The burning question of the day is, why do librarians censor porn?
It can’t be that library patrons wouldn’t like porn. Oh, sure, the same people who complain about “sexually explicit” books that libraries so buy now would complain, but the ALA recommends fighting them at every front.
We know that at least some of the public would like them, because porn sells like crazy. Plus, there are already plenty of people coming into public libraries to get their porn fix.
There must be at least some porn lovers out there who would prefer printed porn rather than Internet porn. The same private viewing booths I’ve been recommending to libraries instead of Internet filters could also be used for a little discreet reading. Even better would be the ability to take them home.
It can’t be the poor quality of most porn. Libraries buy plenty of books of poor quality.
But libraries almost never buy porn books. Take a somewhat well known series, the Letters to Penthouse. Dozens of volumes of this series have been published. I’ve seen them sitting on the shelves in major chain bookstores. Can you find any in libraries? Sort of.
A relatively recent one is the mildly titled Letters to Penthouse XXXI: serving it up hot and dirty. A search of WorldCat revealed that only two libraries in the country own this book, one in Delaware and the Queens Public Library. Queens must have a porn bibliographer, because that library actually does seem to have some porn.
This is a recent title, too, from 2008, so it probably wouldn’t have been weeded for not circulating, as if porn books would ever not circulate steadily.
That’s pretty much the case for every volume in the series, some of which are owned by no library at all.
Or take a look at this book, Samson’s Lovely Mortal: Scanguards Vampires. 130 glowing user reviews on Amazon, some of which are probably real reviews. It’s got explicit sex and vampires. Vampires! You know this book would fly off the shelves.
How many libraries in the country own it? Two.
Go a little milder. One of the most popular books of “erotica” on Amazon is Orgasmic: Erotica for Women. It gets great user reviews. The only libraries in America that own it are LC and the Los Angeles Public Library.
With some exceptions, usually the closest a public library will get to porn or strong erotica are romance novels. Some romance novels definitely sexually explicit, but they’re targeted almost exclusively to women.
What, don’t men deserve some sexually explicit literature to call their own? Since libraries buy romance novels but not Penthouse letters, I guess not.
Speaking of Penthouse, do you know how many public libraries have current subscriptions to Penthouse Magazine? As far as I can tell, none.
Why are libraries censoring Penthouse, and Letters to Penthouse, and vampire porn?
According to the ALA’ definition, it seems like censorship. Censorship, according to them is, “A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.”
They could, I suppose, emphasize the phrase “change in the access status,” but exclusion based on the content of the work would seem to represent censorship as well. And pornography, even “legally protected” pornography that librarians love so much, is excluded from almost every public library because of the sexually explicit content of the work. It might not be a “change,” but it’s definitely exclusion.
What gives? When it comes to defending Internet pornography in libraries, plenty of librarians hop on the ALA bandwagon. Why not do the same for porn books? After all, the ALA poster says READ, not WATCH. Librarians should be trying to get people to read, and plenty of people read porn.
For example, studies have consistently shown that boys lag behind girls in reading level at every age. From what I understand, teenage boys love porn. You want teenage boys to read more? Give them some porn books and take away their cell phones. They’ll read.
Thus, by censoring porn books by excluding them from library collections based on their content, libraries are refusing to do their part to improve the reading scores of teenage boys. Nice.
If some parent or patron complains about a sexually explicit book, librarians go nuts defending it. If that book was excluded from the collection because of its sexually explicit content, then it would be “censorship.”
Is it not then censorship if libraries don’t acquire numerous examples of a large and popular category of books because of their sexually explicit content? It seems to me that based on ALA logic, most libraries are indeed censoring printed pornography.
If excluding sexually explicit materials from libraries is censorship, then just about every library in the country is practicing it. If there’s a policy against porn, then the same arguments can be used by patrons to challenge a lot of other sexually explicit material.
Librarians defend Internet porn and sexually explicit books from public challenges all the time. Why not really put your money where your mouth is and start buying porn books and subscribing to porn magazines?
Or just admit that libraries removing or not buying sexually explicit materials isn’t “censorship.”
You can’t have it both ways.