Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Do condoms kill the mood/feel of an erotica book?

I read erotica novels, novellas, and short stories from time to time. In fact, I've probably read about five erotica themed reads so far this year alone. 

In one of my recent blog posts, I wrote a review of Out to Sea by Laina Charleston. In my review Out to Sea, I had mentioned my dismay regarding the lack of using condoms in a sex scene where two couples are having sex with a new sexual partner without using condoms. This left me wondering if a writer should have their characters using condoms in certain sexual situations or not? Or is erotica fiction solely fantasy, where the writer caters to the explicit fantasies of the reader without the regard of STIs? Or does the topic of fictional characters wearing condoms fall into the grey area where it depends on the circumstances? I believe the topic of condom use in erotica fiction depends on the author's discretion and the nature of the sex scene itself.

Interestingly enough, while perusing Google News yesterday, I came across and interesting article on Salon's website titled, Do condoms kill the mood of a book? Erotica authors don’t agree on safe sex demands by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Bussel's article addresses the topic of condom use in erotica fiction quite nicely. In her article, Bussel writes the following:

When I give a basic definition of my chosen genre, written erotica, I usually say, “writing intended to arouse.” But what does that look like in terms of safer sex? Do erotica and erotic romance writers owe their readers the courtesy of making their characters act responsibly when it comes to birth control, sexually transmitted infections (STIs, often called sexually transmitted diseases) and BDSM? On the heels of the criticism E.L. James has received for what many considered unsafe BDSM practices in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” this is a hotly debated issue by authors, readers and reviewers, with no clear answers.

For some readers, the lack of safe sex practices is an immediate red flag, not out of “political correctness,” but because it detracts from the reading experience. In a review of KD Grace’s “The Initiation of Ms. Holly,” blogger Reading With Analysis called out the author: “I am in favor of safe sex in erotica (and romance), because it reinforces our cultural reality and could — perhaps — help contribute to the idea that the only sexy sex is safe sex. So I noticed right away that there weren’t any condoms present during any of the crazy sexual encounters in this book…. Everything was tracking along OK, until one scene … when a dude is about to have sex with a lady, and he puts on a condom and remarks in his inner monologue that he doesn’t know where she’s been. Hold up. No one in this book knows where anyone else has been, either, so…. And that was the only condom in the book! It made all the other scenes — especially the pet sequences — seem incredibly questionable and more than a little disturbing.”
I liked the point that author KD Grace made about condom use... Again to quote Bussel's above mentioned article:
Grace isn’t sorry, and defended her work’s right to exist in a fantasy zone. “Erotica, like all other fiction, is indeed fiction,” said Grace. “We don’t become cannibals after reading a Thomas Harris novel, and we don’t go biting people’s necks after reading a vampire novel. Surely people who read erotica are no less intelligent than people who read crime or horror. Though safe sex and the need for condoms is the reality of the world we now live in, I seriously doubt that using a condom is a part of our fantasy life, if we’re honest.”
Rachel Kramer Bussel goes on to write more in her article about condom use in erotica fiction. Click on the above link to read the full story.

So, what's your take on this topic? Should erotica writers have their characters wearing condoms or not during sexual encounters? For me, I think it depends on the circumstances of the story and the relationship of the characters... And also the writer's discretion.

Until my next post, happy reading!!


  1. I really don't think condoms take away from the reading of the book, but like that one quote said the condom use should be consistent. Honestly, I am more disappointed there isn't more condom use in YA. Most people who read erotica are adults (I would assume) and probably know enough about safe sex anyway (again, I am assuming here). I think YA fiction does need it a bit more.

  2. In the complete realm of erotic fantasy, the characters don't need to play by the rules of our reality in order to titillate the reader. The characters in those stories play by different rules (and even anatomy, depending on the writer's knowledge of where things are). I usually approach erotica this way.

    As Cynthia points out, it gets trickier when we're talking about genres that purport to be more "realistic" and less fantastical, because the reader would expect the characters to play by the rules of our reality (and experience its consequences). The use of characters having unprotected sex in a purportedly more "realistic" genre would make one wonder whether the author is trying to impose the normalization/romanticizing of risky sex onto the reader.
    Glamorous Book Lounge

  3. Of course. After all literature shapes society. If writers all would stop including condoms in their sex scenes, it'll eventually become a given not to use any in real life. Sorry, but if putting on a condom killed your mood, you weren't in the mood in the first place, honey. ;)

    Jen | The Bookavid