My pet peeve in fiction

There are many benefits to being a writer, but one of the best is that you can read books and tell everyone that you’re working. I love that. My husband is stuck in meetings and trying to fix overruns and explaining to various branches of the government why his team is behind schedule and I’m lying in bed reading. Yep, it’s hard work.

The Bow-tied One is an especially cool editor because he sent me over a dozen bestselling books that he thinks I should read. (The message apparently being: figure out what these authors are doing and then do it.)

When I got his package full of books I clutched them to my chest and murmured, “I love this job!”

I’ve read five of them now. I will not tell you the titles or the authors because I’ve pretty much hated them all.

One of them read like a handbook on how to have sex. Seriously, it even gave instructions on how to put on a condom. Is that really necessary? Don’t the boxes come with directions? Unfortunately there were no instructions on how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases; in fact, there was no mention of them at all.

I have to call my fellow writers (for both books, TV, and movies) out on this subject. It’s irresponsible to pretend like STDs don’t exist. According to some research I did for one of my Sierra St. James novels, 80% of sexually active people over the age of 14 years old have at least one STD. 50% of these people have genital warts—which condoms don’t prevent. Ditto for Herpes, which one in five people have. At first when I ran across these figures I thought they couldn’t be accurate. They sounded way too high. I actually even called two STD hotlines to find out what the real numbers were.

And those were fun calls.

Me: Hi, um, I’m an author doing research for a novel and I wanted to ask you a few questions . . .

Them: Yeah, yeah. You’re calling for a friend. We know. What are your symptoms?

Each time, they confirmed the numbers—80% of sexually active people have STDs. I still couldn’t believe it so I called my obstetrician. And yep, he confirmed the numbers too.

If 80% of people had any other ailment (and there is no cure for many STDs) we wouldn’t be silent about it. We would be warning people night and day. But when was the last time you read or watched any story where this issue was addressed in any fashion?

James Bond? Yikes, I hate to think what he has. Sam Malone of Cheers? Even worse. I’ll admit that one of my favorite TV shows ever is Frasier and I can’t count how many different women he slept with during the show. All with no consequences. That is not real life, and we shouldn’t pretend that it is.

And then there’s AIDs. How many millions of people has that killed? I have a friend who’s a drug rep and does work in some of the African nations. In one of the countries he visited, 40% of the population had HIV. That’s almost half the people.

Look at the houses on your streets. Think of the people at your work, at your classroom, that crowd at the football stadium–can you imagine if 40% of them had a deadly disease?

That could be our nation if we aren’t careful, if we aren’t responsible, if we don’t let kids know that yes, they too are at risk.

Okay, this blog has gone on for too long. I’ll let you know the problem I had with the other books next blog.