Recently we discussed how book readers seem to require condoms in love scenes more than moviegoers. I watch my fair share of R-rated TV and movies, and I recall very few scenes where a passionate lovemaking session was interrupted with a public service announcement by the folks on the screen. “Hey, kids, remember: no glove, no love!”
Of course, I only had the issue at all because my new book has a lot of sex – and no condom usage.
It didn’t occur to me, because I was writing it so I was focusing on the passion, the POV, the humor (yes, it was a funny sex scene), the flow, the pace… you know, writer stuff. Some of the other things I didn’t focus on: the color of the bed sheets, whether he had bad breath from lunch, if she had showered recently. (It was set in Italy. Sorry, Euro friends – I know you bathe. We tease you because we love you.)
So, certain things were implied, and certain things were stated. Her breasts were described, because, come on. I’m a guy. And there were naked breasts. That never gets old. Her bra and panties matched, not because I thought of it but because I was informed that a lady who is trying to make an impression to her lover would match them. Oh, and that girls call them panties. Can you take a moment to laugh at me here? I honestly think I called her sexy, lacy panties underwear in the first draft. Cos “underwear” is soooo sexy. See how we need critique partners?
(To read more about just how valuable Critique Partners are, click HERE)
But the actual sex act was implied. There was none of the massive-anaconda-entering-the-love-nest-crap. I’m not sure I could write that with a straight face anyway. I barely did it now.
I wrote it as a funny story, and it’s very sexy, and it’s really romantic on an adult level, not a cheap porn level.
But… they didn’t use condoms.
Now, in the prior post, I gave my reasons. And as I did, and some of you agreed with me, the main driver was: plot. If it wasn’t important to the plot, then I don’t un-immerse my reader from their immersion in my story to mention “Oh by the way, the drapes weren’t closed but they were on the third floor of the hotel…”
Because the drapes weren’t closed.
And they weren’t on the third floor.
And actually, the maid was cleaning the adjacent room and could have walked in on them at any second. Oops. Why didn’t anybody catch that one?
Well, somebody did. Sort of. Because before they went at it at the hotel, they started going at it on the table in the conference room at work. And while that was supposed to show their passion overwhelming them, one reader – one very nice critique partner – actually made comments about: did they lock the door?
I really love my CPs. I do. They’re the best, to be so honest.
In her world, she couldn’t relax and enjoy the scene to its fullest because the conference room door wasn’t locked. (In a later scene I actually had the MC mention the door being locked so my CP could relax, Honest.)
And that’s kind of where it dawned on me. A few CP’s – all of whom I trust completely – mentioned the condom thing, but percentage wise very few of the beta readers did. Now, my betas also didn’t comment when I messed up POV, so we can’t just skate away from a potential issue if betas don’t have it high on their radar, but I have gotten to know my CP’s. I trust them. And in the end, I went with my gut and let my MC ride bareback in his sex scenes.
But the discussion percolated, obviously, and when the post drew a few comments – both in support and against – it made something clear to me.
My premise was, books don’t need condoms in sex scenes because movies don’t.
And as a writer friend and I were discussing POV, she said – and other author friends agreed – that she doesn’t like to “head hop” in a book or a scene, changing POV from one character’s viewpoint to another’s. When she reads, she views the story through the eyes of a character. Most readers prefer that, so most books are written that way.
In a movie, we don’t do that. We aren’t in the scene. We watch the scene from our seats. My CP watches Maximus do battle in the coliseum in Gladiator.
In a book, she is running away from a dinosaur while reading Jurassic Park. It’s her, running and being chased, through the POV of the character.
In a movie, she watches Chrissy get eaten by the shark in Jaws.
In a book, she is Harry Potter chasing after… whoever the fuck Harry Potter chases after. I didn’t read it.
So it stands to reason that reading a book is a more personal experience than watching a movie. You watch a movie in a theater surrounded by strangers. You read a book on the couch by yourself. You pause whenever you want, laugh only where you think it’s funny and not when the others laugh because there are no others. You speed up or slow down as you need, and you stop when you want – or keep reading when you can’t stop.
So when the sex scene in the book gets ready to happen…
Maybe you are bringing your own concerns to it. Of course you are! All reading is intimate. When he kisses her, you’re right there in that kiss (hopefully), and you are making it faster or slower or going over it a second time (or a third) and seeing his amazing dark eyes and feeling his soft hair and warm skin. So when it comes time to go to the next level, if you need the conference room door locked, you’d ask the guy to lock it. And because you are a respectable, responsible woman, you’d push down your emotions and ask him to hold off on sexy time until he acquires some latex. (For his fine, upstanding lady who is about to knowingly bed a married man. No internal conflicts there. But I take your point.)
And even though most guys would hate to accidentally be at the dance unprepared, most guys are thinking “Where’sthedrugstoreI’llbebackinfiveminutes.”
Reading is personal.
Reading is, therefore, intimate.
I should probably take my readers into consideration when I write stuff, writing it for them but also writing it within their sensibilities.
Cos in Poggibonsi, the MC rode bareback.
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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