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Mood-killers or a must? Consent and sexual health talk in fiction

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I used to write whatever came to me, with no great thought or planning, just what came out of my head at that moment.

And then I joined RWAus, started to learn things, and realised that people planned their writing, ensured things happened 'correctly', and made conscious decisions to ensure their heroine/hero/story were reader-friendly.

That was a shock to me. And I'm still working my way through these things...because I don't seem to think deeply at all when I write (and sometimes when I read), and I keep finding things people get offended by, or upset about.

Maybe it's a little more 'touchy' when writing erotic stories, or maybe I'm just slow on the uptake, or maybe I'm thinking too much now, but here are some thoughts.

The protection during sex question: I used to hate reading about condoms and the safe sex discussion. Then a bunch of erotic authors had a discussion about it, asking how you can respect the heroine if she doesn't take care of her health. And whether a story without such a discussion is modelling responsible behaviour. And you know, it got me thinking deeply about the issue. In my personal life, safe sex is important but I am uncomfortable talking about it, and this is reflected in my writing. But I should be better than that. I should be a responsible author and write it with strength. I'm of the age where safe sex messages only became standard later in my life, and I haven't grown up with safe sex front and centre. But I feel I have to keep with the times and make it a strong, normal part of everyday sexual conversation. And that's what I'm trying to do now.

The 'rape' issue: Sometimes non-consent or dubious-consent is used in erotica as a fantasy or as play...but too often authors write a pseudo-rape scene by having their heroine say ‘no’ and their hero continuing sex without hesitation. Technically, if he hasn't stopped after a 'no', then he's not listening, not hero-worthy, and is raping the heroine. But often women say 'no', which doesn't mean stop but it's more a 'no, it's too much,' or something. If that's what it is, shouldn't we say that in dialogue? It's such a little thing to overlook, but can have a huge impact on a reader.

Force: Sometimes our heroes force our heroines into doing something against their better judgement, without good motivation. That's not heroic and not a nice thing to do to someone you supposedly love. It's easy to write it, though, without noticing the impact. It's easy to write because it gives you a point of's not 'good' conflict but can be seen as a touch of nastiness.

Are these things important?

I'd love to know how you feel, whether you're a reader or a writer.