?

Log in

No account? Create an account

arhyalon

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
09:50 am: Say As I Say, Not As I Do
The biggest excuse I have seen for the lurid stuff that appears in today’s YA books is: “But kids are already doing that at that age, so what could be the harm of writing about it?”
 
All these folks are making an assumption: that reading about something – seeing it in print – has the same moral effect as doing it.
 
It does not!
 
I’m in my forties. I’ve been married for almost twenty years, and before that I had a few other boyfriends with whom I did a good deal of experimenting. And yet, I find things in these books shocking. I come upon things I haven’t done…or things that I may have done, but that I certainly don’t want to read about!
 
Because all these folks are wrong. Reading about it is not the same as doing it.
 
When you do something, there is often a protective cloud of affection around it…perhaps it’s amusement, or bumbling innocence, or some other quality that makes it seem pleasant or even sacred. You know you did it, and you whisper about it to your girlfriends, but it is still, somehow, it seems sweet.
 
It becomes a very different thing when you read about it in print. For one thing, it’s seldom presented as sweet when you come upon it in a book.
 
For another, seeing it in print acts like a justification of things one otherwise might have thought really shouldn’t be done again, or one might not have tried yet.  “Oh, it’s okay. It’s in this book." 
 
For a third, books like to be edgy. This means they like to push the envelope. So they strive to present the material in a way that’s new…i.e. shocking or beyond what one might have already done. Seeing it in a book can then give the green light to going beyond where one was before. “Oh, well…apparently everyone is doing it, so why shouldn't I?”
 
I  don’t know quite why it is that some things we do seem fine when they are done – and even when they are discussed by the couple or among girlfriends – and yet seem shocking when one reads about them. But I do note the phenomena. I do note that we married people, who have done a lot of this stuff, still find some of what is in these books shocking.
 
The important point here, I think, is that I am not describing a puritanical impulse…the impulse of: “Well, children should not read about this! I’m shocked that an innocent would read this! This should just be for seasoned adults!” – which is the emotion that is always associated with those who campaign for decency among their detractors.

What I am describing is just the experience of being shocked ourselves, as adults, as people who supposedly ‘know.’
 
If we find it shocking, what must it be like for kids, to whom this is all new?


Comments

[User Picture]
From:kokorognosis
Date:July 19th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Well, I for one, was already reading adult novels when I was in the YA range. Most of the YA books I read were classics, Andre Norton, Heinlein, the like, so they weren't too traumatic.

A lot of those other novels, however, were pretty... I'm not sure. Disturbing isn't the right word. But there was a definite loss of innocence that I regret in hindsight. I was introduced to a lot of things I didn't really need to know about at twelve.

I can honestly say, however, that I find most of the lurid content in books more offensive now, as an adult with some experience, than I did when I was younger. Perhaps because I recognize that what's in the books is generally a shallow, base imitation, and not the real thing-- or at least, not the thing that I have known in the past, with the accompanying "Cloud of affection" or what have you.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:July 19th, 2008 09:44 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Interesting point.

I remember sneakily reading Forever by Judy Blume in the bookstore, which was the first book I ever read where someone had sex -- in particular a teenager. It was shocking and yet interesting as well. I don't think I suffered by reading it...but it was quite wholesome compared to some of the things that are out there right now.

That being said...there are plenty of books out there that are perfectly wholesome...it's the trend towards less then wholesome...worse then Forever that I don't like.

Interestingly, Forever did not affect me as much as Queen of Spells (I think that was the title) a Tamlyn romance, where the girl, Janet, was pregnant. I read this in seventh or eight grade...which would have been about 13 or 14, and it was the first book I'd read where a teen was pregnant, even though no sex was described. I knew all about sex, had for years, but reading about it was quite different. (I loved that book. Still do, though it would probabl seem pretty simplistic in retrospect.)

Few teens probably make it to 13 today without reading/seeing stories about pregnant teens.

I'm trying to think if some of these things are more shocking now...I don't think so in my case, but it's an interesting thought.
[User Picture]
From:juliet_winters
Date:July 19th, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
(Link)
You know the very old fairy story that was based on? It's a great story, usually told to adults. In the tale/song, Janet is also pregnant. That's the problem. She refused to name her lover and her father thinks she's been abandoned. I believe it's called Tam Lin.


When I booktalked many years ago to teenagers, I enjoyed dusting off a horrorific sex tale (Jacob's English Fairy Tales) for their enlightenment. It's called Mr. Fox. It teaches very important lessons about sexual predators and men who seem to be too good to be true. It's also extremely violent. And instructive. Boy, did that book fly off the shelves. The kids came in asking for "The Stephen King Fairy Tale Book." heh-heh

Here tiz:
http://www.authorama.com/english-fairy-tales-29.html

I added the tag line, "and then they all sat down and finished their breakfast."



[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:July 20th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC)
(Link)
I think I'd read the poem before the book, but a pregnant modern teen struck me quite differently than the poem did. It is called Tam Lin.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:July 20th, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)

Wonder of Wonders

(Link)
Hey, after years of searching the web, I found Queen of Spells:
http://www.amazon.com/Queen-Spells-Dahlov-Ipcar/dp/0670583995
[User Picture]
From:kokorognosis
Date:July 20th, 2008 02:48 am (UTC)
(Link)
I don't know if shocking is the right word... but offensive, maybe. Or maybe just irritating. I think I can think of one instance (Aenea and Raul in Rise of Endymion) where it didn't seem just like a crass, requisite sex scene. I take the whole subject relatively seriously, and anything less than a respectful treatment gets to me now.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2008 12:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I read modern romances, which are replete with sex...pages of sex. But the romance authors go out of their way to make it poetic rather than graphic. (The purpose being to produce a heady sensation in the reader, not to scandlize them.) So, I have no objection to sex scenes per se.

It's scenes deliberately designed to be shocking or graphic or to push the envelope on what the other guy might have written that bother me.

[User Picture]
From:carbonelle
Date:July 21st, 2008 02:47 am (UTC)

Tangentially speaking

(Link)
It is Queen of Spells, by Dahlov Ipcar (all her books are lovely) and I adored it, too! I can still sing the whole "as I was going to Banbury," song - such a clever little verse!

[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2008 11:44 am (UTC)

Re: Tangentially speaking

(Link)
Yes! And now it's on Amazon! ;-)
[User Picture]
From:juliet_winters
Date:July 19th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I hate "coming-of-age" stories. They might as well be called "destruction of innocence" stories.
Very, very common in the young adult sphere. Now, if the logical consequence of the coming of age actions were shown: pregnancy, marriage or abandonment, toil, and raising children, well, that's the kind of realism of which I would approve. That and clinical photos of advanced sexual diseases.

But, no, that's not the way of these things. They have no problem taking the glamour of true love out of the tales but they rarely go far enough down the life road to show what really happens with promiscuity. Does having sex with many people make you feel more or less of a woman? Perhaps you'd rather settle down without having to deal with a long-term, less than perfect marriage.
Have a kid out of wedlock. Have 2. Spend the rest of your life struggling to do right by them. If they want tragedy, give them long-term, realistic tragedy...not Jessica and Johnny broke up and now Johnny's seeing Liz and they got caught doing it in the pool shack by Jessica so now Jessica is sleeping with Brad to make Johnny jealous.
I hate the Jerry Springer society.
[User Picture]
From:carbonelle
Date:July 21st, 2008 02:51 am (UTC)

I do not think that word means what you think it means...

(Link)
The brittany-spearsing sort of coming-of-age novel, in which a young man or woman "comes of age" by virtue (or lack thereof) of their sexual experience has admittedly, become a staple.

But nearly all our Andre Norton favorites were "coming of age" stories, too! Only the teens, "came of age," by mastering the (or some of the) challenges of adult life.

Coming of age stories are my very favorite, still, and still popular with teens, though finding ones that are well done and not just all about Teh Sex (like Beige) or Scalzi's Zoe's Tale) takes more work.
[User Picture]
From:juliet_winters
Date:July 21st, 2008 10:01 am (UTC)

Re: I do not think that word means what you think it means...

(Link)
In this context, I was thinking more in terms of Paul Zindel or the later books by Tamora Pierce. Really of the types of books our hostess was mentioning in the first place.

Now, Harry Potter is certainly a "coming of age" story written in a much better (for me at any rate)manner. There is emotional growth as well as growth in skills as Harry discovers that the people he has assumed throughout all his childhood and young adulthood are enemies aren't and his heroes are quite flawed.

Just finished Swiss Family Robinson, which is also a coming of age tale in its way. So very politically incorrect these days. Every time the Robinsons encounter a new group of animals, OF COURSE they kill at least one to see if it's good to eat or good for furs or construction materials. They're really chipper about it, too, those Robinsons. About the only thing that makes them happier than finding a new game animal is blowing things up.
[User Picture]
From:carbonelle
Date:July 23rd, 2008 03:27 am (UTC)

Re: I do not think that word means what you think it means...

(Link)
Blowing things up is Just Fun.
[User Picture]
From:juliet_winters
Date:July 21st, 2008 10:04 am (UTC)

Re: I do not think that word means what you think it means...

(Link)
You may be happy to hear that my daughter thinks of tabloid stories concerning Miss Spears and Lindsey Lohan as modern, cautionary tales.
[User Picture]
From:carbonelle
Date:July 23rd, 2008 03:28 am (UTC)

Re: I do not think that word means what you think it means...

(Link)
Very happy!

Struwwelpeter for the 21st century!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 19th, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
(Link)
My mother had an interesting point that even seasoned adults shouldn't be reading about the really seamy stuff. Is it really worth the time and is it good for anything than shock value?

[User Picture]
From:headnoises
Date:July 20th, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)
(Link)
I think a lot of times the impulse is kinda like PZ Myers and anything sacred.
Powered by LiveJournal.com