By Rachel Krueger
Book banning is for right-wing fundamentalists and crotchety spinsters and very tense parents of pristine children and also EVERYONE who saw The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure on Amazon last Tuesday and immediately clutched their pearls. Including me. The site has since kowtowed to pressure and pulled the book, which will effectively alienate the Free-Speech-At-All-Costs crowd while failing to diffuse everyone else’s Fury Bombs.
Every September Banned Books Week rolls around, and the internet is afire with the wrongity of censorship. The arguments against are nearly always framed around freedom of speech, not greatness of book. No one fights the banning of American Psycho or Twilight because we should all experience Patrick Bateman or the Bella/Edward hot mess; they fight the ban out of a zero-tolerance conviction that forbidding people to read what they choose to read goes against a basic human right.
That conviction went out the window in the face of this admittedly tasteless and disturbing book. Facebook groups sprang up with mushroom-like vigor, where people said things like “I believe in freedom of speech and all of that, but this is disgusting.” Lolita is also disgusting. So is The Day My Butt Went Psycho, which (in addition) lacks the Russian Stamp of Credibility. “Disgusting” is not an acceptable counter-argument to freedom of speech.
Other people ask, “Can the police track down who actually bought this filth and press charges?” Because the book lacks any actual child pornography, it does not count as child pornography. Pedophilia is illegal, certainly, but the author is not molesting any children (that we know of). Amazon also sells a book on how to smuggle cocaine (by the ton), but because that book isn’t hollowed out and filled with crack before it is shipped to you, it is also not technically illegal.
The instinctual donkey kick is understandable, because children are far more beloved and vulnerable (and generally cuter) than cocaine addicts. However, this has blinded the opposition to some of the more reasonable arguments against the book. There are laws, for example, against hate literature. If I wrote a book on how to most effectively torment your Visigothic neighbor, I’d be clapped in irons. Since this book advocates what the law has deemed harmful, it could reasonably be classified as hate literature.
But I’m not convinced we need to launch a legal rocket against it. I hesitate to judge sight unseen, but I’d make an excessive wager that this book is a horrid read. Pedophilia is not like legalized marijuana. It is not a topic up for debate, with valid arguments on either side. We as a society have decided that it is appalling, so I have to believe that we as a society will likewise refuse to buy this book, Super Saver free shipping be damned. Money talks, and if my faith in the human condition is to hold its fragile head high, very few dollars will give this book the time of day.
And I’m hesitant to allow a site like Amazon power over what I can and cannot buy. The zero-ban came about because the slope is slippery, and while pedophilia is illegal almost everywhere, gay marriage is still illegal in no few states. The same logic that bans this book on so-called “legal” grounds would also see Julia Glass’s The Widower’s Tale banned in California because two dudes make with the wedding cake.
I hate that this book exists. I don’t want Phillip Greaves to have written it, but I also don’t want Nickelback to write any more songs. The only choice I have is where to turn my attention. If I’m more afraid of censorship snowballing than of the ramifications of this Guide, it’s because I doubt the Guide’s potency. Not all problems will go away if they are ignored, but this book is one beast we should probably stop feeding.