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I’ve noticed something in my recent reading that has gotten under my skin a little bit. Okay, in fact, it disturbs me.

There seems to be a distinct lack of safe sex in some of the sexiest New Adult books on the market.

When I first noticed it, I didn’t really think much of it, but then I started actively looking for condoms in NA lit…and coming up empty handed. (I’m sure the issue exists in other genres, but I’m doubly concerned about NA, since I’ve been reading a lot of it lately, and since it’s a genre I write).

5159794664_fbef1c0acc_nImage by robertelyov, 2010, retrieved from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertelyov/5159794664

To be fair, not all NA Contemporary novels feature on-scene sex, and in some of my older books (like ISOBEL), I didn’t even consider leaving a foil wrapper in the morning after scene; it just didn’t occur to me.

But when page after page is devoted to steamy, detailed, play-by-play descriptions, the lack of protection is hard to miss.

Considering that people in their teens and twenties seem to be some of the most affected by the frightening increase in STDs, authors who write for this audience need to be conscious of the sexual choices our characters are making. Now that it’s something I’m aware of, you can bet I’ll be more deliberate about protection when I’m writing the sweet and awkward “after” scenes (I’ve yet to write an on-scene sex scene, and knowing my style, that’s not likely to change). Yes, it’s fiction, but that doesn’t mean I want my characters (or my readers) making dangerous and potentially life-altering choices.

Also, don’t forget that many books intended for a NA audience will be scooped up by the younger YA readers; when I taught middle school, I saw my 8th graders reading everything from Percy Jackson to Fifty Shades of Grey. Avid readers don’t read by label, and chances are good if you’re writing NA, readers younger than you may have intended will pick up your books.

(Speaking of Fifty Shades, I want to mention that, although it’s not a NA novel, it does do a fairly good job at incorporating safe sexual practices, as outlined in this post. She might end up hurt, but the dangers Anastasia faces with Christian Grey are not an unplanned pregnancy or Sexually Transmitted Diseases.)

I’m not asking for much. It could be as simple as inserting a sentence like, “He paused and pulled a small foil package from the nightstand,” or, “She slipped the condom out of her purse and smiled.” But I really hope we start incorporating more safe sex in our writing, and I hope to find more examples of it when I’m reading.

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