Dickinson Public Library to offer controversial teen sex book
A sexually-explicit graphic novel will soon sit on a Dickinson Public Library shelf aimed at teenagers and including graphic illustrations of sex acts, ‘kink’, descriptions of sexting, pornography, masturbation and more.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story contains excerpts of sexually explicit materials and deals with sexually related topics.
DICKINSON — Dickinson Public Library administrators confirmed they are considering soon adding a controversial teen book to their catalog. The graphic, cartoon illustrated book, “Let’s talk about it: a teen’s guide to sex, relationships and being a human” has garnered both public support and condemnation across the country for its sexually-explicit graphic illustrations of sex acts, ‘kink’, descriptions of sexting, pornography, masturbation and more.
The book, written by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, includes hundreds of nude illustrations depicting sexual activity and advises young readers on a variety of sexual related topics and questions.
Controversy surrounding the book has reached North Dakota, where in Valley City in mid-September the book gained the public’s attention and resulted in widely attended public meetings, both in support and admonishment of the book.
In Dickinson, according to the library’s website, the controversial book is tentatively classified under five different genres, including “young adult literature” and “educational comics.”
As a publicly funded library, the Dickinson Public Library is part of the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) partnership between this library system and others across the nation — including public school systems.
WHAT IS IN THE BOOK?
A message on the first page reads, “To whoever needs it, whatever your age,” and is followed by a table of contents that lays out the book’s sections by topic. The chapters include, “masturbation," "kinks, fantasies and porn,” “Climax,” “Sexting,” among several others.
The book includes an illustration in the pornography chapter of “Let’s talk about it,” on page 165, which depicts a naked man performing fellatio on another naked man with a caption that reads, in part, “watching pornography uncritically can leave you with unrealistic expectations about what to do in the bedroom, so do yourself a favor and consume with a hefty grain of salt.”
The book includes several thorough demonstrations of what masturbation is and how to perform it, noting that girls should, “circle your fingers around and over your cl**. Give it a couple quick pats!”
Another cartoon caption discusses sexually transmitted diseases, noting that the “majority of STIs are treatable and, if caught early, no biggie.”
The book covers the topic of polyamory, stating that romance comes in “different flavors” with “no wrong choices” while explicitly rejecting the binary concept of gender.
“Traditionally (gender) has been seen as a binary with just two options, masculine or feminine, but it’s much more like a spectrum, with many different possibilities,” the book states.
LOCAL REACTIONS TO THE BOOK
Library Director Rita Ennen, speaking to The Dickinson Press, expressed confidence that the book will complete its content review and be placed on the library's shelves in the very near future. According to Ennen, the Dickinson Public Library seeks to provide patrons with as many literary options as possible.
“The only question there would be about it, honestly, at this point would be whether it gets shelved with adult material, or with the younger adult materials. So that's what we're looking at,” Ennen said. “Our book selection process is that we order books that are either requested by the public, or we have seen multiple reviews recommending them.”
Ennen conceded that although the library has delineated sections, there is no control mechanism to prevent minors from accessing age restricted sections of the library, and that young children are free to peruse the entirety of the library's contents.
“I've been involved with intellectual freedom issues for a long time. So I will just tell you what I always tell people, as a parent, it is your right, it is your privilege, and it's your responsibility to be aware of what your kids have. It's your responsibility to do that for your child, but not for anyone else,” Ennen said.
The Press reached out for comments from Dickinson City Commissioners. When asked Friday for his thoughts on the book, Mayor Scott Decker said he was unaware of the book and wanted to find out more before addressing the matter.
“I was unaware that this literature was in our public library. I would say it would probably not be appropriate to have it in a public library where it's not monitored, where parents don't know what their children have access to,” Decker said. “So until I can investigate further to see why library staff needed it to be in our library, I really don't have any further comments.”
Decker said he believes the city government must allow consenting adults the freedom to behave as they please, within the confines of the law, and balance that responsibility with protecting the innocence of children.
“There's a lot of different individuals with different lifestyles in the city of Dickinson,” Decker said. “I just think when it comes to children, we need to be a little bit more careful with some of the items that they're exposed to. Youth are very impressionable, and we just need to make sure that agendas are not being pushed from any side.”
Ennen added that there is a process for citizens to file complaints and that copies of the form are provided for patrons to expressly request to have an item relocated to a different section or removed from the collection entirely.
Dickinson City Commissioner John Odermann said “Let’s talk about it” is not a book that he would allow his children to read, but defended the library director’s decision to order it.
“Parents are and should be the primary educators for their children. There are plenty of people who think that the Bible is a dangerous or disturbing book. Should we pay heed to them and get rid of that book and get rid of all the Bibles or religious books that might be in the library as well on the shelf?” Odermann said. “That is the dangerous, slippery slope, we might be going down here. Words have power. And I would suggest that we spend more time considering the power of our words when it comes to policing ideas, and potentially censoring ideas and putting the onus back on personal responsibility; and not make our librarians, who don't get paid a lot at all, lives harder by stirring up hatred and vitriol towards them.”
He added that he hopes library staff will restrict who can check out the teen sex guide.
“I would hope that our librarians are doing their due diligence and making sure that this is borrowed out to people of an appropriate age,” he said.
Odermann also chided The Press for reporting on the book, suggesting that the newspaper should instead devote more attention and resources to covering matters of greater public importance.
“I'm disappointed in the fact that The Press is spending so much time looking into the card catalog at the library for disturbing books that you guys have found, but you're not spending a lot of time looking into the disturbing reality of the fact that we have a county commissioner having an admitted affair with the county sheriff,” Odermann said. “You’re not putting any pressure on the county to actually have an investigation into their relationship.”
The Press reported on the concerns raised by Odermann on Sept. 8, and Press Staff have spoken with multiple sources in a continued investigation related to the matter with both state and local entities and officials. A follow-up on that story is tentatively scheduled to be forthcoming.
On Monday morning, The Press spoke with Dickinson City Commissioner Jason Fridrich, who said he would look into the matter and offer comment, but he could not be reached subsequently. Multiple attempts to reach Commissioners Suzi Sobolik and Robert Baer for comment were unsuccessful.
The Dickinson Public Library Board meets on the second Tuesday of every month. Their next public meeting will begin at 4 p.m. on Oct. 11. The library is located at 139 3rd St. W. and library administrators can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 701-456-7700.