So, I stumbled upon a tumblr post by way of a retweet from another author which led me to a blog post, both of which discuss the issue of "profanity" being used and thus rated in books. Now I'm not really going to get into why I strongly disagree with the generalization of the study and therefore the movement to rate YA literature in a similar way as movies are, because both of those aforementioned posts do quite an excellent job of stating my beliefs on that subject. However, I would like to take a moment to discuss my viewpoint on swearing in general and my choice in swearing in Shark Bait and the rest of the novels in the Grab Your Pole Series.
I didn't grow up with parents that swore constantly, but they did occasionally and quite honestly, it never bothered me to hear any cuss words as a child. Hearing adult family members swear or hearing it in movies really didn't contribute to my delinquency either. I was, quite frankly, a little Miss Priss for most of my pre-teen life. As such, I didn't use swear words myself until I was a bit older, but even then, I pretty much kept it simple. You know, the basics like bitch and shit, and I usually had a good reason for popping off--well, as much of a good reason as an 11 year old can justify. Like inadvertently stepping in dog...well, shit.
In high school I definitely branched out, though, and found it amusing when I would throw out the abhorrent "C" word, which always seemed to garner shocked reactions of varying levels. But contrary to almost every female on the planet, that one really doesn't get to me in the least. It's just a word. And like one of my dearest friend's mother has said, "a word only has as much power as you are willing to give it." Yes, words have power and they can be wielded in a variety of ways, but to allow a single word to affect you so deeply that it has power over you? Well, I see that as ludicrous to the nth degree. And I'm not saying swearing is for everyone. It's not. I respect the choice to not swear but I'm not gonna pretend to be someone I'm not and I'm pro-swearing. I do try to keep it to minimum in certain company, but I'm not looking for approval by doing that. It's simply done out of respect because the fact is, there are people out there who might be offended by an f-bomb being shoved down their throat without warning. You know, like I really don't think walking up to my pastor after church and saying "Oh my God! That was the best fucking sermon EVER! I mean you really preached the motherfucking shit outta that one!" is going to be the best way to pay him a compliment.
Personally, the f-word is one of my all time favorites. It just carries such a sense of biting satisfaction at the most crucial times that other, less profane words don't offer. Plus, I find the word fuck's versatility to be unparalleled. Monty Python's Usage of the Word Fuck explains it best and I couldn't agree more. So, I use it. A lot. And I use it in my writing. A lot. But that's basically because although I write fiction, I'm still writing about the lives of your average, contemporary teenagers, and guess what? A lot of them swear. Even more than I do and that's fucking saying something. Don't believe me? Just ask my 15 year old daughter, A, who, unbeknownst to them, occasionally puts her friends on speaker phone.
And although A is just a mere 15 and one 1/2 years old (almost), she's been allowed to read all of my books. But that decision had nothing to do with the swearing in the books, it was simply because her parents--myself and my husband--recognize that she's mature enough to handle reading about some of the ugly truth inherent in the imperfect world in which she lives. The fact of the matter is, life isn't all unicorns and rainbows; something she's already discovered to be true in her own misadventures in living and if she hadn't already experienced that to some degree, she would eventually. To that end, I also wouldn't have a problem with my 12-year-old daughter, F, reading my work—although I'd have to explain what certain content actually means. Which is fine, because really, she's gonna hear about it at some point anyway and I'd much rather have her learn what 69 is from me than from one of her peers who'll probably get it wrong in the first place. And just so you know, F is anti-swearing, even in the music she chooses to listen to. For the most part, if she feels it's inappropriate, she doesn't participate in any respect other than to make her feelings known, which I applaud her for. However, she did admit to me that she was tempted to flip a boy off today after school when he flippantly told her to lower her standards after she'd confessed to him that she liked him. I called him a dick. It was probably the only time since mastering speech that she didn't berate me for my language.
Now would I allow my 10-year-old daughter to read my work? Sure. In like six or seven years, and even then, she'll have to prove she's ready by making a presentation to her father and me on why she wants to read Mommy's books-without using her beloved Monster High dolls as visual aids. I think I've got some time there, wouldn't you agree? And here again, that decision isn't based on the swearing in the books--I mean she lives in my house. She's heard almost all of them and still refers to "stupid" as the S-word, bless her 10-year-old little heart.
Just like having mobile art (tattoos) doesn't make someone a thug, swearing in books doesn't make them unsuitable for a YA audience. Often times, it just makes the characters that much more human. And as both a writer and a mom, I believe it's up to parents to decide if their young adult can handle reading the words they've most likely been hearing for years or if they'd prefer to keep little Johnny's eyes more virginal than his ears for a while longer.
But hey, that's just me...realist and unabashed user of the word fuck in all its forms and glory.