Friday, March 27, 2009
Sex and Violence
a brief note - I discuss a bit about Breaking Dawn in this post so if you're afraid of getting spoiled, look away.
One of the questions I often see making the rounds of writing loops, discussion boards, and the general blogosphere is whether sex in young adult books is okay. Honestly, I think it depends on the book. I don't write any explicit sex in The Forest of Hands and Teeth because it's not necessary to the story -- what is important is the tension between the characters. I think a long drawn out almost kiss can almost be more sexy than any kind of sex. (Don't believe me? Watch Bella and Edwards first kiss in the Twilight movie. That's one of the hottest, sexiest scenes I've ever seen.)
Does that mean there's no sex in my book? Depends on who you ask! According to Kirkus, there is no sex (and they found that odd. I find it odd that a review of a YA novel is asking for more sex...). According to some other reader reviews I've gotten there is sex. I tried to write it so that if you want to read sex between the lines you can and if you don't, you won't. Seemed like a good balance to me while still fitting the needs of the story.
So what about violence? I rarely see as many discussions about the appropriate levels of violence in YA novels as I do about appropriate levels of sex. Honestly, I think our society is just more obsessed with sex than we are with violence. And so when I saw a headline that read "Twilight book missing after parent complains" and knew from the referring link that it was about a challenge to Breaking Dawn, I assumed the challenge was due to violence.
As it turns out, I was wrong. The challenge was due (apparently) to the sexual conduct. Yes, that's right, a parent challenged a book in which sex is implied between a married couple. Let me get this straight: womb chewing, multiple bones broken by a gestating baby, blood spewing by pregnant woman who must then consume blood for her vampire baby is okay. Implied sex between a loving married couple is not okay.
Really? THIS is what she wanted to challenge? I mean, I hate to gross everyone out here, but I kind of operate under the assumption that most married couples actually have sex. I also operate under the assumption that most parents have, at least at one point, had sex as well (either before or after getting married - I don't judge). Heck, Bella was older than a LOT of girls when she got married and had sex (totally off the page).
I'm not a fan of challenging books. I also don't have a problem at all with Breaking Dawn or the violence in it. I give full props to Stephenie Meyer for writing the book and concluding her series the way she felt it should be done. But I'm just shocked that the collective fear of sex in YA novels is so strong that it outweighs any problems we have with violence or potentially abusive relationships.
What do y'all think? Are we too obsessed over the sexual content in books? Are we appropriately obsessed with sex but not enough about violence? How can we expect teens to read Romeo & Juliet (sex and violence) and Hamlet (violence) and Lord of the Flies (violence) and The Scarlet Letter (sex and violence) and not think that they're able to handle this content in contemporary books?