A set of famous lyrics popped into my head when I wrote the title of this post; however, it’s probably not appropriate for me just to launch into song right now, and shake my booty around my blog post.
But I do want to talk about sex, and in particular, within YA books. I know! This is such a taboo subject, but the more and more I read on it, I’m finding that sex is creeping into a lot these days. Let’s also think about the other side of things. Sex sells. It sells everywhere, whether we realise it or not. So what exactly is the problem?
Is it acceptable that teenagers are reading what should be classed as x-rated literature, or are parents just happy that their teens are reading at all? Hell – Judy Blume was talking about sex back in 1975, and it even sold back then.
Fifty Shades of Grey has a lot to answer for in the common literature world at the moment. I can find teenagers reading that series of books on the bus as I make my way to work…. I cringe. Seriously cringe. Not because of the dominant sex themes within the books, but because I hated the style of writing and the characters. (But that’s my personal opinion, based on 100 pages of reading.) So if teenagers are already reading about sex, BDSM… and all sorts of other experiences and techniques, then why is it such a taboo subject to include sex themes within YA books?
We all know sex happens. Hell, I know 8 years olds who can tell you what sex is, and how it all works. At twelve, it was common for girls to be married back in the day, and yes, even then, the sexual act was performed. Not so very long ago, it was common for 15 years olds to marry. So why are we so damn protective, cautious and ‘politically correct’ about the subject when it comes to teenagers? They ALL know what it is, how it works, and I can guarantee that most of them even know the risks associated with it. Even Jane Austen wrote about it, (as well as a myriad of other things).
I have sex in my YA book that I am currently revising. There are a few places where it is mentioned, and a couple of places where it is implied. But never is the actual act described down to detail. I’m more about the physical and mental tension between two characters. Some of it is manipulative, some emotive. I have two leading protagonists in this series, and one of them could almost be described as a teenage sexual deviant. She’s no angel, that’s for sure… but that doesn’t make her a bad or unlikeable character. She just likes men, and using them to achieve her goals. Because she is a strong independent character with a strong desire for men, does that really mean that my book isn’t appropriate for the teenage market? Or does it just mean that I might have to stamp a ‘Mature’ rating on it before I release? I’m not going to lie about it – my character generally has unhealthy relationships – but answer me this: What teenager doesn’t?
Okay… I better admit that I also have a few swear words. Perhaps the ‘Mature YA’ stamp is becoming a bit more evident. But I only drop the F-bomb a couple of times, it’s not like it’s on every freaking page… Show me a teenager who doesn’t swear, and I’ll show you a teenager who doesn’t know what sex is. Yeah… it’s probably not going to happen.
Most television and movies these days give a lot more exposure to sexual themes than we would like to openly admit, and yet our teenagers are watching it all, and soaking it up. According to The Telegraph – it’s a Rising Trend. And apparently we are also at risk of releasing 50 Shades for YA.
So. What are your thoughts? What is it really that makes sex so frowned upon in YA books?