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Monday, January 14, 2013

YA/New Adult "Good Girl Saves Bad Boy" Myth Problematic

I'm totally disillusioned.

I have a daughter. She's almost 5.

The thought of her reading these books that are labeled as "Young Adult" in ten years is just mind blowing.

I'm not one of these parents with my head stuck in the sand, either. I'm a therapist...I know that sex in today's youth culture is prevalent. I know how Planned Parenthood is like a mecca for these kids, too.

We can't ignore it. That's not going to solve the problem of underage pregnancy and STDs.

I just want to be able to give my daughter the option of a different way. I want her to know that couples can get together and not have sex as an expected part of the relationship.

Does this happen? Yes. 

Does it have to be the prevailing narrative for teens? No.

I finished 4 popular, well-rated secular YA books over the weekend. They were quick reads, for the most part.  And I enjoy revisiting a time in my life that was full of angst and drama and excitement and firsts. But these books all have something in common, and it's part of the reason why I think the sex in these books becomes the focal point too soon.

There is something innately bred in girls (and women) to believe they can be the "bad boy's" savior.

Everyone of the books I read featured a playboy hero and virginal heroine. I mean, this is like Fifty Shades of Gray for teens. In a post about that book, I quoted the heroine Ana, as having the following thought:
This man, whom I once thought of as a romantic hero, a brave shining white knight—or the dark knight as he said. He’s not a hero; he’s a man with serious, deep emotional flaws, and he’s dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light?
These poor teens gravitate toward the idea that they CAN guide these boys into the light. That their innocence will be enough to save the guy from his path of destruction, to change him for the better into a one-woman family man. That they alone will be able to see through the rough, superhot exterior to the tenderhearted, broken little insecure boy underneath.

I won't say that this can't happen...but I will say it's rare. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Ask any behaviorally-oriented therapist and they will tell you the same.

Isn't it folly to fill our kid's head with the idea that this is the natural order of things? That my daughter should settle her heart on a bad boy and hope that she's different enough--special enough--to change him? And what happens when, in real life, he doesn't change? Her heart is broken thinking she's not good enough to change him.

Excuse me? HE'S the dirtbag who can't--or won't--change.

The books I read featured a bad boy who eventually does do a 180 and of course they end up happily ever after. 

[Insert eye roll here.]

Why can't YA books portray the actual reality of the success rate of relationships like this? The aftermath of virgins giving their innocence away only to have it thrown back at them? The unlikelihood of two sexually-polar opposites finding a middle ground?

Best quote ever for young girls to memorize regarding this subject:

Better to rescue a good man from his loneliness 
than a bad boy from his misogyny. 
~ Rabbi Schmuley

End of rant. I know I'm sounding off on this a little bit lately, but I think there is something worth investigating here with this trend. The widely successful popularity of books with this theme is utterly alarming.

Let's Analyze

What are your thoughts about the bad boy hero and the virginal heroine? Have you read books exactly like what I've described? Do you have any awesome suggestions of YA books for me that don't feature this alarming trend?