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Daily Book Talk: Sexual situations in kid's books. Where do we draw the line?

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Showing 1-21 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 28, 2012 6:46:56 PM PDT
S. A. S. L. says:
I have been asked if I had any suggestions for a thread on Children's books.
Here's the first one.
At what age do you think a kid should start reading material on the intimate side? Do you think authors should abstain from saying anything sexually suggestive? When should an author start introducing things of an intimate nature, i.e. kissing, making out, etc.
I know kids mature at different ages so some may be perfectly capable of handling the situation. But without knowing the maturity level of every kid, should authors censor themselves? There are sexual images everywhere from t.v. to billboards. Do you think it should be in a child's book as well?
What are your opinions?

Posted on Mar 28, 2012 10:46:32 PM PDT
Personally, I've always felt that less is better. I still don't like reading about intimate situations in books (which may be why I steer away from adult books), and I'm well into my twenties. Some romance is good, but some things are best left unsaid.

Children's books should be mostly friendship books--I'm talking where the characters are anywhere between five and around ten, eleven, or twelve, depending on the reading level of the book. Flirtatious relationships are fine for the early teens to about fifteen or sixteen. Then maybe some kissing and intimate (in the sense that they're making close relationships--that sort of intimate, not the sexual kind of intimacy) relationships around fifteen and higher. And the age of the characters should reflect the higher end of the age of the reading audience. This, I feel, doesn't give too much sexual suggestiveness for the respective ages, but it's not so celibate at the higher ages as to become unrealistic.

Of course, some serious topics in young adult books deal with such things as sexual intimacy as a very important part of the theme of the book. It's usually easy to tell which books those are by their book descriptions, and they're usually more serious books dealing with consequences of various actions a teen may do, and those books should be read only by mature older teens (and I'd say they should talk to their parents while reading it, but who knows how many parents and teens would be comfortable in that situation).

Most of all, know what your kid's reading and what their maturity level is. I know of a third grader that was reading Twilight, and I just about fell through the floor. (Of course, at that age she was more interested in the baseball game than the romance, but I still wouldn't let a girl younger than fourteen read anything Twilight related, if I let her read it at all. There are too many mixed messages about what's "perfect" and what's good.)

Huh. That was a lot longer than I thought it would be. Anybody else have any comments?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 28, 2012 11:43:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 29, 2012 12:47:11 PM PDT
S. A. S. L. says:
I have noticed a sexual saturation in everything from eating a hamurger on a commercial to seeing car parts using sex images. Neither have anything to do with the merchandise. I keep my children's books family friendly. You can't turn on the t.v. without seeing the Kardashians or Jersey Show, drinking a 'beeping' the entire show. I really look for quality movies and books for kids that has some moral values but without sounding preachy. I've seen very young girls trying to look too grown up by reading an erotic novel or a how to guide. She can't even drive and she's reading this? I was brought up that you get to experince certain things when your brain can handle every process about it. Sometimes, bodies mature faster and the brains have a few more years to catch up.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 6:18:05 AM PDT

Excellent post. You exactly captured my feelings on this subject.

I believe that knowing what values and mores you want your child to absorb is crucial when choosing books for them.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 6:18:48 AM PDT
Hi Aksa~

Thanks for starting this thread. Great idea!

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 6:48:21 AM PDT
I think the world is already way too saturated with sex. We certainly don't need to see it in children's books.

I will sometimes write just a touch of romance into a middle-grade or young adult book, but I think it should be of the innocent variety. . . nothing more than holding hands or possibly a kiss once in a while. Even that doesn't need to be the central focus of the story, at least not in my opinion.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 7:16:11 AM PDT
Theresa says:
Children by nature have a latency period where they cannot, in normal circumstances, get aroused. They normally do not "like" persons of the opposite sex and if they do, it is totally innocent. At a certain age, 12, perhaps and older children start losing that innocent latency period and start getting interested in the opposite sex. I am totally against children being exposed at an early age, in their latency period, to things of explicit nature. It is not natural for them to be exposed. They need their innocence and childhood. Also, just because the world is full of explicit images, doesn't mean we should expose them to the intimate details.
At what age should children start reading anything suggestive? At no age should children start reading anything suggestive. Even teens don't need this. All it does is rouse passions where none need to be roused and that leads to trouble. My friend told me once that when she was in second grade, her friend told her graphically the "facts of life" and it disgusted her and she never (at that young age) could look at her mother in the same way. She said it destroyed her innocence. Children aren't meant for that kind of information. Plus, even for teens to read it, it can lead to unwanted curiosity and lead to pornography. What a disaster!!! Keep children and teens innocent!!! Their time will come for a family and what that takes to make a family.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 9:33:26 AM PDT
That's exactly my feeling. Middle school children are just beginning to explore their sexual natures with budding romances with hand holding and innocent kisses. I think that books should reflect that.

I am not so naive that I'm unaware that there are 12 year old children having babies. However, it's not the norm. I think that children's books should reflect the values that we want our kids to learn.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 9:44:46 AM PDT
I am going to throw a monkey wrench into this discussion: Kids are going through puberty at much earlier ages (8 years and younger in some cases) and these numbers seem to be increasing. Can't that change their latency period?

I am praying that my three daughters will not go through early puberty. These hormone changes really present children who are physically more mature, but not mentally. A very scary mix.

Anywhoo, back to the discussion about sexuality in books: I also agree that the books should be on a level that you as a parent are comfortable with. Truthfully, kids will pick up books (I did) from friends in school that may not be on a level you are comfortable with. I think, well, I hope, that my kids would be comfortable enough to approach me with questions if this happens.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 10:03:40 AM PDT
I think that in terms of YA (since I think that most Mid School/tween books don't go beyond a kiss or holding hands if there IS any romance at all), generally, if there are sexual situations, they are not graphic.

There is a lot of debate on this issue. IMO, teens are going to be interested in sex, it's normal and right on track with development, so reading about characters dealing with the different issues involved is a good thing. I would add the caveat that any situations - positive or negative - should be natural to the story and characters and not in there for shock value. Of course, I also am glad that there is a wide variety of books out there, so those kids not ready to read that subject matter (or just plain dislike them) have other options. It can appear on the surface that "every" YA book is a romance, and while there are a lot of them, there are also plenty of others to choose from.

I'm going to do my broken record act and mention again how important I think it is to be aware and read the same books your kids are reading. As a teen, the best conversation my mom and I had about relationships came about because we were discussing a book we had both read. I got to give my opinion, so did mom, but it never felt like a lecture (because we were discussing characters - not me) and it's one I still remember to this day.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 10:41:48 AM PDT
I second your advice that parents should read the same books their kids are reading. I did when my boys were young and it opened up conversations that might not have taken place any other way. I also think it's important to listen to the music that your kids are enjoying. When my youngest was in middle school he started listening to hip hop (ugh!). I was appalled at the misogynistic lyrics. This gave me an opportunity to talk to my son about how he thought women should be treated.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 1:03:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 29, 2012 1:09:33 PM PDT
S. A. S. L. says:
I'm really glad to be reading your POV's which all sound like you're on the same boat. Thank you for posting. I think, for, me it was how I was raised. Dr. Seuss for a while then came The Boxcar Children and CareBear books. My mom progressed me as I began maturing, only giving me hints of things to come. I was mature for my age but I still wasn't allowed a teen romance until I started going on dates. Innocent dates, that is, where you just hold hands. You have to build a trust with your parents because they are trusting you to be with this boy alone. After our date was over, there was a hug, but no kiss. I wasn't ready for something like that. At 15, I started reading th SVH series. I thought it wasn't too much to handle at my age. Nearing 19, I started reading subtle romances and after I joined the military and was in my 20's I tried out some hard erotica. But, hey, I'm an adult now. Under no circumstance shlould kids be allowed to look for these just because their friends are doing. Peer pressure is tough.
I understand that all kids are curious. It's nature. It is up to the parents to monitor what they're reading. But now, you have to monitor t.v. commercials and the net. It was sickening to me after I saw a somewhat sexually charged cartoon. UGH. Where are the t.v. police?
Tell me. Am I being overreactive to the Huggies commercials? The baby is only wearing a daiper and is smiling as she bounces up and down on a bear. It's cute to a lot of us. I still get a cold chill when I see it because some poeple don't think it's just cute. I've heard some people raise concerns about it. Is it just me. Like I said, it's everywhere.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 1:15:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 29, 2012 1:30:25 PM PDT

I haven't seen the Huggies commercials (thanks to the DVR, I fast forward through all commercials).

*running to either google or youtube to check it out*

ETA - couldn't find it!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 30, 2012 8:49:01 AM PDT
S. A. S. L. says:
Maybe they've stopped using it. Hopefully they have.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 30, 2012 8:58:22 AM PDT
S. A. S. L. says:
Sorry, it was a Luvs commercial.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 30, 2012 11:29:45 AM PDT
Well, I had no concerns. It was a little boy wearing only diapers play wrestling with a bear. His Dad was cheering him on and Mom was watching. My kids played with their stuffed animals like that all the time. So I'm in the camp of the people who think it's a cute commercial. To each his own.

Posted on Mar 30, 2012 1:05:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 30, 2012 1:08:11 PM PDT
Sex in children's books is somewhat misleading. Children's is a genre that is usually sex free. Then you have MG (middle grade) that has some bf/gf mentions, but its innocent 'he's cute' kind of stuff. Then you have YA (young adult) that is aimed at young adults. Adults have sex. Young adults have sex. The issue comes into play when you have YA books that say ages 11 & up. I've fallen victim to that, thinking it'll be sex-free since its aimed at younger teens. Yeah, not so much.

This is what I think on the topic, instead of censoring books and silencing writers, we should be reading the books our kids are reading and helping them digest the content. It helps you remain approachable and lets them know they can ask you stuff. And if kids aren't at that age yet, they tend to gloss over it. I read a ton of MG and YA books to be able to discuss stuff with my kids. Its not just sex that comes up, either.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 30, 2012 1:26:44 PM PDT
Me too. I think that we hear so much negativity in the press it becomes easy for people to only focus on that.

I believe in having a healthy caution about the real world, but I refuse to live in fear.

Again, agreeing with Nana Janet, to each their own.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 30, 2012 2:02:08 PM PDT
S. A. S. L. says:
I think it's cute but there are minds out there that don't think like we do.

Posted on Mar 31, 2012 10:11:09 PM PDT
I think a lot of time what is going to be right for one child might not be for another - for me, I was reading out of what existed for a YA section before I was 10 and well into the adult mom handed me my first romance when I was about 13 and I read Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) not long after...but she had also sat down with me for the B&B conversation when I was about 10, so I knew that kind of stuff...or rather, I asked her about it when I was looking through a subscription thing we used to get on a weekly basis (I think it was called the Tree of Life and it was like a encyclopedia of fact sheets)

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 1:39:15 PM PDT
N. Zimmerman says:
This is a great topic. I'm not a mom, but I am the oldest child in a family of six. My next closest sibling is 10 years younger then i am, and is turning 13 in May. I try to always find out what he's reading and read it myself, as well as make suggestions for him based on what I myself am reading. We are the only dedicated readers in my family so far. Being 400 miles apart makes it a lot harder to keep track because i can't just bang on his door frame and take a trip to the library anymore. :(

I totally aggree- when I have my own childern, I will read what they read and discuss with them the content and messages. Bless all you parents out there that do that!
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Discussion in:  Children's Books forum
Participants:  10
Total posts:  21
Initial post:  Mar 28, 2012
Latest post:  Apr 1, 2012

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