Heidi Stevens: Stop pretending book bans are all about sex. If we ban them, 'we will be banning knowledge, culture, empathy,' says Illinois secretary of state

Heidi Stevens, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

I suppose it was meant to be a gotcha moment — Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., reading sexually explicit passages aloud to a clearly hot-and-bothered Senate Judiciary Committee.

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias had the floor, testifying during the “Book Bans: Examining How Censorship Limits Liberty and Literature” hearing, and promoting a new Illinois law that prohibits state funding for any library that bans books for "partisan or doctrinal" reasons.

The American Library Association documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022 — almost double the number of book ban attempts in 2021 and the highest number recorded since the group started compiling censorship data more than 20 years ago.

“The concept and practice of banning books contradicts the very essence of what our country stands for and what our democracy was founded on,” said Giannoulias, who serves as Illinois’ state librarian and is also a member of the Chicago Public Library board. “It also defies what education is all about: teaching our children to think for themselves."

When it was Kennedy’s turn to speak, he narrated some excerpts from "All Boys Aren't Blue" and "Gender Queer," two books frequently banned for their sexually explicit LGBTQ content.

The words “strap-on harness” appeared in Kennedy’s speech, and you can Google it if you want to know the rest.


(Choose your search terms wisely. Your algorithms are watching. Also, while you’re online, check out some of the Twitter responses to Kennedy’s recitation. “My family reading my texts aloud after I die” was one of my favorites.)

Anyway. Maybe those of us following along at home were supposed to clutch our pearls at the notion of young adults reading about *that* kind of sex, as opposed to the heterosexual kind that’s baked into every part of our culture and leveraged to sell everything from hamburgers to bottled water to cologne.

(It should be noted that student Cameron Samuels, who attended the hearing, testified that the "All Boys Aren't Blue" passage read aloud by Kennedy depicted an abuse scene. "It's not erotic," Samuels said. That nuance may have been lost in the senator's reading.)

Maybe we were supposed to view Kennedy and his ilk as our white knights, saving our children from the wages of sin and saving us from having to broach uncomfortable topics at the dinner table.


swipe to next page

©2023 Tribune News Service. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus