I’ve read some posts lately that have made me a little angry. These posts are discussing how young adult books, also known as YA, shouldn’t depict teenagers in sexual relationships or showing them in ‘mature’ situations like drinking or even having them say the word fuck. Everyone is allowed their own opinions, obviously, but I feel that saying YA maturing over the last few years is a bad thing is wrong. The world is changing. This generation is different from the young adults who were reading young adult books in the early 2000’s. This generation is one of inclusivity and diversity. It’s important to remember this and how the times have changed. One can not stay stagnant and believe that young people who read YA shouldn’t see themselves represented through their experiences.
I will say that you may disagree with me completely and this post is kind of all over the place, but I understand. I just don’t want sex to be viewed as a bad thing throughout YA books because it’s not. To brief: I am not saying all books should include sex. That would be excluding asexual and aromantic people and I’m not here for that. I’m just saying that sex and these ‘mature’ themes should be explored much more in YA.
Just a FYI, I will be saying ‘mature’ in quotation marks because I do not believe these things fall under the mature category.
One of the things that irk me the most is when I click on a book on Goodreads and read through the reviews and “too much cursing” is in a book. I also get countless comments on my reviews on Goodreads telling me to stop swearing and “would I say these things to my mother?” Look, I swear in front of my mother. I made my stance clear when I graduated high school and turned 18 that I believed “swear” words aren’t bad and shouldn’t be seen as bad. Teenagers swear too. I don’t think I’ve met a teenager who doesn’t swear or at least some form like saying “sh*t” and acting as if that asterisk really changes the word that much.
As a teenager, I cursed a lot. As a 20, almost 21 years old, I still curse a lot. I feel it’s important to include these things and not have a crowd of 17-year-olds gasp whenever someone says fuck. Hell, the word cursing disappoints me so much. Whenever I hear it I really think someone is about to curse a hex and I am always so disappointed.
Obviously, when people are talking about YA maturing too much they’re referring to sex scenes. You know what’s normal? Teenagers exploring their bodies and having sex. It’s not a scandalous act. There is a high chance that someone had sex for you to be here. Making sex taboo in YA shows that teenagers shouldn’t talk about it. That’s not safe. That’s also when accidents happen when teenagers feel as if they’re unable to communicate what is happening in their personal lives. Sex isn’t evil. In Australia, you’re taught what sex is when you’re 11. The awareness of it is important considering children as young as 13 are willingly having sex. That may seem outrageous to you, I know it does to me, but not portraying sex in young adult books seems ridiculous to me.
A big thing I’m finding with the inclusion of sex in young adult books, slut shaming is ending. If you don’t know what slut-shaming it is, it is when someone shames someone (typically a woman) for having had sex in the past or doing so frequently. People and teenagers go through so many embarrassing and awkward changes that shaming them for exploring the sexual attraction they might feel is foolish. This isn’t to say though that books that depict ace or aro teenagers shouldn’t be written because they should. I’m simply saying that ignoring teenagers have sex is hurtful for the changing times. Especially sex that isn’t heteronormative. Teenagers apart of the LGBT+ community see hurtful representations in the traditional media as well and sometimes the only positive sexual experience they see may be in a YA book. Who are you to deny them of that?
It is similar in the way that a lot of young adult books represent alcohol and drugs. Young teenagers are now trying and experimenting with these things, it is very rare to find a youth who hasn’t. So, not every book should include this ‘mature’ content but they really should Additionally, I want to point out this kind of thing is reflecting traditional life. You can’t ignore this. As a medium, one can probably start including warnings for sexual content in YA books. If you don’t want to read that, you don’t have to. However, I just feel like it is silly to ignore that this is how the world actually works.
drinking & drugs
I’m going to keep this point super brief. Simply point out that, unfortunately, lots of teenagers drink and try drugs. I had my first drink at 17 (the year I turned 18, the drinking age in Australia). These things need to be included in mainstream YA books, rather than having the MC’s looking down on characters who do these things.
Obviously, there are some teenagers and young adults who don’t have sex, curse, drink or do drugs but I’m sure they see or hear about it in their schools. The world is changing. Young adult books need to keep up with this. You may not want to read books that have sexual content within them, but I personally don’t want to read books that have heavy religious tones. However, I believe the main problem and the reason I wanted to write this post is that people are saying YA shouldn’t be including this kind of content. It frustrates me so much because not having this inclusivity in YA is the reason why so many teenagers don’t read – they don’t see themselves represented.
This post is honestly a mess, but I am very passionate about the fact that YA should include sex, whether descriptive or fade to black. Sex isn’t a bad thing and it is okay to explore your body. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you agree with me? Do you disagree?