Teen Topic Tuesday: Sex in YA Novels

YA novels

I’ve noticed that YA novels differ greatly with discussing the topic of sex. I find that fascinating given the profusion of sex in our current society. Are some authors trying to avoid the topic because it is too embedded into our culture or because they are creating worlds so outside the current norm that sex wouldn’t even be on the table? And yet, other books have sex as a main focus, usually more fantasy or “real life” driven novels. What are those authors saying about sex and society?

Let’s have some examples because that’s always fun!

hp1-7 Harry Potter: no sex…there isn’t even kissing until the 5th book, and then after that, everyone is kind of busy trying to survive but still.

The Hunger Games: okay, so Katniss is pretty busy trying to survive the Hunger Games and then once she gets back, there is a whole love triangle thing happening that doesn’t really get resolved until the final book.

The Giver: Well Jonas is supposed to be 12 in the books but he is like 16 in the movies, so I can understand this one. Plus his society doesn’t believe in love…

Revolution 19: Robots and death but no sex.

The Selection: Sex before marriage is illegal, especially if you’re going to be the future queen, so obviously America doesn’t risk that.

Legend series: Unfortunately, no. (damnit, June)

matchedMatched: Definitely not, just another depressing love triangle that makes me want to strangle someone, usually the female lead

Maze Runner: No sex, which makes sense in the first book since only one girl shows up…but later events, could have fit in there somewhere (*spoiler* would have been an interesting twist when the girls gang up on the guys)

The Mortal Instruments: *spoiler* Plenty of opportunity but considering they think they are siblings for the better part of the series, that would just be weird

The 5th Wave: Okay, apocalypse and she basically ends up alone, this one I get

Doomed: Nope, no sex. Even though 17 year old Pandora is on the road with two very attractive young men

cinderThe Lunar Chronicles: No sex so far (fingers crossed for Wolf and Scarlet!!)

Delirium: I can’t remember but I don’t think the main characters actually have sex

Tiger Saga: Unfortunately, there is another distracting love triangle and the whole guys turning into tigers for the better part of the day thing that makes sex nearly impossible, though there is lots of tension at various points

Seven Realms series: Once again, lots of tension but no sex. Plus there is a lot of fighting for your life type action so it kind of makes sense.

 

 

twilightThe Twilight series: *spoiler* There is visible waiting until after marriage, cough, Edward, cough, so it doesn’t happen until the 4th book.

The Fault in Our Stars: *spoiler* Sex at the end of the book, which makes sense to me

matchedDivergent: *spoiler* Abnegation has a thing about being touchy-feely and it’s implied that Four and Tris have sex but no detail is given

The Wolves of Mercy Falls: *spoiler* If I remember correctly, Grace and Sam progress to that stage in the second book but in a very sweet way. Plus they’ve already been sharing her bed for months beforehand so yea, ’bout time.

House of Night: *spoiler* There is definitely sex in this book. And in particular it’s how Zoey ends up in a sticky situation that rocks her world.

 

Well now looking back, I can see that the idea of sex is usually lost in extreme post-apocalyptic societies. But isn’t it interesting that in a world that holds sex appeal in such high esteem, how often our YA novels skim over the topic completely?

If sex isn’t being talked about in a way that our teens can relate to, then isn’t the point of including it kind of lost? I like series that both include and don’t include sex, especially ones where surviving is more important than living, but isn’t it also important to talk about procreation? In particular, in post-apocalyptic settings where life and death are a matter of every day living? Because obviously the people there are still having children. (Unless you are Katniss who swears she never will.)

And while sex might not be the most important topic, I think it’s one that gets a lot of press and media exposure but not necessarily one that teens are talking about in safe or healthy ways. Especially with the typically assigned gender roles about “the s word” and what it means to “be a real man”.

I know that I have sexual tension, innuendo, and scenes in the novel that I’ve written and I’m happy with that decision. I think it’s important to represent real people (read: imperfect people), regardless of whether it is a fantasy world or not. So let me ask my fellow writers, what are your thoughts on this topic? Why do you choose to include or not include sex in your writing?

I think novels can have a powerful impact on the psyche of the growing mind and in doing so, shouldn’t we take the time to address the issue that are most pressing on those minds? Sex is a part of life, a part of becoming an adult (and being one), whether you choose to participate, abstain, or wait. I think it’s important to leave our readers with a positive impression of sex, not a negative one, that should be the goal. I know it’s the one I strive for.

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9 comments

  1. I’ve read a good smattering of these, and have basically the same opinions you do on them (I was not a fan of the Delirium series, and I liked Matched but the rest of the series was a bit of a let down). Also, I agree that sex is more applicable in some then others. But the end of the Mortal Instruments series, I mean I get setting a good example for the readers, but seriously, who packs condoms in their “Let’s go to an alternate dimension and probably die” survival pack?

    1. I believe the answer here is “Shadowhunters”. That series is also one that needs to end already….sometimes 3 books or even 4 is enough.

      1. You probably don’t. I hit them all at one time, so I got into it then. Once this last one came out (what, the 7th?) I didn’t get interested until about halfway through.

  2. This post 😀 😀 😀 I haven’t read most of these books aside from the super-popular-they-were-turned-into-movies ones. Except the Hunger Games. I tried reading the Mortal Instruments recently but couldn’t really get into it. However, you found the love triangle in Matched depressing? Nooooo! I found it so sweet I was melty for days afterwards 😀 I kinda felt sorry for Xander but Ky and Cassia were so cute! Ok. I’m done fangirling now 🙂

    1. Cassia and Xander were best friends who were lucky enough to get Matched and then she throws it away and Xander is basically crushed by it. I felt so bad for him (until the 3rd book, obviously). Love triangles in general annoy me. Like how often do you get two amazing guys to choose from in real life? Umm, never.

      1. Well, when you put it like that…BUT, those trips Ky and Cassia took in the first book? Sooo romantic! My heart had little explosions the more I got into it, haha. Xander was cool, but Ky was that elusive guy you wish you’d be able to get close to in real life 😀 And weren’t they matched to each other too? I generally hate love triangles as well but I didn’t feel Xander’s presence enough to consider their threeway one, especially in the second book where he barely appeared. Well, in the end it was happily ever afters for all which is what counts. And don;t I know it about real life running low on such amazing guys *sigh*

      2. Of course it was romantic but it was also a little back-handed slap at Xander. I felt like he really cared about Cassia and that’s why he covered for her but she totally took him for granted.
        As for the whole matching with Ky thing, no system is perfect…two matches do not a right one make. The love triangle was strongest in the 1st book, point taken.

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