Page through a few of the titles removed from Florida schools—some outright pornographic—and ask yourself if kids should be reading them.
President Joe Biden and the Democrats think that they’ve found a potent campaign issue in “book banning.” Indeed, a recent piece in Politico asserts that the Biden campaign has “made the issue of book banning a surprisingly central element of his campaign’s opening salvos.” Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been the most prominent Republican leader supporting the removal of inappropriate books from schools. I live in Florida, and I checked out five of these “banned” books to see why they were removed from school libraries.
All five books were easy to find at my local library. They are categorized as “young adult,” i.e., titles intended for children ages 12 to 18, according to the American Library Association. After reviewing them, I’m convinced that the overwhelming majority of the public wouldn’t find their removal controversial, if they knew what was contained in these provocative, and in some cases pornographic, titles.
Politico quotes a Democratic pollster who claimed that “book banning tests off the charts,” with Americans overwhelmingly opposing it. “They associate it with really authoritarian regimes, Nazi Germany,” said Celinda Lake. This is likely because the media and Democrats have misled the public in several ways. First, in using the word “ban,” they’ve created the impression that books removed from schools are also being removed from public libraries and bookstores. They’re not.
Second, prominent figures on the left have not told the truth about the content of the “banned” books and which ones have been removed from schools. For example, many progressives promoted a false claim that Duval County, Florida banned books about Robert Clemente, Hank Aaron, and Rosa Parks. Duval County schools wrote a post on February 17 correcting the misinformation, but that didn’t stop Alexandria Ocasio Cortez from blaming the GOP for allegedly prohibiting a book about Parks in Duval County more than a month later in a speech on the floor of Congress. “The Life of Rosa Parks— this apparently is too woke for the Republican Party,” she said.
The first book I looked at, This Book is Gay, written by transgender author Juno Dawson, is marketed as a “bestselling exploration of sexuality and gender for young adults.” Dawson writes in one chapter that “perhaps the most important skill you will master as a gay or bi man is the timeless classic, the handjob.” She continues, “Something they don’t teach you in school, is that in order to be able to cum at all, you or your partner may need to finish off with a handy.” The book also offers graphic descriptions of oral and anal sex, among other adult topics. “Being on bottom makes a dude no less manly than his top partner,” Dawson writes of anal sex. “He is literally taking it like a man.”
Gender Queer, a graphic-novel memoir by Maia Kobabe, a nonbinary, asexual author who uses the pronouns e, em, eir, was the most “banned” young adult book in the country in 2022. Here is a sample “sexting” dialogue from page 170:““I got a new strap-on harness today. I can’t wait to put it on you. I can’t wait to have your c*ck in my mouth—I’m going to give you the bl*wjob of your life. Then I want you inside me.” On the facing page, pornographic color sketches depict this scene.
Let’s Talk About It: a Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships and Being Human earned starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus, but the book is full of objectionable content. On page 18, the author informs minors that there are innumerable ways to lose one’s virginity, involving many different body parts, and concludes, “Virginity just doesn’t work anymore in today’s world.” A chapter on relationships (pages 34-35) coaches children on swinging, open relationships, and friends-with-benefits arrangements, while a boy in a wheelchair declares that having a friend with benefits “can be fun!”
A pair of young feminists grouse on page 38 that men can have casual sex with no repercussions, but if the gals do so, they’ll be judged harshly. “F*ck the patriarchy!” one exclaims, while the boy in the wheelchair raises his right fist and declares, “Viva la revolucíon!” A chapter on gender (page 47) asserts that “male/female gender binary” is “an obsolete viewpoint,” before concluding, “You and your gender can change as often as you want!” In a chapter on sexting, the authors claim that sexting is “thrilling, sexy, and fun, a way of saying, ‘you turn me on, hot stuff,’ or ‘let’s get turned on together.’ It’s a long-distance act of intimacy and trust.”
In a chapter full of graphic images called “What are kinks, fantasies and porn?” the authors write, “A great place to research kinks and fetishes is on the internet.” The authors, Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, must know that children will encounter disturbing images and videos if they Google various “kinks and fetishes,” but they apparently still think it’s a good idea. Indeed, later in the same chapter they conclude, “there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some porn, it’s a fun sugary treat.” The words “fun sugary treat” appear in pink boldface type.
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen details the “unapologetically queer” sex life of a teenager in graphic detail. The book’s dust jacket says, “It’s true that Jack has a LOT of sex and he’s not ashamed of it.” The book is full of pornographic content. “Big hairy muscled men love taking it up the *ss . . . And slim, makeup-wearing types? We love to f*ck and, in my case, getting f*cked too.” (Page 111) On page 285, a boy character says, “What I really get turned on by, is the idea of hurting (girls). Not like beating them or anything but spanking them, slapping them, making them wear collars and ball gags and ordering them around.” In a rave review, School Library Journalcalled this disturbing book “an essential addition to library collections that serve teens,” recommending it for children ages ten and up. (The journal also later featured the book in a column about “delectable dramas for teens” and a feature on “56 excellent books.”)
Chelsea Clinton, Pete Buttigieg, and many others on the left claim that “book banning” is a pretext to prevent children from reading books with LGBT characters and themes. Clinton recently retweeted an NBC news article claiming that seven of the 13 most “challenged” books of last year were “challenged for having LGBT content,” according to the notoriously progressive American Library Association. But that’s disingenuous. I’ve looked at three of the seven books in question—Flamer, Gender Queer, and This Book is Gay—and what’s objectionable about them isn’t the fact that they have LGBT content but rather that they have explicit, adult sexual content that’s not appropriate for young adult readers.
Much is also made about the fact that Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, is on the most banned books list. If the Left were building its own Mt. Rushmore, Morrison’s likeness would be on it, alongside Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other liberal heroines, so the idea that any of her books could be restricted is anathema to progressives. But I listened to the audiobook edition of The Bluest Eye, and it is clearly not for children. The book deals with incest, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, and other issues not at all suitable for minors. Here’s a sample passage from chapter 2:
His memories of Pauline and the doing of a wild and forbidden thing excited him and a bolt of desire ran down his genitals, giving it length and softening the lips of his anus. Surrounding all of this lust was a border of politeness. He wanted to f*ck her tenderly, but the tenderness would not hold. The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear.
Parents and taxpayers have a right to object to public schools spending tax dollars to purchase these kinds of books. The Motion Picture Association of America rates many movies R or even X, and no one accuses it of banning films. We currently have no rating system for the kinds of books removed from Florida school libraries, but we clearly need one. Until then, Republicans must not shy away from fighting this culture war. Next time you encounter a skeptic, ask him: Have you looked inside any of these books?
Photo by Joshua Lott/TheWashingtonPost GettyImages