Okay folks, following on from my little rant yesterday, I’m going to retouch (oh, poor choice of word) on a topic that I covered briefly a little while ago. A lot of you might remember the post I wrote about sex in fanfiction ‘The Good, The Bad and The Awkward.’ It got a really overwhelming response and if you haven’t read it then check it out here: https://clairewriteswords.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/sex-in-fanfiction-the-good-the-bad-and-the-awkward/
In it I touched very briefly on contraception and safe sex in fanfiction, something that I think is often overlooked. A couple of years ago there was a big push in fanfiction communities, perhaps as a result of more adults being part of those communities now, to show the use of contraception.
Contraception has been a hot button topic in fanfiction for a long time and can cause a conversation to dry up with lightening speed. People are awkward talking about contraception in real life, something that is result of the social conventions of the generations before us. In our parents and grandparents day it just wasn’t something that you talked about. Ever. There were all sorts of religious and social issues surrounding it and it just wasn’t something that nice girls talked about. Instead it was something scandalous whispered between you and your doctor. As a result my generation was brought up to think that it was a slightly taboo subject and when I was in school it was something we got a single class about – with the boys and girls separated – and that was that.
I feel very strongly about contraception and the options available and I think that we need to take more responsibility for our own sexual health, especially in a modern age where people will have multiple partners over a shorter space of time instead of saving virginity for marriage and then a lifetime of monogamy. It’s just not realistic to expect that of people now. Sexual liberation has brought with it a need to consider sexual health.
And that means that we, as writers, need to consider our social and moral obligations to our readers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should be preaching to readers, far from it, but I do think that we need to consider the issue in terms of how we deal with the topic of sex.
I know, I know, contraception isn’t all that sexy and stopping for a condom can be a real mood killer and can jar a scene. I get that. We all do. But that doesn’t take the issue away.
So, in fiction, fanfiction, whatever, there is a responsibility to deal with the issue at least to some degree.
I, as you all know, read a scary amount of fanfiction, and I’ve noticed in certain fandoms that contraception is used more than in others. I guess part of it that the certain fandoms in question tend to be populated by an older demographic, which I guess changes how we see things like contraception.
But one thing that, as a writer, a reader and a mother, is hearing the phrase ‘it’s okay, I’m clean.’
Wow. Just. Wow.
Trust me, I’ve heard it in real life too, and I’m not believing it then either. But in fic when a character says it, the other character tends to just agree and go with it. I mean, seriously. In real life you wouldn’t just take someone’s word for it, would you? I get that it’s only fiction, but it’s also saying that it’s okay to take those risks, to gamble with your health and to show a startling amount of gullibility.
I have noticed that m/m slash writers are generally very good when it comes to contraception, especially at the start of a relationships. In established relationships I’ve noticed a lot less use, which is cool. I mean, you’re with someone for a long time and things change over time.
I’ve also noticed that there is a very definite difference in how contraception is handled based on where the writer is from. Writers from the US (which has a much better sexual health attitude and openness) tend to be more open about talking about and including contraception, while UK writers often don’t deal with it very well, or with a level of awkwardness that corresponds with the way contraception is generally dealt with in society here. Which raises the issue of how the UK deals with sexual health, especially in schools, but that’s an article for someone else to write.
How you deal with contraception doesn’t have to be too elaborate or graphic or overly obvious, personally I’ve found something simple like ‘he reached for a condom’ to be sufficient to cover the issue without breaking the flow of a scene or killing the mood.
But to write about and deal with contraception we first need to get over our own hang ups about it. I’m 31 and I know several people who are embarrassed to even say the word ‘condom’ and instead tend to blush and say ‘things.’ Which generally makes me want to go and slap their biology teacher, or their mother for instilling in them the idea that sex is something to be embarrassed about. (And yes, they are certainly even more embarrassed after a conversation about sex with me).
So, in conclusion, contraception should be dealt with on some level. It’s an important topic and whether we like it or not, what we write about it influences how other people think about it. It doesn’t have to be a lecture, it doesn’t have to be elaborate and it doesn’t have to be any more than a few words. But it should be something. It’s as much a part of sex as any other part of the process.
Until next time, if you can’t be good, be careful.