Banned Books Week – Pt. 4: Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby.

bbw-logoAs I’m sure most of you know by now, it’s Banned Books Week and I’m running a series of blog posts discussing the banning of books to celebrate the event. In the first post, on Monday, I kicked off the series with a short post about the event as well as how and where books are being banned. The second post demonstrated why the banning of books is such a problematic practice with an excursus on an ugly chapter in world history and the third post continued the series with a look at the not-so-noble nature of the reasons behind the banning of books.

While the last post focused on the bans targeting diverse content, this time I want to discuss the reasons that have to do with people in their birthday suits and what they might do together.
[tip: if you’re offended by the big bad word s-e-x, you better not read this post. Of course you may also read it and then issue a formal request at the next library to ban my post on their computer networks.]

infographic-reasons

According to data from the ALA, “sexually explicit” content was the most frequently cited issue when books were challenged over the past decade (2000-2009). “So what?” you say. “Does the local library really need erotica novels?” Maybe not.

      

            

  

Oh, you’re wondering why I randomly inserted these rather recent YA novels, commonly assigned school readings and children’s books and what they all have in common? Well, these are the erotica novels you spoke of before.
All of these books have been challenged for “sexually explicit” content. I have only read three of them so far – Looking for Alaska, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and The Catcher In The Rye – but I can’t remember coming across any shocking, graphic, explicit sexual scenes in them. Of course you may correct me if I’m wrong.
Then again, after a bit of research it seems that the “sexually explicit” content in In The Night Kitchen was simply nudity (for which it was also challenged).
Yes, nudity. It’s actually a rather common reason for books to be challenged as you can also see in the word cloud above. NUDITY! The most unnatural thing in the world – naked bodies. That clearly has to be forbidden. (sarcasm off)

I mean, really now, what is so offensive about that? As a drawing in that kind of style no less? What do you want to protect people from? Nature? Reality? Anatomy?

New Girl - Jess - Not Even a Little Bit True photo tumblr_inline_mjej3tGfFP1qz4rgp_zps0ce5b5c3.gif

No? Okay, if you say so. Let’s look at some more books that have been challenged because of “sexually explicit” content.

    

These don’t look like erotica novels to me. Well, maybe we should take another look at the word cloud from the ALA. More specifically, at what it says right next to nudity – it might be a bit smaller, but it’s a still a frequently cited reasons when books are being challenged: sex education. I repeat: sex education. Since when is education a bad thing?

In fact, I think the USA needs more sex education and not less. Because right now there definitely isn’t enough of it, as evidenced by these figures:

In 2011-2013, more than 80% of adolescents aged 15–19 had received formal instruction about STDs, HIV or how to say no to sex. In contrast, only 55% of young men and 60% of young women received formal instruction about methods of birth control. (source: guttmacher.org)

Don’t be fooled by those ‘more than 80%’ at the beginning. To clarify, the formal sex education of the majority of adolescents consisted of being taught to stay abstinent and what were probably horrifying tales about STDs meant to act as a deterrent. An astonishing 40% of young women and 45% of young men were not taught about contraceptive methods.

This method doesn’t seem to be very effective considering that around 82% of teenage pregnancies are unintended. And while the over all teen pregnancy rates might be on the decline, they are still incredibly high compared to other industrialized nations. (data source)

teen-pregnancy-rates-2006

Guess what the Netherlands, Germany and France are doing differently from the US? That’s right – sex education!
In the Netherlands for example, sex education is mandatory and starts as early as kindergarten. In those early days, the program aims to lay the foundation that will later enable the children to have open conversations about love and relationships and, eventually, sex. PBS describes the overall principle of the program in an article on the same like this:

Sexual development is a normal process that all young people experience, and they have the right to frank, trustworthy information on the subject.

Does that remind you of something? Because it very much reminds me of the title of one of the books challenged for featuring sex education: “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health“.
So why do not all young people in America have the right to frank, trustworthy information on the subject?

If you’re a parent and worried about your teenage daughter having sex when she’s not ready for it, I’m going to tell you a secret. Your teenage daughter will find a way to have sex if she wants to. Telling her it’s ‘forbidden’ might even increase her desire to do it. In any case, it won’t lessen it. So don’t you think it would be better to make sure she’s adequately prepared for it by properly educating her about it? And, you know, openly talking to her about it might actually help to make her wait for the right person.

If you’re a teenager and you’re not receiving adequate sex education in school and don’t feel comfortable asking your parents about it, here are some helpful resources:

Planned Parenthood – Info For Teens

sex, etc. -by teens, for teens

I mean, who am I kidding? This is the internet. And there are smartphones. Teenagers these days have probably seen more pornographic material already than some parents in their lifetime. Not that porn is good educational material. But this is definitely another reason why the banning of books for nudity or fleeting mentions of sex or masturbation is ridiculous. All of these books are absolutely innocent compared to what kids are exposed to elsewhere.

So let’s leave the books alone. And to the parents who are still worried about the books your children read because you feel like they aren’t ready for the content – keep an eye out for the last post in this series on Sunday. In the meantime:

UPDATE: Due to not having access to wi-fi today and being away for the rest of the weekend, I unfortunately have to cut the series short and end it here. I’m very sorry about that and very disappointed myself. I’m considering writing what was supposed to be the last post in this series as a regular discussion post next week though. In the meantime, thank you all for the supportive comments in this series 🙂 & of course:

bbw13_profile

ADDITIONAL READING:

Review: The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian* by Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku

Top Ten Stupidly Banned Books by Lilyn @ Sci-Fi & Scary

Banned Books Week: Winnie the Pooh** by Lost In A Good Book

*frequently challenged for “sexually explicit” content
**Pooh: “inappropriately dressed”


talktome2

Are you participating in Banned Books Week? What do you think about banning books?
Have you read any of the books mentioned in the post above?

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45 thoughts on “Banned Books Week – Pt. 4: Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby.

  1. M, you make me so happy. This post in SPOT ON. It really infuriates me to know that we have barely moved the needle on sex education in decades. It feels like since the country was *founded* even. Yes, we were a country settled by those seeking religious freedom. But we were settled by the Puritans and the Quakers. Sexual education and freedoms weren’t really in their wheelhouse. So, part of me isn’t *surprised* this is where we landed on sex education. But another half of me can’t stand it. We are still reflecting the reproductive bias of our past. What was the point of the 60s, or Kinsey’s research, or Masters and Johnson publishing all that research if we aren’t going to embrace it and let our children know: What you are feeling is okay. Let’s talk about the repercussions of this together.
    This is one of the reasons I adore Tamora Pierce’s The Song of the Lioness Quartet. She writes about sex as an act that women are expected to enjoy just as much as men. There are frank sex talks and brief conversations about menstrual cycles. Everyone knows about these things and they are facts of life women and men need to live with, so they do. Brilliant sexual education, hiding in 250-page strong-female-protagonist fantasy novels.
    And I’m not even going to touch the fact that talking about pregnancy is a thing here. Ugh.
    Thank you for talking about this!!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I freaking loved all of this post!! There’s a banned section in Strand Bookstore and I get so mad seeing some of the books there because I think some teach lessons. Sex education is so important but I feel like the USA just wants to brush it under the rug. And the health classes that are actually given are laughable. I’ve read Looking For Alaska, The Hunger Games, The Catcher in the Rye, and Captain Underpants…I don’t see how that can be erotica..AT ALL!

    Liked by 3 people

    • So glad you liked it! Thank you 🙂
      And I definitely agree. Most of these books teach lessons I think, that’s why they are so important and also why they are often taught in schools – and then banned in a lot of them because some people are uncomfortable with things (and often for bigoted reasons). Reading makes better people. Looking through someone else’s eyes by means of reading their story makes better people. Some people just don’t want the next generation to be better people it seems.
      And yeah, banning these books for “sexually explicit” content just for the mere mention of sex or even nudity is absolutely ridiculous.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. In my high school, there is no sex education class. I think the faculty find the subject so awkward that they’re praying we’ll figure it out for ourselves, like on the internet. The only thing that even brushed sex education was my health class freshman year, but it had mostly to do with how our bodies worked, not what we wanted to do with it. 😒

    I have read Looking For Alaska, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the Hunger Games. (Incidentally, I had to read THG for class, so if it was “sexually explicit”, my teacher really didn’t give a shit.) I didn’t find any of those books overly sexual in any way. And Drama?! I work in the school library, and there are tons of kids that check that book out every week. It’s a graphic novel aimed at middle schoolers. How the heck is it sexual in any way? (I haven’t read it, but I have read Smile and I honestly doubt Raina Telgemeier would draw or write anything that explicit.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I mean, it’s a good start to be taught how your bodies work honestly 😀 Sadly, some people don’t even get that much.
      And that’s the whole point…. these books aren’t sexual. I mean one incident of non-sex-related nudity is often enough. I’m not even sure if that’s hilarious or sad. Probably both.
      Also congrats on working in the school library 😀 What a great job 🙂

      Like

  4. Banned for nudity in a book. Which you can’t actually … see. Ok yeah, that makes sense. 🙄 The only sex I can remember in The Hunger Games was Finnick talking about being a victim of sex trafficking. He wasn’t even explicit in his description.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a great post thank you and I agree with Jackie 🙂 Jay Kristoff made some great points talking about his book Nevernight at the Brisbane Writersfest about violence being perfectly acceptable in YA but throw in a sexy scene and people lose their minds, whereas we should be saying that sex and love is ok rather than hiding it and not talking about it. I have a 14 yr old daughter, so I’m invested in this issue as a parent as well as a reader. We should be educating our kids so they can make their own decisions rather than having those decisions made for them.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Some banned books a ridiculous!! I was in my local bookstore and they were displaying books that were banned in other areas and I was shocked. Did you know that Where’s Waldo the search and find book is banned in some places for “nudity” because of one topless mermaid on one page.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. M, your post is flawless. WOW. You’ve written something so eloquent and thoughtful, and I just loved all of it.

    This topic is something that needs to be discussed more often. When I was in high school (a thousand years ago – or at least it feels that way!), we had sex education but there was such a heavy focus on male gentalia — and I went to an all-girls school? We briefly covered female gentalia, but it was so sparse and I still felt confused after. We did cover sex though, but it was vague. But as you said, thank god for the internet and tumblr.

    As for parents, I mean, I recognize their job is hard, but as you said, forbidding it pretty much guarantees more curiosity. Instead of outright banning, parents could have frank conversations with their children about these topics so that they have guidance and you can be someone they can trust. It’d probably be super awkward, but it’s a better alternative. Or if parents are uncomfortable, buy them educational books about it? (I don’t know, I’m not a parent though, so maybe I don’t wholly understand or can comprehend how difficult this may be.)

    And… Captain Underpants is banned? What? It’s a kids book! *confused*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! ❤
      I was privileged enough to receive really good sex education in school which covered everything from bodily functions like periods to sex to stds to contraception. I'm really thankful for that.
      My parents aren't the kind who would forbid anything sexual, but they also aren't the kind of parents that talk to you openly about sex and all related matters. When my mother finally gathered the courage to talk to me about contraception, it was awkward and tbh, already too late. But that was okay, because I received excellent sex education at school.
      I can totally understand parents who feel a bit awkward talking to their children about this. But that's why it's all the more important to have proper sex education in school.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I understand what you mean – my sex ed in school feels a hundred years away as well 😛 in any case, I also understand that parents don’t have an easy job and I even understand that not all parents are the kind of people who are able to talk openly about this. However that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to deny kids their education regarding these things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh absolutely! Parents should NOT deny kids sex education, and that goes without saying.

        But yeah, I think about becoming a parent one day, and it scares me, hence my overempathizing — but that’s another discussion for another day!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 🙂 Lots of info on contraception is great though. I think consent is something that has only become a topic in recent years or at least it feels like that to me. When I was in school, nobody felt that needed to be talked about I guess – and it’s sad that it does have to be talked about in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yet another fantastic post! I think librarians over here would laugh in my face if I showed them this post and requested them to remove it from their network :’).

    In the Netherlands for example, sex education is mandatory and starts as early as kindergarten.“. It might be because I’m old but I don’t remember any of this! 😀 (love the videos in the attached link btw). My mother always gave me a banana as a school snack *strokes chin*. But on a serious note, it’s shocking to see those statistics innit? What are people so afraid of if it’s already happening anyways? I got my sex education from national teen magazines. They’d lure you in with a cover of the Backstreet Boys but then have 10 pages on STD’s and masturbation on the inside. I learned a lot from it though! You would never see these kinds of magazines in the US I bet.

    You should definitely put up that last post in this series as a regular discussion post! Who cares Banned Book Weeks has ended; we want more!! 🙂

    P.s. – I’d totally read the Adventures of Captain Underpants

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really enjoyed reading your series of articles on this subject. The whole question of censorship – in reading and in other spheres of activity – really fascinates me. However, one burning question always comes to my mind when I try to decide what should be permissible and what not:
    A complete uncensored world seems to me to be a very dangerous place. Are you really saying that children should be allowed to read (watch) whatever they like and, if they are so allowed, does that imply there must be no censoring of writers? Here in the UK we have rules, for example, it is a criminal offence to WRITE stuff advocating violence against minorities. And if there must be censorship at all, who decides what is to be allowed/banned? There is a very serious issue here amidst all the apparent trivialities, like banning Harry Potter books because they encourage kids to become witches (or whatever).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Ah yes well, this was kind of supposed to be the last post in the series – which I will probably do now as a regular discussion post. I don’t think children should be allowed to read -anything- but in the end that’s what they have parents and guardians for. And hiding the reality from children / teenagers in general by keeping certain ugly aspects out of all books doesn’t seem to be the way to go for me.

      Like

      • Oh, I agree with that. Schools have an important role too. I have no objection at all to head teachers making decisions about what to stock in their school libraries. Sometimes they’ll make silly decisions but that is their right. So do parents, I suppose. Kids always find a way round both; I know I did. And yes, proper sex education is very important both at home and in school. There wasn’t such a thing in my day – most parents and teachers were too embarrassed – but I know I would have welcomed it.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. While I (as a future high school teacher) agree that “explicit sexual content” isn’t necessary in the school setting, these books being banned: ridiculous!!
    I’m not going to advocate for 50 Shades, but something is wrong here…and we can’t seem to fix it.
    Colleges everywhere have no problem with picking books for their classroom because the students are “over 18” and therefore insta-adults. I laugh bc when I was 18, I was FAR from being an adult. I had sex at 15 because everyone was doing it…I had horrible self-esteem by the time I was “an adult.” So I don’t understand the secrecy behind it: I felt so uninformed and scared.
    While I still hesitate to bring anything into Kindergarten, it’s only because I have been raised in a strict, no sex ed unless it’s reproduction and only in middle school for a week world.
    So I don’t know the answer…and this was a pretty long comment, but I HATE banning books. And I love your posts about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! 🙂 I understand what you mean, I feel the same way looking back now – at 18 I was still so so far from being an adult. Although that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t mature enough to be informed about sex or to deal with it being part of an assigned school reading.
      What you said is the very reason sex should be openly talked about and why kids in school should be properly educated about sex. Having to go into it feeling uninformed and scared is clearly not a good result.
      Ah and yes, of course. Apparently, in kindergarten they just talk about innocent cute things like “who’s had a crush before?” And stuff like that 🙂 so it’s all still completely innocent and safe for small children, it’s just preparing them for later. It’s just a first step in teaching them to openly talk about feelings and relationships and then, eventually, sex as well. And I think that’s cool. 🙂

      Like

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