A quick look through recent blogs will tell you that writers for Young Adults spend a lot of time worrying about their readers and what is deemed to be appropriate or inappropriate in their fiction. More so than other writers, as Nicky Morgan pointed out last week. Other people also get exercised about this, hence the calls for book banning and burning that have been discussed here, too. The difficulties are almost always to do with sexual content. Violence not so much. Language a bit more concerning. But sex. That's the difficult one. This puts the writer for Young Adults in a bit of a dilemma. Do you, or don't you? If you do, how are you going to do it? I'm not talking about putting yourself forward for the Bad Sex Prize here, more how you are going to mention it at all.
Here are some rules: Sex is OK if...*
You are a male writer of some stature or a male writer who is Well Known For It (preferably both).
You are the above and writing about boys from a boy's point of view (but NOT homosexuality).
You make sex into a metaphor, so you are not writing about sex per se but something else, something Other, something to be put off for a long time (preferably altogether) or something Bad will happen and your heroine will never be the Same Again. It is better to burn than turn.
The outcome is Bad. See under abuse, rape, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, because then it is a) A Serious Issue, b) not the heroine's fault and c) even though it is not her fault, she's getting punished for it anyway.
Sex for sex's sake. Sex where people enjoy it. Sex that is part of everyday life, even if it is safe, legal and not frightening the horses.
So there is a kind of censorship, nothing official, nothing as dramatic as banning and burning, but it is there, nonetheless. Most damagingly, it can get into the writer's own head after years of being told to take it out or tone it down because if you don't then the libraries won't take it, the schools won't like it, the booksellers won't know where to put it and, oh, you can forget the Carnegie. No mention, of course, of teenagers, the actual readers, who might like to see their lives reflected with veracity and applaud the book's honesty.
* ellipses are useful in this area of writing.