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The Distance Between Lost and Found, part 2: Sex, Power, Politics and The Church

It’s interesting how two people can read the same book and have two different experiences with it. When Ally Watkins and I began talking about The Distance Between Lost and Found it became evident that different parts, different themes, stood out to each of us. So whereas Ally talked a lot about the the faith aspects of DBLF, I’m going to talk about something very different, though definitely related to the idea of power in the church.

In order to have this conversation, I’m going to have to spill some big reveals. SO DO NOT READ THIS POST UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK.

READ THE BOOK, COME BACK, AND LET’S TALK.

*****SPOILER SPACE*****

******SPOILER SPACE*****

*****SPOILER SPACE*****

When we first meet Hallie, she is at church camp and it is clear that she is being frozen out and bullied, and the freeze out is primarily being led by a boy named Luke Willis. Luke Willis happens to be the preacher’s son, which gives him a de facto position of power in the church youth group. He chooses to use this position of power not for good, but for personal gain. Like many people in positions of power, yes even people in positions of power in the church, he has power and that power is easily abused.

The basics of the story is that an event has happened between Hallie and Luke and when this event becomes known, Luke’s version of the story is automatically believed over Hallie’s. This is in part because of Luke’s position of power, but I would also argue that it is also in part because Luke is the male in this story and Hallie is the female; culturally we still tend to believe the males over the females, see any recent news headlines or read the comments of any column about feminist issues for ample evidence of this.

It’s also interesting to note that when this book was first recommended to me I asked if it was about sexual violence and I was told no, it was about bullying. But I would argue that there is indeed an element of sexual coercion involved as the events that happen between Luke and Hallie are not rape, per se, but neither are the fully consensual acts. Luke uses a variety of tactics to try and engage Hallie in a physical relationship with him, including some very real emotional coercion. What the event might have turned into we will never know because it is interrupted. But this event is a really strong example of emotional coercion and makes for a good discussion about enthusiastic consent. I would love to see church youth groups read and discuss this book together, I think it would make for a powerful discussion.

I found it interesting that this was presented to me as not a story about sexual violence, when it has many of the hallmarks including emotional manipulation (anger, threats), ignoring her no (he begins taking her bra off even though she has pulled away and expressed that she is not comfortable) and then, later, slut shaming. Because of the way Luke spins the story of what happened that night, Hallie becomes a victim of slut shaming in her youth group and in her home. Though culturally we are still very uncomfortable with female sexuality, this is magnified in the church to the nth degree, particularly when we discuss sex, sexuality, and sexual desires outside of marriage. Like most victims of slut shaming, Hallie goes through a journey of many emotions, including shame, doubt, self-blame, isolation and alienation, and a very understandable questioning of her faith.

In some ways this story reminds me of one of the storylines in Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican. In the opening scene of BY a young man, hoping to cause a diversion away from a major event happening, runs up and grabs a teacher and kisses her. When the teacher tries to report that she has been the victim of sexual assault to the police they ridicule her, stating that it was merely a kiss and more important things are happening. In a culture that is still fuzzy on what constitutes “legitimate rape”, we do an even worse job of discussing other forms of sexual assault and coercion, which I maintain both of these stories provide examples of. When victims of rape come forward they still have an incredible problem getting the police to investigate the crimes against them, and we do an even worse job of talking about and protecting those who experience situations like those we see here in The Distance Between Lost and Found and Brutal Youth.

The other interesting thing we see happening is the power dynamics of the sexual abuse. Sexual coercion and sexual abuse are not only about sex, they are about power. And this is something Luke has. It’s something he knows will keep him safe. It’s something he knows he can use as a weapon not only to woo girls only to quickly discard them, but something he knows he can use to cover up his transgressions. These are the same power dynamics you see in the sport culture (see Canary by Rachele Alpine for example) and in books like the upcoming All the Rage by Courtney Summers and Every Last Promise by Kristin Hallbrook (both of which I highly recommend).

Sexual abuse in the church happens. It happens among teens in youth groups. It happens in the pulpits as youth pastors and Sunday school teachers and Priests use their power to abuse the people who trust them to not only guide their spiritual growth, but to keep them safe and guide them away from sin. One of the best books regarding this topic is The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely, a book about the Catholic priest abuse scandal. But there are also elements of this in Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens.

The power that these perpetrators has comes not only from their position, but from our unwillingness to believe that these very people that we put our spiritual growth in the hands of are capable of this type of abuse. Surely that person is not capable of these things they have been accused of we think to ourselves, which is part of the reason why almost 30 women can come forward with claims of abuse against men like Bill Cosby and there are still people who think there is no possible way we should maybe, kind of believe that he is in fact capable of that which he has been accused of. And yet the truth is that it is people in positions of power who have not only the most opportunity to abuse, but have the most courage to abuse because they know that their position of power provides them protections that those without that power would have. With great power may come great responsibility, but it can also be said that with great power comes a greater temptation and ability to abuse that power. In the church and in popular culture we make people into idols and we hold onto those idols fiercely, even when they are destroying others around us.

Luke of course is not a pastor or a preacher or a teacher or a priest. He is a teenage boy. But he is, in fact, in a position of power. Even in high school and in church youth groups that proclaim love and acceptance for all there are hierarchies of power. Whatever our intentions may be inside the walls of our churches, we are still a group of fallible human beings gathered together. This is one of the things I loved most about The Distance Between Lost and Found, it highlighted so eloquently that struggle between our human nature and our desire born out of faith to be better. Holmes doesn’t shy away from the idea that even in a church youth group real world dynamics are at play and horrible things happen. These teens grapple with the very same things that non-churched teens grapple with in a high school setting, they just happen to be doing it while on a church camping trip. But these questions are universal: Who am I? What do I believe? What’s my place in this universe? Or in this group? Or in this moment?

Two of my college friends were raped in the church by their Sunday school teachers. Different friends, different churches, different experiences. But in both of these cases, just like in the public school, a person that was entrusted with their care and growth violated that trust in horrific ways. They abused their power. They altered the landscape of their lives, they changed the trajectory of their paths. Things happen in the church and in church youth groups. Sometimes they are indisputable, as my friend’s stories are. Sometimes there is more nuance, as I would argue The Distance Between Lost and Found presents us with. But it is a real reminder that even in our church youth groups, we need to be talking with our teens about what real consent is and what it isn’t. Sexual education makes adults uncomfortable. We don’t want teens to be having sex so we think if we don’t talk about sex with them then they won’t have sex. But the truth is, some teens have sex. All teens think about sex. Even teens who practice any of the various religions out there. The best thing we can do for our teens, even the teens in our churches, is to talk to them about healthy sex and consent. We are losing far too many of our young people to sexual violence, and sometimes that sexual violence is occurring in our churches.

For more on Faith and Spiritulaity in YA Lit, check out our discussion hub here.

For more on Sexual Violence and Teens in YA Lit, check out the #SVYALit Project index here.

Talk about Sex, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

 Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about sex

Let’s Talk about Sex, Salt ‘n’ Pepa

I confess. I am not a parent. I have no kids. Never had, never attempted, never will. I have nieces and nephews scattered across the country, and I am a psuedo-parent to the teens and kids that come into my library. I check homework and I will throw them back to school if they try to skip a day and show up at the library.

However, I don’t need to be having sex talks with them. I realize that I may be the person they’re most comfortable with, but in all honesty, I am not the proper person to be having this conversation. Yes, I am more than knowledgeable about how things work. Yes, I am a trusted adult, and unless there is something going on that needs reporting I will keep confidences, but this should be a parent’s duty, not mine.

Please let me tell you, your tween and teen know about sex. Really, they do. NO, the public or school librarian is not handing out the books to them to corrupt their minds, nor did the 5th grade teacher who separated the outward genders for “the talk” start all the swirling in their heads.  The sex ed course that you could have opted your kid out of did not do it either, even with the banana.



Nope, it goes with all the hormones and flirting and media and music and everything else they’re surrounded with (you had it too, don’t deny it), and it starts younger and younger. They’re hearing about it from their friends, from conversations at school, from TV and radio and commercials. And they’re coming away confused if you’re not talking to them.

Remember that scene in Kindergarten Cop?

I’ve been the recipient of that conversation.With the 5 year old. And getting a crying 9 year old to let me know that her period showed up unexpectedly, and we called her parent, while I tried to answer questions without overstepping boundaries that should be the parents’. And having a pair of 15 year olds beg me to take them to the local drug store to buy a pregnancy kit.

If you think your kids are going to be safe in whatever bubble wrap you keep them in, I hate to tell you that you might be wrong.

From the Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health (June 2013) from the Guttmacher Institute:

By age 15, the % of teens who are having sex starts doubling:
 


And while use of contraceptives is increasing with first time sex, it’s not nearly enough:


And yes, I heard that “lovely” statistic where teen pregnancy rates are going down due to Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant on MTV.  However, take a look at where the pregnancy rates are highest- the abstinence only taught states for the most part.


So what do you do?

TALK TO YOUR KID, PEOPLE. PLEASE?!?!?! And not just a one time, awkward conversation but a real dialogue about what happens.


http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970204358004577032421571545382
Source: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970204358004577032421571545382

If you need resources there are plenty out there, even based on your own personal viewpoint:

Important facts to go over no matter what:

  • You will love your child no matter what action they choose
  • Everyone goes through changes, and what those changes are, and that this is NORMAL
  • No means no, and they are allowed to fight to defend themselves
  • Touching is only right when it is consensual- doesn’t matter if it’s hugs, kisses, or more
  • Peer pressure can be hard to resist, but it is ok to resist it.
  • Never leaving drinks unattended at parties
  • They can talk to you about anything at any time and there will be no judgement

Recommended books to share with your tweens and teens:

    Sherlocked: The Case for Irene Adler

    This week is Sherlock week at TLT.  In fact, today is considered Sherlock’s birthday.  So happy birthday Sherlock!  All this week we will be posting about the BBC show Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes the literary character, and mysteries in general.

    When you talk about Sherlock, whether in the stories, the TV series, or the movies, there are always four main people that come to my mind.

    Sherlock Holmes: BBC

    Doctor Watson: BBC

    Moriarty: BBC

    and Irene Adler: BBC


    I’ve read some of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the first one I ever read was A Scandal in Bohemia, where readers are introduced to Irene completely.

    To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer — excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

     In the books, she’s placed higher than the King in Sherlock’s mind, and it shows in that he keeps her photo (also shown in the Basil Rathbone series and in the more recent Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.) as a memento. She’s the only woman who’s beaten him- and one of five total. Impressive, brainy, and beautiful, she’s seen as a fitting equal in his eyes and could have been possibly the one.

    She does NOT use her sex (gender or sexy times) in order to get anywhere- she is an equal for anyone and everyone around her.

    Where did that get lost? Why is it in modern times writers are obsessed with sexualizing her? Why can’t she be brilliant and wonderful and beautiful without having to seduce to get things, or rely on trickery when she is just as brilliant a mastermind as Sherlock?

    Take the 2009 movie release of Sherlock Holmes. In the steampunky version with Downey Jr., Adler is played by Rachel McAdams. She a professional thief and has a long string of various divorces behind her (hinting at her activities in the bedroom and using her mind and her body to get things she needed). There is also a rather notorious scene where she’s in her hotel room changing into a nightgown in order to supposedly seduce Sherlock, and instead poisons him until morning, leaving him with the key under the pillow on his lap. She’s not in control, someone else is pulling the strings, and she is merely a puppet- using whatever she can (including her sex and her feelings) to get things accomplished.
     
    Sherlock Holmes, Warner Bros
    In CBS’s Elementary, it gets really fun because Adler is combined into…. well….  if you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to spoil it as it’s really interesting. Go find it and binge. Or if you want to, read here.
     
    CBS Elementary
     Still, there’s still not as much over the top sex and sexuality in either of those as there is with the dominatrix Adler in BBC’s Sherlock, who’s actually brilliantly played by Lara Pulver. 
     
    Irene Adler: BBC
    And she does play the role brilliantly, and is a wonderful foil for the social failure of Benedict’s Sherlock. Please go find the episode she’s in, because it’s an excellent set of twists and turns. However, with Adler being set as a dominatrix, she’s automatically set as an outcast sex worker (lower because she takes the “weird/kinky types” according to society), and she is either barely clothed or naked for a good portion of the episode. And again, she is not the one in control- someone else is.
     
    She is able to bring out, like John, a human side of Sherlock that the audience had yet to see, which is true to the Adler of Doyle’s stories. I just wish that it didn’t have to be all tangled up in the sex. There has to be a way to show a modern-day Irene Adler without the hidden (and not so hidden) sex in it, because while smart is sexy,
    sex is not the new smart.

    On the Megaphone: Double Standards in the World of Teens


    This is not going to be a shiny and happy post. If you need shiny and happy, click elsewhere. Christie has lost her shiny and happy right now, and there is not enough chocolate right now to bring it back.

    I am so sick and tired of double standards. I am tired of all that is wrong with the world, and I am really tired right now of yelling at it and it not fixing one damn thing.

    If you are a POC, you are NOT going to be represented in the media. At all. Hugo Schwyzer, a Pasadenda City College instructor and “internet-famous male feminist” has now admitted on Friday that he has been having SEX with his students (which, from statistics at PCC will likely be POC, as well as low socio-economic and/or new to the country). Not only THAT, he was CAUGHT in 1998 but WASN’T FIRED THEN. According to his claims, he “started again in 2008.” See here. Yet, if you Google search as of Sunday, September 8, only the local news and student reports are picking it up. WHY? Because it wasn’t white college kids. If it had been white college kids, it would have hit CNN, NBC, Post, Times, and everywhere else.

    This is the world that the kids I work with, and the kids I call my heart-kids live in every day. They are almost all POC, and they are all right now shiny and innocent, and when the world looks on them, they see someone not worthy. And it breaks my heart.

    And I haven’t even reached the idiodicy of the double standard of teenage sexuality.


    I’m not going to touch GLBTQ in this (I don’t have the energy in this post). I’m just talking straight male/female gender/sex.

    A mother somewhere posted on her family blog about how girls on her sons’ facebook pages shouldn’t post immodest pictures and profile pictures. I see what she’s trying to do, but what pisses me off is that instead of trying to reach out and minister, she starts throwing shame:

    know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel. Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t quickly un-see it?  You don’t want our boys to only think of you only in this sexual way, do you?

    Huh. Really? What about having a discussion at the family table about how NOT to look at girls at only that sexual way? I have a brother-in-law that is a minister, and I’m sure that he’s seen a bunch of immodest ‘selfies’ on Facebook, but I don’t think he thinks about those girls in only sexual ways.

    Have you looked at guys’ facebook ‘selfies’ (that is a stupid word, BTW)? My teens show off abs that they’ve been working on, side shots, profile shots and mugging in the mirror. A few of them could have been Treyvon Martin. My girls do duck faces and other faces. They’re TEENS. They have more access to instant social media that anyone before, and their brains are NOT COOKED. They think before they act. They’re flirting with each other online, and one picture does not a reputation make. If I was known by one stupid picture, I have many where I’m flipping off a camera about that age, but that was on FILM (where we couldn’t take it back and it got developed and then we got BUSTED for it).

    If we’re going to go after the girls for being sexual and exploring what it means to be BE a girl (which is what they’re supposed to be doing) and wanting them to be virginal in mind, then go after the BOYS as well, and make them be monks.

    Actually, why NOT start teaching boys and men not to think of women as sexual objects? And if they actually have to think about them that way (READ as sarcasm please) then how about learning SELF CONTROL? Because really, a 14 year old girl is not in control of her hormones any more than a 14 year old boy, yet for some reason girls are expected to be responsible for everything. The judges in Montana say so. A rapist gets 30 days in jail (correction: sentence currently in dispute) and the judge says that the 14 year victim was “older than her chronological age when it came to sexual matters.” Yeah. She killed herself in 2010 while awaiting this justice.

    How about instead of treating a teen like “boys will be boys” when they abuse/rape/violate a girl, have them take responsibility? So it doesn’t repeat again?
    And Again?
    And Again?
    Or when they rape/violate/abuse boys?


    I’m tired of yelling and not being heard. I will take up the megaphone again tomorrow.

    Take 5: Important Books on a Difficult Topic – Sexual Violence in the Lives of Teens

    When I lost my baby, I went into a deep, dark hole.  The only thing that helped me claw my way out of the darkness was to read books about other women having a miscarriage.  It helped me know that I wasn’t alone, that what I was feeling was perfectly normal, and that I could once again – one day – find my way into the light.  That is one of the magical powers of books, they hold our hand on a healing journey and they remind us that the world is big and there are others that do in fact understand what we are going through.  And if you haven’t been through it, they can help shed light on the feelings and emotions that those that have may be feeling.

    Statistics indicate that by the time they are 18 years old, 1 out of 3 (or 4) girls and 1 out of 5 boys will have experienced some type of sexual violence in their lives. A troubling statistic to be sure. One that needs to change, to zero.  But it also means that there is a need for books written for teens to include these types of horrific acts.  Not for shock value, but to be the books that remind those teens that they can claw their way out of the darkness.  And to remind those of us that work with and care about teens what their lives may be like, and the emotions that come with that.  As the mom of two little girls, my hope is that we will read these types of books, be horrified, and join together to work to make sure that no more children have to experience this type of abuse and the painful emotional after effects, emotions that can plague survivors for the rest of their lives.

    These are 5 books that I think we should all read, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.  Please note, if you click after the jump there will be spoilers for a couple of new titles.  Also, please be aware that the discussion of the titles and of course the titles themselves can be triggers.

    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

    Speak is one of the classics on this topic.  It is a haunting tale of the emotional after effects of one girls rape at a party.  So traumatized is she by what happens, she literally shuts down and loses her voice.  It is also about her slow journey to find herself again, and to speak up when the moment calls for it.  Laurie Halse Anderson is an advocate for rape victims and works with RAINN. 1999, Highly Recommended

    Fault Line by Christa Desir

    Although rape affects its victims greatly, it also affects those that love them.  Fault Line is unique in that it looks at how rape can affect those that love its victims, in this case the boyfriend.  Told entirely from the boyfriend’s point of view, we see guilt and the desire to rescue those we love as they spiral into the dark aftermath of rape.  Fault Line is also important because it reminds us that not all who are assaulted become quiet and withdrawn, sometimes they react by becoming promiscuous and trying to take control of their sexuality by having a lot of sexual experiences.  This is emotionally a very hard read, and it is very frank in its depiction of many sexual situations and strong emotions. It is a unique and important perspective. 2013, Recommended

    Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

    Callie has spent her life on the road fleeing with her mother, who kidnapped her from her father.  Along the way, her mother has had various men in her life, one of whom did horrible things to her.  Where the Stars Still Shine is a beautiful, moving portrait of the deep emotional effects of childhood abuse.  It is one of the most well developed emotional portraits I have read.  Like in Fault Line, Callie becomes promiscuous as a way to try to take control of her sexuality and to try and find the perfect healing sexual experience; It gives her a power over herself that this man in her past took away.  But unlike Fault Line, this story is told from the victim’s point of view so we get a deep, nuanced look into Callie’s psyche.  There is a scene where she freaks out during a sexual encounter because it triggers her that just rings truer than most scenes I have ever read.  It is also a book that leads Callie into a journey of healing as she finds people who truly love her.  As a side note, it is also a good depiction of mental illness (her mother).  Also, there are some disturbing, very realistic scenes that depict what has happened to Callie; though they are not graphic in their depiction, they are so spot on in capturing the terror and emotions.  2013, Highly Recommended

    Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

    There is a rape that occurs in this book, and it is disturbing.  Very disturbing.  But there are also two scenes of street harassment in this book.  On the surface, they don’t necessarily need to be in the book.  But I am glad that Fama included them because it is a powerful reminder of what life for many can be like, how they can have these totally random and unexpected moments where suddenly they find themselves in a perilous position being harassed and frightened by both people they know and complete strangers.  They are effective reminders of what life is like because they don’t need to be in the story, but they are.  Just as these moments shouldn’t be in the lives of our teens, but they are.  When we have written about street harassment here in the past we get a lot of comments from teens who tell us about how they are harassed while walking to and from school and sometimes even in their school hallways.  They way these scenes are included in Monstrous Beauty is a stark reminder of the reality of street harassment. 2012, Highly Recommended

    Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

    Sexual violence doesn’t just happen to girls.  Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a powerful story of the emotional effects of rape and sexual violence on a boy, Leonard.  Leonard sets out on his birthday to kill himself, but only after killing the boy who did something horrible to him.  There is a powerful scene where Leonard tells a teacher what happened and he looks at him and says, “You know that boys can be raped, too, don’t you?” (not an exact quote from the book, I don’t have it sitting in front of me).  In that moment he has put a name to that which Leonard could not. 2013, Highly Recommended

    In these books, the teens don’t always seek out help (in fact, they almost never do).  And the adults don’t always do the right thing.  But the power is in how well they capture the emotions.  And these are, of course, not the only titles on the subject; many would argue sometimes not even the best.  However, my goal is to capture a wide range of experiences and emotions to represent a wider view on the topic.  Share your thoughts in the comments.

    More on the Topic in Teen Issues:

    What It’s Like for a Girl: How Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama made me think about the politics of sexuality in the life of girls
    Sexual Assault Awareness Month, talking to teens about consent and rape part 1 and part 2
    Should there be sex in YA books? 
    Plan B: What Youth Advocates Need to Know 
    Because No Always Mean No, a list of books dealing with sexual assault
    Who Will Save You? Boundaries, Rescue and the Role of Adults in YA Lit.  A look at consent and respecting boundaries in relationships outside of just sex. 
    Incest, the last taboo
    This is What Consent Looks Like
    Street Harassment

    Things I Never Learned In Library School: Let’s Talk About SEX, Baby….


    I blame it on Parker Posey. I LOVE her as an actress and adore her films, but I swear I think everyone has secretly seen her in Party Girl and now thinks that the library is THE ultimate place to have sex. There is no other explanation. 

    In Party Girl, Mary (played by Parker Posey), gets arrested and has to call her godmother (a librarian) for bail money. The Godmother makes it a condition that Mary work in the library as a clerk to pay off the loan (and in the end, Mary decided that she wants to join the most awesome of professions, and become a librarian). In the middle of all this, Mary falls in love with Mustafa (played by Omar Townsend) and at one point they have wild sex in the Romance section of the library.

    Why else would people think that libraries are the perfect place to get their freak on…?

    CHAIRS ON THE PUBLIC FLOOR
    WHO: college students
    WHERE: comfy fabric covered chair facing a picturesque view outside, but still on the public floor in plain view of all
    WHAT: girl sitting on guy’s lap, skirt up, no underwear; guy with pants down, underwear down
    DISCOVERED BY: me
    ACTION: after they got dressed, taken to conference room separately for determination of ages to figure out if other laws were broken (statutory rape, etc), then sworn out criminal trespassing warnings

     
    CAR PARKED IN THE STAFF PARKING LOT
    WHO: adults
    WHERE: in a parked car in the staff parking area, with the seats laid back but in plain view of the security cameras
    WHAT: definitely intimate relations going on right before the library was to open, which causes an issue because the public book drop was right by the staff parking lot
    DISCOVERED BY: me
    ACTION: called police to ask them kindly to move their action away from the library and neighboring community center

     
    WOMEN’S PUBLIC RESTROOMS
    WHO: adults
    WHERE: stall of women’s public restroom
    WHAT: pretty sure intimate relations because the toilet came off the wall and crashed, the gentleman ran out of the room to wait for his companion and the lady waited a good while to compose herself in the second stall
    DISCOVERED BY: other staff members
    ACTION: building services called to address property damage, nothing said to patrons

    SELF GRATIFICATION DURING AN INTERNET SESSION
    WHO: adult
    WHERE: public computer terminal
    WHAT: patron was looking at personal ads that would not violate terms of computer internet usage while self gratifying underneath the table
    DISCOVERED BY: other staff members
    ACTION: session terminated, called into manager’s office, criminal trespass issued

    SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
    I hear that a lot- we’re in a public place- WHAT CAN WE DO?
    First, know the laws of your state: what is considered public indecency, what is considered porn, whether you’re considered a mandatory reporter, what is considered statutory rape, etc. 
    Second, know your library’s policies: what are the steps for dealing with someone looking at porn, for having sex in the corner, for kissing or having a higher level of PDA? Does your system issue criminal trespasses for those who violate library procedures on this level?
    Third, know what your management will back you up on. It may seem like splitting hairs between knowing the policy and what your management will tolerate, but in some systems there can be a vast difference. Some managers (and they are the bad ones) will not want to be bothered with the “headache” or the “issue.”
    Fourth, know what you’re comfortable handling and know what your boundaries are. If you’re not comfortable addressing someone doing things, KNOW THAT and then figure out a plan for when that might occur.  Remember, it’s not only you but also your staff and coworkers who are ensuring that the library is a safe place. That means making sure that there is someone walking the floors- not just making sure that everyone is finding what they need, but also scouting those weird corners that you can’t see but everyone knows about. It means making sure to get training for everyone on how to increase awareness of what goes on around them- not just zoning in on the reference or information desk. It means making sure that your staff talks- with the shift towards more part-time staff, not everyone may know that a certain patron was removed on Monday, and when they try to come back on Thursday, they may not know to call the police and enforce the criminal trespass order.
    So what did we do?
    For the college kids, it was just a matter of approaching them, then getting them separated, then calling the cops, because they violated the decency laws. For the adults in the car, we didn’t know what was in the car with them, so the best option was calling the police. For the bathroom, no one caught them doing anything- all we heard was the toilet crashing down. For the self-gratifier, someone came to us reporting it, so we had a “computer glitch” that killed the sessions, and as we brought the system back up, a male staff member took him into the manager’s office to await the police we had already called.

    Have you had people getting too sexy for the library? Share your experience in the comments….

    That Time Matt Smith Perpetuated Street Harassment Culture at Comic Con 2013

    Please read this note about the comments:  I wrote this post with the intention that we would consider how we talk to and about people, and that we consider doing so with respect.  I ask that if you comment, that you please comment respectfully.  Comments calling people or people groups names, using curse words, etc. will be deleted. (Note added 7/23/2013)

    Fan: What would you like to do before you die?

    Matt Smith: To start with, Jennifer Lawrence
    (referenced multiple times on Tumblr)

    Screen Shot of This Blog is a Mess at http://aldrineriksen.tumblr.com/post/55992976129  7/22/2013 9:24 AM
     Dear Matt Smith,

    I have a bone to pick with you.  To begin with, you should know that I only learned who you were about a month ago when my two daughters and I started watching Doctor Who this summer.  We immediately became immersed in this wonderful story of a man, well alien really, who had tremendous integrity, valued life and people, and did hard things at often great personal cost to himself because they were the right things to do.  After a few episodes it became clear that this was a show that we could all watch and enjoy as a family, and we did.

    Let me take a moment and tell you a little bit about what it is like to be a woman raising two daughters.  My goal is to help create a culture, an environment, where my daughters can walk safely down the street without being hooted and hollered at by men who feel that they can yell out that they want to “do” them because by golly, they have seen something they like and they are entitled to objectify and harass my daughters because – well – they want to.  I want my daughters to be judged not by their bodies, but by the body of their work.  Not by how they look, what lust they might inspire in a man, but who they are as a person.  And I want the men in this world to grow up understanding that all human beings, including female ones, have the right to walk around the world freely without fear of cat calling, whistling, being fondled, or being raped simply because that is what a man wants (and vice versa). 

    So here you sit, a popular cultural figure on one of the world’s biggest stages and you were asked a question: “What would you like to do before you die?”  And you response, “To start with, Jennifer Lawrence.”  That is, at least, how you are being quoted around the Internet.  Not that you wanted to do a movie with Jennifer Lawrence, or to do lunch with Jennifer Lawrence.  No, you wanted to “do” Jennifer Lawrence.  Maybe you don’t know how this can be interpreted, but I can assure you after having worked with teenagers for 20 years now that everyone understood you to be saying that your first goal of things you would like to do before dying is to have sex with Jennifer Lawrence.  Wanting to “do” someone is dripping with sexual innuendo.  And in making this statement, you objectified a talented, hardworking actress and reinforced a lifetime of cultural norms that suggest to girls that they are nothing more than objects put on this Earth to satisfy the sexual desires of men.  You also reinforced the cultural norms that suggest that men are nothing more than an animilistic set of base desires that can hardly be contained.  Basically, your answer did no one any favors.

    Here’s the rub: You definitely have a right to answer the questions anyway you would like.  It is your life, they are your last dying wishes after all.  But I would hope that you would come to understand that words have meanings.  These words are all over the Internet.  Fans of yours, of the Doctor Who universe, are reading them and taking them in and they see it as someone they look up to reinforcing this notion.  While we read in the news about rapes taking place in Steubenville and gang rapes taking place in Texas, we are asking ourselves: How can we change the culture so that woman are safe and the landscape of our lives, our cultural legacy, is something other than the fact that men and women are getting raped at all, let alone at such alarming rates?  Part of the answer is that we must take responsibility for our actions, learn to control our desires.  But the other part of our answer is that we must stop objectifying people and instead begin to see them as fully formed and worthy human beings.  Not simply bags of flesh that we can use to satisfy our sexual urges or that we can demean so that we have more power or a greater sense of self.

    Many people will think that you paid Jennifer Lawrence a tremendous compliment in your answer.  Some will say you were simply trying to be funny.  Others will realize that you stripped her away of all her hard work and accomplishments, demeaned her, and reduced her to a physical object.  Imagine what a different impact you would have had if you had chosen to say before you died you wanted to make great art, or to learn new things, or to make the world a better place.  But no, your first desire was to “do” Jennifer Lawrence. You were basically engaging in a large scale moment of Street Harassment.  Street Harassment is “any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing and is motivated by gender or sexual orientation.”  (from StopStreetHarassment.org)  You took the stage and perpetuated a culture that others are working tirelessly to end because it harms others.  Teenage boys hanging their heads out their car windows telling women on the street that they “want to do them” will think nothing of it because, well, Matt Smith did it at Comic Con and everyone thought it was cool.  Bow ties are cool, street harassment is not.

    I get that you are not the doctor, you are Matt Smith.  But I think we can all learn a lot from the Doctor.  And the first thing we should all learn from the Doctor is that people are more than simply beings that you want to “do”.  Perhaps you said it best in the character of the Doctor:

    “Nobody important? Blimey, that’s amazing. Do you know, in nine hundred years of time and space I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”
    The Eleventh Doctor, A Christmas Carol

    Plan B: What Teen Advocates Need to Know

    As of this writing, a federal appeals court has put a hold on the previous ruling, which would allow over the counter access to Plan-B, also known as “the morning after pill”, to people fifteen years old and older as opposed to seventeen and older as was the previous decision.  Regardless of how this issue plays out in the coming days and months, the increased publicity about the issue is undoubtedly bringing a greater awareness of this emergency contraception option to teens.  Here are some things those of us working with teens should know.

    • Teens who may be seeking Plan-B due to sexual violence or an unwanted sexual encounter can get help from the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network by phone or online. (Source: http://apps.rainn.org/ohl-bridge/)
    • Teens who are under 17 are able to get Plan-B with a prescription from their health care provider.  (Source: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/emergency-contraception-morning-after-pill-4363.asp)
    • A previous ruling would have allowed people fifteen and over to purchase Plan-B over the counter, but as of this writing, fifteen and sixteen year olds are not permitted to do so.
    • Both men and women are allowed to buy Plan-B. (Source: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/emergency-contraception-morning-after-pill-4363.asp)
    • Plan-B is most effective if it is taken as soon after the concerning sexual encounter as possible.  (Source: http://www.teenclinic.org/about/get-healthy/emergency-contraception-plan-b/)
    • Plan-B has been called “safe and effective[…] for all females of childbearing potential” by FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD. (Source: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/ucm282805.htm)
    • Teens seeking information on contraception will find information and resources here: http://www.stayteen.org/birth-control-101
    • Plan-B works by either delaying ovulation or by interfering with implantation.  It is similar to birth control pills in makeup as it includes a synthetic form of progesterone.  (Source: http://women.webmd.com/guide/plan-b)
    • Plan-B is not the same as a medical abortion, in which the drug causes a separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. (Source: http://women.webmd.com/mifepristone-and-misoprostol-for-abortion)
    • Plan-B is not the only emergency contraception option, but it is the only one available, even in a limited way, over the counter.  Ella and Next Choice are available only through a prescription.  A copper IUD (Paragard) can also be inserted as an EC measure.  This must be done by a medical professional.  (Source: http://www.hhs.gov/opa/reproductive-health/contraception/emergency-contraception/)
    Three Good Books on Teen Sexual Health
    This is a hefty resource that covers it all in a very thorough, well researched manner.  Both students doing reports and teens seeking information of a personal nature will benefit from this volume.
    More approachable than the above text, this addresses a broad scope of issues on a clear, conversational tone.
    Sex: A Book For Teens, (Zest, 2010)
    “An uncensored guide to your body, sex, and safety.” Frank and humorous, the cover art may titillate teens into picking it up, but the core information will be even more satisfying.
    -Heather

    Malinda Lo on Two Boys Kissing (coming in the fall from David Levithan)

    I just stumbled across this excellent post from Malinda Lo and wanted to make sure everyone reads it.  The most interesting part to me was in the comments where she discusses how few GLBTQ titles are actually being published.  Read the post here: http://www.malindalo.com/2013/03/on-two-boys-kissing/

    Coming in the fall

    What do you think of the cover for David Levthan’s new book?  What do you think of Malinda Lo’s post?  Talk with us in the comments.
    More on Sex and Sexuality on TLT:  

    Sunday Reflections: If Sex Sells, part II – the curious case of the movies

    You know you read all the good parts

    A couple of Sundays ago, I wrote a piece called Sex Sells . . . But What are We Selling?  Here, I talked about my concerns about 1) are women really in control or are men still controlling the message and women being fooled into thinking they are empowered when they use sex to sell their brand and 2) how these messages effect self-esteem.  Christie then wrote about the same subject from the viewpoint of guys, who are definitely also being bombarded by these same types of messages.  But then a curious thing happened: I stumbled across this article on Entertainment Weekly: Hollywood sex? Does it still sell?


    Apparently, there is a real lack of sex in the movies we are watching, although I really hadn’t realized it.  In part, I think, because although there may be less sex in the movies, there is definitely more sex on TV, whether or not it be suggested at in your TV commercials (yes, I’m still complaining about the Carls Jr. ads) or on your premium cable channels (and yes, I’m talking to you Game of Thrones and Girls).  And what are we to blame for this lack of sex in our movies? The Internet and teenage boys apparently. We all know that the Internet has made it really easy to get access to pornography, so there is less motivation for us to shell out $14.00 to go see it in the theater while surrounded by others.  Apparently now we want big explosions, the bigger the better.  As someone with a love for disaster movies, I am all for this.  Yes, I did actually pay to see 2012 in the movie theaters.  And I will stop and watch every. single. disaster movie on SyFy.

    As for teenage boys, well, that part didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  But I do see how making a movie rated R is already limiting your audience, thus limiting your incomes so going for a PG-13 makes sense from a financial point of view.  Hopefully, it makes sense from an artistic point of view.  

    Speaking of premium TV channels, the HBO series Girls may have taken the onscreen sex a little too far if you pay any attention to popular culture news.  On last Sunday’s episode, there was an encounter that may or may not be construed as rape, a topic that I care a lot about in the media and our culture as well.  I can’t actually comment on the episode because when I tried to watch a rerun of the episode to decide for myself, I had to change the channel.  Slate ran a play by play of the scene (very disturbing and descriptive, be forewarned) and then Salon had an article discussing the idea of consent asking the question, “Can rape be stopped?“.  For a while, it seemed like sexual assault was a disturbing trend in the ya titles I was reading, and it is definitely a huge cultural discussion happening right now.  Whether it be discussing the military, rape culture, or teenage boys in Ohio, it is clear that the time is right now to be discussing how we can change our culture and help keep women safe.

    As a teen service’s librarian, I have to wrestle with the ambiguities of sex in the lives of teenagers every day.  Because biology is cruel, hormones start kicking in at the beginning of the teenager years (although approximately 25% of teenage girls may see them kicking in as young as 9), and yet adults, understandably, want teens to be sheltered.  Which brings us to the all important question: should there be sex in ya literature?  And the uncomfortable answer is, yes, sometimes.  Because a portion of our teens are having sex, we need to be honest about it in the literature.  I don’t think it needs to be graphic, but if we are going to write honest stories about the lives of teens then they sometimes have to have sex.

    Sex is a tricky business when it comes to art.  It is part of the human experience, but it is generally considered private and often taboo.  But since art is supposed to reflect life, and make us think about it, it is hard to avoid the topic.  Even for teenagers.  Especially for teenagers sometimes.

    And here’s my huge confession.  Do you know what I was doing in the 6th grade?  Why, I was reading Forever by Judy Blume.  Not all of it actually, just the pages that my friend had marked and told me to read.  And Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews.  I did actually read all of that one and ewwwwwww.  My point? It’s not actually a new phenomenon.  And for the record, I totally remember watching Risky Business, the movie that they mention in our original Entertainment Weekly article.  Which leaves me thinking, it appears that the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High wouldn’t even get made today, which is too bad because that movie actually made me think about things in meaningful ways and examine lives that were very different than mine.  And that is the point of storytelling, no matter what form it takes.