Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sex and Teen Fiction

I am big on truth in teen fiction, which makes some people uncomfortable. I've had people tell me I'm immoral, wrong, trying to corrupt kids, and other fun stuff. 

Why, you ask?

Partly because many of my books are centered around gay teen characters, but a lot of the time, it's because sometimes, my characters have sex. 

People are weird about sex. They're even weirder about teens having sex. ESPECIALLY in fiction. 

Why is this? Because they remember what it was like to be a teenager? Because they don't?Because they want their own kids to wait until an appropriate time? Because their own morals say it's wrong?

My take on it is this: with many of our teenagers entering high school with no knowledge of safe sex practices, where do they get their information? TV, Movies, and Books. Being a teenager is awful sometimes: you're loaded up with hormones, you're trying to figure out who you are and what you want out of your life and a lot of the time, you're really confused about all the feelings that are going on in your body and mind. Being assured that sexual feelings are normal can really help emotionally. Surrounding sex with a stigmata will only make teens want to do it more--and they might not be prepared to deal with the consequences.  

A parent has every right to limit what their teens read or watch, of course. But from my experience, any book that I was told I couldn't read, I would take the first chance I got and locked myself in the bathroom to read it. 

Teenagers have sex. Sometimes they do it safely, sometimes they don't. Educating them a little more about their bodies and feelings--in fiction or non-fiction would be a great boon to them. 

Plus, who doesn't love some torrid (but tasteful) romance? 



Tracy Belsher said...

Great post, Tess. I still get people telling me "you can't put that in a kids book" and I shake my head. Teen sex is happening people - it did when I was in high school and when my parents were in high school.

I think authors who tackle the issue without being preachy or priggish (the two P's of not-so-good teen fiction - IMHO) will create characters that resonate with readers.

Tami Klockau said...

Great post! As you mentioned, sex in a teen's life is truth. It will happen to a large majority of the teen population before they leave their teen years behind. A book, a TV show, a song will not influence them one way or the other. Their peers and their bodies will. They make the final decision, not the media.

briaspage said...

Nice post. I have no problem with the honest that seems to be seen more in the YA section. I think there's definitely a place and need for it.

I think it's up to the author to know who her audience is and write to them. . . I get a great big GRRRRRR going when someone says, "yeah, teens" b/c lets face it, there are older teens and younger teens and it has nothing to do with their birthday.

I was a "younger" teen b/c the things I was dealing with weren't peer related - they were family related - being the parent to your parents sometimes makes the dating scene secondary for a lot of teens. So I'm a sorta-sweet writer. Think semi-sweet chocolate chips. Not those bitter ones for cooking :)

Keep up the great work!

Kitty Keswick said...

I think it definitely depends on the story. I write general romances as well as YA. In my YA's with my current publisher, they are very strict, and require me to keep it PG.
I'm fine with that because it fits this story and heroine. (Her relationship with her boyfriend is new. She just had her first kiss.)So tackling the sex issue wasn't something I was focused on.
But I have a few stories on the burner with older teen characters that I still want to be YA. I don't have a problem writing sex scenes as long as they fit into the plot and aren't just tossed in there for shock value. It's a fine line to walk. I think the key is knowing which publishers are okay with older,sexier hero/heroine plots and which aren't and know that before you submit. If kids want to read about sex they will. It's just as easy to pick up a regular romance and read it. There's no age requirement on general romance books.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Nice post! I think it's crazy how people seem to think all YA books need to be nice and neat. It's not real. It's not true. I don't have a problem with sex in books, YA or just needs to make sense to the story, like someone else said.


A.S. King said...

"people are weird about sex"

Well said. What disturbs me is that in this day and age, people are trying to STOP educating teens about sex. Why move backward? Don't we already know what's back there? (Has anyone seen the recent teen STD statistics? Yikes!)

Great post!

Jen Childers said...

I do believe in truth, but i would like to show the emotional downside. girls think sex leads to true love and more often than not, it leads to a one night stand.
we have had sex ed for 30 years i can't imagine them not being able to get info. I think teens know the mechanics all right its the relationship aspects they need to understand.
I think its sad when a girl tells me she wants to lose her virginity so she can "get it over with" or she feels out of the loop. I tell her if she thinks she feels lonely now, meaningless sex will make her feel worse.
lol i was always the teen doling out the info in the girls bathroom.
I actually had one girl threaten to kick my ass because i told her friend about birth control and planned parenthood. well, the girl got pregnant, the boy took off.
wish she had listened.
Be well and happy new year!
its going to be a great one