At what point is it considered ‘adult’?

I did not set out, when writing Butterflies, for it to be a young adult book. I wrote the story as it wanted to be written.  That said, I now have a difficulty.

Here is the text from Smashwords, which is followed by a check box:

In order to protect minors from viewing inappropriate material, please let us know if this book contains language, situations or images inappropriate for children under 18 years of age.

I have to choose “My book does not contain adult content” or “My book contains adult content.”

I am taking this to mean “R” rated if it were a movie.  That seems reasonable to me.  The one minor curse word and moderately descriptive battle scenes seem to be okay, in my mind.  I am on the fence about two scenes, however.  I’ve asked everyone who has already read it, and there hasn’t been a conclusive answer.  Now I am wondering if you could add your feedback.

Spoiler Alert (although they may not be too bad as they are out of context)

First is a scene where one woman is protecting another from an assassin.  In this scene she rips the man’s hand in half.  Here is the exact quote from the book:

Pulling hard, she felt something give and her fists separated, blood spurting all over her and the room as the man’s hand split down the middle.

Doesn’t seem too bad to me, but possibly adult.  Whether or not it is, there is one situation that concerns me more. This is the chapter my grandma hates…

The chapter starts with a suspicion that someone in the court is buying child slaves (illegal in the country) and one particular lord is suspected.  In order to get proof, one of the main characters volunteers to pose as a 12-year-old and visit his room.  (She is old enough to be married and within a few weeks of gaining her majority.  She only looks 12.)  The discussion about the plan is mostly innuendo.  Here is the scene that follows:

    Walking through the door into his bedroom, Pallas had his eyes down, but when he glanced up, what he saw made him freeze.  There, standing in his chamber, was a beautiful little handmaid.  She was slender, with pale blonde hair and ice blue eyes, and the plain green dress of the handmaids made her skin glow like porcelain.  He blinked, eyes wide, to make sure he wasn’t imagining this vision.
    The girl gave a deep, lovely curtsy, keeping her eyes lowered as she stood.  “My lord,” she said.
    Her words brought him out of his shock.  He gave a warm smile and asked, “What are you doing here, child?”
    Without moving, she replied, “My services are a gift, my lord.”
    Trying to repress his glee, not certain that he fully understood, Pallas tried to find the best words to clarify.  “And what services are you to provide, child?”
    Looking him straight in the eye, the girl responded, “Whatever services may please you, my lord.”
    Grinning, the man shut the door to his chamber, never taking his eyes off the girl.

The next scene is her getting up out of his bed in the night (while he sleeps) to get information from his desk.  She finds what she needs, leaves, and ends up breaking up an illegal slave trade within the capital city.

So, my lovely blog readers – is it adult content (R or over 18) or not?


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. writingturtle
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 18:27:28

    I would say young adult. I’ve seen much worse in young adult, like scenes in Fire and Graceling, Mortal Instruments Series, etc. Yours would not normally be for 18 or over, judging by those scenes you presented. Besides, both of them are very short and mostly suggested, not described in full, complete detail. I hope this helped =) Oh, and I like your writing style, it’s very enjoyable to read.


  2. Barb
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 00:55:05

    There’s also the “erotica” category, under which I put only one of my stories (and one comic for explicit drawings). I usually put “my book DOESN’T…”, and then add at the end of the description “adult readers for mild sex and violence” – worked so far, Smashwords didn’t kick me out… also add “adult fantasy” in the labels/tags, and you should be OK… (feel free to check my profile on how I did it)


  3. Nicole W
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 09:39:12

    I agree that it would not have to be restricted to 17 or 18 and older. Young adult would be fine.


  4. YerMom
    Jun 06, 2011 @ 07:35:46

    I think you are ok with “does not contain” because you did not give explicit descriptions of what happened and children reading will create their own image of “whatever services please you. . . ” based on their life experiences.


  5. Laura Wise
    Jun 06, 2011 @ 09:51:31

    I agree with the young adult label. Most everything is left up to the imagination and there have been worse descriptions in other novels I’ve read.


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