Librarians: Warping Your Children’s Minds with Factual Information About Sex

clearly not a place for learning

Some jerks calling themselves the Concerned Citizens for Batavia are demanding that the Batavia, IL public library take down a link to the Planned Parenthood sex education site, Teenwire.

As most of you probably know by now, I work for Planned Parenthood, and I just so happen to use Teenwire a lot to check medical facts and provide references when writing about sexual health issues for the organization.  Honestly, I love Teenwire.  It’s amazing.  If you have a teen, I can’t more strongly recommend giving them a link to this site.  On Teenwire, answers aren’t given only about contraception and STD prevention — nope, you name it, they’ve got it.  From LGBT informational resources, to positive body image, to information about healthy relationships, including information about rape and consent, they’ve got the bases covered.

Now, is the site explicit?  Somewhat.  There aren’t pictures that could be considered pornographic, but there is *gasp* strong and honest language used to talk about sexuality.  I know, using the names of real body parts, not treating teens like they’re asexual beings who should be embarrassed to ask questions — and breaking the taboo of all taboos by talking about pleasure as a part of sex education — is pretty scary. Admittedly, the site is extremely comprehensive  and frank — I’ve found information on masturbation, female sexual pleasure, female ejaculation, pubic hair, penis size . . . the list goes on.  Even I was a bit surprised that they included so much information on such diverse and in depth topics.  This is, of course, why I love it.  Teenwire treats sex like a healthy, important part of life for those who wish to engage in it, encourages conversations between sexual partners, and treats females like autonomous people with sexual desire.

In my opinion, this is why Concerned Citizens for Batavia are engaging in this embarrassing bit of public pearl-clutching.  They can’t stand the thought of people enjoying sex, and even worse, not acting like sex for enjoyment is a novelty.  As I’ve discussed before, I’m pretty convinced that the true wingnuts not only want to prevent their children from having sex until marriage, but for some sadistic reason also want to make sure that their children have shitty sex lives once they do start having sex.  And the parents who don’t hate their kids quite that much seem to be easily manipulated by anti-choice rhetoric.

Here’s what the spokesperson for the group has to say:

Kerry Knott, a spokesman for the concerned families, said the group is opposed to the Batavia Library Web site linking to, a site run by Planned Parenthood. The site covers a variety of teen issues, from entertainment to school and careers, including teen sex, pregnancy, adoption and abortion.

“It’s very pro-sexual activity for teens,” Knott said.

In particular, Knott said the site presents “medical inaccuracies” about abortion and condom use, and portrays some of its information in a tasteless manner. She pointed to an animated video titled “How Pregnancy Happens,” which she described as “offensive” and “inappropriate for teens.”

“I’m all about making an informed decision,” Knott said. “But we expect to see Web sites that are accurate and present this information in an effective manner. The library’s held to a different standard.”

First of all, the “medical inaccuracies” bit is a lie, and I’m sure stems from Teenwire’s promotion of the entirely correct facts that condoms are very effective at preventing STDs, and abortion won’t make you infertile.  Sorry folks, reality is tough.  Deal with it.  The library has done their research:

George Scheetz, the Batavia Library’s director, said the residents’ group filed a formal complaint with the library about the site. That prompted the board and Scheetz to put together a staff review committee — made up of several adult librarians including the librarian for young adult services — to study the complaint.

The committee responded with a report to Scheetz, which he said contained “a remarkable amount of work.” On the strength of that report, he recommended the library board not take any action.

“They seem to think the Web site is pro-sex, anti-parent,” Scheetz said. “That’s a value judgment I’m not sure it’s possible for us to address. From our research, it is accurate.”

Secondly, there’s a big difference between being “pro-sexual activity for teens” and “not anti-sexual activity for teens.”  Teenwire doesn’t encourage teens to have sex — it treats them like sexual creatures who are capable of making their own decisions, and gives them the tools they need to make those decisions, including how to know when they are emotionally ready to have sex.

Now, the question may be why I give a shit.  Other than not wanting to pass up an opportunity to promote a great resource, why am I writing about it?  After all, this is just a bunch of wingnuts doing what wingnuts do, and on a pretty small scale.

But the implications are chilling.  We’re dealing with a serious censorship issue — if libraries are afraid to present interested parties with factual information on a topic because it might upset some puritan folks, we’re in a very bad place.  We don’t want a precedent being set and emboldening other anti-choicers across the country to take similarly ridiculous courses of action.  Censorship is an active goal of the anti-choice movement, one that has been relatively successful I might add, and this is a clear expansion of that tactic.  It’s not just what doctors can say to their patients anymore, or whether or not teachers are allowed to factually answer questions in sex ed classes, they’re going after the libraries — generally the biggest, most reliable and accessible public information resource.  Um, again.

In addition, the extreme pettiness of it is fascinating.  I took me several minutes to find the Teenwire link over on Batavia Public Library’s websiteit’s on the “young adult library web” page, under the heading “Health and Fitness,” and is very clearly marked as being a Planned Parenthood site so that people know what they’re getting before they click.  The Families Against Planned Parenthood blog (not linking; google it) calls this an “important issue that threatens the innocence of Batavia’s children.”  Er, exaggerate much?  The sad thing is that no, they’re incredibly serious.

But in the end, the threat isn’t to our children’s innocence (something I’ve always found to be strangely over-valued, by the way), but to sexually ignorant and fearful cultural superiority.  And yep, I can see why to anti-choice groups, this is very scary.

The Batavia Library Board Trustees had to listen to this nonsense at their last meeting, and a decision on the future of the oh-so-controversial link will be made at the next meeting on July 15th. Let’s hope that they manage to hold onto their brains and politely tell the Concerns Citizens for Batavia to shove it.

Thanks to Midwest Feminist for the link.

0 thoughts on “Librarians: Warping Your Children’s Minds with Factual Information About Sex

  1. Anna

    We’re having that problem with a school board up here. OMG! If you teach teenagers about healthy sexual relationships, they might go out and have sex!

    I had pretty thorough sex education in school. It’s why I didn’t have sex until I was in college. I actually knew I could get pregnant and get STIs and the like. And I didn’t want to do that.

    (They even made us do this chant: “No condom no sex, no condom no love.” The Australian version is apparently “If it’s not on, it’s not on.”)

  2. Kristen

    Duh….people having good sex lives might result in world peace.

    And we can’t have that right?

    Snark aside, I seriously give up on the universe this month. 11 year old rape victims being forced to give birth. A transgendered woman being beaten by a police officer in a police station. Everyone ignoring the abstinence only component of the “pregnancy pact”. No 2nd waive comment on the shit being hurled at M. Obama. And finishing Women, Race and Class. Not to mention reading “The Family” by Jeff Sharlet which will shake your faith in our entire society. [Seriously people go read it.] The universe just feels too fucked up to me…and this censorship b.s. is just the tip of a enormous iceberg. So I’m going to go hide under the covers for the next week and a half if that’s okay with everyone. Wake me if something good happens.

  3. SunlessNick

    I’m pretty convinced that the true wingnuts not only want to prevent their children from having sex until marriage, but for some sadistic reason also want to make sure that their children have shitty sex lives once they do start having sex.

    No, just the girls.

  4. SunlessNick

    Here’s what the concern trolls don’t get: Most teenagers who look for information on sex aren’t trying to decide whether to have it; they’ve made that decision. They are looking for ways to stay safe doing it, so why not provide it if your interest is in protecting them?

  5. Renee

    Having knowledge about an act does not mean that you will carry out said act. This site isn’t advocating sex it is fighting a battle against sexual ignorance. Perhaps if people would just finally be honest and admit that we are all sexual beings the desire to moralize and control would dissipate somewhat.

  6. Manon

    God, that’s depressing. The sheer self-delusion.

    I do like that Families Against Planned Parenthood’s acronym is FAPP. Oh, irony.

  7. Jenn Smithson

    Libraries facing censorship from similar groups is nothing new and at least they’re just going after information on the website because groups like these are notorious for checking out the books they don’t want ANY children to see (not just their own) and burning or otherwise destroying them. We had a similar group go into a Public Library down here (Texas) and check out “Heather Has Two Mommies”, “It’s So Natural”, and other similar books AND THEY BURNED THEM!
    They invited the local media (just 1 newspaper) to watch them do it and because of the reporting, the library received A LOT of donations of money and books, including the books listed as having been destroyed.
    Anyone who would burn books or censor the internet, I literally have no words to describe my utter disdain for people like this.
    Knowledge NEVER hurt anyone. Ignorance does kill people, including Young “innocent” People.

  8. Cara Post author

    Jenn, I’ve heard of that phenomenon before, actually. I have a friend who practically lives at the library, so she knows the librarians pretty well, and they were telling her that there are certain books — the “controversial” ones — that always seem to go missing, time and time again, purchase after purchase, and this is why the fees for losing a book are so high, to dissuade assholes from pulling that shit.

    But burning them? Jesus Christ, I’m guessing that their totally missing the associations of book burning. (Or, much worse, they’re not.)

  9. Kate

    1. Don’t these ultra right wingers have anything better to do?
    2. Thank you for the link to teen wire! I was in the car with my 18 year old Goddess daughter just this afternoon, who as a product of abstinence only sex ed was trying to figure out what to tell her best friend (age 17) who has a 4 month old, wants to resume sexual activity, cannot take birth control due to mood disorder and epilepsy, and has a boy friend who will not wear a condom (obviously see 4 month old). So I asked her if her friend could get an IUD. She had no idea what an IUD was. (Thankfully she did know what a uterus was!)

    I graduated high school 15 years ago and vividly remember the lectures on contraception, including the IUD. These girls have NO IDEA how to avoid pregnancy other than a condom, which they only know about from commercials and ads.

    I just e-mailed the teenwire link.

    Perhaps we can start a viral e-mail of the Teenwire link around the country. (Pun intended.)

  10. Renee

    Kate stories like that are exactly why I am going to supply my sons with condoms. I don’t want them to engage in sex prematurely but if they are going to do it I would much rather them be safe. Parents are just going to have to learn that we cannot control our childrens sexuality.

  11. roses

    But in the end, the threat isn’t to our children’s innocence (something I’ve always found to be strangely over-valued, by the way

    Why does innocence = lack of knowledge about sex? There are a lot of things I’d want my (potential future) children to be innocent about for as long as possible – how shitty and unfair the world can be and how much people can be such cruel assholes to each other. But sex? Of course I wouldn’t want them having sex before they’re physically and emotionally ready, but how does knowing about sex destroy their innocence? I honestly don’t get it.

  12. Laurenamillion

    “if libraries are afraid to present interested parties with factual information on a topic because it might upset some puritan folks, we’re in a very bad place”

    I’m in library science school right now – and censorship comes up in almost all of my classes. The impression that I get, at least from the professors, is that libraries are very rarely afraid of those who would censor – librarians tend to be the most serious anti-censorship fighters around (see the American Library Association for details). While this type of behavior on the part of these pearl-clutchers is stupid, it’s not unheard of (it’s been happening forever, ever since libraries opened to the public), and most libraries now have collection development policies that specifically contain a clause protecting the library’s collection decisions – and links to websites can be included in those clauses. The ALA also provides free legal help to libraries who get sued by censors, and fully backs the collection decisions of its members against censorship challenges.

    So yeah, when librarians come across this stuff, they’re usually ready. Very rarely will libraries cave in to the censors; but I think these librarians should get all the support they can get. Small communities with delicate funding tend to be the most vulnerable to censorship challenges, so I’m totally going to support this library should they choose to ignore the challenge.

  13. Jenee

    Where did you find that information about the meeting on July 15th? I only live about 10 minutes away from Batavia, and I’d like to check that out, if it’s open to the public.

  14. Cara Post author

    Yup, it’s open to the public — the wingnuts at Families Against Planned Parenthood are asking their supporters to attend. The last link in the post, to Midwest Feminist, has the time and location (as did FAPP).

  15. Beej

    Aren’t libraries where people are supposed to go for information on a variety of topics, including sex and abortion? Also, this is the INTERNET. You know the kind of crap you can find on the Internet by Googling “sex” or “abortions” or “condoms”? Wouldn’t you rather have your children reading the facts, the truth, on Planned Parenthood?? But, as a seventeen-year-old… none of my peers are likely to ever, and I’m talking ever, go on the library web site. Except for if their parents were to mention there was something on there they didn’t want ’em seeing…then it’s straight to the computer.
    Counterintuitive much??

  16. jovan byars

    As Cara mentioned, it is a public place, which means that the anti-choice lunatic fringe has no right whatsoever trying to inject their beliefs on anyone. If they don’t like what web pages the library allows on its computers, then they don’t have to come. Enough said.

    I really hope that the National Coalition Against Censorship and the ACLU are paying attention to this.


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