What I’m about to say is going to make some people uncomfortable, so I might as well get it over with: teenagers are sexual beings.
Now, I’m not saying that teenagers are ready to have sex or should have sex. But they think about sex. They have bodies that matter, thoughts that they must process, experiences in themselves that cannot be denied.
Teenagers have sex. Teenagers have friends who have sex. Teenagers think about sex. Teenagers are sexual beings.
In my second novel, The Knife and the Butterfly, the two most prominent characters are sexually active. In one scene, Azael masturbates. He also has some pretty troubling thoughts about women in general, although he does evolve and we come to see that a lot of this is bravado. Lexi uses sex to cover her insecurities but doesn’t enjoy it. They are a lot like many teens. They are a lot like many people. Oh yeah, teens are people.
My first novel, What Can’t Wait, doesn’t trivialize sex, but it also doesn’t pretend that sex isn’t there. Even for characters like Marisa and Alan who never actually “go all the way,” sex is powerfully present. Marisa is almost raped and has to deal–not only with the feelings of violation–but with the anxiety that her reaction (“I feel violated”) doesn’t match up to the situation (“he didn’t actually rape me”). In recognition of sexual assault awareness month, I’d like to point out that a person needn’t be “fully” raped to have been assaulted and to have lots to work through in order to heal.
To me, writing about sex is just like writing about any other part of life. To omit it would be to do violence to the real experiences of real people.
Here’s a video that reminds why sex (and respectful and safe sex) matters for all of us: