Oh no no no no no. NO. I read the following paragraph a few days ago and saw red:
That said, it does seem counterintuitive to advocate that there be less sex in YA and I worry that people will lump me in with the moralistic, puritanical voices of those who are likely to censor books containing sexual content due to their fear of sexuality. Of course I disagree with censorship and am all for sex positivity and the presence of sex and romance in YA novels – I just think that there’s room for multiplicity. That maybe, not every single narrative should contain sex and that maybe more YA characters should be able to get through a novel without having a single love interest or thinking that they’re freaks of nature for this reason.
This is from a blog post at BookRiot called “On Normalizing Teen Singlehood in YA” and as I said, it pissed me off.
First of all, the whole notion of “book banning” and the kind of censorship the idiot author is talking about is complete and utter bullshit. Books are not being “banned” in the US. Books that some people feel are inapprorpiate for children and teenagers are being “challenged” (complained about by parents and/or teachers, and in rare cases, students) and some are removed from the library shelves or school reading lists and curricula.
That does not mean the possession and consumption of said books are illegal. NO. That is not what’s happening. A book being pulled off of the shelf will not stop a given person from reading it. This is hardly censorship.
A lot has been happening for me lately, and I added this to my Safari reading list with the intent of writing a post about how much it enraged me. Then other stuff happened, and this post from Glenn Beck’s The Blaze caught my eye (and no, I do not like Glenn Beck anymore but I’ll link it anyway): Pedophilia, Incest, and Graphic Sex: Excerpts from a Common Core Reading List Book for 11th-Graders That Will Make You Blush.
No, I did not blush. I got angrier, and was reminded of that stupid post I read on BookRiot. I just had to say something. The book in question is The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. At first glance it seems like it would be an interesting novel, given that it’s about a black girl that basically wishes for blue eyes so she can be “pretty.” Timely, too. This book is recommended by the odious Common Core program.
Then you read the excerpts (I’m not putting that crap on my blog; that excerpt from the BookRiot post is enough garbage for one post) and you’re like, “naaaah, that’s quite alright. Kids should at least read, I dunno, Mark Twain or something before reading this contemporary smutfest.” There’s incest and pedophilia in that book, which might be a tad advanced for a bunch of high school juniors.
Now, if I ever finish my novel and publish it, you’ll probably think I’m a raging hypocrite. My main character, Tara, is captured by the US government for the purposes of exploiting her psychic abilities and in the course of her captivity, is sexually abused. She also has consensual sex with her boyfriend (but it’s not graphic or gross). I don’t think that being “puritanical” and “moralistic” about sexuality or anything is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. People like me are not “afraid” of sex. I’m angry about how sex has been CHEAPENED by idiots like the BookRiot blogger. Sex is more than just some need that has to be fulfilled. It’s not like hunger or thirst. It’s more than that. It isn’t some random thing people do on a Friday night because they’re boring people with no other interests or hobbies. It’s how the human race exists. It’s the strengthening of the bond between a husband and a wife. It’s the ultimate expression of love between two people (well, one of the ultimate expressions of love). It is not a fucking political statement and it’s not, and should not, be a goddamn hobby. Stamp collecting is a hobby. Basket weaving is a hobby. Sex is not, and should not be a hobby.
I read a lot of YA. I don’t like the way sex is portrayed in very much of the genre. The girl just can’t wait until she loses her virginity, and is magically a better person once she loses it, and becomes even better the more random partners she has. There’s no word on the true purpose of sex – procreation – unless the author wants to promote contracpetion or abortion.
So we’ve got Common Core advocates pushing for kids to read stuff like The Bluest Eye and they wonder why people like me complain. Nothing Toni Morrison has written could possibly be considered exemplary literature. Nothing. Kids should read the classics FIRST, because THESE are excellent examples of literature – they’re classics for a reason. Many of today’s authors have basically taken the plots of those classics and have put their own spin on it. To have a full appreication of writing and literature, you have to read and understand the greats first.
Oh, and another thing. The difference between what I’ve written in my as-yet unpublished novel and The Bluest Eye is this:
The presence of the book on Common Core’s list, combined with Morrison’s descriptions of incest, rape, and pedophilia as “friendly,” “innocent,” and “tender” have sparked outrage in some communities.
I don’t glorify rape. I don’t make it seem friendly or innocent or tender or any other wonderful adjective you could possibly throw at it. Not just no, but HELL NO. I show it for the horror it is. Writing about these contentious subjects is a good thing, but one shouldn’t glorify or glamorize it. I cannot believe someone like Toni Morrison can write shit like that and just go about her business like nothing’s wrong.
Mainstream literature – whether it be contemporary fiction, historical fiction, or YA should not glorify stuff like this. This stuff is also too explicit for high schoolers. If that makes me a preening, moralistic busybody then so be it. I don’t care.