by Alicia Wag
Readers of erotica are drawn to the genre for many reasons, but most would agree that they want to read sexy stories. So what about condoms, dental dams, and serious talks about boundaries and blood tests? Is safer sex a big boner killer?
It’s a question all erotica writers face. At first, the characters in You Complicate Me engaged in sexual escapades free from any concerns about pregnancy or anything remotely communicable. As I followed Annemarie and Lilah, however, it made less and less sense that such strong, independent women wouldn’t take care of themselves in such an important way.
Incorporating safer sex into the lives of my characters was more about following their lead than about taking sides in the debate over safer sex in erotica. As far as that debate goes, I understand the argument that erotica is fantasy, and doesn’t need to reflect the real world. I definitely relate to those who say to heck with condoms, just get it on people! On the other hand, characters who think about how to make their sex lives safer, who make decisions as well as mistakes about how to implement their plans, are infinitely more relatable and real.
In the end, there are really no rules; the writer must follow her muse. Not every erotic story I write incorporates safer sex, but a contemporary story like “You Complicate Me,” about the evolving sexual sensibilities of two young women? It had to enter the picture. Annemarie, who starts the book in a monogamous, committed relationship, doesn’t think much about safer sex until she finds her horizons expanding in ways she never imagined. The initially uncommitted Lilah is a safer sex pro, and carries important equipment like dental dams, condoms, and vibrators with her at all times. It’s a wise practice for any sexually active young person, but it doesn’t mean she’s always perfect.
Said equipment is certainly not an impediment to sexual arousal or satisfaction, and the sooner that mythology goes out the window, the better. The sex scenes in “You Complicate Me” aren’t neatly arranged with polite kisses and soft lighting. Even when there’s candlelight, or no light, as happens when Lilah consents to be blindfolded, the sex is right out there in full view, condoms and all. It’s pretty clear that the participants are having plenty of fun.
Annemarie and Lilah could both attest to the fact that safer sex is just one of the challenges of an active sex life, but it’s an important one, and one that’s inextricable from the messy but rewarding business of deep connection with a lover. How much more intimate does sex become after frank and mature communication about health and safety? How much more loving? Those were questions I wanted to explore in Annemarie’s budding relationship with Zach. Can sex ever be too much of a good thing? Can it become little more than an enjoyable habit? Is fun and exciting enough? These are Lilah’s dilemmas, and thankfully she has safer sex practices to help her figure it all out.
Safer sex and good communication are particularly important in polyamorous relationships. Practicing polyamory responsibly is no easy endeavor, and it can often be trial and error. Honesty is paramount, but how much? What’s okay and what isn’t? Polyamorous lovers might think they know the answers, but emotions are tricky players that can pop up and force everyone to question the rules of the game.
Polyamory is a game Annemarie is just beginning to play, while Lilah finds herself in the position of falling for someone who’s not at all into the lifestyle. Exploring their vital and ever-changing sexuality allows both women to grow. I’ll definitely be writing more about how their lives unfold. Whatever happens, safer sex is sure to be a part of it.