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!
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)
Matched: 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
The 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.
The 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
Divergent: *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.