I like a steamy scene as much as the next person. One of my favourites is in Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers. However, I shy away from them in young adult or new adult fiction.
*WARNING* I will be talking about underage sex, consent, violence, and rape.
There is a overarching moralistic trend in North American media to equate sex with violence. Look at the words we use to talk about sex. Body Count, Conquests, etc.
What this means for YA media is a massive quantity of negative portrayals of sex. The first book I remember reading that had sex in it was a french novel about a girl who runs away from home and gets raped and pregnant. It was pretty traumatic. One of the first movies I watched that I remember there being sex in it was Revenge of the Nerds and that’s rape where you’re supposed to cheer for the rapist. Those are just a few examples, but there are many more.
Now I try to remember books that I read that had a positive sexual experience and I can only think of one. (In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce)
The idea that sex is bad is really ingrained in us as a society. Some people who are very open and non-judgmental in other areas have trouble divorcing the learned negativity of sex.
You’ll hear things like “Can’t they stay kids?” and “Why are they rushing to grow up?” as if sex were a loss of innocence. It doesn’t have to be. Sex isn’t inherently traumatic.
Unfortunately, sex is often equated with violence because it can be used for violence. Sex can be used as a form of control over someone else and therefore can be a loss of control.
So when sex is explored in YA stories, I know we’re in for one of the big three; Rape, Pregnancy, or Infection.
What we need is more realistic but positive examples of joyful, consensual, and loving sex. It’s important for readers of all ages to see healthy concepts of sex and not just the traumatic.
Sex doesn’t have to be only about trauma, we need the cautionary tales, but we also need to safe and healthy role-models.
I don’t write sex in my YA for the simple reason that I have trouble writing the emotional truth of it. But I do encourage authors who can do it to please remember the power of having a good example. Sex positive is just as important as the morality tales and warnings.
I get that this is a loaded subject. Please be civil in the comments.
Stay safe and be kind,