Her clothes screamed bohemia, with a prominent cleavage, leather bands running up her arms and nails painted black.

In my book there is a romance between two 15-year-olds, and the book is from one of those 15-year-olds' perspective. Here, he describes his romantic interest's clothing style with the above sentence.

Now, this is a mild sexualization of the girl, due to the addition of "prominent cleavage". The reason I added this was to illustrate what kind of person this girl is, and also give some reasoning to the guy's infatuation with her. I'm just wondering, is this kind of description acceptable? I'm simply using it to paint a picture of the girl's "edgy" personality, not to appeal to sickos. The book is after all targeted to millenials and teens.

  • 1
    Bohemia seems like a pretty advanced vocabulary word for a 15 year old. The phrase "prominent cleavage" also seems like something that someone a little older would say. Check out this post. As for answering the question, you can't have a romance without at least a little sexualization. At 15, the characters can see each other's attributes and know what all the parts are for, so not including some elements of sexuality would be unrealistic. Jun 16, 2018 at 13:29
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    Is it allowed? It's not banned; it's common; it's got a market. Is it advisable in the current political climate? Well, Piers Anthony is coming under fairly sustained criticism in his old age. It's probably an ill-advised thing to become known for if you're a white male in America.
    – lly
    Jun 16, 2018 at 16:03
  • In Europe, where they use the letter å and put Ks and Vs together, I suppose it's more laid back. The more important consideration is whether you're representing the girl as a older male's fantasy or as a more fully human portrait with her own goals, strengths, and failings. All that said, your sentence–while not really in the voice of a 15-yr-old–is incredibly tame and not anywhere near a bright line, any more than having their adolescent relationship in your book in the first place.
    – lly
    Jun 16, 2018 at 16:06
  • @lly The narrator is talking in retrospective, looking back at his past, when he was 15 years old. As he speaks, he is an adult, or young adult. Though, he is not describing his own fantasy, rather his 15 years old self's fantasy, using his own adult words. -Sorry if that sentence got a bit to complicated, I had trouble understanding it myself.
    – A. Kvåle
    Jun 17, 2018 at 16:54
  • "Allowed"? Sure. Have you heard of Lolita? Jun 18, 2018 at 19:36

3 Answers 3


It is absolutely certainly legal for what you describe to appear in literature. Consider, for instance, that Juliet was 14 when she married and had sex with Romeo. A more modern example: Song of Ice and Fire; Daenerys is 13 when she is married off to Khal Drogo, with their sex receiving multiple descriptions.

For a milder example, similar to what you actually want, look at this description from Dresden Files, of a character who is explicitly, only a couple of pages earlier, stated to be a juvenile, and with the first-person narrator being in his 30s:

Molly stood facing me in a long, gauzy black skirt, shredded artistically in several places. She wore fishnet tights beneath it, showing more leg and hip than any mother would prefer. The tights, too, were artfully torn in patches to display pale, smooth skin of thigh and calf. She had army-surplus combat boots on her feet, laced up with neon pink and blue laces. She wore a tight tank top, its fabric white, thin, and strained by the curves of her breasts, [..] Bright rings of gold gleamed in both nostrils, her lower lip, and her right eyebrow, and there was a bead of gold in that little dent just under her lower lip. There were miniature barbell-shaped bulges at the tips of her breasts, where the thin fabric emphasized rather than concealed them.
I didn’t want to know what else had been pierced. I know I didn’t, because I told myself that very sternly. I didn’t want to know, even if it was, hell, a little intriguing. (Jim Butcher, Proven Guilty, chapter 8)

In fact, there's no age rating for literature, like there is for movies or games. So it's not like your story could get "PG13-rated" for what you write.

Since real 15-year-old girls do dress in extremely sexualising ways, you are doing nothing but describing the truth. And 15-years-olds, who are perhaps your target audience, are already familiar with sexual attraction, even those who are not yet experienced with anything beyond attraction.

In light of all the above not only is what you want to write legal, I also don't see anything remotely wrong with it.

  • Wait, what? I thought she just married Romeo. Where does it say that she had sex with him? Or is that inferred because consummation of marriage by sexual intercourse is expected in marriage?
    – Double U
    Jun 16, 2018 at 15:24
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    @DoubleU the "It was the nightingale, and not the lark" dialogue (act 3, scene 5) happens as Romeo leaves Juliet's bedroom. A husband leaving his wife's bedroom, after spending there some time. And after in act 3 scene 2, Juliet quite explicitly says "Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night, That runaway's eyes may wink and Romeo Leap to these arms, untalk'd of and unseen. Lovers can see to do their amorous rites By their own beauties;" Jun 16, 2018 at 16:13
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    +1. Re: "Consider, for instance, that Juliet was 14 when she married and had sex with Romeo": And contrary to what you might assume, that was not at all the norm in Shakespeare's day -- see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juliet#Juliet's_age -- though not as unheard-of as in present-day anglophone countries.
    – ruakh
    Jun 16, 2018 at 17:12

What you are describing as mild sexualization is PG or teen is generally stating the content being viewed is suitable for ages 13 and up and is basically dependent on adult guardians’ decision as to whether they personally feel the content may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, mild sexual depictions, or infrequent use of strong language. Anything other is R-rated maybe suitable for young adults over the age of seventeen, because the content is intense in violence, sexual language and content, as well as display extremely brutal and bloody. I you cross those content characterizations it is considered unrated, pornography, etc. Good luck with your book!

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    While rating like you talk about exists for movies and for games, no such rating exists for books. A book can be marketed as "children's book" or YA, but that is a marketing decision made by the publisher and/or the books store. There is no rating body. Jun 16, 2018 at 16:31
  • Also note that the question asks about sexualization of minors, not merely describing sexuality to minors. Your answer doesn't cover that aspect.
    – pipe
    Jun 16, 2018 at 17:19

Always keep in mind, that the youth isn't so pure and innocent, like 30 years ago. The most teens start their sexual relationships around 13 and 14 (at least in Germany where I live), some earlier, some later. Thoughts about the other sex and sexual desires are part of the human nature. Why denying that? If I may be so blunt: It would be strange to have a story, where no one is having sexual thoughts.

Sexual intercourse and thoughts are part of the human nature and especially teens (where the body is overflowing with hormones) have the desire for that.

And like the answer from Galastel said: "There's no age rating for literature". So there shouldn't be any problem in writing what you want.

Small Edit to my answer:

TV-Shows and Movies for teens often tend to go much more into details. So I wouldn't see any problems at all

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