Let’s face it, more and more teens are having sex today, at much younger ages than a decade ago or even a year ago.  One can point the finger at music, movies, the media, technology, or even books.  And while yes, all of these things bombard us everyday with images of and the topic sex, it does not deter from the fact that teens are having and experimenting with sex.

** Before I go on, let me make something clear – I am not sharing my opinion here on if it is okay for teens to have sex.  I am simply looking at facts, articles, and  offering information for teens (any one else for that matter) to use for their own end **

Peer Pressure
According to Psychology Today teens are 2.5 times more likely to have sex if they think their friends and others are having sex, all by the 9th grade. Can ‘assumption‘ be considered a form of peer pressure?? It can be for some.  Even for adults, peer pressure can be a struggle.  And while I said I wasn’t going to point fingers, we are only human beings and we do in fact look to what is considered ‘popular’ in our society – being sexual, having sex, etc.  Unless you have a one-of-a-kind amazing and outstanding self-esteem, it is only natural to feel pressure from things in our everyday life.

Look at some of the TV shows today:  Teen Mom, Vampire Diaries, and Gossip Girl.  While not every episode may focus on sex (well, except Teen Mom), these shows promote sexuality to some level.  It’s hard to not admit that these promos are not hot – they are! Am I saying that these promos are promoting that Sex is alright? No – but I am also not saying the opposite (remember I am neutral!!).  All I’m saying is that it is hard to not think about sex when you are surrounded by it everyday.

The Statistics & Consequences/Affects
There has always been a debate about the exact number of teens having sex today.  Are teens having sex? Yes.  Is there a large number of teens of having sex? You bet.  But how much exactly?  According to the Center for Disease Control the number of sexual active teens has actually dropped significantly in 2011 to 42% (males) and 43% (females). Is this the final say? By no means! And neither does this mean that these number are 100% correct.

The partner for girls who start having sex at a much younger age, typically are much older than the girl.  For girls that wait until they are a little older (but not an adult) tend to have partners who are closer to their age range. 

The number of consequences of sex in general are almost endless: STDs & pregnancy (both of which have numerous consequences in themselves), and not to mention how sex affects a person emotionally.  One person gets attached while the other may not, it can ruin a relationship, it can create a relationship unexpectedly.  If adults have a hard time handling this one could only imagine how teenagers handle this (if at all).  The list can go on and on.  

So what does this mean for YA Novels…
I will admit that it is hard to not pick up a YA novel today without it having some form of sex or mention of sex in it (anything beyond a kiss).  Is this bad? NO! It really depends on the person reading the novel.  Maybe its me and maybe I just haven’t read enough YA novels, but I can count on one hand the number of YA novels that present sex in a “good” light (i.e. its all happy-go-lucky without any negative side affects/consequences).  Most that I have read present at least some ‘consequences’.  There are even some that help promote celibacy. 

One of the most common themes I have found when reading a YA novel with sex in it is the struggle the main character has with sex in general.  For example, in Sticky Fingers by Niki Burnham, Jenna struggles with the pressure to have sex – pressure from her boyfriend, pressure from the knowledge that her best friend has started to have sex and even pressure from her boyfriend’s past sexual relationships.  In the end Jenna comes to the conclusion that she does not need to have sex, and in fact she wants to wait, knowing that sex in general complicates things; this alone makes this novel a rare gem in the way it presents sex: it is okay to NOT have sex.  But what about those novels that does the opposite?

Novels such as Kerry Cohen’s Easy and Ellen Hopkins’ Crank have their female characters having sex but under unattractive circumstances.  Jessica in Easy starts to have sex at the age of fourteen in an attempt to feel wanted, to fill in the whole from her parents’ divorce.  Crank‘s Kristina finds herself struggling with one of the many consequences of sex: pregnancy.  While her adventures with sex stem from drugs, one could use this novel as a source of information, emotions and understanding, especially for those that may be experiencing the same things or thinking about doing so. 

My thought on this is that if teens want to teens are going to have sex, whether parents want them to or not – they will find a way.  Especially in a sexually-charged media world and if parents are not talking their children about this, YA novels that present the topic of sex in many different lights can serve as resources for teens (and adults as well) to explore such sensitive topics.

“Sex” YA Novels
* A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
* Easy by Kerry Cohen ** suggested read
* Doing It by Melvin Burgess
* Forever… by Judy Blume
* Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen ** suggested read
* Lost It by Kristen Tracy
* Rainbow Party by Paul Ruditis
* Sticky Fingers by Niki Burnham  ** suggested read
* Giving Up the V by Serena Robar  ** suggested read