Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stay true to your voice.

Go to fullsize imageI had the honour of tweeting with a wonderful person -- Stacey O'Neale (@YAFantasyGuide) -- about her article Sex in YA, How far is too far? Apparently a debate exists as to whether YA fiction should include sex scenes or not.  While Stacy wrote an EXCELLENT post about her views, I felt I needed to add my thoughts.
I must write a caveat: I am biased because for years my motto has always been “Sexuality should be embraced, never feared.”  In addition, I’ve written so many short stories and novels which are infused with erotica, it’s hard not to align myself with the encouragement of sex scenes in every book.  Even as a teenager, I enjoyed reading vanilla (without sex scenes) fiction, however I hungered, thirsted and even desired stories with a sexual element.  Why? I didn’t want to feel alone.
Now you ask:  Won’t the sex scenes in YA books cause teens to have sex?  I mean, they’ll actually learn what goes where.  We wouldn't want them to learn what they already know...
First and foremost, abstinence does not work.  If you want statistics, please consult @violetblue, @susiebright or a professional publication on the topic.  They are excellent sources in the statistical arena for they have worked in a sex positive community for so long. 
Teenagers are having sex, if they are not – they will eventually.
I have been a high school teacher for over 10 years.  It’s without a doubt in my mind that YOUR pre-teen/teen is reading books filled with sexual scenes (or will at some point).  It’s tempting to say, “Not my child.”  I’d walk around the classroom to ensure my students understood the concepts.  Oftentimes, I’d find students reading Zane Chronicles or Cosmopolitan or a bodice ripping romance novel or writing a graphic “what I want to do to you while your mom is at work” type of letter to their object of affection for the month.  The teens would be so enraptured in the reading or writing, they didn’t realize I was behind them – reading as well.  When the student realized I caught on, they would try to justify.  Before any excuses would spill out of their mouth, I stopped them and responded, “Just as long as you’re reading,” and I’d move on with the lecture. 
Seeing teenagers giggle as they read the SPECIFIC part or thumb through the pages just to get to the graphic sex scene tells me teens want to read about sex.  Teenagers need validation and assurance that their thoughts of sex are normal.  Teen magazines have this practice down to a science.  Pick up any teen magazine and you’ll find headlines splashed with “Does he really love you?  Does sex hurt the first time?  You’re into your girlfriend, does that mean you’re a lesbian?” Does this mean you, as an author, have to go against your nature and write your teen characters having sex? No.  Write what you’re comfortable writing because your readers will feel the discomfort through your words.
What’s even more is these pages are dog-eared and passed around faster than you can blink.
You ask?  Why didn’t you tell the parents?  I did.  In my earlier years of teaching because I felt it was my duty to inform the parents.  However, after the SEVERE denial on the parts of the parents and protests their child was a virgin and would never read such DIRTY material.  I simply stopped because this happened EVERY time I met with parents.
Dr. Alyn

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