Ban This Post

In honor of banned book weeks, I wanted to talk about a dirty word in YA publishing- the S word- S-E-X. In reviewing the most frequently banned YA books, it seemed that the vast majority were banned for sexual situations and profanity, not for violence.

This might come as a shock to the book banners of the world, but some teens do have sex. Not all, not necessarily even the majority, but some. And I'm willing to bet that a good percentage of the rest are talking about it or thinking about it. It's almost impossible not to at that age. Hormones are kicking in, and a lot of teens are lightweights, reacting to that initial surge of hormones the same way I reacted to my first sip of champagne: way, way out of proportion to the desired or anticipated effect.

Before I reached the ripe old age of 20, my friends were having sex. And (Mom, close your eyes) so was I. I’m not advocating it, by any means. In fact, we risked things we shouldn’t have and put ourselves in situations that we were lucky to get out of in one piece. We opened ourselves up to a lot of adult problems that we were ill-equipped to handle. There was heartache. There was drama. Life and death consequences were a possibility, but never fully real until you found yourself counting down the days until your period finally came.

But if all that sex offered was the risk of pregnancy, disease and heartache, we might never have taken the plunge. There was more. Love. Pleasure. Romance. Before the world revolts, let me clarify that I’m not saying that you need sex in order to have love, pleasure and romance, or that love, pleasure and romance always come with sex. Not by a longshot. I’m just saying that sex is a complicated beast. And, whether you believe that teens should or should not be having sex, or whether sex should even exist outside of marriage or procreation, there is one inescapable truth: sex has an upside.

Sex is one of those areas of human experience that is rife with emotion and conflict; it can supply the highest highs and the lowest lows. Those highs and lows are magnified for teens. The potential consequences are so great, but so too is the raw power of sex.

No wonder writers want to write about it.

No wonder readers want to read about it.

No wonder those who want to believe that their teens aren’t thinking about it, talking about it, or heaven forbid, doing it, want to ban books with sexual content.

But that doesn't make it right. Readers should be free to make their own choices. Writers should feel free to write about the myriad of human experiences, not just the clean ones.

Go ahead. Ban this post.


Well said! Banning books that talk about these kinds of things (i.e. teenage s-e-x) won't stop it from happening. Talking about it with your children in an honest and straightforward way will maybe prevent some of the negative consequences.

Leigh, I agree. It all comes down to personal choices and family involvement. Teens are making choices about sex everyday, and deciding whether to read about it is the least of them.

Great post! No desire to ban this one, I wish we could shout it from the rooftops!

"No wonder those who want to believe that their teens aren’t thinking about it, talking about it, or heaven forbid, doing it, want to ban books with sexual content."
That's the saddest part to me...that it's more about parents not wanting to face the truth or talk about sex rather than that they want to protect their teens. If they truly wanted to protect their teens, they'd TALK to them about sex...and talk, not lecture.

Yes,Jennifer! I do wish that were the case. But it's an uncomfortable conversation that is so easy to put off or avoid altogether. I think that's part of what makes novels so important. Not only can readers "experience" things without having to engage in risky behavior themselves, but they may start to ask questions on their own. And hopefully, the parents will be there to answer.

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