“Pornography is pornography.”

I haven’t been fixated the the foofaraw over Toni Morrison‘s Song of Solomon in Shelby, Michigan, because what’s going on is surprising—school leaders make dumb decisions all the time in an effort to insulate smart kids from smart thought. What frustrated me was the inbalance in the reporting; nearly all the stories on the matter used the school district superintendent, Dana McGraw, as the chief or sole source, with nary a peep from any of the people registering complaints about the novel. That problem, at least, has been repaired: A story by John Cavanagh of the Oceana Herald-Journal describes the proceedings of last Sunday’s school board meeting, offering a window into the thinking of those who wanted the book eradicated from the curriculum. Steve Vinke, one of the three board members who wanted the book pulled (Dave Beckman and Craig Sawyer are the other two), told the paper that “It really has nothing to do with maturity…. Pornography is pornography.” Porn was the big theme among the protesters, particularly for Andrew Near, who feared that once something is read, it cannot be unread: “This is unacceptable,” he said. “You get graphic images in your mind that’s not going to leave you. Where do we stop here? Where do we draw the line?” (Before the Herald-Journal story ran, I invited board members Beckman and Sawyer to comment on the matter. Neither has responded.)

There are at least two positives to come out of the meeting: Morrison’s novel wasn’t pulled from the curriculum (though the course in which it was used won’t be taught next year), and nobody was calling for a book burning. That’s not the case in West Bend, Wisconsin, where four library board members were removed, allegedly for refusing to remove a handful of young adult novels, including Francesca Lia Block‘s Baby Be-Bop, Brent Hartinger‘s The Geography Club, and Stephan Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Publishers Weekly covered the ouster of the board members late last month, but the National Coalition Against Censorship brings news of the latest wrinkle: Earlier this month the Milwaukee branch of the Christian Civil Liberties Union filed a legal claim against West Bend, its mayor, and the library, demanding that Baby Be-Bop be pulled from the shelves. And not just pulled. “We don’t want it put in a section for adults,” Robert C. Braun, president of the CCLU branch, told the West Bend Daily News. “We’re saying its inappropriate to have it in the library, and we want it out or destroyed.” The paper reports that the claim demands that the book “be removed and publicly burned or destroyed as a deterrent to repeating the offensive conduct.”

5 thoughts on ““Pornography is pornography.”

  1. Well, just how does Vinke define pornography , and what are his credentials for making that determination (with more about the second part of the question at the end of my comments)? As for pornography, what that might be, I’m sort of like the Supreme Court: I know it when I see it. Beyond that, though, I’m a bit lost, and coming up with an agreed upon definition in a diverse society is a bit like collecting water with a butterfly net: there is an awful lot of frenzied activity but little in the way of measurable and useable results. What generally bothers me about all of the incidents under discussion is the pulse-pounding eagerness of some to make their judgments the “law of the land” in their little corners of the world. They may be correct (or they may be wrong) in their assessments, but that misses the point, and this is it: Is there any way in our culture that we can more effectively choose those who wind up making choices on behalf of others? From local school boards to national leaders, we seem to make some awfully bone-headed mistakes.

  2. Nobel Prize, what?

    Also recently, some school districts have banned Sherman Alexie’s YA semi-autobiographical True Story of a Part-Time India due to–Gulp!–a scene featuring masturbation.

  3. Serial killer “Ted Bundy” claimed that it was his addiction to pronography that led to his intense desire to rape and kill over thirty innocent women.

  4. Ned–

    Out of the millions of people who look at pornography in their lives, how many get addicted to it, and how many who do get addicted to it become serial killers?

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