As a feminist and sex positive writer, I’m conscious of writing active consent and safer sex practices into my sex scenes. For most romance writers, a sex scene will be between two excited, engaged, enthusiastic adults. If your story is set in present day, then use of condoms or other safer sex products and active consent should be visible in the scene.
Some writers I’ve spoken to believe writing in the condom use in a straight sex scene will break the mood or some how detract from the momentum of the scene. I’ve also spoken to older writers who don’t think about it, as it was not part of their experience of dating back in the day.
As a reader, I find contemporary sex scenes without mention of condoms etc. jarring. Why has the writer failed to mention protection? Why would a modern, savvy heroine neglect to use a condom? I wonder what the hero is thinking when he doesn’t mention/use one?
In situations where safer sex products are not used, I expect there to be consequences. Whether it’s a surprise baby or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) I would be disappointed if a sex scene where prophylaxis wasn’t used didn’t have some sort of unintended outcome.
A cursory Google reveals that the rates of STIs in Australia reveals they have been rising over the last few years. According to one report, the rate of both syphilis and gonorrhoea infections were almost zero between 1988 and 2002 whereas in 2016 the rates were up to almost 20 in every 100,000 men.
To me, this means that the progress made after the HIV/AIDS crisis in the eighties is slipping away and we are heading back towards the dark ages and I’m not even going to get into the issues around anti-biotic resistant strains!
What responsibility do we, as writers, have to encourage safer sex practices? In my view, in contemporary fiction, we must encourage it and make it visible and sexy.
How do you write a safer sex scene without it being clunky?
Steamy romance author Jen Katemi has generously provided a short excerpt from her upcoming Evernight Publishing release, Touch Me Not:
The raw need in his eyes tears me apart. No one has ever looked at me that way before, as if I’m the most precious thing they’ve ever seen. Tears well at the strength of emotion rushing through my system, and my need grows until my body pulses with it. It seems like the most natural thing in the world to roll over until I’m half lying, half sitting astride his muscled body. His hips are firm between my thighs, his ready cock pointing skyward, purple and ridged and hard. Its majestic strength has been ignored until now, and it isn’t until this moment that I realize how focused everything has been on me. Alexei has spent this whole time with a massive erection, and yet he put my pleasure above his own. He must be in agony, to have held in his own need for so long.
I don’t think twice about pain, or fear, and all the other negative things that have held me back in the past. I just stare down into Alexei’s raw and hungry expression and adjust my position until the head of his cock is seated at my channel entrance. It feels hot, and hard, and so completely right. I’m wet and prepared. More than prepared.
“Ready?” The word tumbles breathless out of my mouth.
“Wait.” What? Why? He reaches across to the bedside table and fumbles for a moment, retrieving a foil packet from the drawer. Oh, that’s why. He quickly sheathes himself in the condom. I hadn’t even considered protection. Before I can berate myself for the lack of consideration, he repositions himself right back at my entrance.
This is really happening. I take a deep breath and ask again. “Now are you ready?”
So they’re both into it. The hero takes charge to ensure that the encounter is safe. Jen has also subtly included active consent in this scene. The simple question “Ready?” is all that is required to ensure that the parties are on the same page (no pun intended).
Below is an excerpt from my choose your own adventure style novel, Sophie’s Path:
You run your hands all over him, feeling the silky fabric sliding under your fingers. He moves with you until you are leaning against a cold wall; the contrast of the coolness of your back and the fire where you’re touching him causes you to gasp.
His hand is up inside your skirt again, his fingers stroking your underwear.
“God, you’re so wet,” he says.
“I know. I want you so badly.” You thrust your hand down the front of his pants and brush your knuckles over his hard cock; you feel him shudder with excitement.
He pushes your underwear aside and slips two fingers inside you. You moan softly, throwing your head back.
Almost instantly he has released himself from his pants and is tearing the condom wrapper with his teeth.
“Let me,” you say, taking it from him, so that he can leave his other and where it is.
When you have the condom securely in place Tom lifts you up against the wall and slides himself in where his fingers have been.
You wrap your arms and legs around him, willing him to be deeper, to be more a part of you. He responds by pushing his whole bodyweight against you.
In this scene I’ve attempted to make the condom and the consent part of the foreplay.
Society in general is becoming more interested in ideas of consent. With the #metoo movement and various school programs, e.g. Respectful Relationships, we are starting to teach children about consent.
You may be aware of the Cup of Tea model of consent. If not please take the time now to watch it here.
While it’s not a perfect analogy, it’s a very good start. There are a lot of really intense stakes around personal rejection with saying no to sex, however if we start disentangling the desire for sex and your worth as a person, then we might be more able to deal with a no from a sexual partner.
I don’t have any examples of sex scenes which get half way through and then stop, nor do I have an example of a well-handled rejection—perhaps I need to write them!
Here is another example from Jen, from her ménage romance Breaking the Rules, where withdrawing consent is specifically mentioned:
“Relax honey.” James tips my chin up until I’m staring straight into his intense chocolate-colored eyes. “Teale’s the best at this. He’ll take you so gently you’ll be begging him to go harder. And any time you want us to stop, just say so.” He shifts a lock of hair across my forehead and smiles. The tender gesture—and his words—comfort me.
I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Again, and then again, until I feel less light-headed. “Better get to it then, gents. Before I come without you. Yet again.”
Their laughter is quiet and fills me with renewed confidence. This is what I want, especially with these two wonderful, considerate men.
They spend a few moments sheathing themselves in rubbery protection, and then they’re back. Teale’s fingers reach between my butt cheeks, coated liberally with what I assume must be lube. It’s cold and slippery at first, and then it warms up. He spreads my cheeks and drips more down my seam until my fears about my own wetness fade to nothing. Jeepers. We’ll all slide right off the bed if he’s not careful.
James leans in to kiss me with a warmth that brings tears to my eyes. “Ready?”
Here we have a hero explicitly telling the heroine that she can say no at any time. That saying yes at the start of the encounter doesn’t mean she has to continue if she’s uncomfortable (either physically or otherwise) or changes her mind.
Below is another example from my work, Sophie’s Path. In this example the consent is great, but the safer sex practices are purposely lacking. This particular scene results in an STI for the heroine further on in the book:
He looks at you, now kneeling on the bed, back between your legs. With one hand, he strokes his swollen cock through the boxers, you can see even under the fabric, that it is big and beautiful. In one swift movement he flips aside his boxers and lays himself between your legs. This time there is no fabric to disguise the heat between you.
“Yes?” He whispers, his breath hot on your ear.
“Yes! Yes, yes.” You grip his hips and guide him into you, letting out a sigh of pleasure as he slides deeply in.
Jude moves slowly, you’re sure he’s taunting you on purpose.
“Oh God, faster!” You squeak.
“Mmmm, yes,” he says, but doesn’t change his pace.
“Turn over,” he says, his voice deep and commanding. You lie face down on the bed and Jude reaches one hand around to run slippery circles over your clit as he slides himself inside.
You can feel your climax building and he finally starts to thrust faster and harder. You’re helpless to stop yourself.
“I’m gonna cum,” you say, just in time for shudders and ripples of orgasm wrack your body.
As your consciousness returns to the room you can hear Jude shuddering in response, his body curled around yours, twitching slightly. He rests his head on your shoulder, his breath and yours slowly returning to normal.
Jude rolls off you, pulling you with him so you’re spooning.
“Thank you,” he says finally.
“No, thank you,” you reply, caressing the arm he still has wrapped around you.
You can see here that asking for consent can be sexy. There are no rules which say you can’t make purring ‘do you want me to fuck you?’ or ‘I want you to fuck me’ into dirty talk.
Readers are now pretty shrewd about STIs, unwanted pregnancy and consent: they expect scenes without condoms to have consequences. As writers, we should be creating the world we want to see. I hope that the above examples have shown that there are ways to make safer sex and consent smooth parts of any sex scene. Perhaps if we see this more in our fiction, we’ll expect it in our reality.
Special thanks to Jen Katemi for providing excepts for this post. Happy (and safe) writing!
Find out more about Fleur on her blog !