According to Democrats, children’s fundamental rights to education and autonomy are being attacked as books are banned across the United States. According to Republicans, a slew of sexualized graphic novels and “educational” titles are being pushed on ever younger readers. So what’s really going on?
A Slate writer set out to find the answer, at least as it pertains to the oft-banned title It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender, and Sexual Health.
Aymann Ismail, a father of two, got his hands on a copy of the book, expecting that “there would be nothing in there that would offend my sensibilities.” Instead, he was shocked by what he saw. He writes:
I had an involuntary reaction to seeing the nude cartoons, like I needed to make sure I was alone and hide the book. I skimmed ahead to look at the rest of the book briskly. On virtually every page I stopped to examine, I was confronted with detailed drawings of genitals. It felt like every page had a cartoon of a naked body.
His article, which includes a disclaimer at the top over “explicit images” from the book, goes on to detail a disturbing level of nudity in a book meant for 10-year-olds. He continues:
In the chapter ‘Making Love,’ there are three graphic images that show adult bodies having sex. There is no visible penetration, but it’s still eye-popping. I was sure I wouldn’t hand this book to my kids when they are 10. And I began to wonder if in my own allergy to the book-burning fervor, I had been a little too dismissive of the parents at the root of this fight.
You don’t say!
But this revelation is good news: In the past months, the book-banning frenzy has been on the mouths of everyone from President Joe Biden to Oprah, yet even the Washington Post admits that most parents, rather than being backward or homophobic, object to gratuitous sexual content.
“The top reason people challenged books was ‘sexual’ content; 61% of challenges referenced this concern,” the Washington Post reported in June.
At an outlet such as Slate, it’s good to see a father of young children have a reasonable response to a book that reportedly contains 78 images of naked bodies.
Yet there is some level of ideological capture that won’t let Ismail say that banning It’s Perfectly Normal from school libraries would be a good thing. He includes several long quotes from sex educator Melissa Pintor Carnagey, who tells him that parents should “embrace” the feeling of shock they feel at books such as It’s Perfectly Normal.
“There’s nothing wrong or bad with you as an adult or parent if this feels uncomfortable. You learned that. We can unlearn. It takes time, knowledge, education. And banning books that help us on that path is not the answer,” she says, reportedly in a “comforting” tone.
This leads Ismail to stay on the fence, leaning toward condemning the book but unwilling to plant his feet on one side: “As I got further into the book, I began to see it the way Carnagey does, as a meaningful book intent on destigmatizing everything from puberty to sex, birth, and STDs,” he writes.
He concludes, however, “I don’t know if my kids are ever going to find a copy of It’s Perfectly Normal on their bookshelves.”
While it’s good to see more pushback from the Left on a matter that should be bipartisan, not giving graphic books to children, it is disappointing that the writer seems unwilling to draw a line in the sand.
“Experts” are saying that going into graphic, visual detail in a book teaching the birds and the bees to children is a good thing, and who are we to say that they’re wrong?
We’re just parents. But in this and so many other arenas, we still know what’s best for our children.