On the Joys of Youth, and the Sort-of Dirty Book

I never know when I'm blithely going long until after my happy little bubble of obliviousness pops. Which I guess is what being blithe is all about, but still.

A few years ago another mother was talking to me with a very charming pride about her daughter's interest in historical fiction. It turned out, the historical fiction she was reading was Philippa Gregory. Which is more sort of soft porn. In historical costumes. And famous historical figures getting it on.

What to tell this happy oblivious mom? If I was a better person than I am, probably nothing. Being the sort of meddling, unable-to-think-something-and-not-say-it of person that I actually am, I offered, "Well, it's sort of soft porn you know."


"Um, soft porn. You know, there's a lot about 'my golden cunny' and whatnot." Here, I believe, I gave her a weak smile.

And then I watched her take in what I said, and then more or less dismiss it from her mind. Because hell, her daughter was 13, she had many other bigger things to worry about, and what were we reading at 13?

And I wondered at that. Not that it seemed wrong to me or anything, I just didn't quite see how she wasn't more curious about exactly what was going into the strange machine that was her 13-year-old.

I mean, it's not like I didn't read my share of lurid material in my own feckless youth. I distinctly remember a seriously pornographic magazine handed around at sleepaway camp when I was 12 that gave explicit step-by-step instructions on … well, never mind. Let's just say, it was its own form of education.

So now, we jump to the present time (notice that there's been a lot of time travel on this blog lately?). Last night, after a truly heavenly day at the beach, we were eating with friends at Spumoni Gardens (yes, go, and get the shrimp parm hero). The mom across the table from me said, "So, I see Diana's reading The House of Night series."

"Um, yeah, I guess," because I've more or less accepted that there is no way I can keep up with her reading while having time to read my own choices (currently, Rebel Powers by Richard Bausch).  "Is it any good?"

"Well," and she hesitated in a way all too familiar to me. "It's pretty racy."

"Huh." I took a bite of my meatball hero, thought back to that other mom, and totally understood in that weird, Oh-NOW-I-get-it way that happens with retroactive empathy. I nodded like I was thinking about it, then I let it go like the thing out of my control that it was/is. "I hope she does OK with it."

And here's hoping this is a sign of a health independence in both of us, as opposed to the on-ramp of the road to perdition.

13 thoughts on “On the Joys of Youth, and the Sort-of Dirty Book

  1. I remember doing the reading, I believe mine was Forever by Judy Blume, but I would rather live in denial about MY children ever doing it. Blithe indeed. My daughter is NINE. So does that mean I have three more years?


  2. I don’t know. Maybe I’m jaded but The Other Boleyn Girl didn’t strike me as so racy. (Of course I’m 40, and not 13.) But it’s not The Thorn Birds, or the Kathleen Woodiwiss stuff I found at that age. But I think that what they are ready for, they will see, and what they aren’t, will slip by. Forget Forever, I read Then Again, Maybe I Won’t in about 4th grade. In 11th grade, a friend was saying she was appalled by what was in there and I re-read it and was astonished by what I simply did not process when I read it at first because I wasn’t ready. So yes, Megsie, you probably have some time left, depending on your child!


  3. I think I might have read Harold Robbins obsessively when I was around thirteen. I hid them under my mattress. And then there was the opening scene in Peter Benchley’s Jaws. But I grew up to be a literary snob — quite well-read, I admit. So, it all worked out, I think.


  4. Good for you.
    Two thoughts, though…
    Phillippa Gregory is HARDLY soft core porn. Plus with the added British slang, I’m better the 13 year old is most likely shrugging over it.
    If you want soft core porn, go for VC Andrews, which is what *I* was devouring at 12.
    I remember a LOT more sex in the later books of the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce. Now THOSE got things all tingly in places they hadn’t been tingly before. Granted, it’s all implied off the page sex…but it’s totally there.


  5. I also vividly remember reading Flowers in the Attic when I was in 5th grade. That book is seriously messed up. And then there was My Sweet Audrina. I think that one was even worse.
    I also remember reading a particularly racy Jackie Collins novel when I was about 13 and asking my mother what a particular word meant (long word,starts with *c*, I won’t type it here). She smiled and told me to look it up. The definition was “oral sex.” Since we just finished our oral reports in English class I assumed it just meant talking about sex and went on my way.


  6. Oh, my. I remember when my 5th grade teacher (so I was 9) recommended The Clan of the Cave Bear to me. I’m guessing she hadn’t actually read it, but she knew I was interested in prehistory at the time. I think my mother gave me one of those looks when I asked for it, but the teacher had recommended it, and she believed in letting me read whatever I wanted anyway.
    Then there were, not long after that, the Arthur Hailey books I found lying around my grandmother’s house when I had gone for a weekend with not enough to read.
    I actually do think that it wasn’t very good for me. I had a lot of strange dreams around then. My daughter is now almost 9, and is an avid reader, but not the same kind I was. She tends to like the familiar more, so I doubt this is going to be an issue in our house really soon, but I’m just waiting for when she’s 12 or 13…


  7. I read Forever when I was 9 or 10 and did NOT understand a lot of it (even though I did know how sex worked at all). And hoo boy, VC Andrews. And my best friend and I stole her mom’s Jackie Collins books when we were in middle school. And I stumbled on Lady Chatterley’s Lover on my parents’ bookshelves when I was…13? 14?
    Ironically, in my real life I was pretty prudish about sex until after college.


  8. If the book isn’t being hidden, she’s probably fine with it, right? I mean, I kept things hidden that I knew were kind of over-the-line, even though I knew my folks wouldn’t know what was between the covers.


  9. The Alanna series? Huh.
    I’m pretty sure I found some Jackie Collins book in a ski chalet or something once. I started Lady Chatterly but I remember it as boring, so maybe I gave up before the good parts.
    There was a phase when Garp was lying around the house. And Clan of the Cave Bear. Garp was my intro to sibling sex (or was that one of his other books?). I guess my mom wasn’t too worried.


  10. Scruples, Flowers in the Attic, the odd dirty magazine, John Norman’s horrid Gor series. . .
    Well, I didn’t actually grow up perverted but there was a lot to think about.


  11. I remember a copy of Forever going around the classroom when I was 12. I don’t think I read any of it but *those* pages, which weren’t at all hard to find because the book fell right open to them after all the feverish reading by my other classmates. As I recall the sex in that book wasn’t particularly realistic but at least it was in the context of a relationship, and it was loving.
    I also remember reading Clan of the Cave Bear when I was 13. That was not a good idea, I’d say. It’s too bad that kids aren’t reading books with depictions of healthy sexuality, or at least I wasn’t. If you get your idea of sex from popular fiction, you could end up thinking that the world is full of nothing but rape, abuse, incest, etc.
    That’s more what scares me about things my daughter (age 10) will soon be reading. I don’t mind so much if it’s all ‘my golden cunny’ and sex with love. It’s more the scary/upsetting stuff that I dread. I hate to think of her forming early associations of negativity and sex.


  12. Fascinating subject. More comments, please, on the differences between oral sex and written sex.
    G. Rayray


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