Friday, October 21, 2011

Thinking about sex

“Let's tell it how it is, and how it could be / How it was, and of course, how it should be….”

I’m thinking about sex, sexuality, and sexual taboos in YA in advance of this. Thinking about sex, made me think about this post from Ashley Hope Pérez. So my question is, how sex-positive is YA in general?*

(This is going to get explicit-ish.)

Do girls get to enjoy sex in YA novels without dramatic consequences? (Don’t misunderstand. Sex is, I believe, almost always consequential somehow and not just for teens, but that doesn’t mean the consequences are necessarily part of the story at hand.) I can think of examples of guys of all sexual orientations getting off in YA novels without the other shoe dropping or an After-School-Special breaking out. I have a harder time thinking of girls in similar circumstances.

Teens can drink, smoke, and do any number of recreational drugs in YA novels without dramatic in-book consequences (and this is, I believe, appropriate). But can a teenage girl enjoy sex in a YA novel without getting pregnant, having her reputation ruined, etc.?

Nabokov famously said there were at least three taboos in American literature as far as publishers were concerned. Lolita covered the first. “The two others are: A Negro-White Marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren; and the total atheist who lives a happy and useful life, and dies in his sleep at age 106.”

Is it taboo for a teenage girl to have a happy orgasm without a yeah-but moment thirty pages later in a YA novel? Examples? (Maybe there are tons and I’m just slow-witted today.)

*I’m not interested in debating whether YA should be sex-positive. That’s not the point.