Do Catholics Have Sex?

I'm probably lucky that I got to the National Council of Teachers of English convention in Las Vegas on the last day. I'm pretty sure that if I'd been here longer, I would have gotten kicked out by now.

Not five minutes after I arrived on the show floor today (Sunday, September 18th), a woman asked, "Does this book have sex in it? I teach at a Catholic school."

Without event thinking about it, I replied, "I'm fairly certain Catholics have sex, too." Obviously not my most politic moment.

I've blogged about sex in YA literature before. I still don't get it. Are those who object to it afraid that teens will imitate what they read? Any kid who imitated everything he or she read would have died before becoming a teen while trying the stunts that fill our middle grade literature. I'm pretty sure that re-enacting any Rick Riordan novel would be deadly.

Maybe they're afraid that the more teens know about sex, the more they'll be tempted to experiment? In fact, the opposite is true. The more teenagers know about sex, the more likely they are to delay sexual activity and to practice safe sex. This brings up an important point: limiting teens' access to books that realistically portray sexuality, increases the chances that those teens will have early and unsafe sex. Censorship hurts kids.

Maybe they're raising pristine children, untainted by any hint of sexuality. If there's any family out there without a television, radio, or internet access; well, okay, fine. That family (and only that family) might find something in YA literature that their children haven't already seen in far more graphic form. The rest of us have no such excuse.

Am I missing something here? What rationalizations do you hear for objecting to sex in YA literature? Let me know in the comments, please.

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Ann Christine said...

This is so true to most religions, not just Catholics. It as if they are saying, go do whAt I won't talk About, or let you read. Yes, the more they know the less likely they are to want to reap the percussion of their actions. Education and honesty, that yes, sex happens,yes it is wonderful, but make sure you are really ready for all that comes with it, ignorance is not stopping or preventing this just the opposite!

Unknown said...

I agree completely, Ann. The best thing for all of us--teens and adults--is honesty and education.

Jessi L. Roberts said...

I was a rather sheltered kid, which I consider a good thing. Since I was homeschooled and we didn't have much TV in our home, I wasn't exposed to a lot of that stuff and when I did see it in books, I'd stop reading. If it was online, I'd leave the website. Since then, I've got a little more desensitized but if there is a scene involving this sort of situation, I will generally do my best to skip it. It really reduces my enjoyment of a book. I'm the same way when it comes to profanity.
I, like many Christians and people of other religions, oppose sex before marriage. I believe it's best to wait so to me, the characters are doing something wrong if they don't wait. I also don't like reading about stuff that I think is supposed to be something private between a married couple so I prefer, even if they are married, that it's just hinted at.
My worry is that kids could begin to think something is okay if the media keeps presenting it to them as something that's acceptable. This goes for more things than just the one you addressed.

Unknown said...

Your comment brings up another great point, Jessi: kids are great at only reading what they need. You avoided, and continue to avoid, content you're not ready for or don't enjoy. There's no need for adults to prevent access to it.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I'm not Catholic, but I would have been tempted to ask the same question. It's not because I have a problem with sex in YA books, but it is because I'm not ready for my 13-year-old to read sex scenes. (And if she's seen it on TV, it wasn't at my house.) It's not the author's fault if younger kids want to read YA, but it is the parent's responsibility to make sure what their kids read is age-appropriate. And in the case of the librarian, it is her responsibility to adhere to the standards of her school.

And, as Jessi has said, I see sex as a private act, so I don't care to read about other people's engagement in it anymore than I'd want to read about them going to the bathroom to poop. But that's my preference. You as the author have a responsibility to be true to your characters. And if sex is involved, then so be it. It's your story, write it like your characters told you to. Sex or no sex, a good story will always have an audience.

Emily said...

I agree with you. I think it's a good thing for kids to experience things in books that they haven't yet or maybe never will (not just sex: drugs, suicide, cutting, eating disorders).

Also, I have a 12-year-old daughter who reads a lot of YA. She isn't comfortable with the sex scenes, so I read the books first and if I think she'll be comfortable, I tell her to go ahead and read it.

I'm not always sure what her comfort level is and so sometimes when she's reading something that she's uncomfortable with, she'll stop and she tells me why she stopped reading.

I think it is perfectly okay for her to censor her own reading and that she's mature enough to know what she's okay or not okay with.

Isn't that what we do as adults.

Also, I agree that on a family basis it's within your right to censor what your child is reading. However, there should not be censorship on a more public level.

Wow, that was rambling. I hope it made sense.

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