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VeggieChick
06-13-2007, 12:43 PM
In my novel, one of the characters (he's 34) has sex with a girl he thinks it's about 18. After they sleep together, he finds out she's 15 (her 16th birthday is the next day). This is important to the plot because all characters go through a series of events that "breaks them" and this is one of the turning points for this character. Now, my main worry is that publishers will find this too objectionable and think twice about taking the book because of it. Is sex with minors a big no-no in fiction? I can't really change her age to 18 because that changes everything in the story, so I'd like to know how much does it bother prospective readers (it doesn't bother me, for example). Opinions?

glendalough
06-13-2007, 03:13 PM
34 and just 15 creeps me out...he had to know on some level, I hope. But I would not discontinue a book because of it if the book is good.

alleycat
06-13-2007, 03:22 PM
I doubt a publisher would find this objectionable, particularly if you make it a reasonable assumption of his part (that is, she does look like she's 18 or 19). I've seen some sixteen-year olds who look like they're in their early twenties.

And in the reverse, I have a friend who looked like she was under 18 when she was 26. She couldn't even buy cigarettes if she didn't have her ID. We got thrown out of a convenience store one time when she didn't have her ID and I was buying cigarettes for her . . . they thought I was buying them for a minor. She was 24 at the time, and already had two kids.

Gillhoughly
06-13-2007, 07:48 PM
So long as you have reasonable and realistic repercussions for his having sex with a minor, you might be able to get away with it.

For my own part, when I was one day short of 16 the idea of having sex with someone old enough to be my parent would have been an ocean of squick.

When I was in my 20's another person old enough to be my parent had the idea that we were an "item." The squick was still there.

Now the idea of having sex with someone my own age--well, squick again. I like 'em about 10 years younger so they can at least stay awake!

:D

Uncarved
06-13-2007, 08:39 PM
I wouldn't stop reading the book, but to me it just SCREAMS of irresponsibility for the man. If in doubt, ID her. I mean really. I can understand the "oops" factor of it, but it forever colours my vision of the person it happens to afterwards.

Sassee
06-13-2007, 08:55 PM
Not unreasonable at all, and I don't think it's grounds for dismissal unless you're somehow trying to promote the action (which it doesnt sount like you are... quite the opposite).

As an example of this happening in real life, one of my friends dated a 40 year old when she was 19. She broke up with him because he wanted to run away with her and get married. All she wanted was booty. So it does happen, and it's pretty easy to mistake someone for older/younger than their actual age.

Good Word
06-14-2007, 04:48 AM
I'm not sure what you mean by "breaks them." Do you mean makes him a better person or worse? Or...?

Either way, whatever you make his reaction be is a testament to his character, good or bad, and that's interesting. So is the POV--the narrator doesn't have to think the event is so great...what's the POV?

VeggieChick
06-14-2007, 10:29 AM
I can understand the "oops" factor of it, but it forever colours my vision of the person it happens to afterwards.

Well, that's good then. That's sort of the idea behind it.



Either way, whatever you make his reaction be is a testament to his character, good or bad, and that's interesting. So is the POV--the narrator doesn't have to think the event is so great...what's the POV?

The 34-year-old is the narrator. This is first person POV. I don't plan on dwelling too much on the subject. The fact that he doesn't even ask this girl any questions and she turns out to be a minor is a way for me to show how this character is changing throughout the book.

dantem42
06-15-2007, 08:13 AM
Now, my main worry is that publishers will find this too objectionable and think twice about taking the book because of it. Is sex with minors a big no-no in fiction? I can't really change her age to 18 because that changes everything in the story, so I'd like to know how much does it bother prospective readers (it doesn't bother me, for example). Opinions?

Decades ago this was of course an issue in the publication of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, in which an otherwise normal Humbert Humbert finds, to his infinite discomfort, that he is utterly obsessed with a teenage girl. However, by now it's no issue at all if it's in pursuit of some larger literary goal. And of course the issue has come up time and time again in crime novels.

Shara
06-15-2007, 10:25 PM
I think Bill Wyman (the Rolling Stone) was in his 40s when he first had sex with Mandy Smith, and she was 13 at the time. He claimed she looked a lot older.

Maybe she did, and I'm sure she was old enough to know what she was doing (after all she's risen to fame merely on the basis of having sex with a rock star). Yes, there's a big 'ick' factor, but it happens in real life and it happens often. We might think it's morally objectionable, but really that isn't a good enough reason to turn down a book!

I do think the story might be more plausible, though, if you explore the motives of the characters that lead to them being in this situation. A lot of men in their 30s (or 40s) seem to find it an ego-boost if a much younger girl finds them attractive. If he believes her to be 16 (and hence legal) the fact that he finds her attention flattering is probably reason enough.

As for her, what does a young girl get out of a relationship with an older man? Possibly security. Possibly the fact that he can afford to buy her expensive gifts, which guys her own age won't be able to. Possibly she enjoys the power - after all, at that age, most girls are just exploring their sexuality - it's exciting to discover that you have the power to stop men in their tracks, but many at that age don't have the emotional maturity to realise when the games can cross into dangerous territory.

Shara

Cassiopeia
06-24-2007, 05:06 PM
Does it add to the story? Is it necessary? Seriously think about it. Is your story a mystery or thriller?

scarletpeaches
06-24-2007, 05:37 PM
If it shows character or moves the plot along, then leave it in. Don't shy away from it purely from embarrassment, but take it out if it doesn't serve the story.

That said, I have no problem with a 34 year old character (please note I said CHARACTER, not man) having sex with a 15 year old. These things happen in real life.

Notes on a Scandal is one of my favourite ever books, although the sexes are reversed there. Sheba came off as a sympathetic character to me; I could understand why she did what she did. But then...the sex wasn't graphic, it was just related through the narrator after the fact.

Jersey Chick
06-24-2007, 06:29 PM
I think the only publisher-objection might object to is if there is an actual sex-scene between them. If it happens off-screen, it'd probably be okay. I don't think it'd bother me, either...

katiemac
06-25-2007, 01:53 AM
In some states, the legal age of consent is 16. Check out the state's laws where your characters live. If she's just shy of her 16th birthday, then it's not as objectionable if the state's law is 18.

And he can still feel just as guilty about it, because regardless of the law, he thought she was older.