sex, fictional and factual
First, a little context: I've been asked to guest lecture in a class on sex in the media, and at the same time I've been asked to write an article on how LIS should envision young adults. So I've chosen to focus on controversies and censorship of factual sexual health books for young adults, hopefully to bring the two together. I may even be able to write about talking to this class of freshman in the article. Some background on the central book I'll be looking at is here.
Though nonfiction is the focus, I also opted to delve into a little YA fiction on the topic, thanks to the help of the always wonderful CCB GAs, A. and L. Thanks you two! This is the first of that pile that I'm reading. Since the presentation and article are going to focus on books that support comprehensive sex education for young people, this may also be the last of the pile. We'll see.
The Making of Dr. Truelove by Derrick Barnes
I've read a lot of YA fiction, and this is by far the single most graphic sexual opening I've ever read, albeit an opening in which the characters completely fail to have sex. Main character Diego and his lovely girlfriend Roxy are in love and are trying to have sex for the first time, but Diego ejaculates prematurely. Twice. Roxy is totally understanding, completely nice, but Diego freaks out, can't handle it, and afterward he starts blowing her off. Meanwhile his boy J. comes up with a love advice website idea that he says will make Diego irresistible to the ladies. But J. really wants to dress up as Dr. Truelove and make media appearances while Diego does all the advice column work. And Diego is surprisingly really, really good at the advice column work. He's a compassionate guy with a sexy edge, and it intrigues readers.
Unfortunately, it also completely distracts him from the real issue, which is that he need to talk to Roxy. Roxy is kind about it, but she does let him know that she's thinking of seeing someone else, after Diego stands her up at least twice and stops returning her phone calls. Diego takes hit after hit to his pride, until finally a jazz historian contest gives him a chance to invite Roxy to something he knows he's good at doing. But what he learns is unexpected; there's another guy who needs to win the contest even more, an old dude, and Diego throws the competition even though he could have won, choosing to make friends rather than to win.
The context of Diego's world is humorously saturated with sex, from his own successful mother (a doctor) and father who are clearly enjoying themselves as he carries her off to the bedroom nightly to J's sister Tori who really wants Diego for herself. Though it was less believable that the older Jewish man at the jazz historian event would tell Diego he wants to win so he can get some tonight, most of the sexiness is pretty believable. It's sex-saturated, but it's also humorous and acknowledges that not everyone is into the same things. J., for instance, wants to be Dr. Truelove so he can get with numerous hotties, though he seems to achieve the same thing in his regular high school life. While Diego really wants to be with Roxy. And, in the end, he makes the speech he needs to make, all the apologies come out, and they're reunited. They momentarily rush toward sex, making up for what they missed before, but then both think better of it and decide to wait.
Kiss It by Erin Downing
The review said this was a book about a sexually assertive girl who "knows what she wants and goes after it with gusto and without apology," but I do not like the protagonist as I expected to and so I'm dropping this one like a hot potato. As of p. 30, we know that narrator Chaz (short for Chastity) ended her virginity with the unwitting Hunter at her parents' Christmas party. When he lasted for all of 4 seconds, she was abusively cold to him. He says "Oh" and she replies "Yeah, oh" and thinks to herself that she "certainly didn't want him to think this lame attempt at sex was going to count as something magnificent for me." He asks her out, she says "Never. Now get the fuck out, Hunter."
Turns out that I find nothing feminist in this kind of damaging assertiveness. I've seen firsthand what being sexually shamed and/or humiliated does to someone, and it's pretty horrible. Yes there are men with deflowering obsessions, yes there are people who use one another for sex, yes there have been eons of men wolfing around even vaguely available women. But it isn't sexy to be manipulative and then cruel to vulnerable people. Period.
Is it fair to judge a book by the first 30 pages? No, but I'm just another reader and not some exalted judge. And this reader doesn't want to read about women using unsuspecting men for sex any more than the other way around.
Posted on 1/23/2011 11:04:00 AM