(longer than ususal with some graphic content)
The images almost all seem to be taken at night; the stark contrast of the dark sky with an enormous pile of hard-backed books engulfed in flames. Blond-haired, blue-eyed zealots screaming in victory with their swastika bands and Nazi values literally (pun intended) filling the air around them as the books burn in idea-controlling victory.
Yeah. That’s not me.
I am an advocate for tax dollars not purchasing vulgar or sexually explicit materials.
And rational conversation. I am an advocate to try to bring rational conversations back.
Last year I submitted a Book Reconsideration Form to my local public library for the book Blue Is the Warmest Color by Jul Maroh. I thought my premise was obvious: Cartoon depictions of graphic sex acts should be considered pornography.
Simple. Clear. In my opinion, reasonable.
I submitted my request (with attached photocopies of the actual book), and my request was denied.
Now, I am not an expert on pornography or sexually explicit material. It is not a piercing part of my story, nor has it ever been a struggle for me. (Or, to my knowledge, for my husband.) But in my limited experience and talk-show-watching-in-the-90’s knowledge, nearly everyone (of the stories I’ve heard) whose life was ripped apart by pornography addiction said the same thing: The first exposure to sexually explicit material was by accident.
They didn’t seek it out. They didn’t go to the corner liquor store and buy it. It was grandpa’s–hidden under the bed; or a cousin took them out back by the big oak tree and said, “Wanna see something?”
And the body responded without permission. From then on, they wanted more.
I would like to try to make less of that available in society. I think sexually explicit graphic novels tucked safely on library shelves are a risk.
Once my original request was denied, I took the next directed step, which was to present the matter to the library board.
Blue is The Warmest Color is a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl discovering she’s a lesbian. The sexual orientation of the story is irrelevant to my plea because in a graphic novel sketch of a teenager writhing in ecstasy as she receives oral sex, the gender of the person performing said act isn’t clear. It’s a back and back of a head.
Coincidence or not, once I submitted the request to make a presentation to library board the librarian chose to move the meeting to a larger public venue and rescheduled it to the first day of PRIDE month.
While I still believe these conversations are better had face to face over coffee, public speaking is in my wheelhouse, so the change of venue and filling the audience with angry people on both sides wasn’t a big deal for me. I was ready to move the conversation forward.
For the first time in my life, I actually put together a slide presentation.
I was clear. I was factual. I provided an alternative–simply ask the publisher to produce a version of the story without the nudity and illustrations of sex. Rap artists often have less explicit lyric versions of their somgs available for public consumption, asking library books to do the same is a viable alternative.
Once I was finished and sat back down, the audience was able to comment and it got a bit dicey. The police removed a woman from the audience. Both sides yelled. Some people made great points. Others screamed louder.
If I had to do it again, I would have stood up front as the speakers came up, so that they could talk (or shout) directly to me. Again, we need more conversations and I am not afraid of being yelled at.
One woman found me in the audience, looked at me and said, “I don’t think this is pornography.” So, at a break, I sat down next to her and what she did think was pornography.
“Why? So, you can be right?” She countered.
“No, because I think that is the next logical question to reach understanding,” I answered.
Less than a minute later she said, “I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” Okay. I thought we could find common ground. I was wrong.
For clarity’s purposes, and because it is mostly true, this is often presented as a left vs. right issue. I am solidly on the right. People on the “right” are called book banners because they have mounted together and started calling for what they/we believe to be indecent material to be removed from tax-payed for public and school libraries.
The left opposes that.
One of the most often used arguments from citizens on the left is: Why don’t you just do your job as parents and you decide what books your kids can read?
I’m a parent. My kids read…a lot. I honestly never could have read everything they read before they read it unless I only allowed them to read books I’ve read over the course of my life. Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to spend $150 in books at the Christian bookstore, and have my kids read every book we bought by the end of the weekend.
Both of my older kids read the 900 page Harry Potter book in two days.
I could do that, too, if I did nothing else which is the difference between being a kiddo and being an adult.
I did parent. In fact, I was one of “those” parents. My kids were always the last in their peer groups to get cell phones. We never had cable TV in the house. We had a timer on our internet that turned off at 11 every night.
But we also carved out areas where they could have freedom and autonomy; the ability to discover and think for themselves in places where their safety could be reasonably assumed.
I think the library should be such a place.
And I said so and was denied. The really fascinating thing to me was that after my brilliant presentation (okay…maybe not brilliant, but clearly effort-filled) not one of the nay-voting library board members, nor the librarian, nor the sour faced city attorney (all women) approached me.
None of them.
Never before in any of my public service or public debate moments has this happened. There has ALWAYS–every single time–been someone with a different vantage point come afterwards and say, “Thanks for sharing.”
That is no longer the world we live in.
But I still think that the battle against sexually explicit or vulgar literature freely available to kids is worth fighting.
So I submitted another BOOK RECONSIDERATION REQUEST for the book ALL BOYS AREN’T BLUE by George M. Johnson. I included these quotes directly from the book:
“He reached his hand down and pulled out my dick. He quickly went to giving me head.” Page 268: “I remember the condom was blue and flavored like cotton candy. I put some lube on and got him up to his knees, and I began to slide into him from behind. I tried not to force it because I imagined it might be painful; I didn’t want this moment to be painful.”
“There is a fear, as with most things you are doing for the first time. But this was my ass, and I was struggling to imagine someone inside me. And he was…large.”
That’s not what I want my kids grabbing out of the young adult section of the library. That’s actually not what I want my tax dollars paying for.
Make no mistake, I am also the Bible Study teacher who railed against 50 Shades of Grey. I posited then, loudly and clearly, that Christian women were likely the #1 demographic for getting the book on Kindle because they wanted to read it, but they didn’t want anyone to see them reading it. I thought Christian women should not do that, told them so, and watched many squirm in their seats.
I’m a delight.
ANYHOW…the argument that the librarian uses to defend the denials is that the books are in line with the American Library Association.
I think it is a legitimate to ask: Do you believe the public library should strive to be politically neutral and morally decent?
If you voted for Biden, would you want someone who attended the Trump Rally in Washington DC on January 6, 2021, to be the head of the ALA?
The reality is that the American Library Association is an overwhelmingly left-leaning organization. You can go here to see where they make their political donations. The current head of the ALA is Emily Drabinski. She is a contributing writer at Truthout. This is a quote from her:
I just cannot believe that a Marxist lesbian who believes that collective power is possible to build and can be wielded for a better world is the president-elect of @ALALibrary. I am so excited for what we will do together. Solidarity!
— Emily Drabinski (@edrabinski) April 13, 2022
Whether or not you agree with anything or everything, do you believe that is neutrality?
For a person like me, who moved out of California and to East Texas on purpose, the local librarian using the ALA as a defense is neither neutral, nor an honest reflection of the local demographic.
These topics often lead to in-person and online discussions that are HEATED. While I agree with the goals of people on the right, I find myself going toe to toe with them over approach as often as I go at it with people on the left over decency.
Both sides are too vague for me. The shouting matches often lack specific information that might be helpful. Let me fill in some gaps with MY OPINION. I can not read the future through a crystal ball, but I can articulate my fears and explain why I am scared.
I am afraid the next level on the downward slide is to normalize sexual activity between adults and children. Here are some indications I see:
- The attempt to change the term “pedophile” to “minor attracted person”
- The use of cartoons (graphic novels) to illustrate graphic sex
- The increased use of the term “age of consent” and the number of places where that “age” is getting younger
To be transparent about my concerns, I believe there is a current in the stream of the transgender movement whose real goal is the legalization of sex between adults and kids. It is a lateral move to go from “An 8 year old should be able to choose their sex” (gender) to “An 8 year old should be able to choose sex” (have intercourse).
In 15 years, if that ^^^ has not happened, I will weep tears of joy as I happily admit I was wrong.
The book that solidified that fear and breaks my heart more than any other; the one that kept me up at night praying for the kid I am about to quote; the book that presents an idea without any correction or explanation or shouting from the rooftops “I AM SO SORRY THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU” is the book BEYOND MAGENTA.
It is a collection of stories of transitioning/transitioned transgender teenagers. On page 80 it says:
“I was sexually mature. What I mean by sexually mature is that I knew about sex. From six up, I used to kiss other guys in my neighborhood, make out with them, and perform oral sex on them. I liked it. I used to love oral.”
Oh, you precious little six year old…no one knows about that at 6 unless someone has done something terrible to you. You never deserved it. Someone should be in prison. I am so sorry that ever happened to you.
And as tragic as that was for you, those other kids in your neighborhood will now see you as their abuser, because six year olds are not supposed to have those things happen to them by kids or by adults.
I simply cannot understand why we don’t agree on this.
Picture it in your mind: A man is committed to grooming young kids. He’s dressed in a black outfit with a white collar. He takes an 8 year old by the hand, leaves the church and they walk to the local library together. He pulls the book off the shelf and they sit down at the table.
He turns to page 80 and with his finger goes to the part on the page. “I was sexually mature…I [love] oral.”
He puts his hand on the child’s shoulder and says, “Mature at 6? You are 8. They loved it. Do you think maybe you might, too?”
That is why I am a book banner.
We have a mental health crisis in this country. We are never going to be able to address it effectively if we cannot even agree on what is sick.
Or have a reasonable conversation about it.
Which is why I won’t stop trying.