Musing By Moonlight: Sex in YA Fiction

musing by moonlight

Welcome to Musing by Moonlight, where I take the opportunity to get off my chest anything and everything to do with books.
Or maybe not.
Depends how I feel.

Sex in YA Fiction

Some time ago I came across a blog post written by Mostly Book Obsessed about how she wished there was more sex in YA fiction. The comments section generally agreed.

When I started to compose my own response, I found it was far too long (and far too late because the post was originally published in April of 2014), so I decided to turn it into a blog post. This post was inspired by the discussion hosted by Mostly Book Obsessed, and is not intended to be a direct response nor a critique of her words or beliefs.

 I hate how unrealistic it is that couples hardly ever have sex in YA…  I find it hard to believe that these horny teenagers can’t find (or make) time for it…

This doesn’t paint a realistic picture because, have you seen the statistics?  The reality is that most teens in high school do have sex.

Let’s Talk About Sex in YA – Mostly Book Obsessed


It’s weird to me to think of teenage girls being horny and actively pursuing sex because I didn’t become sexually active until I was in my twenties.

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Part of it is because I was sexually assaulted when I was a child. Usually when this kind of trauma happens, a child will react in one of two ways: they’ll either become promiscuous, because sex is no longer important to them, or they’ll withdraw and be frightened of being intimate with anyone, much like Tris from Divergent. Tris thought Four was fucking hot, but she was still intimidated and scared by the thought of getting all naked and vulnerable.

I certainly wasn’t saving myself for marriage- in fact, I dated a boy for over 2 years without having sex. Oh, we tried once or twice, but we didn’t know what we were doing, and deep down I didn’t really want to be intimate with him. I loved him, and I liked making out, and I thought he was handsome, but I had so much emotional baggage and he wasn’t mature enough to help me deal with it, unlike the man who became my husband.


Captivate (Submerged Sun, #1)In most bookstore, YA is still sold in the children’s section. I’m no prude, but I don’t necessarily think children should be reading about sex.

That’s one of the reasons why I love Young Adult novels so much. I don’t mind if the kids have sex, but I kind of prefer it when they don’t. I just can’t relate to sexually active teenagers.

I love first times, first kisses, first love. That’s why I love YA. I love the thrill of firsts. I’m in an established relationship – I’m married. Let me live vicariously through teens with crushes and angst and heartache and first kisses with boys so hot you can’t think straight.


The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines, #4)That being said, The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead contains a scene I was OK with. Sydney’s 18, Adrian’s older, and they’ve been in a slow-burning relationship for a while. Sydney’s always stopped him from going further, but one day she’s just ready for it. And honestly, I was kind of like that, too, except I was older than Sydney when the day I was suddenly OK with it happened.

AdorkableOne of the most realistic sex scenes in a YA book I read was in Adorkable by Sarra Manning. Oh, it was just so sweet and teenager-y. I have never read anything like it in YA. It was just so real. And it’s been a while since I’ve read it, so don’t take my word when I say I’m pretty sure the two characters were not in love yet. they were just madly attracted to each other and moved to the next step in their relationship. It all seemed very normal and natural and Manning just has a way of writing an incredibly realistic scenario.

All the Bright PlacesIn All The Bright Places, Violet didn’t have sex with her ex-boyfriend, but she loses her virginity to Finch, who’s known to be sexually active. I had an issue because they didn’t seem to use protection, but I was ultimately OK with them having sex, even if I did think it progressed from first kiss to first time pretty quickly. And they had sex more than once, and neither of them regretted it. Again, like Adorkable, and The Fiery Heart, it was a natural extension of their relationship. They were in love, they were attracted to each other, they wanted to get naked and grindey. There was one lovely scene where Finch realises she’s a virgin and immediately pulls back, all because Violet hesitated and pulled away a little. It’s completely normal for a virgin to be intimidated by sex, and although it didn’t go into that, that itself is a feeling I was very much in tune with for all of my teenage years and young adulthood.


New GirlMy teenage boyfriend wanted me to be his personal porn star. I also thought I was too young, which is ironic because I ended up losing my virginity much later than the average girl. And in the end, the way I lost my virginity isn’t something I regret, even if I was older, because I didn’t lose it to some twat-face. Way too many teen girls regret the way they lost their virginity.

I guess an eighteen year old in a 2 year relationship NOT having sex is ‘unrealistic’. But it’s my reality.

The Secret Diamond Sisters (The Secret Diamond Sisters, #1)The sad thing is, I think readers who want more sex in YA are the ones with unrealistic expectations. In reality, yes, teens are having sex – but SO MANY teen girls are regretting having sex. So many teen girls are pressured into sex by boys who don’t love them. Teen girls are pressured to have sex to be cool or to impress the guy, like in New Girl by Paige Harbison and The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michele Madow. It makes them feel grown up or whatever.

I mean, maybe I have an unrealistic expectation about sex. I can easily say I have only slept with a person I am deeply in love with. In reality, most girls wouldn’t be able to say this. I’m really glad I didn’t have sex with my teenage boyfriend. If sex in YA fiction were to be reflected more like reality, we’d have a lot more sex, but also a lot more regret.


Twilight (Twilight, #1)Teens who are hot and horny for each other but can’t, for whatever reason, get it on?

Instant conflict. The very basis of all storytelling.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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3 thoughts on “Musing By Moonlight: Sex in YA Fiction

  1. Ashley @ Falling Down the Book Hole

    I really enjoyed reading this and how much time you put into it. I like how you looked at it from all sides. I personally have a lot of thoughts and conflicts about this topic. Being in my twenties I enjoy reading it in books and do understand that it is a realistic aspect of teenage life, but I also believe everything doesn’t always need to be about sex. I feel like younger girls are already trying to be older than they are and for me books were something to escape from my life and I liked that there was the innocence in YA when so much of life is a lot more harsh than that. Also I started reading YA at a young age and feel like it would have been too much for my young self. Also if I ever have a daughter of course I will encourage her to read and I don’t want her reading about sex when she is 10-13.

    1. Nemo

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I think you’re right, not everything needs to be about sex. I’ve seen over and over again how sex is used to sell things – 50 Shades of Grey, for example, which is basically just an excuse to read porn. I also remember when the Vampire Academy film was being produced, one of the questions the producers asked on Facebook in a poll was what scene is everyone most looking forward to, and of course the answer by a landslide was the almost-sex scene.

  2. Eilonwy

    Great post, Nemo! I’m looking forward to more Moonlight Musings.

    I’m reading your thoughts here as being that sex in YA seems okay if it fits the characters and the relationship they have, and that’s my feeling, too. It’s not so much whether there’s sex or not that matters to me, but how it’s handled. I want to SEE the reasons why the characters decide to have sex, or why they don’t. And I want those reasons/decisions to make sense within the story. That’s much more important to me than whether they actually do it or not. (And I’m with you on wanting some protection to be mentioned if they DO do it.)

    To my mind, part of the whole point of YA lit is to show teens how to make good decisions for themselves. Some teens are going to want to have sex, and those kids need good examples so hopefully they don’t end up doing it for unhealthy reasons and regretting it. But other teens are going to want to wait — heck, I sure wasn’t ready for sex as a teen, either 🙂 — and they need to see that that’s okay, too. Which all sounds kind of wishy-washy, sorry. But I think it’s important for teen readers to be able to see that everyone is an individual and that’s all right, without pressuring them towards either sex or abstinence.

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