Condom use in contemporary romance is a sticky subject (pun totally intended). Contemporary romance straddles the line of reality and fantasy; they are written usually in the same time period we are reading in, thus condom use is a sign of the times. In my generation, at least, we’ve been brought up knowing you MUST use a condom to prevent HIV/AIDS, but that is not the same for a historical romance.
Speaking to other readers about condom use in novels, many say they don’t mind them not being used because in their personal lives that have been in a long term relationship or married so they don’t notice the lack of condom. I have a problem with that theory because many of the couples in romance novels are JUST meeting and having sex for the first time. In my reality, I would be asking right away for a condom. The whole “are you clean, I’m clean” line I have seen in some books also bothers me. You’re about to have a one night stand with a man and you believe him right away? No thanks. Never mind the whole you could have a baby thing; kinda huge, don’t you think?
My mind works in mysterious ways, and I can drift off during a sex scene and start thinking logistics. Does this work, is it possible? When I see a first time sex scene and the male is usually a sexual fiend, I start thinking: If he’s that good in bed, he must have practiced a lot, thus he must have the herpes. See, unsexy isn’t it? Even better is the lack of condom disposal, where did it vanish to?
I don’t need the gritty details of condom use in a sex scene; “he reached into the drawer” works for me. Or if an author makes it funny or sexy, more power to them. But the complete absence of a condom or any form of protection makes me stop and re-read to make sure I didn’t miss anything and then takes me right out of the scene. That said, sometimes the mention of birth control is a bit over done like in Fifty Shades. All I ask is for it to be established just once; I don’t need page after page of gynecological discussion.
Contemporaries for me are more like real people and how they would react in real life situations and I sure as hell hope that someone would use a condom the first few months of their new relationship. That said, it’s not the duty of a romance novel to give you safe sex advice. We all know this! But my fantasy with a first time sexual partner always includes a condom.
What do you think about condom use in contemporary romance?
Natasha Carty reviews Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy on her website Wicked Little Pixie and lives in Toronto, Canada, with her cat, Seamus.