Kebabs, hummus and pitas: euphemistic anal sex in Michael Barakiva’s 'Hold My Hand'

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    For much of Michael Barakiva’s 2019 YA novel Hold My Hand, 15-year-protagonist Alek Khederian seems intent on avoiding sex with Ethan, his older boyfriend. His reluctance, it transpires, stems from Alek’s total ignorance of the mechanics of penetrative sex between cis men. This prompts Ethan to invoke the foods of Alek’s Armenian heritage – specifically kebabs, pitas, and hummus – to euphemistically explain the practicalities of anal intercourse. In this paper, I will argue that Barakiva’s employment of metaphor to discuss same-sex fucking, such that sex is present in the narrative but simultaneously kept at a distance, is indicative of broader trends in representations of sexual contact in contemporary queer YA. I will draw on discourses surrounding didacticism and authorial responsibility to explore the potential role of YA novels as sources of non-judgmental information about sexual practices for queer youth in the absence of widespread, easily accessible queer sex education. However, I will contend that the persisting influence of paternalist (and often deeply homophobic) concerns about exposing children to physical expressions of queer desire predisposes to a continued emphasis on conservative safe-sex messaging (prioritising emotional connection and condom use) in YA, at the expense of the dissemination of less decorous, but arguably more useful shit.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2021
    EventLet's Talk About Sex in YA - University of Cambridge
    Duration: 3 May 20217 May 2021


    ConferenceLet's Talk About Sex in YA
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