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Thread: Sex in YA

  1. #1
    Inappropriate smiley INCOMINGGGGGG! kaitiepaige17's Avatar
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    Sex in YA

    How do you guys write your YA sex scenes? How much info is TMI? And where is the line between "normal" YA and "edgy" YA when it comes to sex? Just wondering because whenever I have a "sex" scene in YA I keep it very clean. I know YA books like Judy Blume's FOREVER is pretty graphic, and I would think that would be where the line ends.

    What about you guys?
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    my name is hannah Shady Lane's Avatar
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    Pretty much anything you can do in adult books can be done in YA, sex-wise. That being said...I haven't written a sex scene, because I've never really had a reason to write a sex scene. And sex itself reads fairly boring, if you ask me. "And then the penis..." like, yawn.
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    Inappropriate smiley INCOMINGGGGGG! kaitiepaige17's Avatar
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    Hahaha, if I ever find the lines, "and then the penis...." in any of my books, I'll kill myself.
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    believe Elysium's Avatar
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    Shady - LOL. That's so true.

    But as long as you avoid naming parts, then you're good to go. A lot of people would suggest not to make it too graphic, but everyone has their own definition to what they think is a graphic sex scene is.

    That being said, I've only written a couple of sex scenes, so I'm no expert. As long as it flows well, and it doesn't make the reader want to turn their eyes away, then you're good.


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    Queen of sensible stupidity absentnormality's Avatar
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    I might just have to include "and then the penis..." just for sheer amusement value.

    In actual response to your question though, I don't think you can hit a TMI line. More graphic references would just be classed as 'edgy'. As for where the 'normal'/'edgy' line is, it changes all the time, what gets called 'edgy' today will be tomorrows 'normal'.
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  6. #6
    sleeping the sleep of the sleepless Mayfield's Avatar
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    Hmm...I've written plenty of sex scenes. I think the motivation behind writing the scene is the most important thing...what emotion are you trying to evoke? "And then the penis..." probably isn't serving a great emotional purpose in the grand scheme of most novels. You never know, i guess!
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  7. #7
    Capturing the Castle DrummerGirl's Avatar
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    haha - loving this thread

    I guess it depends on what sort of sex scene you want to write and what matches the flavour/style of your MS... also, the build-up to the moment definitely helps - the tension throughout the MS. And depends if you want hard-core romance or realistic?

    Here's some of my fave YA sex scenes(ones I thought were written well):

    The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta (not out in the states yet)
    Tom Mackee and Tara Finke. best ever. so evocative and sexy and has that emotional but horny thing going. from male POV In awe of this one sooo good!

    On the Jellicoe Road - melian Marchetta
    was different - a lovely stream of conciousness style, not an overly romantic one but perfect for the characters and the book.

    Love You hate You Miss You - Elizabeth Scott
    Sudden and hot - I think this one is so effective from the build-up and the state the characters were in when it happened.

    I Know It's Over - C K Kelly Martin
    Another male POV. This book has a fair few in there Some are just honest and painful first-time sex... really well done, IMO. Not all love and oooh-ahhh romance, but two horny teenages who care deeply for each other having realistic sex.

    Going Too Far - Jennifer Echols
    This one is steamy and hot and a few pages of fun foreplay-ish making out. haha. doesnt say anything remotely like...and the penis...

    Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler
    For a sweet, light beach sex moment. A nice summery one.

    I did not like the sex in If I Stay. Too romantic-ky, gimmicky for me. I was smirking. hahaha. Probably not what the author had intended. Love the book though.

  8. #8
    Inappropriate smiley INCOMINGGGGGG! kaitiepaige17's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrummerGirl View Post
    haha - loving this thread

    I guess it depends on what sort of sex scene you want to write and what matches the flavour/style of your MS... also, the build-up to the moment definitely helps - the tension throughout the MS. And depends if you want hard-core romance or realistic?

    Here's some of my fave YA sex scenes(ones I thought were written well):

    The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta (not out in the states yet)
    Tom Mackee and Tara Finke. best ever. so evocative and sexy and has that emotional but horny thing going. from male POV In awe of this one sooo good!

    On the Jellicoe Road - melian Marchetta
    was different - a lovely stream of conciousness style, not an overly romantic one but perfect for the characters and the book.

    Love You hate You Miss You - Elizabeth Scott
    Sudden and hot - I think this one is so effective from the build-up and the state the characters were in when it happened.

    I Know It's Over - C K Kelly Martin
    Another male POV. This book has a fair few in there Some are just honest and painful first-time sex... really well done, IMO. Not all love and oooh-ahhh romance, but two horny teenages who care deeply for each other having realistic sex.

    Going Too Far - Jennifer Echols
    This one is steamy and hot and a few pages of fun foreplay-ish making out. haha. doesnt say anything remotely like...and the penis...

    Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler
    For a sweet, light beach sex moment. A nice summery one.

    I did not like the sex in If I Stay. Too romantic-ky, gimmicky for me. I was smirking. hahaha. Probably not what the author had intended. Love the book though.
    The sex in If I Stay made me LOL. At first I was really confused; all this talk about stroking musical instruments, I thought there was no way this could really be happening! I think I'm going to read The Pipers Son. That sounds like what I'm going for.
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  9. #9
    ~kirsten hubbard wandergirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shady Lane View Post
    Pretty much anything you can do in adult books can be done in YA, sex-wise
    I'm going to have to respectfully disagree here. Sex in adult books ranges the gamut, but the graphic end of even mainstream adult fiction is far, far, faaar more explicit than can ever be found in YA. Some examples that spring to mind are American Psycho & The White Hotel. (do a search inside and prepare for massive O_O) Sure, some YA doesn't fade to black. But there's a huge difference between simply keeping the camera rolling, and zooming in for extended closeups... and I think I need to stop this analogy while I'm ahead. Anyway, the main differences are in the language, "on-screen" length and level of detail. And of course, as YA authors we need to be more accountable -- not preachy, but accountable.

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  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW JamieB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaitiepaige17 View Post
    The sex in If I Stay made me LOL. At first I was really confused; all this talk about stroking musical instruments, I thought there was no way this could really be happening! .
    I didn't even realize that was sex. How bad is that? LOL. Personally, I like to have a little more stage direction - not details necessarily - but I like to know it's actually sex and not a musical interlude. (disclaimer - I loved If I Stay)

    Fade to black makes me nuts. There's this big build up and then....nothing. I always flip back thinking I must have missed a page somewhere. Kind of like Breaking Dawn, (disclaimer - I did not love BD) big build up, no pay off.

    With my book on submission, the one thing editors agree on liking is the hot, steamy romance. So take that for what you will. Hopefully someone will like the rest soon too.
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  11. #11
    Opinionated suki's Avatar
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    I'm not even going to answer or debate the how far can you go...the reality is, wherever that line is, you don't really need to think too hard about it.

    Write the scenes as they are calling to you. If everything is great except that the sexy scenes are a little to explicit, or should fade to black sooner, an experienced editor or agent will simply give you that revision note.

    So write the scenes however they feel right, and try a few different approaches if you'd like. As long as the overall story, writing and characters are good, toning down some elements is an easy note and won't hurt your marketability at the query stage.

    Now, if the motivations or reactions feel off, that might hurt you. But if it's simply a matter of the description going "too far" or "not far enough," an experienced agent or editor will simply suggest a revision to correct it.

    good luck.

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  12. #12
    YA/MG Author Blind Writer's Avatar
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    I"m going to agree with Kirsten (wandergirl) on this one.

    My book out in September features a few sex scenes - they are a big part of the plot - and I've been told by my agent that, for her, the sex scenes in my book were pretty line pushing.

    That said, I've read a lot of adult book sex scenes, and they are MUCH MUCH more detailed and longer than anything I've ever read in YA.

    Its hard to say where the line can be drawn, but there are definitely rules. My main advice is to focus more on the emotional aspects of the sex rather than on the physical actions. You can keep it steamy, but I'd steer clear of overly detailed discussion of private-parts. Haha. The emotions are the key part.

    Also, one tidbit I picked up with my book, is that anytime there is sex (unless it is essential to the plot that there be no protection) ALWAYS mention condoms. Which goes for the accountablity wandergirl mentioned.
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  13. #13
    my name is hannah Shady Lane's Avatar
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    Yeah, you guys are right. Now I'm thinking Chuck P. and stuff and...yeah, that wouldn't fly in YA.

    If I have a reason to write a sex scene, I'll write one, but IMO the most interesting parts of sex are what happens before--the motivation, the feelings, the relationship--and what happens after--the consequences, the feelings, the changed relationship, etc.

    There is a lot of sex in IS, most of it off-camera, but I do have one pretty explicit foreplay scene, but it's because someone walks in in the middle (...oops...) so it's important for you to know what kind of situation they were in. Otherwise, unless someone tells some secret or tells her partner that she hates him/her during sex, the scenes themselves are usually kinda predictable.

    I know that not everyone feels this way, but for me...sex is sex. You know what happens. It's like every time your character enters a new room, saying "The room had four walls and a ceiling." Everyone knows that, so we don't need to describe it. So unless something relevant to the plot happens during the sex scene, I don't see the point of showing it.

    Basically, I only want to see your sex if it doesn't have four walls and a ceiling. If I want to just read something that's going to turn me on, well...you know. There's an app for that.
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    Inappropriate smiley INCOMINGGGGGG! kaitiepaige17's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shady Lane View Post
    Yeah, you guys are right. Now I'm thinking Chuck P. and stuff and...yeah, that wouldn't fly in YA.

    If I have a reason to write a sex scene, I'll write one, but IMO the most interesting parts of sex are what happens before--the motivation, the feelings, the relationship--and what happens after--the consequences, the feelings, the changed relationship, etc.

    There is a lot of sex in IS, most of it off-camera, but I do have one pretty explicit foreplay scene, but it's because someone walks in in the middle (...oops...) so it's important for you to know what kind of situation they were in. Otherwise, unless someone tells some secret or tells her partner that she hates him/her during sex, the scenes themselves are usually kinda predictable.

    I know that not everyone feels this way, but for me...sex is sex. You know what happens. It's like every time your character enters a new room, saying "The room had four walls and a ceiling." Everyone knows that, so we don't need to describe it. So unless something relevant to the plot happens during the sex scene, I don't see the point of showing it.

    Basically, I only want to see your sex if it doesn't have four walls and a ceiling. If I want to just read something that's going to turn me on, well...you know. There's an app for that.
    This is how I usually write sex scene: basically without the sex. The feelings leading up to it, then it's all off camera.

    But my current characters are waiting to have sex, so I wanted it to entail a little more. Thanks guys
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    figuring it all out haystackbat's Avatar
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    The first reply (thank you, Shady Lane) gave me a great last line for a story I now have to write.
    I'm assuming it'll be about a penis. Adventure, adventure, adventure, and then the penis looked out into the sunset, sighed, and began the long journey home.
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    my name is hannah Shady Lane's Avatar
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    *wipes tear*
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  17. #17
    my name is hannah Shady Lane's Avatar
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    Oh, but my MC does mention to his brother that he didn't use a condom, his brother tells him that was stupid, but there's never any consequence for it, so there you go.
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    Inappropriate smiley INCOMINGGGGGG! kaitiepaige17's Avatar
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    Oh, Shady, just wanted to let you know I love the cover for your new book! I always find myself looking at it when I see your posts (in a non-lesbian way) Congrats!
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    Vengeful Crystaline Hawk 45C AW Moderator Zoombie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaitiepaige17 View Post
    How do you guys write your YA sex scenes?
    As much as needs be.
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  20. #20
    my name is hannah Shady Lane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaitiepaige17 View Post
    Oh, Shady, just wanted to let you know I love the cover for your new book! I always find myself looking at it when I see your posts (in a non-lesbian way) Congrats!
    Thank you! I pretty much look at it in a lesbian way.
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  21. #21
    holding my breath elissa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shady Lane View Post
    Thank you! I pretty much look at it in a lesbian way.
    lmao! (that's pretty much how I write my YA sex scenes, too, hahaha!)

    (but srsly, I tried to cut some of the sex and my agent said NO DON'T! lol. Still, it's very emotion-focused, and less about the mechanics/body parts.)
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    Agented YA Writer Ryan_Sullivan's Avatar
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    My basic philosophy on sex in YA is to do as much as is needed to get the desired effect. I never would have seen myself writing sex scenes, but I did one (well, one real one and one disaster) in the P.C. and they're absolutely vital to the plot. You don't have to be graphic--poetic always seems to be better. But, I do think if you're going to have a sex scene, you need to have a lot of tension in it--sex scenes should make the reader breath heavily (not in a graphic way), and really feel the tension.

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  23. #23
    Vengeful Crystaline Hawk 45C AW Moderator Zoombie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elissa View Post
    (but srsly, I tried to cut some of the sex and my agent said NO DON'T! lol. Still, it's very emotion-focused, and less about the mechanics/body parts.)
    So is any good erotica, really E-lips. Just mechanics is boring porn. Emotions and shit, that's where the funtimes are all up ons.

    At least, that is how I've been told it works by my erotica peeps.
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  24. #24
    Inappropriate smiley INCOMINGGGGGG! kaitiepaige17's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_Sullivan View Post
    My basic philosophy on sex in YA is to do as much as is needed to get the desired effect. I never would have seen myself writing sex scenes, but I did one (well, one real one and one disaster) in the P.C. and they're absolutely vital to the plot. You don't have to be graphic--poetic always seems to be better. But, I do think if you're going to have a sex scene, you need to have a lot of tension in it--sex scenes should make the reader breath heavily (not in a graphic way), and really feel the tension.
    Hahaha, I'm sorry but the immature girl in me giggled when you said it should make the reader breathe heavily Sorry, it's been an immature night on this thread.

    But thank you. I definitely agree with you saying it should be more poetic than anything. Using a lot of "s" and "l" sounds I particularly like
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  25. #25
    Don't kill the bar, Dude. Epiphany's Avatar
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    I usually do my makeout/foreplay scenes pretty graphic and skip right over the sex. I'm kinda with Shady. I don't write the sex not because I find it uncomfortable to write, but just because it gets boring. Lol.


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