I got a great reader question this past week about sex in my stories. You may have seen that many of my stories are listed with notices like, “Contains LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, but no sex or swearing.” And the question I got was basically, “Don’t LGBTQ+ relationships usually involve sex? Are your characters asexual?”
It’s always helpful to get questions like this from readers so I can explain a little more about me and my writing. The answer gets complicated, but it’s important.
Right now I know two of my characters are asexual. (Deryt from the Divine Warriors is aro/ace and Ameyron from Wyld Magic/Voyage of the Miscreation is asexual.) Asexual people are valid and deserve representation, too. But I’m not saying that none of my characters are having sex in their relationships. However, I don’t usually describe their intimate moments, especially for the characters who are under 18.
First of all, I want to say that this is not a moral judgment. There’s nothing wrong with sex in its many forms, between individuals of any gender, as long as all participants are fully consenting. And there are lots of great stories out there which include sex. Sex can serve many purposes in a story, including, but not limited to, exciting the reader, adding humor, serving the plot, revealing important details about the characters and/or their relationship, etc. Sex can also shock and horrify especially when combined with violence, but I definitely stay away from that.
Also, I’m fully aware that people under eighteen have sex and it’s not unhealthy for kids to explore this as part of their development. And there are YA books which include sex. But not mine.
This is about my personal comfort level. I’m not okay describing underage characters in a sexual way. There are parts of our society and culture which are more than happy to sexualize children and exploit them for adults’ whims. It’s not just a few criminals out there, there’s a systematic problem with the way we view and talk about sex in the US and many other countries (if not all).
I have had too many negative experiences and seen horrible things done to people that I love and care about. So I don’t want to contribute to this problem. Of course, there need to be people working on the other side, who provide healthy models of sex and relationships even for teens. But I can’t do this myself.
There are a few sex scenes in my adult-oriented stories which involve characters who are 18+, but even there I tend toward the less explicit, more fade-to-black type of scenes. Obviously characters are having sex off-screen. But I’m not going to write play-by-play explicit encounters because that’s just not me. There are lots of other authors and books out there who offer this in their stories.
In closing, I want to be honest about who I am. I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I have spent a lot of time working on my hang-ups and triggers in my personal life, but one part of that is knowing where my boundaries are and sticking to them. I choose not to write sex scenes that make me uncomfortable. And I label my stories so readers know what type of content I’m offering. (I appreciate other authors who do the same.) You can decide if you want to read it or not.
One possible book I may write in the future is a memoir about my history of abuse. This wouldn’t be about pointing fingers or lamenting my past, but to tell my story in hopes it could help other survivors. I know that it’s helped me to hear other people’s stories, both what they’ve been through and how they’ve overcome it, so I feel like I’m not alone. But this is a difficult subject so I’ve been starting and stopping this memoir for years.