Sexual content – how much is too much?

writing
question
discussion
#1

I just finished writing a chapter where my MCs have sex for the first time.
I’ve decided to basically cut the previous chapter right before the actual act, and then end the “sex”-chapter right after. That way readers can simply skip the chapter entirely (once I upload it), without losing any important developments – except this moment of close bonding and growth between my MCs.
I even wrote an author’s note at the beginning – a “warning” – saying that though the chapter isn’t vulgar in my opinion, they, the reader, may not feel the same about my descriptions.
– I should add that I also included a similar warning at the beginning of my book, saying that it’s a depiction of real life and therefore will contain mature content in the form of sex (not smut).

This led me to think; how much description is too much in teen fiction?

I have published chapters in the book that describes dry-humping and heavy make-out sessions, where I didn’t feel the need to add an additional warning. But at the same time, I once posted a paragraph on the old forums where someone commented that it was maybe a bit graphic. :hushed:

There is no doubt that we all have different boundaries when it comes to this subject, but I think it’s okay to include it to a point that might push the line just a little for those who are less comfortable with it, while at the same time giving just a taste to those who enjoy more explicit descriptions. – That’s at least what I’m aiming for while keeping in mind that my characters are teenagers.

Would you like to be made aware that the chapter you’re about to read includes scenes like this beforehand?
I think there’s no doubt that a scene like this would probably be considered too much if I attempted to have it published because it’s categorized as teen fiction. But (not to say anything about my readers because I’m so grateful to even have readers!) the chapter this paragraph comes from, has a lot more reads than the surrounding chapters does. :grin:
I, personally, think it paints a realistic image without being pornographic and smutty.

In the heyday of the Twilight franchise, Twilight Fanfics with sexual content were the most popular because the readers were missing that element in the original work. – That it took a bit of a left turn and ended out in stories like ‘Master of the Universe’, which then got published as ‘50 Shades of Grey’ is another thing…
But it sort of speaks to the fact that readers do like a bit of sexuality in teen stories (that’s centered around romantic relationships).

But how do we know where to put the line?
Where is your line both as a writer and a reader?
Should teen fiction have a more relaxed attitude when it comes to sexual content?

I think it’s a little difficult because the genre lands between the ages where sexual attraction is not really a thing yet, and where a lot of people does have their first sexual experiences.
To me, it seems naïve to just exclude it completely. They certainly don’t in TV shows…
Are the boundaries for what you can write as an author of a teen fiction book different from what they can show in teen movie/series? Because if so, then I’m even more lost than I feel right now… :thinking:

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#2

*thrust

I don’t think it’s too graphic. The comment about ‘pubic hair’ for some reason puts me off a little. Not because it’s overly graphic, just kind of takes the sexiness out of the scene for me. I think it would be sexier if she dragged her finger across the waiste of his boxers before following the bone down to his penis.

But that’s just me. I don’t think this scene would be overly sexual with the warning of sexual content.

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#3

Haha, thanks! :laughing: :+1:

I didn’t find it too much either. So it seems we’re on the same level when it comes to how descriptive you are in these types of scenes.

#4

It certainly wouldn’t make me uncomfortable as a reader, especially being warned ahead of time what type of content to expect.

#5

And that’s one of the things I’m asking myself right now… If I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job at balancing how must to include in my descriptions, how come I feel the need to add an extra warning with this chapter…?
(Which is why I made this thread…)

#6

The only time to add an extra warning is for graphically mature content, content that would result in an ‘m’ rating. If a book that would have a select few scenes that would earn an ‘m’ rating, most of the time the author sets up a separate book for those chapters so as not to give the book itself that rating.

#7

I’m not gonna do that. I won’t do a “Twilight” and fade to black. :laughing:

#8

It’s just to help keep a book for all audiences when they only have a few graphic chapters. That way the book is no longer hidden for anyone under the age of seventeen.

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#9

Personally I do think this is too graphic for Teen Fiction/YA.

I’m a mother and taught Middle and high school to give you a background on my experience in gauging teen content.

I think there are ways to write an exploratory interaction without getting this detailed.

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#10

See this is something I find interesting.
One of the enjoyments of reading a book (I believe) is when scenes are described in enough details that you can make the image come alive in your head.

Say the scene was a teenager having an argument with a parent. Then how the teenager is feeling, what emotions are going through them, their movements, tone of voice… all those details creates a complete picture in your mind.

But if the scene instead is two teenagers getting intimate, would you then have the author write something vague? – “They explored each others’ body with curious fingers and kisses.”
That just seems really flat compared to the effort you might have put into every other scene.

So I’m actually not sure how to write a sexual scene that way, without it sticking out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the story… :thinking:

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#11

It just seems that there isn’t that much emotion truly developed in this moment though.

What is being accomplished in this scene other than the sexy stuff? Is it revealing character or developing plot?

Maybe that stuff is in the paragraph before and after this excerpt. But based on this part alone I’ve read VC Andrews books that felt less detailed than this.

#12

I’m working on a teen fiction/coming of age. The character has some sexual encounters in the story.

I’m also doing this kind of split thing in the story - it’s written in 3rd Limited Past Tense but all of the MC’s thoughts are italicized in a fragmented first person present tense.

Here’s how I handled one of the encounters - it’s long because it’s broken up with a lot of the internal stuff.


When she gently bit his earlobe, Evan groaned. He started to lift Emily’s shirt up along her abdomen. She startled at the contrast of the cool air against her heated skin.

Evan stilled his hand. He cleared his throat and asked, “Can we take this off?”

Emily paused, her forehead resting against his, trying to decide on her answer. She felt Evan’s chest rise and fall with each breath he took.

Do I want to let this much happen?

“Yes please,” Emily answered.

Evan pulled it completely off and threw it to the floor. He rolled them over so he was on top of her and lifted himself up on his arms to look at her face. She closed her eyes and heard him say, “You’re so beautiful Emily.”

She opened her eyes again. Evan’s eyes trailed down her body. “And you have fantastic breasts.” He palmed one gently and ran his thumb across the top of her bra.

Emily actually stopped breathing for a second and then moaned out “Oh God” again.

And I’m not even embarrassed about it…

Then Evan kissed her ceaselessly and pressed his hips deliciously against hers. She suddenly felt frantic.

I want so much more! I feel greedy because I want to do everything with him… I want him to be all of my firsts… I want to come to Jersey over and over again… I want him to live in Brooklyn… I feel exuberant and need to laugh because I can’t believe this is happening… I’m in this gorgeous boy’s bedroom contemplating losing my virginity to him when I’d only ever kissed one other boy before four days ago…

His fingers fumbled with the clasp at the back of her bra. She arched her back and pressed her chest into his own, giving his hand more room.

This is desire… I want him… I want this…

He successfully unclasped it. She felt a chill run up her spine as his hand splayed across her bare back.

I’m one step closer to edge of no return… This is fear…

Evan started to slowly trail a strap down her arm. She closed her eyes.

This feels so good and yet so wicked, which makes me angry and want to scream… Why can’t I get out of my head and just enjoy this?

Emily squeezed her eyes shut harder and heard Evan ask, “Is this okay?” with something like desperation in his voice. His hand was frozen, holding her bra strap by her elbow. Her breast was nearly exposed. She felt her eyes burn with forming tears.

Oh no… Am I going to cry? Am I truly such a mess that this is what I’m going to do right now? I know I want him… but I’m not ready for this… Damn it! I have to stop!

Emily opened her eyes and looked into Evan’s blue ones. The she remembered an odd fact from when her class covered genetics in biology class.

They aren’t actually blue. The colorless stroma of his eyes gathers all of the light that enters them and scatters it back into the atmosphere. This is known as the Tyndall effect, which has more to do with physics than biology, and gives them their blue hue. His eyes are a reflection… He is a mirror…

This thought was something that kept her eyes bonded to his. Emily couldn’t look away.

This feels even more intimate than anything we’ve done so far… I’m so confused… I knew what I was supposed to do a moment ago, but now I can’t remember what that was…

“Emily? Do you want to stop?” Evan’s eyes were so soft and gentle while he waited for her answer.

I feel stupid because I can’t find the answer to his question…

Evan’s eyes shifted away as he looked at her lips and licked his own. “We don’t have to do anything else.”

He means it…

Then he looked back at her eyes and Emily felt herself searching them again for her answer.

Just one more kiss…

Emily pulled her arm from the strap and watched Evan’s eyes grow wide as he slowly swept his hand along her arm towards her now exposed breast. Then he leaned back down to kiss her hungrily.

As his hand made contact, they heard a woman’s voice call out from downstairs. “Evan honey? I left work early. Would you like me to make lunch for you?”

“Shit,” Evan whispered as he leapt off of Emily.

He hurried to his bedroom door, which he hadn’t bothered to close earlier since nobody was home. He stuck his head out into the hallway yelled back, “Hey Mom! Lunch sounds good.”

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#13

Yeah, this is just a small paragraph taken out of a larger scene. :slightly_smiling_face:

My intention with this thread was not to focus on my little example, but more to have a general discussing about how to “attack” the issue of writing this kind of content in teen fiction though.
Which is why I’m interested in how you would approach it.

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#14

That was a really great scene. :slightly_smiling_face: Though I don’t see how that differs in its descriptions from mine? Your characters are just at a different stage/touching different body parts.

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#15

I think I’d want a bit more about what Ricky feels about Olivia in the moment and less about the play by play of what his penis is feeling.

And even just toning down a few details would make it a bit “less” where it would work.

Ricky thrust again and Olivia’s knuckles brushed against the outline of his penis. His mind was heavy with lust, so when she inquisitively stroked a finger over the thin fabric, it twitched. Instead of removing her hand like he thought she would, she repeated the motion, teasing him.

He felt her chest rise and fall rapidly as she played with his waistband, traced the line of hair below his navel, and then caressed him with gentle fingers.

#16

With teen fiction it’s just about turning things down a click or two.

It’s like soft core versus hard core. It’s still porn but the shots aren’t as close-up and no money shots :joy:

#17

It really boils down to what you want and how you want to express yourself freely and wantonly. If you’re just writing for yourself and you want to experiment, that’s fine. But just be aware that others may not be so receptive to your work.

#18

Hahah! :laughing::laughing::laughing: To me, I’m just telling what he is feeling in his body.

Your rewrite is fine too, but I can tell that I’m sort of hitting a wall here, where I can’t see the difference as far as why your version would be considered more suitable than mine.
It’s not that I don’t want to, but I just sometimes hit those kinds of blocks because of a brain injury. I would need it to be explained in more details to understand why. But that is my thing, and not about you. :blush:

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#19

Which is why I’ve gone the extra mile of having the act itself take place in a chapter completely by itself and with a warning of its own. :slightly_smiling_face:

#20

I’m always merging my sex scenes within the chapters themselves–not separate as yours. I don’t do warnings because that’s just tacky and amateurish.

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