Why Consent in YA Matters | Discussion

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Romance in YA books is quite prevalent, and people read them all the time. But what do we do when those romance books are spreading a harmful, dangerous message?

I recently read a book in which one of the male characters in the novel kissed a female character totally by surprise and without her consent, and then proceeded to wonder why she was upset and angry. Needless to say, I ended up DNF-ing it.

Especially in many contemporary/romance novels, when the boy kisses the girl when she’s angry and/or ranting and he does it essentially to shut her up, that just perpetuates the notion that what she has to say isn’t important and if you just kiss her and give her some sexual gratification, you won’t have to listen to it. To me, that’s dangerous. That’s essentially saying that girls don’t have voices that matter and have important things to say.

When I was younger, I never really thought of it as something bad, maybe even something romantic, but now, as I’m older and I understand more, I know that it’s not okay. And we need to change messages in books, especially those geared towards young girls, to say that what you think and what you say is important. And no one should shut you up. Say what you will.

TW// Consent has also a larger place in the world. If you’ve been keeping up with current events (you should!), Kesha sued her producer Dr. Luke for drugging and raping her, as well as verbally abusing her to the point where she developed an eating disorder and was sent to a rehabilitation program. This is exactly what rape culture is. The fact that there was no consent between their interactions and the fact that the judge basically excused Luke for his crimes is not okay. Rape culture is so prevalent in this country (and all around the world) that we’re starting from the bottom—we’re starting from where young readers read a book and they see a situation where there’s no consent in two characters’ interactions and they think it’s okay, it’s normal, it’s romantic. But it’s not.

We need to step up and say that consent is important! Consent is crucial for a healthy relationship between two (or more) people! Consent is imperative in real life and lives all around the world. And this needs to start by promoting the idea that if it’s not consensual, it’s not okay and that consent is something that should be seen as a natural part of a healthy relationship.

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Have you ever come across a book that oversteps some boundaries? Do you agree with me or disagree? Let me know your thoughts—I want to know what you think!

 

 

 

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51 thoughts on “Why Consent in YA Matters | Discussion

  1. This is such an important thing that people don’t think about it. I think this trope is continuing because people don’t want to think about things. They just want fun. It’s not fun for girls who have to go through the grown up version of this culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have never given much thought about this either. But it’s really something to think about. You are absolutely right and I totally agree with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the whole “romance” aspect of things clouds our view of those kinds of situations, as though the idea that kissing her to quell her is the most romantic thing a guy can do; a way too calm her nerves and restore balance to the swell of emotions coursing through her.
    Steal a kiss. It’s ok. She’ll understand and wrap her arms around you and you will live happily ever after.

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  4. This is incredibly important and so rarely addressed in YA. I get so uncomfortable and outraged by blurry or non-existent consent, and instances are few and far between when it gets called out by the other character involved. What a perfect learning opportunity that would be for the characters and the readers, but authors almost never go that route. It’s brushed off and perpetuates our rape culture even more. And I shouldn’t have to feel pleasantly surprised and happy when it IS addressed!! It should just be something that happens, enough times until people start to see that consent should be the norm, not the exception.

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  5. I definitely agree with you! It’s really been bothering me lately how often a guy kisses a girl to shut her up, especially since it’s usually romanticised. Thankfully it’s been a while since I read a book that really bothered me, but A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first one that comes to mind. There’s victim blaming and at some point she is drugged multiple times, paraded around practically naked and like an object- ugh it’s just the most disgusting book I’ve ever read.

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      • Exactly! ACOTAR is technically a New Adult book, but a lot of teenagers read it too, plus I believe that the New Adult target audience is only a little bit older than the YA audience? Still an impressionable and vulnerable age :/ If young women think it’s okay or even romantic to be treated that way, how are we ever going to end rape culture?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m feeling really iffy about this book; this is the first time I’ve heard about the abuse and emotional manipulation in this book, so that really says something about how prevalent rape culture is. I’ll definitely check it out to see how bad it is. :/

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve seen one booktuber talk about it, read one review on a blog and recently talked to someone on Twitter about it- that’s it. I’m sure there are some other videos and reviews that say the same thing, but the majority of people don’t say anything about it :/ I felt nauseous reading this book yet others think it’s ‘steamy’ and ‘sexy’. I really hope people will soon realise that this is not how you should be treated. If you do check it out, let me know what you think! So many people don’t talk about it that I started wondering if I’m overreacting :/

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  6. Finally, someone says it! I completely agree with you. I think half the problem is our culture is becoming more and more focused on the physical/immediate aspects of relationships and not the emotional/long term aspects.

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  7. I’ve seen it in so many books but I never gave it much thought and reading your thoughts has made me think that you are absolutely right and I totally agree with everything you have stated! Great post! 😀

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  8. Honestly, I’ve /probably/ read a book that crossed this boundary, but I don’t remember if I have. I do see it a lot in television or movies when I watched a lot of it and I just… ugh. There was this one time I saw it where the kiss was to keep someone from hyperventilating during a panic attack–it was kind of ridiculous and I don’t really recommend that, but I can see the reasoning behind it I guess? The other “let’s shut her up by kissing her, then it’ll be okay” is suuuch a bad thing to perpetuate. It feeds to the idea that a woman’s anger or disagreement is something to just ignore and that she’s not really supposed to have or that it’s just straight up irritating (-cough cough- sitcoms -cough cough-).

    I think it’s a problem when people don’t really think of something like this as a problem until later. It should be learned early on that consent is important. If there isn’t consent in your romantic relationship (or really any relationship) then that’s a huge red flag that it’s not a healthy one and you should get out.

    A great post, I’m glad you brought this up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, wow, I totally agree with you! I do come across with that in several sitcoms (not a lot, but enough to make me irritated) and I’m really glad you brought that point up; it’s definitely important to teach people earlier about consent so that later on, it’s more clear to see the line of abusive and unhealthy relationships. Thank you, Alexa! 🙂

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  9. I’ve never really given any thought to this, but you’re totally right! Consent needs to be more known in YA contemps, especially if younger people are reading these books. I need to keep an eye out for this in books more often now while I read. Awesome discussion!

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  10. Amazing article! ‘m so sick of books romanticising (mostly) boys shutting the woman up by giving her a grand kiss or like you mentioned them acting dumbfounded when a woman doesn’t respond to his advances. This should be perceived as normal in the real world so it shouldn’t be normalised in fiction either.

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  11. Great idea for a post and discussion here–you’re the first blog I’ve ever come across with this topic. I totally agree with you. I know I’ve read some books with this, but can’t recall specifics. The instances I’ve been okay with are when the reader knows that the girl POV character really does like the boy and wants him to kiss her, even if she’s angry and yelling at the time.

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  12. A great article and one I feel strongly about and agree with wholeheartedly. Like you when i was younger I did find those sort of grand moments romantic in a sense but as I get older I find myself cringing when those same things happen in books that I read. Books should be promoting healthy and realistic relationships so young girls especially don’t fall into these tropes that many current YA novels depict.

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  13. One of the reasons that I do not read “romance” type books is because so often there is not explicit consent, and you’re right, many times the boy kisses the girl to “shut her up.” It is so sad that we have to teach women how not get raped (never walk alone at night; keep your keys in your hand; don’t accept drinks from strangers, etc) rather than teach men how not to rape women! When I was in grad school, I taught Women’s Studies classes, and trying to get my college students to understand rape culture was difficult, so I am impressed that you acknowledge it at such a young age!

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