There has been a raging debate this week on the Writers list of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association about condoms and whether they belong in erotic writing. This debate mirrors the one going on in LA, which has mandated that porn actors use condoms during filming. The law has created a great hue and cry from porn producers, directors, and even performers, who claim that condom usage is not sexy and will detract from the enjoyment of their viewers.
There isn’t anything at stake for the writers, though. No one is suggesting condom requirements for dirty stories. Nonetheless, the arguments have gotten quite heated, and even a little personal, so I’ve been trying to figure out what the big deal is. After all, this is a group of erotica writers who come together for mutual support and exchange of ideas and information. They would never argue about a writer’s personal style or preferred genre. Yet the condom issue stirs hot debate. Why?
I think the answer lies in two different conceptions of what erotica is all about. On one hand, it is fantasy. It is about all the kinky things a human being can possibly come up with in his/her dirty little mind. Hell, it doesn’t even have to involve humans. Monsters and paranormal beings regularly invade erotica. Since it is all at the level of fantasy, why ruin it by bringing such mundane topics as pregnancy and STI’s?
On the other hand, erotica is literature. Like it or hate it, the producers of erotica are writers, and many of us try to create realistic scenarios that are consistent with our own experience. Since condoms are an essential part of non-monogamous sex in the modern world, why wouldn’t we depict them in our work, which, let’s face it, is mostly about non-monogamous sex?
As you may be able to tell, I’m solidly in the second camp. My characters will generally use condoms when they’re with a new partner, particularly if they are in a swinging context. However, I don’t make a big deal out of it. I just mention it and move on. I do not think it detracts from the erotic quality of the work, and if a reader is turned off by the mention of safer sex, my stuff will obviously not be her cup of tea. I would advise readers (and writers) to keep an open mind, though. As Cooper Beckett has suggested over and over on Life on the Swingset, full protection takes the worry out of play & allows you to fully enjoy yourself. Erica Moen goes one step further and points out that condoms can be very visually stimulating. This is consistent with Rachel Kramer Bussel’s basic tenet for writing erotica – anything can be erotic in the right hands.
Does that mean I disagree with writers who prefer to stay in the realm of fantasy? Not at all. More power to you & I hope you find your audience. When it comes down to it, the whole debate is kind of silly. Writers can write whatever they want, and readers can read whatever they want. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Unlike the real world, where it’s a matter of life and death.