Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Discussions: Sex in YA Books

Let's talk about sex baby! We see it everywhere from the music artists to the movies to the small screen and everything in between. So naturally, we'd see it in books right? Well, I guess that just really depends.

I've noticed that sex has been popping up (and yes, I'm not mature enough to talk about sex and use the words "popping up" without giggling, so go ahead and do it too) in lots of YA book lately. We've been getting more intimate covers with couples embracing or kissing and we've been getting steamier scenes. Don't believe me? Take a look at Swoon Thursdays created by YA Bound for a couple of weeks and check out all the hot stuff steaming up the pages of books lately. But I was thinking lately if that is a good thing.

I'm inclined to think it is. I mean, sex is something that happens in high school even if other people want to pretend that it doesn't. I'm one of those people who firmly believes that the more someone knows, the more they will be able to make an informed choice. Also, YA books have a much wider audience than ever before. Grown woman are reading the same books that their teenage kids are reading.

Not to mention, I think it's important to talk about the things that teenagers are actually going through. Sure, not every teen is going to have sex but some are and if we aren't talking about it, it doesn't make the bad things go away.

However, I don't think sex is something that should be written about lightly. If an author is going to brooch this subject, I feel like they have a responsibility to do it with respect. I'm not saying that it can't be sexy or realistic, I'm just saying that it should be handled responsibly.

Also, I think that the teen section should be split into two sections with books for older teens in one and books targeting younger audiences in another section. Some books are obviously targeted for the younger crowd and while they may deal with serious issues, they deal with them in a different manner and usually in less detail than books with an older audience in mind.

One book that I think does sex well is The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting. Derting does a wonderful job building Jay and Violet's relationship. They respect each other, they get together slowly and are friends first. They rely on each other and want to show their love in deeper ways. In the second book, they take that bigger step and have sex. Though there is enough detail there it isn't overly explicit and you can tell that sex isn't thrown in there as a shock factor. Derting shows it as a sacred thing that shouldn't be taken lightly. Violet doesn't just bounce back the next day but dwells on the idea that they took their relationship to the next level.

I've also seen several books that get pretty hot and heavy but do a good job of making the characters stop in the middle and really think about what they are doing. Under the Never Sky by Rossi, Insurgent by Roth and even Shatter Me by Mafi all show how passion can get the best of people but that they are capable of thinking through things before they make decisions that will change their life.

So for me, I think that sex is good in YAs but only if it is portrayed in the right way (that is to say that it isn't thrown in there as an afterthought or as a shock factor).

What do you guys think? Yay or nay to sex in YA?


  1. Agreed on all points. I couldn't have said it any better. Furthermore, sex shouldn't be used as a shockfacter or just because in adult novels, either. I've seen author's do good as well as bad jobs on that front.

  2. I say yay. Dealing with sex is part of growing up as a teen, and like you say, not talking about it will not make it go away. Books are a great way to talk about it, and YA novels keep getting more popular each day. I agree that it should be dealt with respectfully and not as a shock factor. Great post by the way!

  3. You are making me think! Oh I love it but I'll just say that parents need to be aware of what their teens are reading. If they don't want them exposed to that kind of thing, then they need to make sure they know what's happening.


  4. I think it should be made clear somewhere on the outside of the book when sex is within the text. That way parents buying books for their kids, or those who are mature enough to admit their not ready too read it, won't buy the books.

  5. I say yay. Sex is just one of those things that is a big topic with young adults, and not talking about it won't make it go away. I think that making it clear that the book might include sex or any other mature topics is a way to handle the whole parental side to sex in YA. My parents honestly don't care what I'm reading because they say "what's the difference of you reading about it, rather then seeing it on MTV or something. I don't know it's a pretty big topic, and there's a lot to say on it.

    I definitely agree with you on the whole dividing of the mature YA and the younger YA in bookstores!

    Great post. (:

  6. Great topic, I too think it should be in YA books - it's happening, and not talking about it isn't going to help. I also think authors have a responsibility here, they could so use this time to educate their readers. Way beyond "Safe Sex" issues. Which REALLY start needing to be addressed.

    I applaud Rachel Vincent for mentioning the "Age of Consent" law in If I Die - most teens have no clue what that is and how much damage can be done by agreeing to have sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend who may only be a year or two older.

    What I would really like to see though, is a more realistic love scene. Sure we all like the hot and heavy, but first times usually aren't like that.

  7. Totally agree. I love when it is done respectfully. I've used Graceling to talk to my daughter about sex & marriage.

    But I sure could name some books that don't.

  8. Such a great thing to write about! This is a really great thing to make people realize that it is being talked about and doing. I totally agree with what you said. I like reading about because it is real and it is actually happening so I think it is important that it is in books. Great post!


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