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#YA Romance: Let’s Talk About Sex

I was recently in discussion with a colleague about how sex is portrayed in books for teens and its overall place in #YA literature. My colleague firmly believes that under no circumstances should sex be included in the genre. It was her position that #YA should have nothing but sweet romance, a rating of mucho mild on the kissing scale, and any type of intense sexual desire should be completely and totally omitted. In her mind, anything that moves out of those parameters falls out of #YA and into the category of #NewAdult.

And, I’m having a tough time accepting that because, well, I couldn’t disagree with her more. Whether we acknowledge it or not, teens have sexual feelings and not including those feelings and actions in their literature seems unrealistic and, quite frankly, insulting.

When I was a teen myself, I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. And, due to a lack of #YA books availabel to me that seemed real and honest in the romantic arena, I often dove into the #Adult genre headfirst looking for those deeper romantic relationships, especially during that 17-18-year-old stretch.

And boy, were my eyes were widened. Maybe a bit too wide.

Looking back, I wish I had access to books that approached sex in an age appropriate way simply because it would have been a great opportunity to develop a more concrete understanding of what an actual healthy sexual relationship was at my developmental level. As it happened, I read books with sexual content waaaaay above my maturity level (i.e. from my mother’s voracious collection of historical romance). Perhaps, not the healthiest or realistic of resources, but my choices were limited back then and I don’t really remember #YA being such a huge genre either. I mean, there were some choices… but not like today.

In my opinion, #YA most definitely should include sex if a) it makes sense for the story, b) does not cross the line of too much detail, c) is done in a manner that is true to the characters, and most importantly, d) includes clear consent and use of safe and responsible sexual practices.

Teens need examples of appropriate relationships of all kinds and that includes sexual relationships. There should most definitely be examples of this available in the #YA genre, just as there should be examples of the entire relationship spectrum. And, since the late 1990s the genre has really blossomed to include these mature themes for teens to read and explore.

So, what do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions on this topic. Comment below and let me know!

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