Thursday, May 23, 2013

Safe sex: Should characters in M/M fiction wrap it up or not?

I'll start this post with the disclaimer that not only am I a woman, I've been in a monogamous relationship for the last 16 years. And while I read a lot of M/M fiction, I'm definitely not an authority on gay sex. I research my scenes to ensure that positions and reactions are realistic, but one sticking point for me is condom usage.
Colorful condoms
Photo by Qxukhgiels

Should contemporary M/M fiction promote safe sex? I posed the question to a group of authors and got varied responses. Most agreed that safe sex was important. I also posed the question to a group of readers and got a very different response--nearly all of them thought it didn't matter, since it was fiction.

When I'm writing a scene, I often dither about whether or not to include a condom. When do the MCs reach a point in their relationship that it's okay to bareback? And where do blow jobs--not to mention rimming--come into play in the scope of safe sex? Since unsafe sex does happen in the real world, is it all right to write it or as authors, should we be using our writing as a means to gently educate readers about safe sex practices?

It's a lot to think about while you're in the heat of the moment, so to speak, and I'll admit that I usually omit the condom on the first draft of a sex scene. They haven't been a part of my own sex life for over a decade (has it really been a decade since college ended? Yikes), so it's difficult for me to work them into a scene naturally. I do think it's important, though, and that's why I always try to make my characters as safe as possible, even though it often involves editing condoms in during revision.

That can happen in a variety of ways. Sometimes it's a committed, long-term relationship and I can throw in a comment about how glad they are that they made the decision to stop using condoms. When it's a first-time encounter, condoms are always discussed, even if they don't use them. But is that "I've been tested recently and I'm clean" discussion a cop-out?

What's your opinion on safe sex in M/M fiction?


  1. If they aren't using condoms, I'm completely thrown out of the story, especially if the author doesn't even make an effort to excuse the non-usage. Even when they do use the "I'm safe line", I tend to lose respect for the characters (unless of course the character is one we are meant to not like/respect) and the author's abilities. Which probably sounds weird but I read to develop relationships with characters and if I'm not invested in the character why bother.

    1. Where do you stand on things like rimming and blow jobs (without swallowing)? I agree that the "I'm safe" bit is a cop-out, though I do love those scenes when it's at the tail end of a book that has shown the relationship development and the love and trust that gets them to that point.

  2. Hey I'm all for rimming and blowjobs! We use the word blowjob at our house no matter who is the blower or blowee. Ok, that may be TMI. Actually I only just read my first m/m in which using protection for rimming was broached. I wish I could remember what story it was. It seems that the authors who opt for the condom with blowjobs are writing stories in an urban setting. So maybe in RL you are either better informed or potentially exposed to a greater risk if you live in an urban setting. But then maybe not. When I first started watching Queer as Folk it bothered me that they obviously were not using condoms in the backrooms while swapping BJs. I do think that assuming someone will pull out to keep you safe from disease is as silly as a girl believing a guy when he says "don't worry I'll pull out". Even if well intended shit happens. And if you are worried enough to have them pull out then you probably ought to insist on the condom to begin with. (This might be the mom in me)

    And I do love the point in the story when we get to that place as well.

    Something else that is confusing to me is the apparent huge disparity in the amount of time it takes to get STD testing results back. Is this like DNA testing on TV vs RL. Can we just make up whatver time frame we want to suit the storyline?

    Looking forward to June 1st and doing my part to keep the juggernaut* which is Bru Baker on it's course. :)

    *and when I say juggernaut this is the definition I'm thinking of... "anything requiring blind devotion or cruel sacrifice"

    Peace&love and Happy Memorial Day

    1. Hopefully no cruel sacrifices will be needed. (Though if you wanted to take my kids for a week or two so I could write, I'd be happy to drive them down.*g* Or you could join us for our week in Hilton Head Island in July! I could get a lot written if I could listen to the waves crashing instead of worrying the crashes were things my children were breaking...)

  3. Because the transmission rates of STIs are so much lower for oral sex, I don't think it's much of a problem. But barebacking a stranger is irresponsible in real life, so if a character in a story does it then I think they are immediately viewed as irresponsible. I've never (and probably never will) written a scene involving rimming, so I can't comment on that. But condoms are a must, I think, for scenes involving anal. Not only are they responsible, but they're cleaner; I know a lot of couples who have been together for years and still use condoms because of that fact.

    1. I wrote my first oral-sex-with-a-condom scene a month ago, and it was definitely hard to fit the condom into the flow without letting it devolve into a safe-sex ad. (In contrast to the novella I'm editing, which has the characters rush into blow jobs and rimming with no protection...) The condom in the BJ scene fit, though, since one of the MCs had been celibate for a few years and was worried about having sex.

      You make a good point--whether or not characters bareback (or rush into any type of intimacy without giving a thought to safety) can be a tool writers use to give the reader insight into that character. And yes, I'd be hard-core judging any character who barebacked a stranger! *g*

  4. To me, it's kind of like which type of novel the author wants to write.
    We all know some acts in sex are highly dangerous or even hard to achieve, yet the porn books will not skip that kind of ideas, simply because it's sexy.
    Whether novel or faction does not have the responsibility to be the educational pamphlet, though it really should put more concerns about the connection between character and the action he/she does.

    For the blow jobs and rimming, I think that's not the standard to judge the role, different character has different taste, habits and so does sexual habits.(I am not sure the English terms)


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