I only had to read the lede to know that this story was going to make me angry:
A fight over books depicting sex and homosexuality has riled up a small Wisconsin city, cost some library board members their positions and prompted a call for a public book burning.
Are these people for real? “We don’t like this book, so we’re going to have it banned/burned”? I am actually speechless. Then again, I usually am when my favorite medium is so disrespected. A sane person would argue, “If you don’t like what these books say, you don’t have to read them. Nobody is holding your eyes open, A Clockwork Orange-style, and forcing you to read Rainbow Boys.”
Of course, why would anybody listen to reason when it’s so much more fun to damn the torpedoes and hide things you personally disagree with from public view? The problem with the Maziarkas’ challenge to the books is that “sexually explicit” is a grey area. If there’s a detailed sex scene, then it’s inaproppriate for minors. What about implied hanky-panky? Fade-to-blacks? Are the restrictions more stringent on books like Rainbow Boys that focus on the experiences of homosexual teens? Is any mention of homosexuality in a favorable light to be shelved in the “Adult” section?
Ginny Maziarka, 49, said the books in the section of the library aimed at children aged 12 to 18 included homosexual and heterosexual content she thought was inappropriate for youths.
She and her husband also asked the library to obtain books about homosexuality that affirmed heterosexuality, such as titles written by “ex-gays,” Maziarka said.
“All the books in the young-adult zone that deal with homosexuality are gay-affirming. That’s not balance,” she said.
Okay, so they’re all “gay-affirming”. (I’ll have to use that phrase when I’m with my LGBT friends. ‘You should read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it’s very gay-affirming.’) For many LGBT teens and young adults, especially those outside of the “liberal spheres of corruption and deviancy” (I made that phrase up, but I bet some conservative will pick up on it), a friendly book, an author that understands their plight, is a lifesaver. As corny as it sounds, it can help them recognize who they are and realize that they need not be ashamed or afraid.
The Maziarkas were still fighting to have books moved, having identified 82 questionable titles — more than double their original list. Then they stopped targeting a list of books and circulated a petition that asked the board to label and move to the adult section any “youth-targeted pornographic books” — including books that describe sex acts in a way unsuitable for minors. The books could still be checked out freely by anyone.
“We’re not talking about educational material. We’re talking raunchy sex acts,” Maziarka said.
I’m going to avoid the obvious joke here (Oh, all right – who said raunchy sex acts aren’t educational, fnar fnar, childish giggle) and concentrate on the issue. You want to keep your kids safe from filth and smut of all kinds, okay. How about finding out for yourself what they’re reading? Honestly! It’s like parenting is too much effort anymore. (Hey, remember when all those nutters were burning Harry Potter books? Remember how dumb that was? I just wanted to bring that up again. I hate when people burn books – the burning of a book is nothing less than showing contempt for the author and the hundreds and thousands of hours of work that went into it, by author and editors alike.)
Besides, some items seen as “okay” by those who challenge books aren’t totally innocent. Take for example Yeats’ poem Leda And The Swan, a poem that damaged my delicate sensibilities and warped my fragile little mind at the tender age of sixteen when I was forced – forced, I say! – to read it in my AP English class:
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill, He holds her helpless breast upon his breast. How can those terrified vague fingers push The feathered glory from her loosening thighs? And how can body, laid in that white rush, But feel the strange heart beating where it lies? A shudder in the loins engenders there The broken wall, the burning roof and tower And Agamemnon dead. Being so caught up, So mastered by the brute blood of the air, Did she put on his knowledge with his power Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
Yep, that’s porn if I ever read it. Worse, rape porn. Maybe it is because I went to school in the “liberal sphere of corruption and deviancy”? We will never know. What, are we to ban Yeats now? Ban emotionally-stimulating material? Oh wait, we already tried that in a film. It didn’t work out so well.
This I say to you: In Liberibus, Libertas. In books, freedom. Do not deny anyone the solace they may find in learning, through a book, that they are not alone.