I remember thinking about sex as a teenager. I remember thinking about sex a lot. I remember having an understanding of sex that was partly scientific and partly fantasy (of my own imaginings).

Later in my high school years, I knew that some of my friends were having real sex even though I was still just thinking about it. I also knew that, while I thought about it a lot, I wasn’t planning to have sex as a teenager.

Once again, I’ve been thinking about sex a lot lately, this time as a teacher and a writer. My students are eleven to fourteen years old. I know they think about sex. I know they talk about it. I eavesdrop. I hear the snickers when we get to number 69 on the review. I loathe the writers of our English textbook for naming the boys Harry and Dick. Do they not know eighth graders at all?

I know that my students (at least most of them) still possess that partly scientific/partly fantasy understanding of sex. That is why I am troubled by some of what I see in YA literature. I am troubled by things like this, from Divergent:

“I shift, swinging a leg over him so I sit on top of him, and with my heartbeat in my throat, I kiss him. He sits up straighter and I feel his hands on my shoulders. His fingers slip down my spine and a shiver follows them down to the small of my back. He unzips my jacket a few inches, and I press my hands to my legs to stop them from shaking.”

While the character in this story is sixteen, my students (as young as eleven) are reading this book. I am troubled as a teacher, not wanting my students to grow up too quickly, not wanting them to think that this is the only normal for teenage girls.

As an author, I find myself stumped. I know that we want our characters to represent true humanity, and for some, teenage sexual relationships are real. But should we feel a responsibility for the words we give to our readers, and for the ideals they imply? Do we need to think about the young who may read and be influenced by our words? Are we right to imply that sex is normal for all teenagers? As an industry, do we fairly represent all views regarding sex? I don’t think we do. As a writer, I want to see true emotions and situations for characters. But as a teacher, I know that young minds don’t need any help thinking about sex.

I still haven’t figured out the YA sex issue. Young readres read up. Some teenage realities don’t include sexual encounters. What should be the balance in YA literature? How much is too much? What do you think?