Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banned Books Week: Rape is not Pornographic

Thursday, September 26, 2013
Trigger Warning: The following blog post does address sexual assault.

SpeakIn July, a Floridian called Laurie Halse Anderon's Speak pornography. For those of you who don't know, and this is a mild spoiler so I apologize, Speak is the story of a girl who gets rape. The only "sex scene" in the book is the one which describes her horrible, horrible experience.

Now, in Ohio, a woman is trying to get Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye banned from classrooms. Why? Well, it's about rape, and apparently it's "pornographic."

First, let's define pornography, because I'm really not sure these people know what it means.
Definition: movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement

Did you catch those last four words? "To cause sexual excitement." Porn's sole purpose is to cause arousal, so to say that depictions of rape is pornographic is to say that rape is arousing, that it's "sexually exciting." And truthfully, that's simply offensive. Rape is horrendous: it can lead to PTSD, depression, and/or Borderline Personality Disorder (RAINN). And that's only a few of the effects. Belittling the emotional story of girls who have to cope with sexual assault by comparing them to nude pictures and sex tapes is not only incorrect but disturbing.

You know what else those people who say rape scenes in YA books are "pornographic" are really saying? They're telling rape survivors, no matter how inadvertently, to shut up. According to RAINN, "54% of sexual assaults aren't reported to the police." And as shown in Speak, women and girls are often blamed for the assaults committed against them. This results in a society that shames and silences women who are hurting, who need help and feel they can't ask for it in fear of retribution.
The Bluest Eye
Getting these books out of schools, prohibiting students from reading them, comparing them to porn is the same as saying rape is disgusting, it shouldn't be talked about, don't speak up.

And that's the exact opposite of what should be taught.

In the tenth anniversary edition of Speak, there's a poem compiled of some of the many, many letters Anderson has received. Through these letters it's obvious Speak didn't just help some of her readers- it saved them. People, like those above, who rage against books that have sexual content regardless of the context aren't helping any readers. They certainly aren't protecting anyone from the terrible things that exist in the world. Ultimately, they're hurting teens and adults, men and women, who could benefit from those books. 

To end with, here is the video wherein Anderson reads the poem:


  1. I love Banned Books Week because it really does shine light on such ridiculous situations like this one on people trying to ban books for such stupid reasons!
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog

    1. Banned Books Week is one of my favorite weeks, too!

  2. It is so saddening that this post needs to be written, but so awesome that you wrote it. I hope so desperately that one day book banners will see the light and stop trying to tear people away from things they NEED to read, and doing it for reasons that don't even make sense. The topic of "pornographic" rape is a particularly ridiculous example, but challenging a book based on ANY kind of fictional struggle is like saying "Forget you; your problems don't matter. In fact, we like to believe they don't exist" to anyone experiencing the same thing in real life. The best way to deal with problems like rape is to talk about them, and that is why we need brilliant books like Speak and intelligent arguments for their preservation like this post.

    1. "challenging a book based on ANY kind of fictional struggle is like saying "Forget you; your problems don't matter. In fact, we like to believe they don't exist" to anyone experiencing the same thing in real life." Exactly! It's insulting and quite possibly damaging!

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