Friday, August 18, 2017

The Elephant in the Bedroom: Can Good Romance Be Clean?



It happens to everyone.

You've found a good book, one that you LOVE, and as you're cruising along through you're just contemplating on the joys of life, that such a book might exist, when-- BAM! Two of the characters start making out. In detail. For about five pages.

Or worse, they actually decide to-ahem-consummate it. On screen. In a way that's detailed enough that it would probably get rated, I don't know, R or something.

This is usually the point when I have to set the book down. I'm done. I will not be reading any more of this. I'm lucky enough that I can only think of a few books that have done this to me (I'm very careful to read reviews on books before I pick them up after a few bad experiences.) And I'm not even looking at the big ones here, such as Game of Thrones or Fifty Shades of Grey (neither of which have I read, and neither of which do I ever desire to read.) Books aimed at young adults- teens, mostly aged fourteen to eighteen- are chock full of this stuff.

But what if it didn't have to be this way? What if you could read books without having to worry about slamming them shut and rinsing your eyeballs off with soap?


First of all: I'm not saying that physical affection (or even sex) is bad.

When I wrote an article on dirty content on my personal blog (you can find the article HERE ), someone commented to ask if this was censorship. After all, they said, teens really do have sex, and if they're smart and know what they're doing, it doesn't have to be a bad thing. They also said that to erase that would be to remove the opportunity for mature discussions of consequences and how to be smart. 

First of all: I, like many of my teammates here at Rebellious Writing, am a Christian, and while that may shape my opinion on this, I know that not all of my readers are. However, we all unite for a common purpose: making clean books that don't need to be put down because of content. So while my religion influences my beliefs, I think I can make a case for today's topic without bringing it in that much. 

And the thing is: I'm not trying to "censor" anyone. I hate the idea of people trying to get me to change my work just because they don't agree with it - for the most part. 

What I am trying to say is this: You can write a good relationship without it having to stoop to porn.

Relationships are about more than physicality. In fact, some people are very averse to physical contact.

There's a test out there which you can take to determine your dominant Love Language. Look it up- it's actually really interesting. There's five love languages: Physical Touch, Gift-Giving, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Words of Affirmation.

Everybody's love language is different. I, personally, am not fond of people touching me. I'd much rather spend several hours just talking to them, getting to know them, letting them get to know me. That's Quality Time. My mom, on the other hand, loves to clean up things for us, fix things we've broken, and in return, have us do the dishes without being asked and do chores just because we love her. Her love language is Acts of Service, as well as Words of Affirmation, which everyone needs and can't really get along without. A good compliment goes a long way. One of my friends is crazy about giving little things to everyone, and in return, she's always happy to receive presents. My grandmother is the same way. 

So, in short, it's easy enough to make people show love to one another without touch, and especially not touch that requires closed doors and bedrooms. My dad learned a long time ago that my mom is kind of averse to physical contact and so he always asks before doing the littlest things- like holding her hand, for instance, or kissing her cheek. 

While I get that things like mouth kisses and sleeping with someone are different, I'm just trying to point out- it's not the only way to show that two people like each other. 


Teenage sex has consequences, no matter how smart you are.

I'll say it right now: I've never had sex. I've never even kissed someone. So while I'm pretty in the dark about what actually happens, I can tell you that as a teen, things happen when you take that step. 

Things like pregnancy. Abortions. Single parenting. Things like STDs, illnesses, etc. Things like tearing down boundaries and making it harder to say no next time. If your parents find out, there could be consequences from that front too. They may not show up the first time it happens, but as you keep going, something will happen. And I can think of very few (read: no) books that feature these consequences, besides books specifically about teen pregnancy. I've only read one of those, I think, and it was okay, but it dealt only with the pregnancy part, not with what life is like after as a single parent. 

All this to say: if you're going to portray sex between teens, it should have consequences.

In short: you don't have to completely censor this out IF it has consequences, but we'd rather you close the door while you're doing it.

Look around at our followers list. If you're here, it's because you're tired of the smut that gets put into Young Adult literature. You want to be reading things that build you up, not tear you down. You don't want to be reading rated R or higher material (MA or R, for our Australian friends) when you sit down to check out that popular book. It's just not something you want to see.

I'm not asking for it to completely go away, authors, and if you need to have it happen, then fine, although that may turn me off from the book. But please, close the door when it happens. Just as you'd rather your privacy in an intimate setting, your characters would too. They don't want the whole world to see what's happening.

And neither do we.



- Faith Thompson

24 comments:

  1. Beautiful. This was awesome. And you're right. I think people miss the point sometimes and think censorship when in reality, all people want is cleaner romance. Implying a character had sex and showing the consequences of sex before marriage will actually be more realistic.

    Great post, as always.
    God bless y'all.
    <3

    iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    1. I definitely agree. I don't want to change the books that have already come out, just set a higher standard for the ones to come.

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  2. Well done Faith! They way you used the five love languages as an example really demonstrated something that people seem to miss so often in typical novel writing!

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    1. It's true, isn't it? But if all you base "love" off of is touch and feelings things aren't going to last long. You need to do things for one another.

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  3. Faith, you handled this elephant with grace and respect. Kudos to you, my friend! I'll agree with Anna, the five love languages was the best part!

    Catherine

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    1. Thank you so much, Catherine :) I was aiming for that to be helpful. :)

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  4. This was well written, I like the examples you used and how you used the five loves!!

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  5. I love how you brought the love languages in! I never thought of that, but it's true. My love language is quality time.
    Come to think of it, why are all couple's in YA's love languages physical touch?? How is that realistic at all?!?!

    Thanks for this post, Faith! It was brilliant, and it made me think.

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    1. It definitely isn't realistic. My love language is quality time, too. :) And I know lots of people like touch, but there's a million others who HATE it. There should be more books about characters who are averse to touch :P

      You're so welcome, Gray. Thanks for your sweet words.

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  6. You really hit the nail on the head, Faith! Couldn't have said it better myself :D I can't stand how touchy-feely YA romance is. So much of it is clearly lust-influenced.

    Wonderful post!

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    1. I honestly think more of the "romance" we see is nothing more than lust and passion. It's really sad, because that's the standard we're setting for real teens, but... yeah.

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  7. Quick question: How do you find out your love language? I would love to test some of my characters. That would be awesome.

    iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    1. For teenage characters, this one is good: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/teens/

      And for adults/married/dating characters: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

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  8. Amazing post! I'm one of those people who don't like physical contact, as I see it as something so special I will only give it in very small amounts--like a touch on the shoulder--when someone really needs it. It's wonderful how you brought up that everyone has different love languages! Something for all writers to think about, I think. :)

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    1. That's wonderful, Melissa. I have great respect for that. Thank you for being willing to share. I do think it's very much food for thought.

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  9. I totally agree! I'm currently reading a book; The Summer of Annah, which is about an older woman falling in love, and I think the book is great. The characters don't make out right away, for 5 pages, it's so refreshing!

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  10. Ha, that's awesome! Romance without making out is always refreshing :)

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  11. *high-fives* YES TO ALL OF THIS!!!!

    ~Liv
    livkfisher.blogspot.com

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  12. LOVE this! I completely agree. :) I especially liked the five love languages part.

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  13. Literature is supposed to show the human experience, and while sex is certainly part of that experience, I agree that the novels in question should show the real consequences of having sex when you are young. Sometimes this could lead to teenage pregnancy depending on whatever is going on in the book, or sometimes, depending on the character, it could also be a certain level of guilt they might feel because of their upbringing. It should be honest, but it shouldn't be too graphic if it is targeted at young people.

    The love language thing was so fascinating! I've heard of it before but I only started to understand it while reading this post, so thank you for shedding some light on that!

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    1. That's what we're going for- not censorship or telling people what to do, simply raising the standards and making it more realistic. I completely agree with you.

      Oh, you're so welcome! It's a very helpful thing to know about. While a lot of the "personality test" stuff is kind of easy to knock over (and I particularly love personality tests, so... I'm biased and I'll still admit it) the love language tests are so helpful. They're very real and they help people understand each other much better. Glad this was helpful for you!

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