Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sex in the Library celebrates St. Valentine's Day--with booktalks!

The SITL librarians, ever-poised for action, leaped into February 14th's sugar-laden mushiness.

Armed with two gigantic boxes of teen books, stacks of booklists printed on pink paper, and a big tin of chocolate kisses, we invited 8th graders to listen and talk about the topic that simultaneously fascinates them and scares them spitless:


We talked about books that feature Star Trek Sex (Shiver, by Maggie Steifvater)...and full-frontal on-page nekkidness (Forever, by Judy Blume)...

...and lots of other books from all parts of the subtle-to-nekkid spectrum.

In the talkback portion of the program, kids told us which books they thought were appropriate--and not appropriate--for a school library.
As usual, they surprised us.

In ten years of presenting Sex in the Library booktalks, we've seen student opinions change dramatically.

Students in late June 2000 told us that on-page sex in books was not okay for school library books, but on-page violence was fine.

Their reasoning?

"We see violence on television news all the time, but nobody ever shows people having sex on the news."
Their perspective changed dramatically in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Suddenly, the teen violence in Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden was not as acceptable...because the kids in the book are, essentially, terrorists.

For several years we saw the "T" word being almost more objectionable than the "G" word.

Oh yeah, the "G" word?


Until recently, sexual content between fictional gay characters was very squinchy territory among our middle school audience members.

When Brent Hartinger's book Geography Club was banned at nearby University Place School District in 2005, nobody seriously believed that the challenge was supported by the school superintendent because the protagonist meets up with a stranger that he'd encountered online.

Everybody, including the students, understood that the book was targeted because the main characters are gay teens.

Until recently, many 8th graders told us that banning a book about gay teens from school libraries was, probably, a good idea.

The topic was not appropriate for kids their age, they said.
This year, we noticed that students not only publicly support books about gay teens, they support books about gays AND about lesbians AND transgendered persons, AND they think that these books should be in the school library.The current class of 8th grade students is remarkably different from their peers 10 years ago...and remarkably similar as well. They are fascinated, they are embarrassed, they are intrigued.

They want sex.

Significantly, they want sex in the library

Who can blame them?