1. C.J. Hadwin
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    C.J. Hadwin Member

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    Young characters and sex

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by C.J. Hadwin, Oct 9, 2014.

    I'm writing a novel whose main character is a 16 year old young man. It's a fantasy fiction, set in what would basically be the middle ages. There's a love interest, naturally, and my dilemma came last night as I sat down to write a sex scene. I realized that I was describing two teenagers being intimate. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable to write, which I'm guessing means that it may or may not strike a reader the same. What are your thoughts on this? My instincts tell me to just move forward for multiple reasons: A) The time period dictates a difference in cultural standards, B) They're both young characters, and C) It's fiction, get over it.

    Just curious what other writer's consensus is.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It doesn't bother me. So keep moving forward. :agreed:
     
  3. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    If it bothers you, you could always omit and imply. How important is it to go into specifics about the scene?
     
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  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Teenagers!? Having SEX!!?

    Call the police!

    Nah I'm kidding. But really, teenagers having sex is hardly a big deal - 16 isn't even that young. If it were someone aged 12 I'd probably have a problem with it. But 16 - I mean, these days most people are embarrassed about still being virgins by the time they're 18. My husband tells me he was very surprised I was a virgin when he met me at 21 (I'm Christian).

    And just think, Fault in Our Stars was about teenagers and they definitely had sex, and look at what a hit that was.

    Anyway, I think - you should be comfortable with what you write. To some extent, you are responsible for your book, so if you yourself would not be happy to write such a thing for whatever reason, then don't write it. You ought to be comfortable with your own book, I feel, no matter whether it's really an issue or not.

    But if you're asking what the general public feels about it. I'd say seemingly not much. Just look at the amount of sex shown on TV between characters of all ages and you know lol.
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Do what you're comfortable with and what feels right for the characters.
     
  6. C.J. Hadwin
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    C.J. Hadwin Member

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    Thanks for your input everyone. To answer your question, Nilfiry, I'm not getting all graphic or anything, but I'm a very descriptive writer, and my intent is to convey intimacy and arousal, so there's definitely some descriptive vocabulary in there.

    To be honest I felt really old when I realized the thought of teenagers having sex bothered me. When did this happen? I'm only 33. :( lol
     
  7. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've been worried about the same thing, even when it's not about sex but just nudity, e.g. a 14yo bathing in a river when in that scene a monster is supposed to appear to her in the water. In the same story, a 17yo guy has an actual sex scene with a 24yo woman, yet I was more worried about the bath/monster scene, of how readers would view it than the actual sex scene.

    In the bathing scene I don't describe her body or focus on her nudity, it's just implied by things like undressing and, of course, bathing. Maybe I'm more worried about it being viewed sexually because it's a girl; if it was a guy, most readers would probably view it as a mostly comical setting, a naked guy scrambling out of the water for his sword on the shore. A girl rushing out of the river to her sword might be viewed differently even if the only difference between the scenarios is the character's sex.

    At the moment I'm set on sticking to my vision and blaming it on the reader if they view a non-sexualized description as a sexual depiction simply because nudity is implied, but sometimes the doubts resurface because one thing I most definitely do NOT want to do, EVER, is sexualizing children.
    That makes me hyper-sensitive to the issue, so it's difficult to ignore those fears even when I'm doing my utmost to keep out all things sexual from a scene involving minors and nudity although I have something of a double standard; being a guy, I'm not nearly as careful when it comes to such scenes with boys since at that age, I never had a problem with nudity, sex, or anything related to either which, of course, I should try to ignore when writing boys who are supposed to be different from me, but I'm rambling now...

    Of course in a movie a 14yo girl would never be shown naked, e.g. a full frontal (although nudity can be implied e.g. with a flash of a bare shoulder), and since we tend to view even written scenes cinematically in our minds, some can see it as something dubious, but... is it?

    Anyway, all input and opinions would be appreciated.
     
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  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @T.Trian : I wonder whether you might be overthinking it. I think young girls deserve an accurate description too, and if she is stunning, or a curve of her breast is sublime or whatever, really, it's perfectly ok. (For a Murakami example, look at his character Fuka Eri in 1Q84). There's a difference between an honest description and a lecherous one. I think you as a writer have every right to truthfully describe what you are seeing in your mind's eye. Bathing naked in the river is something many 14 yo girls do. Others see them. Just because you are a guy doesn't make it wrong for you to write about it. I'd give it my all, and don't be afraid of sensuality in your language either. Be sensitive, make the reader truly see it the way you do.

    More and more I'm finding that all great literature is brave. Writers not fearing the reaction of the audience. No matter who you are, and especially if you are a successful author, there'll always be people who hate you from the bottom of their souls, just because. There will be those who will accuse you of truly vile things, just look at the hate EL James is getting, for writing an indulgent erotic fantasy. There are people getting their PhDs based on accusing her for everything from institutional misogyny to domestic abuse, eating disorders and god knows what else. As a writer, you can never please everyone, and if you want to be successful you must be willing to be controversial. Not for the sake of it, but accept some people will always call you that, or worse, no matter what. Even if it's just to piss you off and rain on your parade. Unless you write truly insipid literature that nobody wants to read. Audience is strange. With or without them (we can't live)... ;)
     
  9. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well said Jazz, can't dispute your thinking.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I was struck by the tone of your OP, @C.J. Hadwin , when you said this:
    What struck me was the naturalness of what you 'sat down' to do. You sat down to write a scene which is important to your story. I'd stick with that. Don't worry about what people will think. Just write what needs to be there, in whatever detail you feel needs to be shown.

    I've had a similar dilemma, and I just gritted my teeth and got on with it, because it was vital to my story. I needed to depict incest (consenting) between thirteen-year-old siblings, which is about as shocking as you get. BUT it was necessary to watch the events themselves, in order to understand the way the subtle manipulation of one character by the other affected the characters later in the story. I didn't think that cheesing around avoiding the issue was the way to go. The feelings the protagonist had during these scenes were complex, greatly affected his later life, and were necessary for the reader to understand.

    You can imagine my nervousness when I first handed this out to beta readers. Surprisingly, nobody (and I mean NOBODY) has said they didn't think the scenes shouldn't be there, or should be toned down. I guess everybody 'got' what I was trying to do, which is great.

    I think if you're honest as you write, and your sex scenes are vital to your story, you'll be fine.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2014
  11. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    A little off topic, but related and interesting:

    Oddly enough, there's ambiguity in Irish law relating to fiction and underage sex. The law states, in Ireland, that along with images and audio, a book or manuscript containing descriptions of illegal sex acts with minors; this would include adult-child sexual relations (adult meaning aged 17 or above), child-child sexual relations (although, in Ireland, if the accused are less than 48 months apart, they cannot be convicted), sexual relations between 17 year olds and people in positions of authority, be they 18 or 60, all of this would be considered child-pornography. The ambiguity is that the law doesn't state if the descriptions be implied, explicitly detailed, fictional or real.

    I've read plenty of books released in Ireland with sex scenes between under-age characters (although these books would have been banned in the 80s in the country), and even my high-school English teacher once recommended a book to the class that has a lot of explicit under-age sex (as early as the age of 14).

    I would feel weird writing it myself if the age was too low, but I have some scenes in my own text that I'm in the process of writing which have some under-age sex (both parties aged 16). I'm well informed on the subject, because of the laws in Ireland, but personally, I don't feel too weird writing it, because it's fiction, and having recently left my teenage years, I'm really just writing about my own experiences except applied to different characters in different situations. I do worry that the subject will find trouble in publishing or censorship, however.

    EDIT: It's bizarre that it may be illegal to produce a fictional written scene of sex between a 17 and an 18 year old in Ireland, and yet writing graphic violence and rape is allowed. As a sort of fuck you to the censorship laws in the country, I used a lot of Irish cultural metaphors to describe the scene: e.g. a bog shovel sinking into a clod of Irish turf.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2014
  12. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I honestly don't think I could do it. I really don't and I write sex scenes throughout my fiction work but there's something just a little too taboo about writing underage sex.

    @S S I know you are in Ireland but here, the legal age of consent is 16.
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It does. The unaided human lifespan is between 50 and 55 years. Shocking, isn't it? Without modern culture and sanitation and all the things we take for granted, 50 to 55 years. When you're only going to live that long, 16 is already a hefty chunk of the whole pie.
    Yes.
    Yes, again.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Romeo and Juliet is child porn. Need I say more?
     
  15. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    No sex in Romeo + Juliet, even if they most likely did have it. Besides, if there was, it wouldn't be considered child pornography today and certainly not at the time the play was written.
     
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  16. Poet of Gore
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    Poet of Gore Member

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    all this sex with young people, i hope teachers are involved
     
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  17. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    I'd say if you're not comfortable with writing something, then don't. I'm certainly no expert, but I think if you're uncomfortable with it, then you're not going to do such a good job. Then again, if it something that is needed for your story to progress or to understand something later, then try and write waht is needed the best you can. Maybe whilst writing the scene, you may become more comfortable with it.
     
  18. Chiv
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    Chiv Active Member

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    Honestly, if you're uncomfortable writing it in detail, then I'd say the best thing to do is just imply that it happened. I think that's better anyway. I'm 16, but seriously, I don't want to read about anyone having sex in detail. I feel that in a strange way, implying is better storytelling in this regard.
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I wonder if you've hit on the core of this issue. It's not so much the sex itself or how old the people are who are having it in the book, or how much detail is included ...but instead, it's who the readers are intended to be?

    Writing for an adult audience is different from writing for a YA audience. Older readers will have experience under their belts and be less 'shockable,' while YA readers might not? I suppose if you go too far in either direction you'll encounter exceptions to this, but it's interesting to think about.
     
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  20. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Is it YA or for a more mature audience. It depends on the context of the imagery, and the type of imagery. Is it meant to be raunchy? Awkward? Sensual? Can you skip over the details or are the details important?

    I have a 14 year old being raped a few times, and only use a few graphic images to detail the nature of the attacks, making it clear that it is horrific, not erotic.(I actually have one of the attacks in the workshop http://www.writingforums.org/threads/god-is-the-friend-of-silence.130985/.)

    Teenagers having sex is a reality for as long as people have done the funky fandango, so perhaps just be blunt and honest, but avoid eroticism.
     
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  21. Chiv
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    Chiv Active Member

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    I like that. Blunt and honest. It happened, no need to go into excessive detail, especially when talking about (in our era) minors. Even if they are considered adults in the era of the story, the fact of the matter is that to the reader they are still children. If you write erotica about kids it could come off as perverted (even if you're just trying to tell the story), but there should be no problem with telling the reader that it happened. In this case, I think that 'show' is better than 'tell'.
     
  22. Gawler
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    Gawler Contributing Member

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    You are writing about something that is perfectly natural, 2 teenagers having sex, nothing to get worried about. However if you were trying to write an updated version of Lolita then you are going to run into problems despite it being considered a classic novel even if it does involves an adult having sex with a 14 year old.
     
  23. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Does Humbert have sex with Lolita? I've never read it but I thought it was more just infatuation.
     
  24. Gawler
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    Gawler Contributing Member

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    It starts as an obsession but after he becomes her step father they do have sex.
     
  25. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    Never worry about what others think. Write your story, censor be damned.
     

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