sex in ya
sex in ya
feat. special guest Death From Above 1979 to set the mood
Where are all the virgins in young adult these days?
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for sex positive fiction, an end to slut shaming, and a nice break from puritanical American values. I don't think Fifty Shades is immoral, just bad writing. I'm not a crazy prude.
But, these days, every young adult book seems to involve teenagers having sex. And it's not just where you'd expect it. Sure, the rules are different in fantasy land. When you're apt to die at 35, 14 doesn't seem so young.
Cue the contemporary, where there's a strange divide between books where no one has sex and books where everyone is having sex. Because apparently virgins and non-virgins can't be friends? And if the characters are a bit older, waiting for later isn't even a flicker of an idea.
Why not? I have a few theories.
The extinction of the younger teen
Take a look at the top young adult titles of the last several years. Everyone under 17 years old has mysteriously been Taken (where's Liam Neeson when you need him!?). A few 16-year-olds seem to have survived the apocalypse, but 15-year-olds are rare. Forget 14-year-olds. Those poor saps are stuck in some literary limbo between young adult and middle grade, and no one seems to want to claim them. End result: young adult is getting older.
We're adults writing for teens ... ish
I wonder: is there some wish fulfillment going on? A chance to relive those dreary high school days? Or is it a change in genre? So many adults are reading young adult these days because new adult is nothing but sex, and not even the good kind. (Seriously, one more tortured bad boy and I'm gonna scream.) Adults reading young adult want more mature stories.
So, what happens to the actual teens reading teen fiction? Do they see themselves in it?
It's all how you talk about it
Clearly, you don't have to spend an hour trawling the internet to find a young adult book without sex in it. They're there. Maybe they're aren't as many as I'm thinking. Maybe it's that the ones that do have it feel so noticeable because of the way it's talked about. Because it's always semi-magical and fun for the whole family. Er, the people involved. Not gonna lie--I'm having a hard time reconciling scenes from The Fault in Our Stars, The DUFF, and even All the Bright Places (and I freaking love that book) with the stories I got from my high school friends. Most of which involved minimal magic.
On the other hand, I was pretty happy to see the early scene in More Happy Than Not involving Aaron spamming his friends for advice, or the super awkward scene in Looking for Alaska. The characters involved
So, what's the deal with sex in young adult fiction these days?
Yeah, I realize that teenagers do have sex. I do have television (Gossip Girl and The O.C., I'm looking at you). Perhaps it's a product of wondering where the teens I knew are. I remember high school. My friends and I weren't exactly prudes, but we weren't ready to grow up, either. Sex was scary, something for college. Maybe. Or after college. (Plus, it would have required some kind of boyfriend figure, which is a rant for another post.) Yes, it's possible that the people I knew were weird anomalies, but recent stats put the number of 13-19 year olds who've done it at less than half. That leaves a lot of people unaccounted for.
So, where are the girls I knew? Stuck back in 2005, I guess.