Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sex and the Single Teenager

Recently, I had a conversation about how “far” can you go in a GBLTQ young adult romance. I’ve beta-read young adult, but I write about adults for adults—this is unchartered territory for me. Can you have open-mouthed kisses, touching with naming of acts and parts? What if both characters are under age eighteen (read: legal consent)?

It’s a bit grey out there folks, and I don’t mean Shades of.

Middle grade fiction is pretty cut and dried in this area. New Adult books (kids 18-25—out of the parent’s house and on their own) can test the limits, just like adults only books. It’s the 14-18 year-old group giving us fits. Here’s my take:

Since both characters need to be under eighteen, I'd prefer them both at least sixteen--fifteen is too close to childhood to me, and at that age, a year can make an enormous difference in maturity. In some states, you can marry at sixteen, and that seems to be more comfortable.

With regard to the sex—shouldn’t have anything explicit. To me, "explicit" means graphic descriptions of the acts and naming of parts. The bedroom door is nearly "closed."

Is it okay to have the characters nervously shed their clothes and retreat to the comfort of the bed, burning with an unfamiliar need? Can one of them say, "Have you ever...done anything with another guy?"

There are YA books out there that push the envelope right past New Adult into eighteen-and-over audiences. To me, these are adult books that happen to be about teenaged characters.

Where would you draw the line?
Once upon a misspent youth, Whitley read and wrote stories under the covers at night. At some point, real life intervened, bringing with it responsibilities and a career in the medical field. After years of technical writing, Whitley became enamored of romance and took on the challenge of giving it a try. Inventing characters and putting them through paces in interesting ways turned out to be addictive, and along the way, Whitley discovered that two heroes is twice as nice. A pot of coffee, quiet, and a storyline featuring a couple of guys makes for a perfect day. Stop by and feed your fix for heat between the sheets with erotica and M/M romance.


  1. I might be slammed for this, but as a mother of teens, this is my opinion....

    I draw the line at any scene that is written to excite/titilate/arouse a reader showing graphic sex between teens under 18 yr olds.

    If you saw a sex tape of that, it'd be child pornography. Or photos. Age of consent is just an excuse - and it varies from state to state - and don't even get me started on who those laws protect.

    Who is reading this? Other kids or adults? Why is an adult reading about teens having graphic sex?

    Sex between teens can be written to be beautiful, scary, and anything in between by a good writer. It doesn't ever have to be graphic.

    Whitley - thanks for opening this up to discussion.

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  3. I personally don't want my kids to be reading anything explicit. They don't want to read it either. I prefer my YA to be closed door, or nearly closed. That's how I write it too. Kids get enough from movies, TV and the internet on the more explicit side. I think in books should stay exciting, but not explicit.

  4. Thanks for talking about this, Lynn.

    It seems to be a tightrope to get GBLTQ YA novels out there (to the kids who need them, especially) yet still keep the mystique that traditionally goes with sex in YA fiction. I agree, there are ways to handle this without resorting to graphic descriptions. I'm sure other parents echo your sentiments.

    Anonymous: Kids get a lot of stuff thrown at them via TV and movies--agree. The first job of a book is to tell a story that pulls the reader in, NOT to create a forum for describing teen sex.

    To all: This is a difficult topic, one that's likely to emerge over and over with increased public acceptance of GBLTQ youth. I'd rather not read about intimacy between teenagers. IMHO, "Have you ever done anything?" and adjourning to the bedroom is enough. The characters have the rest of their 18+ lives to open the door. :)
    From my standpoint, any sex in fiction should be safe sex. Especially when dealing with teens. I can see adding a line about "protection" before they adjourn to the bedroom working for this. It may be that the cliche of the prophylactic packet in the wallet has undergone a stylish upgrade. :)

    Thanks for joining the discussion. We'll revisit the issue again in a few months, see where the state of the art is then.