Age is a hot topic when discussing writing. At the Erotic Authors Association conference in Las Vegas last week, it was clear that there is a lot of care taken by the members of the association to keep things legal in their writing. This generally means that characters always end up being over eighteen before they have sex. Each state has varying consent laws, so by making every character over age eighteen, a book can be legal across the country and those pesky laws that involve the post office and pornography can be followed more easily.
I’m not personally into writing stories that involve young characters having sex. But, as a writer, I feel stifled by the rule all the same. What about flashbacks? Here I am, nearly forty-five years old, and I am thinking back to my first sexual encounters. I seem to recall masturbating regularly by the time I was nine, if not younger. When I was twelve, my girlfriend and I got naked with her older brother, tied him up and teased him. There was no touching of any kind and certainly no intercourse, so I never really considered this a sexual encounter until very recently. Not only was it a menage, it was baby-bondage, and totally consensual–at least for me and the boy. I have no way of knowing if there was some other relationship dynamic between him and his sister or what happened after I left that afternoon. My friend was eleven and her brother was fourteen. I was thirteen the first time my hand slid inside the pants of a guy to find a gooey mess within moments, and I was only seventeen when I started having intercourse. In between, there was lots of kissing, groping, bumping and grinding. BTW, some of this fondling and groping is considered to be as illegal as intercourse before the age of consent in some states. To my younger mind and body, this was all very hot and exciting. I remember having fun and feeling good. How does it make sense to not acknowledge and even write about the fact that young people have positive sexual experiences before they are eighteen?
What’s more frustrating, it’s fine to write about negative sexual experiences. For example, if you write a memoir about being raped when you are ten, it’s likely to be considered literary. Heck, you might even win a prize for being a survivor. You can describe it in gory detail as long as you do it without the intent of causing boners and wet panties.
But, what about a memoir where someone discovers the joy of their sexuality? What if that discovery was made at nine, twelve or fifteen? People cringe at the notion of “children having sex.” Even if there has been no relationships, I think nearly almost everyone has at least masturbated by the time they are eighteen.
The notion that any sex-positive images of people under eighteen is considered illegal or pornographic, while, at the same time, anything that is sex-negatvie is okay is baffling and disturbing at the same time. In the recent movie SuckerPunch there was a bit of controversy laid out well in this article. There was a scene where a young character (not sure of her age, but under 18?) who was getting hot and heavy with an older man. The original cut, apparently, showed her having a strong and seductive sensual power. She was saying yes and taking charge. Then, the ratings game kicked in and they edited the scene until it was practically a rape scene so they could tone it down to PG-13. What the fuck? You can’t show a girl enjoying getting it on, but you can show her being raped and consider it PG-13?
I’m not advocating for young people to have indiscriminate, unsafe sex–I don’t think that’s good for anyone. I’m just asking for people to look at the realities of life. Even if it’s not ideal, it’s happening all around us. And to be told you can’t write about it, even if you don’t really want to, is really, really annoying.