Gay Teens in YA Books with Calum McSwiggan

It’s a BONUS episode of Doing It! where Hannah joins writer, digital content creator & LGBT+ advocate Calum McSwiggan for a book chat . They share their thoughts on the book Jack of Hearts (& Other Parts), which Calum read for Penguin’s LGBT+ book club. Exploring sex education and how sex is represented in YA, they ask: “Where else do young people get depictions of sex?” They also look at a nuanced vision of homophobia, talking about prejudice within the LGBT+ community itself. Finally, they discuss their uncomfortable reading about Jack’s first time having anal sex – was this as consensual as Jack seems to say it is? Do we look back when we’re older on ‘bad sex’ and reframe that experience?


What we chatted about…

  • The LGBT+ YA book Jack of Hearts (& Other Parts), including the wokeness of Jack’s advice, the reveal of Pinky, why Jack didn’t tell people he was getting the letters, and Jack’s relationship with his mum.

  • Sex in the book vs real life -- do teens have that much sex?!

  • The availability of sex education, and where we get that sex education.

  • Considering the man's feelings in sex.

  • A nuanced vision of homophobia -- fetishising gay men, respectability politics, self-policing with in the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Coming out at school, looking at then vs now - is the amount of out LGBT+ characters portrayed in Jack of Hearts reflective of school now?

  • The book Simon vs the Homo Sapien’s Agenda, and chatting comparisons between this book and Jack of Hearts.

  • Representations of sex in YA, and how these representations may be changing, with there being positives of having more graphic descriptions of sex between LGBT+ people in YA.

  • Distinguishing bad sex from non-consensual sex, and how do we look back on ‘bad sex’ experiences.

  • Gay teens and cruising spots, discussing why gay teens may end up having their first sexual experiences with an older guy.

  • Penguin LGBT Book Club and how you can get involved!

Useful Links…

More about Calum McSwiggan

Calum is a writer, digital content creator, radio presenter & LGBT+ advocate. He celebrates LGBT+ culture, with his work championing LGBT+ representation in film, literature, music, fashion, and travel.

Find out more about Calum on his website, Twitter, Instagram, or his FUBAR Radio show.

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Hannah Witton