Here’s a huge shocker, my books contain some sex scenes.
I know, big surprise, right?
And I’m currently editing another book that contains (gasp!) sex scenes.
No, these aren’t erotic fiction, though I’ve been known on occasion to write erotica (and have even gotten paid to do it). These are standard fiction stories. Not even in the romance genre.
So I was more than a little interested when a fellow writer posted a link to this article on Facebook – Do condoms kill the mood of a book?
It was an interesting read, and the answers weren’t simple.
Neither of my stories include condom usage. However…
In one, the characters do have “the talk” about STIs and sexual partners and make an informed decision about condom usage (or the lack thereof). In the current work, there is general talk of sexual safety awareness and routine testing, one character is mentioned as always using protection, but there is no specific discussion between the two characters who have sex. There’s no “should we or shouldn’t we” discussion, no “on page” disclosure of sexual history, etc.
I don’t really think about it as me choosing to not include condoms in these stories so much as me choosing to write the story without thinking about sending a message about safer sex. These are novels, not how-to manuals. I’m not writing thinly-veiled “edutainment” for the condom industry. I’m trying to write an engaging story, and sometimes those stories include sex. If condom usage were important to the storyline, I’d include it.
It’s an interesting thought process. If a novel includes a sex scene, should it also automatically include safer sex practices, or explain the lack of them? Does the genre of the novel make a difference? Say, one answer for erotica, another for historic romance, still another for contemporary romance, and a whole different set of requirements for young adult.
Does the level of explicitness make a difference? If we’re talking blow-by-blow description (pun so very much intended), should safer sex be there, but it’s okay to skip it if the story starts getting sexy, we know what’s gonna happen, then the next thing we see is the morning after?
These are the thoughts that occupy my brain when I really should be working on editing my book.
2021 ETA: My thoughts are still all over the place on this topic. I have since written works that include condom usage, and even forgetting them on occasion (to differing consequences). The bottom line was, is, and always will be: it depends on what’s right for your story and characters.