Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for...Sex (or Shudder) in YA

Controversial Song of the Day:  "I Just Had Sex" by The Lonely Island ftg Akon

For the entire month of April, we'll be participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Our theme for the month? CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS IN YA. Check out the link above for other awesome blogs participating.



Taken from wallpapersup.net
The "S" word. We've hit some heavy topics over the past few weeks, but sexual content in YA is probably the issue that most gets critics up in arms. And for good reason.
 
Neither Quita nor I are parents yet, but we have a niece who's an avid reader. And she's also tall and gorgeous and recently started dating. Before Gorgeous Niece reached dating age, we had no qualms about including sex in our manuscripts. In fact, there were some areas in my manuscript, Wants, that got a bit too hot and heavy--to the point where I had to simmer down the scenes during revisions. I didn't get what the big deal was--until Gorgeous Niece got her first boyfriend.
 
Don't get me wrong. Quita and I aren't prudes now--and we definitely trust our niece enough to know that she's not going to run out and do EVERYTHING our characters do--but unless you're writing YA erotica, there has to be some tact in handling these moments. And these moments SHOULD be there, depending on your characters (come on, most teens DO think about sex), but you have to think about your audience. Your novel may not ever reach teens if you give a play-by-play of what goes on between the sheets. Quite honestly, most adults don't even want to read anything too graphic.
 
With that said, here are some YA novels that handle sex in varying degrees:
How comfortable are you with writing sex scenes in your novels? With that said, how comfortable are you with READING sex scenes (or allowing your teenager to read them?)?

13 comments:

Beth Camp said...

Hello, Marquita and cuz. Great S word for discussion -- in all genres, really. I read recently that adding sex scenes that are "too graphic" cuts tension, rather than adding it. The word is delay, delay, delay (pardon the pun) for greater reader satisfaction. For my own writing (historical fiction where bodice rippers abound), my characters tend to have sex off screen. But those pesky characters do tend to leap into bed with each other . . . Write on!

Jaime Morrow said...

This is a great 'S' topic, ladies. What a toughie. I'm not sure what I think about sex in YA. It's one thing for me to read a book with sex in it, but I'm not sure how I feel about, say, a 12-year old reading that same book. A lot of kids read up, so it makes me wonder if they're ready for it or not. I guess that's where parents come in, right?

If sex is going to be in a book, I'd prefer that it not be too graphic. Like you say, not all that many people really want to read about it in grody detail. :)

Patricia Lynne said...

I enjoy the occasional romance w/ detailed sex scenes, but in YA I don't really expect it. At least not in any detail. Most YAs I've read that have had sex in them, the scenes were brief and no bodily descriptions were added.

Marsha Sigman said...

I'm pretty comfortable reading and writing sex scenes. I think you should be careful how you write them in YA(and I am) and it needs to be relevant to the story not just thrown in for shock value.

But I also don't believe reading about sex will necessarily make teens want to try it. I think as parents we should educate our children on the choices they will face as they mature and this is one of them. With that said, I wouldn't want a preteen to read something too graphic but this is where their parents come in.

Emily L. Moir said...

I hate reading sex scenes, so I don't write them. It is a real topic on teenagers minds, but with writing fantasy I get around that.

Timothy Brannan said...

Great topic.

I don't have much of an opinion myself, but most of the YA authors I know tend to avoid it even when they know their audience knows more than they sometimes get credit for.

I am trying to read all the A to Z blogs, but coming back to the ones I really like.
Looking forward to seeing what you do all month!

Tim
The Other Side
The Freedom of Nonbelief

Carrie-Anne said...

Many of my underage characters are or have been sexually active, but I don't recall having written any sex or makeout scenes in explicit detail outside of an occasional more detailed scene between a serious couple, where it's clear that the sex or heavy making out is part of real love and not just wanting to get their rocks off.

When I was in 6th grade, I asked my mom if I could check Jenny Davis's Sex Education out of the library. She not only gave her full blessing, but told me she and my dad were friends with Jenny and her ex-husband back in the Seventies, and wrote Jenny a letter through her agent or whoever. Jenny responded saying she was jealous I'd asked permission, since her teen sons would never do that. The book doesn't actually have any sex scenes in it, but it is about a sex ed class and includes a serious relationship heading towards sex. Some of the girls in my class asked if I were "thinking" when they saw the title of the book, and assumed it had to be a dirty book. In hindsight, I find it rather odd that my parents were so liberal about what I could read at a young age, but didn't let me watch soap operas, movies like Dirty Dancing, or shows like 90210 at the same age.

Joyce Lansky said...

YA authors tackle sex a lot more these days than in the past... uh, err, was there even a YA genre back when?


Catch My Words
http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

Anita Joy said...

I have pre-teens and it does make you think differently!

Am following :)

Jaye Robin Brown said...

My current WIP has sex scenes. And they were difficult to write. CK Kelly Martin handles it well in her books.

I know as adults writing for teens we often want to present a safe world to them, but as a high school teacher I know the reality is both. There are teens who are sexually active with many partners, as well as monogamous sexually active relationships, and girls who wear chastity rings. So YA fiction should represent all of those things.

Having said that, I would be nervous about a 13 or 14 yr. old with some of these books in their hands.

Jessica Love said...

I had the best conversation with one of my students about sex in books. She had been with her boyfriend for awhile and it was a conversation they were having, but reading about it in books (and the implications) made her realize that she wasn't really ready for everything that came along with it.

I've also had students put books away in the middle because they were just "too much" for them.

They know what they can handle, and they will stop reading if they are uncomfortable.

Alison Miller said...

Great roundup. And completely agree. That sex scene (if it's there) has to fit the tone of the story and just be right for it. I'm a fade to black kind of gal with sex in my own writing, but I can certainly read it in others.

And I LOVED THE DUFF! I enjoyed Keplinger's Shut Out too.

Samuel Lambert said...

My current WIP has sex scenes. And they were difficult to write. CK Kelly Martin handles it well in her books. I know as adults writing for teens we often want to present a safe world to them, but as a high school teacher I know the reality is both. There are teens who are sexually active with many partners, as well as monogamous sexually active relationships, and girls who wear chastity rings. So YA fiction should represent all of those things. Having said that, I would be nervous about a 13 or 14 yr. old with some of these books in their hands.