the other night i had the movie heathers playing in the background as i did laundry.
two things became very apparent to me while the film played:
1) it is not nearly as clever, witty or cool as i originally thought when i first saw it as a kid
2) there were things mentioned, portrayed and alluded to in the film that went completely over my head upon my first several viewings because i was a kid.
that isn't to say i didn't know what sex, murder and suicide were, nor was i so innocent (re: naive and gullible) to think i was watching a slightly roughed up john hughes film. but even though i had limited knowledge of such "meaty" subjects, i had enough imagination to make sense of the parts i didn't quite get.
for instance in this scene:
i always thought heather#1 moved out of camera frame to lie down on the ground so she and college guy could have sex and the sound of a zipper unzipping was her taking off her dress.
i did, however, wonder why the college guy closed his eyes instead of looking at the naked girl lying at his feet.
a minute later (i'm referencing the youtube video, not how long it took college guy to finish) heather#1 is in the bathroom looking in the mirror. she fills a glass with some water, takes a sip, then spits the water out at her reflection.
again - as a kid i thought she was just mad at herself for sleeping with college guy. i didn't realize there was a very specific reason why she had the water and spat.
the funny thing is, although i didn't fully understand what was going on in these scenes, it didn't take away from my overall understanding and enjoyment of the film. in fact, i probably would have liked the movie less if they'd been more graphic with the sex.
it can work the same way with novels, especially young adult ones.
i don't believe sexual situations have to be graphic or explicit to get the idea across, or for the reader to "fully" get involved with the characters. it's entirely possible to hint at, allude to, and make innuendo and still convey what needs to be made known.
just like my experience with the movie heathers, creating a certain setting and letting the reader "fill in the gaps" can be just as effective.
at least that's what i'm hoping since i will never be the sort of author who gives a blow by blow *ahem* description of a coupling act.