It Takes a Village to Treat You Like a Child

I wasn’t going to really talk at length about this, because in many ways it’s just more of the same. But it’s become such a ridiculous fractal of stupid, where each level reveals further intricate patterns of idiocy, that it’s worth covering.

Here’s the story:

Comics ordered removed: Postmus directs library officials to draft a plan to protect children from possible pornography

Following a Daily Press article, First District Supervisor Bill Postmus on Wednesday ordered county libraries to remove a Japanese comic book that contained pornographic cartoons.

The book “Manga: Sixty years of Japanese Comics,” became the subject of controversy after Victorville resident Cynthia Jones’ 16-year old son told her the book contained illustrations of sexual acts and sex with animals. The book was found to also be available in branches located in Hesperia, Apple Valley and Barstow.

The book in question is here. Note that one reviewer there says, “This is a great book about Japanese animation. I ordered it for my twelve year old daughter as a Christmas present since she loves anime. You should be aware that there are many graphic sexual drawings that leave nothing to the imagination. It is borderline pornographic. Expect to tear out lots of pages if this is for children.” (Do parents out there really give their children books with pages torn out of them?)

So here’s the situation. Library gets in a book about an art form. Since the art form involves comics, naturally it’s assumed that it’s for kids. Because everyone knows no adults are interested in comics and there are no comics that are unsuitable for kids. Therefore, no one needed to check and make sure there was any reason not to shelve it in the kid’s section before doing so.

Now, a sixteen year old gets to the library and checks it out. The discovery is made of adult content. We’ve no idea what any of the context is for the description of content. Over at BeaucoupKevin, Kevin Church asked if the book did in fact include what was alleged. Commenter Mark Cook replies:

I own the book, and can confirm that it does depict both [illustrations of sexual acts and sex with animals]. There’s a chapter on manga meant for a mature audience, and another on personal agendas. Both reprint images involving pornographic material. The “Developing Maturity” chapter mentions and shows ways manga obscures or replaces genatalia due to Japanese law (page 100), but is mostly concerned with graphic (although non-sexual) violence and relatively innocent titilation.

The “Personal Agendas” chapter reprints pages from erotic manga on page 144, including Hot Tails and Bondage Fairies, the latter of which is a page of a fairy having sex with a chipmunk. So the allegations are true. It’s all placed within a more academic context, but with that and some of the pages depicting GRAPHIC violence, I’d have a hard time arguing not lending it out to kids without their parents permission. It seems silly to pull the book off the shelves in general, though.

The book was not reshelved in an area outside of the children’s section, it was removed.

Victorville Councilman Bob Hunter said that come July 1, when the city takes over the library from the county, many policies will be changed.

“I want the city library to be a family-friendly place,” Hunter said.

The councilman was quick to say he does not believe in censorship of books, but was also clear to point out the need to protect underage library members from explicit content.

In other words, censorship. The government removing material it has deemed to be offensive. The lesson learned here is that no book in the library should be unsuitable for a child. (Incidentally, this article claims that the book already was in the adult section. If that’s true then it further underscores the idea that yes, even adults aren’t allowed to read material unsuitable for children.)

It should also be noted that the “child” in question is sixteen. Old enough to drive, and nearly old enough to go to war. We’re not talking about small children here. Do people really think that, without the immoral teachings of the public library, which has led many an innocent child astray, a sixteen-year old would not be exposed to sexual material in any way?

Another point to keep in mind is, the book in question is about manga, which also has a history of being graphically violent. Yet not a word is being said about any images of violence that may be in the book. Just boobies.

The right wing, which is so often behind this type of foolishness, likes to mock liberals with the concept of the “nanny government.” And yet, this is literally a nanny government in action. The State is stepping in to decide what is suitable for you, an adult, to read. Seems to me that the opponents of intrusive government should be all over this issue, but since it’s protecting their delicate sensibilities, they’re mute. They’ll mock Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village to Raise a Child while expecting the entire village to raise their child.

All of this stupidity, and I’ve only barely touched on American society’s completely bizarre attitude towards sex.

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19 Responses to It Takes a Village to Treat You Like a Child

  1. pronoblem says:

    Still available at libraries in MA:

    http://tinyurl.com/qef65

  2. grant says:

    librarians, like english majors, still live in the victorian age. nevermind that the american library association’s clear policy is to provide to all people, regardless of age, all materials allowed by law.

  3. You raise very valid points Dave, about our culture’s obsession with anything sexual being verboten and most violence widely accepted. But the notion that this is censorship is overextended in this case. If this work were removed from the adult section as well in most libraries, you might be closer to the mark. This is more about laziness than censorship.

    Laziness in that the librarian checking this work into the library made assumptions, like you said, that comic=kids work. Laziness on the part of the parent for not giving a cursory look to what their child was reading before checking it out, or at the very least, being lazy in that she expects everyone else to help her parent and keep all things offensive from her child for her. Sure, kids that age are exposed to sexual talk, but not the graphic images portrayed in the book.

    As a parent, having recognized I gave my “best” and “most profound” parental advice before actually becoming one, there’s no way in hell I want my kids to see that crap. The work is fine for adults, and in that regard, I have not one problem with it. But yes, I unashamedly shelter my kids from stuff I deem unsuitable for them at an emotional level for their age. We’ve already talked to them about sex and answer questions, and there is an open dialogue, and we’re not being Victorian about it. Yet, this work is not suitable for my kids, and I’m even hesitant about the 16 year old in question. Methinks anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t have kids of their own.

    If everyone involved in this story would have been a little more diligent about their respective duties, there may not have even been a story here.

  4. David Thiel says:

    But the notion that this is censorship is overextended in this case. If this work were removed from the adult section as well in most libraries, you might be closer to the mark.

    A government official ordered the removal–not restriction–of a book from 13 libraries. The official said, “This book is absolutely inappropriate for a public library and as soon as I was made aware of it, I ordered it to be removed.” Not only does that fit the dictionary definition of censorship, but it is a crystal clear case of a government deciding what materials are made available to the public.

    Furthermore, consider this passage in the article linked above: Apple Valley Councilman Rick Roelle said sexually graphic material does not belong in a public library in the first place. “They don’t have any educational value. The county should enforce the obscenity laws that we have in California,” he said.

    Is there anything ambiguous about that? There’s no consideration of context, or of matching readers with age-appropriate material. Sexually graphic material has no educational value, declares the councilman, and thus it is so. Never mind that the book in question was clearly using such material to make an educational point. Never mind that there are many artistic works which feature “sexually graphic material,” yet have a purpose beyond titillation.

    Yet, this work is not suitable for my kids, and I’m even hesitant about the 16 year old in question. Methinks anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t have kids of their own.

    The “You don’t have kids, so you can’t understand” attitude is one that I find deeply offensive. I may not have kids. (Honey, have you noticed any kids around lately? Nope, no kids.) But I don’t exist in a childless vacuum. I have relatives, friends and coworkers with kids, and I’ve spent enough time around kids to unequivocally say…”Well, it depends on the kid.” For an intellectually mature 16 year old, that book might be perfectly okay. It might even provide some context and understanding of the sexually graphic material he/she encounters via other sources.

    The problem is that this is a judgement call that a librarian cannot make, hence the need for restriction–NOT REMOVAL–of such material. The alternative is–as Dave suggests–to treat everyone as a child.

  5. Kurt says:

    Each parent has to determine what is right or wrong for their own child (preferably on a child by child basis). However, one’s parenting does not extend to other people or their children. I do not presume to tell other parents what they can or cannot do for their child. (With the obvious exceptions of abuse, but we aren’t talking about that).

    If you do not want your children reading that book, tell them they aren’t allowed to read the book. That should be end of story. It should NOT be the job of some other person to help you enforce that. If your child disobeys you, that’s a problem between you and your child, not between you and a library. Libraries are NOT child-care institutions. If your child is too young to know the difference between what books are appropriate or not, they need to be supervised, by *you*.

    However, I will add that by age 16, there is nothing new under the sun.

  6. Dave says:

    I have to concur on all points with Mister Thiel, especially regarding the “You don’t understand since you don’t have kids” argument.

    I also would like to point out that at no point did I say you as a parent don’t have a right to shield your children from what you feel they’re not prepared for. Protect them from whatever you want; they’re your kids. That’s your job. The only thing I asked is if some parents literally tore pages out of books before passing on the books to their kids. That just seems bizarre to me. And again, a parent’s right to decide what’s best for their kids doesn’t involve me if I’m not their kid. Keep your kids from whatever you want, but don’t claim the right to keep me from it as well.

  7. Well, my apologies for the “don’t have kids” remark, at least in the way it sounds on a re-read. What I should have said is not as dismissive sounding, along the lines of people I know personally with kids seem to be more protective with this kind of subject matter (and sometimes violence), than those I know who do not have kids, who seem to be more OK with this stuff even for kids, and can be just as dismissive of us parents *not* wanting our kids to see this stuff, painting a picture of us as prudish, Victorian, etc. The point I was trying to make, albeit unsucessfully and unintentionally dismissively, was simply that having kids does indeed change your perspective on how you view things as the above, and please consider that before you write us off as right-wing nutballs, which we are not.

    And Dave, my note wasn’t targeting you with the comments. I know you didn’t say you don’t have a right etc. Just making general musings. And as I did not read the link to the actual article, I did not see that it had been pulled in more than a few libraries. I would agree this part is silly.

  8. Lyle says:

    Laziness in that the librarian checking this work into the library made assumptions, like you said, that comic=kids work.

    I don’t get the impression that the librarian made an assumption that this book was kid-appropriate because it was comics since it was shelve in the adult collection.

    The cirulation desk attendant probably presumed that if a 16 year old were checking out an art history book, he was mature enough to handle the contents, but I wouldn’t attribute that to laziness either… or misjudgement. This isn’t a comic book, but a book on the history of a type of comic book.

  9. Kurt says:

    The point I was trying to make, albeit unsucessfully and unintentionally dismissively, was simply that having kids does indeed change your perspective on how you view things as the above, and please consider that before you write us off as right-wing nutballs, which we are not.

    I’m not sure how Dave thinks about you, but I think you are coming across as a right-wing nutball.

    It’s really simple from my perspective. Even if your perspective changes on what you think is appropriate for a child, you are a right-wing nutball if that perspective includes removing choices from other people or other parents. Even having it pulled from a single library is too much if your justification is that others shouldn’t see it or be exposed to it.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am a parent. And I am protective of what she is exposed to.

  10. pronoblem says:

    “having kids does indeed change your perspective on how you view things as the above”

    It does change your perspective on censorship maybe, but not mine. I have two kids and I am 100% in line with Dave on this issue. I too am protective of my kids. No violent toys, I watch all movies before they see them and read all books, etc… before exposing them or not. The responsibilities of a parent, not the state. I also teach them that censorship is wrong.

  11. Dave says:

    Lyle,

    I haven’t been able to figure out if the book was shelved in the adult section or not. In one article it says, “The book was on a shelf next to other comic books popular with children.” But in the second article, it says, “a 16-year-old checked the book out of the adult section of the library.”

  12. tangognat says:

    From what I read, it was shelved, along with other comic books that might appeal to adults or children, in the adult section of the library. Many libraries class comic strips, graphic novels, and books about comic books and graphic novels together under the dewey number 741.5.

  13. Lyle says:

    This article:
    http://www.desertdispatch.com/2006/11448518242935.html

    says both “The book, which is shelved next to Charlie Brown and other comic books, contains some X-rated cartoons depicting graphic sexual acts, including sex with animals.” and “(County Library Collection Development Coordinator Nannette Bricker-Barret) said that since the book was purchased about a year ago, it has been correctly placed in the adult collection.”

    So far that doesn’t contradict my understanding of the story, that the book was shelved in the adult collection next to books that would also appeal to children.

    Part of discussion of this story is confused about why a Peanuts book would be shelved next to 60 Years of Manga. There are two factors at work there.

    First, from what I recall the Dewey Decimal system, these books would go together because they fall under the same category (comic art, with one book containing comics and the other discussing the history of a type of comics… much like how a book about Tamara DeLempicka would be shelved next to a book printing her paintings).

    I’ve seen people wonder why Peanuts would be shelved in the adult collection. This is normal, because Peanuts is something adults would be interested in reading. There should be Peanuts books in the children’s collection, as well, but I think people are forgetting that an all-ages book can appear in different places meant for different audiences. The presence of a book that appeals to children, doesn’t make the area a child-friendly area. If a bookstore were to put JK Rowling in the same section as Anne Rice (in addition to shelving it in the young adult section) that’s because the bookstore wants to make it easy for both audiences to find the book. I’d only see reason to object if there were no Peanuts books in the Children’s colleciton.

  14. Kurt, either you didn’t take the time to read what I wrote, or I have consistently butchered my mother tongue in expressing myself. While it wouldn’t be the first time, you totally misread what I said. I agree that removing the book was wrong. Not sure what synapse in your brain gave you the idea I think censorship is OK.

    So either I need to take essential English all over again, or you might try a little decaf, Kurt.

  15. Dave says:

    All right you two. Don’t make me pull this blog over.

  16. It’s all good Dave. While I did take slight exception to the nutball comment, I know I’m not even close to one (I may not be *as* left as your regulars here, but I still lean just left of center) and that there was a misunderstanding of either what I was trying to say, or the reading of. Occasional heated debate isn’t always bad, unless two sides aren’t actually listening to each other. In that case, welcome to any of the cable “discussion” shows. And he won’t stop touching me!

  17. One more thing. After receiving a long email from the esteemed Mr. Thiel about the comments I made in this entry, I think I understand more clearly why my comments were taken the wrong way. The comment about “that crap” was unintentionally misleading. I meant, crap for kids at a young age, but not crap for adults. I’m in basic agreement that this is censorship and it is bad.

    My parenting comments really stem from several people I work with, who deem not allowing your kids to see everything and everything is prudish. I get tired of those comments, and thus, my parent comments.

    So my inability to translate what I thought were cohesive thoughts didn’t go so well in this case. And I do understand a little better why what I wrote was misinterpreted to mean what I didn’t really mean. I’m still into being overprotective of my kids and kids in general, and that I am not sorry for. But the way I wrote it down left some confusion.

    So, Kurt, my decaf comment was unnecessary, and I do apologise. It was out of frustration after the nutball comment. While I do think it was off-base, my comment was not needed, and I don’t like getting into that kind of debate.

    Naked group hug?

  18. Shawn Fumo says:

    I just have to point out that as an owner of the book, I think the “sex with animals” thing is way too played up. The impression that many of news articles give is that of graphic bestiality with a regular human and animal (which would truly be nightmarish if it was “sex with a hamptster” as one described). But this is the silly Bondage Fairies we’re talking about. Not only is it a fairy of similar size involved in the act, but the squirrel is fairly anthropomorphised. I mean he calls her “Hun”! Sure this is still tasteless porn, but it is much more similar to a fanfiction involving one of the TMNTs than actual “bestiality”.

    And what is actually shown in those particular panels is of the graphic level of a Showtime late-night flick or r-rated movie (fairy is topless and they’re obviously having sex, but details of organs aren’t shown). I was only flipping through it quick to remind myself of what was in it, but between the nature of Japanese censorship and the panels shown, I didn’t really see much that I’d consider “x-rated” per se, especially in the context of a reference book. I mean I’m pretty sure the local libraries here have some Crumb and various other indie comics collections with much more graphical sexual content than in the Manga book.

    Considering some of the samples shown for horror books (one them shows scissors piercing out of someone’s eyes from the inside), I’d think that’d be way more disturbing to a kid that stumbled on it than some fairy having hanky panky with a squirrel. Not to mention that the fairy panels were pretty small while the scissors one took up half a page if I remember right.

    Anyway, this latest article is pretty disturbing in terms of what the guy wants to remove. Thank goodness the kid didn’t stumble on Ultra-gash Inferno or something (that’ll give nightmares to anyone). He probably would have dropped a bomb on the library or something!

  19. I own the book in question, and it’s too educational to be, uh, sexy. Some of those chapters… couldn’t they have gotten Scott McCloud to punch up the text a little?

    Not trying to defend Bondage Fairies as art. Maybe really, really poorly done erotica for people with at least one lame fetish?

    Frankly, the inclusion of Megatokyo as a manga-influenced comic in the final chapter was way more interesting than boobie-art.

    This is probably a sign that I am getting old…