This is an attempt to work on de-stigmatizing sex in Y/A fiction. Since Y/A is such a superset of fiction, this will work on refreshing the repressive and sometimes damaging portrayals of sex in heteronormative sex, and primarily how that sex is portrayed for women.

Lizzie Skurnick, one of the authors of Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classic We Never Stopped Reading, says in an article for the New York Times, “I wonder if the reason today’s young adult fiction feels so sexually airless is that it lacks what made Blume and her peers seem so dangerous: Their books were physically arousing. In adult books, that trait is often a reliable sign of bad writing. But for teenagers, who are still strangers or newcomers to sex, the bonus physical stimulation of something like ‘Forever’ or ‘Domestic Arrangements’ can be validating, a way of making pleasure ordinary, appropriate enough to check out of the library. Those books were not afraid to let teenagers know that good sex can also be a good story.” Skurnick’s article tracks through how Y/A lit has become progressively less open about sex since the 70s and 80s. She discusses how sex scenes, and really sex in general as a topic, have been watered down since the days of Judy Blume and Norma Klein. The innocent sex scenes of John Green, where sex is hinted at but left undescribed highlights the once more growing aversion towards sex in Y/A literature.

Even in instances where sex is portrayed slightly more naturally or explicitly in some of these popular works, such as the awkward first blow job in John Green’s own 2005 book Looking for Alaska, (a sign of steps backward by the writer as he progressed on to The Fault in Our Stars) an issue that arises is the continued implication that to lose ones virginity, or even to have sex beyond that, is something special. It is withheld from the audience in specific ways that continues to further the taboo of sex.  In an article for The Conversation about sex in Y/A Lit, Erin Farrow, a PhD candidate at the Victoria University, writes about the prevalence of sex in Y/A literature and how it is being hidden away. She quotes Michael Cart from his book Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism, as saying,

“Not to include sex in books for contemporary young adults […] is to agree to a de facto conspiracy of silence, to imply to young readers that sex is so awful, so traumatic, so dirty that we can’t even write about it.”

The sex scene from The Fault in Our Stars falls into this exact issue Cart and Farrow are talking about here. Sex has become taboo in Y/A lit once more, and though some say that sex is just as prevalent in Y/A lit, if not more so than it used to be, the way sex is being portrayed now is not as positive as it once was. While there may be some agency presented by the women participating in sex, and some of the scenes are delightfully awkward or more realistic (which is certainly a benefit), there is still an overblown sense of importance. In an article for Bust, writer Alex Moore argues that the teen girls in Y/A Lit have fantastic sex lives, in fact it’s the title of her article. Moore argues that series such as Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series, amongst others, are providing healthy sex relationships for girls and young women to look up too. Moore says:

Including cunnilingus in Juliette’s personal and sexual awakening normalizes oral sex as a fun, pleasurable activity that she engages in with an eager, respectful partner. It’s also a signal of her self-acceptance and newfound self-control. Throughout the trilogy, Juliette has struggled to understand and wield her power. Just prior to her first serious sexual encounter with Warner, she physically and verbally stands up to her possessive ex-boyfriend, and in the process, understands how to manipulate her abilities. It is then significant that Juliette immediately decides to engage sexually with Warner — she is able to articulate what she wants (rather, what she doesn’t want) from her ex-boyfriend, and then what she does want from a new partner. While she doesn’t ask for oral sex, Warner is eager to provide it, starkly contrasting the real-life accounts in Orenstein’s research.

What Moore does not acknowledge in this article is the surrounding, often dangerous, environment behind these series. On a website devoted to calling out toxicity in Y/A literature, a list was compiled of toxic things Warner, the boyfriend Moore is lauding, has done throughout some of the books. The issue with sex in Y/A isn’t just the taboo built around the subject; there is a pervasive issue throughout the relationships the characters are in that result in a sense of worship being thrown towards sex. So much meaning is put into sex it begins to build a false sense of its overall importance.

The resulting goal of this website is to pull out sex scenes from Y/A books, or quotes regarding sex in these books, so as to call attention to how these popular books are representing sex to such a malleable and formative demographic. The long term goal is to destigmatize sex in a way that strips it of it its glorified place in Y/A literature, and hopefully this will trickle back down into society.