Why Buy Sexy Lit for Teens

You mean teens like to read about sex? *gasp* Who knew?

Tracy Clark-Fiory made some great points with her Salon piece the other day. The fact that there are sex scenes to make the Mormons blush in nearly all teen lit isn’t exactly news. The fact that teens like this fact isn’t news either (though the fact that they actually READ tends to surprise people). The fact that teens can learn both ethical choices and physical/mental safety and responsibility through sexy teen lit is the big shocker, evidently.

At least it appears to shock some parents. I’ve been grateful that I’ve not had any complaints thus far about sex in the books I’ve purchased at my library. I’ve bought quite a bit of sex-positive informational lit. Thanks Heather Corinna! (Who, by the way, I went to college with before she was a sex guru.) And I’ve bought more LGBTQ literature than is supported by my circulation figures, though not as much as I could. (In other words it doesn’t get checked out all that often.)

I’ve been waiting for the shoe to drop for years, and some furious parent to wave the this book is about SEX  or the more recent Sex: A Book for Teens furiously in my face.

The humping cows book--often passed around amid giggles at my library

Hasn’t happened. Why?

I think Clark-Fiory‘s quotation of Heather Corinna circles the reason no one has, in over 12 years, ever complained about the plethora of sexy books in my small-town, Republican-voting library.

Heather said:

… I think some of this, ‘OMG, sex is just everywhere, everywhere, everywhere where my children can see it!’ stuff from American parents is often really more like, ‘Dammit. It’s getting harder and harder for me to justify not talking about sex with my kids.

It’s my completely unsupported opinion that a lot of parents just want to dodge the issue od sex and are secretly relieved their kids are reading about it instead of asking about it. That’s why I think no one has complained.

Because it’s pretty hard to miss the cow-humping book cover on display in the teen area.

On a more interesting and factually-based note, a friend is working on some research on the GLBTQ holdings of several local libraries. I was interested to note that my teensy tiny library has more books for teens identified by keyword searches of “gay,” “bisexual,” and “transgender” and the same amount of books with the keyword “lesbian” than the next-door library which is about 5 times as large.

This fact may be due to the fact that I am an OWL-attending parent of teens, or the fact that the larger library has no teen librarian, or the fact that I feel more confident in my small town than the larger-town librarian does that I won’t be absolutely flattened for purchasing books like It Gets Better & GLTBQ. I am fascinated by the possibilities. Why are so many librarians reluctant to buy books that frankly discuss sex, anyway?

In any case, my colleagues pilot study has made me aware that, even though I’m doing well compared to the neighboring large library when it comes to GLBTQ materials, I’m still doing a lousy job. So my current book order includes more GLBTQ-friendly fiction, including:

Hopefully parents and community members will continue to either turn a blind eye to the content of these books, or they will support their teens and their need to read honest, representational reflections of what it means to be a teen.

2 thoughts on “Why Buy Sexy Lit for Teens

  1. Great to see you in the blogosphere, Shannon!

    Also, Hero is AWESOME. You might also want to look into acquiring some Sara Ryan. And Francesca Lia Block’s books have always been really inclusive, on top of being fantastic in a million other ways. 🙂

    (Your library has mine, too, yes? If not, drop me a line on Facebook and I’d be happy to donate a copy.)

    • Yeah we’ve had Sara Ryan’s books for years, and they are great. We also have your book, but thanks for the offer! If you still want to donate, we can certainly use it as a prize or put it in the adult collection (Horicon Public Library, WI). As for FL Block, she was the author who initially drew me into YA lit. I’d skipped that type of reading as a kid. To discover her as an adult was like a gift of a second adolescence, one in which my weirdness was honored instead of met with befuddlement.

      Thanks for the comment, and the great quote in this post. It’s fascinating to me how sexuality is dodged by parents while being so pervasive culturally. What do parent’s think is happening here?! Whenever I mention that I’m pro-sex other parents wig out, thinking I’m egging my kids on to crazy, self-harmful risks. When what I’m really saying is “take care of your body, love it, make sure if you’re sharing it, others are taking care of it too, and your doing it in a safe environment (i.e. I’d rather you have sex at home than in the backseat of a car.” That doesn’t seem crazy to me, it seems obvious. And, as I’ve seen with other kids whose parents are open and supportive, this has resulted in my kids being extremely choosy about their affections. They don’t need to rebel against anything by getting sexually involved before they’re ready for it.

      This seems like a no-brainer to me. Be carefully permissive, give your kids the info and tools they need, and support whatever choices they make and they seem to grow up pretty well. My oldest is now 18, and I have to say, all that freedom and support has let her be fully herself, which is a very fine thing to be. I know parents all make different choices and have different circumstances, but I can’t see any circumstance in which keeping your child uninformed about sex is going to play out well. So thanks for all the resources! Yay Scarleteen! Yay S.E.X.!

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