Step Two: Passionate First Kiss.
Step Three: Super Duper Passionate Second Kiss.
Step Four: Sex.
As much as I love a great romance in YA -- and there are plenty -- I can't help but question the progression of many relationships. Can sex be something that happens quickly in a high school relationship? Sure. Does that always happen? Nope.
There are multiple "bases" between kissing and sex (yes, as an adult, I still think of them as "bases"), but where are they in our novels? Or even in TV or movies? We've been conditioned to understand that, once two people are "meant to be" and all obstacles to their Happily Ever After are removed, the next logical step is the sex scene.
Do some teenagers have sex?Yep.
But do they do a whole lot of other stuff before or in addition to sex?
* FYI: I'm going to mention a couple specifics in the rest of the post. Nothing gross or gratuitous, just matter-of-fact, but if it's not up your alley, feel free to stop reading!
One reason I think authors and scriptwriters shy away from the "in between"/foreplay stuff is the difficulty of describing or indicating it without being too explicit, clinical, or vulgar. (Writing Magnetic Kama Sutra showed me how tough that can be, except that I actually HAD to be explicit! Plus, notice how I dance around some things in this post.)
We're experts in the "fade to black" (see Breaking Dawn) and the words or phrases used to say that people are doing the deed -- without giving the nitty-gritty details included in adult novels.
But there aren't pretty shortcuts, at least in writing, to hint about oral sex or various fondling South of the Border.
But here's the problem -- that in between stuff? It's a big deal. Teenagers hear about it ... watch porn that includes it ... but don't necessarily know a lot. They'll do it anyway. (Oh, raging hormones.)
I have read mentions of "touching" below the belt during hot and heavy scenes, but despite plenty of sex-centric convos in YA, no one talks about the other stuff. And in high school, when you don't know something, don't you go to Google, your best friends, or a cool older sibling? I want to see those conversations!
(This also ties in to the lack of masturbatory references in YA -- a topic on which Rhiannon Hart wrote a lovely post.)
On the scary side: If someone's not comfortable with sex, they're pressured or guilt-tripped into doing these "other things" that supposedly don't have the emotional weight or consequences of sex. But they do.
Here's the deal: I thought about this topic because I debated with myself (and Frankie) about scenes in my novel -- one of which occurs in chapter one -- that involve or discuss "in between" things. I felt like maybe I should find a way around them. (After all, my mother will one day be reading this novel!)
But then I remembered WHY I first chose to include "in between" things: they're a part of high school -- even if teens don't do them, they know they exist! But all teenagers have questions or doubts about these topics. Reading about them -- in thoughtful, honest, or funny scenes -- makes teens feel less alone and helps them understand what they're comfortable with, and what they're not.
Will I get hate mail from parents (if this ever gets published, fingers crossed)? Yep. They'll probably also mention how much they disliked my three or four well-placed f-bombs. (Lisa and Laura Roecker wrote a great post about that one! And Rhiannon just did too!)
But my duty as a writer is to be true to my readers and to my story. And so it stays.
Have you read novels with "in between" stuff? How do you think "the bases" and such should be approached, if at all? If you're a teen, what do you want to see in YA?