1. LisaVProulx
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    LisaVProulx New Member

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    What is the appropriate age of a character when you are writing about sex?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by LisaVProulx, Aug 15, 2012.

    Hi,

    I am finishing up a book that is based on an event that actually happened when the main character was 17. It is mostly fiction but contains some true events.

    I have written this book from the heart and it has flowed very easily. It sounds realistic and believable.

    The character is a teenage runaway who later becomes a music groupie. It starts off with her first sexual encounter at the age of 14 with an older boy. I am trying to establish the fact that she is a wild child and has started early.

    There is nothing weird in the book, no children, animals, porn or anything perverted. It is simply the story of a teenage runaway. In the story, she does turn 18 however it does not start off that way. As a 16/17 year old, she goes on to have sexual encounters with older boys and men (roadies, etc) who are over 18. Back in the groupie days, this was common and nothing new.

    I was told tonight by an author friend of mine that I would have to change the character's age to 18 before I could write about anything sexual with her. This is not realistic to her character.

    The book is almost complete and I am torn on what to do. I want to make it real and this was her life, the way she lived and I want to write about it.

    My friend said if I sent it to a publisher, they would not pick it up due to underage sex. If I self-publish, would I have to change her age?

    It was never, ever intended for YA or children of any age but now I am not sure what genre to fit it into.

    Thanks for your advice! :)
     
  2. Areadrill
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    Areadrill Senior Member

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    Publishing isn't my area of expertise, but I think you should stick to what you want for the story. If some publishers turn it down, keep trying! Or you can publish it yourself like you had mentioned.
     
  3. fwc577
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    fwc577 Member

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    Honestly, however you write it is fine.

    First off, the age of consent can differ depending on the country. Some places in Mexico it's as low as 12, some parts of Europe it is 14, and depending on the state in the US it can be from 16 to 18. It used to be 14 in Canada but it's now 16.

    The whole, "You must be 18" is an American thing and is fairly prudish. Anyone who says "no" is simply ignorant to history. People used to get married before the age of 18 long ago. In the United States, via emancipation, you can get married as young as 16.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    lisa...
    sorry to say, your friend doesn't have a clue, if he's referring to us or uk publishers... that's simply not true... all you have to do is browse your local library's YA section and you'll find examples of 'underage' sex in novels there...

    fwc...
    'you must be 18' is definitely not 'an american thing'... don't know where you could have gotten that idea...
     
  5. Cynglen
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    Cynglen Senior Member

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    I don't see any reason to change her age to meet other people's standards. You already said there's no eroticism to go along with the underage sexual encounters, so I don't believe there's any legal grounds to stand against your book. Every story will have people who don't like it, so write for the ones who do.
     
  6. fwc577
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    fwc577 Member

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    Sorry, but you're wrong.

    W.T. Stead published a series of articles called "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon" in 1885. The outcry that this caused resulted in the U.K. upping their age of consent laws from 13 to 16 and America had been between 10-12 depending on the state and we upped them to 18 (in almost all states)

    We were the first ones to set this arbitrary "18" for age of consent despite the fact it varies widely across the world.

    The whole thing we've set up for us in a lot of these "1st world countries" is completely absurd. I've known people who've become "sex offenders" after a girl brought it up to their parents that she was sexually active and the parents went straight to the police because they were pissed (they were 17 at the time).

    We had a recent case in a nearby High School were a girl had sex with 2 guys, then sex with one of those guys solo a little later, then she went on and had sexual relations with another "kid" her age. The school conducted an investigation and two of the boys are screwed (pun intended) while the girl and one other boy could both still have felony charges brought against them (both were 14). Knowing this state, the only people charged were probably the three boys. Initially she admitted to the liaison officer that it was consensual but then when an expulsion hearing came up her father lawyered up and refused to attend.

    Then you had the case with the Bengals cheerleader and the 16-year old. Let me just say, If I were banging an NFL cheerleader at the age of 16 EVERY ONE of my friends would have known about it. That's not sexual abuse.

    Our country, as well as a few other "1st world countries," are hyper prudes. It is borderline ridiculous.

    Now, before someone reads this and thinks I'm a male advocating pedophilia, let me just say I've never been attracted to younger girls, ever, but I was a male who dated a WOMAN over the age of 20 when I was 16. I find women attractive, not girls. And I think it should be the right of an individual to choose. Had I been "caught" in Wisconsin she could have been in serious trouble, felony type trouble. I broke up with her when I was 20 and headed off to college.
     
  7. exnihilo
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    exnihilo New Member

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    I have to agree, write it as you feel it. If people are going to get all hung up on it, then that's their issue. I doubt that will be a reason for it to be unpublished. I've read some pretty shocking things that were published in myriad places, so don't alter your story for something that trivial.
     
  8. Kenn
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    Kenn Member

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    My advice is to keep as is. What you posted about your book is a real on going thing in this world. I doubt you would have any problem getting published with this content.
     
  9. blueeyedgirl
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    blueeyedgirl New Member

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    I am totally freaking out now. The teenager in my story has a sexual encounter, that isnt intercourse at 15. Then her first intercourse at 16. Is this something I need to worry about? There wont be descriptions of the actions just allusions and reflections.
     
  10. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    You guys do not have to worry about it. Teenage sex has become a THING now, in YA literature. It's as good as acceptable now. And in one popular series, the MC, who is under 18 (either 15 or 16, I can't remember) has sex with one of her teachers.

    Will there be some people who criticize the work? Yes. Might there be publishing companies who hesitate on picking up a book with this kind of content? Sure. But it's not unacceptable.
     
  11. fwc577
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    fwc577 Member

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    Haha, VA? Rose is 17 and Dimitri, her instructor, is like 24 or 25.

    You don't know how many times I read book one and screamed, "JUST F--- ALREADY!" whenever they had a steamy scene together. After reading book one I had to go to wikipedia and look up to see what book they actually did it in so I knew how long I was going to be frustrated while reading the series :)
     
  12. hrdoyle3
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    hrdoyle3 Member

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    I think the story is acceptable the way you described.

    Teenage sex has become much more acceptable, and I think it is better to write how it actually happened than to change details to make a few people feel better about the story. The more truth the story is based on, the more realistic it will seem.

    That is just my opinion.
     
  13. EVernon
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    EVernon New Member

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    I think it sounds acceptable. In the UK, the legal consent age is only 16, so its pretty average to hear about people under 16 having sex anyway.
     
  14. Juganhut
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    Juganhut Banned

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    There are movies out there that go as young as 13 and 14. I probably would not go younger than that.

    I was thinking the same thing. Although my book is not a sex book, two characters are 15 and I am contimplating them having sex (But not describing. Can be left to imagination if they even did anything.). The book is a young adult book though so I may not include it. They kissed a few times, and thats fine.

    Your case is interesting and interested on how it turns out.
     
  15. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    You should be okay, really. One of my characters had sex at 13. Besides, under age sex isn't something unheard of...so...

    Speaking of sex in YA:
    How much can you show? Two of my 16 year old characters (it is set in Britain so this is legal) go as far as making out and the guy touches the girl's chest underneath her shirt.

    Is that too much? (I don't think it is but...eh) I can't skip this scene either.

    Sorry, thread hijack but it's relevant, yes? :3
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    Sorry, but you're wrong.

    W.T. Stead published a series of articles called "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon" in 1885. The outcry that this caused resulted in the U.K. upping their age of consent laws from 13 to 16 and America had been between 10-12 depending on the state and we upped them to 18 (in almost all states)

    sorry, fwc, but it's you who are wrong... the legal age of consent in the US varies from 16 [in 31 states!] to 18:

    http://www.age-of-consent.info/
     
  17. fwc577
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    fwc577 Member

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    Sigh. Good job, you can provide a link.

    First off, I stated that we do vary.

    Second, go re-read the link and look at all the * next to each and every number, some states have various stipulations to that, most of which end at 18.

    Third, just becuase the age of consent is 16 or 17 in some states doesn't mean prosecutors don't go for charges that aren't felonies. Many states, especially more conservative states, will charge someone with contributing to the delinquincy of a minor even if their age of consent is below 18. Often times this comes at the pressure of parents.

    I wrote a 20+ page essay on this for my morals and ethics class and I dug pretty deep into the subject matter.

    United States was one of the first countries where some states set the age of consent at 18 and it's a number that has stuck in popular culture as a result. It's also where the term "Jailbait" comes from. When these laws were being enacted young girls, who at the time matured at an earlier rate, began to use their bodies to get people in trouble when they were still trying to sort the laws out in various states.
     
  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Not sure what "matured at an earlier rate" means. But if you mean that they matured physically at an earlier age, I would take issue with that. Girls are developing much earlier now than ever before in our history, and it is not uncommon to see girls as young as 9 doing so. One theory is that hormones present in foods as the result of bio-engineering trigger the premature release of estrogen.
     
  19. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Guys, this is starting to drift off topic. This is a thread about how publishers will see 'underage' sex, not the legal/cultural origins. There's a very good question in there given our society's attitude to sex, so I don't want to shut the thread but I will if it continues to stray off topic.

    For what it's worth, it's no skin off my nose how old they are, and I think most publishers will think the same way so long as it's believable. Then again, I've never understood why society - so free when it comes to depicting violence that most people won't be exposed to in their lives - sees sex as such a taboo when 99% of us will experience it in our lives.
     
  20. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Instead of drifting off topic, you guys could answer this question...
    Sound good?
    Yeah?
    Yeah! :D
     
  21. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Much of this thread lost the distinction that is legally made between
    -underage activity (with partners of varying age)
    -photographing such acts
    -writing in detail about such acts or acknowledging that such acts have occurred

    A lot of books write about illegal acts (sexual, robbery, murder, etc), but entirely separate rules apply to describing versus doing. Some things can be described but not legally photographed.

    The crux of the question here should not be whether to have this activity in the story, but how explicit or vague to make the descriptions in order to get published in the intended market.
     
  22. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I would dare say, to be safe, given the nature of what you're writing, that you consult a literary, or possibly a criminal attorney to make sure you're not going to break any of your local laws. It wouldn't be good to write you tome and then end up in jail...
     
  23. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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    I think I have to agree with Captain Kate. Where you write your literature is just as important as where its released to. Some schools, libraries, or even geographic locations will ban literature based on what is depicted within, but the author can not be tried for what effects their sensibilities. However, graphic sex acts, either in photographic, or video form, or even written, can violate local laws. when downloading potentially sensitive material, there is a warning about being aware of the local laws. As such, creating a fictional work, or even a semi true work, may violate your local laws, and be considered illegal. Get legal advice if you wish to cover your anatomy. We are only speculating.
     
  24. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    In my opinion, you should not censor or deform the story just because a Publisher or certain prudish U.S. readers may find the young sex in it "controversial" or "offensive".

    You story needs to be told as you see it fit.

    If a publisher won't take it because of "underage sex", you should try with other publishers.

    Good Luck,

    Dryriver
     
  25. Jbaldizon1
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    Jbaldizon1 New Member

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    I say if there are no legal repercussions and you keep the sexual encounters in good taste, ie: nothing too graphic, then you should keep it. It sounds like her age is an important element to the tone of the story. I don't think too many people will be put off about this unless you are glorifying underage sex.
     

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