Banned Books Week 2021
I read banned books!
Sex and gender are not the only themes or content that can get a book banned. Many issues are culturally fraught and may make people uncomfortable. This is only one of the things that affect whether you see a particular book in a particular place—Good Vibrations and other stores that sell books carry some and not others, some for economic reasons and some as part of curating content.
But banning a book is different. That occurs when some sort of “powers that be” remove a book from public access at some level. This Banned Books Week, we call out the people and perspectives that lead books to be removed from circulation in libraries, culled from curricula, and otherwise blocked from the readers who might want to read them. This impulse can come from varying places on the sociopolitical spectrum, but it’s ironic that those who are upset at “cancel culture” are often just fine with the idea of pulling a book from a YA reader’s hands.
This impulse to block ideas is reactionary, especially when the person reaching for the book really needs to read it! Our friend Heather Corinna’s book S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties aims to fill the countless gaps in sex information and consent knowledge that school-based sex ed leaves out. Knowing this stuff can prevent harm and even save lives—and yet this is a book that’s been banned from schools. The Joy of Gay Sex has been banned too—even though gay, bi, and MSM men need this information for pleasure and for safety.
Even the Fifty Shades of Grey series has been banned! And I bet it’s not because someone didn’t like the way E.L. James wrote about zip ties as a bondage tool. (NOT safe!) No, it’s because this erotic material—like so many other erotic books that have been banned—makes someone uncomfortable. (Possibly turned on, too, and uncomfortable about that.) But it’s not appropriate for us to monitor the reading lives of others in the way that book-banners think it’s their prerogative to do. Plenty of authors write to provoke, sure. But the most crucial thing they provoke should always be thought. Teach the controversy, not the lesson that some thoughts—and books—need to be banned.
-Carol Queen PhD, staff sexologist