Protection: Sexy or blah?

Posted April 19, 2012 by Shari in Yakkety Yak Let's Chat / 20 Comments

condomRecently on Twitter, someone posted a comment like “Reading about protection in a romance novel is so not sexy.” It got this woman to thinking as we live in a somewhat scary time of so many diseases being passed around.

When I started reading romance novels back *coughs* in the 80s, I mostly read historical romances. I don’t even think paranormal was a round, a few sci-fi and contemporary. But I dumped most genres just for historical romances. Using any type of protection was pretty much never mentioned. Yes, some forms of condoms existed but as a rule they weren’t widely available and you just didn’t mention it in the story. That is where a lot of the excitement came in historical romances. Was the dashing rake going to impregnate the damsel in distress with his gigantic cock and extremely strong swimmers? Ok, tongue in cheek, I got a little carried away there, but you get my point. It just wasn’t mentioned except for the “he pulled out and spilled all over her belly.” The 80s were rampant with sexuality and the ever-growing epidemic of AIDS. So getting lost in a historical romance where this wasn’t a big deal had lots of appeal.

Until about 5-6 years ago, I was pretty much a historical only romance reader. Paranormal was making its way into my reading material and even then, you know a vampire can’t reproduce nor impregnate a lady. Yeah, right. But that seems to be the prevalent thinking in paranormal. The men and women are immortal, so they can’t get a disease from sex and may or may not get pregnant. That depends on the interpretation the author wants to throw our way.

But one genre just can’t ignore using some form of protection. Contemporary romance genre. When I read contemporary romance, I expect it to live in the bounds of what is real. So in this reality, we have AIDS, STDs and pregnancy. We also have birth control, condoms, IUDs and more. While most protection will prevent pregnancy, only condoms can prevent the diseases. So as a reader, I expect there to be talk about their sexual habits and what protection they are going to use.

So here we get to the meat of what I wanted to talk about (pun intended). Is talking and/or using protection in a sex scene sexy or gross? To me it is sexy. Why? Because my expectation is they need to live in the real world even if they are make believe. That is the genre I am reading and I expect it. Just do. The wonderful part of a fiction story is you can make it as graphic or as small as you want. “He put on a condom.” OR “He grasped his cock in a firm grip, watching her eyes as he slowly worked the condom over his hard cock.” I am not a writer, but either description works. Now I know neither of these situations really works. It isn’t a just slip it on and go at it, but as an author you don’t need to make it as complicated as it is as long as it feels real.

I recently read a book where there were twins and a lady who met at a bar. They were all college kids. She wanted a wild night and she got it. Not once did she ask them to use condoms, and they didn’t. Not once did the guys ask her if she was on birth control. It was a clusterfuck, pardon my language, of young idiots in an erotic book. That right away turned me off the book.

Reading is made to be a way to escape our world and enjoy someone else’s for a while. So is this a big problem if protection is not used nor talked about? To me yes it is. I expect it. I embrace it. I want it. And I want it to be sexy. I need it to be sexy…because it just isn’t in reality. So yes, maybe in reality it isn’t sexy, but in my stories I expect it to be and want it to be.

So what are your thoughts on this? Do you want to read that your h/h is being responsible or do you want that swept under the rug? Let’s talk about it by commenting below.


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Shari is the Delighted Reader. Married to her Prince Charming and mother to two Princesses and one Prince. When she is not slaving away as Cinderella she loves to get lost in the pages of a good book. Never without a reading device and a few good paperback books, because she never knows when she might get 5 minutes to read!

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  • I don’t find “protection” scenes sexy AT ALL. Necessary, oh yes. But, no, not sexy in the least. Good question/post!!!

    • Thanks Heather! I can understand where you are coming from. I have seen some very bad “protection” scenes but I have seen some that are incredibly sexy as well. You are right, it is necessary.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Natalia J

    I agree on you that it might be a turn off, I would like to think it is protected even though the author doesn’t imply that it is. Very interesting question, I think it all depends on the reader and what their belief is in that topic.

    • You are correct that it depends on the reader. I guess seeing college students in the one book go at it without any care really turned me off. They were in their 20s, in college, so I expected more from them. While it may be a turn off, I have seen a lot of books turn it into a very sexy scene.

  • I think ‘protection’ scenes have to be addressed in contemporaries, otherwise readers go O_o. But the way that it’s handled is very important. I read one a while ago that went something like this:

    Hero: I’ve just had a physical (convenient) so I’m good. Are you clean?

    Clean. Yeah, talk about taking me out of the scene. I wanted the heroine to go, “Is it Spring? Because that’s the only time I clean” but her response?

    Heroine: I’m a virgin.

    So, yeah, I was looking at my watching wondering if the laundry had to be done.

    I think they could be made sexy w/o being a PSA.

    • Oh my gosh! I laughed so hard at that scene you talked about. You are spot on! It is all how it is handled and for contemporaries, while fiction, they are dealing in the bounds our society has given us.

      Thanks for the laugh and comment!

  • I think you’re right and it depends on the genre. Romantic suspense, for example. Let’s say the hero & heroine are getting hot’n’heavy in the middle of nowhere while bad guys track them down. It’d take me completely out of the moment if the hero (or heroine) suddenly pulls a condom out of his/her pocket.

    It also depends on the plot. If you have a secret baby plot in a contemporary, obviously they can’t use protection. Or their protection has to be not all that protective.

    • I see where you are coming from with the romantic suspense. And I understand the heat of the moment forget kind of scene. But then I expect to see some angst on having a baby come soon.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Sophia Rose

    Interesting discussion topic! I was thinking on that scene you mentioned and took it to the next page in the story and if she got pregnant it probably wasn’t a happy ever after. Recriminations and blame would run rampant as well as life altering issues.

    So yeah, sexy or not, condoms keep the romantic story going for me if its a contemporary romance.

    • That is exactly why I didn’t like the book I mentioned above. Being young, they needed to be aware of the situation. While the young lady would know if she was on birth control or not, the men didn’t and didn’t seem to care. What happens if she shows up pregnant and they are still in college? That’s the part of the story this that never got written. She is also not sure if they are disease free. Especially if none of the parties even asks. While it might slow down a story, I don’t knock it if they do use protection.

  • Anne

    I like reading about responsible adults. It only takes one sentence to mention the condom or being tested. She should get over it.

    I’ve read plenty of historicals where they use french letters or sheaths. And of course the historically correct but fallible pull out method. For women, lemons and vinegar douches (also bad ideas.)

    • I like responsible adults too. As you said it doesn’t take much to mention it and then it’s out of the way for the rest of the book…or if a condom is used, just mention it is on and I am good to go.

  • If the author does the scene correctly, they can make using protection very sexy – and I’ve read some that have been very sexy and erotic. I don’t mind either way, especially if the female character is expected to turn up pregnant. But if the “younger” readers see that even in romance novels they’re not using protection they may get a false sense of security and not think that they can get pregnant – so & so didn’t so I shouldn’t either.


    • Exactly! It can be done very erotically or clinically. Clinically…not so sexy, but erotic…well that makes it all better.

      Thanks for commenting.

  • I write erotic contemporary romance and I’ve always had my characters use condoms unless it was already completely understood why they wouldn’t need to (other methods of birth control,long-term monogamous relationship, trying to conceive, whatever). For me, it’s not unsexy, it’s part of the realism that adds to the moment. Having a character put on a condom can be as simple as a mention of him rolling it on or it can be a sensual part of the scene where it’s done in a more detailed/creative way. If a condom is written into a scene in a good way it’s barely noticeable, it’s just part of the action. If a condom is NOT in the scene modern readers can easily have their brain hop straight to the thought “Uh-oh!”For decades we’ve been conditioned to understand the risks of unsafe sex. Nothing pulls you out of a sex scene (real life or fictional) faster than thoughts of STDs or unwanted pregnancies. Besides, what’s sexier than a guy who wants to protect the woman he loves?

  • VanillaOrchids

    I’ve not yet felt that the mention of a condom ruined a scene. Sometimes I have felt that it could have been written a little better though. There have been a time or two when the mention of condoms have been done in a sexy sort of way. I suppose it really just depends on how it’s written.

    After reading Rhys’s comment, I wondered if maybe we read the same book. LOL And yeah, that isn’t sexy, but I could definitely see a guy saying something like that in real life.

    I’ve read some love scenes where there was never a mention of protection, and I’ve wondered whether it would result in a pregnancy, usually it doesn’t which makes it unrealistic. I just finished a book today that that happened in, and it was a contemporary romance. Then again, the sex scene in it was not at all descriptive, so maybe that’s why there was no mention of birth control.

    By the way, Shari, thanks for the giggle or two that I got from reading your post. 🙂

    • I am giggling now as I read all the comments. I love the discussion this is getting! I can see a guy saying what Rhys mentioned but I would also be showing him he door, lol.

      I had fun writing this post and yeah, while it was serious, I didn’t want it to be too serious. It is fiction after all and I like it for that purpose. But the Twitter comment just made me think about it for days so decided it was time for a post like this.

      Thanks for joining the discussion!

      • VanillaOrchids

        Oh, you’re welcome! It was definitely an interesting topic, and I enjoyed reading other people’s thoughts on the matter.

  • LOVE this topic! Such a thinker….

  • Mimi Rose

    One of my favorite authors, Suzanne Brockmann, always has her h/h being responsible. It is usually written as ‘Hero covered himself before ….’ . I like that she does this. All of her stories are modern day with her latest being set in a dystopian Boston of the not so distant future. And even in that story she has the h/h being responsible with the use of ‘the male pill’ that is not only a contraceptive but some forms of it are also STD prevention and/or viagra enhanced.

    All in all, I like my sex real and therefore for me contraception is the only way to go!