Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Let's Talk About Sex

So this is something that has been blogged about and reblogged about by every single person with a blog in the YA industry. However, as far as I can remember, I have never really blogged about my feelings on this issue. So, at the risk of being a massive cliche, I'm going to write here about my feelings regarding teen sex in YA literature - as well as in any form of teen media.

I'm not an expert on this topic. I haven't spent ages researching it the way some of my peers have. But I have written a novel that deals heavily with teen sexuality, and I have read the reactions to this novel as well. I think it is safe to say that the majority of my negative reviews for THE DUFF related directly to the fact that a teenage girl has sex in the novel. Now, the purpose of this post is not to contradict those reviews. Not at all. But the points raised in those reviews made me really think about . . . well, about sex.

When I wrote THE DUFF, I was seventeen. I had no idea it would get published, and I had no intention of being "edgy." I didn't think twice about letting my characters have sex. It was just part of the plot, part of the characters story. It felt natural for that turn to happen. It felt realistic to me.

Realistic. Now, I don't mean to raise hackles here, but let's be frank. Sex does happen in high school. Not for all teenagers, of course. I'll be perfectly honest and say that I never had sex in high school - heck, I graduated before I'd ever even kissed a boy. But some of my friends were sexually active. Many of my friends were, actually. Even in my rather religious small-town community, there were plenty of teens having sex. Not only that, but there were several teens who got pregnant (my thoughts on abstinence only education will be saved for another day). All of this is to say, even those teenagers who are not sexually active are aware of sex.

Random Fact: According to most statistics, the average age of virginity loss in the US is seventeen.

This is why I stand by the decision of writers and filmmakers and television producers to include sexual themes in their teen-targeted shows. Granted, there is a difference between grotesquely unnecessary sex and realistic, plot moving sex. That's another topic entirely, but I felt that fact needed to be acknowledged. But some of my favorite books and movies have dealt with sexual themes in a very realistic way. Juno, Cruel Intentions, plenty of Judy Blume novels. The list goes on forever.

Sexuality in teen-targeted media is almost always controversial, but there is something I have noticed - it seems to be MORE controversial when it is a teenage girl having sex. Since YA seems to target more girls than boys, lets instead focus on movies for a moment.

Look at Superbad and American Pie. Both of these movies are targeted towards boys, featuring male teenage characters who want to get laid. These movies are raunchy and risque, but super successful. And yet, there are no such movies featuring teenage girls in the same circumstance, are there? The closest we have is Juno, which is more about the consequences of sex - aka pregnancy. We have Easy A, about a girl ACCUSED of having sex even when she hasn't.

This is all ironic sense, statistically, girls tend to loose their virginity sooner than boys.

I think Easy A makes some of the best points about this. If you've seen Easy A, then you'll remember how everyone seemed to care when they heard Olive had had sex. It was everyone's business, it was something everyone talked about. And yet, the boys who claimed to have had sex with her? Praised! Made more popular - and in a good way, not infamous kind of way.

Apply this notion to teen media. When a girl in a movie or TV show or book wants to have sex or does have sex, it's a big deal. But when a boy wants to have sex or does have sex, it is normal. It's accepted.

This isn't just unfair to women (though as a feminist, that was the first place my mind went), but it is also unfair to teenage boys. We paint them into this corner, showing them all as sex-obsessed animals. There is more to boys than sex and more to girls than purity. No matter the gender, teenagers are individuals. They have different thoughts, different wants, different emotions, and different opinions on sex.

But there are a lot of different and very valid arguments on the issue of sex in teen media, including YA literature. This is personally just my side. I think that part of the media's job is to be realistic, and realistically, sex is out there. Whether we acknowledge it or not, young adults today are aware of and, sometimes, having sex. Even girls.

So, here in the comments, I welcome you to tell me how you feel on this issue. I only ask that the comments are kept civil. I'd love to have a discussion about this - about sexuality in books, on TV, in movies, and the gender stereotypes that go along with it. So chat away, my friends!


Daisy Whitney said...

As a reader though what I care most about is authenticity. I like books that treat their subject matter authentically. If that topic is sex, so be it. If it's teen drinking, so be it. I'd rather not, however, see teen drinking or drug use glorified in novels. If teens are having sex in novels, I want the sex to be an authentic part of the plot and storyline and treated as such.

Jenna said...

I agree with everything you just said. I'm a senior, and it's just a fact that there are teenagers who have sex. I once knew (or, well, rode the bus with and wished I didn't) a girl who was determined to get pregnant by age 14 just to prove her mother that she could. And, by jove, she did it, just after her 13th birthday. And she wasn't the only one.

In real life and in fiction, the guys who have a lot of sex (or who are reported to) are painted as the "big shots" and they get praise. The girls get called sluts, amongst other things that I won't repeat here (no need to foul up the comments, is there?). I think it goes back to that basic, primitive thought that guys are supposed to be macho and virile, and girls are supposed to be meek and pure. When a guy sleeps around (or wants to), many people just accept it as "natural instinct," while they assume that when a girl does the same, she's "broken" and her "natural instinct" to be chaste and pure has malfunctioned.

Personally, I think it's weird that people get so disturbed by depictions of teen girls and sex. It happens. A lot. Maybe if society acknowledged it and understood the fact that it's around, they wouldn't be so shocked when it shows up in fiction.

...wow, didn't mean to turn this into a blog post. Heh. I was just talking about this with a friend earlier today, so it's been on my mind.

Fantastic post! I'm about to start reading The DUFF, and I can't wait. :)

Kody Keplinger said...

Daisy - I agree. As I said, there is a difference between sex that is part of the story and sex that is just grotesquely unnecessary. I feel like that is when it is no longer authentic. I might save another blog post just for that - for the difference.

Emilia Plater said...

SUCH a fantastic post, Kody. "There is more to boys than sex and more to girls than purity" - you said it.

Just to share a related personal story, a couple weeks ago I tripped a little over my plans to include sex in my new project. Somehow, in that half-hour window, I had gotten it in my head that it was bad to include it. Yeah, exactly that - bad, wrong, omg-potential-imaginary-reviewers-aren't-gonna-like-it. But then I shook my head and realized - it was completely fitting and realistic for the situation. Was I really going to censor something that had come up as naturally as any other plot point in the story?

Whenever a writer shies away from sex because of fear of retribution, or even their -own- fear of the idea of teenage sex, I think that's a form of censorship in itself.

Great post again - and you keep doing what you do! Those "oh no! sex" reviewers don't know what they're missing. :)

K. E. Carson said...

I love this post. Teens are having sex, they're enjoying shows and movies and books that may not be targeted to them, but deal with sex. They're not stupid. They know what's going on.

I read and loved The Duff. Why? Because it was a realistic example of teen life. I'm 19, and sick of reading books about teens who are cardboard cutouts of what their parents think they should be. Writers should be less worried about stirring up controversies and more concerned about propperly protraying teens.

Kody Keplinger said...

Jenna - I also rode the bus with a girl who was determined to get pregnant (and did) at 14. It breaks my heart, and I often wonder if that we were ore open about the risks of sexuality - but in a way that didn't paint it as "dirty" - we might help fight that problem. I don't know. I"m no professional. But I do think it is something to be talked about.

Kody Keplinger said...

Emilia - GREAT story! I think lots of writers have that worry - that is is WRONG to have sex in their novels. And I think just that worry says a lot about the messages we are sending to teens already. I'm glad you decided to keep it!

KE - I'm 19, too, and I"m happy to say I am reading more and more books with examples of heroines who are flawed and anything but cardboard. The tide is turning!

LizzieFriend said...

"The closest we have is Juno, which is more about the consequences of sex - aka pregnancy."

This. When it comes to stories about teen sexuality, we only ever get two sides. We get the over-the-top sensationalized versions (OMG TEENS HAVE SEX! LOTS OF SEXXY SEX!) or we get the teaching moments (teens have scary sex and get pregnant). I loved that The Duff ended up solidly between those two extremes: it portrayed what I felt was realistic teenage sexuality without resorting to message-y consequences (pregnancy! public shaming!).

That said, I of course think there's a place for those stories too. Sex *does* have consequences, and there's no reason to downplay that.

Bottom line is, no teen's experience with sex (or without it)is the same, and teens should be able to read books that speak to all of those experiences.

Debra D. said...

Wow, you totally read my mind. I was just talking about how it's such a shame the double standard between boys and girls regarding sex is still thriving in this day and age. In the long run, I think it's damaging to both our boys and our girls.

Totally agree with you 100% in this post. Yes, many of my friends in high school were sexually active. Yes, I think it's okay for teen books and TV shows to have sex in them. Yes, I think it shouldn't be added gratuitously.

Also--just because some people have certain moral values, doesn't mean everyone else embraces them, too. IMO, it's not okay for the morals of a few to dictate content for all.

Aleeza said...

i agree 100% with what you've said. if its a part of the plot, definitely include it. i honestly dont care about naysayers and all, if its part of the story, its going to be there. it happens in real life, like you brilliantly said, then why should i hold back in my novels, which im trying to make as realistic as possible?
fantastic post!

Kody Keplinger said...

Lizzie - Oh, great point! I'd never really thought about the two-sides thing, but you are so right. I think that is starting to change - look at the Gossip Girl TV show, which shows consequences but also lets it be okay sometimes. And tons of YA books are starting to fall int he middle. But the majority of media is still one side or the other. And usually, boys are put on one side (sexy sex, lol) and girls on the other (consequences).

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Wonderful post. Teens do have a broad range of sexual experiences... from minimal to a lot and from irresponsible to responsible...and all those experiences (and their possible consequences)should be handled in realistic ways in YA.

In fact, I have more of an issue when authors who do backflips and cartwheels to avoid the issue of sex in their books...kissing only with the protag and her guy even though they've dated for months, constant "convenient" interruptions, and couples who don't get together until the end. It's whitewashing the issue, and doesn't treat teen readers with the respect they deserve.

Loved your book, BTW, because you didn't whitewash it.

I'm also glad you bring up the issue of inequality when it comes to sexual issues. I loved EASY A, but it also depressed me because it seems like females haven't made much progress when it comes to sexual issues. In fact, it seems like people throw the words "slut" and "whore" around more often now than when I was growing up (twenty odd years ago). Sometimes it feels like we've had the sexual revolution, and we lost.

Anonymous said...

You go girl! The thing is, we all have different stand points when it comes to having sex at young age, and i agree with what you said. There are plenty of girls who're having sex in High school and they're OK with that. On the contrary, there are the other girls who won't have sex because they've a different standpoint. Overall, i think having sex at a young age—and being influenced by the media--is a matter of awareness and acceptance. And with the entire medium (TV, Internet, Books) we’ve teenagers can learn a lot. HOWEVER, how they identify with and accept it is a different topic. BTW, I love The Duff.

Yahong said...

Maybe because I'm younger than all of you, I don't want to touch the subject, but I think what Kody did in THE DUFF was fine -- a little bit of glossing over, but no denying anything. It was part of the characters', well, character.
That being said, I don't like blatant sex. I don't like it being treated as nothing, because it usually means something.
I also liked Kody's point about the double standard -- how guys are "studs" if they're easy, but girls are sluts. This majorly bothers me, but the best way I can see to avoid this kind of label is to either abstain (which is perfectly fine for me), or keep things undercover.
And that's how things should be, shouldn't they? Labels, rumours, gossip... it should all be kept under control.

Elizabeth said...

I think you make a lot of excellent points. Aside from the double-standard of gender, though, is a double-standard of age. The notion that teens having sex leads to Really Bad Things and adults having sex leads to orgasms aplenty really gets stuck in my craw.

I mean, at the risk of venturing into TMI, I had good sex as a teenager. And I had devastating, self-worth-damaging sex as an adult. The idea that there's a magic switch that flicks to the other side when a girl turns 18 or 21 or gets married or whatever you consider an "adult" is a stupid one. The perks and risks that sex carries--emotionally and physically--are the same, no matter how old you are. There are as many teenagers making good choices where sex is concerned as there are adults making bad ones. It's refreshing when a YA novel acknowledges that.

Not long ago, I saw a blog post by a parent who wouldn't let her kids read anything that condoned teen sex or used the F word. Nothing against this parent, or anything, but I can't help but wonder if she's in denial or what. Unless her kids are homeschooled, they're being exposed to that kind of stuff, if not in books, in real life. Because it sure as hell wasn't Judy Blume that enticed me to get groovy for the first time. I'm just saying.

L. Hild said...

There were so many great points in this post! I completely agree that when sex is a natural part of the story, it should be included. Along the line of your point on there being more to boys than sex, I'm a writing major and I wrote a novella for class last year in which the main character was originally a 13 year old boy. The first workshop almost the only thing that was discussed was how he wasn't a believable character because he wasn't constantly thinking about sex. In fact, he was rather innocent, which was part of the story. I made him 12 and the next workshop no one had a problem with it. So I think there's potential in culture today for people to criticize something for having too much sex, while also criticizing a work as unrealistic for having characters who are not momentarily concerned with having sex, even though there are plenty of teenagers like that in the world.

JJ said...

great job Kody i love the blog.
It is so right that there is a double stander when it come to boys having sex and girls.

when my brother was sleeping around, he all of a sudden became "Mr. popular" and all his friends thought he was super cool now he ended up having a child at 19 and his second one about 2 years later. both on planed. now people didn't really say much about my brother having a child that young but his girlfriend had a really hard time she was 17 when she got pregnant for the first time and everyone was talking bad about her and calling her a slut.
most people in our town expected here to stay home at night and not go out or hang out with here friends while she was pregnant but no one complained when my brother was partying hard core, no one cared.

ps.: I love The DUFF, Kody. It is such an amazing book I totally could relate to the character. can't wait to read more books from you =) <3 <3 <3

Alex Mullarky said...

My opinion:
Teens have sex. Deal with it.

Essentially it's a summary of what you just said. Censoring sex gets us onto the topic of censoring anything which happens in real life and which some people don't believe should appear in the media. Those people should learn to avoid the media.

Kody Keplinger said...

Great feedback, everyone! I think some of you have some great points.

Yahong - I think my side on things is that teens should be allowed to feel however they choose about sex, whether that be not to have it, to have it but be quiet about it, or to have it and be open about it. I think its all a personal choice, and that others should respect that choice. I also think teens should be allowed to censor themselves. So if they don't like books with sex, they won't read them. If they are okay with that, they can. It just goes back to what I said - we're all so different on this, and one label or one view is not going to fit us all.

Elizabeth - that is a GREAT point about age double standards. And something I admit I never even considered. Wow.

JJ - I saw the same thing happen over and over in my high school. It always broke my heart and frustrated me to no end.

LizzieFriend said...

@Kody "Usually, boys are put on one side (sexy sex, lol) and girls on the other (consequences)."

Exactly! And I do agree that it's getting better. Here's hoping that trend continues.

@Everyone: I'm really loving this comment thread. It's really interesting discussing a topic like this with people who clearly cover a wide spectrum of ages. Unfortunately it seems like not much has changed in the guys/studs/girls/sluts department since I was in high school (sigh), but here's to baby steps...

Stephanie said...

Sex is a part of life.....

I am sure most of the negativity came from parents in regards to their daughters reading your book and their fear that it will influence them. My daughter is only 8, but I can't/won't hide her from the world. It is my job as her parent to teach her the best I can and then she will hopefully make the right decisions on her own. She sees movies, she hears music on the radio, she reads books....there are influences from everywhere for everything.

I can't sit here and say teen sex is bad...I lost my virginity at 17 with a guy who I loved and he loved me. I have zero regrets. Do I want my daughter having sex at that age???? I can't say no, though I'm sure my hubby has a different opinion on that!! But I will damn sure talk to her about sex and make sure she knows how to protect herself.

And also, I absolutely love American Pie...yes there is some raunchy humor and much of the plot is about sex, but there is so much more there- the bonds between the friends, and the bonds of family. It's essentially a coming of age story. Unfortunately there is a double standard though.

Kristi Helvig said...

Great post, Kody! It amazes me how taboo sex is in our culture, no matter its context. Someone asked me if Mockingjay was appropriate for an 11-year-old boy to read, and I told her there were children murdered in the book. Her response was, "So there's no sex?" and she let him read it. We live in an interesting world.

Horserider said...

From now on, whenever I get the urge to rant about people who complain about sex in YA, I'm just going to link to this.

I hate that female characters that have sex are christened sluts and whores and yet male characters are normal and even praised.

I don't like sex in YA for the "shock factor" but if it fits with the plot and characters then why not?

The majority of people in my senior class are not virgins. I've heard stories about this year's freshmen that make me suddenly realize the true meaning of "what is heard cannot be unheard." It's the truth of high school and it's not going away just because no one writes about it.

Kody Keplinger said...

Oh, for the record, American Pie and Superbad are two of my favorite movies. LIke OMG, I love them - they are on my Twenty Movies to See Before You're Twenty list. But I do think it is unfair that no movies with similar plots about girls have been made.

Kirsten Hubbard said...

great post, and above all else, I'm glad you pointed out that there still is a double standard when it comes to portraying sexually active teen girls versus boys.

Kody Keplinger said...

Kirsten - Thanks! That was really what I wanted to talk about most, but I figured segueing into it with sex in teen media in general was the best plan.

Blueicegal ♥ said...

Honestly it pisses me of when you get the "I can't accept that there is sex in the book" Why not?! It makes me want to shout, well then surely you must be a virgin?! Hardly ever the case in fact it's mostly the parents. It's just ridiculous and makes them sound like hypocrites. Don't read it if you don't like it. Sure if it feels like it's just thrown in there for the heck of it thats different that not needed, but if it's vital and if it fits with the scene then why the hell not you know? I'll stop there in case I get carried away :P

serenalawless said...

Brilliant blog post. This is such an important topic, and I think everyone has their own opinion on it. Personally, I'm a fade-to-sunset kind of girl, because unless the sex scene is natural, it's always cringe-inducing. I wouldn't say I'm a prude, but I think some people force the sex issue for controversy. If it's done properly, keeping in with the tone of the story, then it works. Otherwise... please, fade to sunset.

Holly Bodger said...

As a former teenager who was raised in a religious environment where sex was NEVER discussed, I think it's ridiculous for anyone to think that not discussing something in a book will mean it's not happening. Sexual attraction is a physiological response that is no more likely to go away than sweating during gym. Teens are thinking about it. Some are having it. That's a fact and I'm pretty sure it has been for as long as people have existed.

As a mom, I feel bad for those kids who seek out books with sexual content because it is the only way they can learn about these things. But if a parent has chosen not to discuss sex with their kids, that is their choice. I don't agree with it but I would never walk into their living room and tell them how to live their lives. At the same time, they have no right to tell us how to live ours either. We writers put our names on our books for a reason: BECAUSE THEY ARE OUR STORIES. Not theirs. Ours.

Vickie Motter said...

You did a terrific job at summing up the issue. I agree with you completely on all points. Teenagers are individuals and should be represented as such.

I especially love your comment that the characters in your book (which I loved, by the way) had sex because that's who they were. It wasn't there to be edgy or for a shock factor. It fit them so well.

I fall into the category as one of those people who have blogged about this, and my readers agreed with all the points you've made. And as well as people like you and my readers have phrased it, I know we haven't seen the last of it. And this is a very good thing, because it should be talked about.

readingwiththefishes said...

I agree with 100% of the things you said. I would like to say that I personally loved The DUFF! It was so real. I am a seventeen year old girl and I also go to high school. Sex is something that is talked about casually, well at least with a lot of the kids at my school, and a lot of people I know are sexually active. So when I read The DUFF it really didn't feel to extreme that there is a lot of sex in the book. I see nothing wrong with the book or any other types of media that feature sex or sexual acts. For me, it only seems natural, and makes the book more believable than any book that omits it completely. :)

Trinity Faegen said...

I loved The DUFF, loved Bianca, loved that she grew into who she was, right there in the story. Seriously - fabulous read. And your next book looks just as awesome!

I wear 3 hats: former teen, Mom, and writer of YA. As a once-was-a-teen, I wish there'd been books like The DUFF when I was - maybe I wouldn't have been so scared of boys. As a mom, I've never censored my daughter's books and she's now on her way to being The Most Amazing Woman In The World. As a writer of YA, I think a lot of publishers keep gatekeepers in mind when a book is bought/goes to editorial. Someone, or many someones, may not buy the book if it has too many f-bombs, or the sex is too much/too graphic. When I write, I let it go where it feels natural, but not all of my scenes (or language) made it into the final story.

Just a guess, but I'd bet mine isn't the only YA that will be more tame on publication than it was at contract. It's just a reality of writing young adult stories. Or maybe the age-old paradox between art and filthy lucre. :)

Matthew Rush said...

How was I not following you? WTH?

I've got a daughter who's 15, and I feel quite strongly that you make an excellent role model. Obviously I don't know you personally, but your determination, and your courage to be honest about things that many people consider taboo, or at least uncomfortable, make you top notch as far as I'm concerned.

I'm following now, finally.

Matthew Rush said...

Now, as to your post, I have to say I completely agree. Sex, drugs, self-mutiliation, abuse, bullying, theft ... and on and on. These are all issues that exist in life. They exist for teens just as much as they exist for adults, if not more.

Not writing about them doesn't change that. Writing about them doesn't necessarily change that either, but it does give kids the opportunity to come to the realization that they are not alone.

I would never suggest a book like Lolita, or Trainspotting, to one of my kids. But if they came to me and asked if they could read it, I wouldn't forbid it either. A young person would never discover these kind of novels without a reason, and the best thing an adult can do is to read the book as well, so that if they need to, they can actually talk to their child about whatever the issue is.

It's called parenting.

The truth shall set you free.

Jena said...

I love sex in books! I think it makes it more realistic. Cause like you said, teens ARE having sex now at younger ages. So yeah, I like some doin' it in my books :) I think it makes the romance more exciting.

Daisy Whitney said...

BTW, I LOVED that your characters drank Cherry Coke in The Duff!

hannah said...

Great points, Kody.

Jessie said...

Hi Kody, what a great post for International Women's Day! The double standard regarding sex has always frustrated me. I don't have a problem with sex in YA, and I wish our society was more sex-positive and accepting of young people, particularly girls, having sex. Sexuality is a natural part of life, and I don't think it's fair to be telling teens that there is something dirty or wrong about their natural feelings.

Loretta Nyhan said...

Fantastic discussion, Kody.

I'm a little late to it, though, so I'd just like to add a personal comment.

I was a teen in the 80s. At the time, the young adult shelf at the bookstore (if there even was one) housed about three books. I love Judy Blume, but she would have had to publish a book every other day to keep up with my reading habits.

I read adult stuff. With adult sex scenes. And I scrambled to apply my meager experience to what I was reading on the page, in an effort to understand. It was like giving a second grade math student an algebra assignment.

At the time, I would have given anything for access to books realistically depicting my experience with sex. Instead, the books I read had me judging myself against an adult standard, which definitely had an impact on my self-esteem and behavior.

Kody Keplinger said...

Oh my Gpsh, Loretta, FANTASTIC point. And something I never considered.

KT said...

Great post :) Exactly what I was thinking.

Ginger @ GReads! said...

One of the many reasons why I loved The Duff so much is because it was REAL. Guess what? Teenagers have sex! The story didn't glorify it though. Kody, you took a very sticky (eww bad choice of words lol) subject & gave it authenticity. I was able to connect with it, even though I am far from a teenager. I appreciate & value literature more when it has the ability to do this.

The Romance Bookie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phoebe said...

A bit belated, but as you can imagine, I love this post. Yay for sex positivity! I loved the way you handled it in The DUFF--multifaceted, SAFE, hot and real. As it should be.

I also think it's funny that we're, like, sexual experiences twins. I had my first kiss like 3 weeks after high school graduation. Funny thing is, I never thought this was particularly virtuous of me--I wanted to get kissed so badly. Not because of pressure to do so, but because kissing is awesome.

Anyway, that might have been TMI, but there you go.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Kody, I wanted to thank you for being so real AND respectful. You nailed it when you said this topic is controversial, but I think you presented your point of view eloquently and without putting the opposing view down.

As a twenty-something mom writer, I'm always looking for ways to keep my teen stories realistic while writing something I can be proud to present to my kids someday. My perspective on this is always that it should be handled respectfully and fully realistic--not over-glamorized. Even though, as you said, sex is often presented as being no big deal for boys, it is a big deal for both boys and girls, men and women. I appreciate fiction that points this out.

Thanks again! I was already a fan, but now like you even more. :)

Kody Keplinger said...

I love the comments that keep rolling in!

Phoebe - I figured this post might be up your alley! lol. And I am SO GLAD you mentioned the "not particularly virtious" part. I plan to do a post on this soon - about how girls aren't always "pure" by choice, but that side is never shown in the media. Hmm.

Sarah Goldberg said...

Well said!

Tiferet said...

I agree with most everything in this post, and especially with @Elizabeth about the double standard.

@Daisy Whitney, your comment bothers me a LOT. When I hear people complain about X topic being 'glorified' in a story or book or TV show, what they usually seem to mean is that people do X without suffering negative consequences from it.

Well, guess what? As Elizabeth pointed out, people of all ages can suffer negative consequences from sex, and being a teenager does not automatically mean that you will. If you take care of yourself and your partner, think it through and do it safely, then there don't need to be negative consequences at any age; if you don't, or you choose partners who don't, it is going to suck even if you're 40.

People also do not always have negative consequences from drinking or using drugs; it depends what is used, how it is used, and why it is used. If you use addictive drugs (tobacco, cocaine, heroin) or use them to escape a bad situation or your own bad feelings, or use them and then go out driving or looking for sex, the results will generally be bad; but I don't think that being 16 makes having a beer or glass of wine with dinner (as we did in my home many years ago, and they still do in Europe) a terrible thing, nor do I think that the occasional use of marijuana is necessarily harmful as long as it stays occasional. Drugs are accepted in nearly every society; what varies is the age at which people get out of your business about it and the particular drugs that are socially sanctioned. (Imagine America without caffeine!)

Depicting reasonable usage of sex or drugs (including alcohol) isn't glorifying it. Anyone who has careless sex or frequently drinks or takes drugs to excess will have a bad outcome, regardless of age. Sensible approaches to either aren't harmful.

As for "teen drinking" I am old enough to remember when the drinking age was raised to 21 and I thought it was a bad idea then and I still do. Yes, it reduced the number of drunk driving fatalities, but you know what? In Europe, they don't have these problems. By making the use of alcohol a marker of adulthood, and setting the drinking age HIGHER than the driving age, plus requiring people to drive their own cars in almost every locality, we've created this situation. In Europe and Japan, public transportation is cheap and accessible, people learn to drink and to handle drinking in the teen years generally before they learn to drive, and most importantly, generally long before they need to acquire or depend on the use of a car.

Kody Keplinger said...

Very interesting comment Tiferet.

Personally, I think the word "glorified" doesn't necessarily mean "with no consequences." I think, and I may be wrong, what Daisy meant by "glorified" is that the usage of drugs/sex is made to look like "the cool thing."

Example - a story in which a girl begins to use cocaine and then it is awesome and she loves it and her life is depicted as glamorous because of the cocaine addiction.

That's more than just no consequences - its almost propaganda. I think I prefer neutrality. The author just tells the story, no judgment as to whether the content is a good thing or a bad thing.As a reader, Ic an always tell the difference.

lauralascarso said...

There is much sexualization of young women in media--advertising, movies, billboards, which is in direct contradiction to our prevailing "good girls don't" rhetoric, so that it becomes "good girls don't, unless you want them to." This serves to both eliminate young women's wants and needs from the equation, while also blaming them for their sexuality--vixen, temptress, slut, whore...

YA fiction is an opportunity to give young women a voice that is often ignored and discounted by popular society. The more stories we have about how to navigate real sex and relationships, the better prepared young women will be to make their own choices in life, rather than have these important decisions thrust upon them.

As far as reviews go, we had a saying in HS newspaper, which was criticism is the highest form of praise because it means that we've reached them, that people are now talking when they weren't before.

So keep it up, Kody. Be a voice for your generation. Rock on with your bad self!

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Aguilar said...

Honestly it pisses me of when you get the "I can't accept that there is sex in the book" Why not?! It makes me want to shout, well then surely you must be a virgin?! Hardly ever the case in fact it's mostly the parents. It's just ridiculous and makes them sound like hypocrites. Don't read it if you don't like it. Sure if it feels like it's just thrown in there for the heck of it thats different that not needed, but if it's vital and if it fits with the scene then why the hell not you know? I'll stop there in case I get carried away :P

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lil will said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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November 29, 2016 at 11:40 AM Delete

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