August 21, 2006

Public library to pull progressive magazine from shelves, calling it 'pornography'

by Bob Cuddy
Local libraries pull 'explicit' magazine

Librarians stash or trash an issue of HopeDance that’s ‘dedicated to sex’; publisher says he’ll sue

The county’s library director has ordered librarians to remove the August edition of HopeDance magazine from library shelves because the issue is "dedicated to sex," features local artist Mark Bryan’s painting of a nude woman on its cover and has sexual graphics inside.

HopeDance magazine, which calls itself a progressive or green magazine that has been publishing 10 years, routinely goes to libraries’ shelves with other free publications. But in a July 13 letter to librarians, library Director Brian Reynolds wrote that he is "not comfortable having this particular issue" on the free shelves. He asked librarians at the county’s 15 branches to recycle it.

"Take a look at it, as well, and you’ll see why I am concerned," Reynolds wrote.

The free bimonthly publication has the painting "Venus and the Burning Temples" on its front page and headlines promoting stories inside devoted to "Public Masturbators," "Female Sexual Dysfunctions?" "Pornography: Beyond Right & Wrong," and other subjects related to sexuality.

Reynolds could not be reached this week, but Deborah Graf, acting assistant library director, called the issue "fairly sexually explicit" and said it went against the library’s desire to be family- oriented. She said some parents had complained.

Graf said she did not know how many librarians simply put the magazine out of public view and how many destroyed it.

That’s a number HopeDance publisher Bob Banner would like to have, because he said he will sue the county for removing the magazine. He said it costs money to print and distribute, and when copies are destroyed not only does he lose money but advertisers suffer.

Banner said Reynolds could have called and asked him to remove this month’s magazine. The publisher distributes 12,000 to 15,000 copies of each issue in four counties and could have put the library copies elsewhere, he said.

Banner said he spoke to Reynolds, who told him he was worried about adolescents’ reactions to the magazine. But, Banner said, much of the HopeDance information that makes Reynolds uncomfortable can be found in materials already on shelves at the library.

When asked for comment by The Tribune, First Amendment advocate and retired Cal Poly professor Laurence Houlgate said he’s worried about censoring anything in the public library "that does not meet the very strict constraints" set by the Miller test. That stems from a 1970s Supreme Court case and helps determine what can be considered obscene material, he said.

"Unless it actually constitutes pornography under the Miller standard, I don’t see how or what would justify its (removal)," Houlgate said. "The First Amendment of the Constitution has got to be interpreted very broadly. We have to be careful how we censor reader material and how we censor people’s thoughts."

Houlgate, who has not seen HopeDance’s August edition, said that if it has any socially redeeming aspect, the Miller test would not consider it pornography.

Banner said he has long wanted to do an issue about sexuality. In his introduction, he writes that the August edition is "packed with articles that are fresh, disturbing, funny, probing at the unusual, and alive with what it means to have a body embedded with desire and spiritual yearning dancing together in its beautiful chorus called humanity."

He said HopeDance’s underlying theme is sustaining the planet, adding that its audience may be people who are upset with what is happening in the world, or looking for something different than what the mainstream media provide.

HopeDance magazine often has an environmental and/or political focus and Banner says the next issue, now in preparation, will deal with global warming and oil.

Staff writer Larissa Van Beurden-Doust contributed to this report.
A blurb in the Utne Reader about the issue of Hope Dance
In an attempt to confront, and seemingly disestablish, the "very limited monoculturalist view of sex" that's brewing in the United States, the July/August edition of HopeDance throws the doors of sexuality wide open. No subject is too risqué for these pages: sacred prostitutes, a farmer's land buzzing with reproductive frenzy, a woman who's had enough with public masturbators. Also included are editorials on pornography, later-in-life intimacy, and much more. By and large, pieces avoid mining for shock value, focusing instead on presenting information and stories frankly, showcasing examples of how they'd like to see sexual discussion evolve. -- Rachel Anderson


Post a Comment

<< Home