Madam to Author, “Sir, does this book have Sex!” Author “–Madam, I assure you, this is a proper novel. It does it only at night and in the dark!”

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My current questions: “How far can the writer go with “sex” in the Young Adult novel?

AND,

Can one write a novel for say adults that a YA reader could perchance pick up and enjoy because several characters in the novel are…well, YA?

I have not read widely in the YA market (a big fault, I admit), and I’ll be honest, I’m not overly interested in locking myself into the position of “YA writer.” Nevertheless, the novel I’m working on has a strong plot-line that involves girls in the 18-20 age range.

How far can we go when it comes to sexuality in our novels and still attract readers from the ages of say 16 to 24? It’s not that our American culture, goes out of its way to protect its youth from sexual information. Just waiting in line at Publix, our local grocery, anyone can acquire a complete sex education from simply gawking at the magazines–how can anybody not have ideas about sex? Or at least curiosity. Definitely an eighteen year old.

So, with my novel, my protagonist is early 30s. She’s a public school Biology teacher. She is the newly arrived Green Counselor at a Girl’s Christian Camp. The summer camp is interested in involving it’s female participants in environmental issues and awareness. She’s agreed to the appointment, not because she is a Christian, (she’s not, she’s posing.) but because she is lusting after the VERY Christian man whom she met earlier in the year, and who invited her to participate in the camp experience. From the first day on, her relationship with the young man in question, with the girls who form her “group” and most importantly, with herself, will undergo severe change and I’d like to think she will emerge a better person…we’ll see about that one. Her relationship with the young girls informs the greater part of the novel.

In this novel, I find it almost impossible not to have a few scenes of sexual play and at least one scene of risqué sexual fulfillment.

So again I ask, how far can one go with the sex game in a novel that may be read by a seventeen year old girl?

 

16 thoughts on “Madam to Author, “Sir, does this book have Sex!” Author “–Madam, I assure you, this is a proper novel. It does it only at night and in the dark!”

  1. JoHanna Massey

    On the edge here you are. Great post and you pose a very relevant and interesting question. I read Candide, Lolita, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, all of the James Bond series, and a relatives Playboy magazines. All before I was fifteen. Does that help?

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      Yes, it does! Thank you so much.

      Yeaah, I know I’m really pushing the ol’ envelope, but I’m of the mind that YAs know a lot more about “stuff” than we want to believe. While that doesn’t justify writing explicitly, I think, with justifiable limits in mind, there is a line that can be pushed. In the fifties, the word “pregnant” couldn’t be used on tv…hey, times, they are a’changing. Thanks again.

      Liked by 2 people

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      1. JoHanna Massey

        Exactly. But look what I was able to get my hands on to read with no problem, never got caught with any of it except a Bond Book by a teacher who gave me a morals lecture and confiscated it…I am sure to read himself. Half grown children are very savvy today as to how the world works and talk very freely what they know. I know for a fact they will find story-lines with sex in them. Better to have it written with some sensitivity. I wish you the absolute very best with this.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. candyyork

    I would honestly say, write it exactly the way you see it and feel it and once it’s finished and someone else (publishing house, etc) is reading, they will tell you if they think it’s too much etc. Some YA novels are quite direct in their content, be it sexual or anything else parents might find a bit too much – at 16-18 girls are pretty mature. If I remember rightly, being a Catholic girl at a Catholic school, we knew way more than anyone thought, LOL!

    Liked by 2 people

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  3. Allison Maruska

    I took an excellent workshop at a writer’s conference called Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll in YA that settled the matter once and for all for me. The inclusion of sex in a YA novel should be about options. YA shouldn’t present a reality where all teens have sex, because that’s not how it is. It shouldn’t present a reality where no teens have sex, because that’s not plausible either. Birth control should be included – or not, if that’s how the story goes. Teens are navigating the world with almost-adult eyes, and they’re trying to figure out how sexuality fits into their lives. YA characters should reflect this – if it serves the story. Sex shouldn’t be included unless it’s important to the development of the characters or plot. Also, YA is not a good place for adults to impress their personal beliefs or value systems.

    Judy Blume’s daughter asked her to write a book where a teen girl has sex and doesn’t die, because that was the primary narrative at the time. Since then, sex in YA has evolved to something that is more reflective of reality. Bottom line – if it serves the story, don’t be shy about including sex.

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      Thank you so much for the very good advice. You know, I taught English for 37 years and I always likened the flow of students to a river. Well, the river is still flowing but I aint with it…! Nevertheless, after reading your well-worded response, I believe I am after all on the right track. Thank you again.

      Liked by 2 people

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  4. Atomic Words

    I know my comment is late (first time here) and you have probably found a solution especially with all the great advice above.
    But I just want to say that I was reading stuff I shouldn’t for as long as I can remember. Very early teens without even understanding most of it (my parents didn’t know of curse 😊) and then I read Catherine Culters ‘the wild baron’ yes it’s regency and historical, but it had sexual content but she didn’t spell out everything. She hinted and caressed and enticed with moments and suggestions. I think without being explicit it was and is one of my favorite books and still has the capability to turn on. Hope this helps

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      Your reply helped very much! Thank you. I think part of–or maybe–a great deal of the problem was me–the male writer. The novel deals with a mature young woman, early thirties, who interacts with 17-21 year old girls/young women. So of course I don’t want to be accused of being an old perv…you know…”look at that ol guy writing about those sexy little girls….” gaaaaa. But at the same time as you stated…yeah, I want to heat things up a bit. Your advice is well taken and I think I’m going to take a look at “The Wild Baron.” So thanks again. Oh and sorry for my late reply…we just got back in from Sacramento, CA, hootin’ and hollering with old friends, and drinking too much wine. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  5. Deb

    When I was 12 and 13 I spent my summers as a mother’s helper and at night we would read Harlequin romance novels…I loved them…what I think is best is to allude to what is going on and let the reader’s imagination create what they will in their own mind. “He pulled me against him, my breasts heaved as I caught my breath, I could feel his excitement as he pressed against me and longingly kissed me, I could resist no longer”…now isn’t that exciting without being explicit? I loved reading them!!! Good luck, hope this helped…

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      Your comment has helped a great deal. Thanks! I think you are exactly right. The challenge isn’t to be explicit. The challenge is to find the fire that exists between the real and the imagined. Thank you so much.

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. Hemangini

    interesting question and I must say, it is your novel , no one knows the plot better then you. Have you heard bout fifty shades of grey? I hear that novel has so many explicit sexual scenes, yet it was a bestseller. Then there are other YA novels, I happen to have read a few last year and there are little less sex scenes in that. It is for you to decide whether you want your novel to be read by adults only or young teens as well.. Today’s kids are more accepting of it then adults though. Hope this helps.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      Thank you for your good words. I’m so glad you like my blog! Thank you!

      I was at that point in my novel that I had to sit back, to pause, to take a breath, and think about how I wanted to “show” not “tell” about a certain relationship. It’s one of those times that I’m very glad to have a blog and hence be able to hear the wisdom of others–definitely you, Hemangini, included.

      I have started reading more YA stuff and that has helped a great deal. The thing is when one actually starts writing, then at some point one holds the pen, so to speak, in the air and wonders–what now? It appears there is a line…not very distinct, but a line nevertheless that separates approaches to sex from descriptive to, say, pornographic. I’m currently reading THE BOOKMAN’S TALE in which a number of sex scenes occur between a couple in their late teens and it’s done very well–not explicit. And the audience could range from YA to adult. And that was my point all along. I don’t want to write an YA novel per se…but rather a novel that is for adults that can be also read and appreciated by a teenager.

      SO, again thanks for your input. It is much appreciated. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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