Saturday, August 20, 2005

"Dirty" Books

It has occurred to me in my last post that in the current climate where books with "dirty" content are considered incendiary, I should note that I never had sex in high school, and just to put the record straight, I am strongly in favor of having kids abstain from underage sex, because it is just safer. As far as I could tell, friends who had sex before entering college, and frankly sometimes even those who had sex early in college paid through the nose by getting diseases, having horrible "first experiences," and generally not liking themselves very much afterwords.

That said, I have no problem with kids reading what they like, including "sexy books". There is a reason for this: Books, despite Laurie Taylor's fears, don't make kids have underage sex-- a mix of uninformed choices and bad parenting do. Laurie is taking the morality tack with her attacks on both fiction and nonfiction titles, which makes me pretty worried: what if kids with freaky parents like Laurie suddenly feel human urges that their mother obviously hates, and fall for a partner who "understands" them? It seemed like the girls with the most fiercely moral families, the ones where the Dad would TOTALLY throw you out if you made a wrong move-- those seemed to be the girls who would inevitably have underage sex and get into trouble for it!

I'm sure Laurie's going to want to blame someone when her kids grow up and start having sex, but all the porn blockers and book restricting in the world are not going to save kids from sexual feelings wrongly acted upon. If she's really that scared for her kids, she should TALK to them, not snatch books out of their hands.

My biggest peeve with Laurie and her ilk is their beleif that parents know best. I'm sure there are many Gen Xers out there who are perfectly happy to help explain how most parents are clueless, leaving it up to kids to figure out how to survive to reach adulthood. Many of the "Pornographic" books Laurie is afraid will taint her precious children's minds can actually help keep kids from making bad decisions. I recently read this story in my email about a girl's reaction to Melvin Burgess's Doing It which surprised even the librarian :

She holds up the copy of Doing It and says, "Every MIDDLE SCHOOL girl should be FORCED to read this book." She says this in a way that dares anyone, me included, to dispute the "middle school" age or the required reading aspect. I say, "Wow! I know a whole lot of librarians and teachers who do not think this book is even appropriate for high school students. Tell me why you insist on bringing this controversial book to middle school girls." She says, "If middle school girls really knew how boys think about sex, we would not even have to worry about birth control issues."

What seems most significant to me in this exchange is the fact that this young woman arrived at a conclusion concerning her body and sex that would make her parents proud. And she came to this decision with a book that her family would rather not see in her hands. Oh irony!


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