I just read a rather hot sex scene in a YA book I'm reading, and…WHEW! Good “showing, not telling”. Creative use of the five senses. Excellent dialogue choices…very authentic. Outstanding description of the, you know, action. Good for you, author! CLAP CLAP.
Problem is… it was totally unnecessary. Not that sex is unnecessary. But in some YA books, the sex seems to be gratuitously tossed in either for shock value or for kicks or maybe the author is showing off a bit. Look at me! Look at me! I'M DEAD SEXY! I get it. Those scenes are really fun to write. And read. But how does an author decide when it's necessary?
Yes, teenagers have sex on the brain. I read a 2005 child development study that said over half of all teens claim to be sexually active. About 20% of America's ninth graders checked the “I'M HAVING SEX” box on the questionnaire. Uh, yeah. I work with ninth graders every day now, and here's a newsflash for ya…they exaggerate!
Ain't no way that 1 in 5 of the fourteen-year-olds I'm tutoring are doing anything resembling sex. Oh sure, they SAY they're having sex, but they also SAY they've wrestled sharks, Karate-chopped bank robbers, and saved puppies and nuns from attacking lions! They'll say anything, ANYTHING to impress me or their friends or the imaginary person looking over their shoulders to see which box they've checked on the Sex Questionnaire.
So, anyway, that rant aside…Do I need to add sex to my new YA novel? It's a Romance, yes. However, excuse me for being a prude, but remember when talking late into the night and holding hands and kissing meant everything in the world? I do. To me, the romance of my story lies in the heart-stopping emotional bond that my characters share. Sure, they're physically attracted to each other. Very much so. But I'd love to make sex a non-issue. Does it even have to come up?
99% of writers I've posed this question to agree that my characters must have sex to make it realistic. Yes, they're deeply in love. But does love always have to equal sex? (Especially when we're talking about kids??) Am I being a serious prude, here? No, for real, is it me? Am I being unrealistic? Help, blog-readers. Help!
(Who may need therapy after this one to deal with the fact that I was the most straight-laced and boring teen on the planet.)