Friday, March 25, 2011

YA sex and the condom cops - where is the sweet spot?

Should your characters have sex In YA?

It is your choice as an author to decide If- when- how much- how real - how graphic - how shocking - how it will be taken.  What a bunch of HARD stuff to figure out!

This zone is a mine field of disapproval - yelling people - screaming nuts - horrified adults -----and kids who think adults can't possibly stop being up-tight long enough to have actually Made them!

Here's the thing---- Kids know stuff - like old people.  Parents? - well I am having my doubts after being one for a while.
This is stuff I find strange about some very loved books ---
Twilight - there is no sex in it - yet people screamed that it was kiddy porn???  do what?
Harry Potter - there is no sex in it and there were people who thought we should not have main characters die and it would lead children into satanic worship.  (LOL yep I want people of that scary mentality to decide stuff for me - lets put them in charge - we haven't had a good witch burning in this country for many years)
20 boy summer - there is sex in it - and it is done perfectly - realistically and it is getting some yells and some likes.
Hunger games - no sex but a little bit of dead kid doesn't affect people!
Rainbow Party - OMG  that is what kids are reading----LOL  Ok then...coolio!
Mark Twain - wait they banned him?  He said a bad word?  Well what if Tuesday is a bad word in a 150 years - will they ban me then? 
Fahrenheit 451 - Did you know an editor Rescued this book - 40 censor hacks had attacked this book over the years - chipping away at it -------did those people read the book while they did that?  LOL
 I could go on and on.

My view for my children - I do not censor them in any way - never have even when little. (I will talk to them and answer questions they have on any subject)
I Let them watch Titanic just like Disney - and one of them was obsessed in a weird way by the frozen people - relax - she wants to be a doctor now.
Nothing off limits - guess what I learned - THEY have opinions on what they want to see - and will censor the parts that they don't. 
They Love the HBO series Rome - and they love Spartacus - but you should see them giggle and fast forward - when the hottie banging begins.  (yes even when adults are not in the room)  They watch True Blood and Vamp diaries and gasp Dallas ("Jr has moobs")  I had not noticed that.  When I was young it was a pretty big deal that he was Not in the twin bed like the dream of Genie days!  People thought it was unfit for kids to watch that show!

Belly buttons lead to sexual deviants ----you knew that right - Jeannie had to cover up her sexy man-magnet so the TV viewers would not fall into debauchery from viewing her Umbilical scar!  Thats ok - Barbie didn't have one either---no wonder girls hate their bodys - we have undisclosable PARTS that make us evil because they have function!

So I am writing a few little books too and I want there to be some balance between ---
"That is Just kiddy porn!"   And      "The 40 year old virgin has been done!"

I have mixed reaction to this post in all honesty.  Here's why--
Sex is being treated as a more shameful activity than Murder.

 I can not get over the fact that gore is fine so long as the characters don't have sex!
 Romance without bikini parts?  Killing fine- but kissing is even iffy... if it creates - any thoughts about more - kissing must be the ultimate thing you read 600 pages for!  (kiss - marriage - more kissing----that is the ideal romance right?  I am a little spooked by that - who says I can't be scared of someone - found my personal terror zone - AGGGHHH!)

 I am in no way saying there should be page after page of every pant and pantless moment - but lets say two kids in love were on a train to the Capitol knowing one of them, at least, would die - they would never see each other again because they were about to play a game in which loss means only getting hacked to death.  Now lets say these madly in love kids were sleeping in the same bed dealing with the sorrow of that sort of life ----
 It really would have been just unforgivable if they made a choice to engage in one moment of joy?
What a very sad message we must send.  Could something along the lines of -

{Peeta is watching me when I awake. I blush at what we had shared in the night, a hunger to give the other comfort.  We would know horror tomorrow, but for this moment, our secret smiles are full of joy.}

That acknowledges a physical relationship has occurred without being graphic.  I am not saying that it isn't fine to Not have any reference - that's her story - her art thing.
  (my 11 year old just ask why they were such dorks - he's on the floor reading Catching Fire right now----cause  he can't wait for me to read more - I guess I will be doing mockingjay for reading time tonight - giggle)

What I wonder is - People have praised the series as perfect for young -YA segment beings there is no sex.  Hmmmmm - so did ya miss the dead kids?  You approve of those?

 I hear replies to that comment  along the lines ---well they know it is just a story!  Yes, so they can make that exact same judgement about 20  Boy Summer. 
  Ken and Barbie love is really fine if there is no death, pain, cussing, drugs, bullies, rude people, ugly people, unicorns, nail biters, ----

If we are going to shield the poor little darlings -- I also want to censor!

Old People - let them be innocent- don't expose them to old people - we have terrible opinions for one thing - and you don't want them to imagine that one day they may have to face being old!

Sickness - I don't want my children to know that there is illness in the world - I can't face talking to them about it so don't want them to read about it---they might bravely ask for my opinion!  Any book with illness must be banned from a library near YOU.

Poverty - Hunger --let them think everyone is exactly like they are and can run up to MacFoodies - I don't want them to become not innocent that there could be people in the world who suffer!

War - there is peace on earth in my child's world and that is all I want them to read about - I don't want them to know that babies get killed by mean old governments - I want them to be pure and not even think such a thing could happen.

 Yes, I am being sarcastic.  I have to jump on the "kiss a flamer" bandwagon, and say my kids have dealt with the insane hatred of gay people - because they have a step-brother who is.  I have been terribly proud that they have stood up to all the mean little hatemongers who came out of the woodwork.

I have to wonder - if those kids had read about a fun, strong, lovable gay protagonist - would it change how they felt?  If they read about the mixed blessings of sex in an honest way - will they avoid choices that make them unhappy? (Them - not Ma and Pa Prudilicious)

If you really want them to be innocent lets protect them from being uninformed! - please stop confusing that term with clueless. 
Innocent is an informed choice.
A young bride is told of the mechanics of the birds and the bees years before her wedding night - did she lose her innocents with information?  A child is caught by a predator - he is still innocent and pure no matter what terrors befall him.  
Clueless = easy prey.
Clueless = unable to make good choices because you have always done what you're TOLD and suddenly there is nobody in charge of you - you will jump off any cliff, having been told that flying is possible if you are flapping your arms for the correct reason.
Does that mean every book should have sexual content - heavens no!  But, if it does, it should never ever be up to anyone else what I or My child decides to read.  I won't force anyone to read Stephen King or Mark Twain or even Anne Rice  --- But don't You take Ray Bradbury or Betty Greene or Toni Morrison away from me.  I don't need you to be My fireman. 

The world needs firefighters - not Firemen!  (if you don't get that reference - In Fahrenheit 451 - the FireMEN came to burn your books if you got caught with any.)

Am I saying that every child will turn out fine if they read bad stuff.  Please - reading only rainbows and bluebirds and peaceful misty inspiration does not guarantee they will turn out to be model citizens and reading about a kid who has sex does not make them pregnant and reading mysteries does not make them an ax murdering lunatics!

What if just some of this old nutty guys silly thoughts had a little truth?

It is another aspect of Freud's work that has had the greatest impact on human life in the West during the 20th century: his reevaluation of the role of sex and sexual behavior. Freud taught that sexual repression was the chief psychological problem of mankind. He surmised that repression and constriction of sexual behavior in youth would become manifest in adulthood.
Where Western society (often under the guise of “Christian morality”) had long treated sex as a taboo subject and covered over both normal and abnormal sexual behavior as “sin”—or at least shameful—there had been great neglect of appropriate help and correction. Freud was able to persuade his opponents and admirers alike that sexual repression was rampant, unhealthy, and the indirect cause of much crime, illness and woe.   There is the full artical.

(Yet, maybe the censors have something of value in a way)

Ever heard of Prince Siddhartha?

It is a story about a little boy shielded from all knowledge of pain, sorrow and sadness in the world.  Here is a little tidbit --
 When Prince Siddhartha was a few days old, a holy man prophesied the Prince would be either a great military conqueror or a great spiritual teacher. King Suddhodana preferred the first outcome and prepared his son accordingly. He raised the boy in great luxury and shielded him from knowledge of religion and human suffering. The Prince reached the age of 29 with little experience of the world outside the walls of his opulent palaces.
One day, overcome with curiosity, Prince Siddhartha asked a charioteer to take him on a series of rides through the countryside. On these journeys he was shocked by the sight of an aged man, then a sick man, and then a corpse. The stark realities of old age, disease, and death seized and sickened the Prince.

What Happened to the child ?- well he didn't do what Dad wanted at all.
Read more here....

More reading on the subject----

authors views

the Doctors opinion

Yeah sex is accepable in YA material

sexless teens

other people are over protective but not me

of course i won't read this ---just a bunch of peoples comments about why they put a book down

Nay - cause it's required

Banned Books----

maybe if she had read about boys?

So what should we do as authors?

You tell me where you fall?
 How do you decide?
 What is too graphic? 
Why are grownups so freaked about talking to kids?  (it was true when I was a kid and I am mortified that it is still true now to a large degree!)
Do you search for a balance or just say "This is my story and I will write it as I want" without concern?
What is your base limit for an age? 
What terms do you use to describe bikini parts or activity?  (medical, slang, misfire, cuss words, socially acceptable terms, raunchy words, double meaning )

Do You remember any book you ever read that made you do anything bad?

All comments appreciated - please type responsibly.


  1. I think I love you. Just a few days ago I came across another blog where the general consensus of the author and those who commented upon it was that sex was sometimes okay in YA, but only if it wasn't all that good, they learned a lesson, used a condom, or caught an STI.

    I wish I was kidding. But seriously, talk about a work of FICTION. Teens have sex. Not all use condoms. Some do it for fun. Some do it for love. Some regret their actions later. Others do not.

    No different than their boring parents.

  2. In a roundabout way to your question: Some years ago I took an intermediate German course at Georgetown that focused on German fairy tales. I quickly learned that few of the stories had a happy ending. Rarely did the damsel marry the prince. Rarely did the hero live. I say 'rarely' because the fairy tales represented what happens in life. A German friend said, "Of course, children can't grow up thinking the world is perfect." Okay. Years later I studied Japanese. There's a story about a grasshopper that wants to fiddle and dance while others work and store food for the winter. When winter comes, he has no food and begs for food. No one gives him food. He dies.
    My Japanese language exchange partner thought this was fair: no work, no food.

    I don't think it is the responsibility of any author to teach kids about life. It is the responsibility of parents. If not, kids will seek out what they want to know on their own terms, sometimes not with the best results.

  3. Brad I Love you too sweet boy! Your 'ignore your manuscript' kitty had me laughing til tears - anyone who hasn't needs to stop by Brad's blog - he has great kitty pictures and he's brilliantly funny.

    Kitty, I am so glad you mentioned the old German versions of the fairy tales - they are dark twisted and wellll - Grim. I remember the one about sucking your thumb! If you don't stop Sissor-man will cut them off! (and he does!)

    I didn't know the grasshopper and the ants were from japan - but I did know the real tale was that grasshopper dies - he does not spend the winter living off the ant welfare system. Lol - guess that is a problem - in this country we have too many grasshoppers! Even disney made them bullies and thugs to the hard working ants - lol
    Thanks for the comments!

  4. I believe children are going to be exposed to much in their lives and we do not give them enough credit.

    They can't read about sex but they can watch commercials were only the beautiful people seem to get together or prosper. What a thought to give to your child!

    Other cultures aren't as strict to sex as we are and tend to be more strict towards violence. I think we're a little too uptight over who is doing what with who at times.

    So much information comes from peers. I love parents that step in and give their child real information to these things. No information or the wrong information is much more dangerous than anything your child may ask you about as a result of a book or movie!

    My mom was ALWAYS honest with us children about sex/the general world and didn't censor much of anything. Want to guess how I turned out?

  5. I love this post! Long to read but well written!
    I think censorship is NOT ok! Kids aren't going to have sex just because they're informed about it...
    It's the world we live in, don't keep things away. I don't want child growing up thinking sex isn't a good thing. I want it to know what it is and that it is great but also important. Not something to censor of be shamed about

  6. I think most reasonable parents initially intend to be upfront about all this stuff, sex and swearing and drugs, but when they're actually faced with it, they tend to buckle and give the standard, clinical responses.

    An example, my 8 year old nephew asked me one day, "What's a dildo?" He'd heard it said at school as an insult. I said, "It's a rubber penis." He fell on the floor laughing, couldn't get up for 5 minutes, eventually crawled away. Ten minutes later he came back. "Why would anyone want a rubber penis?" I changed the subject.

    Whether people should feel shame or embarrassment about these subjects is debatable, but they certainly do, and it's a hard thing to overcome. i agree they shuld, but I understand why they don't.

    great post.

  7. I don't censor stuff for my kids, but I am close by if they need something explained. My youngest just want to read the Whimpy Kid books, but my oldest is now reading adult action/thrillers. Violence and some some involved, but he handles it well.