Wyoming Man: Age-Appropriate Books About Sex are “Hard-Core Pornography” October 7, 2021

Wyoming Man: Age-Appropriate Books About Sex are “Hard-Core Pornography”

Campbell County Public Library, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, has been facing backlash from a nearby church and other conservative community members for having age-appropriate books on sex, LGBTQ+ issues, and pregnancy.

If the name of that library sounds familiar, it may be because this isn’t the first time they’ve been in trouble for providing useful information to members of the public. Last summer, they were forced to cancel a magic show by a transgender magician after protests and threats.

This time around, though, Susan Sisti, the pastor at Open Door Church, is troubled by the availability of five books in particular:

All of those books discuss being an LGBTQ+ person or answer questions about dating, sex, babies, etc. in a way that makes sense to curious kids. None of them, obviously, encourage people to do anything they don’t want to do. And the library wasn’t forcing those books upon anybody. They’re simply available for people to check out.

Still, local residents Hugh and Susan Bennett went so far as to file a complaint with the local sheriff’s office over concerns that the books violate the state’s child-sex laws. Which means prosecutors are required to look into the issue.

After the initial complaint from Sisti, the library determined that This Book is Gay, which was presumably the cause of the most outrage, belonged in the teen section of the library instead of the children’s section… but even that decision was appealed. The parents wanted the book removed from the library completely.

Hugh Bennett even called the collection of books “hard-core pornography to children” — revealing his own ignorance on that topic. He added:

It’s very challenging to imagine how a child who’s sexually immature, physically immature, if there’s any reasonable purpose for exposing them to sexual behavior that’s far beyond their physical and mental and emotional and intellectual abilities to understand,” Hugh Bennett said.

If you asked most parents what age their children should be exposed to serious, honest discussions about sex, the answer is inevitably going to be much much (much) higher than it actually is. Kids will always have access to information (graphic and otherwise) about sex. The question is whether they have access to factual, useful, and comprehensive information.

In the case of This Book is Gay, there are “illustrations of male and female genitalia and descriptions of oral and anal sex.” County Attorney Mitchell Damsky, who’s one of the people in charge of deciding whether to pursue this case, argued that children can easily find much more graphic content online in just a matter of clicks. Which is exactly the point. When kids have access to actual, uncensored, adult material, wouldn’t it be better to make sure they have easier access to more thoughtful books discussing those subjects?

There’s another alternative too: Move all the questionable books to the adult section. But that would make the books tougher for children to find, defeating their purpose, and create a slippery slope for other books deemed “controversial.”

The simple truth is that the book may include diagrams to help young people understand their bodies — What a crime! — but it’s specifically intended for fifth and sixth graders who are beginning to question their sexuality. Couldn’t we all have used a little guidance at that age? What’s more, the book’s reviews indicate that it is clearly age-appropriate. The only thing even a little advanced, according to one reviewer, is some cursing.

Advanced not in terms of the concepts or reading difficulty, but in term of the language the book uses. There is some cursing within the book that I believe to be inappropriate. The information in the book is written very well as to where a 5th or 6th grader could very easily understand and relate to. Using chapter titles such as “Stereotypes Are Poo” and “Haterz Gon’ Hate.” The big idea of this book is to help someone who is gay to feel more comfortable with themselves which I think is an important topic for this age group as they begin to explore themselves.

Somehow, that review made no mention of any “pornographic” diagrams. Not every drawing of a naked body, as anyone who’s seen great art would know, is meant to be titillating.

Hopefully, a group called Wyoming Equality, which has stepped in to offer support to the library staff and speak with local officials, can help officials understand the obvious: Age-appropriate sex education is vital for a healthy society. It shouldn’t be censored or hidden from view.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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