Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sex in YA — Part 2

(Part 2)



Alright, so now that part 1 of Sex in YA has helped us to firmly establish what genre the Grab Your Pole series actually falls into—okay, so it’s more like a befuddled uncertainty still, so for the sake of this post let’s just split the difference and say the GYP series is mature young adult—now we can better discuss the good stuff. The sex.

In this part of the blogpost series, let’s look at why I would choose to include sex in a series of books primarily aimed at high school-aged teens.

It’s relevant and it’s prevalent.

Teens are being exposed to sex in some way everywhere, whether it’s on a TV commercial, in a movie, a sitcom, a joke, a magazine, the news, at school (i.e., the teaching of Romeo & JulietThe Scarlet Letter and the like), on a street corner, or on the radio etc... Here’s a fun little tid-bit of useless information for you, I have 58 songs in my music library alone with the word sex in the title. That’s just in the title; it’s not counting album titles or what a song is actually about. And, most of those songs have been or currently are being played by popular radio stations everywhere. So, unless they’re being continually and consistently monitored or live like the Amish (which I have no problem with—they’re your kids, raise ‘em how you see fit) teens are being inundated by sex. And guess what, whether they're in a mature relationship that can honestly withstand the added pressure and complication that sex adds and whether they should be or not, and regardless of whether or not it’s condoned by parents or their religious beliefs, many teens are having sex.


If you’ve read my stuff, you know that I’m not one to really pussyfoot around with the reality of things like that, but I also feel that for a story about more or less average high school teenagers to be realistic, sex has gotta be there. Somewhere. Because the fact of the matter is, if a teen isn’t already doing it, they’re most likely thinking about it in some way even if it’s in the abstract, and sooner or later, they’re going to be faced with having to make a decision. And let’s not forget, the GYP series is just that. A series. It’s not a standalone book in which a moderately short story of only a couple of characters is told. That said, it also features a rather large cast of characters, a couple of whom sort of dictate the protocol here as it pertains to sex just by simply being who they are, and you’ve all heard the term birds of a feather, right? Well, chances are that a person is going to be likeminded with the group of friends they’re closest to, so if a good handful of friends are doing it, it probably won’t be long before the others who aren’t, are. Of course that’s a generalization and not all BFFs are gonna be of the “if my friends jump off a cliff, I will too” mindset. All I’m saying is that it’s more typical than not that close friends are going to be on the same page when it comes to activities and behavior.



So sex is everywhere and a lot of teens are celebrating hump day – check – sex is relevant and prevalent. Sex also sells though and people want to see it and read about it. Although that might be true, by including sex in this particular series of books it is not my intention to up my sales or write a How To manual for underage horndogs. It is my intention however to make the series relatable to a wider range of readers (hello, I’m perfectly aware that most of my readers are long past their high school years) while also incorporating a variety of very real hot topic buttons for teen readers and parents to ponder.

As it is one of those hot topic buttons I write about, teens might not know how to broach the subject of sex with their parents or have another reliable, mature, and trustworthy source they feel close enough to discuss it with, and there are more parents out there than you might realize who don’t quite know how to talk to their children about it either. Many parents have the fear that their teen will either shut them out, become secretive and/or rebellious, or simply not listen or take their parent seriously, and I cannot tell you how many friends of my teens have personally told me how lucky they think my girls are to have parents like my husband and me because they could never talk to their mom or dad about the stuff my kids feel comfortable talking to us about.

Now I fully admit that aside from being a parent myself and having survived my teen years relatively unscathed, I am not an expert nor am I a trained guidance counselor and what I might say on the subject certainly shouldn’t be taken as professional advice, but by portraying realistic teen relationships and the relationships fictional parents have with their teens, I feel as though a possible jumping off point of discussion might be provided for use in real life application. If nothing else, readers can at least see what some plausible outcomes and effects certain decisions on sex can have in a young person’s life. Now that’s not to say that I believe parents should adopt any one of the GYP parents’ style of parenting or that teens should use this series of books as a model when it comes to making their own life choices, just that in the books XYZ happened, this is how so-and-so handled it, and _____ was the result. Whether that handling is right or wrong, or the outcome could’ve been something else entirely is neither here nor there; it’s just one of many possibilities to be taken into consideration.

So what’s your take on it? Is the depiction of main characters having sex in YA books such as the Grab Your Pole series warranted or do you feel as though it goes more to encouraging and condoning teen sex? And please, I understand this might be a touchy subject for some and no one should feel as though their morals or parenting styles are being called into question by participating in what I’m hoping will be a (non-spoilery) discussion, so let’s not incite a riot with nasty or judgmental comments. And not that I think anyone who might happen by this particular blog would actually be disrespectful to me or another commenter, but just so everyone knows, any and all such comments will be deleted summarily so play nice. And don’t forget to check back for Sex in YA Part 3, where I’ll get into the actual writing of the deed.

12 comments:

  1. I so love this topic! I think if sex fits in with the characters and the story, in a natural way...throw it in. Obviously it isn't always needed as part of the story. With GYP, it fit. I hate the idea of leaving sex out just because it is a YA novel. Teens have sex. It is a part of life. I know my experience growing up was the more sheltered my prudish mother tried to keep me, the more I rebelled. So I adopted my parenting ways based off of that. I'm very open with my kidlet and in return have raised the most prudish 16 year old girl on the planet. Go figure. She reads about sex but doesn't in any way think she needs to go have it. This won't be the case for every kid out there, by any means. But I don't think it is a responsibility that falls on an author. Again, if it is a natural progression for your characters...it should be there.

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    1. And I love that you love it! LOL

      I didn't know we were in the same teenage-parenting boat though, and I, too, have a 16 year old girl who's managed to remain pure despite having a "Tristan-type" boyfriend for a few months. (Yeah, that was fun for me.) She's definitely not a prude, but she knows herself, knows the kind of relationship she requires for sex to be on the menu, and knows (for the most part) what she wants out of life right now, and a serious relationship in high school is not one of those things, which basically takes sex off the menu altogether.

      And I do agree with you about the responsibility not falling on an author, but at the same time, the responsibility is still somewhat felt. After all, my kids cheerlead for me and are allowed to read what I write, and their friends read it too, even a then 11 year old friend of my middle minion who upon its release read Shark Bait—and loved it. She of course began exclaiming she wants to be Camie when she "grows up," but um...mild as that book is though, I have to say I'm a little concerned about her parents banging down my door with pitchforks and torches in hand after their daughter reads SOoW, you know what I mean? LOL

      But as you said, everything that has gone down in the series has been a natural progression and it should be there, so while I might get lynched by the neighborhood watch or the PTA of my daughters' middle school, I'm writing the way the story and characters naturally evolve, and I'll do it without censoring.

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    2. We are in the same boat (which is a word I still giggle at,thanks to you). My daughter doesn't even date. Sounds like she is like your daughter in the fact that she knows what she wants in life and realizes that she doesn't want the distraction that can come along with boys.

      I see your point on not wanting to be burned at the stake by parents but ultimately it is their responsibility to know what their child is reading. If she gets her hands on something they think she should not be reading...well, they should have been paying more attention. Just my two cents, I'm know there are a ton of peeps who would not agree.

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    3. I completely agree, Ali, it *is* the responsibility of parents to know what their children are reading, but not all parents take that particular part of parenting seriously, possibly being of the mind that if it's a YA book, it can't have anything too untoward in it, and some might just be thankful that their kid is even reading. However, when it comes to the friends of my children specifically, I feel the need to keep in mind that there are times when I'm the adult responsible for the kid's welfare (i.e, when they're hanging out here or sleeping over etc...) and I have to remember that other parents might not be cool with what I'm okay with what my kids are exposed to, so with that in mind and knowing what's in them, if I were to see one of those kids reading my books I would have to ask, "Um, do your parents know what you're reading? I mean like, do they really *know* what you're reading?" Because as an example if it were me and another parent let my kids watch Spongebob and never thought to ask if I'm okay with that, I'd be fuckin' pissed. LOL

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  2. I agree with Ali. I think if sex seems to be where characters are headed, and the growth of their characters, and staying true to those characters would have them tumbling into bed, then I think it should be in the story. I don't agree with sex for the sake of sex, nor do I think that in a mature YA series that it should be described in graphic detail. That would be kind of oogy, given the age of the characters. That said, I am not a prude, and I do enjoy some details, but for me it's better in a NA book set in college. I guess because my mind would be screaming at me "15 will get you 20!!" while reading details in a YA book. Yeah, makes no real sense. ;) There is something to be said for a good fade to black.

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    1. Hey Anjie! Thanks for stopping by!

      Yeah...the detailing of sex in a YA is tricky in my mind and what part 3 of this series will cover. (Insert fade to black here: _____.) :-p

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  3. I agree with Ali too! Anjie said it, if the growth of 2 characters brings them to the point of having sex, then it's going to happen if that's where the characters are. That is a natural relationship's progression. It's going to come up in a book and it will in reality. I don't have teens yet, but I wish I had the kind of relationship with my own parents when I was considering having sex that is described in GYP and I hope that I am able to build that with my own daughters and son (though I have a few more years for that! WHEW!). It is the detailing that will get to readers. There is PG13 and then there is R. I think you did very well with SOoW and when my oldest is of age to read and understand the age frame of GYP I would absolutely let her read these books.

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    1. Ah, yes...the relationships between the characters and their parents. That, my dear, is a whole other blog topic that I plan on getting into at some point soon. LOL And thank you for the compliment. While I agree with you in part, I also believe I could've been more far more descriptive and steamy, and gotten away with it just fine, although there was actually a reason for why I did it the way I ultimately did in SOoW, and that's what part 3 of this blog series is about. ;-)

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  4. You know what my answer would be. ;)

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