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Where Historical meets Paranormal Romance...

Safe Sex in Erotic Romance

By Diane Whiteside

The lights are low, the music seductive. She smoothes her dress down, emphasizing the rich curves of her hips, as her eyes lower. He sits, transfixed by her beauty, aching to possess her, legs splayed wide as he watches every move.

An anticipatory smile teases her mouth and she blows him a kiss, then bends to her task. He shudders in hungry anticipation, his skin hot and tight.

She glances up at him from half-closed eyes. His breath stops.

Slowly – so slowly that his heart stutters – she begins to roll the translucent veil down over the taut flesh…

Question: Was this a description of a woman teasing her lover, by taking off her silk stocking? Or was she rolling a condom onto him? And just what does safe sex have to do with erotic romance, any way?

“Safe sex” (or “safer sex”) is usually defined as a set of practices defined to reduce the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. This sounds boring, scary, and totally not erotic, even when it’s broadened to include contraception – in other words, reduce the chances of the heroine getting pregnant. No wonder many erotic romance authors consider safe sex to be a guaranteed killer for any erotic atmosphere.

But on the other hand, romance is about the relationship between people. (Yes, I do include vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and such as people!) Making a romance erotic means showing their sexuality – the good and the bad, the critical aspects and the minor details. If a hero protects the heroine from a deadly villain, shouldn’t he also want to protect her from getting pregnant too quickly, thus giving them time to savor their developing relationship? And wouldn’t the reader at least occasionally want to enjoy the details of how the hero and heroine make this fun for each other?

There are four basic ways in which an author can use safe sex in erotic romance: for characterization, for contraception, for protection against disease, and finally, as a device to center the entire plot around.

In Linda Howard’s OPEN SEASON, the heroine is a small-town librarian, a spinster, and taken for granted by everyone. Daisy decides she needs to spice things up, including getting a sex life. In order to tell everyone she’s now in the market for A Man, she goes to the local drug store at lunchtime and buys a huge box of condoms, just to cause the maximum amount of gossip. Those safe sex supplies aren’t bought to prevent disease or pregnancy: they’re purchased with perfect knowledge of small-town life, by a heroine determined to cause a furor without openly seeming to do so. It also advances the plot because the hero catches her doing it.

Later on in the same book, the same box of condoms is used when Daisy and Jack are intimate for the first time. As is typical in love scenes from a heterosexual erotic romance, the contraception benefits of condoms are made explicit – in a very funny scene! – while the protection against disease aspects are not directly mentioned.

In my novel, THE SWITCH, the hero’s eighteen-year-old son gives his single father a box of condoms, knowing his father hasn’t dated in years. This twist on the usual invisible source provides characterization for both men, as well as a look into their relationship.

Robin Schone is justly famous for her erotic love scenes, full of historically accurate contraception information. My favorite is the finale in AWAKEN, MY LOVE, where the hero uses lemon juice in the heroine’s womb, while repeatedly ravishing her. Afterward, she lies back, a blissful smile on her face, thinking of all the wonderful euphemisms she can use for marital sex – lemon maids, lemon tarts – now that she’s learned this fabulous new aspect of lemons.

Or Susan Johnson’s dashing Regency bucks, who always seem to have a sponge and vinegar handy when it’s time to show the heroine just how erotic life can be. Hmmm, there’re some gentlemen I can build fantasies around?

For a hero’s view of safe sex, in my novel THE IRISH DEVIL, the hero grew up in 19th-century slums and is extremely wary of sexually-transmitted diseases. He has always used condoms, even with the heroine. He feels like a virgin on their wedding night, because it’s the first time he’s ever felt a woman’s intimate flesh skin-to-skin before.

In the GLBT (gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered) community, it’s now customary for editorial guidelines to require safe sex practices be shown in the stories. Backed by this mandate, authors of GLBT erotic romance use safe sex in a multitude of ways.

In Stephanie Vaughn’s very hot gay erotic romance CROSSING THE LINE, the use of condoms and lube underlines the developing relationship between Jamie and Ryan. Early on, an al fresco dinner turns into a very heated love scene – but there are no condoms and lube anywhere around. An extremely frustrated Jamie finally forces himself not to go any further. The reader can feel just how difficult it is for him to go against every primal instinct to do so – and yet how desperately necessary it is to protect Ryan, whom he cares about so much, even when they’ve only just met. In the final, joyous love scene, they make impromptu love on the living room sofa, using the condom and lube sample Jamie has stashed there (as he did many other places), just in case the urge should strike.

Finally, safe sex practices can be the center of the plot itself. In Anne Semans’ “The Perfect Fit” in SEX TOY TALES, a wickedly humorous, erotic retelling of the Cinderella story set in the lesbian community, the glass slipper has become a very memorably sized dildo. Our heroine finds ecstasy and happiness ever after when perfectly joined to her princess by the dildo.

Thus, safe sex in erotic romance can be an expression of both fun and extreme emotion, just like every other element in an erotic love scene. All you need is the romance and an author willing to tell those particular elements, whenever they help strengthen the story.

And now, excuse me please; I need to return to a certain man and woman.

Her neckline gaped as she leaned over, allowing him a view of her magnificent breasts. . .

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