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.)