Wednesday, February 4, 2015

An Open Letter to YA Authors About Sex

Wednesday, February 4, 2015
*Fair warning for my faint-of-heart readers. We're talking about sex here more than Salt-N-Pepa.*

Dear YA Authors,

Please stop making sex hurt.

That's a weird request, I know, so let me clarify what I mean a little. You know the (heterosexual) sex scenes in YA books (the ones that don't fade to black) where it's the girl's first time and it goes something like this:

I felt a sharp pain and he paused. "Are you okay?" he asked. I gritted my teeth and nodded. Eventually the pain turned into something better... later, after we were finished, I saw a red stain on his sheets and cringed.

I'm not exactly going to win the Printz here, but you get the idea.

This stereotypical sex scene bothers me for a number of reasons and in order to explain why, I'm going to break it down with some statistics (courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislatures).

1.  22 states require sex ed in public schools AND

2. Only 19 of those states actually require it to be "medically, factually or technically accurate"

That's a little scary, isn't it?

Basically, this means that a lot of teens are probably NOT getting comprehensive sex education (or any sex education at all). And while the Internet has a lot of great resources, like Scarleteen, it also has unrealistic porn and propagates a lot of myths surrounding sex. 

I'm lucky to live in a state that does require sex ed but I still got hit with some of the old standards. Especially the whole first-time-for-girls-sucks-popping-the-cherry crap. As a preteen and teen, a lot of the extraneous info I got about sex came from some of the YA books I was reading, and they confirmed what I had been taught: for heterosexual girls, sex will hurt and there will be blood and it is scary.

In reality, is this true? Kind of. My educators conveniently forgot to mention that a woman's first time only hurts if she isn't aroused and - oh yeah- there really shouldn't be any tearing going on (ow!). 

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)It doesn't take a Women's Studies expert to see where this myth comes from: virginity ("purity") is taken very seriously for girls in Western culture to the point where it is tied to a woman's worth. Make sex something painful and it discourages girls from participating.

Unfortunately, even my favorite feminist writers, like Kristin Cashore, have included this myth in their books (Graceling, in this case). And until I discovered Laci Green's Sex Plus channel - God bless her - I believed this myth. 

So please, YA authors, stop making sex hurt. You may have readers who learn more about sex in your novel than they do in every semester of school, so while it's not your job to be their health teacher, you can stop buying into a myth that was created to keep women "pure" and passive. 

I'm not asking you to dedicate a chapter in your books to talk about how great sex can be. I'm literally just asking that you stop making it scary.