romance in YA fiction

Rules for Love Scenes in YA Fiction?

Dear Editor…

I’m writing an upper YA fantasy. It has a lovemaking scene. The scene doesn’t mention birth control so I was wondering what’s the rule these days in YA novels when characters make love? The scene has many big revelations about their history in another dimension, and I’m trying to convey that they’ve “done it” without being explicit, so there’s already a lot going on and I’m trying to make it feel otherworldly. If I can get away without mentioning a condom, I’d rather not include it. Would love your thoughts on this.


Dear RL…

There is a general expectation that YA novels depict safe sex. An exception would be if you’re intentionally showing characters being irresponsible or naive about safety and pregnancy. I do hear your artistic rationale for avoiding that down-to-earth detail among your otherworldly revelations. I’ve got an idea: Early in the scene, your character could put a condom in his/her pocket in anticipation of the upcoming encounter. That way, when the bodies get down to business, there’s an implication that the condom mentioned earlier is being used now, even though you don’t call it out specifically. The safe sex message is accomplished, and your complex, highly stylized scene is unmarred by a clunky condom call-out.

Happy writing!
The Editor