Or at least draws attention in a way that made you click on this blog post.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a fact of life. We’re drawn to sex and nudity and all things naughty—including steamy, drop-your-panties, arch-your-back sex scenes in books. Specifically, New Adult books.
You see where I’m going here? Stay with me.
I like dirty monkey sex just as much as the next primate. I like to do it, watch it, read it…and I like writing about it, too. I’m a big fan of women embracing sex and feeling powerful because of it. BIG fan!
So you can imagine how thrilled I was when the “new adult” category/genre was born!
The NA pioneers pushed the boundaries of sex in their books, taking what was previously taboo in mainstream publication and making it an unapologetic—and usually pivotal—element in their stories. It was YA books, all grown up. High school, without the safety net.
Abuse, one night stands, pregnancies, STDs, and steamy sex scenes were woven into stories where the protagonist was just out of high school, or flailing through college, or on the precipice of adult life. The sweet, coming-of-age books we’d learned to expect life lessons and happily ever afters from, were suddenly riddled with rated-R reality.
AND IT WAS EFFING BEAUTIFUL.
It was a movement brought on by readers who wanted to see their favorite YA characters grow up. They wanted the lost years between high school and adulthood; the years with more freedom, but also more consequences. Where mistakes mattered, love really could get lost, and horrifically abused skeletons walked themselves out of the closet.
READERS WANTED THE MORNING AFTER
AND NEW ADULT SURE AS HELL GAVE IT TO THEM.
Was there life after high school? Yes, there was. And it was filled with nonstop, uncensored, strip you to the bone…
Then explicit sex.
Then lots of explicit sex.
The first NA writers weren’t afraid to include descriptive sex scenes in their stories, and to that I say BRAVO! We needed open-door material to make its way to the mainstream world of fiction. Sex is good. Sex is important. It should be written about, read about, and talked about. ALWAYS.
But unfortunately, many readers grew to expect sex scenes—graphic sex scenes—in their new adult books. And soon that expectation began to snowball. And with the momentum that the NA genre seemed to gain by the hour, that snowball suddenly became a giant SEXBALL.
AND THAT’S WHAT THIS POST IS ABOUT: THE GIANT SEXBALL.
The early new adult books were, in my opinion, the NA ideal. College-aged characters, floundering in their relationships and their own identities as they tried to figure out their future, with powerful themes like:
- becoming independent of your parents
- overcoming trauma/abuse from your childhood
- losing your virginity
- figuring out what you want to do with your life
THESE were the story elements that set new adult apart from young adult and drew a line in the sand between NA and all other categories.
But that line barely had a chance to breathe before the GIANT SEXBALL rolled right over it, skating dangerously close to the erotica category.
Am I being too dramatic? Perhaps.
But it seems like most new adult books these days are loaded with multiple sex scenes, all of which are pretty graphic, but only some (if any) actually drive the plot.
Yet NA authors continue writing gratuitous sex scenes and NA readers continue asking for—and expecting—more.
And thus we have created the GIANT SEXBALL.
** BUT HERE’S MY POINT: The problem with the giant SEXBALL is that, now, new adult novels which fail to incorporate numerous graphic sex scenes are sometimes criticized for falling short of “new adult” expectations. They are scrutinized for their lack of sexual content—regardless of the actual story—and that doesn’t seem fair.
Must new adult books include a plethora of explicit sex scenes to be eligible for fair criticism?
What are we doing here, people?
When did we get so demanding—so greedy—with our sexual content? What happened to the original NA ideal? The poignant coming-of-age books with a few teeth, a little bit of grit, and a large dose of reality?
We forged this incredible frontier where 18-26 year old characters (give or take) could go find themselves in a NEW ADULT world, and what have we done with it?
WE’VE SCREWED ITS HEART OUT.
We’ve saturated well-written and meaningful stories with more sex than necessary, and in doing so, we’ve created a monster:The insatiable expectations of readers. The skewed criticism of reviewers.
THE GIANT SEXBALL.
Is this what we wanted for NA? When “new adult” was first introduced, and we fought so hard to keep it alive, was this what we envisioned for our infant category? Young characters figuring out their future one sexual encounter at a time?
For me, the answer is no. Not because there’s anything wrong with graphic sex scenes in new adult books (hell, I have a few naughty scenes in my own NA books) but because there might be something fatal about including too many of these scenes in every. single. book.
If we continue producing sex-saturated NA novels, we might lose the opportunity for New Adult to be widely acknowledged (not to mention respected) as a category.
WE MIGHT JUST BE KILLING THE VERY THING WE GAVE LIFE TO.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s getting better. Authors are branching out with less erotic stories and testing the waters in other categories/sub-genres of new adult—-and some with great success! But even with all the best intentions of these brave writers, we’re still in a rather deep sex hole.
But that’s just my opinion. What do YOU think?
Do readers expect their new adult books to contain lots of sex? Are readers disappointed when new adult books don’t have multiple sex scenes? How do you see the future of New Adult?