rebelling against low expectations

Should Teens Read Spice in Fiction?

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As a Christian author, I frequently hear two arguments regarding sexual content in young adult fiction. First, “YA books should have explicit spice so that teens learn about sex.” Second, “Young adults should never be exposed to explicit content in books.”

As a Jesus-proclaiming believer, I stand firmly with the latter, but it is not only my faith that gives me this perspective.

I have a personal connection to this issue. You see, I was that teen exposed to explicit sexual content in fiction.

And the impact it had on me was anything but harmless.

Smutty Content Causes Damage

It began in my preteen years. While the content I inadvertently exposed myself to at that time was not explicit, per se, it focused on negativity and trauma. And so, my formative years were influenced by a view of intimacy stemming entirely from the viewpoint of trauma.

In my early teen years, my librarian recommended a book to me. I read it enthusiastically—until I got slammed with smut.

I honestly don’t know if that dear librarian had ever read the book, but I hope not, considering she recommended it to a young teen.

Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there.

Consider this: God created sexual intimacy for our good. It is good and beautiful in the context He created it for.

But I grew up understanding it only in a negative context. I knew that wasn’t the truth across the board, but that no longer mattered. I was now a teenager trapped with genuine, defined trauma because of what I’d heard and read.

My mental health went into a tailspin. I experienced nightmares and anxiety attacks. I spiraled as I tried to figure out what was happening.

The world says kids need to learn about sex through fiction.

That is a lie straight from the mouth of hell.

Because the world doesn’t offer intimacy the way it was created to be. Kids who learn about intimacy the way the world paints it can only grow up with a warped perception of something God made to mirror His love.

Kids who learn about intimacy the way the world paints it can only grow up with a warped perception of something God made to mirror His love. Share on X

Yes—intimacy in marriage is a reminder of Christ’s love for His bride: us.

Sounds like something the enemy would want to twist and destroy, doesn’t it?

Dear reader, children and teens do not need to read explicit content.

I did. And it nearly destroyed me.

There is Healing

To this day, I still struggle with the lingering effects of that trauma, but I stand and share my story as a young woman who has been healed and is continuing to be healed by the grace of my Father in heaven.

That healing has taken a day at a time, one new thread being sewn into the holes of my heart at a time.

That healing is its own story.

But for today, I leave you with two things.

If you have been caught unaware by smut in fiction (or anywhere else), talk to someone in your life you trust. Be honest about it. Share your confusion, your questions. If nothing else, talk to God. He is ready to set the story straight, just as He did for me.

And if you have been tempted to “pick up that book” that everyone is reading, despite the content, I urge you—from the bottom of the pit I fell into and from the ladder on which I now climb out—don’t. Even if your experience doesn’t result in the same kind of trauma, that exposure, so very far outside of God’s design for sexual intimacy, can only harm you.

There will likely be a God-appointed time in your life when you do experience and understand intimacy the way that He intends for it to be experienced.

But the world does not—cannot—offer that.

I know, as a teenager, you have questions. You’re curious. So was I. But when I searched for answers, I unwittingly looked in all the wrong places.

Guard your heart, my friend. Guard your mind. Fill it with truth and with light, not with darkness and lies. It is a slippery slope leading straight down into a murky pit. Fix your eyes on Jesus, even when life compels you to look everywhere else.

But if you’ve already found yourself in that pit, let me reassure you, God has not forgotten you there. He has healing and restoration waiting for you, and He will show you the ladder to climb out again.

Our God deals in real healing. I know. Because I am being washed every day in real healing.

There will be days I am triggered. When I feel myself falling a few rungs back on the ladder. But I know, one day, God will get me to the top. In His timing, the restoration will be complete.

Hold Fast

I never dreamed of coming to the place where I would feel empowered and prompted to share my story.

But here I am.

Struggling teen, I see you. God sees you. Your pain is not hidden from Him. And your pain is not without purpose. He will use it. For your good, for the good of others, and for His glory.

Hold fast.

“. . . I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:10-11


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About the author

Hannah Gaudette

is a home-school graduate living in the hills of New England. When she’s not writing or playing with the dogs, it’s a safe bet you can find her with some other animal, like goats. She is the founder of a sustainable agriculture movement called STEWARDSHIP in central Maine. She's a life-enthusiast and advocate for food allergy awareness, youth ministry, and service dogs.

12 comments

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  • Thank you for your openness Hannah. I really respect the courage it took to share this and I believe that it will be very impactful for a lot of people. As someone who loves fiction, I fully agree that the danger is very real and should be avoided. I’ll be praying for you in your healing journey.

  • Hannah, thank you so much for this article. This is also a subject I am passionate about, but is not often talked about. I had the same experience, and it still effects me to this day. It is something that we do not talk seriously enough, when in truth, the image created in the mind creates a similar impact to pornography, which is something that is really hurting our culture. I want everyone to know they are not alone in struggling with this and work through it with compassion and kindness since I have been in the exact same place, while letting others know it is a serious issue. Again, thank you so much. God bless.

    • Kara, thank you for sharing that! <3 And you are welcome. I thank God for helping me to share my story.

  • Amen, Hannah, AMEN! For years I wouldn’t touch romance OR YA with a ten foot pole because I had experienced abuse and I didn’t want to accidentally pick up a book that would have something triggering. I read Dee Henderson (an adult fiction novelist) BEFORE I touched any YA because the YA section absolutely terrified me (Dee Henderson is amazing at writing romance WITHOUT the smut, her book Unspoken… *chef’s kiss*). Anyway, I’ve grown to enjoy romance now, through Dee Henderson book and Nova McBee, but I still don’t touch the YA section at the library.
    Now I scheme as a YA author wannabe to write healthy romance, something that isn’t mere sexual passion (*gags* I don’t even see why people enjoy writing that, it just *gags again*) but the 1 Corinthians kind of love, that’s hard and painful but faithful and enduring, with characters who learn to love each other even though they both suffer from scars that make that kind of love hard.
    No more spicy books, PLEASE people. Listen to your readers!

    • Amen! I’m floored by the YA section—seriously, floored. And not in a good way. 😅 YES! Write on! We need more real, healthy romance in YA!! A lot more, lol.

  • Thanks for this article and your honesty <3 I thought this line was great: “Because the world doesn’t offer intimacy the way it was created to be. Kids who learn about intimacy the way the world paints it can only grow up with a warped perception of something God made to mirror His love.”

  • Thank you for sharing, Hannah. This is definitely a real issue that has negatively impacted me, as careful as I have tried to be to avoid it.

  • Thank you for the amazing article! I have struggled with this myself and I continue to experience the real healing you have mentioned. Praying for you as you heal as well!

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →