Hard on the heels of the recent furore over YA stories being too violent and gritty, it seems we now have to go through the same process with sexual content. Depending on who you talk to, 'sexual content' can be anything from kissing with intent right up to 'doing it'.
Tracy Clark-Flory, a staff writer at The Salon, recently put out a very well balanced argument (found via YARN) against the finding of a recent survey on the subject. Its well worth a read, and its unsurprising to find out who sponsored the research.
I was lucky when I grew up. My local library with the imposing and - to a ten year old - endless Bristol Central Lending Library, who were kind enough to let me check out adult books from the age of 12. I got my introduction violence and sex from James Bond, and my first exposure to romance from 'The Green Grass of Wyoming' (yes, embarrassing, I know).
Maybe books for a younger audience are getting more explicit. Personally, I don't see the issue. I don't write stories that preach, or try to educate my readers about real life events. I try to write things that are relevant, but escapism; something to take you away from the real world for a time. Teen readers are going to find books to read that interest and excite them, even if they have violent or raunchy themes, and they will get them from the adult market if they cant find them in their own section of the bookstore.
But maybe, in the YA literature that makes some older people uncomfortable, there is an opportunity for the people who are they are written for to find out about stuff in a way that's more relevant to the age they are. Life is very different between 14 and 24.