Donna said in her interview: I think the desire is often the most important and best part—all that anticipation, and discovering that you want someone. I also think that the best sex scenes are often the least graphic sex-wise. Simply talking about body parts doesn’t mean a scene is going to be all swoon-worthy. I think it’s evoking the desire between two people and how that unfolds that’s the really exciting part.
And Carrie said in her guest post: YA authors: if you want to write about sex, I applaud you and encourage you to do it. And I don’t care how you do it: if it serves the plot, if it’s graphic, if it’s romantic, if it’s funny, if it’s tragic or traumatic. Just be honest and brave and write without fading to black or to timeworn clichés. Because when you write your version of The Secret That Is Sex, know that so many readers are privately and quietly rejoicing about getting to see it. Getting to know what is was like for you. Understanding what it could be for ourselves, and others. That is what I believe you should serve when you put sex in your stories. No other rules are necessary.
As an adult reader of YA, I personally prefer it when the scenes don't fade to black. I'm not a fan of erotic novels, so it's not about reading something sexy for me. What I really like with YA is how there tends to always be the emotional side to sex - whether it's happening as part of a relationship or not, how the character feels emotionally during is something I enjoy. If a book fades to black, or glosses over sex, I find that emotional side of things is either left out, or not expressed as well as I'd like.
When it comes to the target audience of YA, I think it's better for the readers to see the characters having sex, no matter their own experience. Both Carrie and Donna say that porn isn't the best source to learn about sex, and I think teens are likely to have questions, and feel, possibly, that there are certain acts they should do simply because that's what sex is, and that's not the case. I think it's important for teens to see all aspects of sex, to see there's no wrong or right way, and that they don't have to do everything to be having a full sexual relationship, that if they're not comfortable with something, they don't have to do it. I also think this is especially important when it comes to sex for LGBTQ characters. Whether a teen reader is LGBTQ or not, they might not know exactly what sex looks like for various identities under the LGBTQ umbrella (although it's a movie rather than a book, I would suggest looking up Boy Meets Girl, about a transgender girl, which also looks at what sex is for a transgender person having sex with each gender.)
So I do feel it is important that the sex is there on the page. It doesn't need to be gratuitous, but it does need to be there, for me. Saying this, I wouldn't put a YA novel down for fading to black or glossing over sex. I would be disappointed, but it wouldn't affect my review of a book.
What do you guys think? Do you prefer to read the details of sex, or prefer to see it glossed over, or even fade to black? Is the fact that sex is covered in some way - in dialogue, in the narrator's thoughts, or some other form - enough to be helpful to teens, or does it need to be on the page? I think this is a really interesting topic, so I would love to hear your thoughts!