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SEX SELLS.

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!

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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.

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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…

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SEX?

Yes. SEX.

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.

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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.

LITERALLY.

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?

your-thoughts

6800 Comments on “The Giant Sexball”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve read some fantastic NA books which deserved 5 star ratings, but reviewers would give the book 3 or 4 stars because there were only 1 or 2 sex scenes! WHAT? The book is awesome but the lack of dirty sex scenes knocked a star or two off its rating? That’s crazy! “Greedy” was the right word. Reader expectations have gotten ridiculous. We should rate all books– including NA books –on the story, not the steam.

    • The sex-based ratings and reviews are heart-breaking, for sure. And it’s not just reader expectations that are driving this ridiculousness. It’s writers, too. Authors are bending to the demand of their publishers and readers and including unnecessary sex scenes—just to fall in line with the “new adult” crowd. It’s novel peer pressure. And it needs to change, in my opinion. 🙂

      • YES! Of course, you know how much I agree with all this from my ranty blog post about the same a few months ago. I think as long as these kinds of conversations keep happening there’s still hope for NA as a CATEGORY and not just a sub-genre. Love this, love you!!

  2. I agree completely. I love that NA is basically YA grown up, with some sex scenes, but I don’t want the whole book to be full of them. If I want erotica, I will read erotica. I wanted YA to have many of the same themes as YA only older. I hate that people will rate the books based on the sex alone, when every book should be rated on story and entertainment value. I hate where NA is going. It’s too young to be crashing and burning so quickly.

    • Oh, Ariel! I just love your comments. You always have great things to say. 🙂 YA grown up! Yes. 🙂 Despite my post, I do have hope for NA. I think as long as readers and writers alike will take a “chance” on less-sexy NA books, and read and review them for the story and entertainment, not for sex, then we will start to see a greater shift in the NA standard. It will take time–and discussions like this one–but I think we can do it. I mean, hell. We (as readers/writers) created a WHOLE NEW CATEGORY OF OUR OWN, just by demanding it! If we have the power to do that, then we have the power to do anything. 😉 But I don’t know. What do you think?

    • LOL, I just wrote the exact same reply in a Facebook group, before I started reading the comments here.

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. Everything you said is spot on, and I do worry about NA continuing its label as “college-aged porn.” There’s so much more to life than hot monkey sex as you put it 😉 While that’s ONE key to the human condition, it certainly isn’t the only one. I love that you’re bringing light to the situation. It does seem to be getting a little better — both with authors not making books so humpty dumpty all day as well as readers not expecting graphic sex so often — but it def has a long way to go. Continuing to speak up about it is important. Thanks again <3

    • Totally. I think “college-aged porn” has to go if we want NA to thrive as a respected category. It might be a slow process, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get there. It’s just going to take a few awesome NA books that knock readers’ socks off without including excessive sexual content, you know? A few sexless stories that can trail-blaze a new identity for “new adult.” What do you think?

  4. This is exactly what so many of us have been thinking for months now. Thank you for coming out and saying it in such a fantastic way! Couldn’t agree more. Let’s push different boundaries. Let’s mix it up. Let’s produce actual NA.
    Sex included. or not.

    • YES! “Sex included. Or not.” <--- This should be the new label for "new adult"--or at least a platform slogan for shifting the expectation. Haha. But seriously. That is exactly what NA needs: permission to have whatever sexual content (or lack thereof) that suits the story best--without the fear of unmerited criticism.

      • You went into my head and pulled out what I’ve been thinking for some time.

        It’s nice to read the comments here and know I’m not some lone weirdo who thinks there’s a place in NA for stories with romantic elements that don’t have to be all the sex all the time.

        I almost stopped writing a WIP because the sex scenes were more glossed over for that particular character couple that shown in detail. I finished it and got a nudge from the MC’s sister who is a very different person. Her scenes are a bit more detailed but still fairly tame compared to some books.

        I really hope readers (and agents & editors) will give all types of NA a chance.

  5. I can’t even gather all my thoughts on this because I am SO MUCH IN AGREEMENT! I have been saying this exact same thing for months Chelsea! I’m so glad to hear you feel the same way. Maybe because I’m a guy or whatever it may be, I HATE all these unnecessary scenes that completely take away from the plotline of the novel. My thinking has always been that if you wanted more sex scenes than go read erotica, that’s why it’s there. Now there is that “New Adult Erotica” genre that I believe is completely mocking the entire premise of “New Adult”. Sorry, if I’m being insensitive, but I really feel that way! I have personally talked to NA authors who have told me that they couldn’t write THEIR books the way they wanted because they were pushed to include sex scenes they didn’t want to put in there. That really bothered me and this has been an issue for me every since. Authors have written amazing NA books without ANY sex scenes and great ones with lots of them, so honestly if there is a balance, then great, but I have seriously completely stopped reading NA books lately because of that exact reason. Sorry for the novel, but I can go on about this all day long!

    • I think you touched on the most heartbreaking part of all of this: some writers are pushed to include sex scenes in their NA books—scenes that aren’t part of the story—simply to “protect” their novel from being rejected by readers/reviewers/fellow writers. That’s the opposite of what the non-censorship of books has given us as writers. We should feel free to write whatever we want. Like Heather said: “Sex included. Or not.” Peer pressure to write more sex into a story is silly. And heartbreaking.

  6. I am 100% in agreement with you. I frankly think it’s too much and some NA books (NOT ALL) seem to have more sex than story, which is a total bummer. I’m not saying NA books shouldn’t have sex scenes as a part of the story, but I don’t think it’s right to expect it. You should definitely expect sex if you’re reading erotica, but sex is not a central element in NA books… it’s not a defining element, which is why fade to black scenes are also okay with me in NA. For me this category is truly a coming of age time… a time to make mistakes and be enlightened… a time to fall in and out of love and figure out your place amongst it all.

  7. I agree, and it’s sad to see New Adult books get ripped for not having sex, or not enough sex. I see NA more as a age setting for the characters not a determination if sex is involved. That’s what classifications like Erotica are for! If I pick up something calling itself “A New Adult Erotic Novel” and there was no sexy time, then I can get outraged, otherwise no.

  8. I absolutely agree!! NA is still my favorite genre to read but I am so tired of sex scene after sex scene. Where’s the build up? The first love warm fuzzies and playfulness young in love couple share?? I want more swoon less sex. I love sex in books but not so much it takes away from what could be a wonderful journey of young love.

  9. Yes. I have come to associate NA with heavily loaded sex stories. In fact sometimes I even think of them as synonyms. And to me it does the opposite of drawing me in, I used to love NA before it was NA, like Jennifer Echols stories that were so edgy and real, but then NA sort of became erotica featuring young couples and it just isn’t for me anymore ):

  10. I believe Chelsea, you said exactly what was on my mind when it comes to NA. Instead of the category being about what a true new adult is going through, it is now just about sex….Being criticized for not having enough in it is ridiculous.
    And lets look at new adults…while they may be having sex, there are still quite a few out there that are not. Good strong stories that really bring the character through life’s trials and tribulations of being a new adult is what I love about NA….
    Now, having sex in the book doesn’t bother me when it is written well and relates to the story at hand. Building up the tension to that moment is 100 times better than multiple sex scenes. After a while, I find myself skipping said scenes. It gets to be too much…

  11. I love this post. Everything about it is so spot-on that it’s not even funny.

    I remember reading some early NA and loving it. It was new and different and everything I loved about YA and Adult rolled into something in-between. But now it’s just getting so far out of hand with everything that it’s hard to find one that I enjoy and enjoy fully.

    I’ll be perfectly honest, most of my favorite NA novels have little to no sex in them at all. If it’s there, it’s for a reason other than “OMG, look MOAR SEX!”

  12. When NA wa given birth I was ecstatic! I love that YA has grown up and is now living life and of course having sex. But what I thought was a genre based on a certain age group…soon turned into erotica disguised as NA. I have seen people rate books by some authors, who write clean NA, very low because there wasn’t any sex at all. To me, NA is genre based on age. And if there is sex in it so be it. But I don’t believe that all NA books have to have sex at all.
    I will also say that I have read some NA books that had too much sex. I had to skip pages when the author had them going at it 3 times in the same chapter. I was exhausted after the first round, let alone 2 more times.

  13. I was such a huge supporter of NA when it was breaking out because I could see what it had the potential to be. I envisioned it expanding beyond the contemporary romances that made it popular and become a huge, far-reaching category. Unfortunately it seems to just be heading the other way and getting even narrower. At the start we were all arguing that “NA isn’t just sexed up YA” but now that NA is getting sexier and sexier, we all just look silly.

  14. This is exactly why I catogorize my books as contemporary romance rather than new adult, even though my characters are twenty-somethings. I put NA as a keyword, so they still show up on NA lists, but I’m hoping those readers will judge the story and not give me a bad review because there’s no sex.

    • Me too because my ‘NA’ books don’t have sex in them. I’m not opposed to books that are. I just– don’t. Actually, my NA books are this guy talking to his therapist ‘in hindsight’ so he wouldn’t exactly get into details 😉

      I like NA, but I don’t like authors getting their reviews slammed because of lack of sex. I don’t think it’s very fair.

  15. YES YES YES YES YES!!! This is exactly what I’ve been complaining about! I have several series ideas that run the spectrum of genres — from urban fantasy, to dystopian, to contemporary — but I worry about labeling them NA, even though that’s what they should be based on characters’ ages and situations/maturity levels, because I will never be the type of writer who can write the hot monkey sex. 😉 Not that I’m endorsing a “fade to black” YA-type approach, but I would love to see NA diversify to the point where I can market my books as NA and not worry that someone is going to criticize me for making it too “young” because I didn’t write graphic sex scenes.

  16. I agree completely. If I wanted nothing but sex, I’d pick a book from the Erotica shelf or rent a porno. That’s a little TMI, but honestly! It can be too much. I often find myself skimming if it’s sex scene after sex scene. Especially when there’s only so many words for body parts, only so many positions, only so many settings… it becomes very repetitive. I don’t read books for sex, I read books for the stories. I love books for their stories. For the characters, their situations, their actions, their words. Don’t get me wrong, I love sex scenes, but typically only if they’re written well and with a purpose. Erotica = Sex. Sex can = New Adult. New Adult doesn’t always = Sex.

  17. I agree, and it’s funny because I feel the opposite. I don’t really care for books that are mostly sex because then I think it jumps from the New Adult category right into erotica. When I think NA, I think NEW adults. Teens becoming adults or their twenty year old counterparts. I can’t imagine giving a new adult book a lower rating because it doesn’t have enough sex scenes. If anyone feels that way there are tons of erotica titles for them to enjoy. A book must have a plot and a story line, not just pages of empty plot-less sex. Cheers to you, for pointing that out! Great post!

  18. I agree completely. My debut novel is a NA ROMANTIC mystery. It’s romantic, not a lot of sex scenes, not even one detailed sex scene. I’ve even thought about “reclassifying” my book as just a romantic mystery and not New Adult because I felt that I didn’t have “hot monkey sex” in it. However, I’m sticking to my guns because my MC faces the dilemma of lusting over a guy she just met and her own moral compass, which is a dilemma young people face in my opinion. Not only does she make this decision for herself in her own time, she helps solve a murder in the process. That being said, I’ve only had positive reviews (2 on GR and Amazon, and 1 on a blog), but positive reviews nonetheless.

  19. I will always pick books with solid plot and real characters over something with too much sexy time. As an avid reader and blogger, I want my stories to resonate with me, not just get me all worked up. Not that I don’t like that too. Like with most things in life, balance is key. I love the NA genre and would be really disappointed for it change from what it was intended to be.

  20. THANK YOU. Thank you for saying what so many of us have been thinking, and talking amongst our circles but not sure how to say without making it sound like sour grapes because we didn’t write “that” kind of NA. Truly, can’t tell you how many authors I’ve been texting back and forth with today that are singing your praises for this post. xx

  21. The first few NA books I read were exactly as you described: a little bit gritty, but real. I enjoyed the hell out of those first few books, but now the moment I see a books NA I have to do some serious research before I get into it because that giant sexball you’re talking about? Yeah that doesn’t do much for me. I appreciate a few plot driving sex scenes in any novel, but most NA seems more like erotica then anything else. I’ve started a few that had no plot other than to get the charcaters into bed together over and over. I want the grit and reality, and an actual storyline. Which is why I run from most NA novels. But it is getting better. There are quite a few that still maintain their integrity while including sex scenes (even graphic ones), which gives me hope and is giving me the patience to dip my toes back into the NA pool. Hopefully I don’t get burned my that giant flaming sex ball!

  22. YES! Absolutely yes! I was so excited when I first discovered the growing category of new adult novels, realising that I finally had a place to put my just-out-of-school and college-age characters, but after formatting loads of “new adult” ebooks where almost every page I skimmed through contained a detailed sex scene, I came to the (very sad) conclusion that new adult has become just another name for erotica. WHICH IT SHOULDN’T BE! Now I start thinking to myself that perhaps I should leave off the “new adult” label from my contemporary romance books because it might give people the wrong idea. It’s sad …

  23. Couldn’t agree more! I was so happy when the NA genre was born and I couldn’t wait to jump into all these new books that started to flood the market. But I hate how most NA books are now toeing the line between NA and erotica. I like a good sex scene just as much as the next person but I prefer a book to have an actually story-line then just a bunch of sex scenes thrown together and broken up with a tiny plot-line. When I start an NA book I go into it with the notion that there is probably gonna be a sex scene or two but I don’t get all bent out of shape when there isn’t. I don’t read NA for the sex. I read it for the stories about people my own age. I read it because I can connect to these characters more so than YA characters. I never rate a book lower because it doesn’t have a million sex scenes. Authors need to realize that there is a difference between NA and erotica. I don’t want NA to die off because there are some truly amazing books out there.

  24. Completely agree. I initially thought NA was a new genre for characters who aren’t quite teenagers, not yet adults. But I’ve been reluctant to call my new work NA so I wouldn’t mislead people. I don’t write erotica and don’t want to deal with a bunch of 1-stars from readers who assume I do based on the genre label.

  25. I love this post and the comments are so encouraging. I have absolutely fallen in love with the NA genre and this is coming from a 38 year old, mother of 4 who used to only read inspirational fiction. I broadened my reading horizon’s 2 and a half years ago to include mainstream historical romance and last December a couple of author friends convinced me to try a couple NA books. I have never been a fan of contemporary romance and surprised myself by loving the first NA book I read. After devouring as many of them as I could in the months to follow I definitely noticed a difference in some of the books I read. Most were plot driven with sex as part of the story and others were very sex driven with little plot and sometimes hard to finish. The thing I love about most books in this genre is how emotionally involved you become in these characters lives. With the first person POV you really get to know the characters and I love it.
    Another reason I am fascinated with New Adult is because I never did the college party thing. I lived at home for 2 years and the during my first year away from home I met my husband to be and got married at 22. So this whole world fascinates and intrigues me.
    When I came up with an idea for a New Adult book and shared my ideas with author friends, they all loved my plot but, when I said I wasn’t planning on having any open door sex scenes almost all of them said that it probably shouldn’t be labeled NA. I really couldn’t understand that just because there wouldn’t be graphic sex that it couldn’t be seen as NA. Even if everything else about the story fits the category To me New Adult books are about new adults dealing with real life either during college or just after. This genre deals with some truly amazing subject matter, some of it very dark and heavy and yes, sex sometimes has to be a part of it but not always. So seeing people comment that NA is not about sex gives this aspiring author hope.

    Thank you for an amazing post and I truly hope this genre sticks around for a very long time.

  26. Great article Chelsea, I couldn’t agree more. You’re right sex sells like hot cakes but I don’t like it when the story is based solely on that, riddled with it. Whatever happened to substantial material, a good storyline and well developed characters will capture my attention just as much as sex driven scenes, written only to satisfied that need and not for the development of the story. Thank you for touching this somewhat taboo subject, well said and keep writing those fabulous stories of yours. I will keep reading.

  27. Everything you said makes my knees weak and toes curl! 😉
    I just flipped through the last 30% of a book bc it was all sex, sex, sex and I could guess the storyline without really reading it.

    I think my biggest pet peeve is people wanting sex when it makes no sense. My one NA is sexy without intercourse. There is a reason they don’t have sex. My MC is getting over some issues and falling for this guy and when they might could do it they don’t because it’s not time. I was very deliberate in them not doing it bc I don’t think every couple needs to rush into sex. I feel like too many writers write characters who have no concept of waiting. There are lots of virgins in college still,or people who don’t rush into sex. AND OMG there are even guys who aren’t man whores! Shocking!!
    I digress…sorry! I love a story that is written from truth and if the truth of your story means a couple gets horizontal every five minutes then so be it but please don’t add sex for sales. Or if you do throw it in another category.

    • “There are lots of virgins in college still,or people who don’t rush into sex. AND OMG there are even guys who aren’t man whores! Shocking!!”

      Michele, So very true. I personally know some very wonderful college age guys who aren’t. Which is why I felt the need to write a story without a man whore.

  28. Some of my favorite NA have 0 sex scenes!!! I thought Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was so refreshing, and I adored Vain by Fisher Amelie. Yes, a few sex scenes are great, but books that have them in every chapter get boring.

  29. Awesome post! I think when we give into the “giant sexball”, we’re also devaluing the experiences of so many readers; your new adulthood may be about losing your virginity, but it’s also about navigating so many other things. There’s more to our twenties than just sex, and as another NA writer, I’m thrilled to see authors (and readers) acknowledging this.

  30. As an erotic romance author I totally feel ya. Wait, here me out. Yes, erotic romance has a bunch of smexy time, but the smexy time is supposed to contribute to the plot and move it forward. Unfortunately erotic romance is often confused with erotica(the romantic journey vs the sexual journey) and there are a lot of books that are either straight out ‘Dear Penthouse, I never thought it would happen with me…. or ‘Fuck, I can’t think of anything to add to beef up this book. I’ll just throw in a couple kinky sex scenes and it’ll be fine.’ I see this happening NA as well and it’s a shame. But, for every Penthouse letter there are thousands of fantastic books that tell great stories with sex that means something. I personally enjoy seeing the love scenes, in detail with lots of emotion from the characters. I believe that so much of the relationship is built in the bedroom not for the pleasure to be had, well not only, but for the emotional growth that happens during sex. A good example of this is the ‘In Flight’ series by RK Lilley. When the leading lady and the hero get together their every move is filled with so much emotion, so much thought, that it brings the characters to life in a way that is at once vulnerable and builds the story instead of just titilates.

    I had a point…oh yeah, while the Giant Sexball sucks (snort) it’s part of the NA landscape now and I think NA readers are becoming savvy enough to see it when it happens and they often leave reviews or will spread the word to their friends that the book is basically erotica masquerading as the emotional journey of two people falling in love to the journey of two people exploring their sexuality with no relationship romance involved.

    /rambling off

  31. I. LOVE. THIS. POST!
    I was so happy when NA first started coming out. I loved books like Easy and Slammed. And hell yeah I was excited that we were finally getting some sex. Even if it was one scene or some fade to black scenes. I just wanted it to be acknowledged which is where I get disappointed with some YA. It drives me crazy that most of the time, sex is just ignored. People in high school have sex! I don’t need it in YA books but it would be nice for it to be addressed. (a la Katie McGarry). So yes, I was excited for some sex scenes. I was one of the biggest supporters or NA. And I started to slowly notice that the sex scenes were getting more frequent and way more explicit. Like waaaaay more explicit. I read a lot of adult and that shit was tame to some of the stuff in ‘NA’

    Now, it seems like there is a divide. Some of us readers want all that ridiculous sex out of our NA books while the rest of us want more and more. Well, that’s what erotica is for people! Those readers need to read that if that’s what they expect in books because honestly, most NA nowadays is erotica. Plain and simple. I don’t mind erotica, what I do mind is buying (or accepting a book for review) and expecting NA and getting erotica.

    I think the first step is labeling books correctly again. Readers have proven to authors time and time again that if we like what you write, we will be loyal no matter what genre it is. If one of my favorite YA authors wrote an erotica, hell yes I would at least check it out! Authors should have more faith in their readers. If they want to write a book with more sexy times than actual story, more power to you! But please, don’t try to pass it off as NA. This is just giving the real NA books and the category a bad name in general.

    I think you authors have the ball in your court regarding this sexball issue. The whole reason NA was created was because authors weren’t afraid to write stories that didn’t really have a category. Authors like Tammara Webber and Colleen Hoover wrote their books despite the fact that it didn’t really belong to a ‘market.’ If a new market can be created then I have faith that NA can go back to what it was and what it should be.

    I took a break from NA books for a while because I couldn’t handle it but I’ve slowly gotten back into it and I’m happy to see some authors aren’t caving into the ‘omg I must add in more sex scenes!’ craze.

    Also, some of these sex scenes? Totally unrealistic. 8 times in a row? Do these girls have steel vaginas because all I think when I read something like that is ouch!

    Great post! And thanks for keeping your books true to NA 🙂

  32. I agree 100%. I want drama, angst and plot in a story. Give me those climatic sex scenes but that’s it, you’ve hit the climax. If I want a book filled to the brim with sex I’ll hit up the erotica section. I tend to read the first sex scene and a sex scene and tend to skim the others. I love the NA category and hope we can get it back on track!

  33. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Although I have yet to experience this myself with my NA novels that don’t contain such graphic details, I expect them to come at any time now. I refuse to change my category to anything other than NA, because that’s what they are. College Aged youth figuring out who they are and what their place is in this messed up little world we live in. Good for you for calling a spade a spade

  34. Nicely written, Chelsea! I wholeheartedly agree. There are the specific genres of a reason and I have been having the exact opposite “not enough sex” reaction lately. So much so, that I’m skimming the pages wanting the actual plot to continue.

    The characters are the heart if NA. We need toget back to that. The boundary-pushing, hard hitting, character driven stories is what makes NA what it is. It feels like more of a “shock value” scenario these days and I hope we can dial it back.

    The authors that are staying true to NA need to be acknowledged and the ones who are dancing on that line….. Maybe they need to change genres.

  35. You pulled the words right out of my head. New Adult is an age group– just as Young Adult or Adult would be categorized. It’s not a genre. You can have young adult contemporary novels, young adult paranormal novels, young adult horror, young adult fantasy, etc. And at this point, much of New Adult is barely concealed erotica. Of course sex is going to be a part of New Adult books–that’s a big part of being a new adult. But, it’s not the only part. There is so much more to explore and experience through our characters.

    I like sex as much as the next person. I really do. But I like my sex in books to have a point, to play a part in the story. I’m guilty of putting down books that are all sex with very little story. That’s not to say that some books with a lot of sex shouldn’t have it–sometimes it really is part of the story. I just want the sex to mean something–even if it’s the fact that it DOESN’T mean something.

    • Beautifully said, Nichole. 🙂

      “That’s not to say that some books with a lot of sex shouldn’t have it–sometimes it really is part of the story. I just want the sex to mean something–even if it’s the fact that it DOESN’T mean something.”

      Exactly! Sex needs to be a relative component of the story that drives the plot. And hey, sometimes multiple sex scenes ARE important to the story and, therefore, make sense to include. It’s the needless, explicit sex—the scenes thrown in to meet category expectations and whatnot–that could damage the fragile NA brand we’re trying to cultivate. In my opinion. 🙂

  36. I completely agree with this! And what I find even more disturbing is the prevalence of NA stories about what basically amounts to prostitution, as if the only way for a woman to experiment and find herself is in the arms of a billionaire who wants to pay her for sex. I am not saying there isn’t a place for these stories or that they are bad, I just wish there was a little more variety! It’s obvious readers love them because they continue to hit major lists and rocket up the charts, but I will say it makes me more than a little sad that these are the hottest books in the genre. It’s unbalanced, for sure.

    For months, we heard a lot of arguments with authors protesting that NA was NOT just sexed up YA, but over time, that’s kind of EXACTLY what it became. I hope that New Adult doesn’t now equal erotica, but I know for some readers, it does. I am now writing what I call New Adult Urban Fantasy or New Adult Paranormal Romance, but I don’t have a lot of sex (and what sex there is isn’t terribly explicit). I have no idea if it’s going to meet reader expectation for the label “New Adult” or not, but because it’s not contemporary, I think there’s a little more leeway (and less popularity for now). Great post, Chelsea. Good on you for not being afraid to say what so many of us have been thinking!

  37. I completely agree! I loved the NA category when I first heard about it because so much of what I write falls into that age group. I’m 25, and I want to read about other people my age, people in and just finishing college and trying to find their places in the world.

    And instead there’s just lots and lots of sex.

    I’m not opposed to sex. Like you, I quite like it. I have at least two or three novels planned that I know will have at least one sex scene, if not more. But most of my novels jump over the sex scenes because I don’t feel as comfortable writing it, and it’s not important to the plot. And it scares me that I won’t be able to find a publisher for my NA work (or that I’ll self-publish it and people will hate it) because I don’t include as much sex as is expected.

    All I can do is hope that more of us feel this way than we think, and that eventually more people will look for books without all the unnecessary sex scenes.

  38. Thank you for this post Chelsea. It’s everything I’ve been wanting to say. Since when did the world get so sex crazy? Are they not getting it at home? Makes me wonder…..

  39. This is what scares me about branching into New Adult. I’m ok with sex scenes if they have a point, but I refuse to include gratuitous material to sell books, no matter how much readers want it. If it’s part of the story, sure. I have been trying to get people to listen to this argument for a while. I really hope we can all adjust our thinking so this genre can live up to it’s brilliant potential. 🙂

  40. This is why I’ve been straying from NA recently. When NA first started coming about, I was loving it. It was as if I could finally read something about my own age group, about my own trials. Then I started noticing the pattern. The sex. A lot of NA could have been great if they focused less on the sex and more on the plot and sexual tension. No wonder NA has now become known as the erotica of YA. I talked to someone the other day & they said they expect there to be sex in NA now, simply because that’s how the category was first percieved, as just a bunch of raunchy contemporaries where authors could get away with a thinly veiled plot and sex, sex, sex. And that’s what turned me off. That plus this incredible need to have such thin characters with no bone to them. I dont mind if there’s a little bit of sex in my NA, but it doesn’t have to be the whole thing. Now I can’t even go on Amazon any more because so much of the NA section is filled with erotica pawning itself off as New Adult. That’s not what New Adult is about.

    I have an author friend who has written the most beautiful story, a New Adult about two people falling in love and the healing power of friendships, but she’s too afraid to self publish it now that the market is saturated with such expectations of it needing to have sex. She has a few scenes, but nothing raunchy raunchy – definitely not the same as what some of the “big name” NA authors have lead us to believe qualifies as a New Adult novel. And as much as I don’t want to point fingers, but it’s because of them that readers and publishing representatives are now lead to believe that’s what NA is all about, when it’s not.

    In fact, all my favourite NA reads aren’t contemporary. They’re the ones who have actually done the whole New Adult thing right. If we’re branding NA as a category as much as YA, Adult and Children’s is, then that means that we need to recognize other genres, like dystopia or paranormal or horror etc. And I think people will find that when branching out and away from contemporary, they’ll find well written novels that are driven by plot as much as they are romance, and not just sex.

  41. Wow! I can’t tell you how happy this article, and the responses, makes me! 7 months ago when I released my debut NA novel, I was so freaked out people wouldn’t like it, because it was so sweet and full of positive, feel-good messages. It was a gamble. But I’ve found there is DEFINITELY a market for it. Along the way, however, I’ve gotten bashed several times, because it’s NA without sex, and the bloggers were so upset and disappointed. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is. So I started marketing my books towards an “Upper YA/NA audience instead, while adding disclaimers and content ratings, so folks know going in, they shouldn’t expect sex. It sucks having to do that! I have an awesome series storyline, with kick-ass characters, and shocking plot twists, so it breaks my heart that the attention needs to be focused on the lack-of-sex, instead of the great story. We need to find a way to educate the world that NA does not mean SEX. And it also encompasses more genres than contemporary.

    Thanks so much for writing such a thought-provoking article. It totally made my day.

  42. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this, Chelsea! I agree 100% with everything you’ve said here. I, for one, would like to take this genre back to its roots. There does not need to be insanely graphic sex in a NA book, in my opinion. If you want to read erotica, read erotica. But don’t criticize a New Adult book for leaving it out. 🙂

  43. I couldn’t agree more! I don’t read erotic, simply because there’s TOO much sex. I feel drained and too worn out to even consider attempting my own love life after reading them. However, I LOVE reading NA. I do feel that it’s gotten a bit out of control. I like the one or two steamy sessions between the characters, because let’s face it, it’s more realistic. Yes, most people wish they didn’t have other responsibilities taking them from between the sheets, but this is reality. I think NA leaves little expectations of life or upset from lack there of. This is just my opinion, mind you.

  44. Thank you for your post! I agree 100 %!!! Whatever happened to showing less is more attractive, the art of seduction? I love to see a guy in an unbuttoned down shirt on a cover, not showing All he has to offer, save those for the teasers lol. A guy in a suit is sexy as hell as well!

  45. The sex thing has befuddled those of us trying to categorize books as well. When I have a book that is too mature for YA audiences and includes college-aged characters, my initial instinct would have been to categorize it as a new adult book. This becomes problematic when there are no explicit sex scenes, or when the sex is “off screen”, mainly because of the perceived reader expectation that there will be sex in NA. It seems that NA has morphed from an actually unique category to a re-branding of adult romance/erotica, which has traditionally had 20-something protagonists and sex.

  46. I totally agree! I think that NA is growing and stretching, and that, yes, sex is fun, but readers are wanting really great STORIES too! I think the genre needs to be about more than sex–much more. And as a writer of NA, I know I’m working hard to deliver more–rich story-lines and 3D characters.

  47. So agree! I don’t read erotic but it seems like NA has become that. I really hate the idea of not reading NA any longer because of it. I love these stories. I sometimes skim the graphic parts to get back to the story because they’re not what I’m reading. I do love the kissing though. Lots and LOTS of yummy kissing. 😉

  48. Wonderful post! LOL about “The Giant SEXBALL”. I’ll take…

    becoming independent of your parents
    overcoming trauma/abuse from your childhood
    losing your virginity
    figuring out what you want to do with your life

    …any day over erotica. THAT stuff really interests me.

    My NA release launching this autumn has a lot of loving and a lot of the above topics, but no sex, and I’ve been kind of worried about that. But sex wouldn’t have been right for my characters, for multiple reasons, so I couldn’t force it in just to satisfy a trend. Your post gives me hope that some readers will be okay with it.

  49. This is exactly why I’m so wary of NA books lately! I have a thing for powerful and mature themes, so I LOVED the category . . . in 2012. Now, though? Sex seems to override the importance of story, the character growth, the entire point of some novels. Whether there’s sex scenes or not doesn’t matter to me, but once they become unnecessary (or even unnecessarily superfluous) and take away from the story, my rating can drop pretty fast.

    NA books are the ones I research the most before deciding to get. I read over review after review to make sure the story has a lot more to it and it’s the type of NA that I usually love (the ideal that you described). Best Kind of Broken was one of the ones I did that for before buying. I haven’t read it yet, but your thoughts on this subject makes me feel like I made a good decision getting it. 🙂

    Thank you so much for writing this post!

  50. This is so beautiful! It’s everything I want to say about the genre put in a way I wouldn’t have had the guts to put it. I hope the genre can be salvaged. Otherwise I see a new genre evolving from NA that is less explicit so that authors who don’t go the route of the sex ball have a place to fit their work.

  51. This is a GREAT post. As a literary agent who represents a slew of various genres, I can’t tell you how disappointed I was (and have continued to be) when the NA trend went erotic. Here’s hoping we can salvage it!