Okay, okay, so that’s a melodramatic title, but hear me out.
The genre of Young Adult is divided into two subgroups with lower YA falling in the 13-15 age range and upper YA aiming for the 16-18 zone. Many sources may have slightly different parameters or definitions, but that is the gist.
It’s not that we can’t handle sex talk.
Before we go any further, I want to say yes, it’s true young people are capable of handling a lot more than their parents and teachers generally give them credit for. Even in my early teens, I could follow and carry on conversations with my father’s friends which ranged from local politics to international business.My brother was no different and I have many friends who have handled huge levels of responsibility and maturity from a young age.
That being said, I do not think people in the 14-18 age range are incapable of making mature and responsible decisions. However, I frequently find the attitude toward sex in YA novels disturbing. Lately, I’ve started to wonder if most YA authors are just YA authors because they wanted to write about girls losing their virginity.
There’s the first trope from Satan…
Girl has perfect sex with the school’s conveniently hot bad boy who has always been a jerk to every girl before her, but totally changes because she “silences his demons” and blah, blah, blah.
Scenario No. 1 has a laundry list of things wrong with it. There’s the unrealistic expectations and the idea that you should go into a relationship hoping to change someone (and said idea should die a slow, painful death). Not to mention I’ve yet to encounter a bad boy love interest who wasn’t borderline or outright abusive.
Abuse in all it’s forms has been normalized by the Romance genre for so long (remember when Romance heroines would be raped by the heroes so that it would be socially acceptable for them to have sex?) and we certainly don’t need that scum in the YA section.
…and the second trope from Satan.
Girl has awkward, disillusioning sex with a guy who turns out to be an ass, but on the rebound discovers that casual sex is awesome so long as they use protection and her partner is hot.
First of all, I don’t really understand how casual sex can be healthy (go read a medical textbook) or safe (go watch Criminal Minds) for anyone, but we’re focusing on the YA genre here. Scenario No. 2 is most disgusting because it encourages the idea that everyone is having sex and if you don’t, you’re weird, sheltered, immature, prudish, puritanical, or whatever the enlightened (aka sexually active) people are calling it these days.
But clearly this is all acceptable because it’s completely realistic. I mean, who gets to college age without having sex? In this century? No, everyone has definitely done “the do” before they’re old enough to vote and it’s imperative that we cure all the virgins as quickly as possible because society might crumble and anarchy ensue if we don’t.
To be continued.
Toni Betzner said:
I see a lot of your points. I think the problem as you say is modern YA. When i was 14, I learned a lot about sex from reading. Books go into the details your parents aren’t willing to divulge. The problem, as you say is the encouragement of abusive relationships and unrealistic expectations (awesome sex). In my day (wow, I made myself sound old) the books realistically described the first time as being awkward or uncomfortable (which is is for most us girls). Modern authors are too proud to let their characters have bad sex. The relationships also varied. Characters experienced different outcomes/feelings from having sex. Sometimes it was an awakening or a right of passage. One of my favorites was from the book the raging quiet, where the characters put off having sex a long time because the MC iwasn’t ready. Not that I’m against all casual sex. Sometimes teenagers and adults do things as a form of experimentation and discovery of pleasure. Not always unhealthy. YA authors, not all authors, have a responsibility that when they include these scenes it’s not for shock value or market value, but for delivering context or relatablility (is that a word) for youth entering this life stage. Very interesting post.
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Is it out of line to bring up Buffy? That broke my heart.
Anna from elements of emaginette
sherry fundin (@sherryfundin) said:
You have some very valid points. Myself I am tired of seeing the triangle. Do that many girls really have two guys after them, hounding them for “love”?
sherry @ fundinmental
I agree with a lot of your points. The second trope is probably the worst for me. I hate that it shames people who haven’t had sex yet. Very interesting and relevant post!