Kids Today: this blog, Sex, Drugs and the Eventual Downfall of Civilization

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I'll be posting about my conversion to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster very soon, but in the meantime, I'm going to continue on the discussion from my previous post, Sex in YA.

This is going to be long and rambly. I'm sorry.

I'm just going to respond with my thoughts to some of the commenters, so you might want to check out that post to see the comments in full (they are all quite long and thoughtfully written). Thank you all for offering your opinions - I think it's a touchy subject for some people, but it plays such a role in the lives of teenagers and the novels for them that I don't think we could not discuss it (I was tiring of zombies and vampires and bread).

Sarah Laurence - thanks so much for contributing your thoughts. I agree totally with you. I think teenagers should be introduced to sex through books written for their age group, rather than Mills & Boone (or, in my case, late night SBS.) Ignoring that teenagers are confronted with these things, and that teenagers will experiment, is only going to lead them to not be open with their parents, and be misinformed (I have so many funny stories my friends have told me, them believing these to be concrete facts, about the spread of STDs and what causes pregnancy, but I'm not going to share them here. They were, however, extremely funny, but also kind of sad considering the misinformation of teenagers).

Anonymous - I think I know who you are, and I'm not sure why you posted anonymously. No one will have a go at your beliefs! You are absolutely entitled to your opinions. However, I don't believe teenagers will be influenced by novels to a degree where they choose to try it; as Sarah Laurence mentioned in her comment, it allows them to explore that part of life without experiencing it first hand. I think that it's fine for teenagers to make pledges and purity rings and all that, but they should also be educated in birth control.

And - now I'm going to sound like your Health & Human Development teacher here - it's okay to talk about this stuff. Everyone's mature enough to respect each other's opinions and beliefs, and - though we have veered a bit off track - we are talking about sex in books.

I believe literature for teenagers should (and does) include all things which affect teenagers, things they can relate to, and things they can learn about without experiencing firsthand - premarital sex, gay relationships, drug use. It's up to the reader the way they interpret things.

Steph Su - I agree with you almost entirely. Though I believe that teenagers aren't necessarily having sex younger; it's just become more socially acceptable, and they're more comfortable to share this with their parents. And, as I mentioned earlier, I think it's okay for teenagers to makes pledges, or not believe in sex before marriage, as long as they're also educated in safe sex. And I don't think anyone younger than about fourteen or fifteen can make that type of promise.

Readergirl - I think we're agreed that Gossip Girl is not an accurate representation of youth today (I mean, do you know anyone who's rich and beautiful and morally damaged - you know, other than me?), and the only thing teenagers take from it is entertainment (keep it on the DL, but while I outwardly despise Gossip Girl, I secretly love it. Shh).

Rhiannon - I agree. But I think things that bad sexual experiences should be depicted in YA, because teenagers need something to relate to, or perhaps, on some level, be educated by. Because everyone's first time is not always Edward-and-Bella.
(Rhiannon also just posted a blog about a similar topic here.)

Donna - Ooh, this cat has claws! There's no need to insult Stephenie (though I always thought that Bella and Edward didn't have those sorts of relations because he might kill her, and then it turns out it was because he didn't believe in premarital sex - which I frankly think is stupid, since he was 110 or something, and he shouldn't be sleeping with a 17-year old anyway), but yes, you're exactly right. If it's necessary to the plot or character development, if it serves an important role, sex in YA is fine.

Summer - thanks, I'll have to check out that book. I've only been reading YA for the past two-three years (I'm fifteen), so not really long enough to notice it getting racier. I think it's important to separate upper YA and novels that are appropriate for those who are at a YA reading level, but are only eleven or twelve. When I first moved on to the teen section of my library, at about twelve, (I had to retype that three times. I kept on writing on sextion), I read a few novels that made me incredibly uncomfortable, novels I was unprepared for. Stuff I'd get now, that wouldn't shock me at all, freaked me out.

One such book was the Basic Eight by Daniel Handler. It was creepy. It has stuck with me for three and a half years. I can remember the plot better than I can remember the plot of any other book that I've read. But not in a good way. It's probably quite a good novel. But I was too freaked out to notice. There was a disturbing twist in the end. Someone is killed with a croquet mallet. And guess what? Daniel Handler also writes under a pseudonym.

He's Lemony Snicket.

The creep.

Scarred me for life.

Damn, how did I get here from talking about S. Meyer's bizarre no-premarital-sex-for-sparkly-vampires?

In conclusion:

Teenagers are going to have sex and drink alcohol and take drugs. They are wrecking balls of hormones, and for parents, their bizarre behaviour will both confuse and irritate you for upwards of five years, even though you experienced these same things yourself.

It's important for parents to be open with their kids. And it's important for teenagers to have access to literature which says to them, 'You're not a weirdo. This happens to everyone.'

Regardless of their sexual orientation, views toward sex, drugs or alcohol, family situation, the place where they live, and whether or not they are Steph Bowe, teenagers need to be able to see themselves in books, but also be able to escape into imaginary worlds when the pressures of their life (which seems like nothing to adults, but are all-consuming when you're fifteen) are too much.

Try and take some sense from my statement. Think about it a bit. Then write an amazing novel I can relate to. I'll love you for it.

Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground