Sex In Young Adult Literature . . . What’s The Big Deal?

Need I say more?

So why am I going to rant about this? Well, I needed something to rant about, now, didn’t I? Think of this as a sort of part two to one of my previous posts regarding romance in YA lit, except completely different. So let me just jump right in with my issue on the subject.

What is the big deal with sex in literature? Or more specifically, what is so bad about sex in YA literature? I’m genuinely curious as to why so many feel as if sex in YA literature needs to censored because our young minds just can’t handle it, or it’s too graphically written, or it will encourage us to just do it when we might not be ready for it, or it will negatively affect our libidos. Now, I’m not incredibly naïve as to think that there aren’t some highly suggestible teens out there, who may very well act on the things that they read, but maybe my thinking that this can’t be that great of a number is naïve. I’d like to think the majority of us can actually mostly think for ourselves.

What I think gets me the most about it is that it’s considered to be such a taboo subject to touch on in YA lit. I just can’t understand it, and that goes for in real life, too. Violence in literature? Well, it may not be perfectly fine with everyone, but it’s not taboo, and it runs rampant in so many novels. Now . . . I don’t know about you, but I would be far more worried about a child of mine being influenced by a violent passage they read in a story, rather than a sexual passage, because at least if they’re being influenced by a sexual passage, they can practice whatever safely. And surely with proper parenting and education, you won’t have to worry about your kid running off having sex with whoever they please and accidently making babies. Really, I just think parents are worried about everything their kids do, these days. Though, maybe that’s just the mentality of a parent. I wouldn’t know.

It’s almost as if sex is considered the absolute worst of all subjects to put in a book, and needs to be stamped out of all YA literature completely, and just reading about it will cause a mass of psychological issues for a young adult, whereas murder is free to roam freely, with many parents turning a blind eye to it in YA. Does this make even the slightest bit of sense to anyone? Because it’s sure as hell confusing me.

I’d like to know when sex became such a taboo subject. When did violence become more appropriate to have in a YA novel than sex? When did having the protagonist of the story murder the antagonist become more appropriate than two teens making love? Is this not confusing anyone else? People have sex all the time! There are people having sex right now! Someone on your street is probably having sex right now. And you know what else? Chances are you’ve had, or will have, sex. So what is the big deal about reading it? I really do not get it. Because it seems to me that if people are going to get so up in arms over it, then they should be equally, if not more, crazy over trying to censor every hint of violence in a story, or stopping their kids from reading violent books. No? Does this not make sense to anyone else?

Personally, I see no issue with it and I think young adults aren’t given enough credit. It’s as if we’re considered to be these incredibly mentally fragile beings who need to be protected from everything the world has to show us until the inevitable moment we spread our wings and leave the nest. Of course, if everything is censored for us and we don’t grow up knowing a good deal about the world, our wings may fail us and we’ll just fall right out of the sky and fail at life.

Until my next terrible metaphor, guys.

Laurence out.

5 responses to “Sex In Young Adult Literature . . . What’s The Big Deal?

  1. Here is what I think the issue is, YA is a vast genre. It has many books many different type of books which cater to various ages. Advanced 11 year old are reading YA novels. I think that YA novels should be censored a bit because young people are reading the, why have it? There is no point,t hey have plenty of time to get to that stage. A YA novel with sex in it may not be a YA novel at all anymore.

    • Fair enough. I can see that side of the argument, and the vagueness of the YA genre definitely is an issue when it comes to this.
      I’m not saying that it needs to be in graphic detail, or much detail at all, but I still think that censoring it and pretending it doesn’t happen isn’t the best way to go. Even just cutting the scene before they start moving into adult territory, and showing the scene when they wake up would be better. Of course only when it’s needed. And this is all just my opinion. There are probably people who disagree with me who have way more knowledge on it.

  2. No idea. I mean, I didn’t know sex was a no-no subject in YA books. I mean, I’ve read many YA books with sex in it, Judy Blume’s “Forever” just being one of them. So I had no idea it was considered a taboo.

    That being said, I’m not from the US so I can’t comment on it, but it seems that US culture thinks sex is a forbidden topic. Not sure what to say.

    I think sex in YA books is a fair game. It doesn’t mean a book has to have sex in it – it depends on your story. But if it suits it, not including it would damage your story.

    I also think sex in YA is very important. If your teenagers are having sex (and while many teens don’t, many teens do, so it’s not like it’s implausible), describing sex is very important, even more important than in books for adults. YA is about new experiences, rite de passage and discovering new things. Chances are that sex is something new for your characters, and thus it carries a lot of potential for character development. Now why on the Earth would you want to skip something as important as that?

    • I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a “no-no subject,” more than it is a subject that people feel is just too inappropriate for YA, for whatever reason . . . though, I guess that’s really that same thing. It’s not like the reader is the one actually doing it.
      And though they might have learned something or another from parents or teachers or through talking with friends, chances are teens are going to eventually find other mediums to learn about sex. Yes, I mainly mean pornography. And it’s pretty ironic that it’s probably far more fictional that YA lit. Anyway, I agree. I think it is important for YA lit, and it’s probably far less harmful compared with sexualised content in other mediums.
      In some cases, I guess it comes down to the type of writer a person is, and their view on the matter.

  3. Like your post and the attendant comments, Lauarence.
    This is an interview of me (C. Kennedy – my YA pseud.) that appeared 1/9/13.

    It sparked a dicussion on Goodreads here:

    That traveled to a reviewer’s site here:

    Rather than responding to the nearly 100 comments left within hours, I posted my position regarding Age & Law, Minors’ Rights, Popular? Opinion, and Publishers and Authorship on my adult blog here:

    Lots of different viewpoints.

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