The more explicit, the better. At least, that’s what seems to be the widely accepted rule when it comes to fiction today. Television shows are getting less censored, movies are pushing their ratings to R and, my favorite of the trifecta, novels, are going more and more in depth in describing life’s most intimate moments.
I will be the first to admit that I like this push toward the not-so-innocent. Though it may be dramatized (what isn’t when it’s scripted?), I think it’s closer to portraying reality than a kiss on the cheek or a party with a fruit punch bowl. Considering the popularity of the notoriously explicit phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey, I’d have to assume quite a few agree with me.
However, along with this new form of storytelling comes a topic that feminists have undoubtedly been reeling over since its rise to fame: the characteristics of the leading lady. There have been a lot of articles written about Fifty Shades of Grey in particular and the allegedly toxic relationship between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. I’ve read countless essays about Ana’s role in the novel, arguing that Christian’s personality dominates (no pun intended) over hers. It’s as though without him, Ana would cease to exist not only in the bedroom, but in the alternate universe of the novel.
I know, I know. You all must be thinking: Come on, Brailey. At the end of the day, it’s just one book series. This was my exact thought when questioning the morale in Fifty Shades. That is, until I read Breathe by Abbi Glines. Breathe has the same premise: a young, innocent girl enters into her first real relationship with an older, much more experienced man. Was it as sexually adventurous as Fifty Shades? No. But, was it sexually explicit? Yes. And it had the same issues. The leading lady of the novel, Sadie, is much like Ana. The leading male of the story, Jax, is much like Christian Grey. Only, Breathe was targeted at a much younger audience. Instead of the main characters being grown adults, they are teenagers.
I think what can be overlooked about the power of one sole series is the ripple effect it creates. Success this big not only inspires, but sets the standard. It’s not by coincidence that with the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, more novels of the same nature are popping up across all genres.
Young Adult novels have a lot of power in the youth of this generation’s lives. To put it simply, we’re impressionable, and movies we watch, music we listen to and books we read can heavily shape out perception. Is this the kind of perception we want to teach? Erotic tales with, although undoubtedly charming, ultimately controlling male subjects? I don’t think it takes a feminist to see how this could be detrimental to young women.
What do you think? Should the arrival of explicit sex scenes and controlling relationships in young adult fiction be a growing concern? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
(Image Credit: Kichigin19 Photography)