Monday, August 6, 2012
Much Ado About Sex
Sex. Sex. Sex. SEX!!! Now that I got that out of the way, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Haylee :) and I write children’s & YA fiction. Considering that I’m the new kid on the block I thought I’d start off with a maybe not-so-unique topic but it's something near and dear to my heart. Why? Because I grew up in a conservative household where sex before marriage was a big no-no. Oh, and it's controversial – I love me some controversy!
Sex is a touchy subject (pun intended) specifically among the YA realm. I've heard mixed reviews. Some say leave it out. Others think it's a realistic element of YA. I can respect both sides, but here's what I think.
I was raised in a conservative home by loving, laid back parents. While I didn’t have a curfew per se my parents were still firm on aspects of my life and relationships, making it clear what was expected of me. As an adult, some of those things are still in force. Sex before marriage is taboo and watching racy rated R movies with my parents is still uncomfortable – and always will be. I can honestly say that my parents wouldn't have given me a YA book with underage sex in it. In fact, I don't know many parents who would.
There is this stigma that if you give children a book featuring sex that it will encourage them to explore. I disagree. I firmly believe that books provide a safe environment for kids to learn. Personally, I've read numerous YA books that handle sex in a tasteful, realistic way. Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer is a fantastic, moving piece. It presents sex in an age-appropriate manner while being honest with readers. Recently, I read a post by Sarah where she talks about her book being banned and it really struck a chord with me. The book is just great - seriously, I cannot say enough about it - and when I found out a school district in Missouri banned it, I was bummed. Aside from the presence of sex, the novel talks a lot about grief and self discovery. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it helped me cope with the death of a family member.
In light of this news (which actually happened last year - yeah, I'm behind) I started re-evaluating my work. At this point my characters are celibate and will remain that way. Why? Because sex will not advance or enhance my plot and I think that is an important thing writers should consider. Sex in YA should be well thought out and pertinent to your story. In my opinion, it's just excess fat when thrown in to sell or create shock value. Some writers think it creates romance - not this girl. In fact, the best romance scenes I've read really had nothing to do with sex at all. I will add that not every author can handle the topic properly and reviews can be very revealing (no pun intended...okay, well maybe), so parental discretion is advised.
Now, I am not a parent and I'm not claiming to be an authority on how you should and shouldn't raise your children. And I completely understand why parents would not want their children absorbing YA works that contain sex. Parents want to (and should) subject their children to things that reflect their values and opinions. On the flip side, public school doesn't give a crap about morals, and neither do the kids who attend it. I remember what it's like to be a teen, considering that it wasn't too long ago, and I was exposed to some rather shocking events including (but not limited to) being offered drugs, watching kids get busted by an undercover cop, and listening to some overtly sexual accounts from fellow classmates. And I attended a remotely privileged high school so I can only imagine what it's like for less fortunate schools. My point is that teens are bombarded with sex on all fronts – television, music, the internet, cellphones (sexting, anyone?) - and we should arm them with knowledge. After all, as Schoolhouse Rock always said, knowledge is power.
Thoughts? Opinions? I'd love to hear them!