Let’s Talk Bookish – Sexual Content in YA

It’s time for another Let’s Talk Bookish discussion. This is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky at Eternity Books. This week’s topic is, Is there too much sexual content in YA?

I read a lot of YA, but the books I choose don’t tend to have a lot of sexual content. At least not sexually explicit content. I guess Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas is considered YA, and that does have sexual content, but, outside of that, I can’t really think of many books that I’ve read that have sexual content. Maybe it’s because I don’t read much contemporary; is that where all the sexual content is?

However, that being said, I don’t think there’s too much content in YA and not because I’m not coming across it. While I completely sympathize with people who don’t want to read about sex, sexual tension, or romance, when I was a kid, that’s exactly what I wanted to read. I read Forever by Judy Blume when I was in fifth or sixth grade because I knew it had sex in it. When my parents left me alone at home, I went through the adult books in the house looking for sex scenes. My library checked out any book to anyone, and when I was in sixth or seventh grade, I checked out a romance book. Even before the sex started, I knew it was the type of book I was looking for because of the sensual descriptions of clothing.

Many kids are interested in sex, and many kids don’t have access to healthy depictions of sex. Their parents either won’t talk to them about it and/or give them rotten information. Books with sexual content are the only place they’ll get an education. I mean, yes, in reality they’re going online and looking at porn and talking to their friends who are as badly educated as they are, but if they can read a book that depicts a sexual relationship and it’s consequences, isn’t that better?

Judy Blume wrote Forever in 1975 because the only books out there about teenagers having sex ended in tragedy. Her daughter wanted to read something more realistic or at least different. (Side note: I have no proof that’s why she wrote it; I believe I read that many years ago somewhere, but don’t quote me on it). So, Blume wrote a book about teens having sex and detailed (or at least soft-focused) the sex scenes. And while those scenes were incredibly cringey (the guy named his penis Ralph, and I pictured a penis wearing tiny glasses), they showed fairly realistic sex between two inexperienced people. And, how just because you have sex, it doesn’t mean your relationship is going to last. But it doesn’t mean your life is going to be ruined, either.

So, I think sexual content in YA is important. It seems that most YA depicts healthy relationships that focus on consent and protection and the consequences of rushing into things unprepared. I think of how hugely important Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez was in not only portraying gay relationships, but realistically dealt with the consequences for one of the characters when he took risky chances.

Again, not everyone wants to read sexual content. But I also think there’s enough diversity in YA to satisfy everyone.