April 22, 2011

Author Speaks Out Against Damaging Concepts in Young Adult Literature

Books, Culture 5 Comments

In midst of Twilight: Breaking Dawn leaked sex pics, author speaks against damaging concepts in Young Adult literature.

In 2010, Karen Healey authored Guardian of the Dead, a book for young adults that interweaves teen relationships, adventures, and Maori lore. In the midst of excitement surrounding the leaked sex scene photographs of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Healey took to her blog to call bullshit on the general perception as it regards teenagers, sex, and sex in fiction for teenagers. She lists them:

- Teenagers should not have sex.
- Teenagers should not have sex unless they are in love.
- Teenagers should not have sex unless they are married.
- Teenagers should not have sex in any combination other than one cisgendered boy and one cisgendered girl. [The term "cisgendered" means gender normative, which means that a persons gender identity, their bodies and the gender they were assigned at birth all match.]
- It is okay to call a girl who dresses in revealing clothing a slut.
- It is not okay to shame girls for having sex, unless they sleep with more than [arbitrary number] of people in which case it is okay to call them sluts.
- It is okay to call girls who sleep with a lot of people sluts if you also call boys who sleep with a lot of people sluts.
- If an unpleasant girl who dresses in attractive clothing and makes a move on someone else’s love interest is sexually assaulted, she deserves what she gets and it’s okay to call her a slut.

The combination of these ideas, commonly present in young adult literature, perpetuate slut- and prude shaming and feed into a culture that victimizes sexual predators and guilts victims of sexual abuse. Literature imparts lessons and it is impossible to expect teenagers to grow into sexually healthy adults if writers continue to perpetuate damaging concepts. Healey goes on:

Teenagers have an obligation to ensure that if they are having sex, it is consensually, and as safely as possible, with full awareness of the possible consequences. That includes paying attention to the laws of their area regarding legal ages of consent. Teenagers have an obligation to listen to their partner(s). They have an obligation to talk to their partner(s), as honestly and with as much disclosure as possible.

… What is not okay is shaming anyone else for having sex – or for not having sex. It is not okay to shame anyone, directly or indirectly, for having sex in combinations that are not one cisgendered boy and one cisgendered girl. It is not okay to call anyone a slut under any circumstances, no matter what they wear, who they make a move on, or how many people they have sex with. … Calling someone a slut (or, indeed, a prude) indicates that you think that they should feel ashamed for their consensual sexual behaviour, and that is not fine.

And if someone sexually assaults somebody, it is not the fault of the person who was assaulted. Ever. No matter what they are wearing, where they are walking, what they have been drinking, or who they have previously had sex with.

Read the entire post here.

Via Maymay.

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting this link…I have given a lot of thought to this since I started reading Twilight and Hunger Games. While I was super addicted to both series – I was so disappointed in the portrayal of sex…or lackthereof. It doesn’t necessarily change what kids DO…but it may change the way they think of themselves and others. However, shows like SKINS on MTV aren’t much better….way other end of the spectrum!

    Anyhow – thanks for sharing.

  • Luxembourg

    Congratulations on having one of the most sophisticated blogs I’ve come across in some time! It’s just incredible how much you can take away from something simply because of how visually beautiful it is. You’ve put together a great blog space –great graphics, videos, and layout. This is definitely a must-see blog!

  • http://www.kimmaddox.com km

     This is a crucial discussion.  Teaching our kids about sex should include more than anatomy and physiology (in Utah, they don’t even get that).  We need to teach them how to sort through information and peer pressure to make choices about how they treat themselves and others, in all of their relationships. It’s about kindness and respect and confidence, and teaching them the responsibility and joy of being a complete human being. 

  • http://twitter.com/RedHeadedWriter J

    Judy Blume’s “Forever” seemed to be much more truthful in this regard than much of the crap out there now. She pulled no punches – even as a young reader I could tell that…

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations on one of the most sophisticated blogs I met long ago! It’s amazing how much you can get away from something simply for the way it is visually beautiful. It makes a great blog space – great graphics, videos, and design. This blog is definitely a must see!
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