Tuesday 28 July 2009

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Guest Post: Katie of Another Book Blog-Whore - A Teenager's View of Sex in YA

Today we have a guest post from Katie, who runs Another Book Blog-Whore.

Hi everyone. I’m Katie and 16, so pretty much the intended audience for YA. Jo has kindly let me do a guest post for Sex in Teen Lit Month, which has been superb so far. So I’m going to share my views with you today which you are all free to agree/disagree with. I’m going to apologise in advance because I think this post is going to be looooong. You’ve seen my comments. I’m going to start off with a topic that I feel strongly about:

How Stereotypes of Teenagers affects Attitude

This isn’t strictly book related but it does have a connection. There is quite a common stereotype of teenagers nowadays. A lot of us are seen as yobs that binge drink, smoke, swear, have sex with random people and then skip school. Of course most people don’t stereotype us that badly. But when I get on a bus with other teenage friends I can see myself being eyed warily by various people and instant dislike on some people’s faces. So what does this have to do with books? I feel that because the papers represent teenagers in a bad light, a lot of the people try to assess why teenagers are the way they are. Their solution? Books, TV, films, magazines and the papers. It couldn’t be that some teenagers need support and aren’t receiving the right care? It couldn’t be that schools aren’t up to satisfactory levels? It couldn’t be that most teenagers feel as though they are being looked down upon and are living up to the expectations that society has of them? It couldn’t be a lack of decent role models?

There are various reasons why Britain’s children are among the unhappiest in the Western world (according to UNICEF), but to try and pinpoint one reason isn’t logical. I don’t know any statistics for the USA or other countries but if you are interested about the articles referring to Britain’s children, there are a few:
here, here and here.

I feel books are easier to target because you can blame one person, the author. But to blame the problems of teenage sex/pregnancy/spread of STIs and STDs on a book? It’s ludicrous. Most books provide the facts, pure and simple. This is what happens if you have sex and these are the consequences you will have to deal with. However, they do something that Sex Ed lessons don’t, they provide realistic situations and address the pressure some people feel to lose their virginity. In response to the affect of TV, films and magazines, I think their affect is minimal. I don’t feel influenced by things I’ve seen on TV, watched at the cinema or read in a magazine. The reflection of teenagers in most tabloids is the only thing that really evokes any emotion in me. It makes me angry that teenagers as a whole are portrayed negatively. I’m not a fan of papers in general as I think they only see fit to report mainly negative stories which enrage and upset the general public about certain events.

But I’m straying from the point again. I have trouble staying on topic so I had better move on to my next topic:

Censorship: When Have you Gone too Far?

To be honest with you, I’ve never really thought much about censorship but it’s an interesting idea. Films are given labels at the cinema so children can’t see adult material. Some programmes are only aired after a certain time or on a certain channel. CDs contain warnings about explicit lyrics. Magazines are pretty honest about their content. Books are separated in to sections. If you walk in to a bookshop or library you will find an adult section and erotica section. But where do we cross the line from young adult to adult? I think the boundaries are pretty wide. We can’t wrap teenagers up in bubble wrap. I think the censorship isn’t as effective as we’d all like to believe. You can watch the 18 year old movies on the internet, you can even look at porn on the internet. So I think a lot of censorship is all in vain. If you restrict someone from seeing something, they’ll just try harder to find it, even if it means seeing it/learning it from someone untrustworthy.

I don’t think that if a book has sex in it then it should instantly be in the adult section. Adult means 18 but you can have sex in the UK at 16. Teenagers need to learn about sex in realistic circumstances without any danger to themselves. Books provide this safe environment. Take away the book and you actually take away the protection. Sex is a taboo subject and it shouldn’t be. It’s natural and a way of bringing life in to the world. I believe that banning books from certain people is only a few steps away from book banning in general. If I read a book about sex, it doesn’t make me want to go out and have sex. It has a positive impact, it makes me more aware of what is happening around me. Everyone seems to be worried about impressionable young people reading this material, but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. If the books were encouraging you to go out, have unprotected sex with a guy, get STIs/STDs/have an unwanted pregnancy, then I would worry about these impressionable people. As it is, I think that authors tend to tackle some taboo issues and do a good job of raising awareness.

And my last topic, if you’re still awake:

Authors Frowned Upon For Their Creativity

I don’t know if this happens but if there are any authors reading, I would be interested by your input. With all the pressure about books being suitable for young adults, are authors being forced to get rid of material or change their age range? I think that although authors tend to be quite insistent about their books, by criticising their choices, we run the risk of repressing their creativity. Imagine if Harry Potter hadn’t been published because of its links to witchcraft. There are many books that help people. If you tell an author they can’t print a book, not only are you doing them an injustice, you are also taking away a book that someone could need. There are many delicate topics: eating disorders, self-harming, sexual struggles, mental problems, disabilities and many more.

Who has the right to take away a book someone needs? By taking away a book that someone needs, you are just helping them sink deeper in to their issues and a negative state. They rebel, either by harming themselves or others. If you want to know why some of our teenagers are behaving the way they do, remember that when they needed support in the form of a book, you took it away. I don’t believe that trying to take away a book is a form of protection. I believe that it’s because parents don’t want to discuss issues with their children.

A few terms:

STIs-Sexually Transmitted Infections

STDs-Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Comment, you know you want to. Agree with me? Disagree with me? I love hearing your opinions. And feel free to email me if you want to talk about anything but don’t want to comment.

Thank you, Katie, for such an awesome guest post! Very thought provoking! You heard her, get commenting with your thoughts!


  1. I agree with you Katie. Books have long been a great sense of comfort to me in any unhappy times in my life. I think that books help teenagers to deal with their problems whether it be an eating disorder, a death of a loved one or simply a fight with a friend. They show people that they are not alone and teenagers can see how other people dealt with the stressful situations in their lives and can learn from character's experiences.

    I think that sex is something natural and special and that maybe it shouldn't be broadcast to younger children but YA books are aimed at just that - Young Adults!

    sorry for the long comment but does anyone else agree?

  2. Great post! It's nice to hear from the "intended audience", and I think you've made really interesting points! I agree that sex shouldn't be a taboo; it's the most natural thing in the world. I also agree with not taking away a book someone needs.

  3. I also agree with you, Katie. I guess books really are easy targets, and by focusing on them some people can avoid looking at larger social issues.

  4. Glad you all enjoyed Kate's post! Thanks again, Kate, for participating!