Friday, November 16, 2012

Let's Talk About Sex


I have seen a resurgence of the topic of Sex in YA lately; mostly, I think, related to the recent growth of the upper YA and NA genres.  I have also seen it used, wrongly in my opinion, as the defining trait of an “edgy character.”

I have been accused of writing edgy characters.  I’m not afraid to take to the buckle end of a belt to them in a scene or have them carve the name of their next victim into the baseball bat they used to cripple them with.  As for sex…pick up any one of my YA contemporary manuscripts and you'll find it in there. Sometimes in detail.  But never once have I used sex to as the sole defining character trait.  Simply put, in my mind,

Sex  ≠ Edge


Sex, whether it be the actual act or the mere thought of it, needs to be written in context, a justification if you will – good or bad – for why your characters are contemplating or actually doing it.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t need undying professions of love as set-up. I don’t even needed flowers or the cliché prom scene.  But I do need to understand the emotions, positive of negative, behind the characters motivations or else would could have been a truly powerful scene turns into nothing more then a gratuitous chapter.

I read somewhere that the average teenage boy thinks about sex once every ten minutes.  I tend to disagree.  For the sake of my sanity as the mother of a teenage boy, I got to hope there is more rattling around in their brains that that.  But even it that were true, that doesn't mean I want to read about it every ten lines of a YA manuscript.  I don’t want it to be the sole thought that filters through your character's mind.  He needs depth.  He needs an existence outside of his primal urges.  He needs friends, and interest, and counterpoints to make me simultaneously love and hate him.  He needs a life, and in turn the story needs a plot, outside of sex.
 
So tell me, what are your thoughts on sex and edge. 

15 comments:

  1. I agree that it shouldn't be gratuitous in order to sell the book. We all have our reasons for having sex. It's part of the characterization, and in some cases, part of the backstory.

    I don't mind books where the guy thinks a lot about sex, but that shouldn't be the driving force behind the book. I would hope the guy has a bigger story goal than just getting laid--even if in real life it seems like that's their only goal. lol

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  2. I hope people don't write about sex in any form just to be edgy...does it have any significance on the story? Or is it just there for the sake of being there? I'm not a prude so I don't mind reading a well done sex scene, but please don't write one just because you think it'll give that 'edge'.

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    1. I'm am like you . . .no problem reading about sex. In fact, one of my long standing critique partners writes erotica so I have seen it all. But like you, I need it to be in context. Thanks for chiming in, Prerna.

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  3. So, so true! Gratuitous sex scenes usually just come across as boring. And just because a character is having sex, that doesn't mean they're edgy.

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  4. I hate statements like "the average teenaged boy..." because it's entirely inaccurate. Maybe "the average teenaged boy with nothing at all to do who is bored out of his skull", but the thing is, there is much to life and once you get your mind on things like work, studying, games, social interactions, etc. etc. then there are definitely other things than "sex" to think about.

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    1. Thank you, Michael so glad that you confirmed my suspicions -- there a whole bunch of other things floating around a boy's head!

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  5. Well said! :)

    P.S. Please tell me I'm not the only one who sang during this...

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    1. I almost put a video clip of the song at the start of the post but thought people would kill me. I sing each time I come back to reply to comments :)

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  6. I have no idea what constitutes "edge," but I think it has more to do with having/displaying a new perspective rather than just sex, drugs, rock-n-roll that have been done for years now... I think boys do think about sex at least every 10 minutes, but I wouldn't write them that way because it would get boring (unless I was going for male readers). But I have male CPs, and the books they write for guys do feature thinking about sex in every other paragraph. It's boring for me, but I guess teen boys like it...

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  7. I totally agree! It kind of has to be, like with anything else, something that is intrinsic to the plot or story really. I think you can really see when it's just been put in for the sake of being there.

    I don't mind reading sex scenes in YA at all but I think it's important for them to have a point because maybe that's what the transition between teen and adulthood is all about. Maybe we need to see characters find significance in their lives.

    I feel like I'm rambling now... nooot sure if that made sense sooo...

    <3

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