Feature

Libraries vs. Fifty Shades of Grey: The war on 'mommy porn'

Book lenders in at least three states are removing the hit erotic novel from their shelves — despite an overwhelming demand from readers

Readers in Florida will have to get their mommy porn fix elsewhere now that some public libraries in the Sunshine State, as well as in Georgia and Wisconsin, have banned the immensely popular erotic thriller Fifty Shades of Grey from their shelves. Half-jokingly referred to as "mommy porn," the sexually explicit book follows a young, virginal post-grad as she is romanced by a handsome, rich entrepreneur with a fetish for whips, ropes, and sex toys. "It's semi-pornographic," said a spokesperson for a Florida library that pulled copies of the book — disappointing the 200 people who were on the waiting list to read it. Fifty Shades of Grey publisher Random House accuses these libraries of "indulging in an act of censorship." Are they? 

We should all be outraged: When school boards ban classics like, say, The Catcher in the Rye, protests always follow, says Mack Rawden at Cinema Blend. But judging from the reaction to this case, when mommy porn is banned, "it's apparently funny or not worth taking seriously." We shouldn't shrug this off simply because the intended audience is "50-year-old women" looking for a sexually escapist read. "Their rights are worth protecting just as much as anyone else's."
"Why libraries banning Fifty Shades of Grey isn't funny"

And libraries are only hurting themselves: This book is phenomenally popular, says Maressa Brown at The Stir. "People who may not have made time to read in years are picking up this series," and that should make librarians "jump for joy." Remember, libraries across the country are being shuttered as the book industry goes digital and Americans read less and less. The least these establishments can do is prove they are still relevant by stocking the one book that people are clamoring to read. Refusing to do so is "a tremendous mistake."
"Libraries banning Fifty Shades of Grey are only hurting themselves"

Clearly, a double standard is at play: This isn't just censorship, says Frank Nappi at Good Reads. It's hypocrisy. The same libraries that are banning Fifty Shades carry copies of Lolita, one of the 20th century's most controversial and explicit books. Of course, books with "complex and controversial themes that stir us" are often the ones with the most value, as they challenge our preconceptions. The illicit romance between a co-ed and a business tycoon may not be everyone's thing, but banning it isn't right, and sets a worrying precedent. "What standard is being followed?"
"50 shades of censorship" 

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