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On Sex, YA Literature, and Terminology

Figure 1: LOOK A NAKED GUY!

Figure 1. LOOK!  A NAKED GUY!

Dude, I love a good sex scene. Romance, erotica, whatever. I just love it all. Not even gonna lie.

But I’ve kind of hit a wall here. Or a level of saturation and irritation.

What I’m speaking of are some Recent Nameless YA books I’ve read. Ones that are full of titillation and emotion and which focus on being super swoony and goopy but then, when actual COITUS comes into play, the authors revert to stupid babyish euphemisms like ‘BOTTOM’ when they mean to use ‘ass’ or ‘butt.’

Like, ‘his hands gripped her bottom.’ No, really. I’m not even kidding.

Look, if you won’t describe/discusss sex in a real way, then do us all a favor and Fade To Black. Don’t detail it with a bunch of namby-pamby twaddle, a string of false sugar-spun phrases and euphemisms more appropriate to a Sunday School teacher.

If you want to write about sex, own it. Romance novels have been doing this for years. Grappling with the words, making up florid descriptive phrases, choosing the terms that will titillate and seduce and arouse. Romance gets crapped on all the time as a genre, but dammit: THOSE ROMANCE WRITERS GO ALL THE WAY. They don’t hang back after dialing up the sweat and fervor and wimp out with pabulum like ‘BOTTOM.’*

If you want to write about sex, do us a favor and be real about it. Tell it unhappily. Awkwardly. Distastefully. In poor lighting. Give us the full graceless fluttering panoramic view. Say ‘fuck’ and ‘pussy’ and ‘dick’ and ‘grunt’ and ‘ass’ and ‘tits’ and all of those sex words. Don’t stop short. You risk dishonesty. You’ll lose the reader. You’ll ruin the story and piss me off.

This isn’t petty. This really matters. Your sex scenes might be the most closely-read prose you ever write. So when you get to the sex part, for the love of everything slutty and sacred, please: find all the dirty words you can…AND USE THEM ALL. 

*Unless they are BDSM romance novels. In which case, carry on.

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