Monday, February 23, 2009

Library Woes


The lead story on the local news last week was that the library board, located in a nearby large town, voted 5-3 to restrict access to four books with sexual themes. The books won’t be banned, but access by minors will be restricted.

The four books are The Joy of Sex, The Joy of Gay Sex, The Lesbian Kama Sutra and Sex for Busy People. The whole debate stemmed from a proposal by a 'Common Sense' group I’d rather not name. They were the same people instrumental in getting adult magazines moved to the top shelves of stores with their covers hidden.

The vote followed two hours of public comment and discussion. The board chair was quoted as saying it was the most disappointing moment in her twenty-five year association with the library. She’s worried that the library will go from being a source of pride for the community, and instead become an embarrassment.

Debating whether to put the books on a top shelf, behind the counter or do something else with them, the board ultimately decided to leave the decision to library staff.

Apparently the board used a three-pronged statute to determine if something is harmful to minors. The statute is as follows:

1. The average adult person applying contemporary community standards would find that the material or performance has a predominant tendency to appeal to a prurient interest in sex to minors.

2. The average adult person applying contemporary community standards would find that the material or performance depicts or describes nudity, sexual conduct, sexual enticement or sadomasochistic abuse in a manner that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable to minors.

3. A reasonable person would find that the material or performance lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value for minors.

As an author, statute section 3 makes my hackles rise until I hit those last two words: for minors. As a mother, I’d rather not have a minor child exposed to adult subject matter-- but I have far more concerns about the internet than I do The Joy of Gay Sex.

When my son was about eleven and the internet was just becoming widespread, a friend of his was assigned a report on the anatomy of the body. For fun, she typed the word ‘butt’ into the search engine, and got the surprise of her young life. I heard a similar tale from an older woman who collected dollhouses. On one of her first forays into the world wide web, she Googled ‘dollhouses’ and got way more than she bargained for.

The new explicitness is upon us, and I don’t see it going away because technology rarely moves backwards. As an author I abhor censorship and think people should be allowed to choose for themselves what material contains serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value.

As a mother, I’d rather not see it flaunted in my children’s faces...but, as Lisabet mentioned yesterday, sex is used to sell everything possible these days. Even cartoon movies aimed at kids have innuendo in them, supposedly to make them entertaining for adults, too. It’s all around us, and as parents we do the best we can and then cross our fingers and hope it was enough.

I still think the internet is where our children are going to get most of their information, right or wrong. (My son belongs to a Facebook group called ‘If it’s on Wiki it must be true, right?’ Pretty sure this is sarcasm.)

I wonder if the public library really needs to worry about restricting access of these books to minors. Maybe they should focus their worries on how to get minors in to the library, and reading something.

26 comments:

  1. The library needs to find out what the 'average adult' really thinks, not listen to some group that claims to know but really wants to police our morality.

    You are correct. They should work on getting the kids in there.

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  2. If this kind of crap keeps up, I can see George Orwell's 1984 coming true in more ways than we ever thought possible. I mean, first it was music (labeling albums), and now this? How much is too much? Where do we draw the line?
    It was disgusting enough when they started pulling funding for art that they thought was "too sexual". Shouldn't that be left as a personal choice, included in the right to free speech. After all, isn't that what writing/art/poetry/music is? An expression of our artistic endeavors?
    I'll hush now. I'm so mad that I'm rambling.

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  3. you are absolutely right! My daughter, 13 yrs old, started really using the internet at 11. She heard from some kids on the bus about a "great website." Well that "great website" was a porn site! I am a firm believer that it is a parents job to monitor what their children are reading and watching. We all know that they are going to learn about sex one way or another... that is just the nature of things. I am tired of going to a library and not being able to find books that have adult content in the adult fiction! When are people going to realize that these kids are going to find it or do it no matter how much censorship they try to implement!

    Here is something else that goads me... it is not having to do with books but very similar. My daughter and her friends wanted to see an R rated movie, Friday the 13th. I bought the tickets so they could go in and then bought myself, my husband, and my 6 yr old tickets to another movie. Come to find out you can't just buy the tickets to an R rated movie, but must go in with your child if they are under 18. Hello I bought the tickets it is ok for her to see the movie!!!!

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  4. Hey Connie,

    The 'Common Sense' lady who started the whole thing didn't even show up to speak at the board meeting. Imagine that.

    I used to go to the library every day after school to wait for my mom to get off work. I prowled the shelves reading everything I could find, and if I was lucky enough to find something with a little sex in it I thought that was pretty great. LOL

    And I gotta tell ya, learning from books would have been more accurate than the stuff some of my friends told me.

    Of course we didn't have the internet back then. Now my kids only go to the library when they absolutely can't find something online.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Jamie

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  5. Hi Barb,

    I hope Obama can find a way to draw the line somewhere. The government doesn't need to censor our books, music and art. We should be able to do that for ourselves and our kids.

    I heard he's going to repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy for the military which I think is a good thing, if I'm understanding it right. But that's a whole 'nother rant!

    Thanks for popping in!

    Jamie

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  6. Heather,

    You mean you didn't want to see Friday the 13th with your daughter and her friends? LOL

    My husband took me to the original Friday the 13th on our first date. My mother has never forgiven him. *G* We'll wait for the DVD on this one, movies cost too much these days.

    And I agree, let parents raise their kids. (Sadly, there are some who don't...but again, that's another can of worms.)

    Thanks for posting,

    Jamie

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  7. #3 raises my hackles, too...and they aren't going down with the addition of "minors." I AM a parent, and I'm a firm believer that, at some point before they are adults, children need a firm understanding of sex. Not only to protect themselves but also so they know what is safe, sane and consensual and to get a feel for where they will ultimately draw their comfort zones and defend them, because that is very important to sexual health and safety.

    My oldest is a "minor," but she's had the school's pathetic attempt at sex ed, Mom's sex ed...and Dad's sex ed (which consists of a realistic description of what boys want and all the things they will do to get it). Better forewarned and forearmed than lacking in the clinch.

    I happen to own The Joy of Sex and Kama Sutra. I didn't use them in her sex ed, but I may...before she's 18 and no longer a "minor." There isn't much in there that she doesn't know about, at least obliquely. I'm not off buying her erotica books to read, but she reads sensual romance. She's not the only minor I know who does, either.

    Ultimately, I think what a "minor" is old enough to read and learn is up to the parents to decide. So, it doesn't bother me to have to check out one of those books for my kids and guide the child through it like a responsible parent. I'd rather my kids know the facts and be able to make informed decisions, to protect themselves, and hopefully to choose intelligently to not rush into sexuality and its problems. So far, that seems to be working. Not everyone will make that choice.

    Though it galls me that they feel the need to hide anything having to do with sex away, as long as they aren't telling me how to raise my kids, it doesn't bother me. It MAY bother the adults who are forced to ask for those books, in the price of embarrassment, and I can't blame them for being angry about that. It's punishing the innocent to try and stop some single kid from circumventing his parents. Deplorable, but a sign of our times...1984 indeed! Fahrenheit 451 indeed!

    Don't get me started on the idiocy of some people. I wrote a note so that my oldest could pick up my youngest and meet at the edge of the parking lot, so we could go to a dentist's appointment. Though my daughter is old enough to walk my younger children all the way home (more than a mile and a half), she's apparently deemed NOT old enough, with a note from me, to pick her sister up and walk her across the parking lot? How idiotic!

    Brenna

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  8. This blog is so right on, Jamie. I am so very, very tired of people imposing their person demons on the larger community. Who is she to judge what is lioterary value and what isn't? And if people are to make informed decisions about their lives, how will they ever do so if the information available to them is restricted?
    It seems every time I turn around someonee else has a dead horse to flog and wants to get in everyone's face about it.
    You are definitely right about the Internet. The dangers out there are real and precipitous yet wwe haven't found s successful way to keep out the predators. I think this 'Commmon Sense' woman would do much better to be outraged at the accessibility of what she calls improper material oin cyberspace than worry about four books in a library.

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  9. Since I don't have children, I'll stay out of the what's suitable for children for the most part, lol.

    For adults - well, I'd much rather books that preach hate didn't exist.

    But what's that saying? I hate everything you say, and I'll defend to my death your right to say it?

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  10. Hi Brenna,

    Sounds like your kids are lucky. We try to be open and available to our boys, thankfully both are grown now so I just have to do a little more of the finger crossing thing.

    Appreciate your taking the time to comment!

    Jamie

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  11. Hey Desiree,

    The Dateline people tried with their "To catch a predator" series but they got in trouble for that- violating somebody's civil rights or something...who knows?

    I agree the internet is a much scarier place than the library, although I have to tell you, almost every other day I win a huge amount of money on here from the Irish lotto or someplace. I am such a lucky person!!!

    Have a great day,

    Jamie

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  12. Hey Kim,

    The same town this library is in hosts a 'church' that pickets gay funerals and military funerals. I won't even mention names because I don't want to give them any credence, but these hate-mongers make me sick.

    No kids? What's up with that? Better get to work on that, woman!

    Jamie

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  13. What do they consider a minor?
    is 16? 15? 14? a minor?
    When a child/teenager is discovering sex? I would want them to have access to the books.
    Libraries are not allowed to censor. We can't say who can and can't borrow. If the books end up behind a shelf at the circ desk, NO ONE will borrow, or browse them.
    Until they start putting ratings on books, this shouldn't happen.

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  14. Oh, no! Wait! I think that's MY money! Hand it over! LOL!

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  15. Natasha,

    Another funny thing- ever since this brewhaha started at the library, the news media have been trying to get their hands on the books to show the public, but they are all checked out with waiting lists. LOL

    Thanks for stopping by,

    Jamie

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  16. Desiree,

    I'll share with you. You send Mr. Whateverhis name is in Nigeria a check for the handling fees, and they'll send us the winnings. I'll just wait to hear back from you. *G*

    Jamie

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  17. That is fantastic! I love that they are all signed out.
    Also....whatever happened to "knowledge is power"? Man, this seriously irritates me.

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  18. Knowledge is power- wasn't that the slogan of Schoolhouse Rock? Don't get me started on that subject, I love those songs...heh heh heh

    Jamie

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  19. Okay, I read this earlier and every time I come back and look at it again, it gets my blood boiling. Jamie, you've made some wonderful points and some reported some incredibly frustrating facts about what's going on in some areas of the US. The same kind of crap is going on in Canada, but possibly not to as great a degree.

    I'll be adding to this topic tomorrow so I'm not going to rant. Nope, not gonna... grumble.

    Hugs

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  20. Its funny isn't it, the library is and has always been such a focal point of controversy when it comes to free thinking. Things today are moving so fast in cultural values that I think this is what fuels the rise of the right wing and the politicians who take advantage of it.

    Garce

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  21. Isn't Common Sense a misnomer for a group that tries to stifle free thinking? I doubt the woman from the group even read the books to find out if they were serious books or only written to satisfy the reader's prurient interests.

    Members of the religious anti gay funeral church is not allowed in the UK for the purpose of demonstrating unless they sneak in before they announce their agenda. Once they are in free speech kicks in, but hate groups cannot enter the country. This from the Independent, a British paper I read daily.

    Censorship is much more dangerous to society than for a teen finding out they have been left in the cold by parents and teachers who can't figure out that without sex there wouldn't be kids in school or the libraries.

    Burn Censors not Books (bumper sticker wisdom)

    Ray

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  22. Chiming in... the thing that bothers me is that all the books proposed for banning are both educational and sex positive. They (arguably) present sex as enjoyable, healthy, nurturing and supportive of a committed relationship.

    No wonder people have such messed up notions about sex!

    I loved the notion, btw, that your husband gave your daughter a sex ed talk. Young women can really benefit from a masculine perspective on this subject. Though any commentary on "what boys want" should always be tempered with the proviso that individuals do differ.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  23. I had to give my son his talk and I will give him more. His dad still doesn't get that he likes girls yet. LOL

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  24. Thanks for stopping by everyone. It's a volatile and interesting topic for sure.

    Have a great week!

    Jamie

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  25. You know, I had a conversation with a friend recently about dry mouth and the problems it causes during audio recording. He went to look up 'oral lubricant' on Google, and said, "Hmmmm. Not the search results I was looking for..."

    The libraries and the bookstores are not the problems, as you say. It is the mediums that invade our homes, like the radio, TV, the internet. These constant streams of imagery and sound that we can't control beyond letting them through our front door and into our living rooms. And of course they're not just in our living rooms, they're in everyone's living rooms, and who knows what kids will find over at their best friends' houses?

    But that's the nature of the beast. We want non-stop entertainment, and we got it, but to fill that demand, those sources of entertainment will turn to questionable content in a heartbeat.

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  26. As long as sex is dirty and kids are restricted from accessing material about sex, the subject will be irresistable, and not just another everyday, humdrum activity like filling out tax forms (which reminds me...).

    I learned sex from my dad's porn library, and today's kids can, too. Let's get it back on the street corners where it belongs.

    Dangerous Bill

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