Do Books Require Condoms?

It sounds provocative.
It sounds provocative.

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.)

Is this a great cover or what?
Is this a great cover or what?

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.

Hello!
Hello!

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?

But, but, but...
But, but, but…

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.

Here’s why:

Me, trying to look cool and confidant.
Me, trying to look cool and confidant.

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.

It's your neck.
It’s your neck.

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.

I can't be all things to all people!
I can’t be all things to all people!

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.

Tell your story and tell it from the heart, the way you want, and the truest way you know how. If that means using a condom on your book, go for it. If it doesn’t, don’t let anybody push you into it.

And that applies to all the stuff that isn’t condoms as well.

.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

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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.

24 thoughts on “Do Books Require Condoms?

  1. Amazing title as ever Dan 🙂 I’m with you on the fact that books are pretend and that you don’t have to go into details such as slipping on a condom!! I can’t remember reading a sex scene in a book where it struck me that they were putting on a condom – or not. It just doesn’t strike me as something that needs to be specified in a romcom or any book for that matter. As you say, I’m for going with your gut for those type of things. There will always be people who like it and those you criticise it – can’t win ’em all!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, this is an interesting topic at 6 AM. If my main character had worn a condom, there wouldn’t have been a story at all. But seriously, is using precious word space to describe putting on a condom worth it? Like you said, this is all made up stuff. If the reader needs to, they can add that little detail in their mind. We never saw most of the details in a Hitchcock movie, but I bet everyone knows what happened during the shower scene in Psycho.

    I’m more worried about this dude having an affair and ‘giving in.’ I guess I’ll have to read it to find out more, but there better be a happy ever after or YOU might not ever need a condom again. jk

    Liked by 1 person

    • Still, if 10% vocalize a concern, they probably represent 30% who have the concern and don’t speak. Can we risk alienating 30% of an audience? Or does appeasing them possibly ruffle the feathers of a bigger audience? It’s a worthwhile discussion to have.

      BTW, that was one of my responses: if he wears a condom, we don’t have a sequel!

      Like

      • Oh please what is this! Dan your book works … ok! I’ve read quite a bit of chick-lit and/or contemporary romance in the last 12 to 18 months, to check out my female voice ( lets not go there!) probably 70/30 female to male authors and I do not recollect a condom ever being mentioned let alone used. And … no one I’ve read has written sex scenes the way you have … they are spontaneous, often hilarious, stretching credibility at times but still believable, and I say again really funny. I’m not going to spoil your book for others, but for me it’s more than a romance, it’s more than a comedy, to be honest I can’t think of a label, it’s a good contemporary tale of circumstance and consequence and needs no protection … just publishing … just the way it is.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve been encouraged to fix the typos. Other than that, the book pretty much goes to press as is. Thanks for the kind words and the support. The betas sure liked it.

          To me, the book is funny and sexy, just as it says, but it’s romantic as well. That, to me, makes it a romantic comedy, if only so the hard core Romance folks don’t get upset that there’s so much funny stuff going on in their romance story.

          Oh, and have I asked you to write a nice review on Amazon when it comes out?

          Like

          • I was of course a beta reader – and yes you’ve asked me – I’ll write a honest review as I’ve read it – and I’ll buy and re-read it if it’s Kindle version is a nice price too -will be really interested to see the final published book .. do you have a publication date in mind?

            Liked by 1 person

            • The pub date is SOON, but probably 4-6 more weeks. The plan is to offer it here as a preorder to my awesome supporters and fans for 99 cents (dirt cheap), and then roll it out at $2.99 for a limited time to get more reviews. After a week or so of $2.99 it will probably go up. The only thing that could mess that up is my editor going on vacation in Dominican Republic early November and the possibility of us putting the book into Kindle Scout program. They could have it for up to 90 days without saying yes or no, but if they say yes it could be a game changer.

              I gust got the edits today from my Italian translator who did one of my other books, and he suggested a few changes of wording for some of the actual Italian phrases in the book. Most of them, actually. Turns out, my Italian sucks. It’s half Spanish, like the MC’s.

              Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Dan it’s Annette here. I had to tell you that I never noticed the lack of a condom in the whole book. It never even crossed my mind once, because I think I was so wrapped up in the story I didn’t think about it at all, or maybe I’m not very modern.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m the romance writer who felt compelled to reach for the latex, but I put humour into it (probably the only funny part of the book). My female MC bought condoms on the premise of ‘what if?’ after meeting the man of her dreams. She had no idea what (size/shape) she was buying them for, and even in real life, condom shelves are confusing.

    ——-
    Extract 1:
    “Flavoured, ribbed, pleasure, latex free, real feel, extra long, extra wide, extra safe, extra thin, how much more extra could you need.” She said under her breath.
    She continued to look from one box to the next, becoming more and more confused.
    “How am I supposed to know what size I should be buying…? Maybe he’s got some… What if he hasn’t?”
    ——-

    Later, she questioned herself, still pondering her choice.

    ——-
    Extract 2:
    She examined the box, wondering if she had made the right choice, maybe she could have bought a box each of the extra wide, extra long and extra thin as well, just in case. Then she remembered the young lady on the till.
    “What would she have thought of that?” She said to herself, giggling.
    ——-

    I included it because it felt realistic, but the situation allowed for it. Whereas yours, I agree sounds like being prepared would have lost something from the story.

    I understand the argument that books influence young minds, but your comparison to murder mysteries confound that. All we can do is go with what feels right and what fits.

    A very good, thought provoking post!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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