Hnn | HNN Articles

Sexual Intelligence: Can a Book be Burned at the Stake--Literally?

 

COLUMN BY MARTY KLEIN

For HumanistNetwork.News.org
Aug. 5, 2009

I'm back from Chicago, speaking at the annual conference of the ALA -American Library Association. 20,000 librarians under one roof--totally inspiring.

In addition to their deeper-funded and better-staffed cousins from the big cities, they came from towns I'd never heard of, in states I'd never been in: Clarksdale, Miss., Rock Springs, Wyo., and Keene, N.H.

As disparate as they were, they all had this in common:

* They support reading;
* They support access to information;
* They're under pressure from dozens of directions to restrict that access;
* They're concerned about the sexual themes, words, and pictures in the books they acquire and circulate.

New York Librarian Lynn Biederman presented the results of her survey of 500 librarians. On the one hand, most said sexual themes can be valuable to young readers. On the other, many are concerned about how sexual themes affect young readers. Librarians don't want young people to get inaccurate information, to get too frightened, or to think casual sex is problem-free. Another concern is that some books for young people are gratuitously arousing--a concern that many parents share.

Novelist Laura Ruby (Play Me, Good Girls), told of the piles of heart-wrenching and grateful emails from her young readers. I was delighted to address librarians' concerns as a clinician and educator. What does science say about sexual themes hurting young people? (Kids are very safe). What do teens need to know about sex that they rarely get at school or at home? (Plenty). What do adults wish they had learned about sex as kids? (Also plenty).

The thing I said that apparently moved the audience most?

The two most important questions to teens are: "Who am I? Am I normal?"

In a healthy person, investigating and answering these questions must involve sexuality. And that sometimes involves arousal. Life is titillating. Teens have their radar up for eroticism; we can't possibly eliminate it.

I was also the guest of ALA's Intellectual Freedom Roundtable, which gave me a full two hour slot. Over 300 people packed the room, with dozens camping on the floor. Both the volunteers and the staff enthusiastically supported the goal of my talk. If I were the kind of person who referred to "my peeps," I'd say that about these dedicated, quietly powerful professionals.

The Sexual Disaster Industry (which I describe in my current book) is working overtime in America's 15,000 public libraries.

They're instilling a fear of perverts in libraries--claiming that kids are in danger of seeing the pornography and child pornography supposedly being watched on almost every library computer terminal. America's libraries are open 30 million hours per year--with only a few actual complaints about this.

Demands that books be hidden from minors or banned altogether continue, totalling hundreds every year. Common reasons include sexual words or themes, disrespect for religion, portraying homosexuality in non-negative ways, and an interest in the "occult."

There's even a group planning to burn a book. CCLU--the Christian Civil Liberties Union--has requested permission to "burn at the stake " a copy of Francesca Lia Block's Baby Be-Bop . The group is also suing for $120,000 in damages, claiming the book has damaged the emotional health of several individuals.

Ironically, the book tells the story of a teenager struggling with his homosexuality and an attack by a homophobic gang. Risking their jobs and physical safety, local librarians have been resisting complaints about the book for months.

It reminds me of Freud's letter in 1933 about the public burning of his books in Berlin by the Nazis:

"What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books."

 

 

 

© Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexEd.org).


Marty Klein, Ph.D is the author and publisher of Sexual Intelligence, a monthly electronic newsletter. This column is reprinted from (ISSUE #114, Aug. '09). For information about republishing this column, contact the author.

blog comments powered by Disqus

American Humanist Association

Washington Post illustration by Herblock from 1963. Still an unsettled issue......

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Our lawsuit challenging 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is trending on F...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

A major newspaper in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger, published an editorial in supp...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Did you catch Roy Speckhardt's interview on Fox and Friends this morning? Watch...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss it! AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt will be on Fox and Friends...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Pledge of Allegiance without the use of "Under God" did not cause harm to t...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Great News! Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island just issued a proclamation r...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

A great video for Earth Day! Isaac Asimov discusses saving the planet for future...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Responding to reporters this morning as the AHA's latest case gets national atte...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Lots of press coverage this morning on our New Jersey lawsuit challenging 'under...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Earth Day Everyone! Be kind to your Earth. It's where you live!

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Congratulations to Ventura County, California for now officially recognizing May...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Taken from a 1940's Justice Society Of America comic before "Under God" was adde...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association has filed lawsuit against “Under God” in the P...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

The 2014 American Atheists Conference was awesome! Check out pictures of the Ame...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone!

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Poll! http://thehumanist.com/arts_entertainment/culture/your-humanist-...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Announcing our 2014 AHA Annual Conference Keynote Speaker, Professor Max Tegmark...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have you had this problem? The Ethical Dilemma: My Son Sends Me E-Mails Signed...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Hurry! Going to the AHA annual conference in Philly? May 5th is the last day to...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Rules Are for Schmucks: Darwin Award Nominee by Luis Granados. http://thehumani...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Cartoon History of Humanism Episode Three: The Archpoet, 12th-Century Gang...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Throwback Thursday! The January/February, 1989 issue of the Humanist magazine...

8 days ago