The biggest excuse I have seen for the lurid stuff that appears in today’s YA books is: “But kids are already doing that at that age, so what could be the harm of writing about it?”
All these folks are making an assumption: that reading about something – seeing it in print – has the same moral effect as doing it.
It does not!
I’m in my forties. I’ve been married for almost twenty years, and before that I had a few other boyfriends with whom I did a good deal of experimenting. And yet, I find things in these books shocking. I come upon things I haven’t done…or things that I may have done, but that I certainly don’t want to read about!
Because all these folks are wrong. Reading about it is not the same as doing it.
It becomes a very different thing when you read about it in print. For one thing, it’s seldom presented as sweet when you come upon it in a book.
For another, seeing it in print acts like a justification of things one otherwise might have thought really shouldn’t be done again, or one might not have tried yet. “Oh, it’s okay. It’s in this book.”
For a third, books like to be edgy. This means they like to push the envelope. So they strive to present the material in a way that’s new…i.e. shocking or beyond what one might have already done. Seeing it in a book can then give the green light to going beyond where one was before. “Oh, well…apparently everyone is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?”
I don’t know quite why it is that some things we do seem fine when they are done – and even when they are discussed by the couple or among girlfriends – and yet seem shocking when one reads about them. But I do note the phenomena. I do note that we married people, who have done a lot of this stuff, still find some of what is in these books shocking.
The important point here, I think, is that I am not describing a puritanical impulse…the impulse of: “Well, children should not read about this! I’m shocked that an innocent would read this! This should just be for seasoned adults!” – which is the emotion that is always associated with those who campaign for decency among their detractors.
What I am describing is just the experience of being shocked ourselves, as adults, as people who supposedly ‘know.’
If we find it shocking, what must it be like for kids, to whom this is all new?