Saturday, April 30, 2016

Is Sex in YA Right or Wrong, and Does it Matter?

So, I've been meaning to write this post for literally ages; I even have the three years old "posts to write" sheet to prove it. It's a subject that's been on my mind for a while, especially when I found Goodreads and saw reviews that reviewed not only the book, but how "Safe" it was for young adults in terms of language and sexual themes.

But like many of my discussion ideas, I have to wait until inspiration strikes to actually write them properly, and so it kind of sat there on the periphery waiting for me to come back to it. The perfect moment came when I read Biggest Flirty by Jennifer Echols due to the sexual themes in the book, though non of them graphic.

Reading that book, which I loved by the way, I came back to this question.
You see, this question is difficult because first you have to decide what is the purpose of YA to you. YA can be a realistic representation of young adult life (no matter it's genre), or an instrument of education. And at the end of the day, it's usually a mix of both.

Now, why does the distinction matters for this discussion's purpose?
As a realistic representation of YA I think sex should and needs to be present in those books. Not necessarily by the characters having it, but definitely something that is there. You can't ignore reality and pretend teens aren't having it.

I may have been the geekiest girl in high-school and wasn't having sex or friends with those were having it, but it was still all around us. It was something we (very rarely, admittedly), discussed. More than that - it was something we were interested in, even if just in our wildest dreams.

And nowadays, this is even stronger, as the consensus toward sex changes and becomes much more open.

So a YA novel that is completely "clean" is unrealistic, to a point it even feels childish. I have read a few books that were hard to believe dealt with teenagers because it was just so "clean".

(You might already figure out I'm on the "should exist" wagon in RL)
BUT, it is important to consider the other side. Books are something we learn of, same as TV. My fifteen year old brother knew about sex and understood it by thirteen, maybe before (but I'd rather not dwell on that because ewww), due to all the content he was exposed to.

That makes one wonder, if by showing it in media that is expressible to all ages, especially in content directed to young adults (which includes children from twelve and up), aren't we exposing them to it? maturing them faster and pushing them towards it earlier?

If sex wasn't present in all those high-school novels, would kids still be doing it in high-school with the same frequency? (Probably, because the problem is much wider than just books, but you have to start somewhere right?)

However... why are we treating sex as something dirty and bad, even in context of making something 'safe'? Sex is not a problem. Having and enjoying it is not a problem. Unprotected, reckless sex is. And kids will be doing more of it if they're not taught better - which is where books come along.

Yes, I sometimes think kids stop being "kids" very early nowadays, when they are not necessarily ready or have the power to fully, rationally and logically deal with that maturity. But I'll be honest... I don't think books are the problem.
Sex exists in the world. Sex is pretty much everywhere, now more than ever. It can be good, it can be bad. It can be with someone you love and it can be just because you're looking for some physical contact.  Same in books. It can preach against it or show the beauty of it, or be there just because. 

Honestly, I don't care either way about sex. It doesn't bother me in any form (99% of time) and it doesn't bother me when I recommend books to others. And for me, there is no real discussion of "should it be present" in these books, because everything has a legitimacy to be written... especially something so visible nowadays. 

But what there is and always will be is the right parents have to monitor their children's reads (up to a certain age) and decide whether a book is safe enough to read - those are the same parents who will take from their time to monitor what their kids are watching and block certain channels and sites.

I think that as a parent (when the time comes) I would rather let my children read books that deal with the subject in an enlightened, positive matter, books that will teach them how to behave and what precautions to take and not to be ashamed of it than shelter them completely... and that will be another form of monitoring, really.

Well, I feel like this discussion kind of went around itself, but I let all I wanted to say out so I'm good lol

Which camp are you on the - Right or Wrong? Does sex in YA bother you? Have you ever thought of this before? What type of parents are you - or you think you will be?

No comments:

Post a Comment