Friday, August 23, 2013

Snips & Specs & Sex

...Yeah, I said it. Sex. Such a frequently taboo subject in YA fiction, although perhaps less so in recent years.

When I was about 10, I was fascinated by the books that featured a college-age Nancy Drew -- you know, the ones where she made out with boyfriends and stuff. My mom didn't want me to read them, but I'd stash them away in my room somewhere and sneakily read them under my covers with a flashlight. They were such a thrill to me!

In hindsight, my mom was probably right to say this wasn't worth reading.
 When I got a little older, I discovered the writing of Tamora Pierce, author of The Song of the Lioness, Wild Magic, Protector of the Small, and various other awesome Tortallan adventures featuring female protagonists. The Protector of the Small series (First Test, Page, Squire, and Lady Knight) in particular was a revelation to me -- as Kel grew up, she started having sexual encounters with male partners! And they weren't even married, or going to be together forever! And it was consensual and respectful and fun regardless!

My idol.

Young adult fiction was one of the first outlets I had for thinking about my own sexuality as a teen. I'm guessing this may be true for others of you out there, too. Yet recently in the news is a Queens mother who successfully pressured her son's school into removing Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (which our own Kate recently read and reviewed) from its required reading list, all because it (briefly) mentions masturbation. In fact, she dismissively referred to the award-winning novel, which tackles other tough issues such as poverty, racism, and alcoholism, as "Fifty Shades for kids."

Womp womp.

Kelly Jensen at Book Riot does an excellent job breaking down this issue further, and also provides a list of YA books that explore sex in some way, ranging from the consensual to sexual abuse to prostitution. As a future high school English teacher, I fully intend to incorporate (when appropriate) books that address sexuality into my curriculum, or at least not to disinclude them for that reason.

And to that worried mom in Queens, I would suggest that your son probably already IS curious about sex, and although it may be awkward to have those conversations with him, YA fiction can help lay the groundwork in an important and healthy way.

But what do YOU think? Is sex ever appropriate in novels intended for young adults? If you have kids, or intend to in the future, do you/will you monitor what they read for "mature" content?



  1. Aggghhhhhhh!!! Banning books KILLS ME. They tried to ban Harry Potter in my town because it promotes witch craft.

    Like seriously, a big fuck you to all the people in the world who try and ban books they CLEARLY HAVEN'T READ. Controversy about Speak has been coming up again recently...and that book has been out for what, a decade? Oh yes, this book with a girl being raped is CLEARLY promoting premarital sex.

    Sorry. I get rather...upset (bahahah FURIOUS) about these sorts of things. I think I grew up with a healthy outlook on teen issues like sex, weight, etc. and a big part of that was the books I was exposed to (and my parents of course, but not everyone has great parents like mine). I loved how Tamora Pierce's heroines approach sex! All of them feel differently, but it's a part of their life and they did what felt right to them and WHY CAN'T THERE BE MORE BOOKS LIKE THAT??

    I'm done ranting now...

    1. Yeah, you're totally right - I think most of the people who get up in arms about books have NOT read them and are just taking one moment completely out of context. Pretty sure this unfortunately happens with other media, too, like video games.

      Ugghhh, the controversy about Speak is just appalling. That is one of the most frank and important books out there for young adults about sexual assault. MAYBE WE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT "BLURRED LINES" INSTEAD, GUYS. Just saying.

    2. HAHAHAHAHA Oh my god...Blurred lines!!! I have a friend who analyzed the format. Instead of trying to explain harmonic analysis, here's a link to the song my friend wrote about Blurred Lines/Miley Cyrus's VMA performance. It's HILARIOUS!

      (To put Blurred Lines in perspective, even the most standard pop song formats can be described as I V vi IV, which is already pretty unexciting as you can get)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...