Regulating our Fantasies

wickedwedThe topic of safe sex in erotic fiction comes up all the time amongst writers and readers. I recently had a run-in with someone who was disturbed by the fact that the characters in many of my novels and short stories, don’t wear condoms. It’s true. They don’t. They don’t because they live in the fictional world I’ve created, an erotic world designed to play out my fantasies and, I hope, those of other people as well. The truth is that never once have I had an erotic fantasy that involved the use of a condom. I have written a couple of stories in which condoms are used, but in those stories, I didn’t use condoms to make a statement nor to assume that my readers needed reminding that in the real world, safe sex is a must. Rather, condoms played a role in the development of the story.

My stories are my fantasies, entirely and completely the product of my imagination. I’m a firm believer that my readers are intelligent and savvy and very aware of the world around them. I also understand that some people prefer their fiction and their fantasies more realistic. Fair enough. Fortunately for them, there are writers who prefer to write that way. I don’t happen to be one of them.

Holly Condoms3It’s ironic that the stringent rules and regulations that apply to erotic fiction do not apply to other kinds of fiction. I understand that some of those guidelines in erotica have to do with the publisher knowing the target audience. But In other types of fiction, subjects are covered all the time that are completely forbidden in most standard erotic guidelines for submission, and yet no one expects that readers of non-erotic fiction should need to be reminded that guns are dangerous and murder and rape are wrong.

I have written stories for which the submission guidelines demanded the use of condoms in all scenes involving penetrative sex. I gritted my teeth and wrote what the guidelines dictated. But it seems to me that the message such guidelines send is two-fold. First of all that because erotica is about sex, it’s automatically more dangerous than other types of fiction, and secondly that readers of erotica are just not as smart as readers of other types of fiction and they must have extra instruction and guidance to equip them for the reading of such dangerous material.

Do we really believe that people are more ignorant where erotic literature is concerned, and more likely to cause themselves and others harm than they are if they read any other kind of literature? Do we really believe that if the character in a story has a gang bang without the use of condoms that the reader will automatically think this must be what sex is all about, and go out and try it for her or himself?

Erotica is, by its very nature, the place where the reader can experience for him or herself what would never be considered safe in the real world, what, given the opportunity to do in the real world, given the opportunity to participate in, her or his response would be an unequivocal ‘No thanks.’ Is it any different than a thriller or a horror story, or an adventure novel?

The whole point of a novel is to live vicariously a life that one wouldn’t have the opportunity, and more than likely wouldn’t even want to live, if one did have the opportunity. Commercial fiction is all about vicarious thrills and vicarious experiences from the safety of our own home. That’s why reading is so much fun.

I believe readers should be given credit for discernment, credit for being as savvy about the differencesP1010083 between erotic fiction and reality as they are about the differences between other kinds of fiction and reality. I’m not saying that fiction can’t be didactic. And indeed part of the beauty of fiction is that it offers the inadvertent opportunity to learn something new. What I am saying is that I tell stories. I tell stories for fun in a world that, I think, could use more fun. If there are lessons taught, they come about inadvertently while I’m having fun telling a story. But I don’t feel a deep burning need to tell my readers to do what they already know to do, what they’ve been aware of every moment of their lives from the time their old enough to understand that the world is a dangerous place. And sometimes the world adults must live and function in can be a boring place as well. If they’re like me, and I assume at least some of them are, that dangerous world, that boring world, is a very large part of the reason they enjoy fiction so much.

And they enjoy it while they continue to stop for red lights and level crossings, while they continue to treat their fellow person with respect, and while they continue to practice safe sex, all without having to be reminded that these things are for their own good.

(From 2011 Archives)

29 thoughts on “Regulating our Fantasies

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. You never see a warning on murder novels about murder being wrong, or any other crime novel for the matter. I find the need to state the obvious to the reader condescending and pointless. Do people who write historical fiction have to put in a piece about ‘how to ride your horse safely, always wear a helmut etc… No! Because it would be stating the obvious and it is not the writers job to send out a public service broadcast but to write a damn good novel/short story etc


    Ps… I would love to see you put this piece into next months e[lust] if you were interested. I think it needs spreading around a bit more (excuse the pun)

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, Molly. Strange — or maybe not so strange — that stating the obvious seems to be necessary only in erotic fiction.

      And yes, I would be happy to put this post in e[lust] Please email me with more info.

      KD xxx

  2. Agree with everything you say here K D. These are works of imagination and authors know that readers are intelligent enough to know that. It’s not our place to write manuals for safe sex. A similar issue is people insisting on use of safe words in bdsm stories. I’d happily offer you a blog on that subject to complement what you’ve put her if you’re interested.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Nano. Yes, there are a lot of grey areas forced inot black and white no-go zones for erotic fiction that no publisher would ever consider applying to any other genre. Email me and we’ll set up a time for a post.

      KD x

  3. This argument is made over and over again: “People know this is make-believe, let’s give people credit for being able to make up their own minds.”

    IMO, this is disingenuous at best.

    We all know that models in magazines are Photoshopped and airbrushed, and yet, don’t most girls/women look at those pictures and learn to hate on their own imperfect bodies? If what we see and hear, over and over again, has no impact on our subconscious, then why are there television, radio, print, and internet ads? Wouldn’t they be a waste of time?

    Our beliefs in the way things work – or SHOULD work – are reinforced and influenced by the things we see and read. Is somebody going to read one of your books and say, “Oh yeah, I’m going to run out and do that”? Of course not. Can you rewrite the books you’ve already released? No, not easily.

    But why NOT include condoms in your future work? Why not be a force for good? Any erotic author worth her lube can make condom use sexy and unobtrusive, helping send the message (without preaching) that even when you’re having fun, it’s important to be aware of your body and to protect it.

    More and more, the readers I survey say that in contemporary erotic romance and erotica, the non-use of condoms takes them a little bit out of the story. As the story progresses, they’re waiting for the unintended pregnancy or other bad consequence.

  4. I love and totally agree with the argument that books with murder or crime doesn’t constantly remind us that it’s wrong, so why should erotic stories teach us about condoms. If I remember correctly, I have only once wrote about condom use in a story, but that was because it fit the story line. Like you, I write about my fantasies and in my fantasies, condoms are not used.

    So I guess what I am trying to say is that I totally share your point of view in this 🙂

    Rebel xox

    1. Thanks for your comment, Marie. Whether we like it or not, erotica is the most highly regulated genre. As little sense as it makes, it seems people are far more comfortable with graphic violence than they are with sex. I’ve gotten more negative comments and reviews for the ‘lack of safe sex’ in my writing than anything else. As you say, I write condoms into the story if they fit, but otherwise, the story is a fantasy, and as far as I know, no one has hot fantasies about condoms.

  5. i wholeheartedly agree with you, especially about how other genres are not required to have “realistic” portrayals of their genre the same way erotica does. i always read for pleasure, and pleasure does not always involve and impromptu safe sex demo…

    1. Thanks for the comment, F Dot Leonora. I’m with you on reading for pleasure!


  6. If I could give this post a standing ovation, I would. Perfectly worded, I agree completely. It’s time for our genre, and our readers, to get more respect. Well said, KD, well said!

    1. Thanks your your lovely comment, Oleander! So glad you liked the poss. Would LOVE to see the genre get the respect it so richly deserves.

  7. Because it is not my desire, inclination nor occupation to be a nanny. I do not insult my reader’s intelligence by saying someone wears a seatbelt while driving, wears safety glasses while hammering or a mask while painting.
    This is especially true for period pieces and for Fantasy/ SF.
    if you need me to tell you that wearing a condom is important, please, put the book down and back away slowly. Someone will come along shortly and help you find your way home again.

  8. Don’t we live in a crazy world where we cannot express our written artistry freely and creatively without the need for censorship!

    ~Mia~ xx

    1. Thank you, Hungry Joe! A very important topic. Off to read your article!

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