More on The Hunger Games: Where Is Sex?

Another thing I find bizarre in The Hunger Games is that neither of the 16-year-old protagonists has even started their sexual awakening. At first, I attributed their delayed puberty to malnutrition. In book 2, however, they’ve been eating well for a while, yet physiologically, they are stuck at age 5.

The entire situation where they sleep in the same bed every night, yet all that happens is a lot of conversation, is extremely weird. Remember yourself at that age and imagine that a boy / girl you liked had been stuck in your bed. What would happen?

Based on a long and boring description of Katniss’s thick and curly leg hair, I’m guessing that puberty must have happened already in her case. Then why are she and Peeta behaving like total eunuchs? Seriously, only in America can teenagers be described as obsessed with sacrificing themselves for their families and with getting married (Katniss has been obsessing about marriage since the beginning of the trilogy) and not caring (or knowing?) that sex exists.

32 thoughts on “More on The Hunger Games: Where Is Sex?”

    1. These are teenagers, though. One needs to preserve some kind of veracity. These kids act like they are 90. So responsible, mature, their every action calculated and well-considered. I’m kind of starting to appreciate the actual teenagers who are moody and obnoxious but, at least, alive.

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      1. “One needs to preserve some kind of veracity.”

        Not according to American publishers of teen-aimed fiction. It’s not like the 70s, when writers like Judy Blume were writing realistically about teenagers and sexuality. Now the important thing is to make sure that protagonists in YA fiction are role models — that is, they are romanticized versions of what kids are supposed to behave like. In other words, it’s propaganda, aimed deliberately at young people so as to mold their behavior into what society wants them to be like. Be yourself? Only as long as that “self” is one of the pre-set molds.

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        1. “Now the important thing is to make sure that protagonists in YA fiction are role models — that is, they are romanticized versions of what kids are supposed to behave like. In other words, it’s propaganda, aimed deliberately at young people so as to mold their behavior into what society wants them to be like.”

          – OK, I haven’t thought about that. This is kind of scary. Does mean we want 16 yo girls to be completely diluted in the needs of their families and 16 yo boys completely diluted in the needs of the girls they like?? Oy vey.

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      2. Americans don’t think about it that deeply. Or anything else, for that matter. We like to “solve problems,” which means treating cultural and psychological matters as if they were engineering problems. But they aren’t — if your machine doesn’t work, you can discard it, but if your idea for “improving society” doesn’t work it’s stuck in peoples’ brains anyway. Like the idea of “role models.” Americans are obsessed with them, especially where children are concerned. Every person that a child encounters, whether in real life or in fiction, is considered to be a role model for that child. Good role models teach children what sort of person they should become. Bad role models pull children off the straight and narrow path (and believe me it is very straight and narrow) and turn them into bad people. American society has decided that premarital sex is bad, and teen sex for any reason is bad, so good teen role models have to fit into this mold. The results, as you pointed out, are unrealistic. But realism isn’t the point — molding young minds is. Never mind that this is dangerous; I wonder how many teenage girls on Team Peeta will try that no-sex sleeping with their boyfriend thing and end up pregnant because they aren’t actually trapped in a death match arena.

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      3. //OK, I haven’t thought about that. This is kind of scary. Does mean we want 16 yo girls to be completely diluted in the needs of their families?? Oy vey.

        Yes. I would guess quite many parents dream day & night about having a “good girl”, who doesn’t smoke, drink or, the worst of the 3, has sex. How could you miss it with all abstinence only sex ed and newspaper articles about those scandalous teens girls? F.e. sexting scandal.

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    2. // I wonder how many teenage girls on Team Peeta will try that no-sex sleeping with their boyfriend thing and end up pregnant because they aren’t actually trapped in a death match arena.

      What? How old in your opinion will those girls be? 12-13?

      Imo most 15+ year old girls wouldn’t take stuff literally from 1 (!) book. Especially with constant cultural messages of “teen boys want only 1 thing” from everywhere: family, sex “ed” at schools, TV, etc.

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      1. I hope your cynicism is more true than mine. I mean honestly, from the things I’ve heard grown women say, I wouldn’t put any trust in the ability of some sixteen-year-olds to not be delusional about their favorite fictional characters and how they can too make real life imitate art. I’m talking about “Twilight Moms” who I’ve heard go on and on about how “romantic” the Edward/Bella relationship is and that they read these books because they are how romantic love “should be.”

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  1. Do you think it would be better if she had some sex with Gale in the woods in the beginning of the first book, then some sex with Peeta, then… 🙂 OK, no spoilers… 🙂
    But seriously, I guess the reason is not author’s puritanism, the reason is trying to keep balance between the need to capture attention of Twilight’s audience 🙂 while trying to discuss much deeper ideas. In this context, turning it too much into the story of romance and sexual awakening would be too counterproductive. Will dilute he message…

    Still a spoiler: there will be something hinting at sexual awakening, but it is described in so innocent terms… then again, I am not sure life and death situations have positive effect on sex drive…

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    1. “Do you think it would be better if she had some sex with Gale in the woods in the beginning of the first book, then some sex with Peeta, then…”

      – In a survival society with the complete absence of parents, religion or even society, she definitely would.

      “then again, I am not sure life and death situations have positive effect on sex drive…”

      – Actually, I heard that encounter with death awakens one’s sex drive even if one is at death’s door oneself. I don’t know this from experience, of course. Thank God.

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      1. CLARISSA:- Actually, I heard that encounter with death awakens one’s sex drive even if one is at death’s door oneself. I don’t know this from experience, of course. Thank God.

        This is true.

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  2. —and imagine that a boy / girl you liked had been stuck in your bed. What would happen?

    At that time her attitude towards Peeta was highly ambivalent…

    —Katniss has been obsessing about marriage since the beginning of the trilogy

    More precisely, she was obsessed with the horror of getting close to someone and then that someone being taken away, either by mining accident, or by child being selected for the games, etc. “Marriage” is just a context here. Contrary to what you said somewhere else today, there was a society, and Katniss was operating within the respective societal context.

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    1. But what about the boy? At this age, in bed with a girl he does not find abhorrent, wouldn’t certain physiological processes start happening? How can they not?

      “More precisely, she was obsessed with the horror of getting close to someone and then that someone being taken away, either by mining accident, or by child being selected for the games”

      – “I can’t have a boyfriend because something might happen to our children”? No, sorry, not convinced. 🙂 Her mother makes herbal remedies, so this is a girl who never has to worry about contraception.

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      1. These two characters do not look like they could just have a talk on contraception one day…
        And let’s not overestimate the reliability of herbal remedies.

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        1. I have a feeling that that girl could bully that mother into anything. My mother would not be serving cookies meekly while I sit all closeted away with the president, excluding her. 🙂

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  3. At that age, I needed to take care of myself every night, so I could fall asleep. At 19, I had an acquaintance who said he slept with his ex-girlfriend (when they were dating) in his bed regularly and I asked him how he could sleep in the same bed with her, be attracted to her, and not be tempted to do anything. He said they were religious and I was incredulous.

    As to Catching Fire being strangely chaste in describing teens sleeping together in a bed in an emotionally charged situation:
    1)It’s a YA novel. Hence no description of physiological processes related to sexy time. (And for some reason it still gets challenged by parents.)
    2)She’s using him as a binky to calm her nightmares. Not sexy.
    3)As you said, it’s a first person series with an unreliable narrator, so if any comfort macking is happening she’s not talking about it. That would make her unaware of his nightmares or his physical reactions.

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  4. If you’re only interested in reading about sex, then turn to the Hustler forum. Read the novel for what it is. Not everything has to be about sex.

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    1. “If you’re only interested in reading about sex, then turn to the Hustler forum. Read the novel for what it is.”

      – You are going to teach ME how to read a novel of female development, the topic on which I wrote a doctoral dissertation? And what is your qualification? Extreme prissiness?

      “Not everything has to be about sex.”

      – Do people realize how much they reveal about themselves with this type of comment? This is too funny.

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  5. I think I’ve only read two modern YA novels where sex was obviously on the minds of the protagonist. One was Blood or Chocolate, where the protagonist, Vivian, was a werewolf who was dating a human boy. Vivian had a really confident, self-assured sexuality and was very proud of it, and was implied to have an active sex life with several partners, and never once was shamed for it.
    For more real, unabashed teen sexuality, there’s Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, Deenie, and Forever, all by Judy Blume, bless her. And Lois Lowry’s Anastasia books have the main character complaining about how stupidly unrealistic Nancy Drew novels are because Nancy and her boyfriend never think about sex. 🙂

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  6. Where Is Sex? — The writer wants to sell books, that’s most likely the only reason. With parents banning HP for “promoting witchcraft” and being afraid of the word “sex” itself, even only in one of book character’s *minds*, if you want to publish not extremely controversial book (hoping for a bestseller), not putting in sex is a must.

    Also the writer may be more interested in describing other things, but the 1st reason still stands. In a different society the author wouldn’t be afraid that hinting/shortly describing sex would, as V said, “turn it too much into the story of romance and sexual awakening & dilute he message”. Having sex just shouldn’t be defined/seen as the most important thing in a book. Even if it’s a book for teens.

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  7. In my hometown, only a very small number of kids had sex in high school, and they were looked down on for it. Also, as a personal anecdote which I know is not data (but which has the same value as your near death anecdote) while in college I did occasionally share a new with male friends without anything happening.

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  8. In Catching Fire, I wondered why Peeta felt the need to pretend he and Katniss were already married before telling the lie that she was pregnant. Maybe in Panem, pre-marital sex is illegal or highly frowned upon (I haven’t read Mockingjay yet to know the details of Finnick being forced into prostitution). Effie certainly didn’t approve of Katniss and Peeta climbing into eachother’s beds before their engagement. It is weird that neither Katniss, Peeta, or Gale seem to have the slightest interest in sex. After Katniss and Peeta get engaged, you’d think they would have at least considered having sex. When Katniss talks about kissing Gale in the woods, a part of me was expecting to read that they had sex. Maybe birth control is harder to come by in District 12 so she avoids it because she soesn’t want children. Than again victors are supposed to be rich.

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  9. I’m going to jump on this old thread, too.

    There are a lot of great points in this thread, and this is not intended to take away from any of them. I just wanted to add that it is entirely possible for a person not to really develop much of a sex drive until they’re older than Katniss and Peeta. I don’t know enough about the broad trends to know whether those people are a very small minority or a bigger group, but they do exist. It’s totally possible.

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