This is going to be two parts to this topic. This part focuses on YA novels and sex. Part two is about books for adults that go into more details. Enjoy and discuss.
Sex can be a pretty big deal. Especially in YA novels. There's the debate of what is too much or if it should even be in YA at all. A lot of people agree that teens know about sex. They know it, have done it and talk about it. That in mind, when I write a YA story, I won't have sex in. Some non-descriptive petting or groping but I don't go into details. The main reason for that isn't because of the age group I'm writing for. It's for their parents.
Let's face it, the parents are the ones whose pants get twisted in a knot over sex in YA. They're the ones that protest. Remember when someone got on a soapbox about LA Anderson's Speak? It wasn't a kid that was outraged, it was an adult. Honestly, I didn't see what the deal was. The act wasn't described, it wasn't about the rape either. It about Melinda's fear and how that one moment stole her voice.
I can understand a parent's concern though. Every parents wants to believe their child isn't out having sex. Every parent believes their child is a good child. They want to believe their children will wait until they say I do to someone they love. Maybe in an ideal world. In this world, well, I remember saying I was going to wait until I was married... then I got a boyfriend and there went that.
What is a writer to do? Well, the only thing you can. Judge for yourself. If you're comfortable putting a sex scene in the story because it's part of the plot then go for it. It's up to you to decide what to focus on and what to describe. After that, it's up to the parents to know what their child is reading.
I think books are great tools to breach a tough subject like sex. It is pretty much impossible for a parent to comfortably talk about sex with their child and visa versa. You have a book, the characters engage in some heavy petting, desire to have sex and/or have sex. Both parent and child can read through it and while having a casual discussion about the book, sneak the sex talk in there. I admit that's probably way easier said than done, but hopefully, that approach would take some of the pressure off, reveal that yes child knows how to use a condom and knows not to let another pressure them into doing something they don't want to.
Sex is a scary subject and pretty much every person gets awkward about it. That only makes sex in books more important. It reveals it in a safe way. I mean, you can't get pregnant reading a romance novel! Or can you...