Last week I saw a link for this article (“How to Relationship” by Corey Anne Haydu) on Katy Upperman’s What’s Up Wednesday post. The TL;DR version: Haydu thinks much of YA uses intercourse as a relationship endgame instead of exploring the deeper complexities of teen relationships and sexuality, because those complexities make society as a whole kind of squicky. At least that’s how I read it.
I think Haydu makes an excellent point, but I wonder to what degree that situation can be rectified? If this is a call to portray sexual situations in a more honest manner, without fading to black, then I am all for it. If it’s a call to portray sexual experiences as more varied than just kissing and sex, again, all for it. However, there is a line that exists. Haydu acknowledges that, saying she’s “not comfortable with the line between realistic/honest and graphic or too erotic.” And I think that’s exactly why we have the narrative we have. It’s safe. It easily stays within the bounds of propriety.
So while I agree that more honesty is needed, I struggle with how to implement it. How much is too much?
YA has come a long way and does not typically shy from heavy topics–drug use, suicide, rape, incest, etc. I haven’t read all the books dealing with all of these topics, but I wager that, despite the material, many of them probably also did a degree of fading to black when describing sexual situations. If even the authors who are willing to explore taboo topics get antsy about including too much detail or straying too far from the fade to black, then what hope do the rest of us have?
Are there any types of situations you think are too taboo for YA lit? Do you agree that we need to expand our perspectives within YA sexual relationships? Have you read any YA lately that really explores the relationship stages between the first kiss and intercourse?