When you open the front cover of a murder mystery do you find a warning inside telling you that stabbing people with a knife is dangerous, or, never go down into basements with strangers?
The simple answer is no, because it is not the author’s job (I am referring to fiction writing here) to educate the reader. It is the author’s job to write a good story that engages the reader. We learn a great deal from reading but when it comes to fiction what we learn is not necessarily part of a public service announcement and nor should we expect it to be. If this is the way forward with fiction then we are truly at risk of losing the beauty of fiction writing. As humans we love to tell stories, we have done it since the beginning of mankind. Often those stories are based in fantasy, imagination, myths, legends, dreams and desires. Story telling has long been an exploration of our darkest fears and desires and yes sometimes those stories have a moral to them, an element of comeuppance but as discerning adults (and even children) we take from that different things, depending on our beliefs, life experiences and cultural references etc.
I think when a writer writes, regardless of subject they should concentrate on telling their story and not feel confined to educate the reader only to entertain and engage. We don’t expect anything else of writers in other genres so why should we expect this of erotica writers?
Having said all that I want to be completely clear that weaving safe sex practices into your fiction is also not something to be ignored. I think for those of us who write BDSM/kink based erotic often try to ‘show’ a reality within our stories. This means not only that scenes are physically possible but that at times we attempt to show how kink is a negotiated and risk aware. For me, realism is the key though. If I read a piece and am confronted with a physical act that only a double jointed giant could possibly achieve I find this far more of an issue than risky play that has not mentioned safe-words or safety practices. After all our fantasy exploration of sex is nearly always very different to our real life experience and writing is often one of the most powerful forms of sharing and exploring those fantasies. Fiction writing is not meant to be safe, it is meant to be challenging, thought-provoking, scary, funny, dark, dangerous, exiting, adventurous. etc but never safe
Of course if you are writing erotica, or even just a novel that contains a sex story line for a teenaged audience then clearly your approach may be different. When I was young I read a book by Judy Blume called Forever. I clearly remember the young women in the book seeking out contraception. It was part of the story line of her discovering and developing her sex life and it fitted in perfectly with the characters age and life experiences but now as a parent myself I know that fiction is not the place I want my children to obtain their sex education. They will learn about feelings, people, history, human behaviour, the vast spectrum of human sexual desire and so much more from reading fiction but their fact based sexual education will, and should, come from me and as much quality non-fiction sources that I can find for them. We would not present children with a novel about a young person sailing across the ocean for the first time and then send them out in a boat to do it themselves expecting them to be armed with the relevant skills and information to succeed so why would we adopt that approach with their sex lives?
There is a time and place for sex education. For the most part there is a terrible lack of decent quality sex education and often times what is available is ill-informed, old-fashioned and still too centred around abstinence. There is a lack of good conversation around consent and teenaged sex education in particular is still too focused on biology and the prevention of pregnancy and STD’s with little or no information about pleasure, happiness and healthy sexual relationships within a wider context. It is this that as writers we should be working to correct, not by attempting to write it into our fiction, unless it has a place there, but by gathering together as a voice and demanding a better sex education delivered by experienced sex educators to our young people so that when they grow up they have the skills and information they need to have happy healthy sex lives and enjoy all the filthy, dirty, sexy erotic fiction that they can get their hands on.
I am not sure I have done this subject justice but I do know two other writers who have and so I am going to point you to their thoughts on the matter as to be quite honest, they both say it far better than me.
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