Safe sex in pulp fiction: Open Thread

Posted on 13 Dec 2010 at 8:44am

Is there any?  That’s my question after — OK I’ll admit it — reading Harlequin romances!  I’m still working on improving my Dutch so I’ll buy any manner of used Dutch book written at or just above my reading level.  On our last foray to the book shop I found Dokters, a set of three short novels for 50 cents.  Sold!  It’s been fantastic for the vocabulary.  For example, our word for fish semen, milt, means spleen in Dutch — fascinating!

But it has also been a glimpse into heterosexual pulp fiction, a genre I’ve had little experience with.  I’m disappointed to find that 30 years into the AIDS epidemic that safe sex has not been incorporated into these Harlequin romance stories even though the story lines reflect modern-day life in other ways.  For example, women have their own careers and they also have sexual relationships and children outside of wedlock, without shame.

I know that romances are escape literature and make the women who read them feel hope despite the mistakes they may have made or the lack of love in their current lives.  But don’t readers also want the author to show them how to have sexy safe sex or at least support the meme that characters who are so achingly in love wouldn’t dream of having unprotected sex without a conversation first?

Only once in these three stories is a condom produced during a sex scene, and then not because the woman produced it or because the couple talked about protection, but because, we learn later, the man thinks he carries the Huntington’s gene and doesn’t want to knock up the women he’s screwing with a Huntington’s baby.  From the story “More Than Friends” (my rough translation):

Suddenly Josh turned away.  Toni shivered and felt deserted.  But suddenly she understood.  A condom.  She hadn’t actually given that a moment of thought.  And undoubtedly Josh had quite a store of those.  With his lifestyle, that was very important.  These thoughts should perhaps have bothered her, but it didn’t matter to her at all.  All that mattered was that she and Josh were together.

GAG!  And check out this “sex on the first date” scene from the story “A Buried Treasure”

Of course it wasn’t smart to stay out late since they both still had interviews the next day.  It also would have been better had they not gone to the observatory because there they learned about the constellations that they later, lying in the grass in the park, would try to find again.  If they hadn’t done that, Jack wouldn’t have kissed her.

Or had she kissed him first?

It didn’t matter.  The attraction was so strong that Hannah effortlessly transgressed all the rules she had about going out on dates with men.  She would start a new life and everything was excitinig, magical and delicious.  What could be more perfect than spending the night with the hansomest, most attractive man she had ever met?

Had it been reckless?  Absolutely.  Unforgettable?  More than unforgettable.

Reckless and unforgettable alright, because Hannah got pregnant.  But by the time we meet Hannah, her daughter is 5 years old and adorable and Hannah is the picture of loving, devoted single-motherhood.  And after a few twists and turns of the plot she and her hunk o’ burnin’ love are reunited and live happily ever after.

Now I’ll admit I’ve only read the three stories in this single volume, all written by the same author.  So maybe I’m missing something.  Maybe the wider world of heterosexual pulp fiction is rampant with nauseatingly romantic responsible sex.  Help me out here blenders, is that so?  And is gay pulp any better?
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