Stop Sexualizing Literal Children
Tayana Osuna, arts & culture editor
More often than not I find myself reading about teenagers struggling with mental illness. And more often than not these teenagers, these YOUNG characters created by ADULT writers, are given horrifically unstable relationships with other teen characters. Not only are they unstable, but they are made out to be overly stigmatized and sexualized. Now, if you are into smut or other similar genres, that is ok. No shame. What isn’t okay is being an adult writing about kids in sexy R-rated scenes!
I know teenagers are all going through this thing called puberty, maybe you’ve heard of it, but not all teenagers are having sex. In 2021, it was recorded that the “percentage of high-school students who reported ever having sex” was just 30% according to data from the CDC. Put into the fact that teenagers often lie, you’ll probably end up with a lower number. There is so much more to being a teenager than just sex, and it’s such a shame because these books can help uplift the voices of young adults. I mean, I am sure we are all aware that teenagers are some of the most insecure people you’ll ever meet in your life, and to write teenagers in such unrealistic settings and scenarios is terrible. Since these books are about teens they should be written for teens, not for adults looking to sexualize a younger audience.
Now, what more specifically drives me up the wall is how insanely sexualized queer/questioning teens are made out to be, and often by cis/straight authors. When you are young and questioning your sexuality and you read about other queer teens discovering themselves through sex over anything else, it has the ability to not only make it more confusing but misleading as well.
The first book in which I ever encountered a queer character, I remember how giddy that made me as a kid. The character was a queer teen boy who was written as confident, witty and a little crazy. As a kid, he was who I wanted to be. However, this young boy was insanely sexually aggressive. He flirted with every boy that came his way, and during therapy sessions he almost always talked about sex. This representation of queer individuals just further adds to the already immense amount of homophobic propaganda in our society.
This portrayal made it seem like to be confident in being queer was to go about sharing your sex life with everyone. This isn’t meant to silence people who do choose to do this, I say this to protect those who are young and questioning. Not to mention how conflicting this may feel for kids who are potentially asexual. I, as a young reader, remember thinking something was wrong with me because I had no desire for sex and that maybe to fix that I had to have sex.
On top of that, what really sent me was how the author ended this queer boys story. In the end, after hours of therapy, after months of being institutionalized, after sex scene upon sex scene, the boy isn’t actually gay… I know. I lost my shit.
Not only did the book make it seem like in order to be confident in your sexual orientation you had to have a shit ton of sex, but even after years of being comfortable with your identity, only when you backtrack on everything and conform to heteronormativity, only then will you be happy – but that alone could be its own article.
Just stop writing sex scenes with kids. That should be a given, frankly.