Thursday, October 26, 2006

Borders chastised for rejecting teenage sex book

The Book Standard (BS) has a news story about its own columnist, Jessa Crispin -- who also runs a blog called Bookslut (honest!) -- that seems to imply that she's taking a terribly brave stand by chiding Borders for not carrying a book called Pop! According to the BS:

The book, which has enjoyed a generally good critical reception, concerns a seventeen-year-old virgin and her quest to have sex; it is deliberately reminiscent of the work of one particularly revered young-adult novelist. [Aury] Wallington [the author of Pop!] tells Crispin that she "wanted to write a book that would serve a new generation of girls the way Judy Blume's Forever served me—answering questions that I was too embarrassed to ask anyone, and showing the emotional issues of sex and virginity through a character I could identify with." Wallington believes the young-adult section is in need of books like hers, precisely because it doesn't oversimplify teenage sexuality.

I could give the BS a hard time for treating its own columnists as news, but that's too easy. Let's just deal with Jessa.

Her editorial starts out by calling Wallington a "promising writer who finds herself at a huge disadvantage...because one of the largest bookstore chains in America is refusing to stock her book." She then goes on to quote a Borders representative who gives a non-specific response, prompting Jessa to encourage the reader to infer that the decision was made because the book is about teenage sex.

Finally, Jessa quotes Wallington as saying, "I've been so pleased with the reaction I've gotten to Pop!, both from readers and organizations like Planned Parenthood (which is running an interview with me about both the book and the issues surrounding sex and virginity on its website, that I was surprised and disheartened to learn that Borders won't be carrying it..." [emphasis added]

First, Borders' decision may have had nothing to do with the book's subject. I can tell you from my own experience as a publisher that Borders is very selective. They usually buy fewer initial copies than Barnes & Noble (and sometimes Amazon) for most new books, and instead watch for sales momentum before placing future orders. It's quite possible that Borders looked at the competition in the competitive Young Adult category and decided to pass.

Second, so what if Borders' decision had something to do with the book's subject? I say "Bravo." Pop culture today already bombards our children with sexual imagery from all sides, and Borders is a private organization that has the right to decide which products it wants to sell on its shelves. If they decided to pass on a book that encourages teenagers to have sex, so much the better.

Third, if abortion-provider Planned Parenthood (which received $272 million in federal funds this year) likes Pop! so darn much, why don't they tell their supporters to stop defacing pro-life signs in South Dakota and go order copies to hand out at the local high school? After all, encouraging teenage sex is a good way for Planned Parenthood to drum up future clients.



  • The interesting thing I find out Borders decision is that they will carry racy YA material... if it promises to sell enough. If Pop generates enough publicity because of their decision not to carry it, they'll probably order some copies. It's an interesting cycle. But they're notoriously nervous about sexual content for YA books, but not when it is wholly unrealistic and glamorized in books like Gossip Girl. But why should they be? Those sell.

    Planned Parenthood is not behind the book because they want to encourage teenage sex. They like the book's accurate depiction of losing your virginity. I would also just like to point out that Planned Parenthood does not just provide abortions -- they provide breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, birth control, preventive care, etc.

    - Jessa

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:24 PM  

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