Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in English

Degree Level





Connors, Sean

Committee Member/Reader

Marren, Susan

Committee Member/Second Reader

Long, Mary Beth

Committee Member/Third Reader

Phillips, Jared


This thesis examines representations of sex in young adult (YA) fiction, focusing on negative patterns, empowerment, and healthy relationships. Through analysis of seven YA novels and existing scholarship, three research questions are addressed: the evolution of sexual representations in the twenty-first century, patterns characterizing teenage sexual situations, and distinctions between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Findings reveal a shift toward more inclusive and empowering depictions, yet lingering conservative values and silences persist. YA literature often portrays sex as a source of fear and obsession, limiting adolescent power and perpetuating unrealistic ideals. Healthy relationships are characterized by support systems, mutual respect, and consent, while unhealthy portrayals reproduce harmful stereotypes and power imbalances. Authors, although striving for positive representations, may unintentionally reinforce negative patterns. To foster healthier conversations about sex, adults should facilitate open dialogue with teenagers, challenging societal taboos and gender norms. Through shared exploration of YA literature, parents and educators can engage teenagers in critical discussions, promoting empathy, understanding, and respect for adolescent sexuality. This study calls for a reevaluation of adult-teenager dynamics and a commitment to empowering young readers through candid and inclusive representations of sex in YA fiction.


Young Adult Literature, Sex, Parenting, Book Banning, Romance