Random Asides

Is there porn in your library?

No, not your personal library, but your public library:

Woman finds porn in library; Shocked. Shocked!

“You would think the last place your child would be exposed to graphic sex is your local library. Roberta Maddox, a local mother, feels the same way. She is still mad over what she found when her 16-year-old daughter brought some books back from the Pablo Creek branch of the Jacksonville Library. “This is just the kind of stuff we’re trying to protect our kids from in society today,” says Maddox. “And here she’s able to just grab it off the shelf at the library with no one there to keep it away from them.”

Cripes. Once again, we have someone freaked that their kid might find out sex is fun. And, to make this even more entertaining, this is the same town you heard about in the Hoo Ha Monologues.

I don’t read much romance, although I’m constantly accidentally discovering it in the science fiction section of our library. They shelved Dara Joy’s “Ritual of Proof” as science fiction, and DAMN. That was one hot book. (Not a great plot, but for sheer quantity and variety of sex, definitely a standout.)

The Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series has now devolved into one long orgy in new books, and the pretense of a mystery plot has been discarded. As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s hard to tell romance novels from sci-fi/Fantasy these days. The sad thing is, a few of these books aren’t bad. In fact, many of these books would be good, if they just chucked the heavy handed (or tentacled)Subtle, dude. romance stuff and developed the plot more fully.

In general, anything that makes people read books I’m for. A recent study found that Americans are reading less than ever before. So, if someone reads anything, I’m happy–but I do wish they would branch out from this genre.  (55% of books sold are romance novels, so clearly without them, the publishing industry is screwed.)

Are romance novels a good thing? Do they perpetuate stereotypes? Should the more explicit stuff be regulated in libraries?

Discuss :D

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Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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31 Comments

  1. Maddox? I thought he was a guy (http://maddox.xmission.com/). I'm sure he'd be cool with porn.

    I'm with you, bug_girl, reading – in any form – is better than not reading. I think even looking at comic books is good in that it encourages a level of imagination. The brain certainly isn't going to get worse from the stimulation. Who knows, maybe someone who starts to enjoy books from reading mediocre romance novels will accidentally stumble into some good books…

    Regarding romance novels in particular, I've only read one series, the Clan of the Cave Bear series (Jean M. Auel). The series (especially the first book) definitely had potential and could probably have stood alone without the "romance". The first time I read it (fairly young, I'll admit), I read the whole thing cover to cover. A subsequent reading involved in much page skipping through the huge chunks of fluff.

    Other than that, there's too much good stuff out there that I can't find time to read to waste time hoping real fluff will turn out ok.

  2. Oh, and regarding regulation, no, I don't think the library should exclude this stuff. At worst, put it into a separate section where the librarians monitor who is going in.

    This goes back to parental responsibility. If the parents are that concerned, then they should be watching their children more closely. Plus, almost all of the libraries I've been to before have a clearly segmented section for books intended for children. Let your innocent little angel run freely in that section.

    Once they've grown up enough that the younger level books are no longer enough, they are probably old enough to start being exposed to these "adult" concepts. Of course my beliefs differ fundamentally from Maddox here in that I don't see how reading about sex is going to scar the kids.

    I was given an "everything you will need to know about what's (going to be) happening to you" type book before puberty and my mother encouraged me to read Clan of the Cave Bear despite (because of?) the adult content at a fairly young age, so I'm sure that has a lot to do with my beliefs now.

  3. Reading anything is better than reading nothing. No debate here.

    That being said, people who read only romance novels are doing their brains a disservice. I dated a woman who kept a grocery bag full of romance novels under her bed. I think she read them like people eat potato chips ("can't read just one"). A little variety would have been a good thing for her brain.

    I used to be a big fan of the Anita Blake books before they became, as you say, one big orgy. Not that I mind the orgy stuff, you understand! I mean, who doesn't like a good orgy? But I feel like the earlier books had a interesting twist on a moribund genre that made them very fun to read. My wife and I used to fight over who got to read them first. But by focusing so much on the sex, she kind of killed the buzz to the extent that we both lost interest.

    I abhor the idea of books being regulated in a library! The government, and by extension, the library staff have no business determining who can read which books. If my kid brings home a book that is way beyond her maturity level and I don't catch it, then my bad! I don't need some "morality police" doing my job for me. She already reads stuff that occasionally makes me uneasy, but beyond telling her that she needs to be aware that not everything she CAN read is something she SHOULD read, I just cross my fingers and hope for the best. She's a smart kid; she'll do fine.

  4. Hmm, I have a feeling my personal idea of what qualifies as "porn" is substantially different from that of Mrs. Maddox …

    I think most romance novels are of the L-shaped bedsheet version anyway.

    (L-shaped because it covers a woman up to the neck but leaves a man's torso bare).

  5. I skimmed over the source article, and I didn't see any mention of the particular book–even a description. What the hell does she consider porn? And a 16 year old is not a child! This just looks like another case of Faux News manufacturing outrage. It's possibly the worst example of journalism I've ever seen.

    If a library is going to have legitimate "porn", it'd be simple enough to require a photo ID showing you're over X years old in order to take out the book. This woman is probably the kind of person who doesn't want her kids reading Narnia books because they might turn to witchcraft.

  6. Americans are not reading less than ever before:

    http://www.districtadministration.com/pulse/comme

    Also, I don't think we should ban ANYthing. Seriously. If people can read it, let them read it. If it's porn or nazi jibberish or bomb-making, who cares? It's a book for crying out loud. We are responsible for learning the critical thinking tools to filter out or enjoy the trash. I teach at the elementary school that recently had a woman trying to ban the Harry Potter books, but most of my (very young) students regularly watch television wrestling and horror movies I won't watch. Let's get our priorities straight people! Let's ban poverty and fundamentalism first, then work our way up to porn if anyone still thinks it necessary. Sheesh.

  7. It's not the library's job to regulate books. The library is there to provide them. If you're concerned with what your child might find, go with them. Read the books yourself and discuss them with your child.

    Oh, and by the time they hit sweet sixteen, they hear from their schoolmates worse things than you could find in a library, every day.

    And while I'm kvetching, I should also voice my complaints about the story linked in this post. Uninformative, formulaic, phoned-in, sensationalist bastardization of journalism. As suspendedisbelief pointed out, it doesn't even tell us the name of the book which was deemed "pornography."

    Time to scrub out my brain with Unshelved and a hefty dose of Lois Lowry.

  8. Next thing you know they'll be complaining about how Noddy promotes homosexuality… oh hang… they already ruined that lovely childhood experience! (I read them back when they were still innocent…)

  9. I would like to believe that the NEA study was wrong, teacherninja, but my (admittedly anecdotal) observations are that it's spot on.

    Especially the part about the reading *abilities* of college graduates. (not the quantity)

  10. As touched on in teacherninja's linked article, my /book/ consumption cut way back with the internet. I don't know that I read less actual content, but I definitely read far fewer books now. The amount of fiction I read is way down, but the amount of factual, technical, and/or scientific material has increased significantly. I went from reading nothing but sci-fi to reading a lot more informative articles, papers, and blog posts. So if you look at it in terms of traditional media, this American does read a lot less. That just doesn't tell the big picture so well.

  11. At first i thought the news are about some hard-core magazines or whatever. But it is not specified and most of you went with the concept of just a sex centered romance novel. Actualy the "local" Institut Francais in my country offers a public library and kind of a video store which actually has a porn section (including hard-core as well).

  12. Here is my favorite Unshelved on the issue of controversial books in the library.
    http://www.unshelved.com/archive.aspx?strip=20051025.

    Librarian's rarely remove challenged books from libraries. It is actually very much against our code of ethics of freedom to information. We believe that information should be available to all and that it doesn't matter to us what you want to read -romance, science fiction or the "classics" it should be available to you no matter what age group. Nor do we want to put books in area were librarians can monitor them. We don't have the time nor as professionals with at least one Master's degree are we paid babysitters despite this belief by the majority of the population out there.

    A library director wrote an article about challenges and found that the majority of them center around two age groups. Parents tend to challenge books for children aged 4 to 6 and 14 to 16. Both age groups are starting to explore the world and parents tend to feel threatened by this exploration as it is a time that parents start to loose control over their children. This sounds like an a great example of this. Mom finds daughter reading about sex and doesn't want to admit that her daughter is growing up.

  13. I actually bought and read the Preacher books because of those Unshelved strips. . . and because a drunk guy in an Irish-expatriate bar in Lyon recommended them to me, after we discovered we both liked Transmetropolitan. And I picked up Transmet because a girl on whom I had a very strong and very unrequited crush said I should. For that matter, I read Sandman because a young woman on whom I'd once had a strong and fully unrequited crush was getting a Destiny tattoo.

    Parents, lock up your children: comic books are all about sex and alcohol!

  14. Librarians shouldn't ban anything. Parents should monitor their children. It really is that simple I think.

    On Anita Blake I couldn't agree more that Laurell K Hamilton has ruined the series. Which I guess she is allowed to since she is the author but I still mourn. I can't even really reread the early novels because I know what happens next!

    And on a romance novel note I read heaps of these when I was a teenager and it did help lead to other books. I don't read them anymore because they don't hold my interest but I don't see them as harmful. Perhaps a bit limiting as per the girl SteveT described!

  15. I'm going to echo teacherninja and lysistrata here – I'm a librarian and we really, really don't like censorship. We're not there to babysit, we're there to allow open access to information – ALL information. Every year I put up a display during Banned Books Week, and this year I put up a sign that read, "Only The Best Books Get Banned." It's so true!

    I'm also curious as to what book this mother was referring to.

  16. Agreed, this is Yet Another Idiot Story. As for Laurell Hamilton, she's got a second series going, starring the half-elven Princess Meredith… in that series, the sex is the plot! No kidding… the protagonist is restoring the power of Faerie by way of "fertility" magic…. On the other hand, Anita Blake still manages to to some butt-kicking in between the orgies, but she's developing a nasty case of Escalating Stakes — a Monty Haul accumulation of powers requiring progressively bigger and badder nasties for her to deal with….

  17. Without further info on the specifics of this particular case (which I admit I'm too lazy to look into at the moment), I think lysistrata's theory is the best one yet.

    And as Blake Stacey pointed out, it is not a library's or librarian's task to ban or censor books. The responsibility for choosing what we do to entertain and inform ourselves is, shockingly enough, our own.

    I LOVED libraries as a kid. Even now, just walking through the door of any public library gives me a lift. I touch, just briefly, the wonder and anticipation of that child so many decades ago.

  18. I agree that no "child" should be brought to a library without adult supervision. It's the parents responsibility to monitor their children.

    The Internet has pretty much blow away any degree of control over what anyone can read. That's a very good thing.

    I am troubled by one kind of literature that I don't believe should be in public libraries, or any where else, child pornography.

    I don't believe in censorship but I also don't want to live in a society were graphic depictions of an adult having sex with a 10 year old child is in any way acceptable.

    I can't think of any thing else that should be censored but I do draw the line with porn involving children.

  19. Why do parents believe sex is so damned harmful "to our society", but all these tv shows about killing and violence keep getting cloned because of their popularity? My sister wouldn't let her 16 year old daughter watch M*A*S*H* because there was too much sex. That was one of the best shows ever made, imo. Well, at least she never tried to ban the show, she just wouldn't let her child watch it, which is kind of the point here. Push your values on your children if you must, but don't push them on other people.

  20. If it's a 'public library', it's there to serve the whole public with books, not just the people. I think it adequate enough to have a mark on the cover to distinguish e.g. sci-fi from romance, or detectives from horror.

  21. Nador wrote:

    At first i thought the news are about some hard-core magazines or whatever. But it is not specified and most of you went with the concept of just a sex centered romance novel. Actualy the “local” Institut Francais in my country offers a public library and kind of a video store which actually has a porn section (including hard-core as well).

    Ii don't remember who said this to me, but there's two ways which are ideal for learning a new language:

    One is being in a country for an extended period where they speak that language, and you have to somehow get a hold of food.

    The other is to sleep with someone who speaks the language. That way, you also get to know all the dirty language that can't be found in dictionaries.

    I assume porn fits that second category, so it's probably not a bad means to learn a language (what little of it is being spoken inbetween all the sex).

    Reminds me of Sledge Hammer's explanation as to why he spoke Swedish so fluently.

  22. I don't think any books should be banned from the library. I have always loved reading. To this day, the first thing I do when I pick up a book is fan the pages and inhale the scent… it takes me right back to being little and reading the 'Little House' series. My parents always monitored what I was reading, but nothing was ever banned. I can never thank them enough for that.

    Coincidentally, my 10 year old asked me today what 'Playboy' was. She said kids were talking about it at school. I told her it was a magazine with pictures of naked women in it, and it was only for adults. Her answer? 'Oh, ok.'

  23. Wait a minute…you don’t mind if people read, but you “wish they would branch out from this genre.”

    Why?

    I’m a romance writer, a popular romance writer–my latest book has been on the New York Times list for the last three weeks, so I think I qualify to talk about the subject. And frankly, I’m insulted by your comments.

  24. KatieMac–

    My complaint about romance novels is that way too many of them emphasize violence against women, formulaic plots, and a very unrealistic view of relationships.

    Some of them work great–mainly because they don't follow the formula, and the romance develops out of the plot–it isn't the plot itself.

    I didn't say they were *all* bad, although some of them are truly awful. This is true of all genres, though.

    Just so everyone is 100% clear, I don't think any books should ever be removed from libraries, although I certainly have *wished* that the copy of the "Turner Diaries" would vaporize from our public library…..

  25. As a dude, I can definitely say that the Anita Blake books have turned into Porn. That won't stop me reading them – but I liked them way better when there was more mystery and danger and less stacking of powers and extra explicit sex.

    Since half the men and women are already doing each other in those books what must the fan-fic be like? Everybody becomes chaste and just solves crimes?

  26. There is one completely reliable way to prevent your children from being exposed to pornography – abstinence. No sex. No children. Problem solved.

    P.S. I'll stick up for the romance genre. If nothing else, the authors are great. I was at an air traffic conference and the exhibit room was full of weather displays, airplane parts, mock up control towers, radar dishes and what not. One booth stood out. It was a romance writer, with lace and flowers, collecting air traffic control stories for her next novel.

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