Young Adult literature is a booming industry, but it has changed a lot since this writer was a hormonal teen reader. Where do the kids go for literary smut these days? The educational, respectful smut?
The New York Times asks the question, “In Y.A., Where Has All the Good Sex Gone?” Writer Lizzie Skurnick opines that regular-ass sex has disappeared from most current books aimed at young adults, to be replaced by stories of “rape, abortion, molestation, sexual shaming that leads to social isolation.” Or, the new crop of novels elides sex altogether, such as in The Fault In Our Stars, where the sex is notable for not being described.
Skurnick claims the first major shift away from sex in young adult books was of course, Harry Potter and his limp wand. Not only did J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world repopularize epic fantasy series for young people, she writes that one of the book and its popularity’s “greatest achievements, or annoyances, depending on your point of view, was to make reading a family affair.”
Which is an excellent point! Can you imagine your mom reading aloud the scene from Judy Blume’s Forever when the teen boy lets his girlfriend name his dick “Ralph?” If that did happen, I’m sorry.
Something Skurnick doesn’t bring up is how many of these fantasy series seem to have their eye on a movie deal. It would then behoove writers to start their new Scooby Gang at a younger age, giving them time to grow into young adulthood and several more films to fill out the franchise. Harry Potter was only 11 in his first book—and he barely gets kissed by the time he graduates.
Other films created from fantasy YA books—like The Hunger Games, the failed Divergent series, and of course, Twilight—feature older teen girls and it’s been some time since teen girls have been allowed to have normal sexual experiences in media. Forever, which Skurnick refers to the most as an example of a healthy sex life for a young woman, was written in 1975.
It’s not particularly surprising that in a country where the all president’s men are pushing for abstinence-only sex education, teens are being offered lit that shows sex as a terrifying, dangerous, grossly pornographic, and shameful act. But it does surprise me that Skurnick thinks there was ever a time when casual sex between young people was portrayed as healthy and normal. Aside from Forever, and the blessed Judy Blume, where do teens go for frank discussion of their bodies and horniness without judgement?
What did you read as a teen, perverts? Remember: this is for the kids.