|I don't know what's going on in this picture, but|
somehow it seemed appropriate.
I learned a lot about sex through YA, as a matter of fact. At least, I learned a lot about dudes and sex. Dudes and sexual attraction. Dudes and masturbation. Dudes bemoaning their virginity. Dudes losing their virginity. Dudes who had, apparently, never been virgins at all and jumped straight to being playboys.
However, girls in YA don't get nearly this much action. Sure, they'll gush about the hot guys, or wonder about these sudden, tingly feelings their nether regions. But it seems to me that the sexuality of young women in books are limited to certain tropes.
So, I have made a list: a handful of stereotypes about girls + sexuality that I just don't understand.
1. Girls Who Are Virgins
YA is rife with virgins. I might go so far as to say the majority of girls in YA are virgins. And this is not necessarily a bad thing, nor is this the trope that bothers me... It's the way virginity is portrayed. So many book-girls who have never had sex are also not really aware that sex is A Thing. Sex is not on their radar. They've never experienced sexual desire. They've never explored their bodies. They've never had a serious relationship, or wanted a serious relationship, because don't find anyone attractive or they don't have the time or they're focusing on other things.
Sure, there are plenty of girls who are "late bloomers." (I hate that phrase, btw. Don't know why I just used it.) There are plenty of girls who don't care about dating. But too often, I feel like innocence is painted as a synonym for ignorance. Virginity is for women who don't understand or desire sex. A lack of sexual experience means that, clearly, it's just not something that interests them.
No. If someone is a virgin, it means that this person has never had sex. It doesn't mean they don't think about sex, talk about sex, know lots about sex, or want to have sex. It just means that they personally have never experienced it. The portrayal of a character's personality should not be solely based on their sexuality.
2. Girls Losing Their Virginity
I think YA is better at realistically portraying "first times" than, say, erotica fan fiction; but I personally hate it when a book describes a girls first time as painless and perfect. I'm not saying that losing your virginity is hell - but let's be honest. Sex in general is messy. It's full of squishing and groaning and giggling and switching positions and shy, silly questions like "So does this... work for you?" Sex is never perfect. So, if you're a beginner, it's extra not-perfect. It can be downright squicky, and super awkward, and generally weird. Why isn't that okay? Why can't be embrace the squick and the awkwardness? It's part of being human.
3. Girls and Masturbation
This is kind of a weird one, but bear with me. I can name at least two YA books off the top of my head in which boys talk about masturbating. But I can't name one in which girls masturbate. (If you know of any, please list them in the comments - I'm curious!)
Why is that? Is masturbation one of those things, like belching or farting, that is just not considered ladylike? Or is it something that girls pretend they don't do? (Because I'm calling bullshit on that one, too.)
I'd like to talk about masturbation, please. I'd like to read books about girls who talk about masturbation. I don't care if it's ladylike; boys don't care about being ladylike. They just grab a tube sock and some lube and go to town.
4. Girls Who Like Sex Too Much
This girl is the opposite of the super virgin. She's the one who knows lots about sex, who has lots of sex... but that's it. She exists to be the Sexy One, the yin to the virgin's yang, the Loki to her Thor. And even if this character is not shamed for promiscuity, she's still not much of a character. Sex is her thing, but it's her only thing. We don't know if she's smart or athletic or creative or shy or funny. We have no sense of her motivations, her interests, her investment in the story.
This bothers me.
This strips a character of depth in the same way that the super virgin trope does. Both characters are empty except for their sexual experience (or lack thereof). Their virginity / promiscuity are essentially the only things we know about them; and yet, in "real life," these are often the things that matter the least. I know plenty of girls who love sex; but they also love world history and ballet and good whiskey and playing with their baby cousins. Their sexuality is the last thing I think about when I talk to them, because we have so many other things to talk about. Why can't it be the same for YA characters?
So, in conclusion: What do you think about sex + girls + YA?
(PS: I think I'm the least qualified YA Highway blogger to be discussing this? Most of the girls who write for this blog are extremely well versed in female sexuality in literature, slut-shaming, and feminism / sexism in general. I didn't even touch on queer characters, rape / abuse, or anything beyond very traditional sexual tropes. So, feel free to take this post with a grain of salt, because these are just my thoughts - neither researched nor analyzed for any length of time.
Really, I just wanted an excuse to talk about masturbating.
Also, this post doesn't refer to any books / characters in particular. Just general observations.
Also also, here's the song from the title - because I know I got it stuck in your head.)