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.