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.