Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Sex in YA? Tabboo or ignored?
Hey there everyone. My name’s Leslie Soule and I’m pleased to be a guest on this blog today.
When Deanna gave me the idea to do a blog post on the topic of sex in YA novels, I thought it would be a good challenge to tackle. It got me thinking about the novels I’d read and enjoyed as a teenager and how they handled the tricky topic of sex. I used to love reading a series called the Redwall series by British author Brian Jacques.
The series is about a bunch of animals like mice and otters and badgers who live in a big sandstone abbey together and act like people. The very first book I’d read in the series – one I still have, whose pages are old and dirty, whose spine is so cracked you can barely make out the title since I’d read it so many times – deals with the title character named Mattimeo.
Now the book mentions Mattimeo’s parents – warrior Matthias and his love Cornflower, but there is no mention of sex in the entire Redwall series, and yet we know that Mattimeo had to have come from somewhere. Little mice do not just POP into existence from nothing.
So I thought about other novels that I loved when I was a teenager – and realized that, at least with the books I’d read, (Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, etc.) sex was completely ignored. I searched the internet for other opinions on the topic, in order to gain some insight.
A Google search led me to the Magical Musings blog, where the question was being posed, “How much sex is acceptable in a YA novel?” The author of the post came to the conclusion that there are no rules. While I can see this, I also think there are still standards and traditions.
I recently went to the midnight showing of the new “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One”. For any of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, turn away now, because I will spoil it for you.
Okay, so here’s what happens – Ron sees a vision of Harry and Hermione embracing nude. I didn’t remember this happening in the book when I’d read the Harry Potter series all those years ago, so I looked up whether this scene was in the books or not. Turns out it wasn’t. J.K. Rowling, following in the tradition of many other YA fantasy authors, steered clear of the topic altogether in her novels. She, like so many others, didn’t want to touch “sex” with a ten-foot pole.
Personally, I am guilty of ignoring sex altogether as well in my work and in my upcoming YA novel FALLENWOOD. There’s not a scrap of sex involved in it. At the risk of not practicing what I am about to preach, here are my thoughts on the question of how much is allowable: I believe that in a YA novel, if sex is included, it should be used as a tool in order to enlighten the reader (and I don’t mean “enlighten” as in teaching them different positions).
I find it appalling how nonchalantly various forms of social media advocate casual sex as a normal and healthy lifestyle choice for young adults. However, where are young adults to go in order to get the right information on the subject? It’s rare to see YA novels make any statement at all other than silence.
So there ya go – How is sex handled in YA novels?
Leslie will give away a free copy of her short story THE DEVIL'S BIDDING to anyone who would like to post a comment below on this topic.
You can visit Leslie on her website or her www.falcondraco.bravejournal.com
Thanks for stopping by and good luck!