Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Force To Be Flippin Reckoned With

Bella Kate Pearce GuestBlogs tomorrow, Wed. May 23, with a Rootin' Tootin' chat about some of America's hottest heroes!
Suzanne Brockmann simply is one of the best writers in the biz. On top of that, she's got this courageous social consciousness thing going, which isn't so unusual among romance writers.

Yet it's the stuff she tackles and places before a readership that includes lots of men -- especially military guys -- that makes me proud she plays for our genre's team.

So, we all know that Brockmann speaks with respect and love about her son's being gay. And she includes gay characters within her novels, a couple of whom figure prominently in her upcoming release, "Force of Nature" (Aug. Ballantine)

And in November, Brockmann's releasing a special holiday anthology and donating the proceeds to a cause supporting equality and education about issues affecting folks who are gay.

Now, this post isn't about politics -- far from it. It's a little streamofconsciousness (shawkah) about stuff that's occurred to me as I've been reading my "Force of Nature" ARC:

1. If you love Brockmann, you're gonna stay up all night long to read this; it's that fuhlippin good.
2. If you haven't read Brockmann? Get the to Amazon or your fave bookstore (don't forget your independents) and puhREE-order.
3. Some authors are scrupulous about depiction of characters' using condoms, and some aren't. Brockman, of course, is, and does it in a pretty smooth way that doesn't make it seem like a public service announcement.

So, that started me thinking about a blog I read a while back by those dirty girls at LustBites.blogspot.com. The Lusties were talking about birth control and utilitarian use of condoms in romance and erotica, and how reading about it affects the reader's enjoyment of a sex scene.

And I want to ask you: Does use of/discussion about condoms, sexually transmitted diseases, etc., pull you out of, or draw you into a "sex scene?"
Do you think writers should feel obligated to provide their characters with birth control, condoms, and conversations about STDs?
Encore! The LustBites wenches' publisher, Virgin Books, prints a lovely blurb on the ISBN page of all BL and Cheek Novels which reads: Black Lace books contain sexual fantasies. In real life, always practise safe sex.


Vivi Anna said...

I'm not fond of reading about condoms and STD's in my books. To me is escapism and fantasy, I get enough of that in my own reality. There are some publishers that do require that put in somewhere. Red Sage I believe is one...I wrote a contemporary novella where I did address the condom and STD issues...it gave it some humor, so it worked during the scene, because it was a romantic/comedy...

And no, I don't think writers should be obligated to put ANYTHING in their stories, except a HEA if they are writing romance.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hey, Vivs! I keep missing you when you're here! I like when the issue's dealt with in a humorous way, too. I also love love love a scene where the hero gets to go sleeveless for the first time with the woman he's falling for. I think we all know how great that is for guys -- not that it isn't for us -- but for guys? Plus, it's a great gift the heroine gives, cause it's not only about sensation, it's about trust and stuff.

Portia Da Costa said...

Great topic!!!

I'd say that in a contemporary erotic romance or erotic novel, the use of a condom makes me 'believe' in the story more. I mostly mention condoms nowadays and I think it's possible - and even a fun challenge as well as being responsible - to describe using them in way that makes the scene *more* sexy rather than less.

It's a different case in historicals and fantasy/paranormal though. I know there has been birth control of a sort, for centuries, millennia even, but as I'm not a historical author, it's not an issue I've yet addressed. Paranormals, well, if you're doing it with a magical creature, their blood chemistry is likely to be different and you probably can't catch their diseases or cross breed with them anyway... Well, that's how I've got round it in *my* paranormals! ;)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Portia writes: great topic! Um, it should be; it's yours and your cheeky wench friends' topic. :)

Unknown said...

If I'm writing contemporaries like "Cowboys" then I slip it in :) I think its only fair
If I don't see it mentioned in a book I'm reading I tend to worry about it a bit subconsciously, -especially if the heroine suddenly goes "Oh my God I'm pregnant!"

When I write historicals, I always try and make some mention of methods of birth control even if they are fairly iffy!

Portia Da Costa said...

Is it ours? I'm confused... I think I must have slept through that topic on LB. I'm at an age where I start to forget things... LOL!

I think the BL disclaimer thingie has been in the books since the very beginning... back in 1994.

MsTypo said...

I think i'm too much a child of my generation... Too many classes about STDs and very special episodes of 90210 and whatnot... But if i'm reading a conteporary romance and person doesn't use a condom i'm left thinking about all the other people he's slept with and what diseases he may have just passed onto his soon to be HEA.

In paranormals i find that they usually explain the lack of protection quite well. "I'm a vamp and can't get you pregnant and have a built-in imunity to VD." And i buy that since it fits with the genre.

Portia Da Costa said...

Yeah, Kate! I worry too if I don't see mention of birth control in a contemporary...

Playground Monitor said...

Condoms etcetera don't pull me out of a sex scene. If written well, it can enhance the scene. I've read some very sexy he-let-her-roll-it-on scenes that added to the sensuality.

Birth control and STDs are important issues in a relationship and as such I appeciate an author making mention of them in a novel. I guess I keep thinking about the young teen who might read a romance novel. I'd hope the author hadn't taken a cavalier attitude about bc and STDs and in a low-key way "teach" that teen that she too should take these issues seriously.

Anonymous said...

I hate it when condoms aren't used/mentioned. I just read a really hot book but a fantastic author, which had several stories. None of the stories talked about protection, not even the menage, which bothered me even more. I was reviewing this particular book and that was the only thing that held me back from giving it 5/5.

There have been several books that have done that for me lately. To me it pulls me out of the book more if there is no protection mentioned. Sure, it can be handled badly but it's a part of life.

That being said, I don't normally read historicals but I wouldn't assume the same use of protection there.

Kati said...

Hi Bellas! Hope everyone is doing well today!

I have no feelings one way or another. Isn't that a departure for me??!! If a condom is used and it's well done, it doesn't faze me. If I'm reading e-rom or erotica, I don't expect it.

Like nairobi (HI! Nairobi, I've missed you - hope all is well), I "came of age" during the height of AIDS and I feel strongly that condoms should be used IRL, but it doesn't really bother me in romance.

I think those who do write about h/h using condoms should be commended. Safe sex is an important measure and one that should be celebrated.

But in my evaluation of a novel, safe sex isn't a factor one way or another for me.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, whether you want to see a condom depends on why you think it's involved in the scene: part of tidying up a mess (like cleaning up the kitchen after a good meal) or characterization (protecting the heroine against future danger).

Nobody wants to hear how long it took to clean up the kitchen after a fabulous dinner. But, on the other hand, I want to be very sure the hero did everything in his power to protect the heroine against any danger. Some LGBT authors have also used it as characterization, showing guys who'll protect their partner, even when it costs them some pleasure.

Monica Burns said...

If it's done well, fine throw it in, but when I read lines like he ripped it opened with his teeth, the first thing I think of is...hmmm, what if he nicked that cute little Popsicle ring and he leaks, then hello baby!!! LOL

Seriously, it has to be well written. Generally the mentions pull me out because the writer puts it in right in the middle of the sex scene where the sexual tension has been built up in such a great way, and then BAM suddenly the writer's taking me on an educational journey about safe sex.

For me it's about the fantasy. Since I write historicals, I've only used condoms once in my books (still unpublished one), but not because of safe sex, it was because the guy didn't want his wife to get pregnant.


MsTypo said...

Monica said:
If it's done well, fine throw it in, but when I read lines like he ripped it opened with his teeth,

LOL i read that and my first thought was that he was going to end up with spermicide and lubricant on his face and that would be gross. LOL Not to mention the aftertaste in his mouth would make kissing him after the teeth-ripping... Well there's your mood killer. LOL

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

Michelle, I'm so jealous that you are reading FON.:-) Any more tidbits you like to share. I'm still waiting for Sophia and Deck's story.

I agree with the other bellas, it has to be written well. I think LH did a great job in Kill and Tell.

LizbethSelvig said...

Portia wrote: "I mostly mention condoms nowadays and I think it's possible - and even a fun challenge as well as being responsible - to describe using them in way that makes the scene *more* sexy rather than less."

Sounds crazy, but that totally made my day - as a writer! This is such a helpful topic for me because, literally, at this moment, I'm working on a love scene between a H/h in a "faith on the edge" story where not to show the use of a condom would be, to say the least, irresponsible. And I just yesterday had this exact discussion with a fellow writer and we discussed how we hate "public service" type additions, and ways to make the addition of protection to the love scene more "sexy."

It's wonderful to know that my planned scene is on the right track according to all you Bellas whose opinions and knowledge I so admire!

Thanks for the timely topic, Michelle.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I don't think authors should be forced to amend their text but saying that, in this day and age, if it isn't mentioned in a contemporary I really begin to wonder if the characters are living in a dream bubble in which STDs don't exist! If they can explain why they don't (I just read Jessica Bird's latest book and her characters' reasoning was interesting :) then I'm fine with that but I'd rather the authors tried to include it (although I'm guessing it isn't easy?).


Portia Da Costa said...

Hi Lizees

I'm so happy to know that my comment was helpful... :)

Keira Soleore said...

Michelle, thanks for the heads-up on Suzanne Brockmann's latest. What a delicious cover!! I love the colors and the way they swirl around and blend in.

Vivi Anna said...

I think if I were to write contemp I would definitely touch on it somewhere along the way.

But I definitely don't think its irresponsible as a writer if you don't. I ain't no sex ed teacher. It's not my job to show readers how to act like a responsible adult in society. Damn! I can barely get it straight in my own life.

catslady said...

Lace has a great idea. It's noted but I don't really want to hear about it in my fantasy.

ev said...

I don't mind especially when it is done either with a great sense of humor (always looking for a giggle which doesn't spoil the mood) or when the partner does it in an erotic manner. As long as it fits the story, I am good with it.

Speaking of historicals and STD's what about the time period after the French Revolution in Vienna when syphillis was running rampant and everyone was having sex with everyone else? The French invented condoms aka, scumbags,a long time ago, they just weren't always mentioned in history.

Anonymous said...

[Blogger seems to have eaten my comment the first time around... *sigh*]

Buongiorno, Michelle and Bellas!

First off, yay! Thank you for mentioning one of my very favorite authors, Suzanne Brockmann (aka TEAS--TheEvilAuthorSuz). I await the release of Force of Nature the same way my daughter is waiting for the last Harry Potter--on tenterhooks!

Second off, if there's no mention of STDs, birth control, etc. in a contemporary novel, I'm yanked right out of the story. I simply can't relate to characters whom don't think about these things at some point.

I don't have the same expectations about a historical, though I would hope there's some mention to the possibility of pregnancy--the heroine may be utterly ignorant/innocent, but most of the time the heroes have been around the block a couple of times, no? So there should be something said/thought about it.

I prefer when the author manages to bring these topics up organically, and not resorting to the proverbial two by four to make her/his point, though.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Wow, ev. I never knew the derivation of that term. I guess we suspend disbelief a lot more, especially w/in the rake scenario. Like, how's he the Best Lover in England, but hasn't caught the French pox?

For me, I don't have much problem SODing off on the STD thing, but when an author includes diaphragms and "machines," and French letters, I think it's interesting to know there were some options in trying to prevent STD and pregnancy. Robin Schone always does a splendid job of "educating" w/out wearing the old mortar board, ya know?

In contemporaries, I'm like Play, I dig a fun scene with clever ways to use the condom, etc.

I guess the use of bc/prophylaxis is similar to use of sex in romance: in context, w/the flow, used in a way that moves the tone of the scene forward, and it makes sense.

For me, the more realistic, less fantastic, the novel, the more I think, "hey, aren't they scared not using protection?"

The discussion about young'uns reading romances w/ or w/o bc/proph is a such a good one, but probably similar to the concern of young'ns reading romance at all. It'd be super if we could have nurturing discussions w/ all kids about sex w/in and w/out of committed relationships, especially as it pertains to romance novels.

I'm all for romance novels in the schools as a way of teaching kids about human sexuality.

That, friends, was a joke. Though I know I'll choose carefully a romance to allow each of my kids to read when I believe they're of an age. But you know what? I'm guessing they'll already have sneaked through my stuff and read a paragraph or two.

But when lots of kids sneak the stuff, only read the "good parts" at the 'brary, we gotta hope that some talk they've heard in school or from parents sinks in and they either apply it to the scenes they're reading, or they are kids who understand susp of disb, which they probably do inherently if they've read any fiction in their lives.

It's such a damn imperfect world.

CrankyOtter said...

As someone who grew up in the era of safe sex education, if protection is not mentioned in contemporary novels, I spend precious brain cells trying to figure out what calamity will befall our H/H before the end of the story. I'd rather it get mentioned. I've even seen it done after the fact - "well of course they used a condom" or "good thing her birth control was stocked up" or whatnot.

Just saw a great Masterpiece Theater show on the lady who wrote the first popular book for home-makers in England. As she was working on a new project, she finally figured out that her husband had once (or more often) slept with a prostitute before he married her but it was enough that they all got syphillis. The first 3 of her 5 kids died very young because of it. She died at age 28, her husband around 40 some after going nuts. Naturally, the doctor didn't tell her what the problem was - makes you wonder just what "childbed fever" was a catchall for. Then her parents blamed the fact that she worked. Sometimes I just want to go back in history and give them antibiotics. And truth.

Anyhow. Yes. For me, contemporary novels need to mention birth control or have a disclaimer or I get distracted from the story.

Eva Gale said...

I was brought up in the Safe Sex era too, but I'm the opposite. I hate the obligatory condom ad. Unless it's super sexed up and an intrinsic part of the scene. And if BC isn't mentioned I won't even think about it all unless there is a line in there about how she's late/worried, what have you. And then my reaction is more of an, UGH, save me the fake conflict.

If the BC is a sign of trust, then that's another thing too, but rolling one on for the sake of being PC is not my thang.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

One of the really neat things I'm reading here is something that doesn't surpize me in the least, Bellas. You're all really concerned about birth control and STDs in real life. Even if you're in committed relationships, you still worry about kids learning about protecting themselves, about how STDs and multiple pregnancies affected women in times past, about how having access to information, not just devices, saves lives.

When I think about these issues, I always feel that even if we don't care whether bc/prophs are used in the novels we love, we never forget the reality of using them in real life, and the value of education.

It's really impressive, how really socially conscious romance readers are. Yet another thing the world needs to know about us.


Anonymous said...

Well it depends on the genre. In contemporary, it wouldn't be realistic for a hero not to use a condom...so I'd be wondering if the heroine will get pregnant. But in a historical, I don't expect them to use a condom, but if the hero did use some sorta of protection, it still doesn't hurt my enjoyment of the book, I mean hey if you don't want any surprises, why play with fire? So why should our beloved characters be any different?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Ah, Bellas! It's been so nice spending the day with you. I've gotta go get some more work done now that the chitlins are sleeping.

Looking forward to seeing you here tomorrow morning as we welcome Kate Pearce with a rootin'tootin' GuestBlog!

Buona sera!

Stacy~ said...

Brockmann?!?! Tease! You know I absolutely worship at her altar - she completely rocks and is one of my all-time faves.

I think it's an important issue, and I would at least like the characters to make some mention of it. I read about it in paranormals and it's usually explained that a vamp (were, demon, etc) can't impregnate a human, or there's magic involved, etc., so at least this topic is discussed and me the happy reader can go on living in fantasyland.

Gotta go kids. Have a fab day!

Nikki Magennis said...

Oh, I always miss the party!

Hello all. I wanted to say I agree with Wendy and azteclady: ' if there's no mention of STDs, birth control, etc. in a contemporary novel, I'm yanked right out of the story. I simply can't relate to characters whom don't think about these things at some point.'

I pretty much always have characters use condoms. It's not a question of 'teaching the reader', it's just that without one I feel there's something missing. Condoms are a fact of life if you're not in a committed relationship/trying to conceive. Plus I think they're sexy - extra tension, extra intimacy.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hey, Stace! Oooo, FON's goood. I can't even tease much, cause I'd give away too much. But Brockmann's got a good synopsis on her site.

Nikki, great point! Done well it doesn't have to stop the show, and can actually add to the "God. Please. Hurry." factor. Hmmm. Leave it to a Lustie.

Portia Da Costa said...

Well put, Nikki... that's pretty much what I said, only not as well! LOL!

If you're describing the condom dance with heart and emotion, it can only enhance the sensuality, not detract from it. You've just gotta make the description as smooth as you hope the actual process will be! ;)

TaraMetBlog said...

That's awesome that SB includes condoms in her love scenes. I always find it weird that new people getting together for the first time in novels don't worry about getting pregnant or STDs. I know it's unromantic but it takes a second to slip one on. no glove no love!