Saturday, May 12, 2012

But is it right? Florida County Pulls Fifty Shades of Grey From Shelves

I was just perusing the Library Journal and saw the above title. I know that some libraries have been threatening to pull Fifty Shades, but most of the ones I'd heard about had been school libraries, which is understandable. (It is erotica, after all.)

But a public library? Florida County stated that the erotic book was "pornography" and that it "didn't meet their selection criteria". As someone who has not only volunteered in a library before, but spends a good deal of time perusing the shelves, I have to call a certain level of BS on this one.

First we have the whole argument of whether FSOG is pornography due to it being an erotic novel. To be honest, this is an often debated topic when it comes to erotica and something that you'll get a different opinion on depending on who you talk to. In my opinion it falls just shy of being pornography because while there are some pretty graphic sex scenes, the book was not written just to "get your rocks off". While it's not the best written story out there, James does actually put a plot to her Edward/Bella scenes and there's more pages without sex on them than there are pages with sex. Erotica is written to titillate while pornographic novels are purely written for you to be read one-handed and put down immediately afterwards. The difference here is that erotica readers generally tend to keep reading even after the sex scene is done. What makes this such a hard point to argue though, is that personal opinion weighs heavily on this and there's also the problem of having many novels and short stories sold under the banner of "erotica" that actually are written to be more of the "one handed" sort. I could probably argue this point back and forth all night, but there's actually other reasons I have a problem with this being pulled.

To be incredibly blunt, I doubt FSOG is the worst book in their libraries as far as sexual graphicness goes. Ever heard of Zane? If not, then all I have to say is that she's one of the most popular African-American writers out there and that all of her books have at least one scorchingly hot sex scene in them, if not several. She writes scenes that are so steamy and overly graphic that they make FSOG's sex scenes look like they're comprised of two uber-conservative religious people having sex with all of their clothes on and the lights out. Yet the Florida libraries have not pulled Zane's books and many of their libraries offer Zane books to their patrons. (See here, here, and here for just a few libraries that have them.) Well, when they're in stock, anyway. My pointing this out isn't to say "hey, pull these too", but to show that there's been far more graphic books put out in their libraries and that not only are they popular, but that having them on the shelves is not gonig to make the library go up in flames.  I'm not even going to bother trying to see if they have the older erotic works by authors such as the Marquis de Sade. Most libraries do have them, albeit usually in a compendium. Then of course you have the romance novels and anyone who has ever read your typical bodice ripper can vouch that there's a lot of heaving naked bosoms and throbbing members around every corner. (And then there's the westerns such as Dirk Fletcher's Spur, which also contains graphic sex scenes.)

Now some people could argue that it's offensive and I could counter that with arguments along the lines of freedom of speech, don't ban books, blah blah blah. No, what I'm going to counter with is that this is NOT the most offensive book out there. (Unless you're jokingly saying that it's offensive because it's so badly written, upon which I'll just say that you haven't hit the local authors section at your library yet.) For claims of offensiveness, I give you Piers Anthony's Firefly, which is readily available in at least one of the libraries. (See here.) What makes this so offensive? Well... let me just say that part of this stems from not only the incredibly, INCREDIBLY graphic depictions of pedophilia contained within the book (you actually get a sex scene between a 40-something year old guy and a five year old girl) but also from an afterword from the author which states that not only did he have a convicted pedophile write one of the sex scenes for the boko, but also tried to say that a doctor giving a kid a shot and a checkup is worse than a kid getting molested by an uncle (and not knowing that it was a bad scenario). Yeah. There's a reason it's out of print. Check out this article if you want to see some of what's in the book.

If I had the time, I could probably pull some mainstream and seemingly innocent titles that are in the libraries and are less extreme than these examples as well, but I think that'd be overkill at this point.

So I guess my point is that the library really only seems to want to enforce these policies when it's a popular book that's in the media and it's hypocritical for them to pull certain books stating it "doesn't meet policies" when there's at least a hundred other books that clearly violate the same premises. At this point I kind of want to ask why they even want to pull the book. Are they afraid that some teenager is going to read it? If so, then have an age requirement on it. It's not like the library doesn't have that sort of thing set up. I know that as a kid I had to ask my parents to rent some books for me that I wouldn't have been able to get with my juvenile card. I know that the LJ article makes these same points, but I just wanted to put my own two cents in.

Why pull it, especially if there are a lot of readers who want it? You could argue that it's erotica and that underage kids would get their hands on it, but you could also argue that this would get a lot more people back in the library and increasing the libraries' circulation in general. As Harry Potter showed us, once you get people started on something they're likely to keep doing it. Pulling a popular title for reasons that don't match up with previous actions (and are considered to be old fashioned by many) will only reinforce the ideas that libraries are out of date and out of touch with their communities. As someone who is looking to go into the library field, I know that this is still a prevalent stereotype despite the actions of many to fight against it.

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