Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hey Carl Sommer: If You're Scared of the Truth, Don't Read This!

You know what happens when you work in a library?  Occasionally, publishers will send books your way, usually in the hopes that you will put it on your shelf and then buy more.  Today, the Gods of Snail Mail sent me something truly...jaw dropping.  Behold:

Initially, I was moste amused.   Because you know?  This book is ridiculous.  Absolutely ludicrous, and unfortunately exactly what you'd expect a free book promoting (nay, trumpeting) abstinence to be like.  It has a chapter titled 'Why Men Won't Buy the Cow," and the jacket promises to tell me all about "Why today's youth aren't animals."  The section on porn?  Let me just feed you a quotation:

 Beware! Don't get hooked on pornography! Avoid sexually active friends...The key - Flee from it; never get started.  Pornography has destroyed many marriages and families.  Some men are so addicted that they'll risk their jobs surfing the Web for pornography.  Remember, pornography is built on lies.  Don't feed your mind on this unrealistic fantasy that can destroy your future (p. 64).
Yep, those are actual words printed in an actual book, not up on the internets. Careful, don't choke on that big dose of helpful advice!

I do strongly agree that many viewpoints should be available in a library; promoting freedom of speech and allowing people the opportunity to access to the information used to form their own opinions is one of the most important things we can do as librarians.  But you know what?  I don't have to agree with all of the opinions, though I respect their right to exist.   I truly, madly, deeply disagree with this particular argument in this book (and kind of in general, but that's a whole other fish to fry).  And furthermore, after flipping through the book, in this case I feel very strongly that the veracity of this book should one hundred percent be called into question.

Now, I haven't read the whole thing.  I skimmed.  But you know what has been consistently catching my eye?  Aside from the stank of the uber-in-your-face agenda and cheesy after-school-special worst case scenarios that lead off most chapters, the blatant sexism comes to mind.  Above, note that the porno-paragraph is not in any way gender neutral.  Nor, I assure you, is that whole chapter.  But what really got me going, nay, almost enraged me?  This paragraph, in a chapter called 'Myths and Truths," and ironically on page 69:

 The Sexually Liberated
Some of the sexually active are proud and freely talk about their sexual encounters and their failed love affairs.  Today's culture has resulted in many women becoming sexually coarsened and aggressive.  These so called "sexually liberated women" are unashamed of their sexual exploits and freely discuss them.  They ridicule virgins and consider themselves hip and cool.

Some sexually liberated women talk on TV about their ex's (ex-husbands) as if nothing happened.  Don't believe it.  Hidden behind their beautiful smiles are agonizing tears and heartaches from their search for lasting love and the man of their dreams.  It's time for those who believe in abstinence from all sexual activities until marriage to stand up for their convictions and not be ashamed or intimidated.
I mean, COME ON.  There are so many things wrong with this that I could probably write an entire book in response.   Wipe up your agonizing tears, ladies.  Go get a loofa and scrub off that coarsened skin that marks you as big dirty slut!  And don't even think about hugging, you predator you, unless of course you consider yourself to be hip and cool.

Mr. Sommer, let me teach you a lesson.  That right there?  That is called OPINION.  If you are going to claim this book is THE TRUTH in giant letters on your cover, you best not fill your book with statements that are at best, vitriolic, misogynistic OPINIONS. 

In a big fat shocking twist, this book falsely gives the idea that if you are a man that has sex with another man you will probably get AIDS and die.  Condoms, you see, don't exist in this book.  Nor do lesbians!  And while yes, statistically speaking the number of gay men who have HIV/AIDS is higher than other populations, to mislead the reader in such a way calls into question the whole "Medical Information Reviewed for Accuracy by The Medical Institute for Sexual Health," disclaimer on the cover.  If you are truly an organization presenting medical facts in the hopes of promoting abstinence, shame on you, Medical Institute for Sexual Health for putting your seal on something so completely skews the medical facts.  And by the way, no comment on the completely horrid, totally biased and one dimensional chapter on abortion; I'm too busy choking on my own vomit and horror.  I'd call this a case of the terribles, but it's really more terrible than comical.  

As I said, I have no problem putting books with arguments I don't agree with in my library.  But I do have a problem with any book conveys speculation and opinion as fact; I'd much rather fact that rhetoric.  Am I acting as a censor?  Maybe.  But when I come across a well-written, thoughtful, medically accurate book that avoids misogyny, sexism, and vast generalization, I'll gladly put it on my library's bookshelf, right next to my books on safe sex. 

Here's a surprise for you, Advance Publishing: I will not be putting this in my library, though I may continue reading so that I can write you a strongly worded letter.  Thanks for the book though; I think it'll make a rather excellent gag gift.  


MsJess said...

Carl also graced my library with his foul book (and apparently he takes vanity publishing to a new level, he owns a whole vanity press complete with a catalog of over a hundred books he wrote himself.)

I also found the sexism rampant. I rather hated how onus of being a abstinent was entirely placed on the woman

PaperblogPrincess said...

He takes the concept of vanity to a whole other level in his bio too. It's kind of a completely self-involved gem. I wouldn't expect anything less from the man behind "Another Sommer-Time Story"(trade marked, OBVI.).

Carolyn said...

I work in a high school library and was also blessed to receive this book as a freebie. All I had to read was the back cover to know it belonged in the trash. Thanks for validating my decision!

I especially mourn all the trees that died to produce this piece of junk.

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