Safer Sex in Erotica

Lisabet Sarai blogged on safer sex and erotic romance.

For me, it depends on the story’s sub-genre.

In a fantastical setting, I don’t usually mind if safer sex is not mentioned, because in science fiction or fantasy the issue can be easily covered by the worldbuilding (everybody has an injection! everybody has a spell!) even if the author hasn’t mentioned it explicitly.

In historicals, I wish there was a bit more worrying about safe versus not-safe thoughts, but again I’m a little more accepting if safer sex is left out. However, I definitely appreciate it when historical characters think about the issue, even if it’s only in the first intimate scene and left to the reader’s assumption after that.

In contemporary novels, I prefer that safer sex be practiced, and if it isn’t, that a reason I can accept is provided (obviously, not every writer can read my mind!). I don’t mind if subsequent sex scenes aren’t shown as safe, at least not so much, because I can extrapolate from scene number one, in much the way that I extrapolate the characters are eating, sleeping, and using the toilet even though those actions aren’t necessarily described.

What do you think?

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.

12 replies on “Safer Sex in Erotica”

  1. I'm really put off if safe sex isn't practiced in a contemporary.

    In historicals, I'm not so bothered by that as much as I am about dirty sex. heh. Dirty sex equaling not bathing for days and having sex.

    In fantasy/paranormal I'm also fine without mention of safe sex for the reasons you cited.

    Also like you, if safe sex is mentioned the first time in a contemp, I don't need it mentioned every time. I assume it will continue unless throwing a baby in the mix is part of things towards the end.

  2. Sometimes, if the narrative is too pointed about mentioning the protection, then I suspect there will be a pregnancy plot.

  3. I tend to "imagine" that safe sex happened, even if the author doesn't give me The Condom Moment. The only time this doesn't work is when the author throws a wrench in the works and shatters my imagination. I see it a lot in truly terrible romantic suspense and category novels. There I am, imagining that they used a condom and then the brain-dead heroine muses "Oh noes! We didn't use protection! I could be pregnant! But that's OK, because I'll always have a little piece of the hero with me while he's off fighting terrorists, drug smugglers, pirates, etc."

    And it's always the thought of a baby. She never worries that the "little piece of the hero" might be a scorching case of herpes instead.


  4. She never worries that the "little piece of the hero" might be a scorching case of herpes instead.


    I guess that gets lumped in with wet spots and other things that Don't Exist in Erotica.

  5. Actually, I find plenty of wet spots and things of that nature in erotica, but not so much in ROMANCE. It's as if the level of fantasy wish-fulfillment necessary to maintain in a romance is higher than in any other genre and what squicks romance readers is anything that bursts that bubble… sometimes to ridiculous levels. We were laughing here the other day over a story one romance editor told about a scene where readers complained that the hero DIDN'T WASH HIS HANDS BEFORE SEX EW EW EW. So probably some of the same readers who would be thrown out of the story if he paused for a condom wanted him to pause to wash his hands first, apparently…??

    I always always always address safer sex, STDs, and pregnancy in my contemporaries and include hints of how it works in my fantasy/paranormals. If I don't, *I* will be the squicked one.

  6. I've noticed that even erotica often shies away from gritty details, unless those details have a specific reason for being in the story – but you're right, romance leaves out more of the grit than erotica does.

    If I don't, *I* will be the squicked one.

    Good point – authorial opinion is undeniably a large factor.

  7. I'm reading some old Nora Roberts and all the heroes are smokers. They seem to have a cigarette in their fingers right up to the sex and then they stubb out the cig and start touching the woman and putting fingers inside her. Then I get a vision of a man with yellow stains on his fingers and I get an icky feeling LOL

  8. You know, I find my reaction to this thread to be a little surprising. I'm usually the girl who is all about realism and who often rolls her eyes at the constraints of a genre based heavily on fantasy-fulfillment. But I'm not gonna lie–having to worry about safe sex in a romance novel annoys me.

    In real life, I wouldn't likely sleep with a shapeshifter. I'd know better than to think I could "change" or "reform" the rake or the obnoxious alpha male. In real life, I would run from a man who didn't have enough respect for himself or for me to wrap it up. I'm a responsible woman who follows the rules, and I'm careful to temper my passions with caution.

    But in my fantasies? Seriously? I have to drag this baggage around with me there too? No way!

  9. But in my fantasies? Seriously? I have to drag this baggage around with me there too? No way!

    I have a friend who loves the "forced seduction" scenes in medievals because similar contemporary scenes are too laden with real-life negotiation.

  10. That said, I just remembered that in my paranormal romance debut novel with HQN, my hero does use a condom–in part, b/c there was too much thematic stuff surrounding blood and HIV not to include it. So I guess I'm a hypocrite. But generally, I'm not a big fan of having to worry about this stuff.

  11. b/c there was too much thematic stuff surrounding blood and HIV not to include it

    Actually, that's a very good point – you emphasized the condom use for thematic purposes, which is different from simply glossing over it for the sake of convenience.

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