Hello everyone! So, this discussion post was inspired by Josie’s original post, as well as Cristina’s post. I’m a little bit late here, but oh well- school. You know how it is. I decided to this discussion for three reasons- one, because I found it interesting. Two, because I had way too many ideas for just a comment. And three, I hope to provide a different view point. Cristina is 31 and getting her PhD in Biodiversity/ Biological Anthropology (taken from her about page 😉 ), whereas Josie is, well, older than me. I hope to bring the viewpoint of a ‘child’ to this conversation- I am 13.
Let me first of all say something- all thirteen year olds (and indeed those of any age) are at different levels of maturity. Therefore, it is impossible to put an age on what is appropriate. Rather, it us up to the individual and those responsible for that individual to gauge what is appropriate for the unique mind of that person.
I am personally for sex in novels. I will be using quotes from both Cristina’s and Josie’s posts. Just as a quick warning, this could get a little bit graphic.
Why Should Sex be Included in Novels?
“Why should we start sexualising the pages of our novels? “- Josie
Why are we ‘sexualising’ our books? When one thinks of sexualising something, or at least when I think of sexualising something, I think of inappropriately making something more sexual than it needs to be in a way that is detrimental to someone else. Adding sex into our books isn’t detrimental- it is actually the opposite. In adding sex into books, we are creating awareness and making the topic less taboo.
“Sex is a natural part of life, and it’s a good part of life!”- Cristina
Exactly! Sex is completely, one hundred percent natural. If it is natural, then why not include it in something which is telling the story of a human being. If it is a part of our life, then it is necessary to create a well-rounded character.
Now, you might be thinking- but a character shouldn’t revolve around their sexuality! Or even, but what about books for children, Keira? Should sex be included in those too? My answer to you- of course not!
“The distinction between what is erotica and not, shouldn’t be on the basis it it features sex or not, it should be in terms of description and explicitly. Should ALL books that feature sex be explicit?! Heck no! But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t include sex if the story calls for it.” -Cristina
On this one, I could not agree more. Sex, like anything else, is not black-and-white, in fact it lies solidly in the area between- grey. Should sex be a part of books aimed at three year olds? Besides the fact that it would go over their heads, it is unnecessary and irrelevant to the storylines that are written for three year olds. Which brings me to my next topic…
SEX IN YA BOOKS
I’m not going to even talk about Middle Grade. Books aimed at nine year olds shouldn’t have sex in them. Period. It is not relevant to their lives at that age.
But it is a relevant topic in the life of a teenager. In books, we want characters to be believable, sometimes we want to identify with the problems and characters present. Books should deal with problems real people face in order to make people believe the storyline and feel more empathy for the characters- it is the way storytelling works. And believe it or not, teenagers know exactly what sex is. I don’t know about when you were a teenager, or where you live, but in my experience, we aren’t ignorant. The internet is a pool of knowledge. And we know how to use it to get the knowledge we want.
Again, I am speaking purely from personal experience here, but amongst my friends, sex is a common topic. In Germany, the legal age for sex is 14 (when the partners are within two years of age). Which means that yes- it is important to talk about these things in books aimed at people of this age. During your teenage years, you have to start making decisions about sex and relationships and if you feel isolated and like it is a problem only you are facing, that is detrimental to your mental well-being. If sex and its consequences are not present in books, then the topic remains taboo and people won’t talk about it and can end up making bad decisions. For example, did you know that in the states where the only sexual education offered is abstinence-only, there are the highest rates of teen pregnancy? We need to talk about condoms and safe sex more.
“We have enough media promoting sex to young people, and I think that including sex in Young Adult novels, is just sending reassurance to young people that it’s normal for them to have sex, being 16, 17, or maybe even younger. This is not something we want to promote. Leave it to our explicit music, and the internet to do that. Leave our precious books alone and untouched. Please. ” -Josie
I’m not being mean here…. but… it is normal to have sex, first of all and… one of the reasons that it is so important to include sex in YA books, is that the media is promoting sex to young people and so we need to reflect that and teach these young people how to protect themselves from the negative consequences. It is not like we don’t know how it works, but some people aren’t as fortunate as others, like myself, who have a wealth of resources and information about safe sex at hand.
Let me tell you a short story…. last year, I was in 7th Grade (Year 8 in England)- so I was thirteen (I am now nearly 14, fyi- this month!!!). In our Science class, we spent a month talking about sex. We covered the organs, the different types- anal, oral etc. We talked about sex toys and masturbation. We discussed the different prevention techniques and the importance of consent. And then we had ‘Condom Day’. I went to another teacher’s class (I missed my class’ for a band concert) and we had dildos, as well as packets of pre-lubricated condoms. We then had a lesson learning how to correctly use condoms and the importance of talking about STIs and STDs. At the end, we were far less embarrassed, and now it is a normal thing to talk about. This is important because it means that in the future (possibly the near future) we will need this information as we become sexually active.
It doesn’t matter whether you approve of teenagers having sex or not, I hope you would prefer them to have safe sex and to inform them about how to go about it than tell them it is wrong, have them do it anyway, possibly get pregnant or an STD/I and feel possibly guilty and horrible about themselves afterwards. Yeah? Okay.
“Of course, I suppose you can argue that sex is a part of self-discovery and growing up but I don’t think so…” -Josie.
As Cristina says perfectly, no matter what you think, the teenage years are a major part of maturing sexually– it is when you start to think about who you are attracted to, what you’re in to, you start developing sexual urges and needs- it is pure science: hormones. Just saying.
Let me just get one thing clear, I’m not saying that sex in YA books should be graphic. Not at all. Sexual innuendos- great! Described sexual acts- moderately: there shouldn’t be graphic scenes, but talking about the emotions is important, and especially about beforehand: show the characters talking about the potential consequences and teens will start to think about them too. In short, sex should be included only when it is relevant to the plot and not just for the sake of it.
Sex in Adult and New Adult Novels
“But it’s unrealistic to have an adult relationship portrayed that doesn’t include sex.”- Cristina.
As I have said before, and as Cristina said as well, sex is a part of most Adults and New Adults lives. Therefore, it should be present.
“By focusing around this theme, it feels as though all NA romance novels follow along the same kind of plot. No matter what NA romance review I read, I’m almost bored to death because THEY ALL SOUND THE SAME.” -Josie
Well, this is one of the few things I agree with you on. Although new adult books should have sex (or it be acceptable, at least) the entire plot should not revolve entirely around sex. If it does, it is probably not very realistic or powerful. Or, it should revolve around the emotional implications and consequences of sex, which are serious issues that should definitely be addressed.
Sex should be included in books where it is relevant and fitting to the plot and the characters. It should be purposefully used in a meaningful way to communicate a message or make the reader connect more to the character. How graphic the sex is should vary depending on the target audience. We should not be scared of talking about sex. The more of a taboo sex is, the more problems arise. Know yourself. If you can handle it, go for it. If not, then don’t read it. But don’t complain about it either- sex is natural, after all.
Thank you for reading all the way to the end of my poorly structured discussion! Before I leave you, I would like to complete Day 2 of Dziey’s 5 Day Challenge (I am one day behind, sorry!). You can start this challenge whenever you like. The prompt for day two is: Seven things that come across your mind a lot.
- What if that was me…
- I really, really hope I didn’t fail that test.
- I’m hyper. Really, really hyper.
- I should probably…
- I’m tired too. That might be why I’m hyper.
My brain is very random, to say the least!
Love you and happy reading,
P.S. Feel free to comment below telling me what you think about sex in books or even make a post of your own! No one is judging you here!