In high school, I was a church-going, show choir-loving soccer player.
But here are a few things I was thinking about when I was 16:
1. My best guy friend was constantly asking me to help him locate places where he could take his girlfriend to park. He needed something better than the side of the road right near her house.
2. Another guy friend had just had sex with another friend’s ex-girlfriend. I was sworn to secrecy. When the ex-girlfriend found out I knew they’d had sex and didn’t tell her I knew, she punched me in the cafeteria, even though I was trying to be a good friend to everyone involved. I kept the secret! Gah!
3. The guy I wanted more than anything (who I’d just gone to second base with) had decided to start having sex with the ex-girlfriend mentioned above (yeah, she got around). From what other people told me, he’d go over to her house every night of the week and have sex with her in her room. I cried and cried. I wondered if he’d date me if I would have sex with him.
4. The guy friend mentioned above in #2 was trying to hook up with me, even though I didn’t want to hook up. He came over to my house all the time and would lie on my bed and it freaked me out. Somehow I managed to avoid doing anything with him, even though he was persistent. Once he went through my underwear drawer without me knowing, and then asked me to model for him. Gah!
5. My best girl friend was being pressured by her boyfriend to have sex. He would whine to her that all the guys in the locker room made fun of him for not having gotten laid yet. She didn’t want to have sex until she got married, but she didn’t want to lose him either. They had sex and then she felt ashamed of herself for doing it, and I had to convince her that it was okay, she wasn’t going to Hell.
6. Everyone at my church told me that if you have sex before marriage, God would send you straight to Hell. I spent a lot of time worrying that all my friends were going to Hell for having so much sex.
7. I wanted a boyfriend. Bad. But no one wanted to be my boyfriend.
Nearly everything I write has sex in it. Why? Because teenagers have sex! They think about it, too!
It’s not that I’m trying to make a statement by writing sexy YA, it’s that I try to write the truth, and the truth is that kids have sex.
When I’m writing from the perspective of a teenage girl or boy, that subject is bound to come up. And when reading books, teenagers want to relate to the main characters, not feel like they’re being preached to. They don’t pick books and think, “I want a lesson on morality today.”
Sure, all parents want to protect their kids and I don’t fault them for that, but I don’t want people to consider me a bad person for writing books for teenagers that include a sex scene.
Sometimes I go into detail during sex scenes, because I remember when I was 16, I didn’t have the foggiest clue about the mechanics of sex. It wasn’t that I was desperate to have sex and needed to know how to do it, I was just curious. A girlfriend of mine managed to find a porno, and we watched it, and I was HORRIFIED. But it did satisfy my curiosity.
For parents who worry that sexy YA books are going to make their kids race out and have sex, that might be true, but I don’t think so. And if it does happen, then I hope those parents have prepared their kids for the real world by educating them about sex and risks and protection. I always show my characters using condoms and/or birth control. However, including sex in a book must serve the plot in some way - either positively or negatively. Being in love is a good enough reason for me.
At graduation, 50% of teenagers are still virgins. Good for them! Some of my characters are virgins, too.
When I was a teenager, I searched the library for books featuring sex. Today, some of my friends admit to having read romance novels as teenagers, because they wanted to read about sex.
A part of being a teenager is thinking about and being curious about sex. I want my books to be a place where teenagers can read the truth and not feel judged for being human.