Monday, February 7, 2011

Castration Celebration!

Castration Celebration, a new novel by Jake Wizner (author of Spanking Shakespeare) is becoming a source of controversy in libraries across North America and in the UK.  While not officially censored or taken out of any libraries as of yet (that I know of) there are a number of instances being reported on listservs in which administrators are attempting to remove the book from Teen Fiction sections and move it into Adult Fiction.  Why, you ask?  Because of apparent inappropriateness for its intended age group due to sexuality and language.  I think it's safe to say that the majority of books out there for teens and young adults deal with sexuality and subjects that parents might consider "inappropriate."  But does that mean the subjects are actually inappropriate?  Or just that the parents perceive the material as inappropriate?  Either way, the books are out there, and they are for teens, and about teens, and teens should be able to have access to them.

The first problem I have with this situation is the fact that not a single instance of this re-categorization has been spawned by a parental or teen complaint, but from library administrators.

The second problem with this is that the book is being considered inappropriate for its intended audience.  Well, let the audience decide that, then.  If the book is written for older teens, then let those teens bring forward the complaints.  And if the book is inappropriate for younger readers, then they will either put the book back, or enjoy it.  In either case, the library is responsible for keeping the books available for their intended audiences so that they are accessible, not hidden in the "wrong" area so no teens can find the book.

The complaint has been raised that the cover is too "High School Musical" for such a raunchy book.  Well, the title has the word "castration" in it.  If a teen doesn't want to read about castration, then they probably won't.  Some administrators declared that because the word is split up that young people won't necessarily notice what the word is.  I think that is just an insult to young people everywhere!  To claim that they can't figure out a word because it's split into three sections?  Preposterous!

I have not read the book, so I can't speak for it in terms of its content, but I have read Wizner's Spanking Shakespeare, and while it was rather sexual at times, it was a very humorous, witty, and touching book that, I felt, was very deserving of the classification of Young Adult.  And it's not as if Random House it trying to hide the content of the book.  The description on their website reads,
"Jake Wizner's story within a story takes the battle of the sexes to a whole new level in a bawdy, uproarious romp that's laugh-out-loud fun."
It's not as though the publisher is hiding the fact that the book is "bawdy."  If people don't want to read it, they won't.  Young people are amazingly discerning when it comes to what they do or don't want to read.  So why are some people so intent upon this strange breed of "protection" that just makes access to books more difficult?  ~sigh~

Thanks for listening!  And don't forget to comment if you've read the book or come across any other incidents with this book!


  1. Teens tend to have sex on their minds a lot of the time. They also need a great deal of guidance at that time of their lives by understanding and wise people. I heard mountains of information about sex from my fellow teens, but it turns out that almost all of it was made up or misinformed. It is the parents' responsibility to give the kids guidance on sex, but it seems very few are doing it. Let's not add to the problem.

  2. You have to admit, though, that the title is provocative or controversy....

  3. We might need to read this one and comment... it does beg for consideration....

  4. This book spoofs many things, most of them within the context of a musical that one of the main characters, Olivia, writes. There is no castration scene, only mocking references to the idea.

    This book definitely makes lots of sexual jokes and the characters, who are mostly 17, enjoy talking about it.

  5. From Kira's logic, if 1) a character in a story describes rape as a virtuous solution (not actually committing it but mockingly referencing it), 2) there are lots of sexual jokes, and 3) the characters (as well as some/many in the intended audience) enjoy talking about it, it is appropriate. No, the reality is not the same as the presentation of the idea. Castration happens- readers will find it sooner or later in history, politics, health, and music. However, the light-hearted, jovial presentation of it here- which dulls people's response and makes it seem more okay- is entirely inappropriate for this age group, at which time sexual obsessions may develop. As a result of early exposure to "cut it off" rhetoric in pre-adolescence or teen years, some men develop lifelong self-mutilation fantasies which are acted upon. Besides whatever physical harm they inflict upon themselves, many of these men find themselves compelled to hurt themselves in much the same way molestation victims may feel compelled to let people continue to victimize them in adulthood.
    The psychiatric damage is extensive.

    The re-classification to adult fiction is appropriate in this reader's opinion.

  6. Simply change the title if you wonder about appropriateness and offensiveness.

    How about "Vaginectomy Celebration!"

    Would you put THAT title in a teen children's section?

    Indeed, societies tolerance and encouragement of the mocking of the sexual mutilation of men is and ought to be shocking. Consider the very public mocking reaction of women on CBS's popular daytime show "The Talk" to a woman castrating her husband:

    Indeed, did it never occur to you that young men (soldiers) would rather die than lose their genitals is because they know that they will be mocked and shamed for the rest of their days as "not even a man" if they suffer such a terrible wound?