Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Appropriate Age for Allowing Girls to Read Romances

Best age to allow your daughters/nieces/young females under your thumb to read romances? After age...

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

I think I was a preteen when I first started reading romances, albeit against my mother’s wishes. I am sure I was only 14 when I read Whitney, My Love. God I loved that book when I was 14.   Of course Whitney and my maturity level was about the same so it made perfect sense.   I’m grappling with when I will let the tot read romances.   I mean, I recognize the subversity of some of these boss/secretary books, but will she?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

127 Comments

  1. elysabeth
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 19:56:15

    I was around 11 when I read a Virginia Henley book (behind my mom’s back.) I was hooked though. I would like to keep my two girls from reading them until around 13-ish, but if they do before that, I’ll keep an open mind.

  2. Meljean
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 19:56:47

    Of course Whitney and my maturity level was about the same so it made perfect sense.

    Ha! I laughed out loud.

    I started at 8, but if my daughter shows an interest that young, I’ll probably hold them back, or just give her the sweeter ones for a while. After that, it will depend on her maturity level, but 13 or 14 seems like an okay age to me.

    ETA: I started with HPs, but the heat level of the books in the 70s/80s is different than the heat level of HPs now, which is why I made the “sweeter books” distinction.

  3. rebyj
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 19:58:48

    I was 12. I think that now days there are so many YA options out there that the adult stuff can wait awhile. I chose 14 but I’d supervise choices till 16 or so.

  4. Twitted by historicals
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:00:01

    […] This post was Twitted by historicals […]

  5. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:00:30

    I couldn’t vote. My mother had no clue what I was reading and I dove into the deep end almost immediately and got hooked young (9, 10).

    I doubt I’ll have any say over what she reads when she’s at school, especially if she reads print, which can be hidden and therefore, not able to be electronically monitored.

    On the other hand, I keep my books around the house, so however young she sneaks them, it’ll be my fault. Heh.

  6. Kat
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:03:26

    I assumed you meant adult romances? For YA, I’d say no age limit but I’d be reading the books first to check the sexual and moral content, by which I mean I want these books to be depicting young adults learning how to make good choices — by which I mean they may make bad decisions in the beginning, but develop and learn through the book.

    For adult romance, I chose 12 because that’s when I began reading books with relatively explicit sex scenes. I think, though, I’d be pro-active in recommending books that I feel they’d enjoy but which don’t put too much emphasis on sex. (Because let’s face it — they’ll find those soon enough.) Also books that are well written because I’d like her to have an appreciation of the words as much as the story.

  7. Sherry Thomas
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:08:02

    Actually, I made a mistake. I clicked 13 but I first read Sweet Savage Love at 14, although that wasn’t my first romance. Sometimes I think it’s impossible, but I might have read Rosemary Rogers’ Wanton–surely one of the most disturbing romances ever written–before that.

    Speaking of Granny Rosemary, I think I shall use the word “pinion” in my current book, in tribute. :-)

    And I laughed really hard when one of the Golden Heart–I think–winners thanked Johanna Lindsey. She said something like she was twelve when she read her first romance. She was aware that sex happened, but she had no idea it could happen on a horse. And she was hooked! LOL

  8. LizC
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:15:43

    I remember exactly that I was 11 when I first read Jewels by Danielle Steel. I freaking loved it. Thought it was the most awesome book on the planet. Now I’m sure I probably wouldn’t but I still have a fondness for it. My mother knew because I never hid any of the books I read from her and, iirc, she just told me to ask her if I had any questions.

    From there it was just a slippery slope. I read pretty much every romance novel my mother owned (quite a lot) over the next 7 years while I still lived at home.

    Perhaps if I had kids I wouldn’t advocate starting at 11 but if they wanted to read one of the many romance novels I own then I’d try to recommend one of the more light-hearted happier ones. I’m not saying I was irreparably damaged but I was probably only about 13 or 14 when I read The Flame and the Flower and I’d probably not recommend that for everyone.

  9. katiebabs
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:16:19

    13 was the age for me. My mother just wanted me to read because I hated to. Then she gave me some Harlequin Super Romances and it was all down hill from there!

  10. Gina Bernal
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:20:31

    I started reading sweet romantic books (the Sunfire series, etc) pretty early on. But when I was about 12 or 13, I checked out a very romance-y novel about Pocahontas from my middle school library. It was the first book featuring explicit sex that I can remember reading. Needless to say, I handled my naughty little discovery like you might expect a 12-year-old to…I showed all the sexy bits to my friends. Soon there was a waiting list to check out the book. :) I’m pretty sure the librarian did not know about the adult content (seeing as, on another occasion, she didn’t allow me to request Judy Blume’s Forever on interlibrary loan–we didn’t carry it at our school).

    It’s up to parents to decide what their kids can handle, content-wise. Good thing romance comes at all types of heat levels, because I’m all for encouraging kids to read in general. It’s a plus if they become future romance readers!

  11. Kate Pearce
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:25:59

    My big sisters used to read romance novels like ‘The Flame and the Flower’ and ‘Shanna’ out loud to each other while I hid on the bottom bunk listening avidly. I was about 12 I think. They got into a lot of trouble when I asked my mum what phallic meant, although she didn’t falter in her reply when she told me it was something to do with the movement of water. I believed her for years LOL

    But I do think romances are a lot more graphic than they used to be so I’m keeping my daughter away from mine until she is an adult.

  12. Jen
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:28:39

    When I was 10 or 11, I went looking for sexy books and found a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in my parents’ library. I kept it hidden from my parents under my bed. In retrospect, I’m amazed my view of sex wasn’t warped for life. I’d much rather my 11 year old read a sex-positive erotic romance than a book filled with destructive pecking vaginas (as Lawrence repeatedly describes them).

  13. Julia
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:33:05

    I read the Gone With the Wind “sequel” when I was 13 and then read some more Alexander Ripley since my mother didn’t realize that she was a trashy novelist. But I didn’t care for her and didn’t pick up another romance until I got addicted to them accidentally when I was around 16. Late bloomer, I know. But I think 15 or 16 is probably the right age, simply because I would want any daughter of mine to be well-read, and once you discover trash, it’s almost impossible to read the classics anymore. :)

  14. Eyre
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:38:23

    I started reading romance at about 10 or 11. I don’t know if there’s just one particular age. I do believe that romance has gotten much more graphic; however, I also feel that a parent who knows his/her child will know the right time when it gets there.

  15. Santa
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:38:52

    I was 10 when I started reading Victoria Holt et al. I was 13 when I got caught reading Sidney Shelden’s “The Other Side of Midnight” in social studies.

    Baby Girl is reading great YA romances since she was 10 and is reading the School of Night series now, as well as, The Luxe. She’s a smart girl who shares my love of words and will come to the glorious romances I treasure in her own good time….and I’ll be there to guide her.

  16. Alisha Rai
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:38:56

    I think the first book I read with actual sex in it was VC Andrews Flowers in the Attic (OMG Susie, he totally kissed her nipple!) and I was ten. The first legit romance I read was a Shirlee Busbee around 13 or so. I don’t remember the name, but it had a feisty redhead and way more than a nipple kiss. After that, I moved on to Amanda Quick/JAK, which I think are fairly reasonable for an early reader.

    My concern is that I now have so many erotic romances that I’ll have to keep hidden…I don’t want her reading those until much much later. Um, so later that I don’t really have to know if she is reading them. Thank god for e-books.

  17. Maya Banks
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:39:02

    I was reading romances at 8 and 9. I didn’t turn out TOO twisted I don’t think ;)

  18. valor
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:39:57

    Oh, I can’t remember when I read my first Nora Roberts book. I was probably 10. I read them at my grandmother’s house. I have to say that I think a child should get to decide their own reading material. I remember stunning my fifth grade teacher by reading my brother’s copy of Animal Farm in class. Is that too violent for a 10 year old? Maybe, but I enjoyed it. I don’t remember my parents ever telling me a book was too old for me.

  19. Vivienne Westlake
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:44:21

    I started reading romance novels around 14 or 15. I was able to handle it, so I think many girls can. Though I would adjust the age based on the specific teen. Some girls mature early.

    But, I think most girls know a lot by the age of 15 or 16, so you aren’t shielding them by making them wait until they are over 16. At that point, I think parents/relatives are probably in denial. Girls today know more about sex at 13 than I probably did at 17. Now, hard-core erotic romance is definitely one that should wait until they are 17-18 unless the girl is very emotionally mature. (Does this mean I need to put warning labels on all of my books?)

  20. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:44:46

    I was 11 when I discovered Harlequin Temptation and Silhouette Intimate Moments. To my delight, they were much more explicit than my mom’s Romances! I bought them by the dozens at the local used book store. I think this was a healthy and female-positive way to answer some of my questions about sex. Although the subject was taboo at my house, my mom let me read anything I wanted to, and I thank her for it.

  21. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:45:46

    I’m not sure I can answer this one . . . I was reading science fiction and fantasy and historical fiction novels with romantic subplots by the time I was eight or so (I think we tend to read what our parents read, since those are the books availble). My first actual romance was some Viking romace by Johanna Lindsey (Fires of Winter, Winter Fire, ???) that a friend loaned me when I was 16. Put me off the genre for an entire decade.

  22. Jill Myles
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:55:41

    I think my first ‘official’ romance was Clan of the Cave Bear, and then Valley of Horses. That was…scarring (yet my god, I love those books).

    After that, I devoured my cousin’s Zebra Hologram romances. God those were amazing.

  23. KeriM
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:57:06

    I started with Harlequin Presents that my cousin’s grand-mother had stashed in her closet. It was all down hill from there and boy have a read some bad books. Mandingo when I was like 13 or 14. If only my mom knew. My baby girl though who is 12 now has no interest in reading, period. *sigh* At least right now. My 6 year old son has potential, maybe he will like suspense or scifi, but right now he is totally into how things work. I had to give a 10 minute dissertation to him on how a chocolate fountain worked…lol. :-)

  24. RfP
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 20:57:59

    Just curious: why specifically girls? Because they’re more likely to pick up a romance? (Teenage boys are curious about relationships and sex too, so if romances are sitting around the house, i.e. someplace private, I bet they read ‘em too.)

    Or because parental concerns are different for girls? (I suppose one could make an argument about how girls are socialized; that’s a means-end argument that I can’t dismiss on a practical level, though I’d like to think there are different means to a similar goal.)

  25. Kinsey W. Holley
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:03:34

    I started reading Old Skool romances in junior high, so what…11, 12? I read Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss and a bunch of the genuine bodice rippers, and I was probably too young. Gave me some very misguided notions about sex for a while.

    I figure the Diva will find a way to read what she wants to read – I certainly did – and I just hope that if she reads a romance that freaks her out, she’ll talk to me about it.

    She’s only seven. I’m hoping I have a few years before it’s an issue.

  26. Angelia Sparrow
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:07:07

    My philosophy on reading is “if they can reach it off the shelf and it can hold their interest, they can read it.” (this would be why my bed is in front of the door that leads to my porn shelf)

    I started with romance around 12-13. Until then, I had turned my nose up at them in my usual disdain of all things feminine. Somewhere around there, I realized I was more interested in what John Carter and Dejah Thoris were doing than in the world-building or the sword fights, that Han Solo and Princess Leia getting smoochy were more interesting than how to fix the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive.

    Once I got that, I started reading Victoria Holt, The India Fan, because my mom read her and had several around. I got really hooked around 15, because that was most of what populated the staff reading shelf at work.

    But my daughter (17) is plowing through Pride and Prejudice. My younger daughter (9) is a slow reader and doesn’t do it for pleasure.

  27. Nialla
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:30:53

    I was reading adult level books at around age 9, but as I grew older and reread those books, I found that I missed alot. Not that I had forgotten things, just that they were “over my head” at the time. Though today if something’s over their head, they’ll just Google it, so it’s not quite the same.

    I can’t just state an age though, because maturity levels vary so widely. I do think if you’ve raised them right, they’ll make the right reading choices. Even if they read something with a message you might not like as their parent, you’ve prepared them to know the difference between fiction and reality.

    My parents never questioned or restricted my reading, and I think if they had, it would have made me more secretive about it, which wouldn’t have been good for either side. Neither were big readers themselves, but my maternal grandmother was often the provider of my romance reading material. She only had one child out of five that enjoyed reading, and I was the only grandchild that was enjoying reading at at early age, so she probably would have told them to back off and let me read. *g*

  28. CupK8
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:33:22

    I was in 8th grade when I read my first romance. There was a series of books in the school library that, IIRC, were based on states? Or something? Each one was a girl’s name as the title, but each one was in a different state. I don’t remember the storylines much, but they were like crack. I do remember there was nothing explicit in them – I had to wait until I had the courage to check out romance from the public library for those. ;)

  29. hapax
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:33:40

    I clicked “eleven” on the poll because there wasn’t an option for “whenever they want.”

    Sexual references usually bore or sail over the head of children who aren’t developmentally ready to understand them. (Unlike violence, which even very young children understand all too well). My daughter used to pick up books all the time and put them down, saying, “I’m not ready to read this, yet.”

    I remember plenty of romances I read around the age of ten or eleven (my grandmother had nothing in her house except Harlequins to read), and then re-read later and said, “O-oh. That was what was happening!” (After that, there was Eloise Jarvis McGraw (mmmm) then Heyer by thirteen, and I never looked back.

    But “allowing” is a far cry from “recommending.” And “romances” as we all know, covers a pretty wide swath. I wouldn’t object if my (now 15 year old daughter) wanted to read some of the more graphic titles, but I wouldn’t hand them to her, either.

  30. Kathleen MacIver
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:37:29

    My daughter is 12, and although she doesn’t seem interested, I’d let her now, if she was interested.

    HOWEVER…that’s not to say that I wouldn’t keep a VERY close eye on the types of romances she read. So she’d have to be 18 before I’d let her read SOME romance. I know that what she reads will affect her perception of what she wants in a romance, and I want to make sure she’s looking for the real thing. :-)

  31. ReacherFan
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:42:45

    by Kalen Hughes July 21st, 2009 at 8:45 pm Reply to this comment

    I'm not sure I can answer this one . . . I was reading science fiction and fantasy and historical fiction novels with romantic subplots by the time I was eight or so (I think we tend to read what our parents read, since those are the books availble). My first actual romance was some Viking romace by Johanna Lindsey (Fires of Winter, Winter Fire, ???) that a friend loaned me when I was 16. Put me off the genre for an entire decade.

    OMG – Me too! It was so awful I couldn’t believe it. I went back to si-fi, mysteries, and historical fiction.

  32. CourtneyLee
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:43:44

    I think I was 12 or so when I started sneaking my mom’s Harlequin Temptations. For years I thought she was none the wiser, then she handed me Danielle Steele’s The Promise when I was 15, saying that since I liked the Harlequins so much, I’d like DS, too.

    I think that sex between two consenting adults who have their crap together at the end of the story, complete with a healthy committed relationship, is the way I’d want my daughter to read about sex as an adolescent. Better that than the drivel on TV. I’d hide some things until she’s 15 or 16, but I would let her read romance (and my son can read them, too, so he can get an early insight to how to deal with the minefield that is the female psyche) as early as she wants, depending on the heat level, of course.

    Hook em’ while they’re young, I say. LOL

  33. Cathy in AK
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:51:42

    My 12 y.o. thought there was too much smooching in Twilight and not enough blood and neck biting, so I’m guessing her interest in romances will take a while.

  34. MJ
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 21:56:15

    I was reading Harlequins in 5th grade. Not sure if they were Presents back then, but they were the ones Janet Dailey wrote (sorry Nora–before you were published!). I would read one a day.

    The books that scarred me were movie novelizations. I read about sex in all manner of ways and my mom had no idea, because those scenes weren’t in the movies.

  35. Emmy
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 22:18:21

    Dunno if I was ever allowed to read them. I just sort of started picking up my mom’s books and reading on my own. And, short of penthouse or something, I don’t regulate what my own child reads. I’m just sort of grateful that he *does* read.

  36. MaryK
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 22:55:27

    I didn’t vote because I think it depends totally on the individual kid. I was reading classic romantic suspense (Stewart, MacInnes, Holt) from a young age but nothing explicit. My first romance was A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux and I skipped the sex scenes. :*) Don’t remember how old I was, but it was embarrassingly old to be so uninterested. To some extent, I think kids are self-censoring just by their level of interest/understanding.

  37. Zoe Archer
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 23:45:01

    A friend of mine introduced me to romance novels around the 9th grade, so, what is that, 13? 14? She borrowed them from her mother. Most of those early books were Woodiweiss, Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, Iris Johansen…lots more I can’t remember, but the power dynamic between the hero and the heroine would certainly give me pause now.

    It was definitely not my first experience reading about explicit sex, given that I’d already read random issues of Penthouse, Playboy and the copy of The Joy of Sex that every adult in the ’70s and ’80s seemed to have. Plus, we had cable television, and I’d seen my share of soft core porn. (It’s kind of amazing I’m not more warped….)

    So reading about sex wasn’t a new experience. However, romance novels gave me a skewed understanding of sex. It wasn’t until a friend of mine became sexually active and talked to me about it that I learned that women didn’t have orgasms every time they had sex. In romance land, orgasms, especially simultaneous orgasms, were a given.

    My parents were pretty progressive and open about sexuality, so I wasn’t barred from much. And I feel that, because they were open and trusted me, I made good choices. If I ever did have a daughter or was responsible for raising a girl, I think having them read romances might help them develop a respect for sexuality as well as an understanding of sex as a means of developing intimacy and affection. BUT I wouldn’t rely on the books alone to posit this view. Parents are crucial for their children’s healthy sexual development. I sure as heck would talk about why Bella and Edward are NOT a couple I would encourage her to emulate in her own relationships.

  38. Rosario
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 23:49:35

    Whenever she wants to read them. I started really young (before 11, really) and I remember just glossing over the parts I didn’t understand or couldn’t handle.

  39. Zoe Archer
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 00:06:17

    I forgot to mention that when my mom reads my books now, she skips the sex scenes! She’s not a prude, but reading something sexy written by her daughter is just too much for her. :)

  40. Edie
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 02:55:47

    I voted 13, though I started a bit earlier than that, 10-11, but I had read the small town’s school library’s entire catalogue by then.. (I wish I could still read the amount that I was reading then!)
    But realistically, I think there are a lot more kids books and YA fiction available now than even the 17-20 years ago when I turned to romance, they don’t need to be hunting down adult books. I would prefer my nieces to read a wide variety of stuff.. and while I love parts of the romance genre, I would rather I get the chance to beat my feminist ideals into them before they get hooked on romance.

  41. Evangeline
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 03:35:10

    Can’t vote b/c I don’t have any kids or sisters, and growing up, my friends didn’t really read. My mother apparently read romances when she was a young teen but stopped when she got married and so the genre was never passed on to me. I didn’t discover romances until I was 17 or 18, and even then I started off with traditional regencies and gothic romances. I do recall being thrilled by the sex in a Jackie Collins’ novel when I was around 11 or so, but since I was still heavily into Sweet Valley or Baby-Sitters Club it never occurred to me that any other genre of fiction existed. *g* I think the age depends, but I have it in my mind that I don’t want any of my children to hide their reading from me–nor vice versa.

  42. SarahT
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 04:32:04

    I don’t see the big deal in preteens reading about sex. I’d be more concerned about violence in books. I was about 11 or 12 when I first read a Jackie Collins book, and nearer to 13 when I read my first Mills & Boon.

  43. Michele
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 05:26:56

    I would say it would depend on the maturity level of the young woman along with her interest. I read my first adult romance around 15 (a Virigina Henley if I remember correctly) and my eyebrows were certaintly raised. But to my amazement I really didn’t start reading romance heavily until I graduated high school- in high school I was really into hard-boiled mystery for some crazy reason.

    I have a 12 year-old niece and if I had to recommend reading material to her right now I would defintely steer her towards YA though I would probably read some of the books first but no so much as to screen them but to really know and understand what I would be recommending.

    I am forever grateful to my parents because they always encouraged me to read and never limited my choices in any way. And I’m grateful that they let me read ‘Catcher In The Rye’ in 8th grade and bring it to school so I could piss off my reading teacher at the time (she was a real bitch who had no business teaching at all, much less reading).

  44. Angie
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 05:28:11

    I was twelve when I started borrowing my mother’s historical romances. I picked up a book, read the back blurb and the excerpt in the front, and asked if I could borrow it; she said yes. It was Constance Gluyas’s Rogue’s Mistress, and it was one of my favorite books for years. I borrowed her romances regularly after that, and started buying my own at the used bookstore with scrounged lunch money. Ironically enough, my mom was never into the skinny (sweet) Regencies; I started buying those on my own, and although I was disappointed they didn’t have any sex, I liked the stories and the period. :)

    Mind that I was twelve in 1975, which was the height of the “Rape Before Marrying” era of historicals. Sex was incredibly graphic and often violent. (Take note, folks who think that the more recent “erotic romance” trend invented the idea of explicit sex in romances.) I was neither traumatized or warped nor spoiled for real-world relationships.

    One thing I do miss from that era is books where the bad guy and his henchmen rape the Girl, and then the Guy tracks them down one by one and kills them with his bare hands. :D

    [All right, maybe they made me a tiny bit bloodthirsty. When the targets are rapists, though, I don’t feel bad about it at all. And the mid-seventies was also still within the era when it was tough to get rape convictions and any victim who took it to court was painted as a slut who’d been begging for it by the defense lawyers, so the more direct solution to the problem presented in historical romances was wonderfully refreshing.]

    Angie

  45. Kat
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 05:51:36

    Hmmm… interesting the poll is just about romance books, but a lot of the commenters are discussing when they first read a book with explicit sex in it. I have to admit that was how I voted too.

    It seems to me that people allow kids to read books based on the book’s reputation, rather than the actual content, because the grown-ups might have to read the book themselves! I read The Hunchback of Notre Dame when I was 11. There’s more to that book than a guy with a curved spine who likes to ring church bells — there’s seduction, marriages of convenience with pre-determined expiry dates, and all sorts of other things lots of grown-ups would never let an 11-year-old read.

    But every time I was seen reading that book, my teachers and parents would praise me for taking an interest in “the classics” and having the reading skill to take on a Victorian novel. Meanwhile, if I had gone anywhere near a contemporary author known for explicit sex scenes, I would have been in deep trouble.

    Maybe that’s why I still stick to authors and genres the authority figures from my childhood didn’t know….

  46. Roxanne St. Claire
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 06:04:35

    Like others, I started with Woodiwiss, etc. at ten or eleven, hooked for life. But today, as someone mentioned upthread, there are so many YA choices that offer a young reader a more age appropriate romantic ride. My daughter is eleven, and consequently, I’ve been reading a ton of YA romances (protags are about 15 – 16 in the ones that interest her) so that we can talk about what she’s reading. I’m hooked on it – there is some amazingly well written stuff out there.

    Last night, I was reading a brand new hardcover YA from Disney Hyperion press with a 16 y/o protag who had sex (which was endlessly referred to as ‘hooking up’) and a scene of drinking/driving combo. I was just a little disgusted at the attitude of the heroine – excited to have hooked up with a guy three years older, laughing about how losing her virginity took ten minutes, as well as the casual treatment of beer and driving. Frankly, I’d rather my daughter read a love scene from an adult romance novel where there is far more emotion and connection, even if it is doubt and angst, than this Disney book I read last night that equated sex with eating pizza or going swimming.

    I’ve let my daughter read my old HQ-NASCAR books because they are sex-free, and my one and only chick lit despite the F-bombs & adult themes because she asked (begged) to read this book, and I didn’t think the adult themes would keep her interest. I was wrong – she loved it. (There was no on the page sex, but plenty of talk about it.) I’ll let her go full on with sexier stuff/romantic suspense in about two years, when she’s 14. She knows about sex; I just want her to appreciate the impact of the emotions involved.

    One of my favorite childhood memories is having the nuns call my mother to tell her that I (fifth grade, ten years old) was reading “filthy porn” (Victoria Holt’s Mistress of Mellyn) and my mother shooting back that she GAVE me the book and they ought to read it so they wouldn’t be such a bunch of “old biddies.”

  47. Heather Holland
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 06:29:04

    I may be the oddball here. I didn’t read a romance novel until I was 22, though I’ve been hooked ever since, nor did I read anything containing “explicit” language/descriptions. I was so clueless as a teen. Maybe that’s a bit responsible for my answer.

    My oldest just turned 14 and is beginning to show an interest in reading, though she’s super slow at it. She’s into the Twilight series at the moment, though if she wanted to read a romance novel I’d let her. However, her copy of mine is safely put away until her 18th birthday, just as with all her siblings. I don’t think she’s mature enough yet for the erotic stuff, nor is her younger sister (age 11). I am perfectly fine letting them read the milder stuff, though, because I want them to be at least a little informed. Yes, I talk to them but they either ignore me or get embarrassed and run off to hide in their rooms whenever I try. Besides, some of the movies they watch (oldest is addicted to “B” horror flicks) contain far worse stuff than what one would find in a romance novel.

    I see nothing wrong with letting either of them read a Harlequin/Silhouette or other similar type romance novel (on the paranormal side, since they’re like me when it comes to that) if they expressed an interest in it. I must admit that it would be nice to have another paranormal romance reader in the family because then I’d have someone to talk to about the books. My mother is a straight laced contemporary romance novel reader with an occasional historical tossed in and nothing more. In fact, I think the only scifi romance she’s ever read was mine simply because it was mine. No amount of talking can get her to try a paranormal, believe me, I’ve tried.

  48. Ammarylis
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 06:34:10

    I was 12 and living with my aunt when i first started reading romances.Some nice lady on the bus caught me eyeing it and gave it to me,guanteeing it would be a fantastic read.Of course,my aunt flipped out and called me “fast” and a sinner in the making.But when i moved in with my mom when i was 14,she didnt care what i read as long as i was reading and even helped me to pick out the romance novels at the library/book store.

    I have got to say,when i read my first romance novel it was like finding the holy grail.There were girls/women out their who were insecure like me? Who wanted the guy who they couldnt have? And and HEA too? These books have been a santuary for me to escape the monotony of life and i give the authors huge props for that.

  49. Carin
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 06:41:13

    When I was pretty young, still in single digits, I think, I read some YA romance – I can’t believe no one has mentioned Sweet Valley High! When I started babysitting (at age 11 *gasp* people let me care for their children when I was 11??????) I started raiding bookshelves while I waited for parents to come home. But it was the families I started sitting for when I was 13 that had the good books! (And by good I mean sexually explicit.) Flowers in the Attic – one mom had the whole series!!! I babysat there a lot! Another mom had a half dozen pirate/historical. I can still remember how I felt sneaking those in, ears perked for the kids or parents. Ah, pirates still have a sweet spot in my heart!

    As far as sex goes, though, around the same age (13 or so) I figured out that a lot of sci fi authors had romance and sex in their books. I was hooked! I read a lot of sci fi. But I also loved LM Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott. It’s only looking back at all the books I read then that I see romance as a common thread that drew me to most of the books I read.

  50. Aoife
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 07:06:31

    I put 13, although I don’t feel strongly about it, it just seems like a nice, middle-of-the-road number. I grew up in household where none of my reading was censored, and read my first romance when I was 9 or 10, a Georgette Heyer. I realize now that if there was anything more explicit in the house, it was probably tucked away where I couldn’t find it, but my mother didn’t read Romance anyway.

    I never censored my own daughters’ reading, but my younger daughter had no interest in reading anything with romance or a romantic subplot until she was in her late teens (her idea of a good read was Chuck Palahniuk (sp?)), while my older daughter stuck to the “sweet” end of the spectrum, and still does. I tended to put books with the more graphic sexy bits in my bedroom bookshelf, but neither girl ever seemed interested in them, and still aren’t, even though they frequently borrow books from other genres from me now. They aren’t embarrassed by my Romance reading, just uninterested. It seems to me that censoring or trying to control what a teenager will read is pretty much wasted effort, they’ll find what they’re interested in no matter what–you just may not know about it.

  51. Lisa J
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 07:26:20

    The first romance I read was The Flame and the Flower. I must have been 12 or 13 at the time. I was hooked after that. For me, I was at the right age, so I picked 13. My niece is 14 and she started reading the Twilight books when she was 12 or 13. As much as it seems kids are maturing so much faster now, I guess not.

  52. Miranda Neville
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 07:26:56

    I probably read my first Georgette Heyer when I was 11 or 12. My family thought they were junk and I certainly never admitted to them that I sneaked to the UBS and bought Mills & Boon contemporaries. I never read a romance with explicit sex, didn’t even know they existed. I would have loved them! My sister and friends and I combed popular literature for good bits, books like The Godfather or the James Bond books (a short paragraph goes a long way for sex-starved adolescents….). I only discovered sexy romances a few years ago when I picked up an Amanda Quick. The rest is history.

    I have never censored my daughter’s reading in any way, though I might have intervened if she showed an interest in highly violent stuff. She discovered Jo Beverly and Julia Quinn when she was about 12 and introduced me to them. Now she’s in her early 20s and reads paranormals. Won’t read the sex scenes in my books.

  53. Christine M.
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 07:45:08

    I read my first Harlequins (my mum’s) in 5th-6th grade, so I must have been 10 at the time. I remember all the exotic settings (South America, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, cruises on the Pacific hmmm!) and that sex (if/when there was some) was much more tame than what I was reading in Stephen King novels (which also where my mum’s). Then at 14, I read The Wolf and the Dove, based on the rec of a good friend, who’s the same age as me (we’re 26 now and we still both read romances to an extent).
    So, to make a long story short, I voted for 11 years old.

  54. Shiloh Walker
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 07:55:45

    I’m going with 14/15, but for me, it really depends on the girl, and on the book. My books, no way in hell will I let her read them @ 14. Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, some of the Silhouette/Harlequin lines, I would be cool with that.

  55. Susan D.
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 07:56:27

    If those Sunfire books in the scholastic book club count (marilee, roxanne, etc.), then I read my first romance around the 5th grade.

    The first romance I read w/sex was around age 12–Jude Deveraux, one of the Montgomery boys–I found it on the bookshelf and asked my mom if I could read it. She got this pained look on her face then said, “Keep in mind that some of the relationships in these books aren’t good role-models.” When I got to the part with the oral sex I was by turns confused (he’s kissing her where?!), grossed out (now she has to kiss him there, too? Ewwww…), and then curious (she liked that?! Hmm….). Looking back I just giggle over my total clueless-ness.

    Now that I’m a mom, I understand my mom’s dilemma and believe that what age is right for an individual kid to read rom will vary based on their maturity–not knowledge of sex, but ability to handle the antiquated man/woman dynamics in old skool rom and deal with the emotional crap that most rom characters endure and can separate what is healthy in real life from what makes a good story.

    In Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher talks about how many girls have their self-esteem battered in adolescence, and that some never get back to the feisty, smart, strong people they were. For those girls who are on that edge, I’d hope the women in their lives would steer them from the door-mat and TSTL heroines and encourage them read the strong, smart heroines as a way to help them see that girls really do rule.

  56. M E 2
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 08:01:55

    I started reading my mom’s Harlequin Presents/Romances when I was 13-14 years old. My choice was either those or her Barbara Cartland’s seeing as that was all she read. (at the time)

    Please note that this was almost (key word being almost) 30 years ago. This was when the sex was implied it was never actually written about.

    I don’t have daughters and/or nieces (I only have nephews) but I don’t think I would let them read the HP’s/HR’s of today at 13-14. Heck, I don’t read them anymore because I find them kind of insulting.

  57. Larissa Ione
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 08:15:02

    I didn’t read a romance until I was in my mid-twenties, but what was funny is that I thought nothing of reading Stephen King at the age of ten, but when I read Flowers in the Attic and My Darling, My Hamburger at twelve, I was shocked by the rather mild sex.

    Not sure about ages I’d let my daughter read romance…but then, I’m still reeling at the fact that my best friend’s 15 Y.O. daughter was reading Sleeping Beauty (the erotic one,) when I went to visit — and she got it in her high school library. Made me wonder if the library carries romance. I hope so.

  58. Robin Bayne
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 08:23:30

    My first romances were by Barbara Cartland, I think I was about 11. The biggest thing I keep in mind is that forbidding a book or genre just makes it that more appealing to the kids.

    My mom wouldn’t let me read “The Exorcist” when it came out, I was 11. (showing my age here : ) I was so annoyed and frustrated. Later I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, but then found it wasn’t that bad compared to other stuff I’d been reading back then.

  59. Tammy
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 08:33:32

    I also did not answer, because there was no ‘whenever they want’ option. I was a precocious and voracious reader, and transitioned to adult books by age 10 or so. Romances, straight fiction, mysteries, horror – it didn’t matter. If it was on the printed page, I read it and loved it.

    Needless to say, my reading wasn’t censored – though, honestly, it was more a matter of disinterest on the part of my parents rather than a conscious choice. No librarian ever called my mom to ask whether I had permission to check out “Sweet Savage Love.”

    Like hapax said above, material children aren’t developmentally ready to understand will sail over their head. That said, I think many kids understand more than we give them credit for. If a youngster is interested enough to pick up a book and read it, I say let them go ahead.

  60. evie byrne
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 08:38:22

    I didn’t vote, because can’t even imagine trying to control a kid’s reading. How is that going to work? I mean realistically, they’re going to read what they want to read.

    When I was a kid, I read whatever I could get my grubby little hands on. I read stuff I didn’t understand. I read stuff that made my eyes bug out. That’s what makes reading fun!

    The first romances I remember reading were my mom’s copies of Love’s Tender Fury and Shanna. I was 12, I think. I recall experiencing mysterious…er…romantic sensations as I read those.

  61. Monica Burns
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 08:52:38

    Curious, do the last several commenters have kids of 12-18 age group? That might make a difference in one’s stance on whether or not to offer up books with high sexual content.

    Also by my statement of “my books,” I mean the books I write, which contain EXPLICT sexual content. I have plenty of other romance books that I openly offer to my kids. Oldest has no interest *gasp* It’s the level of sexual content that makes a difference in whether to offer up a book to my daughters. I agree, restrictions can incite secretive reads, but I don’t openly forbid, I just make it clear that my books are fantasies and that when they’re mature enough I’m happy for them to read, but that right now it’ll just make things all the more confusing for them. We have good, honest, open relationships, so they trust me.

    We have open discussions about sex in our home, but my books are sexual fantasies, and my 12-yr-old DOESN’T need to read them and come to think that real life is like that. We also talk about censorship. My oldest graduated from a high school where a teacher was fired because he painted pictures with his genitalia (several paintings I really liked). I was livid when the school system fired the man, and we had open discussions in the house about censorship. So my kids know that I don’t approve of censorship, and if I offer up a restriction, I do it because I know they’re not ready. I do it with lots of things, just like most parents do.

    The real point I’m making is that I know my kid, and I think at 12 she’s way too young for certain types of books. It’s a decision every parent has to make, and yes there’s a fine line to walk with what to expose one’s kid too.

  62. (Jān)
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 08:59:05

    I read my first genre romance at 33. I think I was old enough then. ;P

    But honestly, I read my first sex-laden best seller when I was ten or so, and I didn’t have a clue as to what some of the things were that they were doing. I kept trying to make mental diagrams in my head and things just didn’t add up, because mouths were where other parts were expected and that was just beyond my innocent little mind. High school would be better, I think, and accompanied by diagrams if necessary.

  63. Randi
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:00:06

    I didn’t vote because there wasn’t an option that said, “whenever they find one to read”. I think I was 8 or 9 when I read my first one. My grandmother loved them and I stayed with her a lot. My mom knew and never had an issue with it. Reading is big in my family, regardless of what it is.

    So…if I had a daughter, neice, female whatever-if they can read, then by all means-read what you will.

  64. Randi
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:13:50

    @ Kat: You bring up a good point. I think I was 12 when Flowers in the Attic swept the 7th grade. I mean, EVERYONE was reading it. If it came down to a choice between a sexually explicit romance and a VC Andrews book, I would heavily encourage the romance and try to find some way of making them forget VC Andrews even exists.

    I jest, sort of. I’m not big on restricting any reading (and my mom, too, had the joy of sex, sexual secrets, our bodies our selves-so I knew all about sex by the time I was 11)-but there’s something really disturbing about VC Andrews, which always seems to be super popular with the pre-teen and early teen crowd.

  65. daisy
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:20:30

    First @#24 RfP – you commented on “why just girls” and I wanted to say that as the mother of 3 boys and 1 girl, all of my children were aware of what I was reading and none of the boys had the slightest interest in my books beyond the occassional “is that another one of your loooooooove books” comments. If they had wanted to read them, I would have been happy to hand them over, but the oldest was into sci-fi, the middle into anything sports related and the youngest refuses to read. However, my rules for which books I would hand over would have been the same for the boys as it was for my daughter.

    She lamented the fact that there was nothing good to read available and that the school library was divided into class groups – if you were in third grade you could only read the third grade books and so on. She wanted to read the Laura Ingels Wilder books, but they were in the 5th grade section and the librarian wouldn’t let her check them out. I ordered her the whole set and off she went.

    She started reading my romances at about 12, but I limited her choices to the ones I felt were, as someone up thread said “sweeter”. More about developing the relationship than about the sex. She devoured them all and passed them on to her friends.

    I never felt that limiting her access to particular books was in any way censoring what she read. I limited access to the boys reading material as well – and their movie and tv watching. As a parent it is my responsibility to monitor what they watch and what they read until such time as I feel they are mature enough to handle the content; that is not censorship IMO, that is just being a responsible parent. Of course, I never told her she couldn’t read those other books, I just told her I would prefer that she wait until she was a bit older. Telling her she couldn’t would have been like giving her a dare. And we all know you never dare a teenager not to do anything!

  66. Danielle Yockman
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:20:42

    My first romance was a young adult romance called Danielle (I know it is obvious why I picked that one!) It was probably meant for a teenager, and I was around 11 or so, but I was an advanced reader; and frankly I don’t think my dad ever denied me a book I wanted :) As far as my kids (if I ever have any) I think it will depend on each individual child and what book they want to read. I like to think I will raise them with enough self-esteem and independence that they would prefer a strong heroine whether she is emotionally strong, physically strong, or shows it in some other unique way. Regardless, I know they will find it if they want it, I was reading Danielle Steel in jr. high school.

  67. Natasha A.
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:32:09

    I read my first adult book at about 8 or 9. It was Clan of the Cave Bear. Not romance, but not exactly *tame*. I started reading Danielle Steel shortly after

  68. Nell Dixon
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:34:14

    I was 11 when I read my first M&B. Now I have three daughters aged 11, 13 and 15. My eldest has never been interested in pure romances so the question never came up. My middle daughter has just started to get interested mainly in paranormals and my youngest loves sweet, YA romances so it very much depends on the individual. I’ve always let them choose for themselves what to read and they often ask me what I think of a book choice if they are wary of the content and we discuss if they feel it’s a good choice for them.

  69. Chris W
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:38:20

    I think that it is whenever the child is ready. I started reading Stephen King and VC Andrews in 4th-5th grade, so about 10 or 11. Then any book on the library shelves in horror and romance. For me it was a natural progression, because I had read all of the books for my age by then.

    When I was in Jr. High I tried to check out a couple VC Andrews book from the school library and the librarian would not let me. She earmarked some pages for my mother to read and had her ok what I was reading. My mom was not the reader in the house so she told the librarian that it was fine. I had been reading all of my dads books for years and whatever held my interest in the public library.

  70. Noelle (Chloe Harris)
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:42:14

    I am in a very small minority when I said 17.
    Although I am now a romance author I did not read romance until my late twenties.

    I hate it when I read all kids at 13/14 know all about sex so just let them at it.
    That is not true. There are still good kids and good parents in the world despite what all the talk shows want you to think.

    There are also so many classics and great YA stuff (NOT Twilight but books by authors like Eion Colfer and Anthony Horowitz) to read and there will be time for romance later.

    My 18 yr old is an avid reader and always has been but has never picked up a romance. It’s been hard to get my younger child (12) to read but if it came down to continuing to struggle or her reading twilight or an adult romance, I’d rather continue to struggle.

  71. evie byrne
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:42:51

    @Monica

    I don’t have kids, and so yes, it’s easier for me to be cavalier. I totally admit that. But I just remember how I was, and if my kid were like me, it would just be hopeless. There was no way for my folks to police my reading. I read everywhere, all the time. On the bus. At lunch. After school when they weren’t home. And I wasn’t reading books my folks bought for me, I was reading library books and books that were passed around my circle of friends.

    To be clear, I’d never give my 12 year old daughter a romance and say, “Here, read this.” But if she dragged one home from the library I’d not stand in her way. I think kids read what they need to read when they’re ready to read it.

    In this Age of the Internets (and explicit TV and music) there’s so much sexual info so easily available–and in living color–that turgid romantic prose seems to me to be the least of a concerned parent’s problems.

    This reminds me of something that happened yesterday. I went on Wikipedia looking for an anatomical diagram of the vascular system of a penis. (For a story. Don’t ask.) And I found one easily, of course, but I also found on the same page a series of color photographs of a nicely endowed man demonstrating the stages of an erection.

    My first thought was, “Wow, kids must know a lot these days!” because I remember having lengthy discussions with my girlfriend at age 12 trying to figure out how an erection worked. We knew the word, but the mechanics were mysterious. We lived in a bubble with zero access to certain kinds of information. I know that I wouldn’t be nearly so innocent if I were 12 today.

    (ps. This comment seemed to be eaten so I’m re-posting. Many apologies, DA, if I post twice.)

  72. Christine Rimmer
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:53:10

    I would let them read any- and everything by age 11. I certainly did. I knew about sex when I was seven. Found out from a boy of eight who held a pocket knife on me and said he was going to **** me. It sounds scarier than it was–at least to me. I stuck out my tongue at him and ran home and asked my mom what **** was. To her credit, she told me, really well, giving me no more info than I needed, but all that I needed. As to the incident with the boy and the pocket knife, I told her all about that, too. She called around and found his mother and had a little talk with her. He never pulled any of that creepy stuff again, as far as I knew.

    I say go for it, girls, with your reading. I never had daughters, but with my sons, I would tell them the books I was iffy about and why. And then we would talk about their reaction to them if they chose to read them anyway. I’m all for getting it right out into the light and being open and honest.

  73. Christine Rimmer
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:56:07

    Yikes. This one loaded twice. Just cutting the repeated content here, as there is no delete option.

  74. Christine Rimmer
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:58:21

    Then again, as an author, when I’ve been asked to speak to middle school English students about my books, I say no and explain that I do write sex scenes, soft ones–but sex scenes nonetheless. And I respect every parent’s right to make decisions about how much they want their kids to know–and when.

    Though as a parent, I do want sex education in the public schools. Is this a contradiction? Oh, well, maybe.

  75. Aoife
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 10:12:31

    Noelle (Chloe Harris) said

    I hate it when I read all kids at 13/14 know all about sex so just let them at it.
    That is not true. There are still good kids and good parents in the world despite what all the talk shows want you to think.

    I don’t think that being a “good kid” or “good parent” is necessarily related to what a 13/14 year old knows (or thinks s/he knows!) or reads about sex. The fact is that most 13/14 year olds do know something about sex. It may be misinformation, it may not be the same as an 18+ year olds information, and it almost certainly is not the same as what the parents think the 13/14 year old knows, but unless they have been living under a rock, they know something. Even a parent who thinks she has been very open to discussing the facts of life with her children is likely to be surprised by what the 13/14 year old remembers or understands about those discussions, and the parent who thinks she is protecting her child from all those details is also likely to be surprised by what that 13/14 year old knows and talks about with her friends–especially the stuff they get wrong.

    IMO, a good parent is open and available for discussion about whatever their child is reading, whether that’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or Lady Chatterly’s Lover. In my experience, parents aren’t nearly as in control of their child’s reading as they think they are, and I’d rather have input. YMMV.

  76. Meezergrrrl
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 10:16:32

    Uhhh…

    I don’t know that it’s reasonable to even think you can influence the free will of a born reader with what “they should” or “should not – it’s not age appropriate” read.

    I read everything I could get my hands on when I was a kid. And a lot of that was either 1.) after lights out, under the covers with a flashlight, or 2.) after lights out, in the lit hallway, next to the bookshelf, where the adults didn’t know I was lurking.

    You can tell your kid your opinion (I know my 18 year old step-daughter is sick to death of mine after the last 17 years. I also know that my mother is a literary snob, so I generally don’t listen to her opinions on the subject, either), but you can’t make them not read. That is, unless you’re gonna start putting the bookshelves under lock and key.

    Generally speaking, if it’s in your house, expect that your kid may encounter and read it. Whether you want them to or not.

    I’m just sayin… this is not supposed to be a declaration of what I think the behavior patterns of other people’s children actually are, just what they are likely to be, based on experience, and the fact that kids, especially literate ones, are naturally curious.

  77. Claudia Dain
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 10:19:00

    I think part of the decision making process has to include how actively the girl is dating, or put another way, how actively she is being pursued by the opposite sex. The individual maturity and innate personality of the girl is definitely part of the equation, but it’s one thing for 14 year old girl to read an explicit romance novel and then run out to play catcher for her softball team and another for her to put the book down and climb into a car for a date with a 16 year old boy.

  78. Kate
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 10:28:51

    I hate it when I read all kids at 13/14 know all about sex so just let them at it.
    That is not true. There are still good kids and good parents in the world despite what all the talk shows want you to think.

    This is so weird. I think everyone here knows about sex at that age. We learned about sex and type of birth control at school when we were 13/14 years old (The Netherlands). I remember learning about sex and aids at elementary school too.

    I also don’t get what a good kid has to do with the knowledge the child has about sex.

  79. SabrinaD
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 10:31:49

    I read Shirley Busbee’s Tiger Lily at age 7. My mom read it after me. Historical romance is why I love history so much; it made it all a story for me early on. And the sex part… well, that happened much, much later…

  80. (Jān)
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 10:37:00

    This is so weird. I think everyone here knows about sex at that age. We learned about sex and type of birth control at school when we were 13/14 years old (The Netherlands). I remember learning about sex and aids at elementary school too.

    I also don't get what a good kid has to do with the knowledge the child has about sex.

    @Kate, I think she’s trying to say that not every 13-14 year old has the knowledge of a 40 year old hooker. It’s possible to know about sex and birth control without being familiar with a lot of what goes on in erotic romances these days. I think being aware of that content and being careful about what your child reads, and giving them the information at the speed at which they can handle it is the mark of a good parent.

  81. Joanne
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 10:50:46

    When my daughter was 13 or 14, I sorted out a variety of titles after scanning for content, she read the blurb for a couple of them and then gave them back to me! She asked to read romance again last year when she was 16 and went through a few Mills and Boon Presents and snarked them, although some remained in her room for a couple of months and looked suspiciously well-read. She went back to her YA books and wasn’t interested in any non M&B titles. She is currently reading Wuthering Heights for English Lit and thoroughly enjoying it.

  82. DS
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 10:57:47

    I think kids who want to read a book will find a way to read it. I’ve told the story my senior English teacher told me about hiding in the back of a walk-in closet with a flashlight and Forever Amber while her mother was making her once a week trip to the grocery store. I was able to get my hands on stuff that I knew my parents didn’t want me to read. When kids are ready or curious enough to read something they will read it and good luck preventing them from reading it.

    Oh, and I used to start “age appropriate” conversations with my mother about certain subjects– *cough* *cough*– of a biological nature because I didn’t want her to know how much I already knew. Kids can be incredibly sneaky.

  83. ASable
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 11:12:52

    I’m with everyone else who said “whenever they want to”, with some caveats–even with my liberal attitude on these things, I don’t believe a tween or preteen (are they the same thing? hmmm) should really be reading about threesomes, BDSM or taboo-type encounters.

    Having said that, I started reading romances (and those wonderfully trashy Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz summertime reads!) at an early age, maybe 9 or 10, and some of the sexual situations in those books were pretty hot. Considering I was a really young 10-year-old–nothing like the sophisticated too-smart-for-their-own-good little divas in my life!–I don’t think there was any harm done. They were just books, just like Dallas and Dynasty were just television. I think, too, I had the benefit of a really great mom who made it a point to talk to me about sex and relationships at an early age. And she never restricted my reading either.

  84. Monica Burns
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 11:36:08

    This is so weird. I think everyone here knows about sex at that age. We learned about sex and type of birth control at school when we were 13/14 years old (The Netherlands). I remember learning about sex and aids at elementary school too.

    I can only speak to Virginia’s sex education program, which has an opt-out clause for parents. So some parents do opt-out, I didn’t. But my kids always come/came home saying something to the effect of “I don’t know why I have to take the class, we’re just talking about all the stuff you’ve said, Mom.”

    IMHO, it’s not knowledge “read exposure” that’s at issue here. My Mom gave me a book on the birds, bees and human sexuality at the age of 8. BUT we didn’t really discuss it after that. So knowing about sex isn’t the same thing as understanding the emotional impact it can have on your life IMHO.

    Baby has asked to read my books, and I’m openly honest with her that she’s not really ready for them because the have the “ewww Sex” factor. But she knows that one day in the future she can read them.

    I believe it’s easy for a kid to read, watch or hear about sex/other things and easily misinterpret them in a way that can be detrimental to their emotional well-being. And I’m not talking romance as a whole, but anything they’re not savvy enough to understand or have the courage to ask their parents about. Again it all goes back to a parent understanding their kid. Some parents have a better grasp than others do on where their kids are, what they know.

    Since I have a great, open relationship with my girls, I hear a LOT of what my kids hear/see. But then Baby hasn’t reached that independent stage yet where she doesn’t WANT to share. Oldest got there about age 15, but she still comes to me when she’s confused about something and she’s almost 19. When Baby gets less open, then I’ll have to find ways to open the communication in a way that’s easy for her to share. I think (operative word) I must be doing something right when it comes to communication. But as a parent, I’m always wishing I’d done something better or different. Nature of the Beast. If there were a manual that came with being a parent 95% of the people who are parents would have opted out. It has its joys, but the pain is equally intense.

  85. Noelle (Chloe Harris)
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 11:37:44

    Thanks (Jān)! I could not have said it better!

  86. lijakaca
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 11:41:55

    I picked the youngest available because
    1) I was at least that young when I read my first romance;

    2) Kids will find their way into your books whether you approve or not; and

    3) I believe media consumption affects kids way less than their parents’ and circle of acquaintances’ behaviour do (grammar?).

    If a young girl or boy happens to read a romance that puts out a possibly damaging view on relationships for their first romance, they will either love it or hate it.
    If they hate it, they may not try other romances, which is a shame, but at least they recognize the problems in the book.
    If they love it, they will read other romances, which will (hopefully, unless all you have are romances with questionable relationships) broaden their experience and perspective.

    Of course, my viewpoint is easy for me to take since I don’t have any children.

  87. Monica Burns
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 11:51:00

    @evie

    But I just remember how I was, and if my kid were like me, it would just be hopeless.

    I totally get this, BUT not every kid would or is like you, anymore than every kid is/will be like me. It’s an individual thing, which is why I thought the poll was just too generic, as if there’s an appropriate age for all kids. I don’t think it’s that cut and dried.

    The one thing I wouldn’t do is tell another parent they can/should let their child read XXX. There were kids in Oldest’s middle school whose parents wouldn’t let them read Harry Potter because the parents believed it was about Satanism. I found that ridiculous, but I respected their right to parent as they saw fit. *shrug* As long as it was available to the public, I had no problem, but the minute they tried to take access away – read my right to decide what my kid can/can’t do – then that’s going to set me off.

    And I wasn't reading books my folks bought for me, I was reading library books and books that were passed around my circle of friends.

    Here in Virginia, there is a criteria for what goes in a school library. Getting to a public library might be a bit more difficult for a lot of kids. So it’s again going to depend on a parent and giving access.

    But if she dragged one home from the library I'd not stand in her way. I think kids read what they need to read when they're ready to read it.

    LOL – When you have kids email me. I would say things like that and Damn, I am biting my tongue at this point. It’s a lot different on the other side of the fence. LOL

    In this Age of the Internets (and explicit TV and music) there's so much sexual info so easily available-and in living color-that turgid romantic prose seems to me to be the least of a concerned parent's problems.

    Absolutely, but I know where my kid goes, and if they go some place in appropriate they lose privileges. School has software blocking their access, and she doesn’t go to the library without one of us.

    This reminds me of something that happened yesterday. I went on Wikipedia looking for an anatomical diagram of the vascular system of a penis. (For a story. Don't ask.) And I found one easily, of course, but I also found on the same page a series of color photographs of a nicely endowed man demonstrating the stages of an erection.

    LOL Baby when she was younger once referred to the male member as a penis in front of company. I wavered between mortification and pride that she said it without blinking an eye in a conversation that really didn’t require complete details.

  88. Jane
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 12:05:05

    Okay, I’m going to let my tot read all my romances, but if she turns out to be running a sex ring by the age of 15, I’m coming back to all of you. ;)

  89. Cathy
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 12:05:11

    No children, and no plans for children, but I think like some other posters I would try to keep an eye on the content of what was being read, and steer her away from the more explicit stuff until the late teens.

    I read a fair amount of sci-fi and fantasy as a kid, so I think I encountered sex in books pretty young. I remember snickering with a friend over a Sweet Valley High book that had Bruce untying Jessica’s bikini top while they were swimming. I also remember bringing a romance of some kind to summer camp one year, and laughing with the other girls in my tent about how the hero “plunged” into the heroine.

    I think most of the books I had access to were pretty tame, euphamism-heavy stories. Lots of Harlequin, Danielle Steel, and the line of historicals that had the two postcards in the middle right before the first sex scene.

    I certainly read stuff that was way over my head, and things that I thought were tittilating as a teenager were winnowed out as my reading tastes matured. I definitely had some misconceptions about sex and sexuality (I really wish I hadn’t read Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty books quite so young), but age and experience solved all that. I probably would’ve had the same issues from non-romance books and TV/movies.

  90. cate
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 12:38:37

    I was certainly reading Barbara Cartland by the time I was 12. And definately smuggling the Angelique & the Catherine books past my mother by the time I was 13 or 14.
    I was, & still am the only romance reader in the family, &, trust me ..even as a tween/teen-ager nothing would’ve stopped me reading what I wanted.
    Looking back, I was quite precocious as a reader, none of the horsey/ballet/nurse/stewardess books that my contemporaries were reading held any interest for me at all. As I remember, I jumped from reading Elinor M Brent-Dyer straight to Jean Plaidy, Alistair MacLean, Helen MacInnes.
    30 years ago YA books just didn’t exist as they do today, so the leap from childrens books to adult novels happened – for me- very early on.

  91. Hilcia
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 12:45:58

    I started reading romance at age 10. My mom knew about it too… but they were sweet romances in Spanish — a combination of Barbara Cartland and Harlequins set in contemporary times, if you can visualize that. That was it for me and Romance.

    The important part of it, though, is that it made a reader out of me — it opened the doors for all types of other books, not only romance.

  92. HaloKun
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 12:52:58

    I’ve worked at a bookstore for almost a decade now and I still remember a very embarrassed mother asking me where the Romance Section was one day.

    Apparently, she had given her daughter some random romance novel as a gag gift for Xmas. But the daughter loved it! I asked her what it was and tried to explain the difference between erotica, contemporary, and historical romances,.. Her head was buzzing. She asked me, “Do you think I should let her read this stuff?”

    I honestly could not answer her. I just looked at her and said, “I read it when I was 12, and I’m pretty sure a lot of other women started then or younger. I think it’s up to the girl.”

    She seemed relieved and bought like 4 or 5 books. She brought her daughter into the store a couple of times who was embarrassed at first to be browsing the romance section with her mother, but she got over it after awhile.

  93. Mireya
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 13:40:08

    I never really read a lot of romance. I mean yes, I read Jane Eyre, Desiree, Rebecca and Little Women at a young age, but that was the extent of it. I didn’t even touch any of Jane Austen’s books until relatively recently. Funny thing is that I was writing romantic short stories when I was 13, mostly to entertain myself and my younger sister, who was 10 at the time. I stopped writing at around 15. After that I never touched a romance book again until 6 years ago.

    I thought Corin Tellado and telenovelas were cheezy. Who would have thought …

  94. kellykrysten
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 13:42:19

    Great question! I’m very interested by all the different answers and I don’t think I really disagree with any of them outright. I was a late bloomer and didn’t start until I was 19. But my niece has discussed it with me and we agreed that she can read my books when she’s 16. I honestly don’t know that it’s bad to start reading them a little younger but I don’t think I’d feel comfortable lending her my books. But if she’s interested enough to seek them out from the library, I wouldn’t question her. Of course, she’s 13. My 9 year old niece would not be allowed to make that decision for herself. Um, I think I talked in a circle and contradicted myself. Ah, well.lol.

  95. Shannon H
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 13:49:17

    I started reading romances around ten. To be completely honest I started off with erotica and worked my way down to romances, which I decided were more interesting cause there was more of a storyline at work. But my first read was Menage by Emma Holly (m/m/f), followed by Possession by Jade Black (BDSM) and Captivation from the Black Lace line (f/f, m/f, BDSM, on a horse, that book had everything). I got into the kinky side of things real early.

    My mom tried to stop me from reading the books because she thought they would corrupt me or something along those lines (I never actually managed to get a straight answer from her on the subject), but I kept sneaking them into the house. I even wrote to Dear Abby under the guise of a mother concerned with her daughter’s romance reading habits, to get fuel to support my side of the argument.

    Personally, and speaking as a teenager, I think that if someone is proactive enough about wanting to read romances to go through the effort of sneaking them into the house and concealing them, then they are old enough to read the books. They have made the decision that this is what they want to read and obviously deemed it worth the risk of getting into trouble if caught. It helps if a parent is there to answer any awkward questions, or even just random musings. Mine sadly weren’t available in that capacity, but then I never had that many questions that with a little help from the internets couldnt be solved.

    On the subject of YA romances, I still read them occasionally but I find that they are really a different thing than a normal romance. A YA book always seems to take pains to present body image lessons and dont do drugs lessons and be yourself lessons, and I lost patience with them around age 13. I wanted to read about a relationship, I didnt want my pleasure reading to start sounding like my school assemblies. Adult romances have those messages as well, and others, but I find that they are for the most part presented in a much less heavy handed manner than a YA romance.

  96. (Jān)
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 14:19:42

    Personally, and speaking as a teenager, I think that if someone is proactive enough about wanting to read romances to go through the effort of sneaking them into the house and concealing them, then they are old enough to read the books. They have made the decision that this is what they want to read and obviously deemed it worth the risk of getting into trouble if caught.

    Speaking from personal experience, I’d have to disagree. I snuck books home from the library when I was 10-11 simply because they were sexually graphic and I was curious. It was content I didn’t understand and couldn’t interpret – the novels themselves didn’t put it into any context that I could understand, and I had no one to speak to about it. One, for instance, was book full of gratuitous sex, about a kidnapping and rape of a woman who falls for one of her captors. I can’t begin to tell you the conflicting feelings and confusion that caused in me, about sexuality and being a woman and what men expect of us.

    Of course, it wasn’t the novel’s purpose to do teach me how I should interpret this. The writers are expecting readers of at least some level of sophistication, not children with no idea about the reality of sex and relationships to get their hands on their books. So a desire to try them to me doesn’t mean that you have the tools to interpret the books.

  97. What Was Your First Romance?
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 14:43:52

    […] a great way to keep up to date. Thanks for visiting!Jane at Dear Author asked readers what is an Appropriate Age for Allowing Girls to Read Romances? What do you […]

  98. LizJ
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 14:45:25

    Wow, the replies on this one surprised me.

    I think my older daughter was 17 or 18 when she started reading books with more adult content, mainly Charlaine Harris and Julia Quinn. I wouldn’t have tried to stop her at that point from reading additional romances, but I think after going all the way through Quinn’s Bridgerton series she just got tired of romance. She does love Twilight, though.

    My younger daughter is 16 now, and does not read romance. She is not interested. If she was interested, I’d likely start by offering her some “sweet” titles.

    Both of them like mysteries at this point…the only problem is finding adult mysteries with fairly young female protagonists. Most are middle-aged, unlike romantic suspense and urban fantasy, where it’s easy to find heroines in their twenties.

    I started reading them in my mid-teens, and it was the 70’s. Maybe that’s why I look back and think that they did warp my perspective of romantic relationships, and influenced me on wanting my daughters to wait till they were older.

  99. Michelle
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 15:20:50

    I started reading at 11 and don’t think I suffered for it. I did absolutely adore Harlequin Presents in junior high/high school. I thought they were so sophisticated and glamourous and do sometimes wonder if reading those stories glamourized unequal power relationships/gender relationships too much. Honestly, I think the Edward/Bella relationship in Twilight is like an extended HP, so I don’t think you can keep it from folks.

    Actually, I found reading my first “adult” biographies so much more scarring than reading my first “adult” novels. Reading a kid’s bio on JFK is completely different from reading an adult bio of him, and I got those books from the school library – and was praised for reading them. I felt like I was asking my mom “is this true?” after every chapter.

  100. Marianne McA
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 15:25:26

    Depends on the content, depends on the child.

  101. Janet W
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 16:13:57

    Allowing? WTF? I voted for 11 but only because there was no button for it’s her biz, not mine. What’s the matter with sneak around and steal books off shelves like I did? I’m sorry — I’m in a mood to be up to HERE with “are we doing the right thing”? Who wants a parent to dictate what a kid reads? I just went to the library with my smoking hot library card and read what I wanted.

    That being said, my mum tried and tried and TRIED to get me to read Georgette Heyer — wasn’t happening. Until I was sick and she took all the books out of my room except Regency Buck. And then I was hooked.

    Have Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Twilight, whatever floats your boat hanging around but heavens, be happy she’s reading. With my kids, now all grown up and avid readers (like my dd went away to high school and a friend said “you’re reading a book not on the reading list” to which my dd said “duh!”) … So our rule was lights out at x time unless you were reading and then it was x time + whatever :) Seemed to work!

  102. Shiloh Walker
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 16:20:19

    Allowing? WTF? I voted for 11 but only because there was no button for it's her biz, not mine. What's the matter with sneak around and steal books off shelves like I did?

    This is just my take on the discussion, but frankly, since it’s my daughter I’m basing my opinion on, it is my business, every bit as much as it is her business.

    I have no problems if she wants to read romance, although I’d rather her not read them now-she’s 10. If she expresses an interest, I’m happy to help her find some. I’m going to gravitate away from the romance genre and go for more YA romance, admittedly. At least until she’s a few years older.

    However, *my* books? Erotic romance and 10 year old do not mix. Not for me. IMO, erotic romance and 14 years old don’t mix. Now when she’s 14, if she wants more ‘grownup’ romances, I’m fine with Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Julie James, etc. But not erotic. It’s the same reason I won’t let her go see the SAW movies and the like until I felt she was emotionally mature enough to do so.

  103. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 16:23:02

    That being said, my mum tried and tried and TRIED to get me to read Georgette Heyer…

    OMG. My mother did the same thing. Yanked all my books until I’d read Heyer. Um. Still didn’t read Heyer. Just got sneakier about my books until she gave up.

  104. Janet W
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 16:43:45

    Damn! Lost my whole post. First of all, I apologize, that was a bit a**hatty.

    OK, when they said I couldn’t go to the Night They Raided Minskys, I studied the pix outside the movie I was supposed to go to and went to Minskys. I read my mum’s exciting books off the shelves and behind her back — didn’t a lot of us do that? I have a million suggestions for how to encourage different books but bottom line, lifelong obsessive readers will decide for themselves what they read and when they read it.

    If you don’t want her to read your erotica, hide it creatively among cookbooks or travel mags LOL. I had a library card my whole life and read what I wanted — I can’t remember when I first started reading.

    I did, as a parent, try to monitor movies/TV yadda yadda but as a don’t move from one room to another without a book reader, altho I certainly encourage books — my fave prez before my dd goes on a plane is to send her a couple I think she’ll like — I honestly can’t imagine not wanting her to read x, y or z (whatever age she was) — edited to make it more about daughters and not me. I’ve read the other posts — maybe the Bridesmaids’ Scene in The Godfather wasn’t the greatest thing for me to be reading but I confess to searching out the exciting stuff, along with everything else — from Le Carre to Jane Austen. I would agree the books we’re reading now have stuff that just wasn’t around when I was growing up (or, sadly, LOL, not in my mum’s library) … would I not want it on the coffee table for my visiting 12-year-old niece, yeah, probably not …

    She had some difficulty with language comprehension when she was younger and our entire family went nuts trying to figure out how to unlock the magic of Harry Potter for her. We ended up buying the unabridged tapes and now she reads the newest to me (she’s exactly the age of the three stars). So I guess in my family, we thought we had hit the biggest jackpot of all time when our dd could and did read anything she wanted.

    Again, sorry, I came off rude but I think readers are a charmed folk who basically pick whichever flowers they want in a pasture of blooms.

  105. Sami
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 16:44:10

    I'm going to gravitate away from the romance genre and go for more YA romance, admittedly. At least until she's a few years older.

    I’m with you on that Shiloh. There are so many really good young adult books that could ease a girl into reading about adult relationships, so why not encourage her to start with those? Erotic and other spicy types of romance she’ll have to find on her own, through devious methods no doubt. I hope she’ll be over 16 at least before she figures out how to find mine, but I’m probably kidding myself. Anyway, that will probably gross her out more than me. Right now she’s only 4, so I’ll cross that bridge when I have to.

    All this from the girl who discovered Jackie Collins at 13 and figures it didn’t do her any harm. But then I always considered myself emotionally mature, even then:) A bit of a weirdo loner reading Hollywood Wives inside my biology textbook, but emotionally accelerated, if I did say so myself.

  106. Theresa Meyers
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 16:47:57

    I look at it this way, if I had to sign a paper saying my 11-yr-old could watch a development video at school (which she promptly came home and told me there wasn’t anything in it that I hadn’t already told her), then she’s ready to read what she wants to.

    She blazed through the entire House of Night YA series and all the Twilight books within a two week period. The kid will read six to eight hours a day if I let her and is testing out at a 12th grade reading level at school. She’s just gotten to the point where she wants to read what I write, which I think might be a little too sexually explicit for her just yet. Maybe not.

    Point is, if she wants to read romance, I’ll let her browse the shelves. You’ve got to go by how mature the child is, not by his or her age.

  107. Kinsey W. Holley
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 16:48:34

    LOL Zoe! I thought I was the only one who carried a completely unrealistic view of assisted orgasms (as opposed to the solo variety) into maturity. I wonder when romance novels started featuring the hero courteously getting the heroine off before coming himself….

    I have to agree with Shiloh about age appropriateness for the erotic stuff. I know “good kids” might know all the mechanics of sex at a young age – hell, I think I’m gonna have to tell my seven year old the basics very soon, because she’s asking insightful questions that can’t be answered vaguely anymore – but as for the sexy part, I just think pre-teens are exposed enough to that stuff already. In a way, I think it warps their view of sex and their own sexuality — at least for girls it does. Maybe I feel that way because my best friend, who’s childless, calls me every tiime Orah or Dr. Phil or whoever do another episode on fifth grade blowjob parties. But I think I’d prefer the Diva to read the sweet stuff till she’s 16 or so.

    OTOH, I know there’s absolutely no realistic way to control that. All I can do is make suggestions if she asks me for reading material. She’ll find what she wants. I read Go Ask Alice in fourth grade. In fifth grade I read The Last Picture Show, with its discussion of farm bars and heifers, and it was just a bit traumatic. I’ve never read another McMurtry, though I know I need to :)

  108. Lori
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 16:56:03

    My daughter is 8, going into third grade and wanted to know “Why is there so much kissing in romance?” when I was watching a romantic movie. She adores Twilight but only because Edward Cullen can run real fast and carry Bella on his back.

    Right now she reads Junie B Jones and Magic Treehouse. I’m betting further into this year she’ll start reading the Nancy Drew collection I have for her.

    I can’t imagine her wanting to read romance but if she did I would find YA until she was at least 14 or 15. I trust her and I trust myself as a mother but I remember a lot of the stuff I read as a child that I didn’t have the proper context for that still resonates in my mind. And I would expect that she and her friends will find tittilating things to share that I’ll never know about but that’s a part of what we all do.

    Anyway, I meandered. I think context plays a huge part and I wouldn’t expect her to really be able to put it into context until she was a bit older.

  109. azteclady
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 17:01:32

    My answer would be that there’s no “allowing” for a kid who actively wants to read something–not only was that my personal experience growing up, even though my mother did her best to “gently guide” me to what she thought acceptable, but it was also my experience with both the kidlets.

    As for There are still good kids and good parents in the world despite what all the talk shows want you to think… I confess that I think if I weren’t so tired I would be offended by such a remark.

    As it is… *shrug*

  110. Larissa Ione
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 17:25:25

    @ Monica Burns

    “Here in Virginia, there is a criteria for what goes in a school library. Getting to a public library might be a bit more difficult for a lot of kids. So it's again going to depend on a parent and giving access.”

    Heh…I’m kind of wondering what that criteria is, because my friend’s daughter I mentioned above who was reading the Anne Rice Sleeping Beauty books? She got them in her school library in Newport News, VA.

  111. evie byrne
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 17:29:17

    @ Monica

    I totally get this, BUT not every kid would or is like you, anymore than every kid is/will be like me. It's an individual thing, which is why I thought the poll was just too generic, as if there's an appropriate age for all kids. I don't think it's that cut and dried.

    And I totally agree. One side doesn’t fit all, and every parent has to guide their kids as they think best.

    Absolutely, but I know where my kid goes, and if they go some place in appropriate they lose privileges. School has software blocking their access, and she doesn't go to the library without one of us.

    A curiosity of the modern age is that while kids have more access to more information than ever, they are also more closely monitored than ever. In comparison to kids I know today, I was positively feral. I had hours and hours alone in which to get into trouble, no cell phone or email for parental check-ins, and no electronic record of my reading activities. And I think my parent’s supervision of me was pretty typical for the time.

    It’s interesting an societal shift. And I certainly can see the wisdom in close supervision when XXX donkey sex is as close as the nearest household computer. But I loved my freedom as a kid. Bicycling to the library, then going to 7-11 to stock up on candy, reading Judith Kranz while sucking on a Sugar Daddy, puzzling over sex scenes. Ah, those were the days.

  112. Tammy
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 17:52:56

    A curiosity of the modern age is that while kids have more access to more information than ever, they are also more closely monitored than ever.In comparison to kids I know today, I was positively feral. I had hours and hours alone in which to get into trouble, no cell phone or email for parental check-ins, and no electronic record of my reading activities. And I think my parent's supervision of me was pretty typical for the time.

    I wholeheartedly agree, evie. Very astute observation.

  113. Monica Burns
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 18:33:33

    @ Larissa Ione

    Heh…I'm kind of wondering what that criteria is, because my friend's daughter I mentioned above who was reading the Anne Rice Sleeping Beauty books? She got them in her school library in Newport News, VA.

    It depends on the locality. In Virginia, the localities are autonomous. The elected body determines what’s allowed and what isn’t. Some counties/cities are FAR more restrictive than others. In Chesterfield (where I live), one School Board member ran on a platform to remove certain books from the school libraries. The more conservative base parts of the states tend to be the ones that are the craziest. The metropolitan regions are less so, but it does depend on the actual locality. My county is ridiculous in it’s Stepford Wives approach to life. *banging head on desk*

  114. Monica Burns
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 18:40:14

    @evie
    It's interesting an societal shift. And I certainly can see the wisdom in close supervision when XXX donkey sex is as close as the nearest household computer. But I loved my freedom as a kid. Bicycling to the library, then going to 7-11 to stock up on candy, reading Judith Kranz while sucking on a Sugar Daddy, puzzling over sex scenes. Ah, those were the days.

    OMG – Sugar Daddies. Not had one in soooo long. LOL I loved my freedom as a kid too, but there was a difference for me that my kids don’t really have. The worst thing my mother could say to me was “Wait til your father gets home.” I knew I was toast. It was like, please god open up the floor and take me now because Dad is going to KILL me. My Dad was German, so disobedience meant you were taking HUGE risks, so the risks had better have a huge payoff. I was a rebel child and constantly in trouble with my Dad. LOL

    As for riding to the Library. Not possible for me. The nearest library was about 10 miles away (rural set subdivision). Biking wasn’t possible on a four-lane highway. so my school library was where I discovered Jane Aiken Hodge, Baroness Ocrzy, Dumas, Stoker, etc. My grandmother’s personal library was fantastic and when I went to visit for summers, I read Victoria Holt, mysteries, etc. Grandma was the one who hooked me on romance with the Devil on Horseback. GOD, I LOVED that book. *sigh*

    Good memories those.

  115. Vanessa
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 19:50:41

    I started reading romance (stealing them from my sister lol) at 12, and I remember discussing sex, in giggles and whispers, with my girl friends around that time or a little before. So it wasn’t this huge shock, and I don’t believe I’ve evolved into some kind of sex freak ;) I did, however, notice even then that I was being judged for my reading choice, although whether it was for my age or my choice of reading, idk. I used to go to the local Barnes & Noble and spend hours reading through old skool romances and the ladies working there would be absolutely appalled and would run to get me Nancy Drew… they didnt know that I’d read through the entire kid’s and young adult sections years before lol

  116. Lorraine
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 20:29:40

    I started reading romance in the 70s when I was a teenager (first book The Flame and The Flower). I LOVED IT. I devoured all the books by the great 70s writers: Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsey, et al, (I even remember Constance Gluyas). I raved about Sweet Savage Love so much that my mom read it, too, although she didn’t love it like I did.

    I’m very open with my kids and we talk about sex whenever they bring it up, which is almost daily, (14 and 12 yo). Middle school taught them every foul word there is to know and almost all sexual positions by their coarse names. I give them an honest answer to every question they ask.

    Yet, my answer was 18. I don’t want my 12 year old daughter reading romance novels. For one, I’d like her to form her own opinions about boys and relationships. For another , as we all know, men in romances have the longest, thickest penises, go all night long without needing a break, and give the heroines mind blowing orgasms each and every time. I’m afraid she’ll be disappointed and dissatisfied with real men.

    Anyway, she has her whole life to read whatever she wants. I want her to stay innocent for as long as possible. And yes, my books are not under lock and key and she can get to them any time she wants, so I guess I’m not really trying all that hard to shelter her after all.

  117. Alisa Neil
    Jul 23, 2009 @ 06:16:26

    My only girl turned 13 the middle of May. She loves the sparkly vampires. I read the first one, rolled my eyes and tease her on em. She shoots back “Uh huh, and you read that” that being a Johanna Lindsey with an old Fabio/some gal falling out of her dress on the cover actually salvaged from the nightmare piled up in the garage which keeps reappearing on my desk. Youngest “Dat Mommy Book” drags it out and dumps on my desk.

    There was a set of YA historical romances I read in 4th-5th grade. Sunfire? They were in the scholastic book orders of the early 80s. Titles were herione’s name–Amanda was Oregan Trail, Susannah was Civil War south, etc. I had quite a few of them a friends 2 daughters ended up with they were 9 & 12. (nothing more than & kiss& engagment.) I kinda regret not keeping em for my girl but she’d roll her eyes, ick. She doesn’t like history, she likes vamps and werewolves and what not. (actually I think my 2nd son who is 10 would be the one to like those, he’s the one that likes history, esp military history I could so see him reading at least the Civil War & WWI ish set ones. He has a hard time reading but I could see him trying those.)

    She loves horror/paranormal/supernatural. She was so thrilled to hit Jr high. Because OMG!! FINALLY I CAN READ SOMETHING FROM SCHOOL LIBRARY rather than if you’re in this grade, then you read only books deemed this grade level. She has this last year gone through about everything Stephen King (sans Gerald’s Game, sorry no, you’re waiting a bit on bondage gone really wrong) & Dean Koontz have written. Both the girl & OldestSon are working on the Dresden Files now Victory to get that boy to read. (For the record I got ahold of Carrie in 5th grade I was 10, then went through everything I got my hands on of Kings) I never had limits on what I read, even when I maybe should have.

    Both the oldest two have very few exceptions of actual books in the house, only a handfull they’d get told no–I don’t think so yet on. Now…the erotica on my harddrive? Yeah. well. mommy’s comp is password protected. That’s a few years off yet.

  118. Jill D.
    Jul 23, 2009 @ 07:33:07


    I mean, I recognize the subversity of some of these boss/secretary books, but will she?

    If you raise her right, she will be fine! And Jane, I am confident that you will :)

  119. hapax
    Jul 23, 2009 @ 08:03:22

    Y’know, I’m kinda amazed at all the people who worry that their daughters won’t be able to distinguish fantasy from reality when it comes to reading books about sex and relationships — but have no problems with all the juvenile books that demonstrate violence as a consequence-free solution for problems in life.

    A genre with a common trope that a desirable man is dominating yet sensitive, with amazing equipment that he employs with exquisit skill every time? Oh, noes, that might set them up for disappointment with real life!

    Genres in which disagreements are settled with guns, light sabers, spaceships or fireballs of blazing magic that melt your opponent into quickly dissipating puddles or piles of ash, with no lingering trauma for the winners? Good clean fun!

    Edit: Okay, reading that after it posted, it sounds a lot more harsh than I meant it to be. But I work with young teens at the library all the time, and their parents drive me crazy with their patronizing and demeaning attitude towards the abilities of teenagers to process what they read. The most graphic horror and violence seems to be acceptable in books for middle schoolers — the parents are PROUD that their kids are reading “grown-up books” like Clive Cussler or Max Brand or Stephen King or Jim Butcher! — as long as nobody touches beneath neck and knee or uses a four-letter word.

    I’m not saying that I would *recommend* the most erotic romances for a young teenage girl. But I think that any disturbing ideas that she might pick up about sexuality from encountering such a book are FAR less damaging than the guilt and shame that she would feel about not being able to talk with her parents about it because it was “forbidden” reading.

  120. Aoife
    Jul 23, 2009 @ 09:09:00

    What hapax said.

    I know this topic comes up periodically, but it just seems extremely weird to me that violence and horror in books, heck, even in movies, is somehow more acceptable and wholesome than books about a loving relationship that also includes sex. I know if in RL I have a choice between shielding a child/teenager from being exposed to bloody violence, or a love-based relationship that includes sex, I wouldn’t find that a hard choice to make.

    And what on earth is there in Stephen King that protects a child’s illusory “innocence” more than your general run-of-the-mill Romance? I’m confused.

  121. Scarlett
    Jul 23, 2009 @ 10:17:24

    I voted for “12” but my real answer would be “whenever they want.”

    I was about 10 when I was reading the VC Andrews books, and I also read John Jakes books, which had a lot of sex and violence. I wasn’t really that shocked by them because my mom was very open about sex and gave me the whole “birds and bees” talk when I was 7 or 8. By the time I was 10 or 11, I had enough information to understand what was going on in the books. I hope to be the same way with my kids.

    I don’t think I’d like my 10 year old daughter to read anything seriously hardcore like BDSM or anything, but I doubt she’d have easy access to those books anyway, at least without my knowing. And she’d probably be more interested in reading YA at that point anyway. But a Julia Quinn book wouldn’t bother me if she somehow got her hands on one. I don’t think I’d openly encourage romance reading until 13 or 14 but I don’t think I’d forbid it if it were something that interested her earlier.

  122. Shannon H
    Jul 23, 2009 @ 10:30:05

    This discussion kind of reminds me of the video game violence causing mass murders debate. I think that kids, even as young as ten and no matter how active their imaginations, have a great capacity to differentiate between fantasy and reality. That holds true for video games and for what they read. When I was ten I was very easily able to separate the fantasy of a BDSM scene I had read from the reality of being tied up and kept captive by a random stranger. I think that most children are able to make that distinction.

    People seem worried that their daughters will be scarred or warped or become crazed sex maniacs (that was my mom) if they read too much romance too young without some kind of proper context to guide them. As an 18 year old who has never been kissed, I can say that it was never a problem for me. I still have never had the context of a ‘real’ relationship to hold against a fictional one, but I am neither warped nor twisted nor a sex crazed fiend (at least not any more than a normal teenager).

    What I took away from all the romances and erotica I read at a very early age was not some twisted idea of sex practices, or the notion that it was OK for a man to hurt me as long as he later said he loved me. It was that as a female my satisfaction was just as important as a man’s, that I was just as worthy of respect as any man, and that I deserved a boyfriend who would care about me and for me, not a casual hookup.

    I started reading erotica at age 10 and romance at age 11, and if anything it made me even more grounded in the reality of what a relationship should be. It taught me not to take any crap from boys because I am better than that and deserve something better. And if at age 12 I knew more about sex than my older brother in high school did, than I had the knowledge to know what I wanted when I wanted it, and to not accept anything more until I felt comfortable.

  123. Jet
    Jul 23, 2009 @ 10:54:10

    I actually stumbled upon romance/erotica books when I was in the third grade… At the public library they had the VC Andrews books, and I do mean all of them. I red every single last one and thus began my long trip into the written erotica world. Stephen King was my second favorite author, having several of his own explicit sexual aspects in stories.

    I say this because I think that children are bound to read things above their heads. They will watch moves and not undestand or get why mommy and daddy are laughing and never think about it. I’ve seen several movies that me and my family watched together and I never realised how sexual some of the references they made were.

    As an adult I still enjoy the many works of VC Andrews and Stephen King, but it still makes me grimace to think that I knew more than a child should at that age.

    While my friends would make unknowing jokes about holding a boys hands or ‘making out’ I knew what sex was in a graphic way, and how terrible or wonderful it could be. Though I did not grasp the importance of all of this, and some of the details did escape me at the time. I think it made me more sensitive to the human condition. I felt powerfully about the girls or women in those books.

    Perhaps my propensity to over read, I’d read my entire school library in every school i attended up until high school, it aged me in a way. Now I have a historical and social context that doesn’t match other people of my own age group.

    Overall, children will read what they will read. As a child if I had a question I went to an adult and asked. Once I was even punished by a babysiter for teaching another girl the word prostitute. It’s the natural developement of a child to take in what’s around them. They keep what resonates and throw out the rest

  124. Jessica Kennedy
    Jul 23, 2009 @ 16:53:17

    I think 13 – 14 is a good age range. They are just beginning to understand their body and probably have friends who are a bit more experienced any way and they may not even find romances to informative.

  125. CupK8
    Jul 23, 2009 @ 17:24:28

    @Alisa Neil:

    They were in the scholastic book orders of the early 80s. Titles were herione's name-Amanda was Oregan Trail, Susannah was Civil War south, etc.

    I think these were the ones I was thinking about! There was a shelf full of them at my school library and I nom’d them all.

    And after a few minutes of working my Google Fu, I can has link. :)

  126. Jenifer M
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 22:30:17

    I read historicals on the sly and hid them under the bed for a long time. I probably started when I was about 13. If my mother knew (and she probably did,) she never questioned it. I don’t think she approved, but she didn’t condemn it, either.

    Preteen and early teens seem to be the common starting age for most of my romance reading friends, and I’d bet the vast majority of us didn’t go to our parents for approval before picking up that first steamy novel. That said, I think 13 is a pretty reasonable age to start reading romances, and I don’t think I’d monitor too much, even if you do have the opportunity to. I know that if my mother had ever outright forbidden me to read a book, it would have earned an immediate position on the TBR pile under my adolescent bed.

    Of course, you might try, just try, to steer her towards the sweet ones. My aunt, from whom I borrowed my first historical romances, used to leave the tamer ones lying casually on tables and couches, waiting to be “borrowed.” And the not-so-tame ones? Under her bed : )

  127. Cass W.
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 23:54:00

    I was 13 when I started reading adult romances. I believe I read the Ascension Series by Gaelen Foley. At the time I also had a college reading level, so the books for my age just weren’t cutting it. I’d just look for books online since my mother hid them so well ;)

%d bloggers like this: