be safe. Because hearts and flowers are prophylactics, y’know. *head/desk*

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  23. Mora
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:35:43

    I’m another reader who is pulled out of the fantasy when characters DON’T use condoms. Especially when the hero is one of the super-sexy alpha male types, who you just know hasn’t exactly been celibate. I spend the rest of the sex scene(s) thinking that the heroine will probably now have to invest in some Valtrex.

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  24. Lorelie
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:42:06

    I also hate the trope where supposedly neither person has ever done it without a condom before and it's only happening this one time because it's Tru Lurv.

    I gotta admit, I like this, but only when it comes near the end of the story and I’m otherwise convinced they’re really in love. When that’s backward – we skipped the condom, therefore it must be love – that’s what I hate.

    Once the author starts getting into the step-by-step of the act, it no longer is a romance novel for me and becomes a sexual instruction manual and belongs in the educational section of the bookstore.

    Once it starts reading like a manual, it’s just badly written. *g*

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  25. Lizzy
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:42:56

    While I wouldn’t say I actively seek out a condom, I don’t mind at all if they’re included; they don’t pull me out of a story if it’s handled well. If it’s cleverly done, it can even be hot.

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  26. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:44:50

    @theo
    “I don't think it's the author's responsibility to ‘educate' her readers that way.”

    I don’t think it is either, but sometimes I suspect that the dividing line about the condom issue has a lot to do with personal experience. If someone came of age before the age of AIDS or was in a couple of monogomous relationship before marriage (or none, for that matter) and condom usage was never a major part of their lives, I can understand that maybe, it’s easier to dismiss or not care about their usage.

    But for me – someone who came of age in the nineties and has had multiple partners, casual and otherwise – and for others in the same boat as me, condom usage and sex are inextricably linked. The need insist on it, the need to have the self control to say no, we don’t have condoms we’re going to go get some, or have alternative fun, and the immediate *plummet* in respect I have for any guy who tries to suggest we forgo them… this is as much a part of sex as anything else.

    I don’t need to be educated about condoms, or to educate the reader, but for me and (I suspect) many other women who’ve had to negotiate condom usage most or all of their sexually active lives, whether or not the hero and heroine use one when they should tells me something important about them. And while no, I don’t think romance novels are here to lecture on safe sex, there’s a subtle, insidious message (when condom usage is skipped entirely) that oh, he looks safe. Oh, he looks “low risk”, he’s a nice clean guy with a good job and he loves me, so condoms aren’t needed.

    I accept that mention of condom usage (and hey, it’s rarely more than that, I almost never see huge detailed how to’s on how to put a condom on and focus on the sensation of latex etc) might throw some people out of the “fantasy”, particularly if they’ve never – or rarely – had to deal with the necessity of safer sex in modern love, but I don’t see why they can’t just imagine that the hero and heroine are going bare back, if that’s what they need.

    What I can’t do – as someone who wants to see her heroine have some self respect with regards to her sexual health – is pretend that she *did* make that decision. The way I see it, it’s a minor aesthetic squick for people who prefer their romance novel sex bareback, and it’s a major, character revealing decision for people who prefer it otherwise. And once I know the hero and heroine have no problem bareback boinking with someone they hardly know, I can’t un-know that TSTL decision.

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  27. Eyre
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:02:45

    It really bugs me when the condom isn’t present unless the book is a PNR or an unplanned pregnancy is part of the plot.

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  28. MaryK
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:05:41

    @eco: That’s exactly how I feel. I think this kind of thing is why I rarely read contemporary romance. The least whiff of a lecture (on any social topic) kills the “story” mood. I haven’t run into many authors who can weave social issues in so they’re organic.

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  29. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:06:54

    @shamelessreader

    I definitely agree that personal experience is a major factor in how people will see condoms or no condoms in romance. For me, a condom is literally not something I have *ever* had to think about. (Trying to avoid TMI. LOL) To add fuel to the fire, my parents opted me out of sex ed.

    There are times when an author handles it very well and makes it an erotic moment, but honestly, most of the time, it just breaks up the sexual tension. Oh yeah, wait… can’t actually get all hot and bothered yet, gotta remember and it does sound like a public service announcement. So, yeah… it takes me out of the moment when reading it. In fact, when I do read about it in one scene, I have a tendency to skim any other intimate scenes in the book.

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  30. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:10:27

    I definitely am thrown out of the story if characters have unprotected sex. Both because of the risk of pregnancy and because of STDs (an estimated 19 million new cases of STD every year in the U.S. as reported last night and the vast majority of folks don’t even know it and infect more people, the reported figure was 1.5million, if I remember right).

    I grew up at a time where AIDS was just starting to be recognized and we had sex ed that stressed condom use. However, I was in monogamous relationships and on birth-control so condom use was never a regular thing in my life, even when it should have been later.

    Nevertheless, things come to a screeching (mental) halt for me when there’s no discussion and no mention of condoms or when the author makes a special point about describing ejaculation inside the vagina when the characters have just met, are not yet in a committed relationship and/or are of the supersexed variety (be they male or female).

    It’s just not smart and I want my characters to be smart.

    My own personal condom experiences weren’t romantic, matter of fact, occasionally outright embarrassing, so I can see why others with similar experiences might find it jarring to be reminded of uncomfortable events in their own past, but I’m with those that feel that while the purpose of a romance novel isn’t to educate, it does so on a subconscious level anyway and I’m good with that, because after all we live in the only country in the developed world with higher teen pregnancy rates than some developing countries and our STD rates are nothing to be proud of either!

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  31. Kimber An
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:16:47

    Well, you know, if the novel is a Romance, then I assume it’s about Love. Not just sex. So, if it’s about love, then I expect the Hero and Heroine to know each other well enough by the time they have sex that they don’t need condoms. They can use a myriad of different forms of much more pleasant contraceptives. Some say a modern heroine who has sex without a condom is an idiot, but I say she’s an idiot if she has sex before she knows her partner well enough to know he is disease-free.

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  32. MaryK
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:18:07

    @MaryK: I did recently read a condom usage that was totally integrated and non intrusive. Except that I stopped to think, “Excellent weaving in of condom usage. Kudos for not interrupting the story flow.” which of course interrupted the story flow.

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  33. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:19:07

    Some say a modern heroine who has sex without a condom is an idiot, but I say she's an idiot if she has sex before she knows her partner well enough to know he is disease-free.

    Now that I totally agree with.

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  34. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:24:40

    @growlycub:

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, this is not an attack on you.

    So let me get this right. 1.5 million people report getting an STD but somehow we know that 19 million people actually got one? How in the world do we know this? That is a huge difference in numbers. Can you send me the link to these figures? To me, this just sounds like more overinflated numbers, especially given that the difference is so big.

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  35. deputman
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:28:24

    For me, when the h/h doesn’t use a condom, they’re both TSTL – literally.

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  36. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:34:04

    Monique,

    I think it was on World New with Charles Gibson, and I think they quoted CDC numbers. And, no it’s not the patients self-reporting, it’s the doctors.

    Yes, here’s the link to the summary:

    http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats07/trends.htm

    Scary stuff! Syphilis is on the rise and Chlamydia is really taking off.

    A condom, a kingdom for a condom!

    theo, considering this: ‘almost half of them [the 19 million cases] among young people 15 to 24 years of age’ you may feel inclined to think inclusion even for non-educational purposes may be a good thing. And then, maybe not. :)

    And as a I side note, I cannot help but think that the insistence on abstinence only sex ed programs has something to do with the rising rates of STDs.

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  37. Terry Odell
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:44:29

    Ok — I was just reading a Sandra Brown. Talk about synchronicity. There’s a whole lot of the ‘kiss’ that leads to the bedroom. Then they’re lying side by side after the fact. This is one of those, “we just met and I can’t believe we’re doing this but it’s so right” kind of encounters. So, after the fact, his pov, he asks if she was all right with it, and we see him recalling how it had never been so hard to open one or get it on, ‘in the nick of time’ … and for me it worked very well.

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  38. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:48:56

    @growlycub:

    Thank you for the link. I am at work, but intend to take a look later this evening. No rise in STDs is good.

    However, I tend to disagree with your reasoning on abstinence only sex ed, which let’s face it, isn’t exactly sex ed. But really, why are we teaching kids in school how to have sex? Just to be fair, in case you didn’t see it earlier, I never went through sex ed in school; my parents opted me out. And yes, for those who are curious, they talked to me about it themselves. It was quite a memorable lesson, something that I still laugh about today with my husband.

    The whole point to abstinence only is to discourage sexual behavior. To be honest, I think some photos of people with STDs are a great deterrent.

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  39. Antonella
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:07:44

    The whole point to abstinence only is to discourage sexual behavior.

    Unfortunately, study after study shows that, overall, it doesn’t work.

    Sex ed classes aren’t designed to teach kids how to have sex. They’re designed to teach kids about the consequences of sex, and that if they do decide to have sex (which most of them will, class or no class), that they do it in a responsible manner.

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  40. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:09:03

    But really, why are we teaching kids in school how to have sex?

    We aren’t teaching them how to have sex, we are teaching them how to have *safe* sex in recognition of the fact that they are going to have sex whether we want them to or not, hopefully later than the 12 or 13 that many middle schoolers reporting for their first sexual experience here in the U.S.

    Again, there’s a major cultural disconnect going on. I grew up in Europe, and until I came to the U.S. nobody ever used the argument that informing people about the risks of a behavior and how to minimize the risks would lead people to the undesirable behavior. I had sex ed in first grade. I kid you not. It was about a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm, how they melded to make a baby. Later classes elaborated on that theme until it involved sexual behavior, sexual orientation, STDs, condoms, birth control, etc. etc. when we were teenagers. I can promise you none of the 1st graders went out and had sex, nor did the 7th graders. I remember a fabulous water balloon fight with water filled condoms, however. :)

    It seems a particular U.S. thought that all sex is bad, so if we don’t teach them about safe sex, they won’t have any sex. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. Younger and younger kids are having sex, but it’s not sex ed that’s making them have it, but natural curiosity and cultural influences, and I, for one, would much rather they had safe sex that doesn’t result in unwanted pregnancies and STDs than believing if I just don’t speak about it to them these (pre-)teens won’t engage in sex.

    That’s way too ostrich for me.

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  41. Jessica Kennedy
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:15:41

    I read mostly paranormal romances ie vampires, were’s, witches etc. and I only remember reading about condoms a time or two. I don’t think about it too much if it’s not mentioned. Of course if it’s not mentioned I notice because then there’s always a chance that the female can become pregnant. Usually the two involved end up falling madly in love with each other and a pregnancy doesn’t ruin anything. When it’s mentioned I notice much more. It’s like the author/characters are taking precautions to NOT get pregnant. That makes me more interested in the characters and why they are so concerned. It adds another layer to the story and that’s kinda cool.

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  42. Gemma
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:27:57

    In some part it depends on the style of the sex-scene whether I would expect to see the word “condom” mentioned in the text. If they go back to her place and make hot passionate love (moving from kissing, to groping, to thrusting then afterglow…. but without the finer second-by-second details) I would probably assume they’d been sensible.

    When it’s a blow by blow account (no pun intended) I would be unhappy not to hear about protection, unless that’s part of the plot (“how were we so stupid?”). E.g. “he unbuttoned his pants, pulled out his cock, and surged into her”. If you are going into that level of detail and don’t mention a condom, I certainly wouldn’t just assume that the hero was wearing one.

    I wouldn’t be happy if the hero relies on the knowledge that the heroine is on the pill to have sex without condoms right from the very first. As others have said, if the hero’s a bit of a man about town (or even if not) I’ve got to wonder what infection he’s passing on. For that matter, if the heroine is on the pill already (for contraceptive purposes), and has no problem with a sexual encounter without a condom, just how many men might she have collected STIs from previously?

    I did once email an author to complain about there being no mention of condoms in the sex scenes. It was contemporary m/m erotica, and in my experience it’s utterly standard there (since erotica doesn’t stop at the bedroom door!) and it was a glaring omission which killed the mood for me.

    Condoms can be part of the loving care that one partner shows to the other. They can be part of the everyday hassle of life. They can be part of the humour of a sex scene when the packet takes a precious second to locate or open. Their absence can be part of ratcheting up the tension, when you can’t have sex right here right now because neither party happens to have one in their wallet. They can be part of the getting-ready-for-a-date scene of nerves and anticipation. They can be informative when a guy has to buy a new packet because the old one is out of date. They can be funny when a horny young man says you’d better bring quite a few because I’m liable to come just from looking at you, but I can keep going all night.

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  43. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:33:27

    @growlycub:

    We aren't teaching them how to have sex, we are teaching them how to have *safe* sex in recognition

    :) In my book teaching someone to have safe sex is still teaching them to have sex.

    LOL – I must be a prude because I cannot even begin to imagine 1st graders talking about sperm. Of course, I am mindful that there is always the law of unintended consequences. Some first grade classes just don’t structure things well and they lead to things like this old story which I think was used as an example though I’m sure it’s happened somewhere: The class was discussing good and bad touching (I’d like to point out that this kind of thing is good to be teaching young children) and they taught about masturbation. Unfortunately, the child misunderstood and so when someone asked her what she was doing while she rubbed her cheek, her response was “Masturbating.”

    Then again, I have always deplored the 21 age limit on drinking because it does not teach people to drink responsibly. But, I do not advocate schools teaching kids how to drink responsibly anymore than I think schools should be teaching kids how to have sex responsibly. Just my opinion.

    Sorry, you must have just hit a hot button for me today. This isn’t directed at you personally.

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  44. rebyj
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:43:22

    I’m old enough that I know it’s fiction/fantasy and personally don’t care if condom use is mentioned or not but then I think about how young I started reading romances and if condom use is written into the scene well I think thats a good thing.

    I was 12 when I started reading romance and thought till I was about 18 that sex the first time would be fabulously satisfying and that it was perfectly normal to expect a rich man to marry me and I’d play tennis and drive a hot sports car when I wasn’t nursing/teaching/secretary’ing. LOL Who knows what goes thru teenagers minds. So making condom use “normal” is not a bad thing at all.

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  45. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:46:18

    “Well, you know, if the novel is a Romance, then I assume it's about Love. Not just sex. So, if it's about love, then I expect the Hero and Heroine to know each other well enough by the time they have sex that they don't need condoms.”

    … Love doesn’t protect you from STDs, neither does “knowing someone well”. Never mind the fact that plenty of STDs can be asymptomatic in both men and women. It’s not just skanky anonymous ho sex that can give you stuff, it’s sex with someone you love – and who loves you. And having safe sex doesn’t mean the sex is loveless – not that I assume that *you* think that, but I feel like you’re implying that above. Whether he’s a good guy or a “clean looking” guy or he loves you or you’ve known him since childhood, if he engages in unprotected sex with the heroine – without so much as lip service paid to the question of STD testing – chances are he’s engaged in unprotected sex with other women. Other women who’ve probably been willing to engage in unprotected sex with other men. Anyone on that chain could have had an asympotmatic STD that they passed on.

    It’s not like most people who catch herpes or AIDS or the clap looked at a pus-filled-sore covered weiner and said, “Hey, I wanna jump on that!” Plenty of them catch it from someone who didn’t look like they had it – and may not have known they had it – who they trusted enough to say “I know him well enough, I don’t have to ask if he’s been tested recently, or use a condom.” And yeah, that’s boring reality, and we’re talking about romance novels, but in the romance novels I’m talking about – the behavior I’m talking about – time and time again I see this foolish, TSTL behavior. It’s not just dirty, slutty people who have loveless sex who catch diseases, it’s people who engage in risky behavior – full stop.

    And if the H/h do the unprotected nasty – with or without love, with or without “knowing each other” – and they haven’t had *at the very least* a discussion of past sexual behavior (though the “hey baby, I’m clean” trope annoys the F out of me too, if he’s willing to stick in in our heroine bareback, he’s likely done it bareback with other women, and unless he’s gone for a full battery of tests in the meantime, he doesn’t know he’s clean, he just thinks he is), then I’m going to have to strenuously disagree with you.

    “Some say a modern heroine who has sex without a condom is an idiot, but I say she's an idiot if she has sex before she knows her partner well enough to know he is disease-free.”

    Unless you’ve had that discussion of past sexual behavior and testing, and you have every reason to believe he’s telling you the 100% truth, and he’s been tested since he last engaged in risky behavior (which, IMHO breaks the flow of sex *way* more than one line about him grabbing a foil packet) doing it unprotected – even with love, and even with “knowing someone” – is *way* more idiotic than having protected sex, even if that protected sex is with someone you met that night.

    And if it is about love, like most romances are – sexy or sexless – you’re free to assume that the H/H know each other well enough by the time they have sex, but the reality, in the contemporaries I’m talking about, is that often, they don’t. Love, “knowing someone” and even an engagement ring – hell, even marriage vows – don’t magically make past risky behavior disappear. And if the H/h don’t so much as discuss that, they’re being idiots, even if they love each other.

    It’s fine to expect your heroine to wait until she knows the hero well enough to know he’s disease free, but my question is *how* does she know he’s disease free unless they’ve discussed it and he tells her he’s only *ever* had protected sex before her, and he’s been tested? Is it that he loves her and would never do that to her? He’d never put her at risk like that? He’s a nice, clean cut guy? If he’s dipped his bareback wick elsewhere and hasn’t gotten tested since, the truth is, he doesn’t know.

    I’ve been “lucky” enough to make it disease free through a lot of what you might call idiot behavior of sleeping with men (some I knew well, some I didn’t), but luck had very little to do with it. The fact that I always insist on using condoms until I’m in a long term, monogomous relationship, *and* we’ve discussed past risky behavior *and* I’ve insisted he get tested is what’s kept me safe. Not love, or lack thereof.

    My girlfriends who’ve had to deal with STDs? Some are pretty sure they got it from dumb, drunken, bareback hookups, but *more* got it from boyfriends they loved and knew well.

    This probably comes off as an offputting lecture, and if it does, so be it. But it’s this very attitude of “If I love him and know him, I don’t have to worry about condoms” that this sort of lack of condoms in romance (in situations where the smart choice is to use them) helps to perpetuate. And it’s this idea that his love for you somehow magically protects you from any past indiscretions that probably spreads more disease than all the (condom wearing) one night stands combined.

    Love and waiting and being a good girl who picks a good boy doesn’t protect you from STDs. Condoms do. And if you prefer to read sweet romances where the H/h are both virgins and wait until true love is declared, fine. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about romances that involve the H/h engaging in what is – indisputably – risky behavior, and whether that’s distracting.

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  46. December
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:47:08

    I think consistency is the key. If its mentioned once, I expect it to be mentioned each time.

    Sometimes I think just bringing it up – he checked his pocket to be sure he had protection – is fine.

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  47. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:49:35

    @ monique

    “The whole point to abstinence only is to discourage sexual behavior.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/13/AR2007041301003.html

    and the whole point of us who call shenanigans on “abstinence only” is that it doesn’t work. Or rather, it doesn’t work to reduce sexual behavior. All it it does is reduce *safe* sexual behavior.

    ETA: Okay, according to that study, apparently it doesn’t reduce *safe* sexual behavior, though i’ve read elsewhere that it does. But the point still stands that there have been many studies that show that abstinence only doesn’t do squat to stop teens from having sex. And others that point out that the rate of STDs and teen pregnancy in more conservative red states (that tend to go for AO ed) is notably higher than it is in heathen blue states where kids are given the information they need to make smarter sexual choices.

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  48. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:00:08

    @shamelessreader

    And all I’m saying is that educating people in safe sex doesn’t stop the sex either. Personally, I think it’s stupid when a school nurse tells me she can give condoms out all day but can’t give someone Tylenol.

    Like I’ve said before, I never went through school sponsored sex ed. I’ve also never been in a situation where a condom was needed. And I rarely if ever read contemps (with the exception of the Harlequin Presents line).

    I have never seen the curriculum of an abstinence only sex ed class. Can someone give me some idea where I can find one? I’d love to know what they do and don’t teach in those classes as opposed to “regular” sex ed.

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  49. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:14:30

    And all I'm saying is that educating people in safe sex doesn't stop the sex either.

    Maybe, but it will most likely stop your 13 year old daughter from turning up pregnant or infertile because she caught Chlamydia as a teen, didn’t know it, so no treatment, and then 20 years later being devastated because she cannot have children when she’s in that loving committed relationship you want for her!

    Fact: kids have sex
    Fact: kids who have unprotected sex end up pregnant or get STDs
    Fact: kids who are taught that safe sex is the only way to have sex have lower incidences of unwanted pregnancy and STDs

    The point is not that it’s better for pre-teens not to have sex, we are probably all agreed on that, the point is they are having sex whether or not it’s good for them, so we adults need to make sure they are doing it in the safest possible manner. If we can convince some of them along the way during our comprehensive sex ed classes that it’s a much better idea to wait until they are more mature, all the better.

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  50. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:20:46

    @ Monique

    But the point of educating people in safe sex isn’t to stop the sex. It’s the point of abstinence only, and abstinence only fails at it.

    The point of sex ed is to give the kids tools so that – if and when they decide to have sex – they can make smarter choices. It’s so that they know hey, you don’t do it a while and *then* put the condom on before he ejaculates, and that STDs can be asymptomatic, so that if he/she “looks” clean, that’s no proof that he/she is. It’s so kids don’t have to rely on schoolyard rumors (jump up and down after or douche with coke or have her on top and you can’t get pregnant!) or a parent’s “Just Don’t Do It” for their sexual health information. And instead, they’ve got scientifically accurate information that yes, you can get pregnant your first time, or during your period, or if he pulls out. And no, you shouldn’t use hand lotion or other oil based lube with condoms or they break down.

    The “Regular” sex ed I got didn’t in any way encourage us to have sex. What it encouraged us to do, in fact, was to wait, and to consider options other than penis-in-vagina sex, and that if we did decide to engage in PIV sex, to always, always insist on using a condom.

    Teenagers don’t need to be encouraged to have sex – their hormones do a fine job of that. What teenagers need to be encouraged to do is think critically about their sexual choices, and that there are other choices beyond “don’t do it” and “be a nasty slut”. And if the only info they get “don’t do it” from their parents and their church, if they decide to do it, their only other source of sexual information is going to be their partner – likely another horny, irresponsible teenager, not the best or most accurate or unbiased source.

    It’s great that your lack of sex ed worked out well for you, but for a lot of girls, it doesn’t. For a lot of girls, that enforced ignorance of smart sexual health choices leads to making stupid decisions when they and their boyfriends get so horny that “just don’t do it” goes out the window.

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  51. Moth
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:21:21

    I know if there is no mention I immediately skip ahead in my mind to wondering “oh god is a pregnancy scare going to be a plot point” and THAT actually pulls me out of the sex scene. With all the diseases out there you’d have to be an idiot not to use a condom. and I don’t like reading books about idiots.

    So, yea, give me at least one line mentioning the condom, please. Thanks.

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  52. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:25:06

    And to take this thread completely utterly off-topic, have you guys seen this story?

    Co-ed auctions off her virginity for 3.7million dollars to pay for grad school. Supposedly she got offers from over 10,000 men and it will happen at the Bunny Ranch in Nevada where prostitution is legal.

    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2009/01/13/pn.most.outrageous.virginity.auction.cnn

    I’m not sure what I think about that. I mean, hey, if I could have gotten 3.7mil I might have waited till I was 22 as well. Darn, I never have these great ideas! /flabbergasted

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  53. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:29:43

    The point is not that it's better for pre-teens not to have sex, we are probably all agreed on that, the point is they are having sex whether or not it's good for them, so we adults need to make sure they are doing it in the safest possible manner.

    If we were talking about alcohol here, which I acknowledge we are not, parents could land in jail. Because helping your kid drink responsibly or having a party where kid and friends can drink safely is strictly forbidden by law.

    Now, I am not advocating that we should do the same over safe sex. But I am going to say something that is going to make me very unpopular now. So, brace yourself.

    In my personal opinion, there should be a terrible stigma attached to people (both boys and girls) who get pregnant as teens and those who help get them pregnant. That stigma should not touch the child, if one is born, but should be bad enough to discourage such behavior. This whole baby as fashion accessory and no consequences because Mommy and Daddy raise the baby or just get an abortion is unacceptable and so long as these are the prevailing attitudes, we will continue to have a high rate of teen pregnancy.

    I don’t think we do a very good job helping kids understand what it means to get pregnant or have a child or that it is perfectly ok not to have sex. Think about all the fun that was made of certain celebs for their vow to not have sex, and those were younger celebs that kids look up to.

    You want to talk about disease, you can do it in health class or biology class or anatomy class or gasp! parents should have a chat with their kids. I was taught by my parents that having casual sex or sex with someone I was not prepared to marry was disrespecting myself.

    Now that we are so far off-topic it’s funny, I am going to go back to my original premise which is that most authors do not handle the whole condom thing well and it usually throws me out of the story. To be honest, you shouldn’t even notice; it should just be there.

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  54. Jules Jones
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:35:09

    I want the condom in a contemporary romance, because not having one throws me out of the story. For all the reasons discussed by shamelessreader@45. And because AIDS was very much a live topic when I went to university (they isolated the virus while I was in my first or second year), and I lived in a country where part of the response to the AIDS crisis was a serious attempt to teach people that Condoms Are Good rather than Sex Is Bad, and that you can’t tell whether someone is clean just by looking at them or assume they’re clean because they’re a nice person you’d not be ashamed to take home to meet your mother.

    And yes, the condom discussion can be part of the characterisation. Been there, done that, got the novel. Which has had some good reviews, so presumably I made it work for some readers at least.

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  55. Jules Jones
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:37:49

    Monique@52: the analogy you’re using there is one that’s not going to work very well for many readers of this blog. Strictly forbidden by the law in which country? It’s certainly not forbidden in mine.

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  56. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:40:15

    @ Jules

    Sorry. It is where I live. Maybe it’s done by state though in the US. I can tell you that in Delaware and Virginia, knowingly having a party with alcohol for those underage will land you as an adult in jail. Giving alcohol to minors will land you in jail.

    Where do you live?

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  57. Moth
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:45:31

    In my personal opinion, there should be a terrible stigma attached to people (both boys and girls) who get pregnant as teens and those who help get them pregnant.

    and

    we will continue to have a high rate of teen pregnancy.

    @ Monique: We will continue to have a high rate of pregnancy as long as people refuse to teach their kids how to have safe sex. Babies have been having babies throughout the history of the world. Telling your kids not to have sex doesn’t work. Social shunning isn’t a good way to fix anything, it’s a good way to create a lot of lost, lonely, desperate single parents.

    Teaching your kids about their options and how to take care of themselves works. Talking to them openly and honestly about sex works.

    and putting condom scenes in romance novels could help. It sure can’t hurt.

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  58. theo
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:48:53

    To really date myself here, I ‘came of age’ in the 60′s, had a mother who never even mentioned the word sex, let alone talked to me about it, had no sex education classes and learned about sex from being date-raped. I also was no saint and had many partners before I married, and I say that only to say I’m not a prude.

    But, from the time my girls were little, any questions they asked were answered by me in an age appropriate manner that obviously got more involved as they matured. I was not going to leave them in the same position I was in.

    The music they listen to, the movies they watch, the amount of sex thrown at them every day now makes much more of an impression on them than whether or not someone’s using a condom in a romance novel.

    So, that said, I still don’t want to read about condom usage in a romance because I’m trying to “escape” (which really isn’t the word I want but I can’t think of a better one) life for a few hours rather than have it thrown in my face by what I’m reading.

    Maybe it’s more a generational thing, but I also can’t stand the Valtrex commercials on TV because I want to scream at them that maybe if they didn’t sleep around, they wouldn’t have caught it in the first place. And I’ll probably get skewered for that one, but that’s okay. Mine is just one of many different opinions.

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  59. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:49:52

    (I’m hoping this isn’t a double post, but I posted it about 5 minutes ago and it hasn’t showed yet)

    @ Monique

    But the point of educating people in safe sex isn’t to stop the sex. It’s the point of abstinence only, and abstinence only fails at it.

    The point of sex ed is to give the kids tools so that – if and when they decide to have sex – they can make smarter choices. It’s so that they know hey, you don’t do it a while and *then* put the condom on before he ejaculates, and that STDs can be asymptomatic, so that if he/she “looks” clean, that’s no proof that he/she is. It’s so kids don’t have to rely on schoolyard rumors (jump up and down after or douche with coke or have her on top and you can’t get pregnant!) or a parent’s “Just Don’t Do It” for their sexual health information. And instead, they’ve got scientifically accurate information that yes, you can get pregnant your first time, or during your period, or if he pulls out. And no, you shouldn’t use hand lotion or other oil based lube with condoms or they break down.

    The point of comprehensive sex ed is to give kids the *accurate* information, so that if/when the time comes that they decide to do it, they at least have a chance to protect themselves, and so that they’re not at the mercy of their (quite likely horny and irresponsible and biased) partners when it comes to sexual health and reproductive info. There’s something about AO education that, to me, smacks of “Well, if you sluts would just keep your legs closed, you won’t have problems, and if you do, you’re on your own.” (not saying you’re saying this, just saying it’s my impression of AO education in general)

    And I know this is just anecdotal, but in my experience, almost to a fault, it’s been the friends with the most conservative “just don’t do it, end of lecture” parents that engage in the riskiest behavior and end up catching stuff and having abortions or babies at 16 (Is that always the case? Of course not. But (and this is just armchair psychologizing) it always seemed like for them, when they’d do it, there was either magical thinking that love would protect them, or the idea that somehow, if they actually *thought* about what they were doing and planned for it, and decided to use protection, they were somehow being more sinful. If they decide to use condoms, then they’re consciously deciding to have sex, and consciously deciding to have sex is bad.

    But if “oops, we were just swept up, somehow *it just happened” then somehow, they’re less culpable. But it doesn’t *just happen*. It’s a choice, and I guess that’s what gets me when I notice a lack of condom use in a situation that *obviously* calls for it. If you don’t care about condom use one way or another, then the lack of them in a scene is a null, something that just happened to be left out. But if you do care about condom use, then there exactly two options – either they decided to have protected sex, or they decided to have unprotected sex.

    And unless the circumstances are demonstrated to be otherwise (and most of the time, they’re not, in the novels I’m talking about), deciding to have unprotected sex is an active, TSTL decision.

    You know what I’d *love* to read in an romance novel? The H/h getting hot and heavy the first time and the heroine getting all swept up in the moment, and the hero being like “I don’t have any protection” and the heroine being like, “I don’t care, I trust you, do it anyway” and him being like, “I’m pretty sure I’m clean, but I love you too much to put you at risk like that.”

    Now *that* would be romantic.

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  60. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:50:41

    In my personal opinion, there should be a terrible stigma attached to people (both boys and girls) who get pregnant as teens and those who help get them pregnant. That stigma should not touch the child, if one is born, but should be bad enough to discourage such behavior.

    We’ve had that in the past and it didn’t work then either, and it came with horrid stigma and a name ‘bastard’.

    It doesn’t work. You cannot brand the parents without tainting the innocent child. Much better to work on preventing the child’s conception with methods known to work (most of the time) such as condom use.

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  61. Wendy
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:54:42

    With contemporaries, I always “assume” a condom was used even if the author doesn’t spell it out for me. But…..

    If later on in the story I learn for a fact that no condom was used at all then I get hopping mad and want to chuck the book at the nearest wall. And this factoid is usually revealed in the really insipid manner of the heroine musing, “Oh fiddly dee, we didn’t use protection. I might be pregnant! What ever shall I do? Oh it will be OK. Because I lurve the hero muchly and I’ll now have a little piece of him always while he’s off saving the world from terrorists, gun smugglers, drug dealers or just fleeing my lurve because he’s a jackass who’s afraid of commitment.”

    Naturally the heroine only stops to ponder pregnancy possibilities. Not the possibility that the “hero” could have passed on diseases like HIV or herpes for her to “remember” him by.

    Which means I now think the heroine is dumber than a bag of hammers, and the book is a big fat fail.

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  62. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 14:55:09

    @ Moth

    Nothing is going to end teen pregnancy, not even giving everyone free condoms for the rest of their lives, not teaching kids how to have safe sex, and not filling romance novels with condoms either.

    But, carrots and sticks have always worked. Besides, just because something has always happened doesn’t make it right or make it something we should not work to prevent. My biggest problem with all these arguments is simple: we just throw up our hands and say, well they’re going do it anyway so why bother trying to stop the behavior. They tried that with free needles for druggies in Amsterdam. I’ve noticed that didn’t work too well and they no longer do that. Point being that we should not just accept the behavior, we should try to do something to curb it and so far, no one is even suggesting that.

    But the point isn’t how we handle this in real life because romance novels are not real life and authors are not bound by the same rules.

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  63. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:02:45

    @Wendy

    “With contemporaries, I always “assume” a condom was used even if the author doesn't spell it out for me.”

    I’d like to be able to do that, and if the sex scene is vague enough or the door closes before the squishy part of the festivities, I try to. But if the scene goes into enough detail about the steps between clothing removal and penetration, I find myself keeping an eye out for when the condom goes on. And if they’ve spelled out enough that I can’t figure out when they’d have time to put the condom on, I’ve got to assume that they didn’t. YMMV, of course.

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  64. muñeca
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:03:38

    @Monique
    “The whole point to abstinence only is to discourage sexual behavior. To be honest, I think some photos of people with STDs are a great deterrent.”

    It's been 15 years since I went to my own sex ed class and unfortunately we were not taught in that class how to use a condom. But we were shown pictures of every STD and how it effects the human body graphically. And those pictures didn't deter one of my classmates then from getting pregnant later in the year. Kids think that no matter what they are shown it will not happen to them, they are fearless and for that reason teen pregnancy will never be completely wiped out but with education they can be lowered.

    Also those pictures came to late for another girl in our class who was already pregnant. That girl I remember her mother took her out class every year when our sex ed class was going to take place so that year since she was already pregnant she stayed and asked some of the most stupid (harsh word to use, but it was the word I was thinking of 15 years ago) questions, she honestly didn't know the mechanics of pregnancy looking back at it now I can see she just wanted to know how she had gotten the way she was. But to my 16 year old self I though her stupid because I had been taught those things in grade school.

    This same girl is she were in high school today wouldn't be this ignorant the internet would take care of issues like that but back then no one had bothered to teach her and that was the result. But do you really want the internet to be our kids teachers? So when ever I hear about abstinence only programs she is the girl I think about and why they just don't work and when I read reports that show red states have a higher teen pregnancy rate then blue states it just proves further to me.

    It's great if parents actually take the time to teach their kids about sex but not all parents do, most would rather not talk about it at all but ignoring a problem does not make it go away.

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  65. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:03:41

    Nothing is going to end teen pregnancy, not even giving everyone free condoms for the rest of their lives, not teaching kids how to have safe sex, and not filling romance novels with condoms either.

    True, nothing will eliminate it entirely, but the incidence of unwanted pregnancies and rate of STD transmission can be significantly reduced and that happens via comprehensive sex ed as can be seen the world over via the significantly lower numbers in developed countries and even some developing countries!

    But the point isn't how we handle this in real life because seriously, romance novels are not real

    I disagree. Romance novels reflect the society and its rules in which they take place. While they aren’t meant for instruction, attitudes expressed by characters either fall in with readers’ world view or rub up against it and certain ideas will not just be reflected but reinforce societal rules and mores. Just because something isn’t the work’s primary purpose doesn’t mean it doesn’t have unintended or intended other consequences, as you yourself pointed out above.

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  66. Jules Jones
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:11:56

    Monique, I currently live in the UK. But I’m aware that wide swathes of the US have utterly insane laws regarding minors and alcohol which make life difficult for parents who want to teach their kids how to drink responsibly, rather than see their kids go out and get blind drunk as soon as they’re away from home. And yes, from the perspective of a number of cultures, “utterly insane” is exactly what those laws look like. Which is why your analogy isn’t as effective as you think it is. Or, from another perspective, it’s rather more effective than you might like.

    (I would note here that I am teetotal and have been all my life.)

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  67. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:12:13

    shamelessreader@59:

    I’m so glad you posted again because I certainly did not see your response and I enjoyed reading it immensely. :)

    I was brought up by very strict parents (my Dad grew up during the Depression, to give you an idea) and well, you can see how I turned out (almost TMI in the thread). ;) Yes, it is true that when parents are ridiculously strict kids often rebel and get into trouble. Actually thinking of True Blood here for a moment. LOL

    Wow! My one experience with sex ed was nothing like that. I had one day where they had no one to babysit me while my class was in sex ed so I sat through it anyway. I think sex ed in a clinical sense is good, but I think it fails at the implementation level because the way it is done in classrooms seems to give tacit permission to go try this stuff out. *That* is my big problem with it.

    I have no experience with AO sex ed, that’s why I wanted to see a curriculum.

    You know what I'd *love* to read in an romance novel? The H/h getting hot and heavy the first time and the heroine getting all swept up in the moment, and the hero being like “I don't have any protection” and the heroine being like, “I don't care, I trust you, do it anyway” and him being like, “I'm pretty sure I'm clean, but I love you too much to put you at risk like that.”

    Now *that* would be romantic.

    I agree with you. I’ve even read it before. I just don’t remember which book.

    It seems to me that those who care about seeing it in books are much more passionate about it. Sure, it jars me because it’s handled badly, but it’s not like it stops me from reading romance. :) I’m a take it or leave kinda gal with that. Sometimes it’s appropriate, sometimes not.

    @ theo

    So, that said, I still don't want to read about condom usage in a romance because I'm trying to “escape” (which really isn't the word I want but I can't think of a better one) life for a few hours rather than have it thrown in my face by what I'm reading.

    I agree with you. I like to read to just “get away”, probably one of the reasons I read so much fantasy. I really don’t like books that seem to shove all of life’s lessons and preachiness at me. That’s going to get a big DNF every time.

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  68. joanne
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:12:17

    @rebyj

    I was 12 when I started reading romance and thought till I was about 18 that sex the first time would be fabulously satisfying and that it was perfectly normal to expect a rich man to marry me and I'd play tennis and drive a hot sports car when I wasn't nursing/teaching/secretary'ing.

    OMG…… that was my dream scenario, too …. really! I wonder why? LMAO!!!!!!!!
    Man, what a wake-up call when the millionaire/billionaire/tycoon didn’t show up in time to save me from a nine to five…

    @ Jessica Kennedy…. there’s something, probably the suspension of almost all reality that makes the condom issue a non-issue for me in paranormals. I always figure that if I’m believing in the story, the immortality, the healing of wounds in seconds, the time travel, the shape-shifting, the whatever LOL, then diseases & pregnancies are not part of the equation. Unfortunately a vampire has never stopped by to tell me differently. More’s the pity.

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  69. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:13:34

    “I think some photos of people with STDs are a great deterrent.””

    I disagree. I mean, I think it might help in some cases, but I think it’s got just as great a chance of perpetuating the myth that you can see whether or not someone has an STD and leading to thoughts like, “Hey, he doesn’t have those pus filled sores I saw in health class, he must be clean.”

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  70. LoriK
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:17:24

    I am really trying not to put on my former social worker hat and give a big old lecture, but I agree with those that have pointed out that some of the attitudes expressed here don’t even remotely reflect any modern reality and can be incredibly dangerous.

    One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned that really bothers me is the underlying assumption that of course any hero or heroine is “clean”. I have zero interest in romance novels becoming safer sex lectures, but I’m bothered by the subtle message that those who are worthy of love & an HEA don’t have STDs.

    STDs are not divine punishment for sin, they’re a consequence of behavior. Sometimes people make mistakes or get unlucky, but that doesn’t reduce their worth as human beings. As I said earlier, I have a major problem with people being willfully foolish, but there are plenty of wonderful people in the world that have or have had an STD. They still deserve an HEA just as much as those of us who haven’t.

    Just like love & “knowing someone well” don’t protect you, neither does being a good person. Unless you’re defining good as “only 1 sex partner your entire life and that partner has also never been with anyone else”. That’s a perfectly reasonable way to live one’s life, but it’s pretty harsh to say that doing anything else makes someone bad or unworthy.

    And Monique, I respect your right to your opinions and beliefs but I really disagree. My parents taught me lots of things. I followed some of the advice they gave and ignored some of it. Past a certain age they weren’t responsible for my actions. Shaming teen age mothers doesn’t prevent teen pregnancy. If you want to do that you need to have good sex ed. And no, that doesn’t involve 1st graders talking about sperm. Study after study has shown very clearly that abstinence only programs do not reduce sexual activity among teens. They do tend to slightly increase the average age of 1st sexual experience, but they don’t reduce overall sexual activity. They do reduce safer sex and because of that I think there’s really no excuse for continuing them, no matter what their intentions are.

    I say all this as someone who was given up for adoption back in the day when an unwed teenager keeping her baby was socially unacceptable. Obviously social stigma and not having sex education in school didn’t stop my birth parents from getting busy. I’m unbelievable grateful to have been raised by 2 adults with the financial and emotional resources to give me a stable home, but I suspect my birth parents would have been better off if they had just had some condoms & the knowledge to use them correctly.

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  71. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:18:39

    @Jules Jones:

    Jules, thank you. Personally, I think the biggest problem with US drinking laws is that it does end up meaning that 21 year olds go out, have no idea how to deal with alcohol and just get plastered all the time. My mother is from Luxembourg and thankfully we were taught properly how to drink and deal with alcohol. :)

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  72. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:18:53

    @rebyj

    I was 12 when I started reading romance and thought till I was about 18 that sex the first time would be fabulously satisfying and that it was perfectly normal to expect a rich man to marry me and I'd play tennis and drive a hot sports car when I wasn't nursing/teaching/secretary'ing.

    OMG…… that was my dream scenario, too …. really! I wonder why? LMAO!!!!!!!!
    Man, what a wake-up call when the millionaire/billionaire/tycoon didn't show up in time to save me from a nine to five…

    I’m still waiting for *my* Jondalar to sweep me off my feet, grin.

    All joking aside, I really think people are deluding themselves when they say books aren’t real or aren’t projecting back to real society and that people aren’t influenced by them because of that.

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  73. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:22:18

    @GrowlyCub:
    I’ve got a response to part of this (post 65), but I need to figure out how I want to say it.

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  74. lucidscreamer
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:22:33

    This would be one of the reasons I don’t read contemporaries. I don’t want to read about birth control or safe sex practices (since few authors handle it well without breaking the mood of the scene) — verisimilitude is not huge on my list of things to look for in romances — and staying in the fantasy realms (I’m including all versions of paranormal romance in that definition for the sake of brevity) makes sure it’s not really an issue.

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  75. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:31:51

    @LoriK:

    And Monique, I respect your right to your opinions and beliefs but I really disagree. My parents taught me lots of things. I followed some of the advice they gave and ignored some of it. Past a certain age they weren't responsible for my actions. Shaming teen age mothers doesn't prevent teen pregnancy. If you want to do that you need to have good sex ed. And no, that doesn't involve 1st graders talking about sperm. Study after study has shown very clearly that abstinence only programs do not reduce sexual activity among teens. They do tend to slightly increase the average age of 1st sexual experience, but they don't reduce overall sexual activity. They do reduce safer sex and because of that I think there's really no excuse for continuing them, no matter what their intentions are.

    So, neither on their own really do much for the stated goal. Then we should try putting them together. Really stress the not doing this now part and make sure that they know where to get good info. It’s more important that they know good sources than they know all the info at once. Again, my biggest problem with this is the “throw up the hands” mentality about it all and just accept it.

    Please do not take this the wrong way, it truly is not meant badly though it could read badly. It’s a good thing that your birth parents didn’t know about or choose to use a condom. :)

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  76. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:37:52

    @monique@67

    “I think sex ed in a clinical sense is good, but I think it fails at the implementation level because the way it is done in classrooms seems to give tacit permission to go try this stuff out. *That* is my big problem with it.”

    Granted, I’ve only got my own experience with it, but that’s not how it was presented to me when I got it at all. They were very clear that it’s much easier, smarter, and more hassle free to wait, and or engage in non-penetrative sex, but if and when you do (and I had freshman year bio with a 14 year old girl who already had a baby, so obviously, some kids were), you need to use a condom every time.

    One thing I don’t get about this idea that comprehensive sex ed gives tacit permission is… do you really think what one teacher, one fifth period health class is the last line of defense between keeping their legs crossed and spreading them? I have a hard time believing that there’s this mass of kids out there who are planning on waiting until marriage, then got the condom-on-banana lecture one tuesday and are like, “Oh, okay, Mrs. D’Antonio showed us how to use a condom so it’s totally cool to screw my boyfriend silly now, glad she cleared that up for me.”

    With or without comprehensive sex ed, any given kid is going to already have tons of mixed message from their parents, their church (if they go), their friends, the guy they meet at a party, the media their friends watch, the media their parents let them watch, and (today) the internet. And with or without comprehensive sex ed, any given kid is going to be raging with hormones and having tons of confusing, exciting feelings about the opposite (or same) sex. With or without CSE, most kids are going to be curious about and want to have sex, and be pressured into having it by their peers, and be told it’s smarter to wait by their parents.

    But *with* CSE, any given kid, when heavy petting with her horndog boyfriend who’s like, “I love you so much, just let me put it in a little, I promise I’ll pull out” will at least know that that’s bullshit. And with CSE, even if that kid waits till she or he is out of high school and in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship with her boyfriend, fiance, or husband, she’ll have the tools and at least the option to know what questions to ask about his sexual history, and how to protect herself against pregnancy.

    The other thing that kids who miss CSE miss out on, at least in my neck of the woods, is a clear cut discussion of “No means no” for both the boys and the girls. More than a little of the CSE I remember was talk about rape and date rape, and the fact that a girl has every right, at every point of the procedings, even after penetration, to say “stop.” And that even if you’ve done it before with other guys – or with that guy – you have every right, every single time, to say yes or no. And that if you ever do get raped – by a stranger, a friend, or someone you love – it’s not your fault, and that you shouldn’t shower before reporting it, because that washes away the evidence.

    And, at the boys, that No really does mean No, and that if she’s too drunk or high to consent, it counts as rape, and that even if she’s slept with you before, she doesn’t owe it to you in perpatuity. They aren’t pretty lessons, but they’re important ones, and ones that “don’t do it until you’re married, full stop” don’t teach you.

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  77. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:50:01

    @shamelessreader:

    Wow! That’s pretty comprehensive. And at least they said it was better to wait. Though can I ask how often? Did they say it at the beginning and then go through the whole rest of the weeks long classes and never say it again? Just curious? Did you do the egg thing where you have to take care of it?

    No, I don’t think that kids who have already made up their mind not to and get the banana class are going to rush out and do it, but I do think a lot of kids who haven’t thought about it or gotten strong messages from parents/church/etc to abstain will think that so long as they remember the condom it doesn’t matter. So hey, let’s go and try out the different condoms, I mean they come in glow in the dark and tasty flavors.

    See, the condom is great but it’s not 100% effective and it can break. It happened to a friend of mine in college. No birth control is 100% effective and some medications render the pill ineffective. Do they mention that too or just say, hey use a condom?

    Let’s face it, the safest sex is no sex, or if you prefer, masturbation, just if it’s strictly manual, wash hands!

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  78. K. Z. Snow
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:51:11

    This is yet another thorny issue for a writer — particularly a writer of erotic romance, in which sexual encounters are frequent. It can definitely interrupt the flow of the narrative to haul out protection, get it on, get if off, and get it disposed of.

    As a reader, I don’t miss this ritual when it isn’t there; I’m well aware of the fantasy aspect of any kind of romance. As an author, however, I do try to work it in. Not only do I feel obligated to, but some editors insist on it. One compromise is to mention condom use in the first h-h encounter and, thereafter, let readers take it for granted. Bringing it up again and again and again is, quite frankly, a boring pain the ass. How could readers not be annoyed by such repetitive disruption?

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  79. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:52:27

    @monique@75

    “Really stress the not doing this now part and make sure that they know where to get good info. It's more important that they know good sources than they know all the info at once. Again, my biggest problem with this is the “throw up the hands” mentality about it all and just accept it.”

    But the thing is, this is already what most comprehensive sex ed – at least as I understand it – already does. The “throw the hands up and just accept it” thing is, AFAIK, a myth. There seems to be this assumption by the anti CSE crowd that teaching kids how to use condoms and the reality of conception mechanics and the reality of STD transmission is somehow accompanied by “And now go used this entire six pack of condoms tonight” or happens in the complete absence of the discussion of abstinence and this just isn’t the case, as far as I understand it, and as far as I’ve experienced it.

    Comprehensive Sex ed isn’t “Condom use only”. It’s comprehensive because, *in addition* to encouraging abstinence as the smartest, easiest, most hassle free choice for teenagers, it *also* teaches them what to do if they decide to do it.

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  80. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:01:56

    One compromise is to mention condom use in the first h-h encounter and, thereafter, let readers take it for granted. Bringing it up again and again and again is, quite frankly, a boring pain the ass. How could readers not be annoyed by such repetitive disruption?

    I’m good with first h/he encounter condom use mention. Or I’m perfectly happy if one or several opened wrappers are mentioned at some point in time. No need to go into details every time, although I have to say I’ve read some really hot ‘condom application’ scenes which I would hate to have missed. The things we learn! :)

    And if using a condom is second nature to a reader every time they engage in a sexual encounter, then they probably won’t consider it a disruption either, but rather an integral part of the complete (love/sex) act.

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  81. Evangeline
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:02:11

    I don’t actively seek the use of condoms. Most contemporary romances feature condom usage, and usually it’s written naturally. When it isn’t there, I don’t have to worry because the author usually has one or both characters worry about the condom-less sex. For me, as long as it’s sexy and doesn’t have an awkward-service-announcement feel to the scene, I’m happy.

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  82. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:06:22

    @monique@77

    “See, the condom is great but it's not 100% effective and it can break. It happened to a friend of mine in college. No birth control is 100% effective and some medications render the pill ineffective. Do they mention that too or just say, hey use a condom?”

    Of course they didn’t just say “hey, use a condom”. And of course they didn’t imply that any birth control was 100% effective. I clearly remember a chart of percentages of pregnancy and next to abstinence was 100%, next to “proper, used every time condom usage” was… whatever that was, then “improper, intermittent condom usage”, then the various other options.

    And yes, they did teach us that some medications can render the pill ineffective, something I highly doubt abstinence only or most “stay out of sex ed” parents are going to do. They stressed *highly* that no birth control is 100% effective, but that there are steps you can take to make sure your BC of choice is as effective as possible.

    What annoys me about what I’ve heard about many abstinence only curriculums is that supposedly, they try to scare kids against safe sex by playing up things like condom breakage and BC failure. No birth control (save keeping his jizz at least a foot away from your hoo-ha at all times) is perfect. But *some* birth control is better than nothing, or prayer, or hope. And by playing up condom failures (which can be can be seriously cut down on if you know not to use oil based lube, and make sure the girl is well lubricated, either naturally or w/ lube) I think that they’re likely encouraging the idea that “hey, condoms fail, so why bother.”

    CSE really isn’t the “hey kids, go nuts, have an orgy” that I think some AO proponents make it out to be. And no, they didn’t begin and end every single lesson with “But it’s better not to do it”, but they didn’t just give it a one liner at the beginning either. They gave us real, scientifically accurate info that some of us paid attention to, and some of us ignored. But at least we had it. And I really don’t think that having that info made any of us any *more* likely to go out and do it than we already were. It just made us more likely to insist on safe sexual choices if and when we did take that leap.

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  83. Jeannine
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:10:33

    Just recently out of lurkdom, and I won’t go too much into the side topic here on sex ed, other than to say that ultimately, I consider it my own responsibility to make sure my kids know what they need to know — and that would include ensuring that I know which/what kind of books they are reading…if they are receiving their sex education only through romance novels, I’d know I wasn’t doing my job.

    I have to agree with those who’ve stated that having the H/Hn have to deal with condoms is very off-putting. While I can certainly respect the views of those who feel otherwise, personally, I prefer to keep the birth control/STD prevention out of romance novels.
    I, too, prefer the fantasy…at this point, if I open a romance novel, I see it as an escape from reality and that’s what I want it to be. The putting-on-the-condom scene usually just takes me right out of the romance.
    If there is not a scene included, I don’t necessarily assume the condom wasn’t used; only that the author didn’t choose to include it, and that’s fine by me. :)

    I agree too that it’s not the author’s job to educate the reader. His/her job, in my view, is to entertain.

    And if you think about it, when’s the last time you saw the condom issue addressed in mainstream movies? With a mature H/Hn? I can’t think of any…

    So for me, a romance novel is a form of entertainment, not education.

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  84. MaryK
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:15:55

    @shamelessreader: “What it encouraged us to do, in fact, was to wait, and to consider options other than penis-in-vagina sex, and that if we did decide to engage in PIV sex, to always, always insist on using a condom. ”

    Huh. So is oral sex one of the other options? I’ve always been boggled by how so many kids think oral sex isn’t sex/doesn’t count.

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  85. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:19:26

    So for me, a romance novel is a form of entertainment, not education.

    It’s for me too, but how many times have readers said that they learned something new from a romance novel, be it about history or other cultures, places they’ve never been in their own country or state. Just because it isn’t meant for education, doesn’t mean a romance novel (or any other book) doesn’t educate. Call it a side effect if you will.

    We read to be entertained, or taken away from our reality, but that doesn’t negate the fact that our entertainment choices carry cultural and educational values implicitly.

    The fact that we don’t see condom use in major movie production has a lot to do with the fact that major movies are made in the U.S. where the censoring agency is much more concerned with sex than with violence. I have no doubt that including a condom would automatically make a film R or NR-17. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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  86. Lolita Lopez
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:28:40

    I think safe sex in books depends on the couple in question. I’ve written a contemporary where the sex begins as a vacation fling so, yes, condoms were definitely used. I’ve just finished a contemporary where the couple has been together for quite a while so in my mind they’ve had the STD exams and have chosen the Pill or ring as their birth control of choice.

    As a reader, I’m not too worried about safe sex in a novel. It is what it is, you know? I will say that I’m always perplexed by all the condom usage in novels but never dental dams or condoms during oral sex. (I’m guilty of this too in my works.) You can still catch a nasty case of herpes or worse from giving your lady friend some oral loving. Hell, the rates of oral cancer from HPV are skyrocketing among women because of the low use of condoms during blow jobs.

    As for comprehensive sex-ed, I think it should be mandatory. I’m in my early/mid twenties and attended a tiny Texas school that didn’t offer sex education. Would you like to guess how many girls in my graduating class had pregnancy scares/abortions/pregnancies? How many of the guys I went to school with caught the clap or crabs? It was bad–and we had a graduating class of 48! The main reason we never had a sex-ed course was because the majority of parents in our town were convinced their kids wouldn’t engage in *that* kind of behavior because their kids attended Sunday school and were part of really great youth groups that taught abstinence only. Because that works so well…

    And don’t even get me started on how many of those kids participated in risky sex behaviors. You would not believe the number of kids who think anal sex is totally cool because it’s not your *real* virginity. Anal sex without the proper understanding of what’s going on back there leads to an increased risk of HIV/AIDS, STDS, and infections. But, hey, they’re still *technically* virgins, right!

    Luckily, I had rather pragmatic parents. When I was twelve, my mom pulled me aside one afternoon and gave me the short version of THE TALK. I always felt super comfortable going to my mom with any questions I had. That said, I didn’t have sex until I was 19 and involved in a committed relationship with my future hubby who happily underwent STD testing prior to our first tryst. We made responsible choices because we were well educated.

    My younger sister is in high school now. Among her class, the number of girls who have gotten pregnant or caught an STD is still too high but it’s much lower than when I went to school there. Why? Because these kids had the chance to take a semester long course of comprehensive sex education when in 7th grade. The course also covered date rape and physical/mental/emotional abuse. My sister is totally prepared to make good choices because of this course. She also spent the last summer attending numerous workshops on empowering teenage girls and is now building a school program to provide her peers with the resources they need to make smart and responsible decisions when it comes to sex and relationships.

    In my sister’s case, I think she would have benefited equally as well from THE TALK from Mom. Other kids in her class, however, don’t have parents willing to embarrass themselves a little to give their kids the information they need to protect themselves. Or they have parents who won’t give them any information at all other than “Don’t have sex because it’s bad!”

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  87. Monique
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:30:31

    The fact that we don't see condom use in major movie production has a lot to do with the fact that major movies are made in the U.S. where the censoring agency is much more concerned with sex than with violence. I have no doubt that including a condom would automatically make a film R or NR-17. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    I don’t know about the rating, but I can honestly say I have watched very, very many foreign language films, some that were incredibly explicit (one that included a rape scene) and I can guarantee you that not one of those films had a condom in them – not one.

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  88. Kristy
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:33:41

    Condoms are one of those things “we should do” and don’t want to do. So when I read, I don’t want to read about them.

    The thing I find most irritating is a novel about a woman who loses her husband suddenly and yet we hear nothing of how she, as a stay at home mother, is going to support herself. No mention of insurance payoff’s and yet she flits around from man to man or some such nonsens. It’s as stupid as sitcom characters who never go to the bathroom.

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  89. Jeannine
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:35:23

    Growlycub:

    I do see your point. :)
    And yes, if a novel can educate as a side effect, or bonus, that’s wonderful.
    But it’s not what I expect it to do. It’s fiction, after all. But if I learn something along the way, that’s great.
    However, I don’t see it as the author’s responsibility to do so, especially if it could be to the detriment of a well-crafted scene.

    And I don’t think you’re wrong re: films lack of safe sex education.
    But that said, why should an author be responsible, while the motion picture industry is not? Why do they get a free pass, so to speak?
    Not that anyone can answer that, but it doesn’t seem fair to hold authors to a standard no one else is expected to uphold.

    I think a romance novel that doesn’t mention condoms does far less damage than just one of today’s popular rap songs in terms of influencing today’s youth.
    JMO.

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  90. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:41:35

    @Jeannine@83

    “And if you think about it, when's the last time you saw the condom issue addressed in mainstream movies?”

    True, but most mainstream movies – even those with sex scenes – don’t go into nearly as much blow-by-blow detail as even medium-hot romance novels do. If we have a fade to black, or a cut from kissing in the hall to thrusting in the bedroom, there’s often plenty of room where the h/h could have put a condom on.

    And most mainstream movies, even if they involve a sex scene, aren’t focused on a sexually explicit romance. Romance novels (with a level of sexual detail that makes those who prefer seeing condom usage notice its absence) are. At the very core of the point of the romance novel is this romantic and sexual coming together of a pair of people. The sex scene – if it occurs on screen – is a big, central, character revealing moment about one of the primary – and often *the* primary, genre defining storyline of the romance novel. It’s not an afterthought, it’s an expression of the point of the damn thing – which is the successful pursuit of romantic love.

    I’m *not* saying that condom usage should bother you as much as it bothers me. Sometimes, I wish I could ignore it or write it off, because more than once I’ve read a book that was going well, and been thrown by TSTL sex and wish I could ignore the h/h’s stupidity, because I’m fairly sure the author wasn’t trying to make that point when she decided not to address safe sex *at all*.

    But in Romance, where the unifying theme of the whole damn genre is “romantic, eventually sexual, pair bonding love”, the sex act has more character defining significance than it does in pretty much any other genre. And deciding not to use a condom (which is what I can’t help but view it as, it’s not an absence of condom usage, it’s a decision not to use it or mention it, even if the author doesn’t mean it to read that way) isn’t the same thing as not showing the heroine using the bathroom or washing her hands before she eats. It is – in my experience as a sexually active woman facing many of the same decisions the heroine faces – a big ass, fundamental decision when it comes to having sex, it’s one of the core decisions you face when you have sex with someone for the first time.

    And for me – and a lot of women in my situation – it’s not even a decision. It’s a non-negotiable default. My experience isn’t yours, isn’t every reader’s, and isn’t every heroine’s, nor should it be, of course. I don’t give a crap about historical accuracy, while for some readers, it’s a dealbreaker, and I totally get that for plenty of women (both with similar background to mine and wildly different) condom usage is as non an issue as having tomato soup in a medieval romance. And that’s fine. It’s not that I’m right and you’re wrong or vice versa.

    It’s just … an immensely discordant and likely unintentional characterization note, for me. I don’t expect nitty gritty reality and farts and warts and bathroom breaks in my romance. I’d prefer not to have them, actually. But condom usage (for me) is unavoidably central to the act that is unavoidably central to the point of the whole damn book (which is successful pursuit of romantic love.) And so when there’s a discordant note struck in that scene, in that moment we’ve been building to for five or 250 pages, I can’t help but notice it, and I’m thrown off by wondering, was this a deliberate character choice, an oversight, a decision to embrace “the fantasy”, or what? And its absence is necessarily a bigger characterization/plot hole than, say, not mentioning that the heroine shaved her armpits this morning.

    I half envy you and the others who can ignore this TSTL sexual behavior in their heroines, but for me, it’s a big fat Chekov’s gun over the fireplace.

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  91. veinglory
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:49:07

    Most people who contract STDs think they and their partner were low risk. But IMHO a protagonist in a contemporary who doesn’t engage in safer sex is risking their life for a minor convenience issue–this will almost always move them sharply towards the TSTL category. If they have unprotected sex and then are surprised to fall pregnant that is epic TSTL.

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  92. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:53:11

    @Kristy@87

    “Condoms are one of those things “we should do” and don't want to do. ”

    Not all of us. I want to use condoms, and I’m damn glad for their existence, because they’ve allowed me to have a lot more sexual pleasure then I’d have had if I had to confine myself to a much smaller roster of sexual partners. I think condoms are sexy. I get that I’m in the minority, but for me, when the condoms come out, it means that sex is imminent. Using condoms doesn’t mean I’m not selective with my sexual partners – I am – but I’m also not willing to take someone’s word for it, and I’m not willing to confine my sex to committed, long term, monogomous relationships, even if I prefer them. YMMV, of course, as does everyone’s. But in my experience, condoms really aren’t the ENORMOUS hassle that so many people make them out to be, particularly if you use them enough to get the hang of them.

    And they’re certainly less of a hassle than the critters I could catch if I used them less.

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  93. Mireya
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 17:14:05

    I don’t read a lot of contemporaries, in all honesty. I am more likely to overlook certain things (suspend disbelief) in paranormals and historicals (my favorite sub-genres). I don’t particularly care about them in my reading material. If it’s there and it’s incorporated unobtrusively I am fine, if it’s not, I don’t care enough to miss it.

    That being said, I just finished reading “Flat-Out Sexy” by Erin McCarthy (one of the few contemporary romance authors I truly enjoy) and she includes it. It was done with a lot of finesse and the book turned out to be a fantastic read, no wonder she’s getting so many good reviews.

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  94. dotty
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 17:47:30

    I can’t remember whether it was a movie or a book I read but I can recall a very funny scene where the couple were frantically entwined and the lack of condoms was remembered and thereafter was the frantic rush to get more condoms. They were in a hotel and I recall hero of the scene tipping bellboy some outrageous amount to procure some. It was a major part of I think the movie, that they would/could not have sex without condoms, I remember it was very funny, and not unromantic at all.
    My brother in law died of aids, he was in a committed long term relationship or so he thought, his partner went on a working holiday for 2 weeks that resulted in the death of them both in their 30′s.
    Having said that, I assume that sex in books is with a condom. I get pulled out of the scene more if it’s made a big production of, you know, Ta Da! we will now stop to apply the condom. A mention somewhere in the book that they are in the story is enough for me to assume they are there
    My wallbanger, will not finish, TSTL moment is surprise/unwanted pregnancy. Assuming voluntary sex, not only not using a condom, but not using any other pregnancy protection, well that does it for me. Talk about the equivalent of walking down a dark alley at midnight by herself when she knows someone is trying to kill her. Duh! I got pregnant, no amount of good writing can get me past that.

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  95. Jeannine
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 17:48:01

    True, but most mainstream movies – even those with sex scenes – don't go into nearly as much blow-by-blow detail as even medium-hot romance novels do. If we have a fade to black, or a cut from kissing in the hall to thrusting in the bedroom, there's often plenty of room where the h/h could have put a condom on.

    Hmm…I don’t know if I’d agree with that. A lot of movies I’ve seen have had some pretty hot scenes, showing the whole thing from start to finish, it seems, and there has never been even the mention of a condom. And really, it’s never thrown me at all. The same way it really doesn’t bother me to have it not mentioned in a romance.

    I don’t see how the author’s choice not to include it makes her characters TSTL, though.
    Of course, if it ended up with the heroine pregnant because of it, then it becomes clear just *why* it wasn’t mentioned, and then I’d agree that the characters were TS. ;)

    But if it’s not said one way or the other, and by the end of the story the characters have suffered no repercussions, I just assume that one was used. (Honestly, though, it probably wouldn’t even occur to me to wonder, because I wouldn’t have missed it!).

    Would you toss aside an otherwise well-written novel if it neglected to include that detail?

    If it's there and it's incorporated unobtrusively I am fine, if it's not, I don't care enough to miss it.

    That’s pretty much where I stand on the issue, too.
    It won’t make or break the book for me.

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  96. Tae
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:16:23

    I wasn’t too happy with either choice. I, too, think there should be a another choice. For modern contemporaries, it doesn’t surprise me when I don’t see a condom written in, however, I don’t actively look for it. I do think it is wise for the writer to write it in.

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  97. theo
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:28:40

    But in my experience, condoms really aren’t the ENORMOUS hassle that so many people make them out to be, particularly if you use them enough to get the hang of them.

    Well, all I can say is, the DH and I used them for oh…years, since I couldn’t take the pill. They were a PITA every single time we used them. I hated them. Two miscarriages using them also proved that the only real ‘safe sex’ is the kind with batteries included.

    I’m curious though. Why is it so imperative to many that a condom be featured in a contemporary romance, but no one seems to care if it’s historical or paranormal set in the ‘real world’? Yes, it might have been pig intestines they used back then, but the means were available and used. Yet no one seems upset that they’re almost never mentioned. In fact, there’s only one historical author I’ve ever read who *does* mention them, or any other form.

    Teenagers read those romances too. And many of them are much more graphic than a contemporary.

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  98. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:33:01

    “I don't see how the author's choice not to include it makes her characters TSTL, though.”

    It may be the author’s choice, but within the context of the story, it’s the heroine (and hero’s) choice, even if only by omission. If they do it, and it’s made clear, from the level of detail the author chooses to include, that no one stopped to use a condom, then I can only assume that they didn’t. (And FWIW, I don’t think I’d enjoy a full stop to the proceedings and paragraphs long instruction manual on proper condom technique. An oblique, unobtrusive mention is what I prefer).

    And regardless of the author’s reasons for leaving the protection out, if I’m given enough detail about other stuff that there’s not any grey area or room for me to see where they might have slipped one on, it reads to me like these two people just had unprotected sex. And (barring extenuating circumstances), in this day and age, that’s a profoundly TSTL decision to make, on both their parts. Whether the author intends it as such or not, it’s characterization (for me, obviously not for people who don’t notice or don’t care.)

    And even more distracting, until I’ve finished the book, I’ve got this nagging question of whether it was a conscious decision on the author’s part – and one that’s going to have consequences – or whether it’s just one of those books where I’m supposed to ignore this profoundly TSTL decision on the part of my main characters. It feels sloppy to me, and it’s distracting to me that the author who’s choosing to write a book focused on modern love and sex just flat out ignores this fundamental issue that’s kinda central to modern love and sex.

    If this was a police procedural or a… [insert non romance genre here] where the H/H’s attitudes and decisions about love and sex weren’t a core component of the character development, it wouldn’t matter to me as much. But it is. If the H/H’s actions would be TSTL in real life, they read to me as TSTL in the book. I don’t care if the author mentions the Heroine putting on a seatbelt, partly because she’s not likely to go into such detail about starting the car that I’m left wondering, “Wait, where in all that did she put her seatbelt on?” but mostly because this is not a book about driving. It’s a book about twenty-first century couple and in the twenty-first century, unprotected sex outside of a committed, monogomous relationship is a TSTL act. And I can’t not add that (discordant, if it wasn’t a deliberate choice on the author’s part) characterization note.

    It doesn’t always kill the book for me. But it does make me feel like the book is going to be, as I called it above, a wallpaper contemporary. And like the author isn’t interested in the (complicated, interesting, sometimes messy and often romantic even with the latex) reality of modern love. I don’t expect queefs and morning breath, and I don’t want them. But I want to know that the H/H care enough about each other and themselves to take those precautions – particularly when there’s no reason why they couldn’t.

    I’m thinking of the scene in Anne Stuart’s Black Ice where the H/H have intense, unprotected sex on … was it on a sink? I forget, but those circumstances were … unusual to say the least, they had other things on their mind, fine. If there’s a reason why they might not, I can go with it. It’s when I read a story where any reasonable, self-respecting, sexually active person would have condoms and use them in that situation, and I’ve been shown or told that the h/h are supposed to be reasonable, self-respecting, sexually active people… and there’s no damn reason for them not to have and use condoms… and they just don’t. And I see enough of the sex to know that they don’t….

    That’s when I feel like the H/H are being TSTL. It’s a “show, don’t tell” moment for me, and what it shows, to me, is stupidity on the part of the hero and heroine.

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  99. Gemma
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:42:19

    To Theo@97.

    I am curious about which historical author you can think of. Off the top of my head I remember Robin Schone having condoms in one book and a cap in another (or the same one?). That was Victorian so rubber condoms/diaphragms were around by that point.

    I have a vague notion that I might have seen a condom used by another historical author (in an earlier setting – so something “intestinal”) but I’m not really sure.

    As far as I know, way back when (e.g. Regency) a man might purchase condoms in a brothel to protect himself from disease, but they wouldn’t likely be used by a hero with his heroine because of this diseased-whore sort of association (how beautifully I painted that picture!).

    Ironically, I believe that these sort of “primitive” condoms protect against pregnancy but not against disease (sperm being bigger than viruses) so the condom would actually have been of some use in an illicit affair between the hero and heroine, but not to protect him from STIs at the brothel.

    The rinse-and-reuse concept of these condoms makes them a little unpleasant to contemplate for me. They would also have to be moistened before use to make them supple, and I’m sure I read about an entry in a man’s diary from the time when he was beating himself up for falling for the lures of a street prostitute (when he had sworn off them)…. and that he had used a condom in the encounter which he dipped in the Thames to moisten!

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  100. LoriK
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:43:14

    It's a good thing that your birth parents didn't know about or choose to use a condom. :)

    The thing is, that’s not really true. It would have been better for them & it wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest because I wouldn’t have been around to be bothered. It’s not like we’re talking about them coming & murdering me now you know?

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  101. theo
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:44:12

    nd like the author isn't interested in the (complicated, interesting, sometimes messy and often romantic even with the latex) reality of modern love. I don't expect queefs and morning breath, and I don't want them.

    But those queefs and morning breath are also the reality of modern love. So where do you want to draw the reality line? What about the H/Hn who have morning sex, sans not only condoms but a bathroom visit because most people hit the bathroom before they do anything else in the morning. Where is that reality? Where’s the snoring? Where’s the messy crap the guy always leaves all over the counter and the spots on the floor because he missed the toilet?

    I’m sorry. It’s fiction. I want it to stay fiction. If I want true life, I can read a textbook. I don’t. I want those rose colored glasses and don’t see any TSTL, maybe because I’m not a cynic. Maybe because I want that half hour Calgon moment where I can lose myself in a story and not worry about paying bills, washing laundry, getting the kids out the door, trying to decide what I’m going to make for dinner tonight that I haven’t already made twice in the last three weeks.

    If one wants the ‘reality’ factor, then put a warning on the front of the cover for any young person reading the book. “Don’t believe anything you read in here. There are no men like these, there really aren’t this many stupid women in the world and your house won’t clean itself once you’re living with the man you love.”

    Because that too, is reality.

    @Gemma,
    The only historical author I’ve ever read that has mentioned condoms or any other form of birth control in context is Diana Gabaldon. And I’m qualifying that with “that I’ve read”. I’m sure there must be others. I’ve not read them though.

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  102. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:46:11

    @theo

    To be frank, even though it doesn’t bother some people w/ paranormals, I notice it there as much as anywhere else, because “Hey baby, I’m a werewolf, I can neither catch nor transmit STDs” … yeah, that’s asking me to swallow a bit much. But that’s just me.

    As for historicals, it doesn’t bother me there because:

    a) It’s perfectly normal and expected for some seventeenth century virgin (or widow, for that matter) not to be acquainted with the concept of STDs, or to think they have anything to do with her. Any twenty-first century woman who hasn’t been raised in a cave knows about the existence of STDs and the basics of how to protect herself.

    b) AIDS. Plenty of STDs existed pre 1980, and sure some could kill you some of the time, but most of them were nuisences, and very concept of germ theory wasn’t something that was around during lots of the time periods mentioned, and if chlamydia ravaged the heroine’s fallopian tubes, it’s not like anyone’s got the medical knowledge to connect her barren-ness with the drip her hubby gets every once in a while.

    However, I expect a contemporary heroine to know that there’s this disease out there that can kill you that you can catch from unprotected sex – and that there’s a pretty basic step you can insist on if you want to go ahead and Do It that can seriously cut down your risk of that and other creepy crawlies.

    Basically, in a historical, the heroine’s ignorance is understandable and excusable. In a contemporary, for me, it isn’t.

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  103. SonomaLass
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:48:17

    For me, a good contemporary romance has to be realistic — just as good sci-fi needs good science, good historicals need accurate history, and good fantasy needs competent world building. I can’t find a smart, savvy experienced character in a contemporary believable if he or she isn’t smart about the risks of unprotected sex. And I like books about smart people.

    If the sex scenes are “blow by blow” (snigger), then I need the condom as part of it. If the sex scenes aren’t very detailed, or if they “skip” some other moments (like getting off a piece of clothing), then I can assume smart characters have done the smart thing while I wasn’t “looking.” That’s what I tend to assume with movies, since they can’t show the whole sex scene and still keep an R rating. In too many romance novels, though, I have read very detailed, “real time” sex scenes, between supposedly smart and non-virgin characters, where there was no condom and no question of one. Those books hit the wall.

    Conversely, I find that many of my favorite authors handle the condom thing very well. As for the idea that condoms make sex unromantic, I have to differ there based on my own experience. It’s part of the whole package, or it should be in certain circumstances, and it no more needs to “get in the way” than taking off tight jeans (or pantyhose!), or adding lube, or anything else that happens. I want my contemporary romances to feel real; IMO, the reality today is that smart people protect themselves, or at least know they should.

    I absolutely agree with the recommendation of Erin McCarthey’s Flat-Out Sexy if you want to see how a good writer can manage it. (I won my copy from the Smart Bitches in their first “Save the Contemporary” contest, hurrah!)

    I have to weigh in on the sex-ed issue. I have put four kids through the public schools in three different states, so I’ve seen and heard about my share of sex-ed programs. Some were definitely better than others, but I’ve never seen one that didn’t encourage abstinence as the BEST choice; the other info was all presented in the context of “you might not take that advice, though, so if you don’t….” My favorite was my youngest son’s seventh-grade science teacher, a veteran of the US Navy. After presenting all of the scientific and practical information, she gave the kids one piece of advice: “If, after all of this, you find yourself in a position where you’re thinking about having sex, I want you to THINK OF ME.” Years later, my son assures me that was the most effective abstinence lesson he ever received. Bless that woman.

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  104. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:55:45

    @theo

    “But those queefs and morning breath are also the reality of modern love.”

    I’m sorry, but no go. Queefs and morning breath and missing the toilet are all incidentals that aren’t likely have much bearing one way or another on plot or character. And they’re not decisions with potentially fatal, irreparable consequences, usually. Deciding to have unprotected sex is. Whether someone farts or has back hair or snores tell me little to nothing about who they are as a person, and much of that is completely out of their control.

    But whether or not someone decides – in a situation where it’s obviously called for – to bother to protect themselves and their partners is something they very much have control over, and something that tells me a lot about who they are as a person. I’m not asking for ugly, nasty, boring, realistic details for the sake of verisimilitude. I don’t want that.

    What I want is to see a character who’s otherwise portrayed as relatively rational and intelligent to be relatively rational and intelligent with regards to sex when there’s no earthly reason for her not to be. And if she decides to be mindblowingly stupid about her health and not even have a moment of “Wow, that was kind of dumb” at any point after the fact, it’s got a decent sized impact on my opinion of her character, and the character of her partner.

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  105. B
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:56:58

    @Gemma

    Susan Johnson used condoms & other forms of birth control (with footnotes giving you more info about their use at the time) in many of her older historicals.

    As far as needing to see it wrapped up, I do with stories set in modern times, even paranormals. When they aren’t there, I’m taken out of the story wondering why they aren’t. And if they acknowledge they aren’t used, I worry about what could happen.

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  106. theo
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 18:57:05

    Plenty of STDs existed pre 1980, and sure some could kill you some of the time, Plenty of STDs existed pre 1980, and sure some could kill you some of the time,

    Actually, several could kill you, most of the time, at least until penicillin was invented, and the ‘pox’ was prevalent for centuries. AIDS might be a modern disease, but there were many others young women heard about at parties being mentioned as gossip. Or are you implying that young, virginal seventeenth century girls are supposed to be TSTL?

    I’m sorry, I have nothing else that would add to this discussion. I’ve been in the medical profession a long time, as I’m sure there are probably several here who have. I’ve seen my share of AIDS and the related disparity that comes from it.

    When I read a romance novel, unless it specifically addresses that, I don’t want that reality shoved in my face yet again.

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  107. Nicole
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 19:00:44

    So…I guess I don’t really expect it but it does bother me sometimes, especially when the love scenes are so quick into the book (I’m reading Murder Game right now and no mention of condoms though the first love scene is less than 75 pages into the book…). I think it can be better for the story if condoms are included. e.g. Behind Closed Doors by Shannon McKenna is a very hot book, multiple frequent love scenes and the couple started out using condoms…when they stopped it became an affirmation of their relationship. Great topic!

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  108. Jeanne St. James
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 19:09:39

    I include it for the most part in my contemp erotic romances. But I hate HAVING to. If I don’t use it, then I give a good reason.

    I’d rather have it assumed that they are practicing safe sex. As for a reader, I don’t necessarily look for it, but now since it is so prevalant in contemps that now I notice when it’s missing in the scene. I wish I didn’t. However, most authors do a good job fitting it into the scene.

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  109. Jeannine
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 19:13:44

    I'm thinking of the scene in Anne Stuart's Black Ice where the H/H have intense, unprotected sex on … was it on a sink? I forget, but those circumstances were … unusual to say the least, they had other things on their mind, fine. If there's a reason why they might not, I can go with it. It's when I read a story where any reasonable, self-respecting, sexually active person would have condoms and use them in that situation, and I've been shown or told that the h/h are supposed to be reasonable, self-respecting, sexually active people… and there's no damn reason for them not to have and use condoms… and they just don't. And I see enough of the sex to know that they don't….

    To me, this seems a bit contradictory.
    Are you saying that if they’re caught up in the moment, it IS okay to skip the whole condom thing? If “they had other things on their mind”?

    I don’t know…many sex scenes *are* a matter of getting caught in the moment, are presented in such a way. So how does one measure whether or not they are carried away enough to forgo mentioning it?

    Doesn’t that put a rather unfair pressure on an author?
    Who decides, after all, whether or not they are caught up enough in the moment to let the issue slide?
    What would the criteria for that be?

    Personally, I’d rather the author focus on the characters themselves, on the story itself, and let me fill in the blanks without dumping a cold bucket of reality over my head.
    By the end of the book, if no one is stricken with any STDs or unplanned pregnancies, it’s really not an issue.

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  110. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 19:59:50

    “Or are you implying that young, virginal seventeenth century girls are supposed to be TSTL?”

    No. I’m not saying they’re *supposed* to be. I am saying that it’s far more likely for young, virginal seventeenth century girls to have lived their entire lives in one small town with only the information from their guardians, church and neighbors when it comes to sexual health, without opportunities like mass media, news papers, public school sex ed, etc, so forth, ad infinitum to suppliment whatever meager info the 100 people she knows have given her. Which they’re probably not supposed to give her, seeing as how she’s a maiden. And they’re far more likely to be *completely* sheltered about the realities and dangers of sex. So when they engage in risky behaviors with the Duke of Slut, it’s understandable – all other things being equal – that they’re not even aware that they’re engaging in risky behavior. Also, pre twentieth century (hell, into the twentieth century, and even today in many parts of the world) the idea that a woman can refuse sex to her husband, or place conditions on it and expect them to be honored, is … radical.

    But – barring being raised in a cave – there’s no reason an otherwise modern, educated, twenty-first century woman should be ignorant of the risks of STDs. And while there are plenty of reasons why she might decide to engage in risky behavior, if she’s in a situation where she’s got every opportunity to say “Whoa, tiger, time out, condom” and she doesn’t, it’s a TSTL move.

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  111. Jody W.
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 20:00:47

    I read romances for enjoyment, but I still like to see human beings portrayed in believable, realistic ways, with well-rounded characterization. That’s why I like to see them consider the various consequences of sex when they choose to get busy. I consider it part of characterization–how characters reach decisions in their relationship development. Sex is a big decision — and why is it a big decision? BECAUSE of its potential consequences. (Consequences include pregnancies and stds, yes, but also emotional changes, stuff like that.)

    So I like the mention of condoms or other protectives in contemporaries, however fleeting. Taking care of one another in bed — both ensuring your partner has a “good time” and that you’re protected from unwanted pregnancy and stds — is smart, respectful and very sexy.

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  112. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 20:16:19

    “Are you saying that if they're caught up in the moment, it IS okay to skip the whole condom thing? If “they had other things on their mind”?”

    No. What I’m saying is that they’re in some crazy ass, already life risking situation where the normal rules of the world are topsy turvy, it bothers me *less*. It still bothers me, but I can kind of see how they get carried away and let it happen. There’s *some* reason why they don’t, and there, it’s easier for me to ignore.

    What really gets me ticked is situations like… Okay, I picked up Sharon Sala’s Cut Throat a couple months ago, and in the opening chapter, the hero (who apparently knows the heroine from some previous book I haven’t read) comes over with the obvious intent of making love to her. And they have pizza and take the time to quibble over “I make love to you, and you have sex with me”, he says, etc and so forth. And we get the heroine’s thoughts indicating that she’s sexually active and hey, no red blooded woman would turn down a roll in the hay with such a hunk. We get her characterized as an independent woman who prefers casual sex, doesn’t want to call it making love, yadda yadda.

    Then they get down to it, and it’s relatively clear there’s no condom used. Now okay, maybe they’ve had a big old discussion over it in a previous book, but she makes it pretty clear to him that for her, it’s just fucking around, no matter how he might characterize it.

    a) there’s no reason he couldn’t have brought over condoms.
    b) there’s *every* reason a woman who’s all “I’m a red blooded woman who indulges my sex drive w/out that love BS” should have condoms.
    c) There’s every reason that a man sleeping with a woman who’s all “Hey, it’s just fucking” should want to use condoms.

    And yet, there’s no mention of it. The sex was deliberate, planned on his part, and there’s no reason in the world one or both shouldn’t have condoms on hand and want to use them, given this situation. And yet, it’s totally whiffed.

    While the stuff like Black Ice, where everyone’s life is already at risk and there’s way bigger immediate dangers like assassins and crazy weapon dealing sadists to worry about and the heroine’s at wit’s end, yadda yadda… I notice it, but I can disregard it. Crazy situation, fine, whatever.

    In stuff like Cut Throat, where there’s no reason whatsoever why they shouldn’t protect themselves, and *plenty* of reasons why both of them should want to, and the author’s gone through the trouble of establishing the heroine as Ms. Casual Sex Only for Me before they get down to it… it reads to me as a deliberate choice and a character flaw, and although I was kind of digging the voice up until that point, that moment made me put the book down and never get around to picking it back up.

    Everyone’s mileage varies, and I don’t begrudge the people who prefer not to think about it… but when I read a situation where there’s no earthly reason why they shouldn’t be safe, and several reasons why they should… it strikes a problematic note for me.

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  113. theo
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 20:19:13

    And while there are plenty of reasons why she might decide to engage in risky behavior, if she’s in a situation where she’s got every opportunity to say “Whoa, tiger, time out, condom” and she doesn’t, it’s a TSTL move.

    I guess I don’t understand your double standard of what’s acceptable to you then. If the heroine has other things on her mind at the time, it’s okay *not* to use one, but in a situation where she’s got the opportunity…

    The only situation where she *wouldn’t* have the opportunity to say ‘condom’ would be if she was being raped (regardless of forcibly, drugged or what have you).

    So it either applies in every single situation, or it applies in no situation. You can’t excuse one and insist on the other.

    I have an imagination. If it were that important to me to have that much reality, I suppose I could fill in the blanks. But in a romance novel, it’s *not* important. Not as much as the writing, the ability of the author to suck me into the story and for awhile, make me lose myself in a great read.

    Like I said, I want the illusion.

    Reality slaps me in the face every day.

    While the stuff like Black Ice, where everyone's life is already at risk and there's way bigger immediate dangers like assassins and crazy weapon dealing sadists to worry about and the heroine's at wit's end, yadda yadda… I notice it, but I can disregard it. Crazy situation, fine, whatever.

    You posted this as I was writing mine. That makes absolutely no sense at all. What if they’re not assassinated? What if they live and one or the other has an STD because of it? But, it’s okay because it was a crazy situation?

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  114. Seressia
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 20:46:32

    So has anyone read a contemporary non-erotic romance in which dental dams or condoms were used with oral sex? If we’re going with reality, shouldn’t those be used too?

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  115. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 20:46:58

    “Doesn't that put a rather unfair pressure on an author? Who decides, after all, whether or not they are caught up enough in the moment to let the issue slide?
    What would the criteria for that be?”

    I don’t think it puts any pressure on the author. I’ve never met Anne Stuart or Sharon Sala, and wouldn’t presume to tell them how to write their books. And obviously, judging from the discussion today, there’s plenty of audience out there, for both sides of the issue. I’m just stating my preference and explaining my reasoning behind it in a post asking me to state my preference and explain my reasoning behind it. I’d have to reread all my comments to be sure, but I’m fairly certain I never said that my preferences should be the rule, just that I’ve got them and I’ve got reasons.

    “Personally, I'd rather the author focus on the characters themselves, on the story itself,”

    And that’s cool. I want the author to focus on the characters themselves and the story itself, but for me, when I see a hero and heroine make a fairly significant, TSTL decision in a fairly central scene, for no discernable reason… that *is* character, whether the author intends it to be or not.

    I’m pretty sure that when all the bazillions of authors out there have their heroines escape their bodyguards and run off into the night when they know there’s a killer around… they’re not sitting there at the keyboard saying “Hey, let’s see how I make her look TSTL”, they’re trying to go for some other plot or whatever effect, and the unintended effect is to make her look TSTL to those readers who notices such things and care. Because this is fiction and not real life, because it’s a story where we’re only shown a select few details and decisions and moments through the selective lens of the author’s words, every decision we are shown looms larger than real life and informs us about the actor’s character to a greater degree than any one decision in a real time life does.

    “and let me fill in the blanks without dumping a cold bucket of reality over my head.”

    There’s obviously plenty out there for you to choose from if that’s what you want, and I’m not saying everyone should have a “bucket of reality” on their head in ever book. But for me, and those on my side of this fence, seeing a hero and heroine so blatantly disregard each other’s sexual health and their own – for no discernible reason whatsoever – is what pours the bucket of reality over our heads. Because while we’re probably not ignorant enough of Romance to think “hey, I wonder if he gave her herpes”, we’re thinking – “god, that was stupid, I wonder if she’s always that stupid, I wonder if I’m supposed to take this to think she’s stupid, probably not”. For us, risky sexual behavior reminds us of the reality of that risk. For you, risky sexual behavior means something else – or nothing at all. And that’s fine. I’m not out to kill your joy. I’m out to explain why unnecessary bareback is so distracting to me.

    “By the end of the book, if no one is stricken with any STDs or unplanned pregnancies, it's really not an issue.”

    Not an issue for you, obviously. Which is cool. But to me and those on my side of the fence, it is an issue, because if this behavior passes with no thought from the hero or heroine, and no consequences, it ends up telling me (and my portion of the audience) something about the hero and heroine that the author probably wasn’t trying to tell us. And it’s something that’s likely at odds with her attempts to tell us other things about the hero and heroine. For me, it’s a big fat issue of show, don’t tell. If you tell me the heroine’s smart, then show her engaging in behavior that really, really isn’t, you’re mixing your message. For a certain portion of the audience, it’s not a null or simply an absence. It’s a (likely unintentional) negative point.

    For me. Not for you, and that’s totally cool.

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  116. Jeannine
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 20:57:21

    shamelessreader:

    And we get the heroine's thoughts indicating that she's sexually active and hey, no red blooded woman would turn down a roll in the hay with such a hunk. We get her characterized as an independent woman who prefers casual sex, doesn't want to call it making love, yadda yadda.

    In this case, as you’ve described it, seems to me that the character IS written as TSTL. I can understand why you would definitely notice the lack of safe sex in that particular case.
    But — to me, that’s a problem with the writing itself, or more specifically with how the character is written.
    Just from what you’ve said about it, I would already know that the heroine had low self-esteem and was looking for casual sex, no strings attached, etc. and I wouldn’t (personally) find that type of character appealing, anyway.

    But suppose you read a book where the characters are both reasonable, self-respecting adults, and maybe after a period of getting-to-know-you, etc., they finally get a little crazy and have at it…does that scene *have* to include some kind of notation about whipping out a condom? I don’t think it does.

    IOW, if the characters are well-established as responsible people, I don’t need to have that pointed out to me…I can believe in the story the author has created, and believe enough in the characters he/she brings to life, that I don’t need to question whether or not they’d behave recklessly — the author would have already proved that they wouldn’t. No need to spell it out for me, if the characterization and story are good.

    Jeanne St James:

    I include it for the most part in my contemp erotic romances. But I hate HAVING to. If I don't use it, then I give a good reason.

    I'd rather have it assumed that they are practicing safe sex. As for a reader, I don't necessarily look for it, but now since it is so prevalant in contemps that now I notice when it's missing in the scene. I wish I didn't. However, most authors do a good job fitting it into the scene.

    See, that’s what I think is wrong — that you should feel expected to include it, whether you want to or not.
    In my opinion, you *shouldn’t* feel you have to include it. You should be allowed to let the characters tell their story without spelling out details like that, and just let the story flow as you want it to.

    Again, I think the expectation places a social responsibility on the shoulders of romance authors that really doesn’t belong there. It’s fiction, an escape from reality, and I for one would rather it stay a bit “carefree”. :)

    Theo:

    Like I said, I want the illusion.

    Reality slaps me in the face every day.

    Exactly.
    And there’s way too much reality in real life…and a shocking lack of those really perfect, thoughtful, loving, built-like-a-Greek-god Alpha males — but at least we can forget the real world now and then and find them in a book… ;)

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  117. Seressia
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 20:57:23

    ANd totally timely is this YouTube video from Durex. I will never look at balloon animals the same.

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  118. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 21:08:40

    Seressia!

    Thanks so much, my mom cat and 4 week old kittens are totally traumatized because I was laughing so hard and so long I was wheezing! rofl

    Whoever designed that campaign must have been reading a lot of menage stories. That was priceless. :) Or is this a sign of the changing times? he he

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  119. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 21:14:16

    “So it either applies in every single situation, or it applies in no situation. You can't excuse one and insist on the other.”

    Actually, yes. Yes, I can.

    I’m not insisting, I’m saying that I – like many of us – get that people aren’t perfect and people make mistakes and I don’t expect perfection from my heroines or my heroes, even if I’d like them to play a little less russian roulette with their naughty bits than they do.

    “You posted this as I was writing mine. That makes absolutely no sense at all. What if they're not assassinated? What if they live and one or the other has an STD because of it? But, it's okay because it was a crazy situation?”

    Obviously, that would suck if she caught something from him, and since this is romance land, I highly doubt that she would. I’m not saying it’s okay because it’s a crazy situation, I’m saying that in a crazy situation, it’s more understandable. At least the author has done a little work and sold me on it (intentionally or not). I’m saying that at least here, even though yes, it picks at me a little, I’ve been given *some* reason for this abdication of sexual health agency.

    I’m saying that the instances that *do* throw me off enough to throw me out of the book are the ones when they knew sex was coming and no one thought to buy condoms, or we’ve already established the characters as sexually active and they’ve bothered to get candles and soft jazz but not, apparently, a box of trojans, or any number of other permutations where it would be an easy, rational, normal, expectable thing for them to have condoms, and there’s no crazy time pressure, and they both had to see this coming… and then…

    Unnecessary, unmotivated bareback with nary a thought from either of them before or after. That’s a dumb move, and for no good reason other than “ooo, heat of the moment” or sheer laziness – either on the part of the characters, the author or both. And if there’s no good reason I can see for why someone didn’t think to stop at the 7-11 before their date or have condoms in their purse or suck him off and eat her out and maybe hold the old in out off till after a quick run to the 7-11, when they’re obviously located in suburbia and there’s got to be a 7-11 within spitting distance…

    Yeah, that annoys me.

    Just like it annoyed me when my [relative who shall remain nameless] got knocked up and her reason was “We ran out of condoms.” … You live in a city, [relative] there is a deli ON YOUR BLOCK. Take two frigging minutes and go buy some more, *you idiot*.

    Whereas some chick who’s afraid for her life and at wits end and [insert at least some *perfunctory* attempt at yadda yadda here] goes with it in the moment… not so much. Yes, I contradict myself. I am large and do in fact contain multitudes. I am free to be annoyed by Sala’s unsafe sex and less annoyed at Stuart’s, just as you are free to be bothered by both and annoyed when an author spends half a sentence letting us know the hero and heroine care enough about their sexual health to toss a condom on the nightstand before getting down.

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  120. DS
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 21:19:55

    What great condom commercials. I nearly choked on an almond.

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  121. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 21:27:33

    @Jenine@116

    “Just from what you've said about it, I would already know that the heroine had low self-esteem and was looking for casual sex, no strings attached, etc. and I wouldn't (personally) find that type of character appealing, anyway.”

    And those are your preferences, fine. I don’t think that a desire for casual sex is an automatic marker of low self-esteem. I find a heroine who knows her own sexual desires and takes steps to satisfy them refreshing, all other things being equal. From what I read (in this first chapter) she lives a life where more permanent attachments would be pointless, and yeah, she’s obviously got issues, and obviously the hero is going to have to Teach Ms. “Casual sex only” How To Love or whatever, and that can be fun for me, if written right.

    The problem was, the way it was written, I really couldn’t tell if the lack of condom use was something deliberate the author was doing to show me how little disregard she had for herself, or whether it was yet another case of “handwave, let’s just not think about condoms”. Adding in the hero’s behavior, I suspected it was the latter. And that’s my primary problem with with unmotivated, uncommented upon, unprotected sex. It hits a confusing characterization note for me.

    Even if the author is trying to say something about the heroine’s with that bareback choice (and since it was entirely glossed over, I got the impression it wasn’t a choice but an omission), that doesn’t explain to me why the hero is hunky dory with barebacking Ms “casual sex only and condoms, what condoms”. What, is it supposed to prove his love for her or trust for her?

    It’s a confusing, dischordant note, particularly when you take the time to pay lip service to the idea that the heroine prefers casual sex only and takes the time to spell that out for the hero. And it’s when the bareback strikes a confusing “wait, are we trying to make a point with this, or not” that it most annoys me.

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  122. joanne
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 22:14:54

    It’s been driving me nuts ALL DAY… finally.

    I remembered the Historical Romance I just read where the author had had both the heroine and her hero with their own condoms. And although I was ‘sort of’ taken out of the story I was right back in it with How Cool Are These People? and I was cheering for their HEA.

    Lydia Joyce's Wicked Intentions.

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  123. shamelessreader
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 22:46:53

    @Theo@113

    (trying not to double post here, but it’s been a good fifteen minutes and I’m pretty sure my response got eaten.)

    “So it either applies in every single situation, or it applies in no situation. You can't excuse one and insist on the other.”

    Actually, yes. Yes I can. I contain multitudes, and all that. ;)

    I’m not really insisting on anything or excusing anything here. What I’m saying is that despite my preference for seeing responsible sexual behavior in contemporaries, I don’t expect perfection from my heroes and heroines. What I expect is to see *some* sort of reason for TSTL behavior. And if there’s some sort of extenuating circumstances, if the author appears to be making some sort of attempt to motivate the risk taking, I’m more likely to be able to swing with it.

    But in the situation I described in Cut Throat – and in the situations that tend to irk me more – there’s absolutely no reason in the *world* why the hero and heroine shouldn’t have and use condoms, and I’m shown enough of the sex scene to reasonably assume that they haven’t. Crazy shit happens, stupid decisions happen, fine. I certainly don’t begrudge characters that. What I begrudge is when characters had plenty of time and reason and notices to get condoms and use them and – as far as I can see – they didn’t. When the lack of condom usage comes off to me as sheer laziness on the part of the characters.

    The problem with the scene in Cut Throat, for me, wasn’t just the lack of condom usage. It was that – as shown – it was left very unclear whether the barebacking was a statement the author was making about the heroine or whether it was just … something that author doesn’t bother with. When half the time it’s just a question of “handwave, let’s forget about icky reality condom yuckiness”, I – as a reader – am left at a loss.

    As I’ve said above, I get (intellectually, anyway) why the handwave appeals to you and others, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with preferring that your entertainment reading gloss over those details. If the author sells me on it, or there’s some extenuating circumstances that – within the context of this book and these characters – works for me, I can swing it. I don’t prefer condom usage in contemporaries because I think the romance reading world needs its safe sex lessons from their entertainment reading.

    I prefer it because when the author does as *you* apparently prefer, and just glosses over the issue entirely, I’m left confused about whether this was a deliberate characterization choice by the author or if we’re just in “handwave about condoms” land in this book. Sometimes – like with Anne Stuart where the writing is otherwise good and the extenuating circumstances are such that I get *why* someone might engage in risky behavior – I can swing with it. Others, like the Sala example, it’s offputting enough that I’ll go to another book.

    I’m not saying all writers should should show safe sex all the time, or that you shouldn’t prefer the handwaved safe sex. All I’m saying is that even though there’s obviously a decent part of the audience that prefers no mention of safe sex at all – or doesn’t care one way or another – there’s another part of the audience that isn’t going to see it as “we’re just glossing over the condom issue”. We’re going to see it as the H/H choosing risky behavior. And if you have them choosing risky behavior for no discernible reason other than a desire to gloss over details that you and the bareback preferring portion of the audience find offputting/distracting/yucky/fantasy-killing … well then, there will be consequences for a different part of the audience.

    And if you don’t put in the effort to show us why the h/h made that choice, then we’re going to insert any other of number reasons that you – the author – may not have intended. Or, we’re just going to respect the characters a little less. Or any number of other reactions. We are multitudes, after all, and read for different reasons at different times. Obviously you can’t please all the readers all the time.

    But I do think it’s worth it as an author to at least *consider* the characterization impact that glossing over safe sex for no reason other than “it’s yucky” has. If you don’t care about it, that’s cool. Plenty of readers don’t either, so you’re in luck. I could give a rats ass about historical accuracy, so if you want to write a medieval romance where people are eating potatoes and telling each other to take a chill pill, as long as you do other stuff to my satisfaction, I’m cool. And in fact, too many endless pages of historical detail will make me put a book down that historical junkies would eat up with a spoon. We all read for different reasons and have different kinks and squicks and hot buttons and dealbreakers.

    But with the question of safe sex, part of the reason I (and I presume many of the others on my side of the fence) find it so supremely distracting is that unlike chemises and all that earl stuff that I still don’t quite get, I’ve got very personal experience with that moment of “God, I really, really want to and I really, really trust him but … should I, where the hell did I put my last… do you have any…” etc. Whether or not I choose to use a condom any given sex act, it’s *always* going to be on my mind at at least some point during the festivities.

    I don’t expect the heroine to make the decisions I make. I do expect it to at least occur to her – at some point – that this is an issue. And if I’m given no indication at any point that it has – and I’m given every indication that she just had bareback sex for no good reason other than “ooo, heat of the moment”… it throws me off.

    And throwing me and my fence-side-buddies off is a risk that the author is perfectly free to take. But it does mean I’m less likely to finish her book or buy her next one. OTOH, it means that the other side of the fence is more likely, all other things being equal. It’s her risk to take, and there’s plenty of room for both kinds of books out there. But if she (the mythical author deciding which way to go on the next book) wants some insight into why some on my side feel the way we do… I’ve provided it. She can take it or not. :D I don’t think she’s a bad person either way.

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  124. LoriK
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 01:12:33

    After reading all the comments I find myself wondering if the condom/no condom split is at least partially a product of people’s reasons for reading romance. This may not make sense outside my head, but I don’t think of myself as reading primarily for escape &/or fantasy. I read romances to spend time with people I find interesting doing things I find interesting, including falling in love. Because of that I want the characters to feel real within the world created by the book. For contemporaries I expect that world to be pretty close to the one I live in. One result of that is that, as shamelessreader mentioned earlier, I tend to judge TSTL for characters the same way I would judge it in real life. If I were reading for fantasy I think it’s likely I would look at the condom issue differently.

    And not to beat a very dead horse, but one last thing on the sex ed discussion.I used to work with teenagers in a setting where providing safer sex info was part of my job. I’ve done the condom on a banana thing more times that I care to recall. Kids asked me things that were truly amazing, sometimes for the depth of ignorance revealed and sometimes for the breadth of knowledge.

    Part of working with the kids was dealing with their environment, so we did a lot of family system counseling. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard some version of “my kid would never” or “we had The Talk and told them everything they needed to know.” Most of those parents were being sincere and yet a disturbingly high percentage of the time the conversation was taking place in the context of a positive pregnancy or STD test for the child.

    It’s often tough for parents and children to talk openly about sex. That isn’t, in and of itself, a sign of failure. The topic carries a lot of baggage that’s difficult or seriously embarrassing to deal with. That said, there are things about sexuality that everyone needs to know, regardless of how many or few sexual partners they plan to have.

    Because of this I honestly think it’s in most people’s best interest to have some back up. Even very good kids who have very close relationships with their parents are often loath to ask those parents all the questions they have. It’s really important that they have a non-parental source of confidential, accurate information. When they don’t have that kind of trustworthy information source they either muddle through on their own or ask their equally ignorant friends. All too often that route leads them & their heartbroken, horrified parents somewhere like my old office and that’s not a positive outcome for anyone involved.

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  125. GrowlyCub
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 02:14:02

    the condom/no condom split is at least partially a product of people's reasons for reading romance.

    I think so, too. Although, I’d say I read for the fantasy as well, just like theo, but I still arrive at the opposite conclusion on the condom issue.

    I read because I want to see how other people aka the characters in the books as directed by their authors deal with their lives and the problems they encounter – with problems similar or completely dissimilar to my life. In a way that’s escape from my life, but with the added bonus that I get to see how they do things. It’s probably not so much about me ‘learning’ how I could do things in my own life, more along the lines of ‘oh, there is a solution’ even if I couldn’t think of one.

    I’ve long considered reading romance my security and sanity valve. I get to cry my eyes out (needless to say I *love* angsty books), but with the guarantee that, however awful things look in the middle, there is a HEA at the end, which is how books differ from real life.

    While there may be a HEA in real life, there’s no guarantee of one, so it might never get better after the awful. In that respect I’m reading romance for the escape factor, but on the other hand, I read it for the very real relationship problem solving that the books portray. After a particularly emotional 5 hanky read, I’m all chipper and sane (hard to believe, I know, grin), but if it strikes the right cord it’s fabulous. If the book doesn’t work, however, it’s really bad.

    It also means that I have a real issue with either partner having sex with others once they are established as a couple. I just read a very old Georgian romance by Sylvia Thorpe which I loved even though it was all about the big misunderstanding until it got to the part where the hero gets all dominant and ‘Madam, you’d better not cuckold me’ while merrily mounting his mistress and any other female who held still long enough. I finished the book, but since I would never forgive a cheating spouse, that’s where this book completely didn’t work for me because I couldn’t believe the HEA. In a way the book was too ‘real’.

    I tried to read Rosenthal’s ‘The Slightest Provocation’ a couple of nights ago, but couldn’t make it past the first reunion scene, because it was all about how their relationship went terribly wrong and I was literally feeling sick to my stomach, because that just was too much (it didn’t help that I started reading it right after watching ‘The Butterfly Effect’ which isn’t exactly uplifting either). I was totally in both of Rosenthal character’s heads and it wasn’t a place I wanted to be at all because they’d done such emotional harm to each other.

    That was also why I was so reluctant originally to try ‘Private Arrangements’, but for whatever reason, it didn’t affect me in the horrible way Rosenthal’s book did. I’m not sure I can go back to that one even though I know there’s a HEA, because the hurt is too real which is a testament to the writing, but I get queasy just looking at the book right now.

    So why did ‘Private Arrangements’ work… I have no idea.

    Another one of those ambiguous reads is Balogh’s ‘Dancing With Clara’. The writing appeals, the idea behind the story appeals, but the fact that the guy continues to cheat on his wife and she even tells him at the end that she’ll forgive him again and again if necessary makes me feel nauseated. So, on the one hand, I like the book, but on the other it literally makes me feel bad.

    A good book to me is entirely real and at the same time offers escape from the reality around me and conversely that’s why I want the books I read to be as real as can be which includes safe sex (and yes that means condoms for blow jobs as well) in contemporary romance, but it doesn’t include infidelity.

    One thing that I’ve long pondered is that I love stories like the ones Paula Detmer Riggs wrote, which are almost all redemption stories and in most of them there’s a situation that I’d consider completely and utterly relationship destroying in real life (usually not infidelity, though). No way, I’d ever take any of these guys back because to me, once the trust is gone, it cannot be recaptured, but I love to read about these scenarios. Go figure.

    But if you had asked me, I’d answer I read to escape and for the fantasy, except my fantasy is the guaranteed happy ending for real life situations, not the complete disassociation from real life.

    It’s all in the details. :)

    And if you think the above is utterly contradictory and makes no sense, well, I never claimed I would make sense, but it’s as honest as I can be about why I read romance and why certain things trigger hot spots and others do not.

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  126. theo
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 07:04:12

    I contain multitudes, and all that. ;)

    Call me stupid to the soles of my feet, but I have absolutely no clue whatsoever what that phrase means. Sorry.

    What you call ‘glossing over’ again puts the pressure on the author to provide the reader with some form of education. “Either have your characters use a condom or we won’t read you.” If that’s your only reason for not reading an author, then you’re not reading the entire story. You’re looking for a reason not to read him/her.

    I also don’t think belittling the author by using the phrase ‘glossing over’ helps your points. It only makes both the author and the readers who aren’t fixated on condom use feel like you’re trying to make them feel like lesser readers and authors, which I’m sure is in no way your intention.

    I've got very personal experience with that moment of “God, I really, really want to and I really, really trust him but

    I think there are many of us here who have had that experience. You aren’t alone. The difference is, if I had to ask myself any question about it at all, then the answer was completely clear. And that answer was ‘no’. Easy, concise, simple. “NO”. For me, and me alone here, that’s an obvious ‘gimme’. There is no other answer. Which is why I can suspend belief long enough to read a story and not expect the author to deliver a primer on sex, what’s expected, what we’re supposed to so, say, feel, control or anything else. In the real world, the choice is No, and like I said before, I don’t read romance novels for reality. I read them for entertainment.

    I have no problem with what you think. I do feel sorry that you can’t really enjoy a story for the sake of enjoying it though, which you’ve said you don’t when condoms aren’t included where *you* think they should be. We all have authors we love and hate. But for me, that comes down to the writing, how good or bad it is, plot holes or the lack of them (plot holes are the first thing that will send a book across the room for me), whether or not the author has created a story that flows and ebbs or is written in a series of jerking scenes to get us from one sexual encounter to another. But tossing a condom into the story because we expect the author to educate us is expecting more from the author than I think they should give if they feel in any way that it stops or detracts from the story.

    Someone said they don’t like public service announcements. I’ve read one contemporary where the condom use was done perfectly and a dozen where I do a WTF because it’s like they were forced to throw that in by TPTB or the book wouldn’t go to press. They were that PSA.

    I did the ‘sex for sex’s sake’. I finally got hit upside the head and figured out it wasn’t worth it. I figured out that whether I enjoyed it or not made no difference. The guys ended up looking at me like an easy piece, which I was. I finally decided I was worth way more than that. Frankly, Hn’s that sleep around, well, I have no use for them. A woman’s self worth doesn’t depend on how much sex she gets. It depends on how much she values her own character.

    And really, I just keep repeating myself here and am now beating a dead horse. I’m obviously from a very different generation than you are and what I think most likely isn’t going to change at this point in my life.

    So, I’ve dug the hole, buried the horse and dusted off my hands. Sorry if I’ve offended anyone with my comments. It was never my intention.

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  127. AnneD
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 08:25:40

    Cause I don’t have 126 comments worth of time this morning:

    Did anyone comment on the foreword situation where an author asks that safe sex be assumed? I’m certain I read something once at the front of a book like that.

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  128. Jeannine
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 08:57:44

    My question is: Why is it that modern songwriters can write (very blatantly) about sex, but aren’t expected to include any lyrics about making sure it’s safe?

    Same with movies, which we’ve mentioned. Why do we not expect them to make it very clear, in each and every movie that involves a sex scene, that the sex acts depicted include condoms?

    So why should a romance author be held to a standard we don’t hold to anyone else who provides our entertainment?

    Not really looking for an answer (I know I don’t have one!) — just food for thought… :)

    LoriK

    Even very good kids who have very close relationships with their parents are often loath to ask those parents all the questions they have. It's really important that they have a non-parental source of confidential, accurate information.

    You make some great points, and I agree with you that kids need sources other than parents for these issues, however…
    I really don’t feel that a romance novel — or any fiction — should be that source.

    And I don’t think it should be the author’s responsibility to consider “well, a teenager who doesn’t know better may read this, so I better include that PSA about condoms.” Just as I don’t feel they should preach to me about the dangers of drunk driving or drug use, just in case an impressionable kid happens to open the book.
    If they choose to include any of those things in a way that works within their stories, then that’s great.

    I guess I just don’t understand why the quality of their work should depend on that.

    GrowlyCub:

    But if you had asked me, I'd answer I read to escape and for the fantasy, except my fantasy is the guaranteed happy ending for real life situations, not the complete disassociation from real life.

    It's all in the details. :)

    Those of us who prefer not to have to read about condoms in a romance aren’t necessarily searching for a complete disassociation from real life. ;)

    Really, at least for me, it’s a matter of not wanting to have a dose of the real world interrupt the flow of a story, of the moment that an author has spent a good long time (usually) working up to.
    I want to get lost in the romance, in the idea of it all.
    Of course I know that in real life, people would be foolish to indulge in unsafe sex.
    But for those moments, I can forget about it — just as I can forget about war, politics, the mortgage payment, etc.

    Just a matter of preference, I suppose. :)

    I just wouldn’t assume that an author who chooses not to include that moment in the middle of a sex scene is somehow socially irresponsible and doesn’t deserve to have her novel read. (not that you said that; just making a point)

    All that said, I don’t have a problem with it being included, if it’s done well.
    I just don’t need for it to be there to be able to make that leap that the characters are being responsible and respectful of one another, if they’ve been written so.

    But that’s just me. :)

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  129. veinglory
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 09:33:49

    Well, songs and movies other than pornography rarely give a blow by blow description of the sex act, erotica in romance books now often does. I would not that porn movies do now typically clearly show condom use.

    Nobody *has* to do anything. But romance heroes and heroines are meant to be good, fairly smart people–not people willing to put their lovers health and life at risk. In that context condom use is part of character.

    A modern hero is often not celibate, so his desire to love and protect the woman (or man) he loves would naturally extend to safer sex just as it now commonly extended to getting clear consent for sex not just ‘having his way with her’.

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  130. theo
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 10:07:57

    @veinglory,

    I don’t know your circumstances, I don’t profess to, I can only tell you that my then-teenage daughter listened to rap (which she was going to do regardless if I told her it was crap or not) that contained not only very specific descriptions of sex but also drug use and violence. Guess who her heroes were for a time. And I know I am not alone in that experience.

    So, the music videos and rap they listened to, and still do, glorify that exact thing we’re talking about. If the author is expected to be held accountable for the content of their ‘safe sex’ message, though (and I have absolutely NO figures on this, I’m guessing) I would think many, many more teens and young adults listen to rap than read romance novels, why do we excuse one and accuse the other?

    I agree totally with you. Nobody has to do *anything*. But in the grand scheme of things, I would think romance novels would be fairly low on the priority list of promoting a safe sex message. And in that instance, I think the author should be able to write the story he/she does, without social restrictions or demands.

    just sayin’…

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  131. Moth
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 10:26:48

    No, I don't think that kids who have already made up their mind not to and get the banana class are going to rush out and do it, but I do think a lot of kids who haven't thought about it or gotten strong messages from parents/church/etc to abstain will think that so long as they remember the condom it doesn't matter. So hey, let's go and try out the different condoms, I mean they come in glow in the dark and tasty flavors.

    i’m sorry but in this day and age, and with all the hormones raging around inside them- any kid, every kid, unless they are asexual- has thought about sex. And as for your last comment: they don’t tell you any of these things in a remotely titillating way. I was taught sex-ed by a hyper-active southern Barbie doll who set my teeth on edge and an overweight, middle-aged MALE PE teacher. The last thing I was at the end of my health class was turned on. Oh, and they don’t go into the flavors and colors of condoms either. Everything is very sterile and clinical. They aren’t exactly showing porn and saying, “And this is how you do this, kids!”

    See, the condom is great but it's not 100% effective and it can break. It happened to a friend of mine in college. No birth control is 100% effective and some medications render the pill ineffective. Do they mention that too or just say, hey use a condom?

    When I took it they did, they mentioned the rate of effectiveness for all the most popular forms of birth control. And yes, they hammered in the Abstinence is safest message over and over and over. It was on the test.

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  132. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 10:44:48

    I need a different option “depends on the story”

    Some writers can work condoms into scenes well. Others can’t. But those who leave them out often cause a ‘huh’? reaction in me, especially if the issue of safe sex and pregnancy prevention aren’t addressed.

    Probably comes from being a nurse, I’m extremely aware of issues such things and if the author can’t work the condom convincingly (without ruining the scene) I want it addressed after…in dialogue or something.

    Of course, my worst pet peeve is hygienic sex-particularly in erotic romance, where there are things like anal sex…then regular intercourse, in that order…sans bathing.

    Shudder.

    ETA: BTW, I don’t really think it’s the author’s ‘job’ to educate others on safe sex-the typical adult knows the risks and all, even if some do ignore them or just think it won’t happen to me.

    My issues are how realistic is that scene going to be if it isn’t addressed. Yes, I read to relax and I am willing suspend belief, and all. But in this day and age, if a woman or man are having unsafe sex, I’m likely to wonder at their intelligence.

    It’s dangerous. So a book that totally overlooks it can often jar me out of the moment and it can do it a lot more quickly than the hero taking a minute to don a rubber. Just my opinion of course, but there ya go….

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  133. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 10:57:27

    @theo .

    “Either have your characters use a condom or we won't read you.” If that's your only reason for not reading an author, then you're not reading the entire story. You're looking for a reason not to read him/her.

    Oh, I guess I don’t agree with this at all. First, a reader has every right to not read an author for anything, absolutely any reason, and that should not be questioned. Second, to assume that a reader is actively looking to dismiss an author and uses condom usage or non usage as the justification presumes diminishes that reader’s right and assumes things not there.

    Obviously, for some people, condom usage is a hot button issue and it represents to that reader a sign of irresponsibility. It might not be a good enough reason for you not to read a book, but you can’t de-legitimize someone else’s choices. I have stopped reading a whole host of authors and tropes in books because I don’t like one thing whether it be the virgin widow, or the contrived and unlawful “the will makes me do it”, or because I don’t like the setup or I don’t even like the cover or title.

    Those are all legitimate reasons for someone not to read a book or an author and I fully support someone who feels strongly about condom issues to not read a book by an author who doesn’t include them.

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  134. Jaime Samms
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 11:14:40

    I voted no because you made me make a choice, but I have to say, it depends.

    I have read (and, shamefacedly have to admit, written,) some stories where condoms should have been involved and weren’t. Looking back, I have no idea what I was thinking, or why I wrote the story the way I did, but alas, too late to take it back now. It will bother some readers, and it bothers me to have made the mistake, but live, learn, and do better, right?

    That said, I do think it would have to depend on the characters, the circumstances, and the story itself. Honestly, I rarely make a conscious mental note of their use, whether it’s there or not, unless there’s an issue in the plot that suggests the use or non-use matters. (As, in my case, it should have been an issue, but like I said, live and learn and try not to make the same blunder twice.)

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  135. theo
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 11:15:16

    @Jane,

    I wouldn’t expect you to agree with me. I don’t expect anyone to. Shamelessreader made a comment that she’ll not read an author for that reason only. That’s fine. There are a lot of things, if the writing is good enough, if the story is strong enough, that I’m able to overlook. It might be one out of 20 novels that either does or doesn’t approach a subject like that. But I’m not going to quit reading the author because of one thing. Carry it over almost as a theme in every book, then yes, it gets boring, old and I no longer care to read it.

    I do agree with you that condom usage is a very hot button for a lot of people. But I still don’t think we should ever expect the author to deliver a public service announcement in every book she/he writes because there are those who won’t read him/her without it. Then what happens to the readers who love the author but don’t want the condom issue raised at all? The author loses one group or another when it should be about the writing, not one piece of sexual equipment.

    One of the authors above said she put it in because the editor made a deal about it. She didn’t want to. From that, I took it to mean that wasn’t her original intention though to include it . Did it make the story better? Worse? I don’t know. I would guess there are as many readers who don’t want the issue in there though that do. So who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong?

    I don’t care for it because for the most part, it’s jarred me out of the story because it’s seemed like an afterthought that was thrown in there. If it does that, then what good does including it really do? But I can overlook it if it doesn’t become a central theme in all his/her stories, taking me out of the story every time for the “okay, here’s the safe sex message”. I won’t stop reading an author because of one story using it. Many? Then yes, I will.

    People read for a variety of reasons. That’s obvious here as well as other blogs and such. But to condemn an otherwise wonderful writer for not including something the reader thinks they should have, one time…I don’t know. I guess I just don’t know how to express how “I don’t get it” that makes me feel.

    But no, I don’t expect anyone to agree. In fact, I expected to be in the minority on this.

    I’d be curious to know the average age of your regular readers though, Jane.

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  136. GrowlyCub
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 11:24:51

    But I still don't think we should ever expect the author to deliver a public service announcement in every book she/he writes because there are those who won't read him/her without it.

    But the whole point is that it’s not supposed to read like a PSA. There are plenty of ways to include it without interrupting the flow or lecturing.

    I want it to read so common place that it wouldn’t even occur to most people to have sex without a condom.

    Like seat belts. Yes, there are still people out there who don’t wear them, but the first thing the majority of folks do when they get in a car is put their seat belt on. Condom use should be the same way, something you don’t even think about, because it’s natural for you to do it.

    So, no to PSA, yes to seemless integration. Like I said before an off hand remark about the opened wrappers on the floor is enough for me.

    I’d really like to see some examples of ‘flow interrupting’ PSA-like condom usage scenes, because I’ve read a lot of romance and erotic romance over the last 25 years and I cannot think of a single one where I thought, gee, this felt like the author was forced to include it or gee, the author is pushing an agenda.

    We’ve heard that Erin McCarthy’s did very well with this in her latest, now I’d love to get some examples that are so horrible that the readers were taken out of the story.

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  137. shamelessreader
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 12:18:43

    @theo@126

    The “I contain multitudes” was a poetry reference about contradicting one’s self – and the first that comes up when you google the phrase, but since I had to google the phrase to double check it, I’m not about to call you stupid for not knowing it.

    “Either have your characters use a condom or we won't read you.” If that's your only reason for not reading an author, then you're not reading the entire story. You're looking for a reason not to read him/her.”

    Huh. I get that I tend to blather, but I thought I’d made pretty clear, repeatedly, that the condom issue *can* be offputting to me in varying degrees in varying situations, and depending on a lot of factors, can be problematic enough to tip the scales for me, or not. The operative word here being *me*. Not we. But feel free to oversimplify if you think it it helps your case. I listed a number of situations where I can accept the lack of condom usage, and said, quite explicitly and to the point of redundancy, that it’s only certain lack of condom situations that throw me out of a story.

    “I also don't think belittling the author by using the phrase ‘glossing over' helps your points. It only makes both the author and the readers who aren't fixated on condom use feel like you're trying to make them feel like lesser readers and authors, which I'm sure is in no way your intention.”

    And I don’t think using the phrase ‘glossing over’ belittles the author. More than a few readers above mentioned that they often just assume the condom went on in there somewhere, and *I* said that if there’s enough wiggle room, I’ll give the characters the benefit of the doubt and assume it went on in there somewhere. I do think that if the author isn’t deliberately showing condom usage or deliberately choosing to show a lack of condom usage, she is glossing over the topic and leaving it up to the reader to decide. I place no value judgement when I use the term ‘glossing over’.

    And while we’re on the topic of belittling, using the term “fixated” can be seen as a bit loaded. We’re in a conversation about condom usage in romance, so I am sharing my condom usage in romance thoughts. There are dozes of other reasons I read and enjoy romance, but I’m not mentioning them here because … that’s not the topic at hand.

    And you should be sure that I’m not trying to belittle readers that don’t care about or prefer a lack of condoms in their contemp love scenes considering that I take the time to spell out – in the majority of my above comments – that I think it’s perfectly fine and dandy to like things the other way and that I don’t judge readers for liking what I don’t like – nor authors for writing in a way I find off putting. Unless I’m coming across as disingenuous one of the dozen or so times I’ve said that, I’d think you’d believe me by now. But again, if you want to assume the opposite of what I’ve said, you’re free to.

    “I have no problem with what you think. I do feel sorry that you can't really enjoy a story for the sake of enjoying it though, which you've said you don't when condoms aren't included where *you* think they should be. We all have authors we love and hate. But for me, that comes down to the writing, how good or bad it is, plot holes or the lack of them (plot holes are the first thing that will send a book across the room for me), whether or not the author has created a story that flows and ebbs or is written in a series of jerking scenes to get us from one sexual encounter to another. But tossing a condom into the story because we expect the author to educate us is expecting more from the author than I think they should give if they feel in any way that it stops or detracts from the story.”

    Wow. Okay. Again, not sure where you’re getting all this, but I can enjoy a story for story’s sake. But the decision for the characters to use a condom or not *is* part of the writing. It’s not a separate cherry that’s on top or not on top and has no bearing on the construction of the sundae in question. For me. Obviously, not for you and that’s fine. Within the context of the story, it’s a choice the characters make. It’s a choice that you and others feel perfectly fine disregarding – and (for the 13th time) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the fact that you can disregard this part of the characterization, or ignore it, or not notice it, or pretend it has no bearing at all on the development of the character.

    And I’ve said that the condom issue has zero to do with a desire for education – either for myself or for other readers. I’ve said it until I was blue in the face, so at this point, I’m going to assume that you’re going to keep on willfully misinterpretting my statements as “People need to be educated in their romance novels about condoms, condoms are the one and only reason I read or don’t read a book, people who don’t care about condom usage in romance are little minded” when I’ve said, repeatedly and clearly that I believe none of these things. And hey go nuts with that, as well as misrepresenting my statements like you did in #135, suggesting I “expect the author to deliver a public service announcement in every book she/he writes because [I] won't read him/her without it.”

    I don’t want the authors to toss in condoms willy nilly and break the flow with no regard for the story, just to placate me and mine, or to educate, or PSA or whatever other misinterpretation of my statements (willfull or otherwise) you feel compelled to come up with. I’ve said, repeatedly, above that there are plenty of cases where I can accept bareback sex in the romances I read. And in the cases where the bareback sex is enough – in addition to other things – to tip the scales against a book for me, it has a little to do with judging the h/h dumb/TSTL for barebacking a stranger, but it has a lot more to do with the dischordant characterization note. The impression I get that I’m not supposed to take this dumb act into account – or that I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take this dumb act into account when these characters are taking shape in my mind – as a result of the sum total of the decisions and thoughts and statements and actions the author chooses to have them make.

    (once more now, slowly and clearly)

    My desire to see safe sex in the situations that I (subjectively, on my own, not saying that everyone should feel or write this way) think there’s no reason they shouldn’t and every reason someone who is already being constructed as a smart, rational character *should* is…

    a) a desire to instruct people about safe sex
    b) an irrational fixation on condoms as the end all and be all of whether or not a book is A Worth Thing
    c) a PSA fetish
    d) That it’s a moment of characterization, a part of the writing and the story as much as any other decision we see the characters make, and it’s a TSTL decision that I can’t pretend the characters didn’t make.

    It’s not the end all and be all. It’s not the only reason I read. It’s not impossible for me to ignore it if the book is otherwise going well. What it is is a character revealing moment, whether the author intends it to be or not. As someone else said above, if the author can’t figure out a way to put in the condom usage without it coming across as awkward or story flow stopping, that’s the fault of bad/sloppy/lazy writing. And if you can’t ever see condom usage as anything *but* awkward and story flow stopping, that has more to do with your prejudices and preferences than it does with the author or the condom. But I doubt that’s the case. I’m guess you can handle a well done mention of safe sex. You just prefer not to have to.

    And. That’s. Fine. With. Me.

    Like I said, we all read for different reasons, and we ourselves read for different reasons at different times. I do, in fact, read for far more than condom usage. I’m not crusading to put a rubber on every willy in romancelandia. (although that might be a very pleasurable experience, and should probably stock up on Magnums before I go on that mission). I’m not crusading for anything, or telling anyone how they should write (*she said for the dozenth time, expecting to be ignored, yet again*).

    What I’m saying is that for me, condom usage or lack thereof is – inextricably – characterization. And I can’t pretend it’s not. And it’s not the single most important dealbreaker you seem to think I think it is. If you want to “read for the story” and not put that particular decision into the equation, go nuts. I don’t want to steal a moment of your reading joy or jam a latex lesson down your throat.

    But I simply can’t read an otherwise modern, smart woman and man (or man and man) choosing to bareback in a situation where there’s no earthly reason not to have condoms on hand and use them as anything other than a TSTL moment. And that moment gets added to my judgement of the characters and the writing and the book. And when it becomes relatively clear that the lack of condoms is just something the author is choosing to do for glossing-over-unappealing-to-herself-and-readers-like-theo reasons and not something to do with the character or the story, I’m going to use that to judge her writing in this book. Not her as a person for writing it, nor you as a person for enjoying it.

    And when the scales tip (either because of a preponderance of other negatives or a lack of other positives) far enough in that direction, I set the book down. I’m not looking to rip it from your hands or ban it from the shelves or stop Sharon Sala from writing all the unmotivated bareback she wants. To. Each. His. Own.

    But this is one of my own pet peeves.

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  138. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:08:47

    I’m sure this has been beaten to death but….

    Er… not sure how you could ever “know somebody” well enough to know they don’t have a disease. Unless you’re talking about blood tests and a good six months passing. Then, it’s not so much “knowing them” as it is having medical proof.

    Has nothing to do with your soul or your personality or even true love, I’m afraid.

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  139. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:10:00

    Oh, and having the characters use condoms isn’t a lecture. Nor is it education. It’s just my characters using condoms while they’re getting it on. Because they are adults. Doing it. Sometimes before they even feel Temporary Love, much less Tru Lurve.

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  140. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:10:26

    @Victoria Dahl This is why you shouldn’t have sex before marriage because you have to have blood tests before getting license in many states.

    (am kidding folks, not about the blood tests, but the . . . oh forget it).

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  141. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:12:39

    Oh, and (can somebody say “Hot Button”) love is no more real or true if it comes AFTER the hot sex, rather than BEFORE. Hey, it all comes out the same in the wash.

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  142. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:13:35

    @Jane: Good point. But what about those dirty states where no blood test is required, huh? HUH?

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  143. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:15:36

    @Victoria Dahl Clearly those states will be smote ala Sodom and Gomorrah or Syphilis and Gnorrehea (sp?)

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  144. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:18:54

    Jane, I hope you don’t mind if I do my own survey?

    Survey question: Is there anything sexier than a gorgeous, hot & ready romance hero who not only gets out the condom without being ASKED, but smiles in dirty anticipation while he slides it on?

    Methinks not.

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  145. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:23:57

    @Victoria Dahl Your question is very restrictive. I mean, there could be other sexier things, I think, like two hot and ready gorgeous guys holstering up. Or maybe one hot and ready guy already holstered, holding decadent desert in his hand. . .

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  146. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:28:13

    @Jane:

    Conceded. You’re much better at this survey thing than I am. *sigh*

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  147. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:32:31

    @Victoria Dahl I win at the internetz. I win.

    Actually, polls are quite hard and I haven’t quite got the wording down yet. Will play with your poll question though. . . or the subject of your poll question or why does everything sound dirty when you are around?

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  148. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:39:43

    @Jane:

    why does everything sound dirty when you are around?

    It’s funny because it’s true.

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  149. rebyj
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:52:03

    Survey question: Is there anything sexier than a gorgeous, hot & ready romance hero who not only gets out the condom without being ASKED, but smiles in dirty anticipation while he slides it on.

    What’s funny is the look on his face when he snaps the base of the condom too hard or (if he bought it out of a 80′s bathroom vending machine) he busts thru the tip before he ever gets near you. It’s better than a mans sex face. Gawd I wish camera phones were around back then LOL.

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  150. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:09:24

    @rebyj:

    What's funny is the look on his face when he snaps the base of the condom too hard

    Omg, rebyj is a CRUEL MISTRESS!

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  151. rebyj
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:15:24

    Hey you think he’d let me anywhere NEAR his penis with a condom when the dumbutt couldn’t even put one on safely himself? LOL And I was laughing WITH him not AT him! Laughter is to penis’s as pins are to balloons.. pfffffffft

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  152. Lorelie
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 15:18:44

    Survey question: Is there anything sexier than a gorgeous, hot & ready romance hero who not only gets out the condom without being ASKED, but smiles in dirty anticipation while he slides it on?

    The smart, eager heroine who steps up and helps him slide it on, in a creative manner?

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  153. LoriK
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 15:28:20

    I agree with you that kids need sources other than parents for these issues, however…I really don't feel that a romance novel -’ or any fiction -’ should be that source.

    It absolutely wasn’t my intention to suggest that romance novels be an info source for teens. Gah! Part of the problem is that they sometimes are and that does not end well. My comments about sex ed were a complete aside because the topic came up in the course of the book discussion. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear. Having condoms in a book =/= a PSA or sex ed and I don’t want it to.

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  154. Julia Sullivan
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 16:19:35

    I’m another one of the “if there’s no condom used between new-to-each-other partners in a contemporary, I get pulled out of the story” readers.

    In a pre-20th-century historical, it doesn’t bother me so much, because I know that the characters would be likely to believe that people got all kinds of diseases from “miasmas” and what-not.

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  155. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 16:22:37

    Now that I’ve had time to sit on it (Jane, that was for you), I think it is good for young women to read contemporaries with heroes who wear condoms. Not a PSA. Not a lecture. Just stories with heroes who willingly and happily snap ‘em on. Because those stories might help make it crystal clear that the guy you’re dating? The one who whines like a little bitch about wearing a rubber? Yeah, he’s a dickwad and he is NOT your hero.

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  156. Jules Jones
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 16:26:36

    Regarding posts 137, 138, 139 — What They Said.

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  157. Jeannine
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 16:52:43

    Where are people getting the idea that those of us who don’t necessarily want the putting-on-a-condom scene spelled out point-blank must somehow advocate unsafe sex?

    I can’t recall one comment made that said “if they’re in love, it’s okay” or any such thing.

    Saying we’d rather not read about that part of the events is nowhere near saying that unprotected sex is fine.
    Big difference.

    As long as it’s not written as in the example, where the heroine asks him to “come inside her”, I can make the leap and assume that there were condoms used and am fine with that. If others are not, that’s fine too.

    If it’s there and doesn’t disrupt the scene, that’s great.
    If it’s not there and an assumption can be made that it happened, even better (to me).

    LoriK — thanks for clarifying. :)

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  158. LoriK
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 17:07:09

    Where are people getting the idea that those of us who don't necessarily want the putting-on-a-condom scene spelled out point-blank must somehow advocate unsafe sex?

    I really don’t think that anyone is suggesting that people are advocating unsafe sex. We’re just discussing the different assumptions that people make when condoms aren’t specifically mentioned.

    Sadly, there are people who do advocate unsafe sex. I’m familiar with their POV and preferring to assume condom usage where appropriate instead of having it said directly isn’t even in the same neighborhood.

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  159. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 17:07:45

    @Jeannine: Not sure if you’re talking about my comments? But personally, I was speaking to this post:

    So, if it's about love, then I expect the Hero and Heroine to know each other well enough by the time they have sex that they don't need condoms.

    Jeannine, I can understand your not wanting explicit and detailed mention of it. Your reading tastes are your tastes! That’s hardly the same as assuming that knowing and loving someone means you can get a bead on their sexual health. Personally, I was intimidated by the idea of writing condom use into a book when I tried my hand at contemporary. Didn’t want to do it, but it worked just fine for me… in the end.

    Oh, and in my romances (and yes, they are romances), sex does NOT equal love. It equals sex.

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  160. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 17:12:29

    What I'm saying is that for me, condom usage or lack thereof is – inextricably – characterization.

    Yes.

    As a writer, I’m pro-condom all the way. My characters don’t always practice safe sex, but they think about it, discuss it, and sometimes beat themselves up about it. As a reader, I prefer the issue of protection to be addressed, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me. I won’t stop reading because of it.

    We all have our own fantasies, and our own tastes. Some women are turned off by chest hair. But, don’t we have the option to pretend as though the character’s chest is smooth, and continue reading?

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  161. ldb
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 18:27:52

    I voted no, but that is for two reasons, one I like pregnany storys, and you can’t have pregnancy storys with a condom, also I like to leave the world I grew up in where I came to the conclusion in high school that I’d need some blood work done before I even kissed a guy, that’s extreme but you get the point. I’d like to think that I am smart enough not to let my real life choices be infulenced by my reading, and so I don’t have a problem with it.

    The one exception to this rule is when th author reminds the reader that we don’t live in a perfect world, in books that deal with unplanned pregnancys or STDs if the characters then engage in unprotected sex I think they’re stupid, once the author ruins the fantasy the characters have to play by real life rules.

    Linda Howard’s heroines often worry me because they do talk about BC but they are often ant condom. If you’re going to acknowledge a chance to get pregnant you have to also consider other things.

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  162. ldb
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 18:29:38

    One other thing, having scanned some of the off topic responses, I just wanted to say, as someone who grew up in the age of sex ed it didn’t influence me negativly. It’s pretty much all biology and not much promotion. If anything I think it can be made to scare kids. The problem with kids today isn’t school, it’s entertainment, if you want to blame someone for the way teens are look there.

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  163. Sami
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 21:41:41

    My 2c worth– In a contemp. there have to be condoms or at least a discussion about why they can be dispensed with. I’ve done it both ways and I think whatever works for the story is fine, but the author not dealing with the issue at all throws me off a story. As a few others have mentioned, I assume this means there’s a pregnancy plot point coming, which pulls me out of the immediate scene, or the characters are dingbats, which makes me lose respect.

    To address you specifically ldb, you’re not alone in enjoying pregnancy storylines– you only have to look at the harlequin titles available to see that. I’ve read a few where pregnancy occurs despite the fact the h/h DID use protection, and I like that a lot better because this also happens in real life and doesn’t diminish the characters’ intelligence in my eyes.

    This whole, I was so swept away I didn’t think about it thing doesn’t fly with me, but I know that’s what a lot of readers want so each to their own, I say. Romance novels don’t have to be sex education, but isn’t it cool when they can be and still be thrilling and fun? Protected sex can be thrilling and fun in real life so why the hell can’t it be in romance novels? The two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

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  164. Jody W.
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 08:37:43

    Survey question: Is there anything sexier than a gorgeous, hot & ready romance hero who not only gets out the condom without being ASKED, but smiles in dirty anticipation while he slides it on?

    The very faint smell of household cleaning products in the air at the time because he just finished giving the house a thorough top to bottom, also without being asked?

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  165. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 09:40:27

    @Jody W.:

    Jody W. for the win.

    YOU ARE AWESOME!

    ReplyReply

  166. rebyj
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 10:53:01

    Jody W honey, take your meds, you’re living in a fantasy world. LOL

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  167. Kate Diamond
    Jan 19, 2009 @ 09:29:18

    I’m with Jody W. Nice!

    One of the best tricks I’ve ever seen (in terms of pacing) is when the author mentions the condom BEFORE the sex scene really heats up. Have the couple so eager to jump in the sack that someone accidentally slams their fingers in the drawer getting out the condom. Ot it could happen even earlier. Perhaps the hero agonizes over whether or not to bring one (he doesn’t want to look presumptuous) or the heroine (who happens to be a high school teacher) buys some before her date and one of her students is bagging her groceries. That way, it’s mentioned but it can also be part of the character development.

    If this happens, do I still need the ubiquitous line about the heroine hearing some foil tear DURING the sex scene? No, not really. Provided the author doesn’t give me a play-by-play of socks and dangly earrings coming off, I can just assume that protecting themselves was one of many details skipped.

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  168. JennyME
    Jan 20, 2009 @ 14:26:30

    Wow, this thread has been really interesting. I absolutely want some mention of condom usage in a contemporary. I’m in my 20s and am happy to say that I heard the “safe sex” message when I was growing up more times than I can count. I get angry when I read a scene where the H/h don’t use one–especially if they’re about my age. Most of my friends (male and female) keep a stash in the bedroom.

    I also have a couple of friends who consistently have unsafe sex because somehow they think serial monogamy puts a magic bubble of protection around them or something. It’s absolutely infuriating to talk to them about it, just as it’s annoying to have to read about the “Oh but I love him, so I’m safe” attitude in books.

    But I won’t necessarily throw the book against the wall if they don’t include a condom mention unless the characters blatantly have unsafe sex in a way that totally goes against their character–for example if the heroine has a huge distrust of men because her ex cheated on her, but suddenly decides to jump in bed, consequences be damned. Stupidity is great on reality shows, but not so much in books, as far as I’m concerned.

    There’s been a lot of talk on here about condoms ruining the “fantasy” of the romance novel, but to me an unplanned pregnancy (especially within a brand-new relationship) is one of the least sexy things I can imagine and I really don’t like reading about them. I purposely tend to avoid the hot mama pregnancy romances, so if the heroine finds herself knocked up at the end I feel blindsided. (I’m not talking about the HEA epilogue where the H/h have twin babies and all is swell, but where the actual plot involves the heroine throwing up a lot and gradually realizing that duh, all that unprotected sex=consequences.)

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  169. To condom or not to condom « Lynne Roberts
    Jul 08, 2009 @ 21:00:08

    [...] July 9, 2009 by writerlynne In real life, this isn't a question, or shouldn't be ~ wrap it up people. But what about in fiction? When you're reading contemporary romance, do you expect the hero to wear a condom? Dear Author recently conducted a poll on the subject. 71% 294 votes said yes, they want their hero to wear a condom for the hot and heavy. You can read all the comments here. [...]

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  171. The Condom Conundrum | Murder She Writes
    Dec 28, 2009 @ 02:48:03

    [...] into the shower love scene. Moments after the review was posted, the site ran one of its fabulous instapolls on the subject that included a lively discussion thread with no less than 168 comments on the [...]

  172. Notable News: Week of April 13-19, 2013 | unchained faith
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    [...] on a side note, I found this while searching for condoms in romantic fiction.  I’m one of those awful people who actively [...]

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