Sunday, January 11, 2015

These Thoughts Go To Eleven: Writing About Sex in YA Fiction & Otherwise, Part II

Figure 1. Relax already, dude. I haven't even started with the opinions yet...

As promised in last month's post, here is part II, where I asked a group of anonymous authors, readers, librarians, reviewers and editors the following question:

What are you tired of reading/seeing when it comes to sex in fiction?


I'm most sick of off-the-page sex. Fade to black kind of stuff. I'm sick of nice, clean, "perfect" sex. Give me messy and complicated sex that isn't great at first, or maybe ever, that is awkward, that has embarrassing moments as well as sweet or hot moments. - Teen Librarian, Reviewer & Writer


Angry sex, or the sex that's all Spike & Buffy in that breaking down house. I'm sorry but when teeth and hands are involved, I don't think it should be near your sexy places. I don't buy that people have that kind of angry sex in a way that isn't very BDSM controlled or borderline rape. - Editor #1


More low-level pregnancy anxiety from guys in ongoing teenage sexual relationships. I knew nothing so well in high school as my girlfriend’s cycle. She was on the pill, etc., but there was still a wave of relief when I got some sort of evidence that the clock had started over. - Editor #2


I am tired of seeing girls who are afraid of their sexuality. More specifically, I am tired of girls who are afraid to be sexual. I just finished reading & reviewing Allison van Diepen's On The Edge, and boy did those girls own up to their interest in sex. Sure, they go out and drink (underage) to cruise for guys, but they also talk about how much they need sex, how long it's been since they had it, how they're lonely at night, stuff like that. Totally refreshing. - Teen Librarian & Reviewer


The penis that springs back into action immediately after release. Dude, I don't care if you are 18, recovery time exists. - Editor #1


Did you read Adam Selzer's Play Me Backwards? He did a GREAT job of writing this totally insecure boy character who has had sex, but it wasn't great and he felt nervous and shitty about it, and he wants to have sex with his new gf, but is completely anxious. I felt like, FINALLY! Where the hell have boys like this been in YA?  - Teen Librarian, Reviewer & Writer


You know when there's a hint that sex happened, and they wake up the next day and keep on with their lives? That. Enough of that. Let's have some details, please. Even if they do skip over the actual sex and it's just a warm and fuzzy night in bed or whatever, what about the mess afterwards? What about the they wake up the next day with their skin stuck to the sheets? What about forgetting to toss out the condom wrapper? What about not knowing where your socks are, or your shirt, or your belt? What about that weird after-sex ache, or the post-sex discharge? Seriously, no one ever talks about those messy details and it makes sex seem more glamorous than it is most of the time and that is really unfortunate.  - Teen Librarian & Reviewer


Two things I think are underrepresented in YA manuscripts: female masturbation and women being the ones to initiate consensual sex within a relationship. In the latter case, I feel like it’s always the guy who initiates sex, and the GF either goes along with it out of obligation, or it’s a date-rape situation. Not that these aren’t worth writing about/discussing, but I feel like I’ve seen it. - Editor #3


I want to see teen characters TALKING about sex, especially girls. Give me conversations about doing it, give me girls asking other girls questions, being curious, sharing, being horrified/amused/nervous/excited. - Teen Librarian, Reviewer & Writer


The hairless mystique or the commentary of hero on how hot it is that girls have no hair on their junk. This is probably me-specific, but hair is a pretty important part of collecting evidence for rape kits so I really want everyone to stop with the "no hair is hot" shit. - Editor #1


I’m tired of seeing sex represented as something less than the best goddamn hour and forty-five minutes of licking, sucking, plunging and cumming. In fiction, I completely understand, accept, and sometimes hope for it to be represented as fraught and awkward; however, at its best, it’s the opposite of both of those things and just once, I’d like to see sex presented in all of its glory as the most fun that the human body has to offer. - YA author

Agree? Disagree? Tell me your opinion in the comments...


  1. This is a great run-down and I agree with a lot of them! I'm especially tired of guys always initiating sex in books (and in films). There's a whole spectrum of how people, both male and female, react to sex, how good or bad their first time is and their hundredth, and it feels like we've only take a few slivers of that experience and written them to death.

  2. Guys dominating, initiating, pressuring, obsessing - this is really overdone! There are lots of scary things about initiating sex and what not, even if one is completely consumed with the idea of sexual contact. There is so much unexplored territory featuring guys who let girls dictate the shots, or wait until girls approach them.

  3. Oh, fantastic. I would love to see more guy anxiety about pregnancy, and more girls talking about sex, too. And omg, more sexually confident ladies. :)

  4. This list is way too straight. Let's start there.

  5. "What are you tired of reading/seeing when it comes to sex in fiction?"
    Straight people.

  6. I haven't read much sex in YA fiction, but this list applies to adult romance & erotica perfectly. I too want to see more realistic sex: the awkward moments & the mess afterwards. I want to see pre-sex conversation about sexual histories, STDs and contraceptives. I want to see conversations about sex - what they've tried, what they're open to, what they like, what they're not into - before any clothes even come off. I want to see hetero romantic heroines who go after what they want and speak up in bed rather than only having the power to accept/reject a man's advances. And I want to see a wider range of men represented. I'm sick of alpha heroes who are aggressive, ultra-confident and super experienced in the sack. Shy guys, inexperienced guys, guys who've been traumatized by past sexual experiences can be sexy too. Anonymous's point about the list being fairly hetero-normative is well-taken, too.