Carla M. Lee (carlamlee) wrote,
Carla M. Lee

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[Books] Girls, Boys, and Sex in It's a Green Thing by Melody Carlson

I've been intentionally trying to read more Christian young adult fiction because that's basically what Samantha writes and as her critique partner, I wanted to have a better idea of what the genre is like right now. Also, it's one of the areas I tend to not read and maybe I'm missing out on awesome books. I don't like to miss out on awesome books.

So I picked up It's a Green Thing by Melody Carlson, which is a part of the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. This is actually the second book with Maya as a narrator, but as far as I could tell in the library, a) the first book wasn't available and b) the books were supposed to also stand alone.

As I was reading it yesterday, I really enjoyed it. Maya is an interesting, intelligent narrator and some of her questions about Christianity make her story even more accessible to readers. (She's only just embracing her religion.) I was excited because I could rec this to Sam and because my knee-jerk reaction to Christian fiction was wrong.

And then, 137 pages into the book, I got slapped with an idea I absolutely hate. Note: This isn't just a Christian idea, though I have run into a lot more frequently in person from people who identify as Christian.

Maya has been talking to Caitlin (who is her spiritual adviser? Youth group adviser? I'm not really clear on the specifics, but basically, Caitlin is this adult friend who discusses religion with Maya. Mostly their conversations have been really interesting and sweet) about her new boyfriend, Dominic, and how now that they're dating, their friendship seems to be suffering. She's also spent a bit of time talking about why she hasn't been attending youth group (which is basically the heart of the story and is a little long to get into here, but the short version is that she doesn't feel welcome right now).

So Caitlin asks whether Maya's thought about her views on premarital sex. I actually think this is a good way to start the conversation, not automatically ordering Maya not to have sex, but asking if she's thought about her views on it. Then it goes downhill.

I'll quote:

[Maya has said that she hasn't really thought about it, but that they were just kissing, sex wasn't on the table.]

Caitlin: I know. But that's always the way it starts. I'm saying this from personal experience. You think it's just about kissing. And maybe it is for you. But guys are wired differently, Maya. Especially at this age. It's like their hormones are totally raging, and sometimes they can barely control themselves.

And then she goes on to say some things I actually found pretty important, like the fact that frequently when Christian teens get in trouble, it's because they've never really thought about sex beyond their vow of abstinence and so when they decide to have sex, for whatever reason, they don't think about birth control, etc.

But that thing about boys being wired differently and barely being able to control themselves is fucked up for a lot of reasons.

In no particular order, the things that bothered me most:
+ Way to put all the pressure on the girl. The boy can't help himself, so she has to be the one to make sure they don't go too far.
+ Way to deny the girl's sexuality, her sexual drive, her own sexual needs. Girls can want sex, girls have raging hormones, girls can have a hard time controlling themselves too.
+ Way to paint the guy as an uncontrollable beast who can't think about anything but his own pleasure.

I actually put down the book when I read that, because I'm not sure I want to finish it after. I mean, I do, because Maya is a fantastic character, a character of color, a questioning Christian, a girl who addresses class issues, and a girl who cares a lot about helping the environment. Her green tips are scattered throughout the book and some of them are even things I didn't know. I really like her and her story.

I just hate that description of girls, boys, and sex.

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