Romance and Me: Suit Up Baby! – or Protection in Romance Novels

Filed in featured , Romance and Me , The Latin Lover Posted on July 11, 2012 @ 3:00 pm 14 comments

I have had this issue on my mind for some time now and thought it was about time we discussed it, namely unprotected sex in contemporary romance novels.

I think due to the specificities and different rules applying to  historical / fantasy/ paranormal / sci-fi romances, I can live with it if the author fails to mention the couple using any protection during sex. I mean in historical novels that’s a given (even if there were some protective measures even back then), in paranormal/fantasy sci-fi stories the author can bend the rules of her universe so that the issue doesn’t warrant being mentioned: vampires are sterile/ humans and paranormal creatures cannot transmit diseases or impregnate each other, etc. But where I expect the issue of safe sex between strangers and one night stand partners being mentioned and dealt with is in contemporary romance.

I’m aware of how the world has changed: when I read my very first contemporary romances in high school (some Nora Roberts titles about 10 years ago), no condoms, being on the pill or sex talk was included in the sexy scenes, so I wasn’t even aware of something missing until later. Nowadays it is the norm for an author to deal with the issue of safe sex in their contemporary romance novels: we live in a world where besides pregnancy other risks such as STDs exist, and I cannot respect and admire a hero/heroine who acts in a totally irresponsible way when it comes to their health and future.

At debates when readers and authors discuss whether the safe sex talk must be included in the bedroom scene (or at least the couple using some protection) and whether it does or does not kill the mood I can only say that views have changed. Most of the people I talk with think that it’s not mentioning protection which kills the mood but rather having irresponsible unprotected sex, and I completely agree with them. We value our health more than being afraid or feeling awkward to utter those two sentences and we expect the same from the characters we are reading about.

Now if I’m reading a contemporary romance I am looking forward to see how the author deals with the couple having sex the first time, and if the safe sex talk is missing, the character never having alluded to it or failing to use any protection then it is a mark against the characters and the author. And it’s even more of a shock when the characters are intelligent highly educated people who really should know better (like nurses and doctors!) or when the couple engaging in unprotected sex are one night stand partners!

Now that I know better I find it astonishing that I can’t recall one single Nora Roberts novel where the couple discusses how to proceed regarding safe sex when they are getting it on. O_O

So please tell me,

what is your opinion of contemporary romances including/not including the couple discussing their protection options (or at least using them) during a sexy scene?

Do you think it kills the mood or to the contrary do you miss it if it’s not mentioned?

Can you forgive or do you not care that a character practises unprotected sex with strangers/one night stand partners?

Please share your opinion, I’d like to know what you think!

About Stella

Stella is a proud bookaholic and a self-taught multilinguist in training. Besides reading, her other great passions are travelling and baking. When she is not globetrotting she lives in sunny Budapest, where she loves to spend her free time preparing (and feasting on) delicious cookies or devouring equally yummy books. Her favourite genres are urban fantasy and romance and she couldn't live without her daily dose of sunshine. Besides being the Latin Lover on BLI Stella also blogs about books and a bookish life on Ex Libris.

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  • draconismoi July 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    We had a very similar discuss in my criminal law class about rape and consent. There were lots of people insisting that clarifying consent “kills the mood.”

    I didn’t buy that pile of shit (so many sexy, crude, or caring ways to verify both parties are willing)….and I don’t buy that argument with protection either. Unless the characters are TSTL, it has to occur to them that sex = chance of baby or disease. You know what’s not sexy? Genital warts and child support payments.

    When there is no protection talk – the book immediately becomes a fantasy. Set in a magical land where all pregnancies are planned and STIs don’t exist.

    • Stella July 12, 2012 at 9:11 am

      OMG! Clarifying consent kills the mood?? I know there is such a thing as rape fantasies and rough sex, but those MUST be preceded by the “consent talk”. Seriously, and “intelligent” university educated people say that… O_O

  • Laura July 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    I feel EXACTLY the same way! I am absolutely more distracted when the characters do not have “the discussion” or when they do, but blatantly choose to forgo protection and just “take the risk”.

    I am a PA in a Family Practice/Internal Medicine office and I am consistently shocked (even after almost 10 years practicing) how often I have patients who come in pregnant because they just didn’t think it would happen or wanting to be checked for STDs because they didn’t trust the person they were with. When I ask if they had “the talk” ahead of time, they look all embarrassed and say it wasn’t the right moment or it was “too intimate” a question. Ummm….like what you are about to do isn’t too intimate? Like I said, consistently shocked and disappointed. And I feel the same way about the characters I’m reading.

    And I’ve read a lot of Nora Roberts and while I cannot remember instances where condoms were used, I also don’t remember being too distracted by it either. I feel like maybe there are a lot of conversations that discuss being on the pill or it having been so long that they’ve been checked since then? Maybe? I’m going to start paying more attention now…

    • Stella July 12, 2012 at 9:17 am

      I can’t even imagine all the astonishing cases you must have come across during the years, one of the most ridiculous ones I heard was that the couple were shocked that the girl got pregnant since they have used a condom (one which has been ona spin in the washing machine, but why should that have damaged it in any way?*headpalm*) Sometimes people’s stupidity can be surprising…

      And I completely agree: they feel the protection talk is too intimate but then going and telling the other person that sorry they are pregnant/have STD that isn’t embarassing?!

    • draconismoi July 12, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Heh. I get a fair number of the “well s/he told me s/he couldn’t have kids, so we didn’t need protection. And now I deserve extra/reduced child support. Because it’s all his/her fault.”

  • Maria D. July 12, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I completely agree with all three opinions expressed so far – and it’s funny because in some paranormal romances the authors are upfront about the sex talk (whether they need to use condoms or not/disease). I find it highly annoying when it’s not mentioned at all in contemporary romance and it does make me think less of the characters and of the authors – another thing that bugs me is that they act as if “passion or lust” is so strong that people let go of their brains and just don’t think about it – their attraction is so strong that it overpowers their good sense – but in reality that’s not the case at all – there’s always time to think of safe sex and in our world it’s irresponsible not to.

    • Stella July 12, 2012 at 9:19 am

      Thank you Maria, good to know I’m not the eonly one who thinks less of the characters and their authors if they just shrug at unprotected sex and its consequences.grrr..

  • LuAnn McLane July 12, 2012 at 9:45 am

    It is difficult sometimes to write that part into a love scene but I *do* because as stated it is so important. That being said, just like in real life we sometimes mess up and if it is important to the plot then I let the characters get caught up in the moment and mess up too…

    • Stella July 12, 2012 at 10:44 am

      Of course, if the lack of “talk” is due to a major plot (the heroine has to get pregnant, etc.) I get it that it was needed to suit the author’s view of the story, but still it doesn’t absolve my opinion of the characters (if accidents are to blame I’m more tolerant: condom broke, etc.)

  • Donna @ Bites July 12, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Wicked Lil’ Pixie just did a post about this very topic. I don’t read a lot of romance but as long as it’s mentioned, even in an off-hand way, that the MC needs to go buy more condoms or something like that my brain can do the rest. I don’t need a detailed description of the act of putting on a condom for every single sex scene. Mention it once, it’s set the precedent and I’m going to assume it’s used from there on out.

    • Stella July 12, 2012 at 10:50 am

      I agree Donna, I don’t need them having the same talk over and over again, sometimes just a side detail (how he reached for a condom in the bedside drawer) is more than enough. I just want the characters I’m rooting for not to be stupid and/or irresponsible.

  • Diane July 12, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Safe sex is the best sex so why not mention protection? Since many YA now read steamy books they should be showed that this is a normal every day occurrence and not a rarity.

    • Stella July 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Exactly Diane! Mentioning protection in novels also has the purpose of educating and making it seem so ordinary that people in real life won’t cringe and dread to ask their partners before getting it on who brings the protection to the table (so to speak 😉 )

  • aurian July 14, 2012 at 5:22 am

    I totally agree Stella. And I just finished The Search by Nora Roberts (I have read this post but not commented before) and there is absolutely no talk about condoms, the chance of getting pregnant. Only the bad guy once put a condom on when he contemplated raping his victim.
    So yes, now you have pointed it out I will be paying more attention to this so important detail. I agree that it should be mentioned, to make it more of a comman thing in real life as well.

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