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“Our kisses were seismic”: Positive sexual experiences in LGBTQIA+ YA books

Part of the Sexual Violence in Young Adult Literature Project has included posts looking at enthusiastic consent, positive and healthy sexual experiences, and on-the-page consensual sex scenes (check out those posts here by Karen Jensen, Christa Desir, and Carrie Mesrobian). While it’s important to look at and discuss rape, consent, abuse, and violence, it’s equally as important to present plenty of healthy, positive, and enjoyable experiences for teen readers to show them what desire looks like and how it can play out. The field of books about LGBTQIA+ teens is growing in leaps and bounds. We are lucky that we can hand so many books to teenagers where the characters have happy and fulfilling relationships, where things are not all doom and gloom, and where sexual behaviors actually take place on the page, rather than some fade to black scenes. There is power in representation, in being seen, in seeing hope and happiness.

 

two boysOne of my favorite books that falls into this category is David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing. In it, Craig and Harry, former boyfriends and now best friends, set out to break the world record for the longest kiss (32 hours, 12 minutes, and 10 seconds). Their kiss is recorded and streamed live to a worldwide audience. Levithan writes, “They are kissing to show the world that it’s okay for two boys to kiss.” And kiss they do.

 

Here are two of my favorite parts:

“Harry has kissed Craig so many times, but this is different from all of the kisses that have come before. At first there were the excited dating kisses, the kisses used to punctuate their liking of each other, the kisses that were both proof and engine of their desire. Then the more serious kisses, the its-getting-serious kisses, followed by the relationship kisses—that variety pack, sometimes intense, sometimes resigned, sometimes playful, sometimes confused. Kisses that led to making out and kisses that led to saying goodbye. Kisses to mark territory, kisses meant only for private, kisses that lasted hours and kisses that were gone before they arrived.”

 

“Two boys kissing. You know what this means … When we kissed, we knew how powerful it was. Our kisses were seismic. When seen by the wrong person, they could destroy us. When shared with the right person, they had the power of confirmation, the force of destiny … And even as it becomes commonplaces, the power is still there. Every time two boys kiss, it opens up the world a little bit more. Your world. The world we left. The world we left you. This is the power of a kiss: It does not have the power to kill you. But it has the power to bring you to life.”

 

gone gone goneHow about a bit from Craig and Lio in Hannah Moskotwitz’s Gone, Gone, Gone:

“He pushes me up against the counter. I’m cold everywhere he touches me, except my mouth, my mouth is burning against his mouth. I’m all wet. I’m melting.”

 

“…I kiss him in my kitchen like I’ve never kissed anyone in my life. It feels a little hilarious, like I’m trying to sweep his whole body into mine. Starting with hands, then arms, then lips.”

 

“We are in the bed, squeaking on the mattress. We are all arms and legs and mouths. I’ve never kissed like this before. I feel like I’m falling into him.

‘I like your hair,’ he says.

‘Mmm.’

His hand underneath my t-shirt. I shiver. ‘However far you want to go, Craig.’

‘Yeah?’

‘It’s fine with me. I’m ready.’

He kisses me hard, for a long time teeth are against my lips.

He whispers, ‘Li? Can we just sleep tonight?’

I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed. But it’s all right. There will be other nights. There will be. And again and again and again.”

 

about a girlSarah McCarry’s About A Girl has some great scenes too:

“… But the unmapped landscape I had cross with him that night in his room compared not at all to the country in which I now found myself, to this girl who moved beneath me and above me like a serpent, lithe and strong, her muscles like cables snapping beneath her skin, the exquisite softness of her mouth a sweet counterpoint to the hard plans of her body …. I looked deep into the bright honey of her eyes and found that I had lost myself altogether, that had she not whispered my name over and over as she kissed me … I should have forgotten it altogether, and it was only the sound of my own name in her mouth, her tongue shaping it as she shaped me, that brought me back to myself, and not long after that there was nothing left for her to say at all, and I was nothing more than a body singing, a body reborn and born again, utterly hers in the dark.”

 

 

I asked on Twitter for people to share with me their favorite YA relationships/scenes/books featuring enthusiastic consent and healthy, positive relationships. Thanks for all of the wonderful input! Let us know in the comments or on Twitter your favorite books, relationships, and scenes! 

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YA A to Z: David Levithan

 Why I chose David Levithan:

In fall  of 2003, I had just finished graduate school and was working at The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, Massachusetts (far and away my favorite job ever). I was a big fan of LGBTQ YA books, just as I am now, so whenever a new title would come in, I’d snap it up. I read Boy Meets Boy, then (probably) proceeded to make my coworkers crazy as I read passages out loud to them. I adored this book that was set in an extremely gay-friendly town. The protagonist, Paul, doesnʼt have to come to terms with being gay; he just is. He says, “Iʼve always known I was gay, but it wasnʼt confirmed until I was in kindergarten. It was my teacher who said so. It was right there on my kindergarten report card: PAUL IS DEFINITELY GAY AND HAS A VERY GOOD SENSE OF SELF.” Paul is neither lonely nor alone. Multiple love interests make Paulʼs life more complex, not to mention the colorful friends in his life (like Infinite Darlene—once Daryl—the star quarterback and schoolʼs most popular drag queen). I’ve read everything Levithan has written, but Boy Meets Boy remains my absolute favorite of his books.

 

Brief biography (from Levithan’s website):

I find it downright baffling to write about myself, which is why I’m considering it somewhat cruel and usual to have to write this brief bio and to update it now and then. The factual approach (born ’72, Brown ’94, first book ’03) seems a bit dry, while the emotional landscape (happy childhood, happy adolescence – give or take a few poems – and happy adulthood so far) sounds horribly well-adjusted. The only addiction I’ve ever had was a brief spiral into the arms of diet Dr Pepper, unless you count My So-Called Life episodes as a drug. I am evangelical in my musical beliefs.

When not writing during spare hours on weekends, I am a publisher and editorial director at Scholastic, and the founding editor of the PUSH imprint, which is devoted to finding new voices and new authors in teen literature

 

Works (from Wikipedia):

Boy Meets Boy (2003)

The Realm of Possibility (2004)

Are We There Yet? (2005)

Marly’s Ghost: A Remix of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Brian Selznick (2005)

Wide Awake (2006)

How They Met (2008)

Love Is the Higher Law (2009)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-written with John Green (2010)

The Lover’s Dictionary (2011)

Every You, Every Me (2011)

Every Day (2012)

Invisibility, co-written with Andrea Cremer (2013)

Two Boys Kissing (2013)

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story (scheduled for release in March 2015)

With Rachel Cohn

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2006)

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (2007)

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (2010)

With David Ozanich and Chris Van Etten

Likely Story (2008)

All That Glitters (2008)

Red Carpet Riot (2009)

Plus various anthologies edited and short pieces (see Wikipedia page)

 

Find David Levithan online:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

 

If you like David Levithan, check out these authors:

Nina LaCour, Rachel Cohn, Alex Sanchez, Brent Hartinger, Ellen Wittlinger

 

Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16 and I’m@CiteSomething

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z