Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Let's talk about sex -- Writing Topics Wednesday!

Today is Writing Topic Wednesday and while most of the time I will focus on issues that surround most writers -- hooks, passive voice, etc. -- today I want to talk about sex, specifically in YA.

There seem to be two groups of thought on this topic. Some claim it is irresponsible to delve into sex scenes, especially gratuitous sex scenes, in YAs. Others feel sex is part of the teenage world so why not? There are many examples of YA books with sexual content, from discreet scenes in Shiver to more detailed encounters reported in The Duff (of which I have only read the first few chapters on B&N so I cannot claim to have an opinion on that one). And let's not forget Twilight and while the book contained no hint of actual sex, the implication of heated desire was more than there. A hot guy wants to suck a girls blood because she smells so damn good he can't stand it. Uh, yeah.

Now as writers we often suggest that the story "tells itself" and therefore whatever is fine as long as it is true to the story. I have one thing to say to this: HOLY COP OUT. Claiming that thinking too much of the audience will hinder your craft to me is absolute BS. Write your story, write it well, but you better dang remember that a 12 year old will be reading it. People claim that there is a such thing as "upper YA." Again, I say BS. You want to know why? Because middle school girls long for nothing more than to act/feel older. Consequently, these same girls are reading YA, and the juicier the better.

My niece is a fantastic girl. Smart, beta club, honor student, all that jazz. Well she is also tall with blond hair and the most beautiful skin on the planet. She gets attention at school, so much so that the other week she asked me why guys only care about "nice butts and big boobs." So please, do not even suggest that "upper YA" exists. I'm the "cool aunt" which means my niece and her friends have no issue talking to me about everything that I do not want to hear. You wanna know what I have learned? My 2 year old is going to be on house arrest when she hits 10. Just kidding...sort of.

The point is that as writers for YA we have an obligation to consider the full range of readers, which let's face it, is likely 12-30. In my opinion, gratuitous sex in YA is irresponsible, so much so that it pisses me off. Why go there? Is it really necessary? 90% of the time the answer is no. You are fooling yourself if you don't realize now that young girls romanticize sex. Even the slutty girls, you know the ones, are probably only seeking attention and finding it any way they can.

Now, if you choose to hint at these details, delve into the heated hormonal world of teenage lust, then go right ahead. I personally feel that is fine, and even expected. But if you are writing about the dirty elements of sex, look at your children, or nieces/nephews. Do you want them reading that crap? If the answer is no you better get to revising. And if the answer is yes, well then, that's another topic all together.



  1. I have to agree with you! I mean, it's one thing to have two characters talk about it...i.e. best friends debating if they should do it, or to channel your niece, talk about why guys only care about nice butts and big boobs, but another thing to actually go there.

    If you ask me, the fourth Twilight book (where this topic really comes into play) was totally unnecessary, on so many levels! But that is also a different post all together :-)

  2. Great post!! I'm pretty much with you there. Actually, maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't like reading gratuitous sex scenes even in most adult fiction. There are VERY rare times when it's absolutely necessary, but otherwise, I think it's better to leave it to the reader's imagination.

    These days there seems to be a very fine line between YA (especially YA fantasy I think) and erotica. But maybe that's just a sign I'm getting old! :)

    Lo, when I read Breaking Dawn, I felt it was definitely written more for adults than for YA. It doesn't feel very YA to me at all. I remember thinking to myself (well, about all the Twilight books actually), "I would *never* let a young girl read this!"

  3. Exactly to you both!

    And on the Breaking Dawn topic -- I definitely think that book was a waste of resources and was yeah, I would never let my daughter read those books! Maybe I'm getting old too. :)