Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sex, Sex, Sex (and More Sex) in YA || A Conversation, More or Less

I’ll begin with this: hey babes, I’m Jackie. This past June I graduated high school. And talking about sex (sex, sex, sex) is one of my favorite things to do. So whether you want to tweet me, email me, or leave a comment on this post, I’m all ears!

Use the hashtag #UndertheCoversYA to comment on twitter! 

I don’t know about y’all, but chapter 55 (yup, y’all, the chapter I tweeted out with no explanation a little while ago on Twitter) of S.J. Maas’s novel “A Court of Mist and Fury” had me all hot and bothered. I mean, for me, cabins and paint will never be the same.

And for those of you wondering, no, I have no qualms when it comes to talking about sex. Just ask my classmates who got the GOOD SEX STARTS WITH CONSENT talk, and the PERSONAL PLEASURE IS IMPORTANT PLEASURE talk, or the THERE ARE SO MANY KINDS OF CONTROCEPTIVES, HOW COOL IS THIS? talk. 

Chapter 55 has one of the more graphic scenes of sex in young adult (sex in YA?! LE GASP!) that I think I’ve ever come across. It’s all over the blogosphere, and on tote bags, and dang if it isn’t one of the sweetest, angsty can’t-get-the-clothes-off-fast-enough scenes. Much of young adult books like the whole fade-to-black when the people (or not people) are about to get all hot and heavy.

Let me just be blunt here: I think having visual sex scenes in young adult novels is something that is insanely important, and I think that while fade-to-black scenes are occasionally fine, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The fact is that teens have sex. 

I know- shocking. 

We’ve got a bit of a hush-hush, under the covers, societal convention when it comes to what sex really is, don’t we? I live in Texas, and we didn't have a sex-ed class. And the state runs on an abstinence is the best policy, policy. Because apparently if we don't talk about or acknowledge sex, it doesn't happen. Because that is SUPER logical. (I can't tell you the depths of frustration this causes me) 

So let me ask you a question, lovely: Is sex what two people who love each other a whole lot want to have a baby? (Obviously, occasionally, hell yes. Obviously, occasionally, hell no.) That is the old school explanation of it. Now days people are a bit more out and open about pleasure and sexualities. Since the world is slowly coming to terms with the fact that sex is actually happening with young people, maybe our literature should reflect that. (did you know that the average male has sex for the first time around 16, and female around 17. Obviously with that statistic we need to consider that there are both going to be some younger, and much, much older with their firsts. ‘Tiz the way averages work.)

Isn't 16 and 17 high school aged, babe? Don't you think that means that there may be sooooome importance with sex being scene in the novels high school students read? Here’s what I think sex in YA is able to teach that people simply aren’t as comfortable saying out-loud:

Graphic sex scenes in young adult allows for curiosity. Every person isn’t made the same, so of course not everyone is going to find pleasure from the same things. Let’s take the paint scene in A Court of Mist and Fury. Did you know that there’s this company called Love is Art? It sells non-toxic paint, and giant strips of canvas, and soap. Obviously there is a sector of society that finds the idea of making art with your body exciting. In ACOMAF, the paint was accidental, but it didn’t get in the way of showing that sex could be fun. Nope. Instead it freaking highlighted it. That being said, there’s different boats for different folks. And while I though (and, I’m sure, many of y’all thought) that the whole paint thing was hot as hell, not everyone will. I know—shocking. That goes with sexuality.

It’s able to teach that consent is BEYOND FREAKING IMPORTANT. It tells you that the the down and dirty needs to be met with a sure-as-heck yes. The consequences of that rule being broken can’t be properly put into words because the depth of the emotional trauma. So consent is important, and I think it is SO IMPORTANT to see so many different depictions of the aftermath for those who face the horror of when consent is not given.

It teaches that sex isn’t this shameful thing, and that it’s okay if you know what’s going on. It’s also okay if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. And if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, to talk with the person your having sex with. That letting them know what feels good, what doesn’t feel good is all part of the game. Sex isn't (usually) what you see in porn, and can be fumbling hands and weird noises and Thing Not Going As Planned.

Having sex in young adult book teaches the emotional response to slang like slut and prude. Both, besides just being rude, have this negative connotation that should never ever be associative with how sexually active any human is. I mean first off,--none of your freaking business. And two, why does it matter what that person does? Like, really?


And I know some of you are going to say, well, Jackie, it seems you like sex convos, but does it really have to be in YA? I mean, young people read young adult fiction.

My answer to that is yes, yes it does. Thank you for asking. That’s actually my point: young people reading young adult fiction. Here’s why I think so. Sex obviously isn’t a part of every book; in YA it’s obviously going to be less than in New Adult (like a whole freaking lot less) and less than in Adult.

The fact of life is that sex happens. The more you know about it, the more easily you can have a conversation about it, the safer you are going to be when you have sex. If you want to have sex, I believe you should be able to obtain condoms or some form of contraceptives without feeling shame. If you want to have an open conversation about sex, if you are curious about it, then you should feel comfortable with asking questions. And you should be open to the answers that you receive.

What are your opinions, lovely?

- - - - 

Okay, babes; below are some books in YA that have sex. Thank you SO SO SO MUCH to the twitter community for letting me know all the non- fade to black sex scenes. Y'all were are SO incredibly helpful. 

It looks like I've got some reading to do!

Sex in YA Books that I’ve Read

The ACOTAR series by S.J. Maas
The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi
Books (she has a bunch of books, but more specifically DareYou To) by Katie McGarry
Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Throne of Glass series by S.J. Maas (look at you girl, slaying the game!)

Sex in YA Books that I’ve Not Yet Read

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger
Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler
The Girl Who Fell by Shannon M. Parker
Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (according to reputable sources, her books are super sex positive and consent centric in terms of sex. let's give the good lady a round of applause!)
I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

The Queen of Tearling series by Erika Johansen
Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Carrie Mesrobian: Sex & Violence, Cut Both Ways, Perfectly Good White Boy
About a Girl by Sarah McCarry
Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Radical by EM Kokie

If you've got more non-subtle sex in YA scenes, leave a comment or tweet it (@ nobentspines) to me and I'll add it. If you see one on the list you're like "Jackie, that's a total fade-to-black, what are you doing?" let me know that too! 


  1. Yes to all of this!! Great great post!
    I had totally forgotten Queen of the Tearling had one, and as the third book will be out soon(ish) I guess it means I'll have to reread! *yay!*

    1. SQUEEE. Thank you. This post was honestly SO MUCH FUN to write. I think it came out well :D I have so many books to read xD

  2. Carrie Mesrobian does a great job of tackling sex head-on (see what I did there?) in her YA novels, SEX & VIOLENCE, PERFECTLY GOOD WHITE BOY, and CUT BOTH WAYS.

    1. I WANT TO READ HER BOOKS SO BADLY. (Also, totally saw what you did there xD)

  3. Yah I pretty much agree with most of your thoughts here! I agree, it shouldn't be fade to black all the time (though sometimes it works well) and it certainly opens up the conversation, which it definitely needs to do. Fantastic post!

    1. I'm so glad it's opened up the conversation! Thanks so much for stopping by :D

  4. Also, see Sarah McCarry's ABOUT A GIRL!!

    1. Ooooh! I'll have to check that one out + add it to the post! Thanks <3

  5. Such a great post! I love where you took it.
    You are so right about Texas!

  6. I honestly don't mind reading a YA book with sex on it. I ain't a teenager anymore (I'm 21!) but all I can say is that I read FSoG when I was 17 or 18(?). And that didn't change my perspective about sex. It didn't scar me. Okay, I was joking. FSoG scarred me a bit. Hahaha. XD I think it just depends to the reader to be open minded with it. Because let's face it, some teenagers do engage in sex. And that's reality. Great post, Jackie!

    P.S. Include Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout to your list. ;)

    Alyssa @ Diary of a Book Maniac

    1. Girl while reading your comment I couldn't for the LIIIIFE of me figure out what FSoG (fifty shades of grey) was until I googled it. Whoops xD I think it depends not only on the reader to be open-minded, but also the writer to actually write it. I'll add the Lux series (that's my cat's name, lol) to the list!

      And thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. I really like reading sex in YA because it's realistic... but it depends on how its incorporated by the author. I appreciate reading about awkward first times, sweet and romantic repeats, but it's just so dumb to read a supposed YA sex scene that has the makings of an erotic romance. That just makes me want DNF a book. Like save that for the adult romances, y'all teeny boppers not supposed to be humping as if you've got 700x sex experience with the ability to locate a g-spot and know the right way to massage balls. -___-"

    1. mean you don't think high schoolers are AcTUallY sex gods??? Lol. I mean it's all about perspective I suppose...but I'm going to have to agree with you. Def not to the DNF point, but to the eye roll/chuckle point.

  8. This is a great post! I think having sex in YA is important because it allows teens to experience sex, in a way, without actually having to go out and do it themselves. They get to experience it, learn about it, etc. without the consequences. And everything you said about how it can teach them about consent, communication, everyone being into different things, etc. are all great points. As long as the authors portray it realistically and include things like consent, protection, or the consequences of not having those things, then I think it's fine for YA to have sex scenes.

    1. Thank you! Consent and leaning about sex in YA (I think, obvs) is incredibly important. Thanks for stopping by, babe <3

  9. Yes to all of this. Yes to this post, yest to these books, just yes. Thank you for writing this. So much truth in a post. (and now I just added all that I haven't read to my TBR. This is the second time I read something about the Shatter Me series today. Need to get on that.)

    1. Wooh! Yay for all the yeses :D Let me know when you read one! I certainly know I have a long while to get to everything on this awesome list *heart eyes*