Like most romance writers, I have to write the occasional sex scene (actually, more than occasional unless you want your book to slide into the “sweet” category). And like most romance writers, I grapple with a central point—who’s going to be responsible for protection this time around?
Actually, it’s not much of a struggle. Most of us go with the guy and condoms. As a matter of fact, I actually had a reader ask me once why none of the women in Konigsburg took the pill because it seemed to him the men were always the ones who did the protecting.
I’m not sure why I do my scenes this way. But I think one reason I have my heroes doing the protection rather than my heroines may well be because I want to be very upfront about my characters using safe sex, and having the hero take responsibility makes that very obvious. Contrary to the misconceptions of some uninformed critics, romance novels have stressed safe sex at least from the nineties on (and I’m guessing it showed up in at least some novels in the eighties). We may not have the obsession with Big Ideas that characterizes our lit fic brethren, but we do have a few points most of us are adamant about, and safe sex is one of them.
Still, getting that safe sex into the book can sometimes be a pain and a half. Picture it: Hero and heroine are hot to trot. They’re shucking off their clothes and heading for the first flat surface that appeals to them. They’re there. They’re ready. And…where’s the condom? Oh, okay, it’s back in the hero’s pants. Where are his pants? Back in the hall where he shucked them. Rats.
Okay, maybe the heroine has a condom box in her bedside table. But then all of a sudden it’s the heroine who’s telling the hero she’s got condoms. And suddenly the plot takes a possibly unexpected turn. Because whenever one of the characters actually talks about protection, that makes protection itself a plot point. Now that may work (I used it myself in Wedding Bell Blues), but it may introduce a conversation you don’t need or want in a sex scene.
So assuming we’re going to let the hero do the protecting, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. If the hero is naked, he can’t whip a condom out unless he has it concealed in some really unfortunate place
2. Condoms themselves can be funny if that’s appropriate to the story. Linda Howard does this (hilariously) in Open Season.
3. Although the hero produces the condom, the heroine can always put it on him.
4. Few writers actually deal with the details of disposing of a condom after sex just because it doesn’t seem necessary. On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that multiple sex acts require multiple condoms, something erotica writers have to contend with.
Actually, I just wrote a couple of stories that had a heroine tell the hero she was on the pill, and it wasn’t that hard. Still, I’m not sure what’s going to happen from now on. It’s sort of on a case-by-case basis.
And my title? That was the advice the father of my son’s friend gave him after stumbling haplessly through the “responsible sex” lecture. It may sound a little weird, but it’s still apt.
So, dear readers, what do you think? Do condoms in a story make you squick? Seen anybody do a good job of working in birth control pills? Or do you just wish the whole issue would disappear (here’s a hint: it won’t)?