As an Icelander, it’s such a foreign concept, literally and figuratively: book banning in America. For the last 29 years, Banned Books Week has highlighted works that have been challenged, restricted, removed, or banned, mostly in schools or libraries. Its ultimate goal: to celebrate the freedom to read – an individual’s right to choose a book free from censorship. Based on the “Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom,” famous works that have made the list include Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Lee Harper’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Anne Frank’s Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and Alex Comforts’ The Joy of Sex.
With the sex genre (along with profanity and racism) a main target in requests to restrict book access, one would think that sexuality authors, yours truly included, would be shaking in their boots. Quite honestly, I haven’t had a good reason to worry about ever being under attack until now…
Look at the titles of books I’ve written:
- The Hot Guide to Safer Sex
- Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots
- Sex with Your Ex & 69 Other Things You Should Never Do
- Your Orgasmic Pregnancy: Little Sex Secrets Every Hot Mama Should Know
- Pleasuring: The Secrets to Sexual Satisfaction
- The Better Sex Guide to Extraordinary Lovemaking
Now consider my latest title – Sultry Sex Talk to Seduce Any Lover: Lust-Inducing Lingo & Titillating Tactics for Maximizing Your Pleasure. Is this one any racier than the others? Apparently, my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, thinks so. Its Graduate School of Education Alumni Magazine has always plugged my book titles – until now. In announcing Sultry Sex Talk, its fall issue simply states: “Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, GEd’98 published a book on sex and relationships in June 2010…” – this from the University that bestowed the Masters in human sexuality education upon me.
Wouldn’t seem like such a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that other Penn alumni, who had recently published books, had their titles, like Professional Ethics in Midwifery Practice and Couple Therapy and Hidden Meanings, specifically named. Forget the fact that the institution seems to value how to solve couples’ problems more than how to prevent them via effective communication. What’s alarming is that academia, which prides itself on intellectual freedom and publishing, is now banning a book title – and that of a book written to enhance lovers’ well being.
Equally alarming is the fact that U.S.-based professional organizations have been guilty of censorship, with even the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists’ (AASECT) website’s book section refusing to display the cover visual for its member Eric M. Garrison’s Mastering Multiple Position Sex. Despite approved for shelf display at stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble, the semi-nude pictures of adults on the cover were deemed too offensive. The work went on to make the 2010 Banned Books list, after a library-goer raised hell, refusing to return the lovemaking guide since it was seen as “porn, under the guise of a learning manual.”
You can expect such sentiments from a concerned grandmother. You don’t expect such blackballing from the same institutions and groups that have prided themselves in supporting intellectual freedoms and sexual rights – which begs the question of “why”, why are they banning certain sex books and titles? As Garrison commented, “Book club members, buyers, and academics all need to ask themselves ‘Why is there no rhyme or reason to which book title, photos, or content lead to a book getting banned? Why are people offended by some works more than others? Why are people so threatened by well intentioned books that celebrate healthy sexuality?’”
Maybe once these questions are sorted, we’ll see the U.S. emerge as a country truly censorship-free when it comes to reading, one that is as laissez-faire and liberal as countries like Iceland in allowing adults to choose what they want to read, regardless of the content, visuals, or title.