I am YA author B. A. Binns. It's October, the year is almost over. I'm deviating a little from this month's theme. Instead of Paranormal Romances, I'm going to discuss something from the recent news, something that hit me hard. It's about age differences between couples, and what that implies in fiction and in real life.
A four year age difference. It doesn't sound like all that much. Not when we have a host of popular paranormal books featuring teens falling in love with hundred year old vampires, and thousand year old angels.
Hand me a romance between thirty-four and thirty-eight year old main characters and I sit back and enjoy how the author makes the love flow. Or a New Adult couple of twenty-four and eight, people just on the other side of adulthood, in an equal relationship, learning about life together. A child's story about friendship between a four and eight year old can also move me. In all three cases, the power balance is roughly equal. The four years mean little.
Things change in the teen years. That's the difficulty in writing YA romances. When one partner is fourteen, and the other eighteen, adulthood lies between them, separating them.
Sara Zarr. Deanna was thirteen when her older brother's seventeen year old best friend initiated a sexual relationship between them. The story illustrates the power imbalance. As Deanna says in her own words,
"I didn’t love him. I don’t even think I liked him."
The very first (unpublished) novel I ever wrote involved a relationship between a sixteen-year-old girl and a man in his twenties. It still exists, but only in my computer's memory. In my heart I told myself their relationship was different because they were soulmates. But my heart was wrong, and my head and guts told me so. No matter how mature a sixteen-year-old is, a true human adult who really felt love and not lust step back. He or she would wait for the child to become an adult with more age and life experience, and then see if they had something between them. And if the adult is not a true human, he, or she, deserves what happens to them in court.
This was not the subject of my original post. But sometimes life cuts a little to close, imitating, maybe even overwhelming fiction. Last week I saw the story of gay Florida teen Kaitlyn Hunt, an eighteen-year-old arrested following a sexual relationship with a fourteen-year-old schoolmate. Kaitlyn said the issue was that she was a lesbian, not the four years. She doesn't see the younger girl as a victim.
I understand why. If the girl is a victim, then she might have to accept herself as a victimizer.
Sexuality is a huge issues for teenagers. Is the right answer the one being advocated by some of Hunt's supporters, a law that lets any eighteen year old have a relationship with any fourteen year old, as long as they attend the same school? It may be difficult for adults, even new adults, to remember the hesitancy and uncertainty of the younger days. It is easy to think that someone we care about is "older than their years."
But don't we as a society draw a line between child and adult for a reason?