Google+ Reading Teen: Sex in YA: One Naive Mom's Opinion

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sex in YA: One Naive Mom's Opinion


So, I'm jumping on the "let's talk about sex" bandwagon.  After reading lots of different posts and opinions on sex in Young Adult (teen) books, I just feel like I need to say something.  Here it is, are you listening?  It's amazing:

Just because some parents, teens, and others would prefer less sex in teen books, does NOT mean that they think that teens aren't having sex.  

I can't tell you how tired I am of reading/hearing this.  I mean, seriously, who ever came up with that?  Do you honestly think that we are that blind to the world?  Of course we know that teens are having sex!  Why do you think we're trying so hard to help our teens make the best decisions possible?  If they weren't having sex, hearing about sex, and thinking about sex, we would have nothing to worry about, right?  I can't tell you how many times I've read the statement, "Teens are having sex, whether you want to face it or not."  If I never heard this again, it would be too soon.  NO ONE.....let me repeat......NO ONE thinks that teens aren't having sex/hearing about sex/thinking about sex.  We know it's happening.  Really.

My thoughts about sex in YA:

I am not a naive person (no matter what the title of this post says).  I know that some teens are having sex.  What I don't understand is why this means we need to shove sex down their throats at every given opportunity.  They see it on TV, they hear it on the radio, they see it in movies, they are pressured by their boyfriends/girlfriends, they are bombarded with sex in every possible form, so why would I want there to be MORE pressure on them to have sex?  And yes, when they read book after book after book portraying happy 15/16 year old "soul mates" having sex and living happily ever after, it is pressure.  When they read books about girls who just can't stand being "the only virgin left on the planet" it is pressure.  When they read books about a girl who has sex with a boy so that he won't do this, that, or the other, (and somehow everything works out magically for her) it is pressure.  

So my question is why?  Why would anyone want to pressure girls (and boys) into having sex even more than they already are?  "Because," you say, "it's real!"  Seriously?  How many high school couples do you know that lived happily ever after?  I know.....um.....yeah....zero.  Not saying it doesn't happen, but it is not, for the most part "real".  If realism is so important, where are the books about the girls who were crushed because they gave up something so important and the guy ditched them afterwards?  Where are the books about all the COUNTLESS numbers of girls and guys that end up with an STD, (even though they used protection) which makes them incapable of having children, or ended up giving them cancer?  It makes me crazy that in one breath people can say, "It needs to be real!"  And in the next breath say, "It's fiction!"  It basically means that there is no accountability what-so-ever.  

(Ugh, I can already hear myself getting bashed....but I will go on.)

Where's the line and who gets to draw it?

Something I find interesting is that in all of the posts I read about sex in YA, there's always a line that is drawn.  Well, as long as it's not "grotesquely unnecessary" or as long as they're at least 15, or as long as it adds to the story....THEN it's ok.  Why?  Why do you get to decide that grotesquely unnecessary sex is not ok in teen books?  Why do you get to decide that it's not ok to have a teen book about an eleven year  old who enjoys having sex with other people.  Why do you get to decide it has to add to the story?  I guarantee you there are teens having grotesquely unnecessary sex, and yes, there are eleven year olds out there having sex also, so if we're keeping it real......where do you draw the line?  And what gives anyone the right to draw that line?  Why does one person get to draw the line in one place, but I'm "naive" and "sticking my head in the sand" if I draw the line somewhere else?  

Another argument that is made for sex in YA:

Well, guys can have sex in shows, movies, books etc. and they're portrayed as normal, but if a girl has sex, then she's a slut.  This is sexism and is unfair.  

This is a true statement.  So what should we do about it?  I know!  Let's get those sex-crazed boys back by being every bit as sex-crazed as they are!  We'll show them!  

Does any halfway decent person look at a guy who is sleeping with multiple girls, belittling sex, and not caring who they hurt along the way, as a good thing?  So, why is the solution to try to get girls to behave just as raunchy?  Shouldn't our goal be to try to get guys to respect women and sex?  Have we lost all faith in guys completely?  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em?  I just can't get on board with that.  I don't even want to get on board with that.

It's in shows and movies and music, why not books?

First of all, I'm not saying it shouldn't be in books.  I'm not naive enough to believe teens aren't having sex, and I'm certainly not naive enough to believe that there isn't going to be sex in YA.  But comparing YA books to movies, TV shows and the like isn't really fair.  

Here's the problem:

Movies with "adult themes" are not made for teens.  They are made for people in general.  They have a rating (usually R), which gives some sort of guide to what is in them.  Although there will be teens that see the movie, the audience is much greater, even in movies that portray teens.  If the movie is rated R, teens under 17 aren't even allowed in the theater (yes, I know there are ways around this).  So why can an under 17 year old walk into a library or bookstore and read a book that they wouldn't be able to watch the equivalent to?  There is no guide what-so-ever to what is in teen books.  None.  At least not that is in any way easy for a parent to find.  Trust me, if I haven't found it, after reading hundreds of YA books, the average parent would have NO idea how to find it.  Yes, I know some books say 14+, but this is still no help.  There are plenty of 14+ books that have absolutely no questionable material in them, and they sit right next to books that have so much sex in them that they make 30-something-year-old me blush.  

And yet another problem:

This one's going to stun you......

NOT ALL TEENS ARE HAVING SEX.  Although, from reading all the teen books out there, you'd be hard pressed to find a fictional teen not having sex or "everythingbut".  It seems that almost every teen book these days has sex, or at least they're only not having sex because the opportunity hasn't presented itself yet.  So, where are the books for the teen who wants to wait?  It seems like we only want to be "realistic" to a certain group of teens.  Who is speaking up for the ones who actually value sex and think that virginity it isn't just something to get rid of before "I'm the last one on the planet who hasn't had sex?"  I feel like authors are afraid to write these books.  Just take Twilight for example.  I can't believe the number of times I heard it ripped on for being an "advocate for abstinence".  First of all.....like it was.....and second of all, WHAT IS SO BAD ABOUT THAT???  Even if you think sex is not a big deal, what can you possibly think is wrong with waiting?  I'm not even arguing waiting until marriage, that's a moral decision, I'm simply arguing waiting until you're old enough, RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH, to deal with the consequences of your actions when things go wrong.  

Another argument for sex in YA:

Teens aren't stupid.  They can make their own decisions.

Let me tell you a little bit about my teenage self.  I won't go into gory details here, because I'm sure you don't want me to, and it would make my mother have a heart attack.  But let me just say that I know about teens and sex and the consequences.  I got pregnant my senior year of high school.  Having sex at that age was not beautiful and fulfilling, it was stupid.  And I was stupid.  I knew about safe sex, I knew how to protect myself.  My dad was an OBGYN for heaven's sake.  But I was a teenager.  I was invincible.  Getting an STD or becoming pregnant was about as real to me as Santa Clause.  Those were things that happened in the abstract.  They weren't real.  You can talk all you want about what's realistic, and what should or shouldn't teens be exposed to, but try telling that to a girl who just found out that her entire life was going to change forever because of a choice she made as a child.  As. A. Child.  My life was changed forever.  And it wasn't a cute young adult story.

I was lucky, though.  I had parents who helped me through those difficult years.  But so many girls aren't so lucky.  Getting pregnant was easy going compared to what has happened to many of my friends.  In their thirties, and finally trying to have children, they're finding out that the STD they got in high school has made it difficult, if not impossible to have a baby.  

I say all this to say, sex is not something to be taken lightly.  It's not just something to throw into a book because you feel like being "edgy" or whatever.  It has consequences.  And it can change your life forever.  It certainly changed mine.

It's just my opinion

I know that I will probably be bashed for speaking my mind.  I know that in the writing/publishing world that I am in the minority.  However, I also know, from the many, many comments that we've received, that I am not the only one who feels this way.  There are tons of parents, teens, and other people who want to give our kids great literature without adding to the pressure they already feel to have sex before they're ready.  

Are you still here?

Let me answer some questions up front because I know they will asked:

  1. No, I don't think we should ban books.
  2. No, I don't think we should tell people what they or their kids should read.
  3. Yes, I think there should be some sort of system that tells parents or other interested people what content is in the book they or their 12 year old is picking up.  Maybe not R or PG or whatever, but at least a warning, like "sexual content" or "language".  Something.  Actually, I think it would be awesome if authors did this themselves, that way they could put the content into context.
  4. No, I don't think that just because a teen reads about sex in a book, they're going to run off and have sex, though I do think it has the power to influence.
  5. Yes, I know that if they want to read it, they will find a way.
  6. Yes, I know that when you were a kid, you went and read all the adult romance novels to read about sex.  First, let me say, reading about two adults having sex is very different than reading about teens having sex.  Second, there's a difference between sneaking off to read something and it being handed to you as "something everyone is doing."
  7. No, I'm not talking about "issue" books.  I think those are very important!
  8. And just in case I didn't make myself clear earlier.....Yes, I know teens are having sex.
Leave a comment

I love discussions like this.  I think of myself as a pretty open-minded person.  I'm not so stuck in my ways that I can no longer be influenced by a good argument.  However, I have yet to be persuaded to change my mind by someone who is mean or yelling at me.  The bottom line is that people on both sides of this argument love our children and are trying to do what they think is best for them.  Please remember that!  SO, leave a comment, but be nice.  Be nice to me, and be nice to any other commenters....or I will have to evict you :)

With much, much love,
If you want to know what's in YA books before reading them, you can check out ParentalBookReviews.com.  


Ok, I left a comment, but I thought I'd put it up here, too because this is my post and I can.  Plus, I'm older than all of you and that means you have to listen to me :P

So, when I wrote this I kept thinking how I wanted to include all of my MANY, MANY thoughts on this subject, but I don't want to go on and on forever (even though I did).  Of course I forgot to say a couple of things that I meant to.
  • There have been a couple of comments from teens (which I love) saying that reading about sex hasn't influenced them.  
    1. I think that is AWESOME!!  I love that you're an independent thinker and are mature enough to know that just because it's in a book/movie/show that doesn't mean it's real.
    2. No, I don't think that all teens are influenced by books.  I, in fact, was not influenced by books, as I never read as a teen.  I was too busy doing aforementioned and un-aforementioned (?) crazy stuff to be reading.
    3. Just because you weren't influenced, though, doesn't mean that others aren't.  I've read too many stories where teens have said, "This book changed my life!" to agree that books don't have influence.  They have the power to change people's lives.  This can be a good thing, and it can also be a bad thing.  My mom was an AVID reader as a teen.  Although she wasn't influenced to have sex, she was influenced in her view of romance.  Needless to say, she was highly disappointed when she found that, in reality, relationships aren't all roses and happiness (sorry Mom).
    4. Just because a teen IS influenced, it doesn't mean they are stupid or weak, or any other bad thing.  It just means they are different, and that they're still learning.  That's why each teen should be raised according to the way that they are, not by a set standard.  There are many reasons that a teen might be influenced by what they read/see, and none of those reasons are their fault.
    5. In a way, you're kind of proving my point.  Well, at least this point, that not all teens have sex.  So, where is their representation?  Yes, there are books out there without sex etc, but really, how do you find them?
  • Somehow the fact that I said that not many high school couples live "Happily Ever After", became a serious distraction.  I do know it happens, my point was that it's not all that often.  Yes, you know a couple of people it happened to, but in a high school of 600 people in my graduating class, there were only a few that got together and have stayed together.  My point is not that it never happens, my point is that in on one hand we say, "We have to be realistic!" but on the other hand we use highly improbably scenarios to play out these "realistic" stories.  In all honesty, there are FAR more teens who don't have sex in high school than there are couples who get together and live happily ever after.  And far more who would say they made a mistake by having sex with certain people (for various reasons).
  • I also want to clarify, I'm completely ok with non-realistic fiction.  My favorite books are paranormal romance.  Uh....yeah....not real.  I don't even really WANT all that much realism in the books I'm reading.  I read to escape, not to deal with more problems.  I have enough of those in my own life!  My point is that authors use the reasoning that "I have to be real" for writing teen sex into their books, but then at the same time the rest of their story isn't really realistic (yes, there are exceptions----like Ellen Hopkins CRANK.  Completely realistic, all around).  I just feel like it would be great if there were a LOT more teen books out there that didn't have teen sex in them.  And that there was some way to find them without having to sift through stuff you don't want to read (or want your child reading).

157 comments:

  1. I think you are right on but I do think there are a lot of YA romance books out there where the teens are not having sex. I seek those out because I am a middle school librarian and I want most of my readers to ease into YA novels. Read the lighter ones first. And I agree whole heartedly that many teens are not having sex, I know a lot of them. And people may say I am naive and that they are lying to me, but if a kid I know to be a good kid tells me they are not, I tend to believe them!
    I think you made some great points and I don't think you will be too bashed.
    Lastly, I like to think that I can function as a rating system for my students. I know a lot of the kids I work with because I used to teach kindergarten and most of my classes are now at my middle school, and my son is a seventh grader. I know what kind of families a lot of my kids come from and I guide them to books I think are appropriate.
    Great post!! Somethings that needed to be said!

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  2. This was a brave post. I commend you for saying it. You handled it well and I think your arguments are really solid. And, I really do agree with you. I also agree with what Jana said about being a filter. I'm a bookseller--and if an 11 year old wants to read XVI or The Duff or PLL b/c they watch the show--I'm going to tell their PARENTS there in the store what the books are about. Not to say I'll discourage a 16 year old to read them--but 11? and it's a high school book. In the high school section. BUT what does that matter? like you said, it doesn't matter. What does matter is speaking up and I think that's my duty as someone selling a kid a book. I think the rating system would be a good idea. BUT THEN, who decides that? Everyone has a different idea of what's appropriate. It would never be agreed upon. I digress though.

    I loved your point about it being pressure--and yes, it IS everywhere else too! I think that everyone DOESN'T do it. I never did. That was a great point too. AND that's like saying, "the water's already dirty, let's through a bunch more oil in it." It matters.

    I think the most important thing to remember is that WORDS ARE POWERFUL. There's no denying that. Someone says something mean, it burns. Someone says something nice, it sticks with you. Why shouldn't sex be the same way?! I know when I was a teen I read VC Andrews books. They were dark and sexy and portrayed to me that sex was that exact thing. It sets up unrealistic expectation and it DOES stick with you. That's how you can remember the words to that NSYNC song from 10 years ago. They stick. They're powerful. We need to be careful as readers, as writers, as people what we promote.

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  3. As a teen myself, I have to say that I pretty much agreed with you throughout the entire post.

    You're right - a lot of us are having sex. In fact, a friend of mine recently did and was under the impression that it would be glorious and fulfilling but it wasn't and now she is hurt. It's such a serious decision and not enough people take it seriously.

    It's ridiculous how common it is to come across sexual content in just about anything nowadays. I especially liked your argument for the 'sexism' approach to the matter.

    Ultimately, no one is going to be able to stop someone from reading a book with a certain type of content but do we really need to make it so hard to find a book without it that we have to settle?

    Fantastic post! I'm glad that someone actually wrote this - it was needed. Thanks!

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  4. Also, I'm not saying I won't read or sell a book with sex in it. I'm just saying I'm not going to sell that book to an 11 year old like it doesn't matter when it does.

    And I'm not a mother. I'm a sister and a friend and a girl who doesn't. So, that's why I agree. :) End.x

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  5. Amen!! Love the post! You've expressed my views perfectly!!!

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  6. I'm an aspiring author, so I've thought about this A LOT. I agree with you on many points. It makes me really unhappy to hear authors say "I'm not a parent. It's not my job to parent your kids" (I've heard at least two very influential YA authors say this in the last month). I agree that it's not an author's job to parent necessarily, but it is an author's job to be sensitive to the needs of their audience. What really bothers me is depictions of sex without consequences in YA (often it has emotional or interpersonal consequences, but where are the STDs? Where are the teen pregnancies?). The truth is, 80% of sexually active people older than 14 years-old have some kind of STD. That is simply not represented in YA fiction.

    I have to disagree with the idea of a rating system, though. Look at the MPAA (the organization that rates movies); the system is completely subjective, and has long been accused of corruption and following arbitrary rules. The MPAA is well-known for being much more lenient toward movies with extreme violence than movies depicting sex. Many think this practice is wrong since, arguably, violence has much a much more negative impact than sex. Implementing a system like this on books makes me really fearful of possible side-effects. I'm more in favor of there being some indication of content in the Library of Congress subject headings that come in the front pages of every book.

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  7. I'm going to respectfully disagree, and say that reading about sex, whether it was in books, or YM/Teen/Seventeen Magazine actually kept me from making decisions I might later regret as a teen in the 90's. I knew about condoms, and what "pregnancy and birth control myths" were real or not. (Like say, jumping on a trampoline after sex to prevent pregnancy--something some people actually believed to be true.) I honestly feel sex is something you need to have knowledge about as a teen. My own grandmother thought she could become pregnant by french kissing her boyfriend. Yes, that was in the 1950's, but serious misconceptions about sex existed when I was a teen in the 90's, and still exist today. I'm an only child, and didn't have a sibling I could discuss things with when I had questions. Maybe it isn't true for all teens, but I never once felt pressured by a fictional situation into having sex. The only pressure I ever was under came from friends. Which as I'm sure as a mom yourself you know, are usually not something even the most well meaning parent can control.

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  8. When I was a teen, I did not have sex. And that isn't because the opportunity never presented itself. I had my reasons, and I stuck to them. And no, it wasn't THAT long ago. :)

    So no, not all teens are having sex.

    But I do agree with you. A lot of them ARE, but that doesn't mean we ought to make it harder for them.

    I prefer love stories that are about love, not sex. Shocking, I know.

    My novel, a YA fantasy, will be released soon, and there is no sex in it. I think there are plenty of authors who are willing to write stories that are sex-free. But, on the other hand, I don't mention it at all. Not even to say that the heroine was faced with the choice and chose not to. Was that bad on my part to not have my character "stand up" for what she believes? I don't think so. I think the absence of sex from the entire book speaks for itself.

    Back on topic, I'm weary of reading YA splattered with sex. I may be married with children, but I still don't necessarily want to read all about a teenager's sex life. That's why I appreciate your parental reviews as well as your clean reads list.

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  9. You know, manga is required to have a rating on the back - A (all aged), T (13+), T+ or OT (16+), and M (18+)- so why couldn't YA books be the same way? Not only do the manga have the ratings on the back, they now list why they have the rating. Just a thought.

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  11. Very good post. Most of the YA books I read do NOT seem to have any sex though - I wonder if this is a genre thing? I read very few contemporaries and maybe that's where all the YA sex is. I actually can't remember what the last YA book with sex was that I read. So, since I don't read many such books I can't really say how much it would bother me - but I definitely don't think it is necessary to include sex in a YA book just because there are teens having sex. if it adds something important to the story sure, but I don't see the point of putting it in "just because."

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  12. It's nice to know I'm not the only person who thinks this! Wow. Yes, some kids are doing this but not ALL. My niece is 17, and she's uncomfortable reading some of today's YA. I drive carpool with my son and a girl, and the girl talks about some of the inappropriateness in some of the books she's read. So you're right, who represents THEM?

    I appreciate your courage. Seriously.

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  13. I am a 18 now, some might consider me an adult already, but I've read YA books for a looong time, and I've never been bothered about it,

    but I think it has to do with the way I was raised, I have strong convictions and I'm not influenced/pressured at all to have sex, even though teen sex is in pretty much every YA book nowadays,

    however, I have noticed that when I try to picture a teenage love story in my head, I've found that almost always they're 'proving' their love by saying yes to sex, and man! I think that's way dumb but I still think about it 'cause my brain has been programmed to do so, after reading about it so much

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  14. As an author and mother of teen girls, I just wanted to say thanks. I have a hard time trying to preread and check out books before my girls read them.
    One point not made is this: what if the teen doesn't want to read about sex? Parents are debating this as if all teens want to read about it. My 15 yr old does not want to read about it and gets disappointed when it's splattered all over the book. She'd rather read a good story about interesting characters. And yes, not all kids are having sex.
    No, I'm not a prude and I know kids are having sex, but not all of them are and not all of them want to read about it all the time.
    Thanks for voicing this!

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  15. Thank you for sharing your personal story. It is a very thoughtprovoking post. While we don't believe in ratings, our site,StorySnoops.com, does give parents (and teens) information about all of the content in books (sexual and otherwise) in detail so families can decide for themselves which books are appropriate for them. Rating systems are tricky....

    I applaud your post. I have come across some teen books with some very realistic sexual situations, with consequences. But, I have also come across many with just very gratuitous sex scenes that perhaps......could have been left out. Or at least condensed!

    I thought your point was interesting about all of the sex in YA books being a sort of pressure for teens to have sex. Have not thought of it that way before.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting and heartfelt post!

    -Shannon
    http://www.storysnoops.com/

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  16. This is a great discussion! I was just thinking about this because I finished another book where the 16-year-old girl who is still a virgin feels like a freak. I think this bothers me the most because it sets up the idea in a teen's mind that something is WRONG with them if they chose not to have sex. (Or if it's not even something they're INTERESTED in yet.) The mom in me wants to scream. (And yank that YA novel out of my teenage daughter's hands.)

    I agree that it would be difficult to have an official rating system. But bloggers like you Andye have an important voice and reach many people. Clean reading lists are wonderful and I always appreciate reviews that let me know what to expect. It's all part of making us aware which is so important.

    I think this post is a great place to begin. Thanks.

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  17. This post is spot on! Shoot, even as an adult I'd like to know what kind of sexual content is in a book before I pick it up. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood, you know?

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  18. Well said sister suffragette.

    I am looking at Jana's post and I agree, I do know of many books that have no sexual content. Those are also the books with no dating relationships from my view. Once a boy and a girl meet, even if they don't act on it, someone is thinking about should I, or shouldn't I and if I don't how long will I be a virgin?

    I'm a virgin, yeah I feel like the last one in the world, sure I do, but it doesn't bother me on any level in the least. I have such deep pity for girls my age and GULP younger who have been giving away pieces of themselves to boys. Even the boys they haven't crossed THAT line with.

    You and Kit should read that Authentic Beauty book I reviewed a few weeks back. Lesley and her husband Eric are amazing people with an amazing mission. I was honored to meet them at a conference that changed my world.

    I was blessed and lucky to be given the insight at a young age- I was 11 when I chose to abstain and I was 14 when i decided not to date around- most girls aren't. When the only role model/sex educator teens are given is a teenager who is just figuring these things out themselves through media outlets of course they are going to make bad decisions. Of course they are, it's obvious.

    There is my two cents.

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  19. Brilliantly worded. You verbalized so many of my thoughts in this post, and did it with eloquence and grace. Thanks for representing a voice which I think often goes unheard.

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  20. After reading Stephanie's post I do want to say this:

    I am surprised you think the emotional hardships of teenage sex are so well portrayed. I think the industry has made a mint off of books about teen pregnancies, as well as popular TV shows and movies. It's a material repercussion of a 'bad decision.' I don't think authors, producers and screen writers want to go to the place of having to deal with the aftermath of a bad night and no pregnancy because even if all that girl, or boy, is left with is a broken heart and a used body it is still a 'bad decision.' Saying that would make people have to admit having casual sex, or having a physical relationship with someone who later leaves your life is bad, wrong and not in order with a healthy lifestyle. I think admitting those things is the last thing anyone wants to deal with.

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  21. Vdemetros~

    Tell your daughter she has a wonderful heart.

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  22. Thanks for the great post! Shannon from www.storysnoops.com commented earlier--I am on of her partners in that venture, and I wrote on the same topic a few months ago (http://www.storysnoops.com/blog/?p=969) and I agree wholeheartedly with your point that we need a little less glamour surrounding sex in YA and a little more reality: it's not always perfect, people get hurt, people (particularly girls) do it for the wrong reasons, it doesn't fix a relationship, etc. I know there is a lot of sex in YA books, but I'm encouraged that I've also read a lot that exist beautifully without it.

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  23. For some reason my comments are registering under an old account, odd. So Bella is really me~ Gabrielle Carolina! Bella is a nn I use to use. Just wanted everyone to know. ;)

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  24. Oh, Andye, I heart you for this post. You KNOW I agree, and frankly I couldn't have said it better. Bravo!

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  25. Wow you totally hit the nail on the head!!! I agree with everything you said 100%! I've been reading a lot of those other posts people have been writing about sex in YA how they say "Hey teenagers are having sex! Get over it!" And I'm like yeah no kidding THAT ISN'T THE POINT! The point is that sex doesn't become misrepresented in YA. That it doesn't come off as wonderful and perfect and something you should do heedless of the consequences. Something that can just be done without even thinking about the emotional aspect. And not every teenager is having sex! I'm a teenager and I have not only never had sex but I've never even been kissed. And its not because I haven't had the chance! I have chosen not to. I don't mind reading about sex in YA. But I do think its a good idea to 1. Make sure that it isn't sugarcoated to be all rainbows and sunshines because most of the time it ain't! 2. Have a rating system for books so that young kids aren't reading things that are totally inappropriate.

    Thanks for sharing you're opinion! Now I don't feel all alone in how I feel about sex in YA! :)

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  26. Love this post. So so so so so much.

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  27. Great post! Don't feel bad at all for speaking your mind! I agree with you 110%!

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  28. Excellent post! Thanks for being brave enough to post it.

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  29. Very well said! I find it almost a full time job to monitor the books and movies my 13 year old reads/watches. It's exhausting and scary. Some of the PG-13 movies have completely inappropriate content for 13 year olds in my opinion. My ...daughter will tell me she sees/hears worse at school. I tell her, "Well, you shouldn't also be hearing it produced from ADULTS in Hollywood. This family doesn't believe in casual sex. We don't believe girl on girl action is cool, and we don't believe sex with multiple partners is either." From adults, I hear, "But they're going to watch it at a friend's house." My response, "But NOT in OUR home and not with my approval. Therefore, they at least know the values that their father and I hold and hopefully with much prayer and perseverance, they will cling to them in this twisted world oneday too."

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  30. This was a fantastic post. My daughter is 11 and loves reading paranormal books, but it's SO hard to find ones that are okay for her to read. If I haven't read the series, I talk to a friend who has because I don't want her reading explicit teen sex scenes. SHE'S 11! I love that she has a passion for reading, but a rating system would be really, really nice. I DO NOT believe in banning books, ever. I believe it's up to the parent to decide what is appropriate for their child, but some type of content statement would be extremely helpful to parents.

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  31. Great post!!
    Life is about so many thing, yes, sex being part of it, but constant confrontation with this topic in books (or generally through the media) is really NOT neccessary in my humble opinion.
    Books can send so many messages - good ones and no-so-good ones - and authors sometimes seem to "forget" it's about the STORY (and especially in YA I sure hope the story isn't about sex alone, mind you).
    Teens know about sex, yes, but reading and hearing about it all the time? Why? There's more to discover in life and I wish this would also reflect in books.

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  32. I'm sorry to say I stopped reading quite early on, so if anything I say is inaccurate, that is the reason. To answer your question of how many teenage couples have a happily ever after, I can think of one, a couple who went to my school. They started dating at around sixteen and are still together in university about four years down the track.

    Sex in YA has a place. Not all YA books have sex for the sake of it. Many of the books I have read don't have any at all, and when they do there has been a very good reason. If a teenage girl feels pressured by a work of fiction to have sex, then there is something wrong with her sense of individuality. I for one have never felt that kind of pressure when reading books that DO include sex. If you think the sex is bad in YA fiction, then shows aimed at teenagers such as 'the OC', 'One Tree Hill' and even 'Glee' should be consigned to hell.

    I think you're missing the point of WHY writers put sex in the stories. Plot, character development, relationships. If a writer has a very good reason for including sex in his or her novel, it should be allowed. It should not be sanitized. The same goes for violence and profanity. If it's necessary, put it in. If not, leave it out. Simple.

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  33. I'm the type of reader who doesn't want to read a book if it has sex in it (unless its erotica). This is because I know what to expect from erotica. When I read a YA book, I want the storyline to be interesting without needing sex to catch the eye of the reader. I must admit, I did have a slightly steamy scene in my YA novel, but then took it out. I decided, hey, this might feel like the "right thing to do" since sex sells, but I don't want to use sex as my selling point. I want my writing and content (not sex appeal) to be what sells the book.

    Overall, great blog. I look forward to reading more.

    Jennifer
    http:.//www.jennifermhartsock.wordpress.com

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  35. I agree that sex can sometimes be romanticized in YA fiction, but I think it also has the risk of becoming as didactic and cheesy as a Lifetime movie if the author chooses to be too preachy about it. I'm an adult who enjoys YA fiction and I like the books that are frank and straight forward about sex. I don't seek out teen books with sex, but if I happen to stumble upon it, I really don't mind.

    The point you brought up about 11 year olds is pretty much irrelevant because if someone wrote about it, people scream child pornography. No one is going to write about it because of that stigma especially in teen fiction when they want to market to as many people as possible. You could get away with it in adult fiction, but not without some controversy.

    As a teen, I never felt pressured by the sex I read in any books. I was curious about it as I'm sure any teen is, but I didn't have sex until I was an adult. I never felt any pressure from anybody because I knew when I was ready and that's that. I have actually been with my boyfriend for almost 12 years now and I'm 25, so I'm one of those unlikely high school couples.

    There are a great many "teen" films that do contain overt sexual situations and adult themes. Most of them are rated R, but they are undeniably targeted towards teens, such as the American Pie movies. Even teen targeted horror films frequently have nudity and sex preceding the bloody murders that ensue.

    Even though you already put it in your post, I'm still going to say it: Books are not meant to parent teens or children. A rating system for books would just be disastrous. Just look at the MPAA. How can cutting 60 seconds from a film reduce the rating from an NC17 to an R? They overall message and intent of the film is the same. I don't want authors to have to butcher their novels to fit some subjective, inconsistent, broken rating system.

    And to the person who said that 80% of people over 14 have an STD, I think that's a huge overexaggeration. If it is true, I would like to see the reference source that says so.

    I know my response was rambly and weird, but it's late and I should be reading for my class.

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  36. I've thought long and hard about whether I should or shouldn't comment about this. And I'm giving in.

    I'm on the bridge to whether I agree or disagree with your opinion.

    Some things, I completely understand. While other things all I can think is 'that's not true'.


    I don't think sex in books pressure kids to do it. I'm fifteen, almost sixteen, and I've been reading for a very long time. I've even read adult books. While books have to be 'realistic' they're also fictional to the point where the reader can draw the line and say 'I know this isn't how it is'. It's like watching a movie and going 'this is so cool! Shame it doesn't really happen' (that wasn't reference at sex, by the way!). And I don't think sex in books adds pressure simply because there's nobody around to add the pressure. Movies and TV shows I can understand where the pressure can come from if it's being watched with multiple people. And this may sound really stupid and ignorant, but I do think that the fact that reading is a solitude activity it can't add pressure that isn't already there. I think it's also got a lot to do on how you were raised as a child and what your morals are as a person.

    My best friend's parents have been dating since they were fourteen. He's in the army and they have three children. My parents were 18 when they met, mum fell pregnant with me at 19 and had left home. From what I understand there were rough patches in both situations. Even Cinderella had her problems before she got her "happily ever after". I read a book a while back called "In Ecstacy" and it was about two friends and one got hooked on drugs. It was dark, dirty, and just plain horrible. But it's also those kind of books that get banned and parents don't want thier kids reading because of those dark themes.

    Yes, authors have a responsibility to the readers as to what they tell in their books, but what about the publishers? Where's the time when they decide that that certain scene should be cut down or completely scrapped? And there is no line. If there is than it's constantly blurred.

    I understand where you're coming from in your point in "Teens aren't stupid arguement". But can you honestly say that you would have the same opinion if you hadn't had made that decision as a teen? Teens need to learn and make mistakes so they have that knowledge later in life. You can try to put padding on the ground where teens fall, but it's going to hurt either way.

    Anyway, that's just my opinion that I thought I'd share.

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  37. I pride myself in not reading books that cross the lines in my spiritual faith (and sex is definitely one of those lines, fortunately I have not read/started to read a YA book that had a sex plot) This doesn't mean that I haven't broadened my reading, I read Twilight for crying out loud but the #1 thing I DIDN'T like about Twilight was the way she was chasing after Edward. I am a very firm believer in the sanctity of marriage, and while I commend Stephenie Meyer for Edward's firmness on the subject, why did she let Bella go all gaga?
    YA's in my opinion need to see strong determind characters that don't choose the path of 'Well, everyone else is doing it' to inspire them to do the same! Yes, as YA's we can make our own decisions, we'll probably make some good ones along the way but I know for sure we're bound to make some decisions that we'll look back on and wonder what in the world we were thinking. "You are what you read." If you see it, hear it or read it enough you'll become it.

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  38. I wonder how many of the people who say that are actual
    Moms? Because when you're parenting (or, in my case, step-parenting) a teenager, you tend to view things differently. I felt the way you're describing when I was a kid and parents were railing against the sex in Judy Blume's Forever. But then you become a parent and the thought of YOUR child doing what is depicted in those books changes everything.

    I will say, though, that reuniting with former classmates on Facebook has changed my views on young love. Quite a few of my classmates are married now. One woman, our homecoming queen, is married to the boy she dated from 7th grade all the way through. And these are classy people--not what you'd think if you heard I'm from Nashville! Granted, this is the exception, not the rule, but that first love and those early crushes aren't as meaningless as our parents thought. Even if they don't last, they really are important in forming who we are.

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  39. I know you feel strongly about this Andye and I'm glad that you were able to speak your mind knowing you can be on the shy side when it comes to these things.

    I have to disagree though. I know you feel as though books influence teens, but they don't. They have never influenced me anyway. If they ever influenced you as a teen then that's another story and then I can see why you have that concern. I saw the post from which you quoted, I thought she made some wonderful points. So did you.

    Of course your not naive, but I do feel that your underestimating teens? I do agree that most of us know better to think about having sex, or have sex just purely because it is in a book. I do believe that if you stop your children from reading certain books, or get picky with what they can and can't read in YA, not only will they hold a grudge but rebel also.

    I know parents want to protect their children, I understand that since it's only natural. There is a time though where you have to take a step back and let them do some exploring. Let them figure out themselves a little. Have a little faith in them, if you have given them the values that you think you have then there is no need to be overly protective.

    I think the experience you went through which you regret? It comes across like that anyway. Has put this thought in your head that all teens are easily influenced by books. I don't think books are what you should be worried about, it's often peer pressure and the people you surround yourself with that influence you. I say this as a 19 year old girl who saw it all around me growing up and if anything the one thing that kept me focused were not only my family values, but books which kept me sane, they had references to sex, so what? It never affected me in any way because I knew that was a part of reality and it happened. I also knew that it was MY decision if I ever wanted to take that route. I didn't and still don't. I knew growing up that that was something that I didn't want to do.

    Books were never the problem, the people around me were. In the end of the day you have to have faith that your child will take away with them the right values and will stick with them. What my mother taught me was more than enough for me, but this is why books influencing sounds so ridiculous to me.

    Because not once, no matter if a scene was glorified or a situation, it never affected me. So, I don't see how it would others. If you let a book influence you to have sex then sorry but you obviously need little convincing in life to do anything. I don't think it's the book we need to blame, because if a book can influence you then heck anything can. I think to many people need a reason. I did such a thing because I saw it in a movie, or it was in a book. How about we step making excuses and take a second to put our hand up and say yeah, I wanted to do it. So I did.

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  40. Thanks for this. I think people are afraid to speak out on this side of the argument for fear of being seen as a prude or whatever. There seems to be a lot of pressure for writers to include sex to appeal to more people, but I don't think that is what actually draws people in (maybe some but not most). It's the characters and their personalities that capture the reader.

    There's so much more to people than this one issue. Media in all its forms seems to have skewed a lot of perceptions of it. Why not a story about a girl conquering stage fright or perfecting her flute playing abilities and trying out for All-State? Why not write about a guy searching for a talent to distinguish himself: archery, photography, cross country, basketball, guitar, etc., etc.? How about a guy on the football team or in the band who stands up against the pressure to have sex? There are kids doing all these things.

    I think it's so important for parents and teens to know what's in the books they have to choose from that I include a Cleanness Score in my Monday book reviews.

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  41. I agree that books can and do have an influence on some people. They've never really had any influence on me, but that's mostly because I saw a lot of the screw-ups that some people portrayed as good and/or glorified. (And reality beats out fiction almost all the time.)

    But I think if a book touches you in a way nothing ever has, you can take something away from it that may not be the best thing. Some people are so easily influenced by things, it's not only sad, it's baffling. So, I completely agree with you and do think you have many great points. Some of the arguments used don't make sense, and have always made me go, "Huh?"

    There are books out there that portray sex realistically (and I'm sure you know this), and there are also books out there that don't feature the characters having sex or they want to wait. The Secret Life of Sonia Rodriguez comes to mind.

    On the other hand, I do think there are lots of books that have gratuitous sex, violence, profanity in them. To say there aren't shows the lack of range in reading material. In fact, it seems a lot of the time, it's harder to find a book without gratuitous material in it than it is to find books with it.

    I think it's important to note that you're not asking for the removal of sex from the YA genre. But just more of a realistic portrayal of sex, more books where the person doesn't just walk away with a broken heart or absolutely no scratches.

    I'm not a mom, and I can count on one hand how many years ago it was that I graduated from high school, so this is the perspective of someone a little younger.

    Anyway, great post.

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  42. So, when I wrote this I kept thinking how I wanted to include all of my MANY, MANY thoughts on this subject, but I don't want to go on and on forever (even though I did). Of course I forgot to say a couple of things that I meant to.

    There have been a couple of comments from teens (which I love) saying that reading about sex hasn't influenced them.
    1. I think that is AWESOME!! I love that you're an independent thinker and are mature enough to know that just because it's in a book/movie/show that doesn't mean it's real.
    2. No, I don't think that all teens are influenced by books. I, in fact, was not influenced by books, as I never read as a teen. I was too busy doing aforementioned and un-aforementioned (?) crazy stuff to be reading.
    3. Just because you weren't influenced, though, doesn't mean that others aren't. I've read too many stories where teens have said, "This book changed my life!" to agree that books don't have influence. They have the power to change people's lives. This can be a good thing, and it can also be a bad thing. My mom was an AVID reader as a teen. Although she wasn't influenced to have sex, she was influenced in her view of romance. Needless to say, she was highly disappointed when she found that, in reality, relationships aren't all roses and happiness (sorry Mom).
    4. Just because a teen IS influenced, it doesn't mean they are stupid or weak, or any other bad thing. It just means they are different, and that they're still learning. That's why each teen should be raised according to the way that they are, not by a set standard.
    5. In a way, you're kind of proving my point. Well, at least this point, that not all teens have sex. So, where is their representation? Yes, there are books out there without sex etc, but really, how do you find them?


    Somehow the fact that I said that not many high school couples live "Happily Ever After", became a serious distraction. I do know it happens, my point was that it's not all that often. Yes, you know a couple of people it happened to, but in a high school of 600 people in my graduating class, there were only a couple that got together and have stayed together. My point is not that it never happens, my point is that in one sense we say, "We have to be realistic!" but on the other hand we use highly improbably scenarios to play out these "realistic" scenarios. In all honesty, there are FAR more teens who don't have sex in high school than there are couple who get together and live happily ever after. And far more who would say they made a mistake by having sex with certain people (for various reasons).


    I also want to clarify, I'm completely ok with non-realistic fiction. My favorite books are paranormal romance. Uh....yeah....not real. I don't even really WANT all that much realism in the books I'm reading. I read to escape, not to deal with more problems. I have enough of those in my own life! My point is that authors use the reasoning that "I have to be real" for writing teen sex into their books, but then at the same time the rest of their story isn't really realistic (yes, there are exceptions----like Ellen Hopkins CRANK. Completely realistic, all around).

    More to come, I'm sure, but I have to take the 16 yr old to school......

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  43. I agree with your post. I'm a middle school librarian and we are combined with the public library - so my kids have a wider range of books they can explore. One series that my 5th and 6th graders were eating up was House of Night books so I decided to read them. Holy. Crap. There is so much stuff in there that 5th graders do not need exposed to. I agree that books need a rating system of some kind. I've had kids bring books back and say their parent said they couldn't read it because of the language/sex.

    I don't have any kids yet but I know that I don't want my kids finding out about sex from a book. When I was younger my parents wouldn't let us watch stuff that exposed us to that until we were old enough - including books.

    I don't think sex needs to be shoved down their throats more that it already is.

    Great post!

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  44. I didn't read every comment so I am sorry if what I say is a repeat of what other people said.

    I just wanted to say thank you for being brave and posting this. And I completely agree with you.

    I hate the excuse of "well they are seeing it in movies and hearing about it at school so why shouldn't they read about it?" My aunt uses that excuse with my cousin and it really bothers me. Because it is just more pressure.

    And I always wonder where the realism of sex in YA really is. I have yet to read a YA that the girl ends up pregnant or winds up with an STD, or that it's not everything the couple thought it would be.
    It is never as perfect as books and movies make it out to be. NEVER.
    I would love an author forever if they wrote an awesome YA with a wonderful couple...that decided to wait.
    I waited. Until marriage actually. So did my husband. So people who wait are out there and it would be nice if that was recognized in some books from time to time.

    Even as a married adult I don't always want to read about sex and without warnings or ratings on books it hard to decipher which ones are going to have it and which ones aren't. I would love to see some sort of rating system put in place to at least just to let the reader know the content.

    Again, thank you for writing up such an awesome post. This is one of the MANY MANY reasons why I love your blog!

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  45. Blueicegal- P.S. I love you! I love your thoughts and I love that even though you disagree w/ me, that you're still kind in your arguments! You are definitely a testament to the fact that there ARE smart, responsible, well-educated teens out there!!

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  46. You know when I worked at Borders, I can't even begin to tell you how many parents have asked me to recommend a YA book to them, but one that does not have sex or foul language in it. It really made my list limited.

    As an adult, I love reading YA books that contain sex and foul language. Why? Because I was once a teen and to me I feel that it is a bit realistic. Yes, the characters are fake and so is the story, but things like some of the stuff written in some YA books can happen today.

    If I had a teen, would I let her read some of the YA books I've read? Maybe one or two, but not many lol.

    I am okay with sex in YA books as long as there aren't any detailed descriptions. Some YA leave it open for you to assume it happened and I am okay with that. I have read some YA books though that go into a bit of details and those I find myself saying "Um, this should be 18 and up." I might enjoy them as an adult, but for an actual teen to read, yes some can be a bit out there.


    I love your post and love everything you pointed out. I don't think you should be bashed because it is something that is talked about all the time.

    I hope I made sense hahaha

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  47. Jessica (Firefly)

    You're right, but the minute a book is released about teen pregnancies and STD's, it probably be banned. Which THAT makes no sense to me at all!

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  48. I love this post! It's pretty much how I feel (except the "mom of a teen" part).

    I write for teens. I wouldn't put any sexual content in my books that I'd be uncomfortable reading in a room full of 12-year-olds, their parents, and MY parents, LOL.

    I don't mind that some authors do. I've read and enjoyed many books, but it's about owning it and acknowledging that you are going to (or should) sacrifice some younger readers--not sacrificing the readers themselves, but their eyes and their purchasing dollars--for the right to be graphic or include mature content.

    And from the other side of the coin, as a teen, I was not allowed to see R-rated movies. And if my parents picked up a book I was reading and found content they didn't like? Guess who wouldn't be finishing the book? (My sister told me about a time our father actually tore a book up in front of her.)

    It takes pressure off my readers not to put them in situations like the ones I went through, ha ha.

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  49. Every. Single. Word.

    STANDING OVATION!

    And can I tell you how many times I have been ripped apart for giving a parental warning? I've been called names for warning the book contains sex, homosexuality, drug use, what have you. HOWEVER, I think those who take issue with my warnings are the very noisy minority.

    I know teens are having sex. I work at an alternative high school. The daycare is evidence of this. In all my years working there, I have NEVER known a girl to that wishes she had sex earlier. They love their babies but nearly 100% of them wished they had waited. It's not romantic to be a single, undereducated teenage mother. Here's the honest to goodness truth: The baby daddy rarely sticks around.

    I did wait. I was a virgin when I married at the age of 26 and not because I didn't have the opportunity. It was a personal choice. Ironically, most of my friends did the same things. We surrounded ourselves with each other and positive influences to support our decisions.

    I love YA fiction. I love the way authors address difficult subjects and relate to teens. But (Playing Hurt) sex for the sake of sex is a cop-out. If the book is well written, it can stand on its own. If it's not good and the author knows it, throwing in a sex scene is not going to save it in literary value. The vast majority loves sexual tension. Twilight.

    I want to know what's in the books! I use your site to check ALL. THE. TIME. I am a mother of four - two are teenage girls. I want them to know reality and soul mates is not. Happily ever after is not. Hard work and commitment is reality. Sex is fun. I love it myself but I also have a husband who signed on the dotted line, promised to me, God and witnesses to stand by my side through morning sickness, getting fat, birth, hard nights, long days and all that jazz. Our reward is a comfortable marriage and sex.

    My, my. I think I'll step off this soap box now.

    THANK YOU ANDYE

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  50. Wonderful post! I so appreciated reading this point of view and all the comments.

    Although I talk about sex in my novels, my main characters don't have sex. It's a choice they make (although difficult at times). From blogger reviews and comments from readers, I'm relieved to know that there is a population of readers that find this refreshing and appreciate it.

    As you said, many teens are having sex, so it's not a topic we can ignore, but there can be a segment of the population of books out there that take the real world approach of representing those teens that want to wait, and are doing their best to do so.

    Regarding the feeling like a freak comments: For me personally, I wrote those feelings for my character because I know that's how I felt when I was a 17 year old virgin. Other people, and the constant attention paid to sex by music, tv, movies, commercials - made me feel like I was one of the few left. That's what made me feel like a freak, not that I was making a bad choice and was therefore "freakish". The world makes it look like everyone is doing it but YOU! The constant bombardment is what made me feel different - although my opinion on the matter never changed. I still held on to the same moral code.
    I speak to a lot of teens. Many of them have sex. Many of them don't. Many of them lie to their friends and say they do but really don't.
    It's sad that we've come to a place where sex has to be such a major part of every day life and pressure- even for those kids in middle school and high school. Personally, I don't want something I write to add more pressure to take part or to give in. My goal is to admit that it's out there. Admit that a lot of kids do it and also encourage that there are tons of kids that don't and they aren't any less happy or normal because they don't.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post on the topic!

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  51. Incredibly thoughtful and well argued post. I think at the end of the day, it comes down to knowing yourself, your teen, and what's in whatever they're reading.
    You're so right - every teen is different and all are individuals, some are going to think about/talk about and respond to sex in media with maturity and some are going to think that it's just one more person who's having sex and they really are the last virgin on the planet so they should really just go have sex now.
    It's posts like this and taking responsibility for knowing what your teen/teens in general are being exposed to that really matters. We're never going to succeed in banishing sex from media so talking about it is the important thing now (in my humble opinion).
    And I 100% agree that books should come with some hint about their content (I hate the word warning label). I always try to make sure I mention that stuff in my reviews - "everything but" "talk of sex" "drinking". I can't tell you how hard it is to recommend a book to a teen sometimes - I go round and round asking "is this appropriate for them?" followed by "Is it my decision (as their librarian) to make that decision for them?".
    Great discussion, thanks!

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  52. I actually agree with everything you said. Sex in YA has always sorta bothered me, not because I don't think teens are having sex but because I know how books have influenced my life, and I worry that the sexual themes of some books may influence teens.

    What you said about sexism REALLY rang true with me. I 100% agree!!!! Why do we as women want to sink to the lowest common denominator? Yes, it shouldn't be okay to excuse men's promiscuity; but it also shouldn't be okay to excuse women's.

    In regards to some teens not having sex, I feel like that's a very valid point. 90% of my friends in high school were virgins, including the boys. And it wasn't just my "religious" friends. Even in college, I know tons of girls that have decided to wait, not because they never had the opportunity but because they don't want to spoil something that's supposed to be special. And I feel like a lot of YA books make it seem like sex shouldn't be valued as special or something that could potentially hurt you not only physically but emotionally. I would be okay with the books that glorified sex if we had the books that showed the ugly side, too. And not just pregnancy. But the kids that gave their hearts away only to realize that their significant other wasn't going to be there for the long haul, that they had given away something they could never get back, and how that emotionally changed them. For me, it all comes down to a lack of balance.

    In regards to knocking books that promote abstinence, I think the critics are making a mistake. They say the same thing about teenage drinking, that we can never change kids' actions so we might as well change the law or tell them to at least not drink and drive. I think this is a lack of respect for teens - you're saying that they're so ruled by their hormones and instincts and peer pressure that they can't think clearly. Give the kids the benefit of the doubt: they know how to act responsibly. But if we keep telling them that "acting responsibly" is breaking the law secretly or just wearing a condom, then we're doing them a disservice.

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  53. I really agree with this. As a fifteen year old girl, raised in the church, whose parents used to keep pretty good tabs on what she read, I know that it's hard to find GOOD YA books without sex in them.

    Frankly, I don't want to read about that. I know that it's not real, I know that I'm never going to get involved in that, but it's something I just don't want to focus on.

    Case in point: last week I checked out three books from the library that I've heard are good. Before I Fall, the Sky is Everywhere, and Looking For Alaska.

    They were FULL of sex. All of them. They all had great stories, great characters, just so full of sex. In each and every one, the sex could have been taken out without taking out much of the story.

    One of my main issues is with younger kids reading things like that. I have an 12 yr old sister who is just starting to get books from the teen section in the library. There's no way I want her reading something like that. It's not healthy, and it's not something that she needs to be thinking about.

    I think that part of the problem is that yes, YA books are pushing sex. How is a teen supposed to know that it's ok to not have sex, it's ok to be a virgin, if the opposite is pushed in our faces every single day?

    I don't think that it's fair to teens to be constantly surrounded by sex and then expect us to not have it.

    By the way, thank you SO much for Parental Book Reviews. It helps knowing what to expect and avoid.

    Ughh. The whole thing just bothers me.

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  54. I love the post and I (mostly) agree even though I´m not against sex in YA.. But I totally think it might be influencial (at least unconsciously) and sometimes unsuitable (I don´t even want to mention House of Night)

    Thanks for your opinion!

    (I´m a teen)

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  55. I both agree and disagree. I agree because I think you're right about the fact that there isn't enough shine put on books that don't feature sex, because not ALL teens are having sex. I'm sure things are different in different parts of the country, but around here, there are few who aren't. I think YA with and without sex are both realistic. I can definitely understand why someone would find sex in YA distasteful because even if they are having sex, most of them shouldn't be. But I think it's sad to see a book rated one star just because the characters are sexually active.

    I disagree because I do think teens are capable of making the right decisions. I read nothing but romance novels when I was a teen, but they never made me want to have sex. My parents didn't really talk to me about it. The furthest our discussions went was, "If you think you're going to do it, tell me and we'll put you on birth control". Now obviously I'm not saying the birth control thing was a bad thing, but throughout my younger years it probably wouldn't have hurt for them to say "Wait until you're ready." Nothing that was happening at school influenced me to have sex. I didn't care what anyone else was doing. Nothing I was reading or watching influenced me. The only thing that influenced me was being alone with someone I was in love with.

    It's going to vary by teen. Some are influenced very easily, while others aren't at all. Sex runs thick in everything around us, so it's up to us as parents to TALK to our kids, because no matter what we do, it will always be there, as a reality.

    All that said--I completely respect your opinion. I have in the past made comments about the fact that hating a book because of sex is naive, because it is real. But that's not disliking the sexual aspect, that's hating the entire book. I read your blog, and I know you aren't one of those people. You judge books from front to back--not one aspect. Unfortunately that isn't the always the case in reviewland.

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  56. As a mom, I let my daughter read anything she wanted. I knew my daughter, and I knew that reading "those things" wouldn't influence her behavior.

    Unfortunately, parents of kids who will be influenced by what they read tend to be the parents that haven't cared about what they read or discussed reading realistic fiction, etc. So, I don't know what to do about that. As a librarian, I'm not going to tell someone ELSE'S kid -- you shouldn't read that. I'm also not going to censor what I put on the shelves because some kids can't handle it.

    All I can say is BE A PARENT. In all respects -- not just in what your kids read.

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  57. All I can say is right on. I'm a 30-something-mom of an almost teen girl and I'm raising her the way I was raised, which is to value virginity and not treat sex as something to just get rid of as quickly as possible. I get frustrated knowing there's no way to know what she's reading unless I read it too and knowing that her imagination is so vibrant and extremely absorbent that she will definitely be affected by what she reads. Sex is not exactly one of the things I want her to be reading about in books. I'm sure some people would call me overprotective but I don't care. A cavalier attitude about sex can be very dangerous as you pointed out. Well done article.

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  58. Thanks for adding more in the comments section Andye it actually helped me more to see where your coming from. You hold some strong points which I have had to take a step back and think about. It's true just because some of us were not influenced doesn't mean that some will not be. I think it's harder for me since I only know one book lover who happens to be my best friend. Had I the chance to interact with more it might have given me more of a idea how youngsters react to books and if they are in fact are highly influenced.

    Awwww thanks girl, your pretty awesome to! I'm glad you wrote this post, it's always great to have a discussion and voice our thoughts. You should definitely do more of these. I think it's good to have some input where people agree and disagree since it gives the discussion a nice balance where everyone can come together and tell their side.

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  59. Hey!

    I'm a teen - almost 14. My parents are very... open? And let me read almost any YA book I Want as long as there is there is no severely extreme content (in which case, why is it even a YA book?). In fact, they don't even really check my reading because they trust me so much and know that I am responsible with what I read. I have read books about rape such as Living Dead Girl. This book has very graphic scenes but in no way encourages sex, obviously. Anyway, I digress.

    My point is - I think it is up to the parents, and it is good for parents to be informed with ratings and such. I do think that if parents are letting kids choose their books they might want to know a bit about the books they are reading, but that is their responsibility. Not the responsibility of the bookseller/librarian and such.

    Okay, last thing before I burst the comment box! I agree with the fact that sex seems to be in every book lately. Sometimes it doesn't even have a point and seems like the author just added sex in for no reason. Judy Blume's book, Forever, is about sex and the choices you make. It is graphic and everything, but I think a worthwhile read for teens because yes it displays some good things, but it also shows that afterwards you might realize you just weren't ready.

    Anyway, enough of my banter.

    Great post! You're quite brave :D

    Chloe

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  60. Brave post Andye, but one that was necessary.

    I didn't have sex until I was married to my husband. He's the only man that I've ever been with. And I know that I have been spared much heartache because of that decision that I made when I was a teenager to not have sex before I was married. Period. I didn't have to worry about protection, birth control, or STD's. I could BE A KID. I didn't have to make huge adult decisions too young. And I didn't have to rely on my underdeveloped brain to rationalize that if I didn't sleep with a guy, he wouldn't love me.

    I think we need more strong females and males in YA that stand up to this kind of pressure, because it is just as real as teens having sex. And it is not stupid or weak or backwards to say that you don't want to have sex before marriage. (Or committed relationship in adulthood).

    Again, great post.

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  61. All very true, and all very well-said. This is exactly why the teens in my books either a) abstain or b) end up wishing they had. And for the most part, it's abstinence. I've only actually written two (very dark, very depressing) novellas that deal with teen sex. In the others, and in all of my novels, the teens wait.

    At the risk of looking pimpish, let me recommend my recent post on this very issue:

    http://www.levimontgomery.com/index.php/2011/03/09/why-i-write-what-i-write/

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  62. Amen, sister! Kudos for speaking your mind and sharing your experiences.
    I have a similar, if not the same, stance on sex in YA; just because some people do it doesn't mean that A) everyone does, or B) that every book needs to have in order to be "real". If realism is oh so important to this industry, then they need to know something: I'm 23, I haven't, I don't, and I won't unless I get married. Where's that reality represented in YA lit? Because I'd love to read about it.

    Thanks for posting this. It was very well handled and I applaud your tact and frankness and you guts to say what needs to be said.

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  63. Excellent, excellent thoughts, from Andye AND those who commented. With my debut YA just out, WATERFALL, and the others in the series coming out this year, I've been wrestling with "ratings" and how I would describe it to other moms.

    Because these teens time travel back to medieval Italy, they're plunged into the center of battles and violence, which makes me hesitate about recommending it to younger readers. And because the romance is between older teens, 19 and 17 in Book One, 21 and 18 in Book Two, I see their love story as more advanced than most teens, again making me hesitate over the tween readers.

    So I tell moms the series is a PG-13 read. I, for one, wouldn't be adverse in having that on the covers.

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  64. Great post about a touchy topic.

    I was one that waited til i met my DH to have sex. It was a personal choice, and religious too.

    I know that my friends were having sex, in fact one of my friends was planning the big day.

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  65. This was a great post! A lot of people have said a lot of things, but I just wanted to say that I recently read Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal and I was so glad she portrayed sex in a real way. Things didn't have a happy ending necessarily. One of my favorite books this year!

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  66. Im late jumping on the commenting bandwagen, but I have to say my part too!

    Firstly, KUDOS to you!
    I agree with you on so many points an I'm not a mother of a teen. I am a mother though, and will someday have a teen, and that is SCARY!!!
    I do have a little brother who is a teen and I'm always looking for books without sex to recommend to him!

    Secondly,
    I was pregnant my senior year of high school as well (something else we have in common).
    I did however get married to the father (while still in high school) and we are still happily married and celebrating our 8th anniversary in 5 days!
    I also know that we are NOT the norm. Of all the couples I know that got together and/or got married in high school or right after, I only know of 1 other couple that is still together.
    The rest have been through nasty divorces, nasty break-ups, and nasty child-custody battles.

    I too like the sex to be completely real (like Crank by Ellen Hopkins, or Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala).

    So, stand by what you want for you chiild and I will stand with you and appauld you for it!

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  67. Unfortunately, the almighty dollar is much to blame for the content of many books these days. Not to say that all authors are bowing to that pressure, but I know it's there.

    That said, thank you Andye for being brave enough to post your opinion! I share it wholeheartedly. As the father of two daughters, I wanted to write stories that I'd be happy for them to read. Sex is not a requirement to an entertaining read.

    I would heartily endorse a rating system for books, all books, like we have for movies and music. What's wrong with having more information about the content of a book before you buy it?

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  68. I'm in agreement with Alan T. It seems to me that a lot of the sexual content in books isn't even there for the sake of the story, like it doesn't even seem to mesh with the rest of the narrative, and I think that's probably to do the pressure that industry or the world is puting on authors to conform to this twisted standard. Although, in the end we can't shift the blame from the writers; it's their words. I don't think they realize how much they form the culture. Movies, TV shows, and perceptions of love and life are influenced a great deal by books. That's a lot of power, and it needs to be filter. I would love to see a standardized rating system for books and to know what content the book holds before I ever turn the first page. I know a lot of other readers would also like this, so why isn't anyone doing it? They rate TV shows, movies, music, manga, haunted houses, even blogs. It only makes sense to rate books for content as well.

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  69. Hi! For the most part, I agree with your post. But I think you put teens into two "clear" groups. 1)The ones that have sex. 2)The ones that value their virginity etc.
    And I guess, a lot of it IS a form a pressure when there is sex in YA novels. But there are also teens who both value their virginity and DO NOT feel pressured into having sex when reading a book because they know it is FICTION.
    Let us not forget the teens that aren't as naive as we put them out to be.
    :)
    Interesting post.

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  70. While I disagree with the majority of what you wrote, I respect that you didn't hold back from voicing your stance on this issue :)

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  71. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  72. Brad, thanks for your comment.

    As far as your second comment goes, just because she mentions homosexuality in her review doesn't mean she's a bigot (IMO) she's just trying to inform. Some parents don't want their kids reading about any type of sex/sexuality until they're a little older. They may not even want their child reading about kissing.

    For instance, when my daughter was 13, she was not at all interested in guys/dating etc. While a lot of her friends were completely boy-crazy, she just didn't care. I decided to encourage her to read books that didn't focus on that stuff because I wanted her to stay "uninterested" for as long as possible. That's why I didn't give her Twilight (yes I know there are some Twilight haters out there, but all the girls were reading it at the time). It wasn't because there was anything bad in it, it's just Bella was SO wrapped up in Edward, and I didn't want that to be her introduction to romance.

    Does that make sense at all? (Plus, I could totally be misrepresenting her.)

    Either way, I know this is a hot button issue, but let's try to stay nice because no one's mind was ever changed by being called names.

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  73. If you claim that parents need to be informed when their child is reading a book that has a gay person in it, while in the same breath stating that you warn them about books featuring sex or drug use, is bigotry.

    The implication is that this behavior is unacceptable, and that YA books should not be encouraging or glorifying this sort of behaviour. In other words, don't encourage homosexuality in YA, because we don't want our kids to turn out queer.

    As far as I'm concerned, that's bigotry. Plain and simple.

    Similarly, any parent who tries to shelter their child from the reality that millions of people are attracted to the same sex is also a bigot.

    I know what I'm saying is particularly heated (and I don't throw the "b-word" around loosely) but vile comments deserve it.

    I'm not trying to make an issue on your blog though. I'll shut up! Sorry again!

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  74. Brad, thanks for restating! I just didn't want one of the commenters to be called names.

    I think (and again, I could be misrepresenting) that the parental warning would be more about a homosexual relationship (or a heterosexual relationship) not just saying there was a gay person in the book. Again, I could be wrong. :)

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  75. Just to clarify, by "relationship" I mean sexual relationship. haha

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  76. I really agree with the rating system. I don't know what to think about it because some fairly clean books say 14+ and then some don't even have a warning and if I get into a book it's hard for me to stop reading. I think there is also a big growth of strong language in YA books right now. Aren't PG-13's only allowed two or something? Then why does a teen book get in some cases at least eight? I think it just needs a little bit of a warning because I HATE when there is a good clean book and then a burst of f bombs. Thanks for the link for parent reviews. I will check it out! :)

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  77. This has to be one of the best blog posts I've ever read.

    Really.

    I love what you've taken the time to put together here. I appreciate that you're speaking out for teens like me.

    I love reading. I love reading about happy things and sad things and troubled things. I understand that there are teens who are dealing with having had sex/the pressure to have sex/etc. I understand that they need stories and characters to relate to.

    And then there's me. (And people like me.)

    When sex is a topic in a book, I prefer that the actual act of sex is more glazed over than dug into. I don't want to read something that puts foul images in my head or makes me feel guilty! I prefer to read books that are uplifting - that doesn't necessarily mean that sex isn't a topic, but it does mean that its presence isn't disturbing or grotesque. I want to finish a book feeling as though I got something valuable out of it or had fun, not like I need to erase dirty images from my mind.

    I could go on, but I'll leave it with one more thank you.

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  78. Not everyone regards sex as "dirty" and "foul", or something worth being ashamed or guilty over reading.

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  79. Along these lines. My post about inappropriate books.

    http://tinyurl.com/45sdub5

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  80. >> There is no guide what-so-ever to what is in teen books.

    I just wanted to point out that two review sites I edit at make sure to label books in the YA & under range with things that might be found offensive. Monsterlibrarian.com and kidtails.wordpress.com both stringently include a "contains" section as we're both primarily aimed at librarians who need help keeping up with the available books. ML deals mostly with horror, science fiction, fantasy and paranormals, but the need for input on these books is so great we're often including other books as well.

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  81. HI - really well said. Thank you for your honesty!!!

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  82. I'm a teen, and I totally agree with this post. I may not be influenced to have sex by sex in books, but it definitely influences thoughts, which you don't have much control over, and I really don't want extra thoughts about sex running around in my head than are already there from movies and tv. I'd just like some cleaner entertainment to enjoy. The issue books are great, but I don't want everything I read to bombard me with stuff I don't really want to read about.

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  83. What you've said is true, however, sex in books doesn't bother me as much as violence. As a teen there was no YA fiction available for me. I was reading Danielle Steel in middle school during the 80's. I'm not sure that it made me or any of my reading friends do anything. I'm just glad there is a YA section in the library and bookstore now. At least the students can read about characters and situations with which they can relate. I think it is fine for high school students to read books that include sex as well as those whose characters do not have sex.

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  84. Wonderful post. Thank you. That was brave and well-said.

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  85. I'm not going to read all the comments to find out if I'm in the minority or not, I'll just assume that I am.

    I think you are completely spot-on. This was a very well written, well thought out post and I commend you for that. I agree 100% on everything you said. I read a lot of YA, and find myself cringing at the sex scenes, because, like you said, it just feels so fabricated and false. It's not "fantasy"... it just fosters delusional daydreams.

    I don't think any reasonable 16 year old thinks her soul mate it a werewolf, or a vampire, or a demon slayer. But a LOT of 16 year olds (reasonable and otherwise) think their soul mate is sitting next to them in Algebra class, and the message that "as long as it's your soul mate, it's OK" is loud and clear in lots of YA stories.

    Thank you for posting this.

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  86. Hooray! As both an author and a mom of a teen, I am so glad you said this. You've made it possible for my daughter to see she's not the only one who will stop reading a book--on her own without me even knowing--as soon as sex shows up. Again, hooray!

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  87. Today, you and this post rock my world.

    You ROCK.

    I think I'll give up blogging and just direct people to your blog.

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  88. No mud slinging. Totally agree with you.

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  89. Excellent, thought provoking post. Thank you for putting it all out there.

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  90. Wow, this really got some discussion going. I think that all writers should be responsible in what they put out there & consider what we are saying to our teens. I think that if the sex is minimal, responsible and probably in the 3rd book in a series after a good relationship development and they use contraceptives, then it's okay.

    I hate it when there is that suggestion that the boy completes the girl or makes her whole somehow or that they are destined to be together. These are damaging ideas and we see them rather too much in YA.

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  91. Oh I forgot to say, that the other thing that would be good would be if there was a teen category and a YA category. Teen being under 17, with no sex in it and YA over 17 for the books that have sex in them. That would really help.

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  92. "I think that if the sex is minimal, responsible and probably in the 3rd book in a series after a good relationship development and they use contraceptives, then it's okay."

    This is so far removed from the the reality of adolescent sexual behaviour that it might as well be labelled fiction :p

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  93. Bravo for this post. I think so many authors are jumping on the bandwagon of feeling that you have to include sex to be consider mainstream or popular as an author. I think as authors, we need to try our best to elevate and inspire. To do this, we must avoid cheapening sex in confusing lust and love. In a world of so many conflicting messages in the media about sex that sweep the consequences under the rug, we need to be a clear voice for reality and honesty.

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  94. Excellent post and exactly the reasons that all of my YA books are G-rated. You can still have a great romance in a book without sex being involved. And it drives me crazy that so many people (and authors) are uniformed about STD prvention. Authors throw a condom in a scene and call it safe sex. Condoms do not stop herpes or HPV from spreading. According to Center for Disease Control 1 in 6 people have herpes and 50% of all sexually active people have HPV (which causes cancer and genital warts). There are no cures for these diseases. I think we're misleading teens and causing great harm to tell people that condoms make sex safe. They don't and never have.

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  95. Loved this post! it's true! It is this reason I love reading Jessica Day George's and Janette Rallison's books. Awesome teen reads and no sex. Love is a million different things, and yes one of those million things is sex, but there are 999,999 other things that love is as well. It's sad all those other things get neglected for the cheap and easy sex scene.
    Thanks for a well thought and brave post on a sensitive topic.

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  96. Thanks for this post. As a mom who can't possibly keep up with all of my sons' reading material, I completely agree that disclosure of a book's content would be fabulous.

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  97. Excellent post! Bravo for speaking up. As an YA author who tries to write realistically about teens and love and keep it from getting explicit, I appreciate it. The next time an editor pressures me to cross that line from PG-13 to R--or 12 and up (which is supposed to mean they don't have explicit content) and 14 and up (which is supposed to mean that they do!), I'll send them a link to your post!! I've found it tough going to take a stand and say, I won't cross that line. For me, it's a moral issue. Plus, I care about those readers. I don't want to pressure them through my fiction. So, bravo and thank you for jumping into the fray.

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  98. Andye,

    I just stumbled across your blog and read this post. A lot of people have commented, and I didn't read all of them. But! I just wanted to say - thank you SO much for your post! I agree with everything you said!!

    It is all so true - just because its out there doesnt mean it needs to be spoonfed to teens in YA fiction. Thank you for having the courage to write such a post, when there are people out there who will bash you for it.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I know I will be back to visit your wonderful blog. :-)

    ~ Katy

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  99. Well said. It is a subject that gets blasted, but I'm glad you said it anyway.

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  100. Interesting topic. Next time, leave out all the fear of getting bashed and just make your points.

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  101. I agree with your post and applaud you for speaking out. I actually just released a suspense novel in eBook format called He Loves Me Not, where the main character is a 20 year old college student who gets involved with a man. Even though he wants to have sex, she has decided to wait until marriage to give that part of herself away. So there are some books out there that take a stand.

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  102. As a mother of 4 teens/young adults and Middle Grade, Young Adult Author I LOVE your tirade. It is right on the nail-head. My girls, both in college now, made it thru high school w/o experimenting, despite all of the shows shoving sex in their faces. And one of them is the high school sweetheart still a virgin connection--they plan to wed after college.

    While writing Odessa, the Seraphym Wars YA Dark Fantasy Series, I deliberately left sex out of the equation. My characters mostly range from 16-20, and are ALL virgins. There are love triangles and romance, but not even a kiss thruout the first 2 books of the series. And when they do finally kiss, it will be sweet and go no further. I think that's what's missing in a lot of today's YA books. Sweet Romance. There's enough reality in life--we don't need to read about it as well. Reading should be an escape.

    Check out my new book at http://seraphymwarsodessa.blogspot.com I'd LOVE opinions and reviews from its target audience.

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  103. Thanks for speaking your mind on this! I couldn't agree more and am so glad that you decided to bite the bullet and say what you felt in your heart to say.

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  104. I've been debating whether or not to slant my second book to make it cleaner. The first book in my paranormal series, The Vampire's Warden, does not contain sex of any kind. Not that I have a problem with it. It just didn't fit into the book. The second book in the series is going to be different. Right now, I would rather just go with my gut. But the main character in the story is 23 years old. I don't think I'm going to put it in a teen category when it's released. I may add a warning to it as well.

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  105. Thanks again, guys for all the support!! You are all amazing and it's really fantastic to see that I'm not alone in how I feel! :D

    S.J. I think it's really cool that you're thinking about putting a warning yourself. I love that you're thinking about others like that!!! I do think a 23 year old is a different story than a 16 year old. So, I'd probably have a different opinion about your book! :D

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  107. I am no longer a teenager and I do respect your opinion but I did want to say that when you mentioned movies you only mentioned the ones that are rated R that have sex. These days it seems like lots of TV shows have sex in them and it is often teenagers having sex and the shows are targets at teenagers. Those shows (The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Gossip Girl as examples) don't have rates warning people away from them.

    And then I was just wondering what YA book you read that made you blush at 30. LoL I read a lot of YA and although they often have sex in them I haven't found anything graphic or blush worthy.

    If this sounded mean it wasn't meant that way at all just something I wanted to point out :)

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  108. Ang, thanks so much for your comment! No, I don't think you sound mean at all! I love opinions, and I'm happy to talk about them!

    When talking about movies, I said USUALLY R, and I know that movies these days have sex in them, and might be considered PG-13, but that's kind of the point. Now I know that PG-13 movies have sex. It's still a rating. They also tell you, under the rating, why they are rated that. "PG-13 for sexual content, sensuality, and brief language" etc. And as far as the TV show go, they actually DO have ratings. All of those shows have a content rating before they start. They will say TV-14 for AC (Adult Content), L (Language) etc. All tv shows are rated now. Not to mention, that when you're talking about a t.v. series, that series is going to have a similar theme throughout. So, if it starts out with a lot of sex in it, chances are, it's going to keep having a lot of sex in it. With books, each one is individual, and you never know what you're going to get.

    I guess my biggest point with informing is, why not? Why not let people know what to expect? What is everyone so afraid of?

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  109. I'm not really going to add to the discussion, but I just wanted to say thanks for writing this post. It's great to see some avid readers writing against sex in YA. I'm a 17 year old never-been-kissed complete virgin, so I really don't appreciate being bombarded with sex in every YA book I read. Like you said, there are plenty of teens who aren't having sex; I think that all my friends (besides maybe one or two) are still virgins.It would be wonderful to see more books where the MC is saving their virginity for marriage and isn't treated as naive and better-than-you.

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  110. OMG. I so agree with your post. I recently became a YA acquisitons reader and there. is. so. much. sex.

    I do not understand how the use of sex is even necessary in a story (and in a recent YA book of short stories I read, gratuitous rape in one story, sex within a half day of meeting! in another). Sex can rarely be a plot point (and it certainly wasn't necessary in the respective stories mentioned above). So why hang so much sex in a story?

    The authors claiming they want to be real? Please. They just want to sell their book. There are so many things that people do that are real that are never mentioned in books. Like going to the loo. Have you ever noticed that people in books never go to the loo? WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?

    What I find amazing is that in the "adult" books I read (in that I mean, books marketed to an adult audience, not [soft] porn), I RARELY have to read a sex scene and usually adults are the ones having the uncontroversial and societally approved sex.

    How bizarre!

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  111. Hmm. From my above comment, I'm not even sure if I have a point. Sorry.

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  112. I think there are more books than you would think about teens who are not having sex, it's just a little more difficult to find them because they might not be what's on the bestseller list (sex does sell, unfortunately).

    I'm also sick of reading books where a couple falls in love in high school and the girl is a virgin but the guy is so experienced and they have sex and then happily ever after! Why does the guy have to be so experienced? Why can't he be a virgin too?

    Like you, I have lots of things to say on the subject but I liked your post the most because I'm not a mother. I was a teen that read a lot about sex but never had it until I was 18 (and it was still a mistake, so there you go) but I agree. These are great books, but why add the Disney-like aspect of the happily ever after once they've had sex? It just doesn't make sense.

    Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I think you are very brave for posting this and I agree. As a librarian for teens, I hope to provide a sort of rating system of my own by knowing the teens and helping them find the most appropriate books. I can't do everything but I can try to help.

    ReplyDelete
  113. Elanor, J, and Maya,

    Thanks for the feedback! Elanor....bravo!! That's all I'm sayin!

    Maya, I completely agree about the guy thing. I just read Divergent by Veronica Roth, and the guy is, I think, 18 and still a virgin, and my mouth fell open when I read that. I was shocked! I was really impressed by that. You're right about there being books out there that don't have sex, I just don't know how anyone would know how to find them.

    Thanks for all the comments everyone! This has really been overwhelmingly positive, and I'm really so thankful!!

    ReplyDelete
  114. As a 40-something, married, no-kids-yet male who likes books, and has read some YA books, and liked some, I am so happy about this post. SPOT>ON.

    -Sangi-95

    ReplyDelete
  115. You're right SEX is everywhere (OMG its even in my post lol) and you can't avoid it, and by making a big deal of it they make it worse especially (the overprotective parents-A.K.A. "DoMESTIC DICTATORS") and I'm pretty sure i'm just stating differently what othe rpeople have posted. But censorship of sex is needed to a CERTAIN degree I mean we are just teens and a few us are Cripplingly immature. I mean I enjoy happily ever afters in books but I can separate fiction from reality and so sometimes i have to take a break and read more realistic books or just live.
    P.S. Two words: Nice blog :)

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  116. I get that sex is everywhere, but as a YA author (and parent) I didn't think it needed to be in my books. I was the HS kid who jumped off the bridge because everyone else did and, looking back, how much do I wish there'd been no bridge!?
    Now, my books are intended to be fun and fast to engage reluctant readers, but I actually don't think sex needs to be in most of the books I read that are more in-depth/epic-like, either; I believe an intense love or lust connection can be made without sex, but maybe that's just me. Kind of like smoking; millions of people are doing it, but J.K. Rowling can span 7 books without it, so what do we gain by just "throwing it in there"? Maybe if sex was in fewer YA books, it'd become less of a staple.

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  117. Wow, thank you so much for writing this! I myself am a teen who (*GASP*) is waiting for marriage, and although I love to read books with a good romance, I'm finding it hard to find books that still deliver that with out the sex. You have no idea how excited I was when I found this blog and a way to know whats in my book before I read it!! THANK YOU!!

    ReplyDelete
  118. Rachel

    Thanks so much for the comment!! You made me smile!!

    ReplyDelete
  119. This post was very helpful to read! I have written one book that is very "clean" and appropriate for middle-school aged kids, but I'm about to release one for an older audience.

    I worried that I was being too prudish by posting a warning or a rating at the beginning of my book, but I was going to do it anyways, because I thought it was the right thing to do. People can't always tell from a cover or a blurb if a book is going to have a ton of sex in it. I wish there were some sort of universal system we could use. I'm not saying writers should be censored or lose their freedoms, but I think we're all basically on the same side!

    Oh, and I read books by VC Andrews as a kid and it probably did warp my young mind. :-) Those should definitely come with a warning! My books are like Disney movies by comparison.

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  120. Dayla,

    I love that you put the content on the front! I think that's the perfect solution!! I know that I've seen a few self-published authors do that. I can't think of a reason not to.

    Thanks for the comment!!

    ReplyDelete
  121. A. Your brave posting your thoughts on this. *high five*
    B. I'm with you. It is shoved down their throats every where they turn. Why do books have to do it to?
    C. Girl you look fabulously young!

    ReplyDelete
  122. Juju,
    Thanks so, so much!! On A, B, and C!! :D

    ReplyDelete
  123. I am a YA author who does write sex into a book. It is important to the characters and the story. I just want to say that it is unfair to expect an author to 'edit' their writing. That is like telling an artist they cant paint the nude form because *gasp* she has breasts!

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  124. While I agree that a LOT of Teen Romance is filled with happy relationships with sex, and show no consequences, I think a great YA novel that shows the realistic side of sex in a relationship and its complications is "Forever.." by good old Judy Blume. She really tried to capture a teen relationship and it's complications, and how two people don't always stay together. Although it was written in the 70s, I think the themes and real-ness are still relevant today. As a teen myself I appreciated that. While I agree that many teens are having sex-too many in my opinion-there are many of us who aren't. And even though the media shoves sex in our face, and our FLE teachers try to tell us not to be pressured, it has to do with each individual, and their own choices and self-discovery. In that sense, I think by the time we get to high school, we are in that path of self-discovery and should be able to read what we want with our own discretion. Yes, many novels include sex in them, but do you know what else is always readily available to us? The Internet. PORN. GOOGLE. The things on the internet are much more graphic, telling, and inappropriate than something we read in a book, and usually those who actually read in high school, aren't the ones doing those bad things. As you pointed out yourself, they are too preoccupied to read. So, yes, there should be a better way of rating beside the 14+ that means nothing, but once they are in high school, those who actually read should be able to read what they want.

    ReplyDelete
  125. I think you did an amazing job on this post.

    As a YA author I have battled this decision myself. After much consideration, my characters (nearly 18) do have sex.....but as you said there is consequences to teen sex, and YES there is for my characters too. Ones that change her life FOREVER and in more than one way too.

    Being a mother to a teenager, I have tried very hard to have my characters go through many of the same issues teens today go through, with all the pressures they face. I also try very hard to show how these situations can turn bad, and how much you need to depend on your friends (and I mean real friends, not the ones that are just there for the ride) and family to help you get through the tough times. Sometimes something like sex or even drugs seems like no big deal... it's just one time, can cost a person (teen or adult) their life and I hope that I have done a good enough job in my writing to get that message through.

    I have been blessed enough that some parents have told their children to read my books because of the message and even more have thanked me for how I handled it, as well as minimizing the cursing in the story. I think YA author's need to think about what message they want sent to their children and how they would handle the situation, before added sex to YA.

    Thank you again for a wonderful and informative post.

    Charlotte

    ReplyDelete
  126. Thanks for the continued comments, support and different opinions! Charlotte, I think that's awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  127. when i was 7 my cousin re-maried for the 2 to a women with 3 kids 3yr,8yr,and a 9 year old when i would go over tko there house to sleep over and watch a movie they would have to change the movie because i would not watch an R rated movie those kids would pick on me like crazy but i had my morals and im very hardheaded i would always come home and tell mom about the kids watchting R rated movies mom would say " did you watch it " " nope mom i got the to watch PG " i always wished i could say somthing but that how they choose to parent how am i sopouse to tell them diffrent

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  128. GREAT post! I'm an author with an 11 year old daughter (who is not having sex yet, that much I'm sure of) and I have to say I was shocked to read your post. I had no idea there was so much sex in "teen" books and it scares me silly. Right now my daughter is reading middle grade books and I know we're safe…. and I haven't allowed Twilight in the house for her yet, nor does she watch teen shows or teen movies yet either (thankfully she has no interest yet, not like we're telling her "no" on everything).

    We do keep a close eye on what both our kids read and watch because I strongly think that's our jobs as parents -- to protect their innocence as long as we can. Same reason we don't have the nightly news on when her and her younger brother are in the room, too much death and violence. Let them enjoy childhood and play with friends.

    Now, along the lines of what you said about authors putting warnings on books -- that is not something they can do unless they are indie like me (and my adult books are filled with sex and have warnings on the cover and in the product descriptions).

    The ratings you're suggesting for teen books would be AWESOME and I think would need to start at the publisher level. Traditionally published authors don't have nearly the control of their books that people think.

    My daughter still thinks I'm "cool" (being an author helps), but in a few more yeas I'm sure she'll think I'm the dumbest person on the planet. Is it okay to tell them the truth? That sex as a teenager is usually awful and you should wait 'til you're older? Or will they just ignore us and figure we're stupid?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks C.J. I'm the same way about the news! Just too much unhappiness for my kiddos. I want them to be happy and not worry about that crap for as long as possible!

      Delete
  129. PREFACE: I'm 17 years old.

    The thing about sex in YA books is that there is RARELY any kind of explicity! I read mainly YA (over 100 books in the last year) and I've only come across less then a handful of books that 1) reach 3rd base or the "home-run", and 2) have any kind of "specifics".

    I'm actually the opposite of you. I get frustrated sometimes with how clean some YA's can be. THAT seems unrealistic to me. I usually switch to an adult/fantasy book after a few YA's because I get tired of them all be pretty much the same.

    Yes, sex in literature has an effect on the reader. No, it is not going to make them run out and become promiscuous! I'm 17, read both YA and Adult fiction and (don't laugh!) I've never even kissed a guy! It's not the book/authors fault if the content influence the reader in any sort of way. Everyone thinks differently; everyone is looking for something different when they escape in a book; everyone has their preferences.

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  130. I totally agree with you on letting us know what content is in the book so we can avoid it if we want to. I happen to be an adult and I love YA books and sex in books don't bother me but I am married. I will be honest there are many YA books that I would not recommend to teenagers because of the sexual content in them. I personally was a virgin when I got married and I am so grateful that I made the decision to wait, I know many people that didn't and I have seen a lot of the heartache that comes with it. Books usually don't include the heartache or consequences that can come with sex. I feel that everything can influence a person exspecially someone that is young and trying to find there way in life. If there are good clean books written that teach some good values to those who read them I only see that as a plus for everyone. I have young children now and I am an avid reader so I will probably be reading most of the books that my children read and if I find questionable content I will defiantly be talking to them about it. I know I cant protect them 100% from sex because of the world we live in but I don't think they need to be overexposed either. I loved this post and I am so glad that you were willing to write this even though you knew people might not agree with you. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Bridget!! Maybe I should recruit you to write reviews! :D

      Delete
  131. I'm a YA author and I've read a lot of YA. I only agree with you to a certain extent. Yes, a YA that includes sex should show the repercussions. Yes, there need to be more YAs that depict the lives of the 50% of teens who aren't having sex. (In fact, that's why of the reasons why I wrote my upcoming novel, Why My Love Life Sucks: The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer. And, no, his love life doesn't suck because he's a virgin. It sucks because he's in love with a close friend who has no idea, and he's too scared of relationships to tell her. In other words, Gilbert is a pretty typical teenage boy.)

    So why do I agree with you only to a certain extent? Because I don't think I've ever read a YA where characters had sex and there weren't repercussions.

    The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series? No indication of anyone actually having sex, and Georgia herself never lets it go beyond a lot of kissing.

    The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? That one depicts sex as pretty much the road to hell. One girl has a nervous breakdown after her first encounter. Another finds out her boyfriend may have knocked up someone else and is utterly distraught afterward. And a third thinks she's pregnant after her first encounter, pushes away her boyfriend who also happens to be her best friend, and has to get over the scare to patch things up with him. The fourth remains a virgin throughout the series. Repercussions galore!

    I could go on and on, but I'd be hard pressed to name any YA novel where teen sex outside of marriage didn't have repercussions.

    No, the main thing that's lacking is a respectful depiction of the other side. Every teenager should be able to find him or herself in a book, and I feel that most YAs are failing the 50% who aren't obsessed with sex. These teens have to read down or up, and that's not fair. There should be YA novels for them, and that's what I'm trying to give them with books like Why My Love Life Sucks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey! Thanks for your comment! I do think that there are books out there that show the ramifications, but, especially now, I think they're few and far between. I don't recognized the first series that you mentioned, and the Sisterhood series is kind-of old (but a classic). Off the top of my head I can think of a ton of YA books I've read that have sex with no consequences except happiness and roses, not all with the main characters, but still very important characters. The Mortal Instruments, Grave Mercy, Desires of the Dead, Wicked Lovely, Tithe, Valiant, Graceling, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Anna and the French Kiss, The Fault in our Stars, Purity, Bitterblue, Fire, The Duff, The Sky is Everywhere, Bright Young Things, Bumped, Playing Hurt, and on and on. I think maybe we're reading different books :D

      I love that you're writing a book that is for the other 50%. I think that's awesome! I know that they will really appreciate it! :D

      Delete
  132. THank you for saying that! As a mother of 2 girls on the verge of being teens, I wholeheartedly agree!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! Thanks for your comment, and good luck on those teenage years ;)

      Delete
  133. I havent been a follower for very long and almost didnt comment on this post because you already have so many comments but I must commend you for the post. I completely agree that we are becoming to casual as a society and just playing off teenagers having sex as normal and not something to be concerned with. I was in shock over the summer when I was watching a show on ABC family and they were showing a commercial for their one of their series they play that is all about teenagers and having sex and getting married. On ABC family for heaven's sake!! It wasnt long after that that a Victoria's Secret commercial came on as well. At like 4 in the afternoon. I can't trust any channel anymore apparently. And yes I completely agree that books should have some sort of rating system on them that does warn on sexual content, violence, language etc. I'm grateful I've found a few book blogs that will put that kind of content ratings in the reviews of books they've read. There's been many books I thought that sounded good for me or my 13 year old nephew to read that were YA but then saw what kind of content they had and was totally surprised. Anyway, Thank you for being brave and posting this! Teenagers are seriously still on an maturing child way of thinking and we shouldn't ignore that.

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  134. I agree whole-heartedly with your stance. Thanks for being a voice for this position. I'm a YA author and my Elle Strauss brand is sex free, if you're looking. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Elle for being willing to provide a "clean" alternative! :) As a parent, I fully appreciate it!

      Delete
  135. I don't usually reply to posts, but I must say I am extremely grateful that you wrote this! This is exactly what I've been thinking for years! I have raised 2 children and have a third on her way to teenagerhood. We have some pretty conservative views. Even as a parent, you can feel isolated with this view. Thank you for giving it a voice!

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  136. Okay, so you probably get a ton of comments on this, and you might not even see mine. But can I just say THANK YOU? Because seriously. You have no idea how in love I am with this post.

    I just turned eighteen a few months ago, and I don't like reading sex when I'm reading YA, and I hate when people say sex is for "mature readers", because maturity has nothing to do with deciding not to read about sex in YA. Everything you said was PERFECT. Where are the books about girls who gets picked on and pushed around because they want to wait until they're married to have sex? Because THAT'S real, too. It's happened to me--a LOT. But you never see THAT in YA books, because it's not "edgy" or "interesting". And when I, as a reviewer, say I won't read books that have a lot of sex in them, I lose followers and audiences because I'm "close minded" and "unrealistic". I definitely know sex isn't all rainbows and butterflies--my best friend got pregnant at thirteen. (And she DIDN'T get to keep her baby and take care of it.) It's not ALL perfection when it comes to teens having sex, and I've been getting sick of it being portrayed that way. (Her "boyfriend" never spoke to her again.)

    And sometimes, you really don't need it. Authors throw it in there because they think it'll draw teens to their books and make it "relatable". I don't find those books relatable at all--my friends (which, admittedly, are all of three people in actuality) aren't having sex, we don't talk about having sex, or who we want to eff. There are more important things on our minds. But authors have gotten this idea in their head that--exactly as you said--YA needs to be "realistic", but then they have these happily ever afters that are totally UNrealistic. I might be going on a tangent now, but I really, REALLY love this post. Especially when you said the teens not having sex are nowhere near as represented. We /do/ exist. And, in my opinion, an author simply not including sex is not "representing" those who aren't having it. It doesn't address the pressures of being a teen who has decided to wait (until marriage or otherwise) and how difficult it can be. And it does place more pressure--as if we didn't already have shows like The Secret Life of an American Teenager (whose title I find simply offensive, like we're all closet sex addicts), we don't need sex being shoved down our throats in YA books either.

    I've been advocating for content warnings on YA books as well. I emailed the APA, and they told me they didn't "have time to put content ratings", and it doesn't seem they have any plans to help a reader out when they want to avoid stuff like that. :/ Kind of disappointing, actually.

    Anyway, wow, I'm really going off. I'm just REALLY happy to find like, one single person out there in the world of YA reading who agrees that there should be less sex in YA. I can't even put into words how happy reading this made me. So sorry about the SUPER long comment, but thank you so much for posting this. (:

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    Replies
    1. Thank you SO, SO much for this comment!! I can't tell you how nervous I was writing this post, so it's amazing that it has had such a positive reaction from so many people!

      I love what you said about how simply not including sex isn't the same as representing those who want to wait. That is so true!

      Thanks for your comment!!!

      Delete
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