Thursday, January 3, 2013
Adding Explicit Sex Scenes to Young Adult Novels...
When I first heard about explicit sex scenes being added to Young Adult novels I can't deny I wasn't curious...from an erotic writer's POV. As a reader, I can say with all honestly I have no interest in reading Young Adult books with explicit sex scenes that are just there for the sake of being there.
However, last year three of my favorite novels were YA and one did have a sex scene in it that I thought worked with the storyline. I reviewed them all and posted about them on this blog. But the scene I'm talking about wasn't sex for the sake of sex. It was a serious scene in the book where a teenage girl is being promiscuous with a teenage boy in a way that was sadder than anything else. I got it. I got why the author did it. With this sex scene he was trying to show how misguided Young Adults can sometimes be, and how they tend to lack self-esteem and do things just for the sake of doing them.
I'm not going into any more detail about that right now because that's not what this post is about. What I'm talking about here are sex scenes being added to YA books that seem to be designed to entertain and arouse the reader...sex for the sake of sex to sell books. And it seems the sex scenes are being added specifically for young adults in order to sell more books. It's the exact opposite of what I did last year and the world went dead silent.
When I released "Chase of a Dream" last year I purposely released two versions of the book. And, keep in mind this book was written for adults, not young adults. At the time, I searched around to see if anyone else had ever done this with erotic romance. I couldn't find anything, and frankly it never occurred to me to look for YA books where they were ADDING sex scenes instead of removing them. Obviously it can be done. If you can remove sex scenes you can certainly add them. But one of the reasons I removed them from "Chase of a Dream" was so that I could give readers more choices. After reading a few reviews about how I tend to put too much sex into my books, I figured I would release an abridged version without explicit sex and an unabridged version with all the explicit sex scenes left in tact.
I won't do it again. I found that the unabridged book is still selling far more copies than the abridged version. So those who left reviews that I write too much sex must clearly be in the minority. I didn't know that at the time and I'd always wondered. Now that I do know, I don't see a point in releasing anymore abridged versions. In my case I think it comes down to one thing: if you don't like adult erotic romance with sex, don't read it. Or, I do know that people skip over sex scenes sometimes (I do). The unabridged version of "Chase of a Dream" only had about seven thousand words with sex scenes, which isn't that much in a 60,000 novel. As for the YA books where they are adding sex, I've heard they are adding about 10,000 words...3,000 more than I removed.
In any event, according to this article I read it seems that sex scenes being added to YA novels is growing more popular. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that right now.
Yes, you're reading that right: it's a young adult book series with explicit sex scenes added into it.
The Vincent Boys series is a book I have never read and probably never will. It's a young adult book series. Katherine (you remember Katherine?) has the originals on her Kindle and will apparently read them and come up with some comments on whether it was necessary and why she's against it. I look forward to it.
I can't say I agree with everything in this article, especially this:
Adult novels have characters who have already discovered themselves; that's why erotica fits so well in that category: it's sex written for the sake of sex. It can be steamy and sexy, but it works for that story.
Not true; misconception; at least not with my gay erotica. And I think it's just this person's lack of knowledge about erotica and erotic romance. In over 100 works of published gay fiction, I have never written a character who has already discovered himself. In my case, my characters are still learning about themselves and they often do it through sexual experiences. The sex moves them forward and helps them figure out who they are. What most people don't realize about gay men and women is that we don't actually have any real sexual experiences in the normal sense until we are in our twenties. Duh? Think about it. We don't get a normal puberty and go to proms and homecomings: we sit on the sidelines and watch from a distance. We don't get to make out in backseats and dark movie theaters like straight kids. So when I'm writing about adult gay characters in their twenties and thirties most of the time the sex is part of their self-discovery...and they are actually going through a period of late puberty. You either get that or you don't.
But the tricky part of adding sex to YA is that I do tend to agree with some of this:
Can young adult sex be steamy and sexy? I'm certain it can be. But it doesn't fit in well with the rest of the story, especially when it's added in afterwards; young adult stories are emotionally driven, and sticking in descriptions of bodies clashing together takes away from that.
In the same respect, I have to admit that when I was in my teens I used to sneak into bookstores in the mall and buy erotic romance paperbacks because I was curious. I wasn't sure about my sexuality, so I found my escape through erotic romance...heterosexual erotic romance...because there weren't any gay erotic romances out there. Those books were filled with emotion, because sex is an underestimated emotion for most of us.
So I do think there's a market for YA with sex scenes...if it's done the right way. I would probably feel creepy reading those scenes if it wasn't done the right way. I also think YA books with sex scenes help educate kids who don't know any better and are seeking answers. I can state with a clear head they helped me and I didn't grow up with any huge issues.
But this point is important to me:
And I think that's what irritates me about that (and about sex scenes when they're added to classics, like Jane Eyre). It takes away from characters and ends up not having a point at all.
I tend to agree with this as well. But for different reasons. I don't think sex scenes take anything away and remove the focus or the emotion. The reason I don't completely agree is I don't like altering classics in any way at all. The author's original intent has to be taken into consideration, and I doubt most authors would appreciate having their books altered. And adding sex is a huge alteration to me.
As a side note that has a little to do with the topic above, YA as a genre still seems to be going strong at this point. I posted about a new LGBT web site yesterday that's going to focus on LGBT YA books, and I'm curious to see how it's going to evolve. A lot of the authors I noticed listed on the site have written m/m romances and seem to come from that genre. I've read some of them and loved their books. I even saw Rita Mae Brown listed there, and I've read and loved almost everything she ever wrote, starting with "Rubyfruit Jungle." But I never thought of Brown as a YA author (or an LGBT author for that matter...she writes gay/bi fiction sometimes; not always...mysteries sometimes; not always), and yet I think her books do crossover in many cases.
The thing I'm most curious about is how...or if...sex will be executed in YA LGBT books, and if what's happening in the straight YA books with sex scenes being added will happen to LGBT YA books. I haven't read many so I'm no expert. The fact still remains that most LGBT teens are in the closet, they are not having basic sexual experiences like straight kids, and they probably won't until they get into college. Most don't even know they are gay and won't accept it for years to come. If I were going to write an accurate YA LGBT novel...which I won't do ever...I would probably focus on all the bad heterosexual sex experiences gay teens have to suffer through because of the pressure society places on them.