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Now this? *This* is censorship.

You know how, when a blog owner doesn’t allow certain things to be said in her comment threads, or when an online forum’s guidelines specify that no discussions of religion or politics are allowed there, there are people who start screeching immediately about their right to free speech and how both of those things are censorship?

(Never mind that a) the right to free speech as per the First Amendment of the US Constitution has no bearing on discussions that involve people from countries other than the US–such as gee, this one–or that b) censorship in a private space doesn’t violate said amendment.)

But here we have a real example of censorship:

The public library system in Brevard County, Florida has pulled its copies of certain best-seller book from circulation due to the erotic content of the novel. (With due apologies to the awesome sauce that is our very own SuperLibrarian, let me count the ways in which this action offends me.) Here’s the note in its entirety:

Bondage, seduction and sexual domination are all things you don’t expect to find inside a library, but they are all inside New York Times bestseller “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The book was recently pulled from Brevard County Public Libraries due to its erotic tone.

County officials said that when they ordered the book, they did not realize that the content was not in line with their adult fiction requirements.

“There is an element of erotica, I guess, attached to these books,” said Don Walker, communications director for Brevard County Government. “Some people call it soft porn. I’ve heard another description, ‘mommy porn,’ not quite sure what that means, but it’s not what we deem as appropriate material for our bookshelves.”

More than 200 people are on a waiting list to check out one of the 19 copies in circulation in Brevard County Libraries.

Officials said once all the books are returned, they will not return to their shelves.

Oh my good lord, so many examples of the stupid right there!

  • A public library system acquired 19 copies of a book without being aware of its content. Why?
  • So, if bondage, seduction and sexual domination don’t belong in books in public libraries, then there should be no copies of The Story of O in any public library, right? (wonder what I’d find if I could do a search…)
  • And, if when you don’t know what something means, then it’s not appropriate for the public library, then people shouldn’t go there to look for any texts in advance physics, quantum theory or, hell, foreign languages.

~ ~ ~ ~

You know, I have no interest whatsoever in reading the book, I never have and I highly doubt I ever will. It’s not about having soft porn or gaaaaaaah!!!! mommy porn available. It’s the sheer ignorance and arrogance and–once more, with feeling!–misogyny of the decision.

“Gee, it’s porn for women!!!! the horror! can’t have that where impressionable young minds…oh wait, that’s the adult fiction section, isn’t it? But the wimmin!!! We must protect their innocent, fragile minds and delicate sensibilities!”

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

(And I’m also annoyed that apparently neither reporters nor editors know that book titles are italicized and only short story titles require quotation marks)

29 Comments »


  • Anne
    May 7
    10:21 am

    This isn’t the point of your post, but mommy porn? Yuck! That makes me see red. As women, we have to fight to be taken seriously anyway, but as a woman who is, at 33, no longer all fresh and dewy, and as a mother who works from home, apparently I have no chance. I’m so sick of people (who aren’t my kids) calling me ‘mommy’. It’s dismissive and, frankly, misogynistic.

    As for Fifty Shades, like you, I have no desire to read it, but for them to take it off the shelves? I take it they don’t stock Lady Chatterley’s Lover either? What morons. And why is it that these libraries happily stock thrillers and murder mysteries full of gory mayhem but a bit of sexy stuff has them puckering up? Madness, I tells ya.

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  • I don’t know what it means but it sounds dirrrrrrrty so I’ll ban it!

    Honestly – they have 200 people waiting to check it out. That’s a desire in the community – isn’t that supposed to be what libraries fulfill?

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  • I wonder if any of these officials actually read 50 Shades? Probably not. And there are a lot more graphic sexual books I bet they have on the shelves.

    I said this elsewhere, but why haven’t they taken Lolita off the shelves then? It’s about pedophilia, regardless if it’s considered a “classic” showcasing a 50 year old man seducing and having sex with a 13 year old.

    American Psycho is about sexual torture and the descriptions of these tortures and murders are 100 times worse, IMO, than what you’ll find in Fifty Shades that has the most vanilla sex.

    What hypocrites.

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  • Anne
    May 7
    11:49 am

    @Katiebabs:

    Lolita was the most uncomfortable reading experience of my life. All that lovingly described mental lusting. *shudders*

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  • Mireya
    May 7
    12:08 pm

    I didn’t read “Lolita” when I was in HS (my dad was pretty firm with what kind of reading material we were allowed to read), and once I got into college, the topic grossed me out way too much. Is this library in Florida? If so, I can’t say I am surprised. There is a lot of WTFery in that state. On a slightly different tone, did you read the most recent political move pulled by the Governor of AZ?

    M.

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  • I never read Lolita, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Ugh.

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  • I meant to add, although I hated Fifty with the passion of a thousand hungry locusts, there are way more graphic books that libraries stock. And Katiebabs, you’re so right re American Psycho, that book is way more unpalatable than most erotic novels, and I bet libraries would never dream of banning it. The hypocrisy annoys me no end.

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  • Beverly
    May 7
    3:54 pm

    I’m not saying I entirely agree with the decision, but most public libraries have to draw the line somewhere. They can’t buy a copy of every book ever printed, because they just don’t have that kind of money. And most communities aren’t comfortable with have porn or erotica of any kind on the shelves, whether for men or women.

    I seriously doubt that this library has The Story of O on the shelf (as someone asked earlier), though it may have Lady Chatterley’s Lover, because obviously, standards have changed on what’s considered erotic in 200 years.

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  • @Beverly: Beverly, the library had already bought 19 copies of the book, so it’s not about “buying every book ever printed.”

    What it is about is spending the money without checking to see if it meets their oh so precious standards and then, after someone cries for the ‘dirty, dirty mommy pron’ yanking all 19 copies from circulation.

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  • Beverly
    May 7
    11:11 pm

    @AztecLady: I would be surprised if most librarians, or acquisitions personnel have time to fully vet every book they buy. They just don’t have the time. For the most part, they will buy what is reviewed in the big review journals, because those come from the mainstream publishers. 50 Shades probably got purchased because it was on a bestseller list. There’s no way a small library has a person with enough time in their schedule to read detailed information every book every published. It’s just not possible.

    I’m not saying I agree with the choice, btw. I don’t think there’s a big deal with having erotica in libraries, within reason. But it’s not unreasonable for a public library to decide not to have any at all because that’s where they chose to draw their line. Typically, however, erotica doesn’t make it to the bestseller lists, so most librarians and library workers might never have imagined that it was erotica before they purchased it.

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  • Beverly
    May 7
    11:13 pm

    Oh, I forgot to say that I don’t think it’s misogynistic at all either. It’s not like there’s porn or erotica for men sitting on the library shelves but 50 shades isn’t allowed.

    And Lolita and American Psycho are a little different. They’re quite clearly not written to titillate.

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  • Anon 76
    May 8
    5:47 am

    @Beverly:

    I’m not sure if I’d entirely agree with that assessment, Beverly. Tittilation is in the eye of the beholder.

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  • Anne
    May 8
    7:31 am

    @Beverly:

    Lolita not written to titillate?

    I’m not sure that’s true, but if it is, I think it’s doubtful that ‘intent’ of the author was high on Brevard County’s list of considerations when they pulled those books. As for Nabokov, I think he was going for authenticity. He makes Humbert’s mental lusting as real as possible. I think, to a person into that sort of thing, it’s probably very titillating. Hence, my extreme discomfort as I read. Of course, Lolita gets a free pass from librarians; it’s A Classic.

    Disclaimer: No offence meant to librarians in general. I think most of you are awesome.

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  • Cindy
    May 8
    12:16 pm

    I was kind of stunned to discover our library system has Fifty Shades of Grey AND the Anne Rice Sleeping Beauty books. Normally, they only get the best sellers and Christian Fiction. The last time I had checked, ours didn’t even have the Harry Potter books.

    I work at a book store, and I do the new books when they come in. We put bookmarks in each one, so I get to read pages from time to time. That is the sum experience of Fifty Shades of Grey for me, reading three pages that I thought were the worst written pages I ever had the misfortune to read. My co-worker managed nineteen, but felt the same way about it. I don’t understand the fascination with these books, but we can’t keep them in stock.

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  • @Beverly: Whatever the intent, whether or not something ‘titillates’ is in the eye of the reader.

    And if library systems are all so strapped for cash then they better be more careful what books they do buy, right? Particularly a small library with little money to spend?

    Isn’t it worse money mismanagement to buy 19 copies of one title that doesn’t meet their precious criteria, then have to pull them from circulation, rather than have the person in charge of acquisition spend more time figuring out what they are buying?

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  • Anon 76
    May 8
    4:06 pm

    Whoa, Cindy, Anne Rice’s Beauty books? Now that’s some heavy hitting stuff, there. Never even thought to look for those in my local library. Couldn’t imagine they’d even be there. Wow.

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  • You’re talking about English style. Journalism style, titles are in quotes for books, songs, shows, etc. Italics are not used in newspapers.

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  • Anne
    May 8
    5:13 pm

    @Anon 76:

    @Cindy:

    Just wondering; are you both in the US?
    I’m in the UK. I’m not sure how UK libraries choose their stock/who decides etc – but I’d be surprised if they didn’t stock the Anne Rice erotica because she’s such a big name. Any idea how the process works in the states? Here it seems to be about sales. The moral implications of particular books don’t appear to come into it.

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  • Anon 76
    May 8
    6:07 pm

    @Anne:

    I’m in the US in the midwest. Okay, they call it the midwest but it’s what I consider the upper mid northeast.

    “Racy” books really aren’t stocked in our libraries. Rather “puritanical” in my opinion, but it is what it is. Not sure if the Harry Potter series is there, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t. Magical and all that.

    As to Anne Rice, a great seller but Beauty is written under the psuedo A.N. Roquelaure. I suppose it depends on how the books are now being marketed. My copies say, Anne Rice writing as… I think the librarians in my small town would fall down and die if they bought the Beauty books on name recognition alone. Snort

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  • Beverly
    May 8
    9:49 pm

    @AztecLady: Well of course whether something does titillate is in the eye of the reader. Heck, certain people could find the very mention of feet titillating. But that does not change what type of book a particular one is. There is a vast difference between books that mention sex and books meant to be masturbatory tools. Most libraries in the US won’t buy books that are the latter.

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  • Beverly
    May 8
    9:52 pm

    @AztecLady: Are you talking about bad money management or censorship? I never said it wasn’t bad money management, just that most libraries typically have 1 — limited money to spend and 2 — limitations on the types of books they buy, typical limiting books about sex. There are many, many libraries that WILL NOT buy romance books. It is absolutely no surprise to me that there’s a library out there that bought 50 Shades not knowing what it was in advance.

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  • @Beverly: I think we are talking past each other.

    First you said that it’s not censorship because libraries can’t buy copies of every book every printed–then I pointed out that they HAD bought 19 copies then decided the novel didn’t meet their requirements.

    Then you said small libraries don’t have the resources to vet the books they buy–never mind that this happened at a county level, not a small library. To this I reply that it’s smarter to spend the money to know what you are buying before buying it.

    The point in my post remains: it’s censorship to pull books out of circulation because of vague complaints.

    What the newspaper note says sums the thing up: the library system officials have no clue what the fuck they bought or what the fuck they are pulling from circulation, they are going by what someone else deems erotic.

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  • Anon 76
    May 8
    10:13 pm

    @Beverly:

    “There is a vast difference between books that mention sex and books meant to be masturbatory tools.”

    Wow, just wow.

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  • @Anon 76: Yeah.

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  • Anne
    May 9
    9:09 am

    @Beverly:

    This attitude to sex in novels baffles me. As a society, we think we’ve come a long way because now most people say “Of course sex is nothing to be ashamed of”. But then I look at attitudes to sex in novels. Whether its girls giggling and dog-earing “the naughty bits” or the conservatives snatching books off shelves because “for the love of God, won’t someone please think of the children?!”, our reactions give us away. If sex is nothing to be ashamed of, why shouldn’t it be described in detail in books and why shouldn’t those books be readily avaiblable in our libraries?

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  • Beverly
    May 9
    3:31 pm

    @Anon 76: We’re talking about erotica here, not romance. Do you think they’re NOT meant to be masturbatory tools? Why do you think it’s called “mommy porn” and everyone who reads them says one of the number one benefits is that their husband is fine with them reading it because they have more sex afterward?

    There’s nothing wrong with calling something what it is. And no, I have no problem at all with sex. Not with romance, not with erotica, not with straight up porn. But we do have labels for a reason.

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  • Beverly
    May 9
    3:33 pm

    @Anne: I’m not saying at all that I think these books don’t belong in libraries. But most communities do think that. If you say 50 Shades belongs in libraries, do you think that “Daddy’s Naughty Girl” (a real title, btw) does too? How do libraries decide which of these to buy?

    Most libraries will just not buy anything that is considered to be erotica, and leave the line there.

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  • Anne
    May 10
    8:01 am

    @Beverly: But this particular library *did* buy Fifty Shades and, having bought it, took it off the shelves. The discussion isn’t really about how libraries decide what to buy (although I did take it off on that tangent at one point, so this is my fault). These books are already popular. There is already a demand for them (200 people on the waiting list), which the library initially responded to. Now they’re withdrawing them because they’ve made a moral judgement about the books and, let’s face it, the women who read them. It’s a judgement they (legally) have every right to make, but which Aztec Lady has a similar right to deride and disagree with.

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