Safe Sex and Fanworks
Relative to Each Fandom
The portrayal of safe sex is different in each fandom and depends partly on the setting of the source text, as well as the era when the fandom was active.
The Distant Past
1970s and 80s
Condoms are rarely mentioned in fandoms such as Starsky & Hutch and The Professionals. Despite the supposed wide-spread use of The Pill and attitudes about free-love, STDs are also pretty much a non-issue.
Despite their similar airing dates The Professionals has a number of fanworks with the topic of AIDs while Starsky & Hutch does not. This may have something to do with the role AIDS played/plays in the off-screen life of Paul Michael Glaser (the actor who portrayed Starsky).
1990sAIDS is a very real danger, and has become a subject, though still a small one, in fandoms such as The Sentinel, [need more fandoms]. Condoms are mentioned and used often.
One more thing about the contents of the novel: I have to assume that my three main characters are modern, mature, cautious adults who fully understand the concept of "safer sex". I saw no reason to go into the details of all that involves. Again, I ask that my brushing past the subject be forgiven.
indicating a burgeoning culture of safer sex in fandom, and the spoken requirement that some fans feel safe sex in fanworks is a requirement.
2000 and Beyond
The issue of safe sex (or not) has been covered in many Stargate Atlantis fics. The stories often imply that because the members of the expedition undergo so many medical evaluations (certainly in fanon after each mission) they must have been tested clean for STDs. In other fandoms, such as SGA and NCIS stories the transition from sex with condoms to without is a meaningful part of the relationship development.
The Distant Future
In fandoms such as Blake's 7 and Star Trek, do medical advances imply that safe sex is no longer the issue? Star Trek story Species Diversity and You: A Sexual Safety Presentation by Grey Bard seems to indicate that no matter how far technology advances, safe sex concerns will remain.
Fandoms with Magic
Some Harry Potter stories assume that the Wizarding World has magical contraceptives and prophylactics. For example, in Free by Fearless Diva, a muggle OC insists on condoms over magical alternatives.
Venereal Disease and STDs
One example of STDs in a Starsky & Hutch story is Doctor, Doctor by Rebelcat and the subject is played for laughs. "No, don’t apologize. Just tell me what the problem is.” Hutch leaned on the door frame and crossed his arms. Starsky had turned so red he looked as if he might spontaneously combust at any moment."
Hutch's wife, however, goes right for the jugular in If Love is Real: Vanessa by Flamingo "At one point, he'd clearly heard her rail at Hutch, "How do you know he's [Starsky] not in the terminal stages of some venereal disease? With the number of women he sleeps with, he must have his own revolving door at the public health clinic!"
Another Stargate Atlantis story, Five medical issues Jennifer Keller is really, really sick of treating by shaenie and fiercelydreamed, notes the consequences of catching STDs in a near-closed community.
See the AIDS in Fandom page.
The Unsafe Sex Disclaimer
Some fanworks include a disclaimer that either state that safe sex is smart, but it isn't being practiced in the following story, or that, despite not being mentioned or described, the reader should assume safe sex is practiced.
- Stargate Atlantis fic Harmonic Function by shaenie includes among other things a warning for: "Also, unsafe sex, if that bugs you. Do keep in mind that this is fiction, and you're a moron not to use protection in reality."
- The Heart Rate of a Mouse, a 70s AU Panic! at the Disco fic. arctic_grey's notes on the story includes:
A patronising paragraph: gay men do not practise safe sex in this story. The 70’s were before the AIDS epidemic and most gay men simply did not use protection. However, now we know better and act accordingly. This story in no way promotes unprotected sex – it is simply trying to accurately depict the time period. - As far as accuracy is concerned, I do research where I can. [...] But I am still not sure what kind of lubricants were available then. Someone most definitely has written a history of personal lubricants, but I just haven't found it, so I simply decided that they did have lube as we understand the word today. Hopefully errors in accuracy are few.
[need to find another few of these]
Unsafe Sex as a Turn-On
Safe Sex as a Turn-On
Some fanworks make the use of condoms part of the foreplay. And some fans find that having two men in bed talk about sex in a matter-of-fact, caring way is arousing in itself.
The SGA story History of Lovers by thingswithwings is a Jennifer/Rodney/Ronon story that intimately mingles safe sex practices and sex and makes it clear that Jennifer and Rodney in particular are aroused by the process of using condoms, latex gloves and lube and by the objects themselves.
In The Sentinel story, Sacred Space, by Sanj, the condom takes on more than a practical meaning: "And then he turned around, quite suddenly, so that I was scared I'd done something wrong, but what he wanted to do was touch me, and slide on the condom, and I've never been in a situation before where even that was so sexy, so important. Part of the act itself; part of who Jim was. He kept me safe, even there and then."
Safe Sex as a Story-Telling Device
The physical supplies required for safe sex (condom, lubrication) can be a part of a character's motivation in a fanwork depicting first time sex: were one or both characters prepared to engage in sex? Does the character regularly have supplies on hand? Did the seduction come out of the blue? Did he buy those just for him or her, or are they leftover from previous encounters?...
There is a trope common in some fandoms where the characters' discovering their mutual attraction is such a revelation that no condoms or lube are on hand. It is sometimes implied in these stories that being prepared may indicate some lower form of character or morality. This often leads to depictions of un-planned, un-safe sex and seems to be playing on the fantasy that the characters simply cannot wait now that they know they both feel the same way, and also implies that the characters are not sexually active with anyone else. In some cases the lack of supplies, such as when someone like Dean Winchester is unprepared, can read as very OOC.
Getting Tested For STDs
When two characters talk about "getting tested," is it because of their lifestyle or because of a requirement of their job?
Blood Tests, and Using Condoms for Reasons Other Than Preventing STDs
Sometimes certain fanworks make the distinction that the characters are not using condoms because they have both undertaken blood tests, like in Morning After by unsentimentalf (note that in this fic, Holmes, in true Holmesian fashion, thinks nothing of taking a blood sample for Lestrade while he's asleep). Other fans prefer to note that condoms are not purely for preventing disease, but can be used for cleanliness as well.
Fanworks as a mirror of reality, or fantasy? The role of fanworks and safe sex. Should fanworks teach? Always be responsible? What are some differing viewpoints?
A fan writes in The K/S Press #18 (February 1998): "You mean K/S sex scenes are supposed to resemble reality? It’s kind of like how terribly romantic it sounds to fall asleep in each other’s arms (you’ve usually got one, or possibly two, too many arms for comfort) or with one’s head pillowed on the other’s shoulder (you might as well amputate your arm in the morning). But, if I was reading K/S for the accuracy of the sex acts described, I’d just read a medical text. To summarize, I’d have to say that K/S sex scenes are more ideal than real. Which is just fine by me."
- Condoms, Condoms, Condoms page one; page two; page three by cereta (2003)
- Safer Sex and Related Matters in Fan Fiction, Archived version; archive link by pinkdormouse (2004)
- Are we practising safe sex yet? by Michela Ecks (2006 or earlier)
- Vicious Wishes' Fandom Corner -- Slipping the condom on, Archived version (2006)
- A Multi-Fandom Safe Sex Ficathon and Challenge: No Glove, No Love, Archived version (2006)
- The Big List of Small Dogs cites this as an annoyance: "Safe-sex warnings in the author's notes. 'These guys are screwing around without a condom, but Don't Try This At Home, Kids!' Fantasy's fantasy -- write whatever you want. But don't try to have it both ways." From the big list of small dogs (Accessed 30 Jan 2012)
- Author's warnings in header of announcement post for Harmonic Function, 26 May 2008. (Accessed 27 Jan 2012)
- evieeros, (2010). NSFW MPreg Discussion and Condom Discussion. Retrieved 18 November, 2010.