"New Adult:" When Harry Potter Meets Fifty Shades of Grey

photo source: NYmag.com

New Adult.  

That is the name of the newest fiction genre in publishing intended to tap the market of young people (and moms?) who have evolved from Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter.  This consumer group is hungry for protagonists slightly older in age, and for story-lines featuring explicit sexual content.  

In “Beyond Wizards and Vampires, to Sex,” Leslie Kaufman of The New York Times describes the genre this way:

“Publishers and authors say they are seeing a spurt in sales of books that fit into the young-adult genre in their length and emotional intensity, but feature slightly older characters and significantly more sex, explicitly detailed.  

They’ve labeled this category “new adult” — which some winkingly describe as Harry Potter meets 50 Shades of Grey — and say it is aimed at 18-to-25 year olds, the age group right above young adult.”

Publisher’s Weekly addressed the genre, too.  In “New Adult, Needless Marketing Speak or Valued Subgenre,” Rachel Deahl and Judith Rosen write:

“Another thing the new adult tag does … is signal content that some will consider too mature for teen readers.  Since the rule in entertainment has long been that it’s more acceptable to feature violence than sex in content geared at kids, publishers need to have clear terminology when it comes to marketing books that feature sex to young people.

What exactly does this mean, you ask?

It means we now have a new book genre for young adult fiction laced with a bit o’ porn.   
Last year I wrote a post on this blog about Fifty Shades of Grey that received a lot of attention.  In that post I said this:

“This is probably the beginning.  There’s going to be an infiltration.  An invasion of this book [50 Shades] and its aftermath will soon impact marriages, friendships, communities, and businesses.  You will be unable to avoid it.  

Indeed, it’s true.  In addition to a New Adult, we also have fifty shades of sex toys, products, and music as retailers and marketers go hog wild to capitalize on the demand.  Read this article at The Denver Post or  this article at Jezebel.com if you want specifics.  Also noteworthy is: “Are Your Teens Ready for New Adult?” by Dr. Laura Berman over at the Chicago-Sun Times.  Of course we have the much anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey movie too.

When it comes to New Adult, on the one hand, I’m glad for the new classification.  The publishing industry should try to separate for me as a buyer what books contain sexually explicit content.  I applaud that.    

What I wonder, though, is how far is this going to go? If demand determines the market, when it comes to sex, we could find ourselves with books unveiling descriptive orgys and underground cults in the not too distant future.

Books have power.  Books are propaganda.  Books affect culture.

I’m burdened that we are sliding further and further down the morality scale.  But I am not surprised.  Are you?  

The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Within the Church, we NEED to start talking about lust, sex, gluttony, greed, and the terribly difficult, every day, real life realities of living as a Christian in this world.  We go to church on Sunday and open up the Bible and learn about the Israelites and a guy who ate locusts and the One who bore it all on the cross, and yet we don’t know how all of that translates into living every day in a materialistic, hyper-sexual, post-modern society.  Every week we’re being taught the rules of the game, but out on the field, we don’t know how to play.  We need to practice scenarios.  For some reason we don’t feel equipped to engage.  We’re too afraid to get in the game.  Maybe we’ve isolated and insulated ourselves so much we don’t even care about the game?

I need to equip myself for this beast.  So do you.  And pastors, youth, church, and lay leaders have an opportunity to create a church environment that welcomes conversation over these complex sociological and cultural realities.  Perhaps it’s a Wednesday night class on culture and Jesus.  Or a Sunday morning parenting class.  Or a 4 week series of vlogs or podcasts from the youth pastor with some tips and training. You, Church, can be a resource.

Within the home, we can live out a different message than our world suggests.  We debunk the belief that marriage doesn’t last forever; dispel the lie that lust is love, and love is for a time; defuse the notion that you can fall out of lust or love the way you change jobs and reseed the vegetable garden.  We show our children that it IS possible to genuinely, romantically love one person for life, and we define love as a choice.

Don’t underestimate the propaganda of your home.  You are the most powerful role model to your child.  You are more influential than a book, movie, album, boyfriend or best friend.  Let’s be present, involved, purposeful, and WILLING to engage in conversations about sex, relationships, love, lust, mystery, and intimacy in the home.  This is a goal of mine–to be close enough with my children that I can talk with them about these kinds of things, and to be prepared enough to know what to ask and what to say.

New Adult is here.  Fifty Shades of Harry Potter will become every day hum drum to our young people.  The question is, what are you going to do about it?  

1 comment

  1. Thanks for speaking the truth and boldly calling parents and the rest of the Church to action. As parents and leaders, we absolutely need to be talking with our kids about all of these things early on in their lives, and regularly as they grow up in our homes. Otherwise, they’ll hear about it from others who likely will not be giving them a Biblical perspective on the issues. Yes, they can be awkward conversations (I recently had one with my 11-year-old daughter) but they are so very important to ensuring they understand what the Bible says about sex and their sexuality (i.e., that it is an incredible gift from God to enjoy within the context of marriage).

    I recently preached a sermon on Ephesians 5:3 and how to avoid sexual immorality and covetousness. It called out what constitutes sexual immorality and focused on the only antidote that works against it – knowing our identity in Christ and understanding and truly believing that “God’s enough” for us is sufficient. (you can find the sermon link at bit.ly/XQTuJy if you’re interested in hearing more). I am so glad that the Jr. High and High Schoolers were in that sermon with their parents because I was able to strongly encourage them to talk with each other regularly about a healthy and Biblical view of sex.

    I pray that I heed the advice from that sermon and that my children feel 100% comfortable to talk with me or their mom about any questions they might have about anything as they grow up. But that won’t just happen on its own. We need to initiate the early conversations no matter how difficult and awkward they might be.

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