clearly not a place for learning
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 Teenwire.com, 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 website — it’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.