Woman with condomIn 2011, while I was busing across South America in search of the perfect country, I apparently missed the Romance Novel Condom Crisis.

What’s that, you ask? The controversy started with a survey that “proved” romance readers’ exposure to condom-less heroes in romance novels made readers less likely to use condoms in real life.

(If you missed it, too, Romance Novels for Feminists provides a summary in the first two paragraphs of “Romancing the Condom: Contraception Use in Romance Novels.”)

So, why am I bringing up old news now?

Because, as I was going through the sex scenes in SEX LOUNGE and The Sin Club books, trying to roll on the condoms (they were not mandatory in the 2007 versions) I found myself asking, Why?

Why do romance novels have the moral responsibility to pause the fantasy and introduce the reality of condoms, when other types of fiction—other book genres, plus television programming and movies, including romance/romantic comedies—are not required to do the same?

And if it is the romance writer’s moral responsibility, why does that responsibility begin and end with only the before-sex condom? Before that oral sex scene, shouldn’t we show the hero reaching for his Dental Dam or the heroine sheathing her man before his/her lips touch such irresistible genitalia? And shouldn’t we have them whipping out their STD/STI test results or waiting until they’ve been tested before even having sex? Shouldn’t we also weave in that our smart heroine is on birth control pills and not relying on the hero or condoms for unwanted pregnancy?

For the sake of fiction/fantasy, it is acceptable to leave all of these things out—and not be blamed for misleading our readers—just as it is acceptable to have characters behave in all sorts of unsafe ways on the page, including picking up a stranger and having sex or engaging in BDSM.

But it is totally unacceptable to leave out that before-sex condom.

So, again, I ask, Why?

As a reader, do you need to see the condom before the characters have sex? Why or why not? And, if so, is it easy for you to overlook the rest?


I added this to the front of my books: “This is a work of fiction, not a guide to real life. As such, my characters don’t use condoms. But real people should in real life.” Does this work for you?

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  • Auriette Posted Mar 4 10:23 am

    I’m kind of torn on this. I’ve never needed to worry about this in real life, because I waited until I got married, and I’m still married to the same man. So, I don’t need to see the protection to make my moral choices. On the other hand, I think better of the characters when they use them, when they think about the consequences of their actions. I also feel it shows that the pause doesn’t have to destroy the moment, which is, I think, one of the real world arguments. I voted that the disclaimer is fine, but I also think it’s not a bad thing for sexually active readers to see.

    • Rachelle Posted Mar 4 10:49 am

      Thank you for your vote and the thoughtful reply, Auriette. Hmmm. That’s a good point about the inclusion of condoms showing readers that condoms don’t destroy the moment (and thereby promoting their use in another way) … This is a tough one …

      Oh, and major congratulations on your marriage to the same guy!!

  • S.H. Posted Mar 5 9:04 pm

    I would enjoy reading a disclaimer that said, this book is so hot that it might make you forget to have safe sex and rush into the fantasy, but as the author who can not write the rest of your real life story, please make sure you engage in safe sex and I hope that my erotic stories keep you excited about life, love and hot sex.

    Or something like that. LOL. Its a draft.

    • Rachelle Posted Mar 6 4:58 am

      S.H., your disclaimer made me laugh – in a good way. It’s friendly and engaging, but also makes the point. I like this concept. I think I will, indeed, revise that disclaimer. Thanks bunches for the suggestion!

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