Romance is the cornerstone of our stories and sex is the decor.
Nowadays, authors are supposed to write "safe" stories. By "safe" I mean our characters should use condoms. They shouldn't smoke or participate in any unhealthy type behavior.
A friend just told me more than one reviewer recently dissed her books and called them "dangerous" because her lovers didn't use condoms. Likewise, I sometimes get notes in the sides of my manuscripts from my editors when my characters neglect to use condoms. Ditto for lube during anal sex. Both are no nos. At least according to my editors.
I've also received editorial notes that characters shouldn't smoke, it's not healthy and it makes the character unsympathetic.
Why? Our books are supposed to stand as good examples to our readers. We want to promote safe sex and healthy living.
It was okay, however, when a serial murderer rampaged through the pages of one of my books. When dead bodies popped up every few pages.
It was okay when my heroine stalked my hero with an intent to murder him. Or when the murderer attacked his victims. It was even okay when one of my characters blew up the entire planet Earth. Blood and gore, death and pain are all okay as long as we use condoms and don't smoke?
These things make me go "Hmm..."
My guess is that no one thinks a reader will emulate a murderer or try to blow up an entire planet, but might practice unprotected sex because they read it in a book.
I'm trying to remember to make my lovers use condoms every time they have sex. Every time it's possible that is. Sometimes it's unrealistic or just implausible for condoms to be available and the characters to abstain because of it.
It can be rather awkward to make characters stop in the middle of a hot scene to go in search of the condoms. In "Must Love Dogs" John Cusack drives all over town to find a condom and the mood's dead by the time he finally finds one. That's a cute scene in context. But that'd be boring if it happened everytime our characters heated up, in every one of our books.
It's tough to write sex scenes. At least I find it so. This added complication of keeping the sex scene sexy when stopping to put on condoms really puts erotic writers to the test. And I will do my best to meet the challenge and keep my characters healthy and simultaneously turn up the heat.
In my next Total-E-Bound story "Whirlwind Romance" which is scheduled to release July 26, 2010, Colleen is sucked back to 1978, a time just before AIDS frightened the world. As she is privy to the future, good and bad, she practices safe sex.