Let's Talk About Sex...in YA Novels **Warning**

"By the Gods, someone stop her!" an elderly lady screams.

Oh no.  No stopping it.  Sorry.  I feel this is important.  But I will say now that I don't wish to offend anyone and the following views are my own.

So... here goes...
I firmly believe it is foolish to demand there never be sexual situations in young adult literature.  
Copyright:  Sarah Gould

First, at least half the people who read YA are adults, past the age group the books are even targeting.  They can handle it.  I understand some adults would rather NOT read that sort of thing and that's why choice exists.  Pick a different book if it's something you don't want to read.  I'm sorry but, for "grown-ups", it is that easy.  What about actual teenagers picking up a novel deemed explicit?

Well, where I'm from teenagers are already talking about sex.  A good number of them are already having it.  We've had eleven year old boys as fathers in my town, true story.  Young ladies I know say the only way to keep a boyfriend is to "give it up".  And don't even talk to me about their preconceived notions when it comes to what "counts" as intercourse or ways to not get pregnant while still having it... without contraceptives.
But what teenagers themselves do is not enough of an argument.  

Some will argue that society throws messages of amorous behavior at teenagers already.  I agree.  It throws messages of poor body image at everyone and parades sex around like it is the greatest thing since chocolate milkshakes.  But young adult literature has an opportunity to do what commercials can't and cheesy adult romances don't.  Show the real side of things.

I've read young adult books where a character loses their virginity and it is awkward, not moonlight and candles.  I've read others where the character realizes it isn't as good without someone who really cares for them.  The YA novels I've read that deal with sex well are those that treat it for what it actually IS and not what it SEEMS like from the outside.  How many commercials can you say that about?

Through all this talk about sex I am NOT talking erotica; this is not something to titillate.  I am speaking of something that a lot of teenagers think about, talk about, do, get confused over, and come to understand.  In other words, something that affects THEM.  Many people, young and old, read to find something of them or their world reflected and leaving out sex is wrong.  I'm not saying every book has to deal with it, many don't and never should, but there are times when it needs to be addressed and then the author skips over it like fast-forwarding a tape.  

Of course, when addressing sex it needs to be written about honestly, without glossing over and without pretentious bologna. That, I believe, is the real difficulty.  

OK, time for you to sound off.  What do you feel?  Have you ever read a book you felt had too much mature content in it for a younger audience?  If YA novels should never have sex in them, why not?


  1. It's a touch issue for parents more than teens. But excluding it from a story just because, isn't being genuine. Authors have a responsibility to tell stories organically, and if the scene/situation calls for it, then I think writers should go there. That being said, I don't care for explicit or graphic scenes. I don't think they're necessary. Less is more when it comes to descriptions, unless of course it's erotica.
    But teen fiction authors have a responsibility to the story and characters, as well as to show all sides and not just the sensual one. I think the same is true for drugs and alcohol. Kids are around these things all the time, and need literature that deals with true life scenarios and consequences.

    1. I feel the same.

      There should be some type of line when it comes to HOW to write young adult love scenes. I'm not the person to actually begin explaining that but... there is one somewhere.