Bookish Musings: Is 15 Years Old Too Young to Be Reading 50 Shades of Grey?

 
 
It's time to talk about sex!

Ok, ok, I'm not actually going to talk about sex per se, rather sex in books and whether it's appropriate for young readers. However, since there will be talk about sex in this post, consider this your warning if that makes you uncomfortable.

Initially I wasn't going to join this discussion topic because I've never read 50 Shades of Grey, but then I kind of got inspired.

See, my first thoughts were, "OF COURSE 15 too young!"

But then I thought about it and realized... maybe it's not.

So *of course* I have my reasons to share, and then I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the matter!
 

 

Conversations is a two-week meme hosted at Corralling Books and Fiddler Blue. This fortnight’s topic is:

Is 15 Years Old Too Young to Be Reading 50 Shades of Grey?

 

First things first, from what I’ve heard about 50 Shades being anti-feminist, portraying abuse in a sexy way, and not portraying BDSM correctly, that particular book might not be best for impressionable young readers since they might assume that’s the norm. However, there are other books out there with sex scenes and even BDSM that are done well, that are not sexist, that don’t portray abuse in a positive light, that show BDSM done properly with safety and consent, etc.

But regardless of the book or how correctly anything is portrayed, I don’t think there is a single answer to this question because every child, teen, and person matures at a different rate. Some teens can read about something in a book, form their own opinions about it, and understand that just because it’s in a book, or just because the characters in a book think it’s cool or normal or good, that doesn’t mean it actually is cool or normal or good or something that they should run out and do.

As I said though, that wasn’t my immediate response. I actually have this tendency to be overprotective of anyone younger than me (and I can only imagine how much stronger that must feel as a parent). But when I got to thinking about my own childhood and teenage years, well, that was when I re-evaluated my opinion on this question. I realized some interesting things about my sex education and my reading habits growing up:

– I was 10 when I received my first sex-ed lesson in school and learned, in a very straightforward way, what sex was.
– I was 11 when I took health class and learned that there were numerous types of sex, and not all of them were for reproductive purposes.
– I was 12 when I first read Flowers in the Attic, a book with a scene that shows underage rape between a brother and sister.
– I was 14 when I started reading The Vampire Chronicles, and though most of the books don’t contain actual sex, especially the first few, they still contain erotic and homoerotic scenes that involve biting. And some of the later books, which I read when I was 15-16 do contain some scenes of a sexual nature. If memory serves me correctly, The Tale of the Body Thief has at least one sex scene, Blackwood Farm I think has a vaguely sexual scene involving the MC and his doppelganger, and Memnoch the Devil has one scene with what I can only refer to as the vampire version of oral period sex (please don’t ask me to explain that one further).
– I was also 15 or 16 when I read my first two [paranormal] romance novels, graphic sex scenes and all.

But look at me! A fully functioning, not-scarred-for-life adult. Learning and reading about sex never made me feel pressured to run out and do it myself. Reading about rape and incest didn’t make me think it was ok. Just like reading about vampires didn’t make me want to drink blood. If anything, I think reading about things helped me to look at them a little more objectively from a distance and form my own opinions about them. So who am I to say how old anyone should be before they can read a certain book?

I know this is going to sound preachy, but I really do think it’s a parent and/or guardian’s job to educate their children about sex. If a teenager knows about the consequences that can come with both safe and unsafe sex, if they have an adult they can turn to any time they have questions, if they understand consent and how important it is, if they have respect for their bodies and respect everyone’s right to make decisions about their own bodies, if they’re encouraged to always think for themselves rather than to automatically believe that everything they see/read/hear is the “right” thing, then they’re much more likely to make good decisions about sex. Regardless of what books they read. Yes, books affect us—I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for all the books I’ve read—but they don’t affect us in a vacuum. The way books affect us depends on the rest of the experiences we have in life.

So as I said, I believe that the right age to read certain books or about certain topics is completely dependent on each person and situation, and it’s really not up to me to make that decision.

 
 

Talk to me!

Do you think 15 years old is too young to read 50 Shades of Grey?
What age do you believe is appropriate to read books that involve sex?
Do you think it depends on the person?
(I'm always open to seeing things from different perspectives, so don't be shy!)

 
 
 
 
 

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  1. Blaise

    In my opinion, this kind of thing depends, 100 percent, on the individual. We are unique with unique experiences, circumstances, and preferences. I mean, childhood is a fairly recent social construct, and learning about sex can be a barrier to having it just as much as an encouragement. It’s very similar to media effects: books with sex in them affect some people in some situations sometimes, but not all people in all situations all the time. I understand that parents want to protect their kids (though I’m not entirely clear what from) and that some people just don’t think sex should be public or that premarital sex is wrong. We all have valid opinions -shrug- I’d just raise kids differently.

    Blaise recently posted: Bookish Things on My Doorstep

    1. Kristen Burns

      I never thought about childhood being a recent construct, but that’s a good point now that I think about it. And I agree, for most things in life there will be one set way that it affects everyone. I always say context is everything. I suppose I can understand some parents not wanting their teens to read a book with sex for whatever their reason, but, in reference to your comment about protecting their kids, the kids are still going to find these things out for themselves anyway.

      1. Blaise

        Exactly! I figure a lack of education on the matter is more likely to lead to a major screw-up than it is to abstinence. They’re going to explore it–rumors circulate that kids in elementary and middle schools are already exploring. At least books offer some introduction to the “trials and tribulations” of sexual activity (though we could stand to have generally better presentation of it).

        1. Kristen Burns

          A lack of education is definitely more likely to lead to screw-ups. I believe it that kids in middle school are already exploring sexual things. The fact that they might be doing that in elementary school completely terrifies me though. But yeah, if I had kids, I’d much rather they learn about it from books than from trying it themselves or hearing about it from their friends. Books may not always have the best representation, but at least it’s, like, a safe and peer-pressure-free way of getting to learn about it and form opinions about it.

  2. Sam @ Sharing Inspired Kreations

    I agree. I think it totally depends on the person, how much they already know about the topic of sex, and how mature they are. By 15, I would hope that most would already have enough knowledge going in to see that this book is different and that the things portrayed in the book are not required under normal circumstances to have sex. Reading this book might even be a good learning experience for a teen to learn what not to do, or how not to allow a man to treat you. It could open up communication about these topics.

    However, I totally get anyone who thinks it is inappropriate for 15-year-olds! It is very mature content (even though it’s not written maturely, imo – hehe) and not to be taken lightly.

    Having said everything above, I really don’t know what I would do as a parent. Would I let my 15-year-old daughter read it? I really can’t say for sure. We will cross that bridge when it comes – lol.

    Sam @ Sharing Inspired Kreations recently posted: Should a blog focus on only one topic or many?

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m not so sure every 15-year-old would be able to see the faults in the book since every adult doesn’t even see the faults, but 15-year-olds definitely could. And you’re right, it definitely could be a learning experience and open up communication if the parent is willing to talk about things like that. But I also understand why some parents wouldn’t want their kid reading that. I don’t know what I would actually do if I had a kid either. I mean, I guess it would depend on how mature our daughters were lol.

  3. Greg

    Well I haven’t read this book so I can’t really say, although my knee jerk reaction is 15 is too young. You make a good point though, every kid matures differently and looking back my parents didn’t hover over my reading. So I imagine some kids would be fine, they can distinguish fiction from reality or whatever. Make good decisions. So yeah my initial reaction is similar but it does depend on the individual I guess.

    Greg recently posted: 12 Monkeys S2x02

    1. Kristen Burns

      My parents were pretty hover-y aside from the Anne Rice (the romance novels were smuggled into the house secretly lol), but I feel like teenagers who actually are avid readers generally know what they’re ready to read. So I’m sure there are 15-year-olds out there who are mature enough. But my knee jerk reaction was also that it seems to young. I think most of us are just protective of kids and teens.

  4. Wendy

    I am 100% against censorship. Would I want my ten year old to read that? Of course not. Does she have the slightest interest in reading it? Nope. But she’ll probably get curious long before I’d want her to be thinking about that stuff, and I’d rather have her read about it than try it out.

    I was probably 12-14 when I read the Clan of the Cave Bear series (which includes both rape and very woman’s-pleasure-centered sex scenes). I also read Judy Blume’s books that mentioned both female and male masturbation, AND the horribly smutty Jackie Collins-type books my dad kept in his nightstand. (One included an oral sex scene, and I was HORRIFIED.) I kind of got in trouble for that, but not for the rest of it.

    I would not offer my children books I find offensive or “too adult,” but I would trust them to decide for themselves what they are comfortable with. If I am really unhappy with their choice, I will explain what my issues are with it, but not forbid them to read it. I just want to be sure they are analyzing what they read and understanding the messages it’s sending them.

    I teach middle school, and last year I had some students who had already read 50 Shades and/or seen the movie. That’s where I’d draw the line, btw–no way are my kids going to see vile sex scenes when they’re underage!

    Wendy recently posted: April In Review

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think we’re totally on the same page here. When I was a teen, aside from the Anne Rice, I was only allowed to shop in the YA section (my mother didn’t know about the romance novels lol), and eventually it became frustrating and limiting. So I know how the censorship feels and wouldn’t want other teens to feel limited. And, like you said, I’d much rather have my daughter (if I had one) read about something like that than try it. And quite frankly, I’d rather her get it from a book than the internet or her friends since at least I could read the book too and be able to talk about it with her.

      Hahaha, I was horrified enough just to find out oral sex existed when I was 11, so that must’ve been pretty bad reading about it. But kids are gonna find out about it eventually regardless. I think it’s great though that you read those books at a young age since some of them actually sound like healthy or positive portrayals of sex-related things. And seriously, for us kids who were avid readers, reading about these things is books was probably the best way to learn about them since it was the format we were most comfortable with and gave us a chance to process them.

      As I was saying to Greg, I think kids/teens who read a lot do know what types of books they’re ready for, so your method sounds great to me. But yeah, it just seems like it’d be worse in movie form…

  5. Lauren

    My first instinct was also to say yes 15 is too young, but after reading your post I realized that I read adult themed books at that age as well (although not BDSM), and I haven’t been scarred for life either. Consequently, the question is more complex and the answer depends on the teen and their level of maturity AND the parents and the extent to which they are open and honest with their children about sex.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Hahaha, I love this. I feel like every single book blogger has some sort of “well, I read *this* inappropriate book when I was 13…” story lol. I wonder if, as avid readers at such young ages, all the reading we did just made most of us more mature and able to read adult-content books at younger ages without issue? Anyway, teens can still be mature and make smart decisions about sex even without parents who are open and willing to talk, but I still firmly believe parents being willing to discuss these things has a far greater positive impact than the negative impact a book might have. And it does all depend. So we’re on the same page.

  6. AngelErin

    I think it depends on the parents and maturity of the child. I was reading Stephen King when I was 12 years old and many other adult books (I read Flowers in the Attic as well, I’m still grossed out) and I turned out fine. I think it’s the parents job to educate their kids about sex (and other topics) and as long as they have done that then I see no reason to limit what a child/teen reads. For me personally I would never limit what my kids read. I think too many parents are over protective these days, but what others do isn’t my business. Also, I fully believe (especially at the age of 15 that is mentioned in the post) that if a kid/teen really wants to read a book that bad then they will find a way. Especially as teenagers who have cell phones, laptops, and what not these days, but then the parents miss out on having an open dialogue about sex. Which I think an open dialogue is very important to have.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah I don’t think I ever quite got over that Flowers in the Attic scene, haha, but I think I’m more disturbed by the fact that it was the one and only book my mother ever recommended to me (I’m 100% sure she didn’t remember that scene, but still). But we’re on the same page with this discussion. I completely agree that parents cannot stop their teens from reading, learning, or even doing what they want. Teens will find a way. Especially with something as simple and easy to get away with as reading a book. But what parents can do is be willing to talk about these things, and that can make all the difference.

  7. AngelErin

    I just wanted to add in that I would never offer my child a book that I think may be inappropriate. For example I won’t be offering this book for my 8 year old sons to read, but they have no interest or even know what it is. Usually kids who are big readers know what they are ready for and when that time comes I wouldn’t mind if my sons read it. That would be a perfect opportunity to talk about what is appropriate and what’s not. Some teens may be able to figure it out and some may not. TALK ABOUT IT! Personally I liked the 50 Shades books, even though I’m sure it’s very anti feminist of me to say. Who cares? Most of us avid readers know the difference between fiction and reality. We also know what may be fine to read about isn’t okay to do in real life. I read about murder a lot, but I’m not about to stab someone lol!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I agree with this too. I wouldn’t go out of my way to offer my hypothetical child an inappropriate book, but kids who are avid readers do seem to know when they’re ready for certain types of books. Unfortunately some adults don’t seem to know the difference between real life and fiction when it comes to kind of gray areas that have been so muddled by the media and society, like sex (I mean, obviously most people know that murder is not ok lol), but I trust other adults to know what they like in books and to make their own decisions. I have a no judgment policy when it comes to what people like to read. I’ve read some questionable books myself, haha. It just bothers me when these things carry over and things like abuse start being treated as acceptable in real life. But making it into an open dialogue, especially with younger generations who are just starting to form opinions about these things, can turn an anti-feminist book, for example, into a beneficial thing.

      1. AngelErin

        That’s true. There are adults who can’t even tell fiction from real life. That’s scary! Some people are just cuckoo anyway and will always be cuckoo. Yikes! I also think it’s crazy how (especially here in the U.S.) sex is treated like this taboo thing, but violence is everywhere. I’m more concerned with all the violence my kids are exposed to.

        1. Kristen Burns

          Oh my goodness yes! I don’t understand that either! Not that sex doesn’t have consequences that should be taken seriously, but at least sex is a natural part of life whereas violence isn’t. At least it shouldn’t be. Even consensual sex between people in committed relationships is treated like some horrible taboo thing, at least around kids and teens. But in this one book I read (sorry if I’m getting off topic lol) the guy announces to everyone that he and his wife-to-be just had sex, and the woman tells him not to say that in front of their kid, and he’s just like, “Why not? I want him to know his parents have a passionate, loving relationship,” or whatever. And that made so much sense.

          1. AngelErin

            Yesssssss!!!! So TRUE!! I fully agree. Honestly, sex should be celebrated more. I mean sex between consenting adults in committed relationships only of course, but sex is a HEALTHY thing! It reduces stress, it’s showing your partner you love them, it’s fun, it counts as exercise, and it legit has health benefits. Personally, I think it screws kids up more to teach them sex is bad and taboo. Or to not discuss it at all. Sorry for rambling, this is such a great discussion post though Kristen.

            1. Kristen Burns

              I don’t think you’re rambling at all lol. I love when my discussion posts turn into actual discussions! I agree though. I think it would be much better to teach kids that it’s a good, healthy, normal thing when it’s done safe and consensually. Trying to avoid and treating as taboo only causes problems when they don’t understand the consequences, and we all know that making something taboo only makes people want it more lol.

  8. Kaja

    Hah, this is a great question. Um, well, I agree with you, sex ed is enormously important and I think that books featuring sex should definitely be included in a teen’s reading list.
    That said, there are YA books that deal with sex on a level that is perhaps more appropriate for teens? I wouldn’t want my 15-year-old to read 50 Shades mostly because of the completely unreasonable representations of sex and gender roles. And by “unreasonable” I don’t mean BDSM but the over-the-top orgasmic bliss which seems to be the main point of the entire series. The emotional abuse included as a bonus is also not something I’d want my kid exposed to.
    I think that I wouldn’t necessarily encourage my kid to read romances – because the process of discovering them was, for me, partly a rebellious act and it was something I did on my own, which is very important in teenage years. Looking back, I know I’d feel super weird if my mother came to me and gave me a book that focuses so strongly on romance and sex. But I wouldn’t take those books away from them if they got to them on their own!
    I think there are better ways to learn about sex than through 50 Shades, so when the time comes to have The Talk, I’ll probably use some other examples. :)

    Kaja recently posted: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

    1. Kristen Burns

      I mean, no, 50 Shades is not something I would *want* my hypothetical child to read because I imagine it’s not the best representation. And I agree it’s not the BDSM that’s a problem but rather the abuse and probably dubious consent.

      I would also let them discover romance novels for themselves. It seems that avid readers know when they’re ready to read certain types of books, and going at their own pace is important. But yeah, definitely go with some other examples unless you’re trying to teach them what not to do :-P

  9. Lola

    I think it’s okay for people of 15 to read books with sex scenes in it. I think young people can better read a book and find out about sex than some of the other ways and I always believe it’s better to be well educated than to protect kids from too much. Eventually they will hear about the subject and in this day and age that is earlier and earlier. So I don’t think 15 years is too young to read sex in books and I like to believe kids at that age can determine for themselves whether to read those types of books or not.
    And I agree reading about vampires doesn’t make you want to go out and drink blood, so why would sex be any different? I also do think it depends on the person, some people might not want to read about sex when they are 15, but then again those people can skip those scenes in books. Either way I don’t think reading sex scenes in books when you’re young negatively impacts you, it’s good to be aware of it. And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum and I believe parents also have a role to educate their kids about sex, I think ignorance is more hurtful than knowing the truth. Great post!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, if I had a kid, I’d much rather they learn about sex from a book than trying it themselves or hearing about it through their friends. I think we all know the ridiculous, inaccurate kind of stuff we learned through the grapevine when we were younger lol. And yes, they WILL learn about it eventually on their own, so education is far better than over-protectiveness. But if someone isn’t ready or doesn’t want to read about sex at 15, that’s fine too. The importance is for teens to go at their own pace. As long as they’re ready to read about, I agree that it’s not a negative thing. Ignorance definitely causes more problems than knowing the truth!

  10. Geraldine @ Corralling Books

    Mm, I’m glad that you thought about the topic more, and realised it was dependent on the person, Kristen! Originally I think I was the same…then I reflected on my reading experiences, and realised that maybeee it was fine – I read some interesting fanfiction before 15 xD . So long as the person reading is mature enough – which of course, varies from person to person!

    Geraldine @ Corralling Books recently posted: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m pretty sure every book blogger has some story about some inappropriate thing they read when they were a teen lol. And we all turned out fine! It definitely does depend on the maturity of each person :-)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha so far? :-P It really does depend on each person though. And I also think books are a safer way of learning about sex rather than doing it yourself or hearing about it from friends. With books you can explore it from a distance and form your own opinions without pressure or any real consequences.

  11. Amber Elise @ Du Livre

    Sex Ed was not a thing in my life. My high school was all about abstinence only and my mom was waiting for them to teach me so welp!

    I learned about sex through historical romance novels (hey Jude Deveraux) in high school…so like 15 years old or so. I can’t say that kids should be reading 50 Shades though. Not even because of the sex but because of the relationship/dominance.

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre recently posted: Book Review: Prince's Gambit

    1. Kristen Burns

      Seriously? I had sex ed in 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade (they had, like, sex ed week each year when I was in middle school), and then health class was mandatory in high school (though that wasn’t entirely about sex or puberty or whatever, it also included things like CPR). But I’m really glad my schools did that since my parents didn’t talk about sex with me, except maybe to tell me not to have it lol. Anyway, I think reading books about it can be a good thing too, though I do agree that 50 Shades is not a good book to actually learn about the healthy way of doing things. So I don’t think it’s a good book to learn from, but I do think there are 15-year-olds out there who are mature enough to read it.

  12. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    This is such an interesting discussion. As a mom, my immediate instinct is to say that I don’t think a 15-year-old should be reading something like 50 Shades. I DO think that there are certain types of reading materials that can be more harmful than helpful when it comes to healthy attitudes and knowledge about sex. That being said, of course, it is different based on the teenager. In my head, I know that, but I have to admit that when it comes to my gut instinct for my own kids, I think, “No way would I want them reading that at 15!” (My son’s almost 14, so it’s not that far away!)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: Do Author Bios Ever Make You Want to Read a Book?

    1. Kristen Burns

      I completely understand. It’s easy for me to sit here and say what I believe is best, but, if I actually had kids, I’m sure it’d be hard for me to follow my own advice. However, we were all teens once. So we all know that teens are still gonna find a way to do what they want. I wasn’t allowed to read romance novels in high school, not even when I was 18, yet obviously I still found a way since I read my first ones when I was 15 or 16. And I wasn’t even a rebellious kid lol. That’s why I just feel it’s better, at least when it comes to books since it’s not like someone’s going to get accidentally pregnant or something from reading, to let teens read what they want and be willing to talk about it. They’re going to do it anyway, might as well as least have some modicum of control or influence over how they perceive it. But of course it’s still always dependent on the situation, and that includes the teen and what the parents feel is best.

  13. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    OK, so I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, either, but I’ve seen the movie… and it made me very uncomfortable. That was both because I felt like there really wasn’t much of a story there, and I don’t enjoy watching other people getting it on… I don’t mind reading about that, though! And I read Flowers in the Attic when I was 11 or 12, so yeah, that was definitely something that made me think for myself, and be able to look at things objectively, I’m sure.
    I’ve always talked to my kids about sex, though – because if they ask me a question, I answer it. So when I was expecting child #3, my oldest was 7, and she wondered how the baby got inside my tummy. And so I explained parts of how that happened, but without being overly graphic about it. When she was 10, I was pregnant with child #4, and then, I gave her the whole story… and she made a strange face and told me she would never ever do that, and she was happy it would be possible for her to adopt ;) Now she’s 20, and I kind of have a feeling she’s changed her mind about that part ;)
    I think you’re right about different people being mature at different ages, and that some will find it OK to read about sex, while others would rather read horror… just like it is for us adults. And I really don’t think it’s a good idea to say that some books are forbidden – that would just make a lot of teens really want to read it.
    In one of the classes I taught last year, I wanted suggestions for the last novel we should read, and two of the girls proposed 50 Shades… I said that I didn’t think that was appropriate for several reasons – one because of the sex (16-year-olds may have very different views on reading about sex in graphic details – and I don’t think that’s a good age to ‘force’ them to read about it), and the second because what I have seen of those books has shown me that the writing isn’t all that good. And I want the kids I teach to read books that are very well written.
    Great post, Kirsten. Sorry my comment is so long – and I think I could have written much more. Maybe I’ll do one with novels in the classroom and what is appropriate or not one day? ;)

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted: Up Close and (un)Conventional – Keeping Track of Ideas

    1. Kristen Burns

      I guess when we read it’s at least not real actual people, actors, that we’re watching lol. That’s great that you always answer your kids’ questions about sex though. I love the things kids say they’re never gonna do, haha. I remember when I was young, me and a friend were standing in line behind these two people very, like, graphically making out, and I told her I was never going to kiss anyone using my tongue lol.

      But yeah, forbidding a book wouldn’t accomplish anything. Teens are going to find a way to do what they want to do. But I definitely don’t think 50 Shades would be appropriate as required school reading since, as you said, you’d be forcing some teens to read it who wouldn’t be ready or would feel uncomfortable. And if the writing is terrible, well, that too.

      I never mind long comments! And I’d love to see your thoughts on what’s appropriate in a classroom setting :-)

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  15. Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons

    I’m not sure that I’m a good person to comment on this post. One, I don’t have children. Two, I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve read a ton of BDSM books and some that are pretty dark, however, I’ve read snippets and heard clips of George Takei and others reading from it. I just can’t read that. Just those little pieces made me cringe from bad writing.

    All of that said, I was raised that nothing was off limits when it came to reading. I was allowed to read anything I willing to read. I was reading Stephen King when I was 12 (I know it isn’t sex related, but still very graphic and I had teachers taking it away from me because they felt it was inappropriate). I was reading Anne Rice not long after that. I can’t remember the ages that I had sex education, but I think that we need more of it in school and more comprehensive (search for John Oliver’s piece on sex education and you will be horrified by all the information he compiled about how bad it is in our schools today). I guess, I would go along with my mom’s recommendation that nothing is off limits. I don’t know if that is right or not. But I also know that not encouraging a child to read in this day in age is a bad thing. Maybe recommend some other books to show the child the difference in 50 Shades and other works similar. Let them know that this isn’t how things should be. Talk to them about the content in the book. Great topic.

    Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons recently posted: Python’s Embrace Audiobook by Eve Langlais (REVIEW)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Well, I wrote the post, and I also don’t have children and haven’t read 50 Shades, haha, so your comment isn’t any less valid in my eyes. I’ve also seen some quotes and whatnot here and there from 50 Shades, and no way, I couldn’t do it either.

      I’m actually happy with the sex ed I got in school though. I had it that first time in 5th grade, but then I also had it for a week or two each year in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, and then there was a required health class when I was in high school. And 5th grade was the only time they taught abstinence. But I imagine not every school is as good about it as mine were. Anyway, kids who read seem to know what they’re ready for and when. Funny though, you would go with a no limits policy because that’s how you were raised, and I would go with a no limits policy because I *was* limited and wouldn’t want my hypothetical child to be limited the same way. I definitely wouldn’t want my kid thinking the 50 Shades relationship is healthy though, so talking to them about is important too.

  16. Jackie

    I wish 50 Shades of Grey wasn’t the example being used. Because, would I be upset if my 15 year old kid was reading 50 Shades of Grey? Yup. Would I be upset if they read books that had erotic scenes in it? Not really. I actually think most 15-year-olds are fully capable of self-censoring when it comes to books. Even though I had received sex education from school and my parents in a pretty manner-of-fact fashion, I wasn’t too keen on reading books that had sex in them when I was 15-years-old. In fact, I think I read my first erotic scene in a book at the age of 27 (last year actually), and it totally made me blush! One of my high school buddies, on the other hand, was a huge fan of “bodice rippers” when she was 15. It didn’t mean she was a harlot or anything absurd like that. She just liked getting caught up in that kind of fantasy, which was fine.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I understand what you’re saying. 50 Shades wouldn’t exactly be my preferred book for teens either just because of how incorrect and unhealthy I imagine the relationship and sex in it is. But I agree that 15-year-olds know what they’re ready for if they’re avid readers. And of course it’s understandable if anyone doesn’t *want* to read about sex, even as an adult. And I didn’t assume your friend was a harlot lol. Just because someone likes to read about something, it doesn’t mean they’re running around doing it. If it did, most of us would probably be in jail for murder by now. Or dead. Lol.

  17. Christy LoveOfBooks

    Yeah, it totally depends. I was reading naughty stuff at that age, well I was actually DOING naughty stuff at that age, too. lol! But my goddaughter read it at 16 and it about killed me because she loved it. Not because of the sex, but because of how horrible it is. As soon as she turned 18 I felt comfortable suggesting better books with the theme, like Roni Loren. It made me feel better knowing that if she’s going to read erotic books like that, at least they portray it in a healthy manner. I also know 16-17 year olds that … no,

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    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha seriously, stopping a kid from reading a book isn’t going to accomplish anything when many teens are already doing things, not even just reading about them. I get why it bothered you that your goddaughter loved it though. I agree, it wouldn’t even bother me because it has sex or BDSM but rather that I wouldn’t want my goddaughter thinking that was sexy or healthy. I’m glad you suggested better books lol.

  18. Bookworm Brandee

    *haha* I love this post, Kristen! When I saw the title in my inbox I thought “Of course it is! I have to go read this post.” I’ve read 50 Shades AND I have teenagers, one of whom is 15. My knee-jerk reaction is NO WAY do I want my 15 yo daughter reading this. But then I read your post…and I thought about what I read as a teenager. And you also made me think about what I teach my kids, not only about sex (which I’m very open about despite blushing like a 12 yo) but about reading and the value of all those books people want to/do ban. (My kids’ 9th grade English teacher had some blowback from parents not wanting their kids to read Half the Sky. Really?) So the conclusion I’ve come to is that while I do feel there are books that shouldn’t be read at certain ages (I don’t want a 7 yo reading Fifty just because they can) as long as parents are really involved with their kids, available to talk about whatever they might be reading (and whatever else they want to discuss), then I think the kids will be fine. :D

    1. Kristen Burns

      I love this, that you’re a mother of a 15-year-old and have actually read the book, because it’s really easy for me to say what I think is best, but I’m not even a mother. So I like having your opinion on the matter. I love that you’re open about sex with your kids—even if you blush! My parents weren’t like that. I guess I’m a prime example that kids can still turn out ok even without their parents having an open dialogue about these things, but honestly being an avid reader probably helped me to make smart decisions and think more in general, and I was always good about being able to discern reality from ridiculousness lol. And the schools I went to were actually really good about sex ed. But anyway, I also definitely would draw the line at a 7-year-old reading 50 Shades, but being available to talk about these things as a parent is probably the best way for the kids to not get into trouble :-)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Hahaha it’s not something I have any desire to read, I can tell you that. It has never seemed realistic or like actual safe, consensual BDSM to me. You know it’s bad when someone says Romeo & Juliet is more realistic lol.

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