Do I even NEED to put an advisory/warning on this post?
I wrote a romantic comedy called Poggibonsi; you guys have seen me talk about it and there are two sample chapters HERE if you wanna see what the fuss is all about. (Quick ad: its’ my funniest comedy to date, hand down, and you should buy it in a few weeks when it comes out.)
Anyway, there’s a fair amount of sex in the story. Nothing graphic or porno, but good old fashioned sex. Like you’d expect in a romantic comedy. I thank my Romance author friends for helping me steam things up in a few scenes. Those of you reading The Water Castle got the residual benefit of that education when my teenage characters start exploring the birds and bees. It’s hot. You’re welcome.
When the sex scenes in Poggibonsi started, there was a small but noticeable rumbling from certain readers. (They didn’t fit into a group; that’s not what I mean.)
My MC in Poggibonsi, Mike, has a fight with his wife (several, really), and she later heads back to America in a huff, leaving him in Italy alone and unhappy (there’s more to it but you get the idea.) He ends up having an affair with his beautiful young Italian assistant.
In fact, she comes on to him. And she’s reeeeeaaally sexy.
He resists… for a while. But she’s a persistent little vixen, and next thing you know, they’re going at it on the board room table. Mostly he’s going at it. To her.
Orally, if I may be so bold.
But that only makes everyone involved hungrier, so to speak, so they have the main course back at the hotel. With me so far?
Now, it’s a funny as hell scene because it’s a comedy, and I write pretty damn funny stuff, but as I said the lady basically attacks him. Mike resists, but let’s face it, a story without something interesting happening isn’t a story. He gives in and everyone involved has a great time.
Except possibly a few readers, who asked – um, hello, condom?
I think – in fact, I know – readers enjoyed the scene and the story. Some were critique partners and some were beta readers and about the same small percentage of each made the comment/suggestion that Mile should use a condom.
Here’s the thing…
I’ve watched my fair share of R-rated movies and the number of times I’ve seen somebody whip out the latex is RARE. It happens, but can you name a popular, non-X rated movie where it did?
I’m not talking about what should happen in real life when semi-strangers hook up. Books and movies are pretend.
My editor mentioned that Romance readers would notice the lack of prophylactic use.
“The only place I think you might get some flack is that Mike never uses a condom. Nobody’s going to come at you with pitchforks, so go with your gut. But I guarantee you, romance readers will notice.”
Okay, and if it’s a deal killer for Romance readers, guess what? He’s gonna strap on a love glove.
But is it a dealbreaker? I don’t think so.
I don’t see it in TV shows and I don’t see it in Movies. Therefore, it can’t be required of books – so sayeth I.
Besides, their first time was an unplanned event. My MC…
(May I be even more candid? Feel free to skip if this assaults your sensibilities.)
Mike heads south on her at the office. Nobody mentioned protection then, just later when they had sex at the hotel. If she has a STD, he’d get it from oral gratification and if he has one she could get it that way, too. Was he supposed to whip out a dental dam? Intercourse requires condoms but oral doesn’t? Do girls give bj’s using condoms or is that just hookers? See the irony?
IF YOU SKIPPED, YOU CAN START AGAIN HERE, YOU SEXUALLY REPRESSED WIMP
It’s not that it does or doesn’t feel right (pardon the pun) to the story, but it’s more along the lines of: who brought the condom? He didn’t! He’s happily married and wasn’t planning on any of this. So she did? Making her more the vamp-seductress? Are readers going to be happy about that?
I’m not looking to piss people off, but it seems a bit silly. Let’s look at the numbers.
I think maybe 3 of the 10 betas mentioned a condom. That means 70% didn’t notice or didn’t care enough to mention it.
But more to the point: “They,” the Romance readers, will notice.
Okay, they notice – then what?
I didn’t know. Massive returns? Bad reviews? I feel safe about the lack of pitchforks as per her prior assurances.
So I asked my editor.
Like I said, romance readers will notice. For me, it would merely be an observation that something wasn’t as I expected it to be, but no big deal… It might come up in a conversation about the book with a friend–yeah, but did you notice… And it wouldn’t be the main reason I, or most likely anyone, would strike up a conversation on the book. In fact, I’ve told friends about Poggi, and that never even crossed my mind as something to mention, even though I noticed it when I read it. Of the beta readers who did comment, none really seemed worked up about it. One was a bit emphatic, but that’s one…only one person.
Sounds like a big ol’ “meh” to me!
So my MC will continue to ride bareback into the sunset.
A good editor is a good sounding board. I appreciate her candor and that of my critique partners and beta readers. It all helps. I don’t mention this to embarrass any of them.
Why did I bring this all up? Not to be outrageous (I don’t need an excuse; you know that) or to talk about condoms – obviously; I left them completely out of a book involving a lot of sex.
We allow outer forces and the PC police and the Twitterites to influence us, and usually we shouldn’t.
Lack of latex usage in my story is no more promoting irresponsible sex than a murder mystery is condoning murder. It’s pretend. Make believe. Fantasy. Last I checked, Hollywood agrees, and they reach a lot more people than my book probably will.
And that applies to all the stuff that isn’t condoms as well.
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Check out his other works HERE.