In an unexpected twist during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on book bans, Republican senators, joined by a witness, recited excerpts of a mature nature, emphasizing their stance on banning certain titles from American educational institutions. The hearing, titled “Book Bans: Examining How Censorship Limits Liberty and Literature” began with Max Eden, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a known conservative think-tank. Eden underscored instances from school board meetings where parents were prevented from sharing specific excerpts from books, calling into question the content deemed appropriate for academic settings.
“We’re talking about books with explicit passages about fisting, butt plugs, anal, the spit-or-swallow decision and rape,” Eden said, before reading a passage from “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” a book that has been listed as among the most banned by Pen America, a free speech organization.
“I was asked, ‘You promise not to tell anyone?’ At that moment, I found myself in an uncomfortable situation. Reluctantly, but compelled by some unseen force, I made that promise. What followed next was unexpected. He took hold of my hand and guided it towards something I had never experienced before – a foreign touch. Deep down, I knew this was not how things were supposed to be between cousins. It was a moment that forever changed my perception.”
Eden expressed concern after reading another excerpt, questioning the appropriateness of explicit content involving ten-year-olds engaging in sexual acts such as sodomy, underage incest, strap-on dildo, and blow jobs.
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” is a captivating young-adult nonfiction masterpiece that intricately unveils the remarkable journey of George Johnson, as he navigates the complexities of his identity as a queer Black man. This compelling memoir delves deep into his experiences, offering poignant insights and profound reflections.
During the hearing, Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) also recited a passage describing male-male sexual activity from the same book. He further read a paragraph from “Gender Queer,” a book that has been prominently featured on Pen America’s banned book list.
“I recently acquired a new strap-on harness that I’m excited to use with you. It’s perfectly compatible with my favorite dildo, and I must say, you’re going to look absolutely stunning. The anticipation of having you in my life is overwhelming. I intend to provide you with an unforgettable experience, starting with an extraordinary blowjob, followed by the pleasure of having you inside me,” Kennedy expressed, referencing the book.
In a recent hearing centered on book bans, a pressing question was posed to a Democratic witness: “Are you implying that only librarians should have the authority to determine the appropriateness of the two books in question for young readers?” This session comes in the wake of a surge of debates at school board meetings over suitable reading material for children.
Furthermore, this discussion has been fueled by measures in several Republican-controlled states that have streamlined the process of challenging books within the classroom setting. Meanwhile, according to the American Library Association, there was a notable spike in book challenges across the US, with the numbers doubling between 2021 and 2022.
In recent remarks, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) emphasized the gravity of offering content to children which could potentially be considered criminal or offensive in certain areas and contexts. According to him, school districts should be addressing parents’ genuine worries by removing such content, critiquing both districts that neglect this and those who seemingly exploit young minds.
A point of consensus emerged between both Republicans and Democrats: there are certainly materials that aren’t suitable for young audiences. However, the contention arose when assessing the character of all the books under discussion. Democrats pointed out that tagging all such books as sexually explicit is an oversimplification and a diversion from the core concern.
Chairman of the Judiciary, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), clarified that there’s no push for sexually explicit content in elementary school libraries or their children-focused sections. Durbin stressed the importance of parental discretion in guiding their child’s reading habits. Yet, he also emphasized that no parent should impose reading restrictions on someone else’s child, advocating for the diverse representation of experiences in literature for every student.
In a recent development, the Republican Party has raised concerns over the definition of ‘book bans’ provided by Pen America, emphasizing that merely pulling books off school shelves for a review should not be termed as a ban. Furthermore, they firmly believe that federal legislators should not intervene in these matters. Notably, in Burbank, California, classics such as ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ were removed from school syllabi. On this, Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) remarked, “While I might not concur with the decision, it’s the prerogative of the local authorities to make that call.”
In recent developments, Democrats have voiced their growing unease over the apparent trend of certain books being removed, particularly those that highlight Black or LGBTQ protagonists. Commenting on the matter, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) expressed his concerns: “It’s deeply troubling to observe seminal works by illustrious authors, including the likes of Frederick Douglass, being sidelined. Such actions risk compromising the very essence of our democratic values – cultivating spaces of learning that foster empathy, comprehension, and profound knowledge. These are the underpinnings that sustain our democracy.”