I've been thinking for awhile about teenage boys and their relationships with their penises in regards to my manuscript. I've read several YAs with boy protags: Twisted, The Jonah Black books, Girls For Breakfast, Be More Chill, Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stoner & Spaz, What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know, Doing It. And more, actually. Many more. (I have King Dork on hold at the library, but haven't picked it up yet.)
The degrees of subtlety regarding sex run across the board here. Some focus on a boy's arousal more in terms of what he sees/feels. "Oh, that girl is so amazing." And maybe his heart rate will increase, or he'll have trouble breathing while he looks at/talks to her. Others are much more blunt: "My dick got hard." Some of them never discuss masturbation, some keep it vague but still pretty apparent, others have it at the forefront so that jerking off is, like, a major part of the character's life.
From what I've read of books with girl protags, there just isn't this much focus. I guess you could say it's because in real life boys are more distracted by sex so it would make sense that fictional characters reflect that. I'm just not sure it's entirely accurate.
There are plenty of teenage girls who are preoccupied with sex and touching themselves, but I'm not sure I've seen that in fiction. Even the characters who are sexually active don't generally describe in frank terms about touching themselves or about how wet they get when they are having a super-makeout session. (At least I sure can't think of many like this!)
As a female, it doesn't bother me at all not to read about those details about a girl. I generally can use my imagination and assume that whatever just went on with her and a boy, her body probably reacted in the usual ways. I don't feel like I've missed out on anything. I mean, I'm not reading erotica or porn here.
But for some reason I occasionally feel paranoid that my story about a boy isn't going to be quite right if Seth's penis doesn't get mentioned in crucial scenes.
You see, all along I've been going for subtle with this project. Like, when Seth was looking down a girl's shirt at a party, he thought: Nice. But there is no description of what he saw, no physical reaction stated. When he was checking out a girl's ass he "couldn't look away." But, again, no mention of the wood going on in his pants. When the girl he likes touches his arm (and later kisses him, and later sleeps with him), it is very much about how she makes him feel (tingling head/body, crazy-fast heart), how great she smells, how her skin and body feel to the touch and against him. I'm trying to write in all his longing and need without coming right out and saying it.
Is that real? Is it necessary to dance around it like this? Would my story be better or more real if Seth tells readers what he's doing in the shower? Wouldn't that just be gratuitous? But I don't find it gratuitous when other writers do it. It feels real.
In conclusion, I don't know. I just don't know.