Tuesday, 6 May 2008

A little help from my friends

Hi guys, hope everyone is well.

I need a little help please. I'd like your thoughts on what age is 'right' for a young girl to have sex in my next book. Now I'm not saying that I don't think it happens under the age of sixteen but I want your opinion if you think it is okay to write about it for commercial women's fiction. It is lighthearted, the character is fifteen, nearly sixteen and is to put it mildly experimenting with sex (it's more her thoughts and feelings around what she wants to do rather than her having sex all the time). I wanted her to be fourteen but thought this was too young for her to think like this. (yes, yes, I know it happens but we're talking commercial fiction). And even at 15, the male partner is breaking the law, isn't he?

So what do you think? I know it is kindof anything goes in fiction but is it PC for under age sex in commercial fiction even if it is light hearted? Or is it reasonable to assume that my 15 year old is at it like a rabbit.

Any thoughts?

Cheers
Mel x

16 comments:

A. Writer said...

Okay. This is weird. In my book 3 there are characters that have underage sex!

liz fenwick said...

Interesting.....certainly don't mind the the thinking about it (normal) but as a mother and a reader I think it might put me off. A one off scene - first love sort of thing wouldn't but more than that would. It's just my personal and probably old fashioned opinion. The other aspect is that reading about it might make feel a bit like a perv.....

Of course as always it all depends on how its handled.......

L-Plate Author said...

You're right awriter, we're like two peas in a pod. So how are you handling it?

That's exactly it, Liz. I don't want to write it but I don't want to make the scenes unbelievable because my 15 year old is too 'backward' in coming forward if you know what I mean. Teenagers are so grown up nowadays and I want to make my book realistic obviously. But I don't want to be laughed off the page with someone thinking 'oh come on she's not that naive.'

I want her to be all prim and proper and a lovely girl, but also a handful for her mum, the two don't quite go together, do they....

Leatherdykeuk said...

If they're both a similar age, I'd write it anywhere from 14 with a 'parental warning' somewhere in the book (character's mom telling her not to do more than kiss). If the male is over 18, I wouldn't write it at all if the girl is under 16. It's still statuary rape if the girl is under 16 and the boy is over, but police are lenient if the ages are close with no coercion.

Captain Black said...

Hmm, fourteen years old and having sex. Five hundred years ago this may have been less shocking and unusual than it may be for some people today. In five hundred years time, who knows? Perhaps it will be less so. Attitudes are variable within one time period and may change over longer times, which makes your question a tricky one to answer.

It probably boils down to how you tell this particular part of the story. If you successfully do it in a light-hearted and/or humorous way, as you suggest you are going to, then it will be more likely to be accepted. Otherwise it might come across as more serious and therefore more of a potentially jarring experience for the reader. This might be deliberate and work well in some situations (e.g. crime writing) but I'm assuming you're chosen genre is more narrow in terms of flexibility (I could be wrong about that as your blog says you write "chick-grit").

I would also think carefully about who your intended readership are. Will it include fourteen-year-olds or younger? If so, what influence might it have on them?

At the end of the day, as you rightly pointed out, it's fiction - so perhaps not as much of an issue as we're making of it.

Good luck.

KeVin K. said...

I don't recall the book -- I read it 3 decades ago -- but there was a girl of about 14 or 15. An orphan who wasn't sure. A major plot point was a boy who'd been her friend was going away for reasons I forget and on their last night together they decide to have sex. The act itself is not described. The part that stuck with me was the boy asking her if she'd enjoyed it and her reply: "I think it's supposed to get better with practice."

Go with the feelings -- the anticipation before and the reflection after -- and you should be fine.

I should note that as a father, if the story's about either of my daughters, age 35 would be about right.

A. Writer said...

L-plate - The underage sex in my book 3 doesn't feature very heavily. Although the outcome of it does. I mention it briefly but don't make it a huge issue. The characters are both 15 but are just a few months off turning 16.

Going by the research I've done, 15 year old girls are at 'it' like rabbits with the guys usually being older.

A. Writer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KayJay said...

Umm, Melvin Burgess anyone? And he's writing for kids/YA, so I don't see any problems with this kind of content for an adult readership.

As others have said, how you write it is key. Sounds like it's going to be lighthearted, so I doubt it would offend anyone. Have you seen 'Juno'? Could make for an interesting watch!

L-Plate Author said...

Thanks for the comments so far guys. I was really concerned about alienating all the 'reader' mums I might get but also being so naive in my outlook of wanting a nice girl that it didn't ring true.

I know things have changed since I was a love struck teen (ah those days!!!!) but I want my girl to be sweet and innocent, not give it away to anyone but still I want her to be streetwise.

My writing is commercial so will be lighthearted and I will always leave the sexy bits to the readers imagination, just a hint of what was to come...oops wrong choice of word then. And even if I was a mum, I'd hate to think my fifteen year old was making waves but would probably think that she was anyway.

The plot is about a fifteen year old girl who gets called a few names at school because of a rumour, but I was unsure of how much to make the rumour true if you know what I mean. The sex, if it does come into the book is with another fifteen year old lad so it's nothing too pervy and I would never write what happened in detail, it was purely about her thoughts and feelings. (And Captain Black, you made me think that I need to change the intro on my blog now, jeez I couldn't do the crime genre under age sex, too hideous to think about for me!)

Food for thought, I think I'm going to stick with her being a fifteen year old cool girl and not fourteen and too streetwise.

These comments are great, thanks again. Mel

DK Leather said...

For my twopence, well done being brave enough to write about such things!

I'm a mum several times over, but recall my own 14 year old experiences very well indeed. In fact I'm writing them as part of my memoir!

Anyway I do suppose it does matter just how carefully it's handled, but truth be told we all know it happens.

My points would otherwise be the same as Rachel's, naturally, particularly the age difference mattering more than the age.

Good luck!

L-Plate Author said...

Thanks K, that's very kind of you. I suppose it's the not being a mum bit that I want to make sure I get right. x

Rowan Coleman said...

I think its fine if you are writing for adults but be careful if you are writing for pre-teens. Just think what you'd like your ten year old to read - that's what I do!

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Late to this - but I think it'll be fine as (a) they're both 15 and (b) you're focusing on thoughts/feelings rather than the act itself. And I do think it's important that these things get written about, in a variety of genres and contexts. So well done you!

L-Plate Author said...

Thanks Rowan and Zinnia. Looks like I will do what I thought. My readers, if I ever get to publishing stage should be twenty onwards so l'll try to make it so that everyone remembers their teenage angst!

Sean McManus said...

Sorry for the late post, but the key thing is that the behaviour is consistent with the character you've created. Some teenagers are having underage sex, but I very much doubt all of them are so ultimately it's your call. You can write it any way you want, as long as you make it credible for that character.