Monday 27 July 2009

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Guest Post: Kay of The Infinite Shelf - My Experience with Sex in YA

Today we have a guest post from Kay, who run's The Infinite Shelf.

Hey everyone!

For those who don’t know me, a brief introduction : I’m Kay from The Infinite Shelf. I’m a twenty-something book addict with a strong love for YA fiction – and this is why when Jo offered me the chance to guest post for the SITL month, I jumped on the chance!

I don’t know how it was for you, but when I was a teen, a little less than 10 years ago, there wasn’t that much sex in teen lit – and when there was, it was only that obscure thing not really described and that lead to very obvious Bad Consequences (pregnancy, STDs, etc.) Maybe it was specific to where I lived (being a French Canadian, we had to rely on a smaller lot of teen lit, or on some translations that were not really promoted) – or maybe things just changed?

I’m not a mother, so my point of view on sex in teen literature is solely based on my own reading experience. I remember how it was when I was 14, 15, when all the boy talk became more serious and all you could find were either very technical books on reproduction or very graphic romance novels. Yikes! Now, that was something to scar and scare you for life!

At that age, we pretty much knew how things worked. We weren’t interested in books about the “How”, and the adult novels certainly went too far for our understanding of life. The thing is, sexuality in an adult’s life isn’t the same as sexuality in a teen’s life. They cannot be portrayed the same way. The thing to remember though, is that sexuality is part of our daily life in various ways : if they don’t read it, they’ll watch it on tv; if they don’t watch it on tv, they’ll talk about it. Well they’ll talk about it anyway, but you get what I mean, don’t you!

The subject of “age” isn’t something we can look at with an objective eye, either; some teens are ready to read more explicit literature sooner than others. But to say that sex doesn’t have its place in their literature is going a little too far – and underestimating the teen’s mind. If you hide something, they’ll probably just be more curious about it, and they’ll look elsewhere to get answers – and maybe not the right place. If you give them honest literature that confronts them with their possible choices, you will most likely open their mind to the reality of it; something that is not scary, but that is not to be taken lightly, either.

That’s just my opinion, though : all I wanted was to take this opportunity to voice my thoughts and concerns on the subject – which will echo some of yours, I’m sure. Some of you might disagree, too : either way, I’d love you hear your thoughts on the subject!

Thank you, Kay, for a great guest post! Do you agree with Kay? As she said, she'd like to hear your thoughts, so what do you think?


  1. We are of one mind, Kay! Very well said.

  2. Excellent post! Thanks, Kay.

  3. judy blume was my sex-ed teacher. i got my paws on 'forever' when i was 13 or 14 and, whoa! talk about eye-opening. i had no idea. i understood the logistics but not the details. sex was shrouded in mystery and whispers.

    with the advent of the internet and more explicit television shows and movies, i don't think there's much mystery anymore...

    interesting post and idea. i'm always on the lookout for YA books with less graphic sex so i can recommend them to my students without fear of parents' hunting me down.

  4. Thanks for letting me post my little article, Jo!
    And thank you for reading it!

    booklineandsinker : I've never read Judy Blume, but I'll be curious to try. There was nothing really graphic when I was a teen, but I agree with you that today, the mystery is very thin.

  5. Superb post Kay! I really agree with the point you made about how hiding things from teenagers only makes them more curious. I also agree with what you say about age. Some people can read material which is more graphic/mature than others.

  6. I'm glad you all enjoyed Kay's post! Thank again, Kay, for participating!