Firsts and Hopefully No Seconds

This article has been haunting me since I read it a couple weeks ago. It’s about a début YA novel by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, Firsts, about a girl who sleeps with young virgin males and teaches them about sex so they can turn around and give their own girlfriends a good first time. Sound ridiculous? Well, it certainly is, and the sad thing is that it’s not really new in YA “literature” and it’s marketed as a “realistic” novel and not as a comedy.

I got the sense that the publishers of YA novels were peddling their own “progressive” worldview around the time I started reading Vivian Apple at the End of the World awhile back. Publishers are always crying about how we need more diversity and more realism in YA literature. Every time I pick up Writer’s Digest, I see at least one article about the need for “diversity.” That diversity can come in the form of including characters of different races/ethnicities, different sexual orientations, different family lives… etc. The publishers want this diversity to be a reflection of reality, but it flies in the face of any reality I have ever seen. And apparently that “diversity” has extended to characters’ sex lives. Apparently, we’ve grown tired of the vanilla male-and-female-in-exclusive-relationship sex scenes in traditional romance novels and even in much of YA.

Yes, it is true that teenagers are having sex. It is true that sex is constantly pushed to teenagers via their own hormones and popular entertainment: the Internet, TV shows, music and music videos, movies, and YA novels. Yes, sex is a reality of life, but as I’ve said before on this blog, sex is probably the greatest creative power that human beings possess, and with great power comes great responsibility. It isn’t something to be casual about, especially when you’re 16, 17, or even 18.

I can only hope that Firsts is actually a cautionary tale about the dangers of promiscuity, and I can only hope that teenagers are smart enough to see it for its supposed moral: “judge not, lest ye be judged” and not for the route by which the author chooses to arrive at that moral. After all, a judgmental bigot is supposedly the worst possible thing one can be nowadays, but that’s a post for another day.

5 thoughts on “Firsts and Hopefully No Seconds

  1. I don’t know about the entire book, but I’m really irritated by that excerpt where the guy says, “I’m clean, you’re clean. I got tested six months ago. And we’re not sleeping with other people.” The promiscuity doesn’t bother me so much as that little blast of male obliviousness to what sex means to females. It’s a lot easier to say what’s the big deal when you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant, which has a huge reproductive cost for females and very little for men. (There are social and legal costs, but those are secondary and artificial.) So I hope that is addressed in the book, and not just glossed over by the fact that, ahem, she is sleeping with other people so STDs are still a possibility. I’d rather see a female protagonist who is promiscuous and thoughtfully conscious of the fact that every time she has sex there’s a possibility of pregnancy even with contraceptives, than one who keeps her legs crossed and doesn’t ever think about it at all.

    … Also, I have nominated you for the 3 quotes in 3 days challenge. Should you choose to accept, write a post with a quote for three days and nominate three other bloggers a day. 🙂

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    1. YA books tend to gloss over the important messages in order to push a not-so-important message. I almost want to read this one just to see how it turns out, but I think it’d be wiser to stay away.

      Thank you for the nomination!

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  2. I can see why this haunted you — it’s bugged me since you posted it. I’ve been thinking about why I had such a negative reaction to the description of this book — and it was not for any of the reasons cited in the article you linked to.

    I think it comes down to what you pointed out about the premise, and the fact that — amazingly — readers are apparently supposed to take this seriously.

    To put it bluntly, why is this not a comedy? The premise is contrived, with no relationship to actual human behavior, and so it’s apparently being marketed to an audience that they hope is young enough not to know the difference.

    But it cries out to be a sharp, quick, funny battle-of-the-sexes comedy from the old days in Hollywood, probably directed by Billy Wilder or Howard Hawks.

    You know, where misanthropic characters could meet and spar and fall in love without having to go through the tedious cliches of Learning Life Lessons and Becoming Better People. You know, more like real life.

    As my father would have said, this looks like it’s trying to hook you with the racy stuff in order to get you to buy the schmaltz.

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    1. But if it was a comedy, it couldn’t push its message, and it couldn’t teach its Big Important Life Lesson that couldn’t possibly be taught with humor. 🙂

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