Romance Novels Are Turning Us Into a Bunch of Barebacking Baby-Makers

But seriously, can we talk about condoms for a minute?
Publish date:
July 12, 2011
health, condoms, sexual health, romance novels, M

In an article released last week in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, a British author expressed concerns that romance novels are harming women with portrayals of unhealthy sexual practices.

AKA all those heaving-busted wenches and Fabio lookalikes are making love with no glove. (And popping out babies like it aint' no thang, apparently.) Which, you know, is pretty much the same thing as happens in porn, where nobody really wants to see healthy sexual practices being modeled. And since nothing else in porn reflects reality (from the augmented body parts to the everyday scenarios that segue seamlessly into hardcore doin' it), a time-out to practice safe sex does seem a bit jarring. But wait, why does he carry condoms while he's delivering the pizza?

Whether it's romance novels or pornographic films, I'm not sure how I feel about this issue. After all, these are fantasy scenarios, and honestly, who wants to masturbate to a sex ed class?

And can we keep it real about condoms for a minute? I mean, they are terrible, right? And sometimes hard to insist on? I feel like there's this unspoken agreement in women's media that we are all supposed to pretend we are perfect paragons of sexual health and express abject horror at the idea of unsafe sex. But, really, is there anyone here who has never made a bad decision regarding condoms?

I don't think I used them at all throughout adolescence, and it honestly never occured to me that I could catch a disease, just that I could get pregnant. (Until I got chlamydia at 15 from a cheating boyfriend who tried to get away with telling me he had a bladder infection and his doctor said I should "take these pills" even though I felt fine. Also, a married guy once told me that he got chlamydia from cheating and then ground up the pills in his wife's orange juice every morning so that he didn't have to tell her. Men, you is gross.)

And then, of course, I drank a lot, so you can imagine how that went. But even when I was sober, I had major problems insisting on safe sex. I usually managed to say "No," when he first tried to put it in, but when he responded with one of those d-bag things guys say like "Shhhh," or "Just for a minute," or worse, wordlessly carried on like I'd never said anything, I would just let it happen. In fact, and I am keeping it totally real with you guys as always, I would feel a little turned on by his unfeeling commitment to pushing past my boundaries.

My therapist says this is because, surprise, my boundaries were so spectacularly trampled on by a group of rapist fuckheads when I was so young, that in the moment I feel as powerless to stop them as I did back then. It's scared 14-year-old girl who doesn't insist on a condom, not intelligent adult lady. But I suspect this is not a problem limited to survivors of rape.

All of that is a side note, really, but I guess I'm just saying that I think there should be more acknowledgement of how hard it can be for many women to insist on safe sex, and better education on how to do so. Because I took the same classes everyone else did in high school, and I have all the right information, but I still can't seem to ulitize it in the moment. And I'm not even subject to a bunch of cultural and economic issues that affect a lot of women who are afraid/unwilling to speak up.

Is no-condom boning in romance novels contributing to this? I'm not sure. But if you consider the amount of dudes currently trying to pull surprise facials on their unsuspecting sex partners, it would seem that what we see in fantasy media does influence our real-life behavior.

What do you think, should Mace Manly be wrapping it up before getting down with Honey Hunnicutt after 15 excruciating chapters of mutual disdain?

Also, where do you keep your condoms and is it better than that gross deli bag we keep ours in?