Monday, September 26, 2011

Is it really censorship? Janette Rallison

I really enjoyed these emails from Janette Rallison:

This is a soap box issue for me. So many of my fellow national market YA authors put sexual content in their books. Maybe they don't think it's a big deal to have their 16 or 17 or 18 year-old have sex, (sometimes the characters are much younger though. My son picked up a book where the 13 year-old characters had sex) but the fact of matter is that it generally isn't 16-18 year olds who are reading these books. It's 11-15 year olds. Once kids are 16, they've pretty much left the YA market and read adult novels.

Yes, we need to have a variety of books that deal with a variety of subjects--even difficult subjects like date rape and incest. Some kids need those books. But even they can be written tastefully. Personally, I don't want sex normalized for young kids. I don't want my kids to have those images and thoughts in their minds when they start dating--and although it's unfair of me to push my beliefs onto others--I don't want the teenagers my kids date to have those thoughts or images in their minds while they're out with my kids.

But even more, it bothers me that so many authors portray sex as okay as long as you use protection. STDs are rampant in our society. According to several official websites (that I didn't believe until I talked to my gynecologist) 80% of sexually active people over the age of 14 have at least one STD. Protection doesn't stop many of the STDs. No where in these YA books is this fact being talked about. I feel that by normalizing it and making kids feel that everyone is doing it and it's okay to do, those authors are not telling kids the truth and they're putting kids at risk.

Which is why I write G-rated books. For now--I'm sorely tempted to write one where the heroine thinks it's okay because she's in love and then the guy breaks up with her because, hey, he's 17 and has less maturity than blue cheese, and she's stuck with a life long painful disease.

That would probably not be my usual type of romantic comedy . . .

Janette Rallison

Since the subject came up about censoring things in YA books, I thought I'd put in that editors always censor things in your books--it's just a matter of what they are censoring. A lot of times they're things you wouldn't think would be censored. In Just One Wish I had a scene where the heroine lost a pet snake on a movie set. I had to add in later that someone found it because someone who read the advanced reading copy got offended that the heroine had been so thoughtless of the animal's safety. I pointed out to my editor that it was a fictional snake and therefore quite capable of catching mice on its own, but no dice. It had to be changed.

In It's A Mall World After all I had a little girl who sat on Santa's lap and told him, "Say hello to baby Jesus for me." That had to go because the editor didn't want anything religious in the book. (Hello, what is Christmas about?)

Here are things I had to cut from My Fair Godmother:

The sentence where I described Savannah's Snow White outfit. I said it was a simple red gown, thankfully lacking the collar in Disney's version, which made Snow White look like she was wearing a megaphone around her neck. My editor cut that because she didn't want Disney mad at us.

I also had to cut some of the religious references about the Middle Ages. My editor didn't want any mention of religion in the book because religion, at least Christian religion, is a taboo subject in young adult literature. I know, it doesn't make any sense. Especially since we are dealing with the Middle Ages. Is it a surprise to anybody that the people of that time were Catholic? No matter, I cut the scene where she went to church and the mention of her reading in her history book about popes and bishops.

My last example of cuts: I had to cut all the parts that dealt with leprechaun drinking. Originally I had a leprechaun who'd accidentally come to Virginia with Savannah's Irish neighbors. He had one too many Guinnesses and crawled into a box to sleep it off. When he woke up he was in an airplane cargo box, wedged between a bunch of knickers, and flying over the Pacific ocean.

Really, now that I think about it, he was sort of a lush.

My editor didn't want any mention of alcohol in the book. Which is ironic because I don't drink at all. So yeah, you'd think I'd be the last one to encourage any young, impressionable leprechauns to start downing whiskey. Plus, it was probably a good idea to cut those parts because the drinking-leprechaun is sort of a stereo type, and I wouldn't want a bunch of angry leprechauns banning my book.

Censorship is just part of the writing process

Janette Rallison


Alice said...

Excellent points by Janette Rallison. Funny how sex isn't censored in YA novels, but so many other things, including any mention of religion are.

Anthony Dutson said...

Amen! Err... I mean, I agree.

My biggest beef with sex in YA novels, is that the author uses it to show how seriously passionate the characters relationship is.

For once I would like to see a YA character that realizes the ADULT ramifications of sex and that relationships are forever. Sex, well, not so much.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Great post! Wow, I'm actually surprised that they made Janette take out religious stuff, but in another book I read the character was praying. Hmm....

Any time I bring up this topic I get ripped to shreds by people when I say that there shouldn't be sex (or swearing for that matter) in YA. Very sad.

Julie Daines said...

This is such a virulent topic. My main issue with sex in YA novels is that there are many, many teens who don't want to have sex, but all this normalizing of it through the media only adds extra pressure for them to conform.

There are plenty of teens having sex, and there are plenty that say they have sex but don't, and there are still a large number who don't because they don't want to.

Why do national writers always play to the lowest common denominator. They should have learned from Twilight that you don't need sex to have a successful book.

And in relation to this, YA books that condone casual sex are accepted as ok, but books that deal with tough topics--like date rape or abuse--are sometimes labeled inappropriate even though the act is condemned and portrayed in a non-graphic manner.

Are we teaching teens that if you are raped or abused it's not okay to talk about it, but if you have casual sex it's fine. Sheesh!

Lauren said...

Censorship is in the eye of the editor, and our world is rife with double standards.

Apparently it's no longer about protecting kids from things that they are not yet emotionally ready to handle. A few months ago a friend had to rush home from work because her 13 YO daughter was threatening suicide because her boyfriend had broken up with her. Major emotional problems are becoming more frequent for this age group because they get involved in behavior that "everyone" says they're ready for when they are not, physically or emotionally.

The facts will not go away simply because someone wants to sell more books to the adults who buy for children.


Taffy said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone! I agree with the thought that media pushes kids into much more grownup relationships or behavior. Some movies recently showed a pregnant teen and the ramifications but the movie also made light of the seriousness of the situation. How do parents compete with media?
I would LOVE to have a rating system on books so when my child brings them home, I know what's inside without me having to read everything.

Stephanie Black said...

I love Janette!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Oh, that's hilarious, in a sad sort way. They don't want any mention of alcohol (from a nonimbibing author) but rampant sex is okay.