Being an author of erotica — particularly the type of erotica I write — this is a very, very good question to ask. With the type of sexual scenes and different types of positions, descriptions of toys, BDSM implements, and in some cases the number of people involved in the scenes that I write, it can be easy to forget to write those few little words within the sexual depictions that suggest that the characters do indeed practice safe sex.
Do we as authors feel the need to have our characters be sexually responsible?
Some may feel the need to do so, some may not.
Personally, in light of reading some of the authors that I admire and highly respect, including the late E. Lynn Harris, I feel it is my responsibility to try to ensure that my characters are sexually responsible, and still be able to make it hot and sensual at the same time. The reason I chose E. Lynn Harris as the example is simply placed within the premise of his very first novel, Invisible Life. His characters did not practice safe sex, and a few of the characters even practiced very dangerous and intentionally discretionary sexual behavior, resulting in two of the characters passing away from AIDS.
As an African-American author, I am acutely aware that sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent in our community, and thus, to simply haphazardly write sex scenes where it is assumed that the characters are or are not being sexually responsible just simply cannot work. It does a disservice to the readership that we are trying to entertain, and to a certain degree, it can say a lot about you as a person, not just as an author, about your own sexual practices.
Sure, a lot of us can hide behind the “it’s just fiction” excuse, but there are some folks that really do emotionally attach themselves to your characters, and thus, they become more real than you could have ever imagined. By extension, you become linked to your characters, and it can either make or break you, especially if you find yourself in a discussion with a book club or at a book signing and you have to explain the “why” of what you did. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a position that I would want to put myself in.
So, all of that is to say, I try very hard to ensure that my characters are as sexually responsible as can be had. Yes, we all slip up sometimes in the name of eroticism, but in the end, it’s best to try to mix heat with responsibility. Your readers might respect you all the more for it.