Sex in YA

A blog called “Reading Teen”, which is very obviously from the perspective of an adult, recently put up a post about sex in Young Adult literature. (link: http://readingteen.blogspot.com/2010/03/movies-books-and-teen-sex.html)  As far as I can tell, the gist of it is “Teens are being exposed to too much sex in the media”. I don’t know what news programs and television shows this person is watching, but they’re obviously not the same ones that I watch. I feel the view that people my age should be sheltered from sex in the media is archaic. Now I understand that it’s wrong to glorify teen sex, but to sweep it under the rug is stupid. I hear more from the kids at school about sex than I do  than when I switch on the television or open a book. According to one commenter, we teens aren’t old enough to understand or deal with consequences from things like sex, drinking and parties.

I’m not sure if I’m being a little too sensitive, but I find my teeth clench whenever someone implies that we’re not capable of handling something, be it sex, driving or responsible use of alcohol. Give us some credit, guys. We’re almost in the adult world. I obviously can’t speak for other people my age, but my close friends and I are capable of behaving ourselves, thank you very much.

This is the comment I wrote:

I don’t feel pressured to have sex, though most of the sex talk comes from other kids. At least, that’s what it’s like where I live. I don’t watch a lot of television aimed specifically at people my age because it’s *ahem* complete and utter crap.

I think teen sex shouldn’t be the sole focus of YA literature, but removing it completely isn’t a good idea either. Sex happens, just like death and drugs. We can have those in YA lit, so sex shouldn’t be excluded either. It needs to be handled delicately, I think, but if we completely take out this sort of thing then we run the risk of creating YA that is sterilised, boring and completely unrealistic.

The books I tend to read often have sex in them, but it’s more implied than anything and happens between consenting romantic partners who have been together for a reasonable amount of time. Even more “loose” characters like Rose Hathaway in Vampire Academy don’t go around having casual sex.

It’s all in the handling of the subject matter.

In my current work-in-progress, I do have a “loosey-goosey” character. I’m going to tone her down in the rewrites, but she is who she is. These things happen in real life so it’s pointless to hide them from us. We’ll just have to learn about it in other ways. By the time we’ve hit our teens, we should be able to tell for ourselves whether we can handle certain subject matter in a book.

This is one of the numerous reasons why my mum is awesome. She may have raised an eyebrow at my choices in reading material (take “Willow” by Julia Hoban, for example. It’s about a girl who cuts herself.), but she trusts my judgment. I know that there are always people who will act like complete turkeys no matter what the age, but the majority of us are capable of restraint. If we’re intelligent enough to be reading of our own accord, we’re intelligent enough to know about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

10 thoughts on “Sex in YA

  1. Hey! Thanks for your comment on Reading Teen. It’s interesting to hear different viewpoints on the subject. The post did come from the perspective of an adult (me) but our blog has adults and teens that write for it. I hope you don’t think I was being condescending in my post, that wasn’t my point at all. I, like you, would have cringed as a teen, thinking that I could make my own decisions, etc. And my mom, like yours, trusted my judgement….which was really naive of her. Not to say that she wasn’t trying to keep an eye on me, I was just a really good liar. I was heavily drinking by the time that I was 16, that led to smoking pot, and having sex. I didn’t “get around”, it was just one guy, but that was enough to change my life forever. I ended up pregnant in my senior year of high school. I had no thoughts about the consequences of my actions, or about how my actions could have hurt someone else (driving). A friend of mine killed one of my classmates in a drunk driving accident. The thing is, I was one of the better teens in my class. Most were much worse than me.

    ANYWAY, the point of my post was that I feel a shift in the media. Not just that teen sex happens, but that there should be more examples of girls being able to have sex with whomever they want with no consequences or regrets. Unfortunately, this (sex w/out consequences) isn’t reality, and although you may be able to understand this, there are many 13 and 14 year old girls reading and seeing this stuff that don’t understand it. My goal is not to try to censor or ban, just to inform. And hopefully help someone along the way to not make the same mistakes that I made.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!
    Andye

    • I hope my post didn’t come across as too aggressive. I agree that there should be some consequence for sleeping around in books and on screen. I often forget that I’m not exactly normal, with my lack of social life outside school and close friends’ birthday parties. I also forget most of my friends couldn’t be called typical teenagers, either. I think it often helps if the parents to explain these things to their children when they’re fairly young, and to at least keep some kind of supervision. My mother trusts me, but still makes sure she knows where I am if I go anywhere. Of course, I only have my own experience to draw from here.

      • When I read your blog, I figured that you were more mature than most teens your age. Not that there aren’t others out there, but how many have their own blog and book in the making? Good luck, and thanks again for your comments, they are helpful! :)

      • Thanks. If you’ve been onto the Absolute Write forums, there’s a thread called “Teen Writing for Teens”. There are a lot of other kids like me out there, some of which have already finished and published novels :D

  2. I really don’t agree with this whole ‘teens are not mature enough to handle sexual content’ opinion. It really irritates me to know that some adults out there are patronizing the whole teen population for the behavior of some of them. It’s ridiculous.

    I’d like to think I’m one of those few teens who can manage to write in proper English and not tip3 lik diz. (My friends actually get annoyed when we talk over MSN and I talk in full sentences and even put a full stop on my sentences.)

    As for sex in YA, it’d be completely foolish to ban it completely. What’s the point? Teens are just going to go pick up other adult novels and read them, which would be ten times for their ‘pure cells’.

    Plus, it’s funny to see a character stumble their way into the opposite sex’s pants. Especially when they’re awkward/shy and don’t know what they’re doing.

    *giggle*

    • Awkward is definitely giggle-worthy. I tend to write in full sentences as well, except for the occasional lol. I read a random section of one of my mother’s romance novels. It was pretty funny.

  3. Pingback: What’s Acceptable in YA? « Ann Elise Monte – Coldfire Writer

  4. If we’re intelligent enough to be reading of our own accord, we’re intelligent enough to know about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

    I always got so frustrated at my hometown library when I was growing up. Kentucky mountain community, population barely seven thousand. But the librarian thought she had final say over what got checked out and by whom. There was a lot she thought I shouldn’t be reading. So if she wouldn’t let me have it on my card, I’d take it to my grandmother, and she’d check it out for me. When I graduated from high school and got free rein of the university library, boy did my life change! lol

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