Writing and Me

Sex in Young Adult Literature

blog ya scenes

As a writer of young adult literature I have asked myself the question- how do I handle sex in my novels?

Researching other author’s tips and advice on this matter led me to the conclusion that there isn’t a sure fast method for tackling the subject, and each author must set their own boundaries and guidelines for what they feel is appropriate.

Here are mine:

There has to be love involved.

This is my feeling toward sex in general. We should instil into younger, impressionable people that it’s okay to wait for the right person. My characters only have sex if they are in love. It’s as simple as that.

This obviously doesn’t apply to authors tackling sensitive subjects such as rape, but I write Sci-Fi/ Fantasy and shall focus on the rules I set myself for writing in my genre.

Don’t cop out.

I have read those awful ‘and it fades to black’ chapters. Did they? Didn’t they? If writing about your characters having sex makes you uncomfortable as an author, perhaps they shouldn’t be having sex. It should feel like a natural progression in the story and the character’s relationship.

However, I don’t think every little detail should be included. Readers have their own imaginations and can put two and two together, but a little description is necessary. Focus on the character’s emotions, how the other person makes them feel, and accompany that with a few prompts into logistics. Graphic detail is not required. In my opinion, if I wanted to write graphic sex scenes I’d write for Mills and Boon. There will be no ‘throbbing members’ in my young adult novels thank you kindly.

Don’t leave readers guessing, but allow them the use of their imaginations to a certain extent.

In my novel I take the readers through the build up with details, feelings, and logistics, but the actual sex is implied. Here is an small excerpt:

He moves back to face me, kissing me again. His hand slides against my face, his thumb brushing my cheek. Wrapping his arm around my waist, he pulls me close to him. I let myself feel his arms, and his back, and his butt. My body heaves from rapid breaths, and I’m reassured by the feel of Adam’s heart beating through his chest.

I’m in a fantastical blur of excitement, nerves, pleasure, and just being loved. I’m not the type of girl to use the word perfect. Real, this is real.

Sober Characters.

This is pretty self explanatory. Both parties should be sober, fully coherent, and engaging in consensual sex.

These are the guidelines I set myself when writing young adult sex scenes. My ultimate guide is my maternal instinct. I have a four year old daughter, and I do not write anything that I wouldn’t be happy for her to read when she is a teenager.

Like I said, the individual author must decide how far is too far. Don’t be shy in your writing. If you’re uncomfortable just leave sex out.

3 thoughts on “Sex in Young Adult Literature”

  1. I used to feel a bit awkward writing sex but have gotten quite good at it in recent years! Or I’d like to think so, anyway. It is difficult to decide what’s appropriate for your book, however. One of my favourite series (The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind – very worth a read!) only implied sex without going into any detail, similar to your example above, and it didn’t ruin anything in my opinion. Anything more wouldn’t have suited the books as well, but it does suit other books. Of course, you do limit your audience considerably by including it in detail and you’d walk a thin line between porn and your book not becoming porn.
    Personally I won’t include details in my books. If I do one day it might be under a pen name since it would be very different to what I write now. Implying it says enough without potentially making it awkward for the reader or going overboard, so that’s what I shall do! 🙂
    And I agree, don’t cop out. Leave some to the imagination, but never whether it happened at all. The reader deserves to know where the relationship between two characters stands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree, there isn’t always a call for it. There is a fine line in young adult literature, and I think as an author there is a sense of responsibility when writing for that target audience. We can’t patronise, but we can’t step over the line.
      Like I said, if I’m not happy for my four year old to read my novels as a teenager, then I reassess my approach.


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