I had an interesting (all be it brief) discussion with Aliens at the end of my ‘a serious question for you’ post the other day about barebacking.
At the time, I mentioned I’d noticed a sudden surge in the contemporary m/m romance I’ve been reading in which the characters don’t use condoms.
I imagine this is being done by authors to represent ‘twu wuv’, trust, blah blah between the couple, but seriously?? No. Just no.
I want condoms with my romance, please.
It bothers me too when I read a book and the protags are barebacking right away. If it's a committed monogamous relationship I'm ok with leaving the condoms off since I figure, even if not expressly shown, that there's been testing done.
That's my opinion for both M/M or het, Aids is scary and deadly (whether it kills you in 20 years or 2) and in this day and age it's totally irresponsible to be smexing around without them. Also, there's a ton more diseases besides Aids to worry about.
I don't need a lot of reference to a condom (don't need a continuous mention of how hey put it on) but at least some reference to using one even if its just mentioning the torn wrapper poking you in the leg after it's all over. I know not everyone uses condoms all the time in real life, gay or straight, but unless you are making the point that the character is taking a chance then I would prefer to see condom use. The time I can live without condoms is during oral (I think most people don't that I know) and with a supernatural element, i.e. vampires and shifters who can't carry/catch human disease. Then I'm good with it.
In this day and age, I think it is more realistic to mention the use of a condom in a contemporary romance. or afterward show that one has thrown it in the trash or make some sort of mention of using protection.
I know this isn't a safety issue (although I suppose it could be, tearing and all) but I recently read a book where not once did they use lube. Not even spit or rimming (maybe once) to get things wet and slippery. Okay, it was a vampire and a shifter but no talk of self-lubing miracles so really could they just take it? Were they more stretchy than normal people? I could see no condom, but no lube at all repeatedly? Ouch. Mind you, with the amount of gnawing on each other during sex maybe they liked the ouch.
Lily: I agree. Barebacking after entering into a commited relationship and testing is VERY different to doing it straight away, especially if, as was the case in one of my recent books, one of the guys was an acknowledged slut. Not good.
Tam: I don't think a heap of reference is needed either; however, some sort of discussion at the beginning of the sexual relationship with it being implied in the remainder of the encounters is absolutely essential in my opinion.
I also admit to having probs with oral unprotected sex too. How one can be a big deal and the other not really bothers me.
Sex in the paranormal and fantasy genres I'm willing for the boundaries to be stretched… with lube preferably. 😉
KBC: Yep, absolutely. Be it m/f or m/m make it real and let's use condoms please.
Gotta add, and as Orannia mentioned in the other post, it shits me in m/f how condoms are used mainly as a pregancy preventive. Hello, het chicks and dicks can get STDs and HIV through sex too people!
“Barebacking as twu wuv” annoys the crap outta me, especially since I've heard so many gay men tell me that they don't believe in permanent monogamy.
I'm always thinking “but what about the next guy???”
Re: twu wuv and barebacking – I'm always thinking 'yeah, nothing says twu wuv like getting a house, a cat and a disease together, you stupid dickheads'.
It's funny, because having been writing three historicals at the moment the condom issue hasn't come up at all, and in TaD the sex was barely mentioned but it was just assumed they would be safe.
Nice to know readers want conscientious characters, though!
Good post, Kris. The mention of a condom can be subtle like Tam was pointing out. But if there's no mention at all, then you got to wonder about those characters. Like, are they totally irresponsible / selfish or what?
I do think it's getting to the point in erotic romance that readers need to start assuming condoms are being used. Unless, of course, the author tells us otherwise.
There are certain matters of hygiene we, as readers and writers, simply take for granted — shaving, teeth brushing, bathing, using toilet paper (or, if a character is lucky enough, a bidet). Imagine a story being continually interrupted by Ben flossing, Jerry blowing his nose into a clean handkerchief, Tony clipping his toenails, and Orlando trimming his ear hair. And then all of them washing their hands with antibacterial soap.
Know what I mean?
Maybe publishers of erotic romance should put a notice in the front of every book: Please keep in mind the sexually active characters in this story always use protection. That way, readers can imagine whatever degree of protection they find appropriate, from dental dams to hazmat suits. We could have done with the issue from the get-go and just enjoy the, uh…ride. 😉
(I'm not being flip. Honestly. I'm trying to make something resembling a point, but it's late here and I'm tired.)
Sean: “Nice to know readers want conscientious characters, though!”
Well, some of us are conscientious readers too. 😉
Val: Exactly. Makes you wonder whether some characters are just TSTL… literally!
K Z: I understand the point that you're trying to make, especially when you compare it to some of the other RL stuff like eating and hygiene which don't always come up in romance (or other genres for that matter) yet the reader assumes they're happening in the background… some where.
However, for me, I think it comes back to the question of authors dealing with issues in fiction.
Whilst, no, perhaps there shouldn't be an obligation for authors to explore some of the BIG heavies, there certainly should be an attempt to deal with everyday issues such as safe sex, particularly in contemporary fiction.
That's just my view though. 🙂
If protection isn't used then I always have to stop and think: did I miss reading that they put the condom on or what? I don't expect it, but I miss it when it's not there.
Of course there are times when I don't. Like fantasy reads – I just don't expect condoms or any protection being mentioned…or like Sean said, historicals. I don't miss it either.
Just the other day I was reading this contemporary m/m romance in which one of the characters was a repeatedly abused young man and the other was a patron of a hard-core dungeon, with an extremely slutty ex-sub/fuck buddy. Condoms? Not mentioned anywhere. Maybe in the first sex scene, but in every other one (and not only with the love interest), no. Multiple references to sperm in every possible orifice though. Let me tell you, I was *really* uncomfortable. Given the sexual behaviour of both characters I couldn't stop thinking that they had to have something.
I remember reading a discussion a pair of years ago about how the mention of condoms had a cold shower effect on some readers (in m/f romances). As far as I am concerned it is having sex without protection, even with twu wuv (at least at first), that takes me out of the story.
I want condoms with my romance too. Like others have said, it can just be a brief mention, but I like it addressed. Actually, I've found I get a bit thrown out of the story when it comes to the big sex scene and no condom is mentioned. Like Tracey, I have to stop and think if I just missed it, and often times reread again just to make sure. If nothing, then the whole scene, I'm thinking 'not smart, wonder if they're passing on anything' which kills the mood a bit.
I'm all for barebacking once the characters have been tested and are in a committed relationship, though. In fact, I really enjoy the 'first time without' scenes with a long-standing couple.
Mixed feelings about condoms with oral sex. I know lots of guys don't use them for oral. The transmission of HIV through oral sex (barring open sores in your mouth) is very low, so it's probably relatively safe from that standpoint. However, there are many other STD's you can easily get that way. In large part, it depends on the guys in the story for me. If one's a huge slut or working as a prostitute, then condom for blowjobs, plz. Otherwise, it doesn't bother me too much if they're not used.
Tracy: If protection isn't discussed in the first sex scene I always miss it. Thereafter I'm prepared to take for granted, but for that first sex scene I always need, prefer, whatever for it to be dealt with.
Sara: Wow, that example would have really thrown me out of the story too, especially given the past behaviour/s of the character/s. Eek!
A cold shower effect on some readers? Really?? I know part of the appeal of romance is the fantasy aspect of it, but I would have thought – well, hoped – that gone are those totally unrealistic Mills & Boon days when everyone had unprotected sex.
Richelle, you sap. Oh, what the heck, I really enjoy the first time without condoms sex scene as well. What romantics we are. 😉
Re: unprotected oral sex – Despite my own mixed feelings about it, I am more prepared to accept it than barebacking depending on the characters involved. Still, it always makes me squirm when it's one night stand or strangers giving BJs in a back room or alley somewhere. I feel like getting my Mumma lecture on, grabbing 'em by the ears and telling 'em that they shouldn't be sticking things in their mouths if they don't know where it's been. 🙂
I'm happy to know I'm not the only one that goes looking for the condom missing part when I read a book. And I do that also with m/f romance. Aids first showed it's face when I was still a kid, so yes I grew up with all the be safe stuff, it can happen to you and don't trust anyone with your life.
In real life the worst lines I heard were: “we don't need condoms, I'm clean.” and “I only slept with virgins so of course I'm clean.”
Like Tam said I don't need to know how they put them on or how did condoms appear in a side table in a haunted house.
Actually, what bothers me isn't just that safe sex isn't mentioned. It's that authors are making a point of portraying raw sex as a sign of commitment and lasting love. In contemporary m/f romance, we get an engagement ring and wedding plans. In m/m romance, one (or both) of the guys throw away the condoms.
It's pretty lame if you ask me.
Oh, and I don't expect to see safe sex in historicals, paranormals, or sci-fi. Just contemps.
JenB: No condoms in sci fi? You don't know where those aliens and their ding dongs have been? You bareback with them and you may find yourself sprouting a tail or an extra limb the next day.
I don't just assume condoms are being used in a romance unless there's a specific mention of it. I don't need for there to be great detail, although some authors do a nice job showing putting it on as part of foreplay. I think in a contemporary m/m romance, the subject of protection should come up.
I've come to expect (hope) that a m/f couple in an erotic romance will use them too. As others pointed out, there are a lot of diseases out there, plus the risk of pregnancy. To me, having romance characters use condoms shows consideration.
LOL @ Katiebabs!
No condoms in sci fi? You don't know where those aliens and their ding dongs have been? You bareback with them and you may find yourself sprouting a tail or an extra limb the next day.
That's a risk I'm willing to take, Katie love. Especially with the scaly ones. Rawwrrrrrr!!! 😉
Jen B: Scally? I would rather have an alien who looks like a god and has two dicks.
You've obviously given that some thought KB. 🙂
I'm leaning towards a Worf-type alien. All alpha-male. Not sure I wanna go double-dick though. One will be sufficient, I hope.
Aliens: I'd say you're definitely in good company here. LOL.
“I only slept with virgins so of course I'm clean”?? WTF! That has to be the worst line I've ever heard! I would've thrown the book at the wall.
JenB: Great point about throwing away the condoms being a rather lame way of representing love and committment. Perhaps it was 'easier' than dealing with the whole marriage thing?? Who knows.
Emilie: “To me, having romance characters use condoms shows consideration.” Very true. Maybe it's idealistic of me, but what's more romantic than showing someone you care enough about them to protect them. 🙂
How this discussion got from safe sex to alien sex is beyond me. Oh wait. It's KBC so anything goes with her. 😉
When I think of alien sex I always think of Laura Baumbach's “Details of the Hunt”. *sigh* I love that book. Prehensile cock and tentacles all. *g*
I know I'm late putting my two cents worth in…. I definitely think a reference to protection is essential in contemporary romance. How the author does that is up to them, but no reference at all has me thinking of all the consequences.
And as someone said earlier, there are so many STDs apart from HIV, which is why m/f books in which the heroine is on the oral contraceptive pill but no condoms are used annoys me!