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While many have used Banned Books Week to celebrate the freedom to read, others have been raising their own questions. If we are banning books, say these hypothetical people, why not start with Fifty Shades of Grey? Surely of all the books, the controversial “mummy porn” trilogy are the kind of books that deserves being taken off the shelves. Right?

This week at Hypable we have used Banned Books Week to explore the 10 most challenged books of 2011, as well as 10 frequently challenged books that we think you should read anyway. Yet across the internet, people have responded to articles in this vein by asking the same question – “Instead of banning these books, why aren’t we banning Fifty Shades of Grey?”

Banning ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’:

Let’s be clear. Just because Fifty Shades did not make an appearance on the 2011 Banned Books List doesn’t mean it hasn’t faced bans or challenges. Let’s remember it was only published in June 2011. Since then, many libraries across America have pulled the book from their shelves, not to mention that literal book burning. We can safely assume that come next year’s 2012 list, Fifty Shades will be right up there at the top.

And based on the response to our Casual Vacancy parental guide, we imagine J.K. Rowling’s new novel will be there alongside it, particularly as JKR is already the queen of wonderful story telling satanic witchcraft.

But now that we’re talking J.K. Rowling, we are all probably thinking “HOW DARE THEY JOKE ABOUT BANNING MY QUEEN” (or possibly “hmm, that new book could have used less vulvae”). Just think back to all the crazy people who tried to stop us from reading Harry Potter, who took it off school reading lists, out of classrooms, and off the shelves at public libraries.

They told us we were worshipping a pagan god, and society would be destroyed, and we were all converting to wicca. All because we crazy fans apparently thought the Harry Potter series was an instruction manual subtitled ‘Satanic Worshipping for Dummies.’

So let’s ponder that. If people are allowed to read Fifty Shades of Grey, what exactly do we think will happen? Maybe we will all turn into S&M fanatics, or start using non-disclosure agreements in our love life, or THE WORLD WILL END (it is 2012, after all).

Or maybe, some people will get to read a book they enjoy.

If you’d think “good riddance” if Fifty Shades (or The Casual Vacancy) was taken off the shelves of your local library, that’s totally fine. But if you want to be able to walk into that same library and borrow Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird or Looking for Alaska, then you have to be okay with walking past Fifty Shades of Grey to get there.

And if the thought of that makes you too uncomfortable, then you have to accept that by restricting someone else’s reading, you are setting the precedent which may result in your favourite book being taken off the shelf.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to read the books they love. When books are taken out of public libraries, use is inherently restricted from people who may not be able to afford their own copy, let alone a Kindle and the e-Book version.

If you’re a parent, by all means monitor what your child is reading, as you might do for a film they want to watch or a video game they want to buy. But don’t stop someone else’s child from reading something that their parent has determined to be appropriate for them.

Here at Hypable, we have some simple advice. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it.

Maybe you think Fifty Shades of Grey is complete and utter crap, and you wouldn’t even open the front cover unless someone paid you an obscene amount of money, and then promised to wipe it from your mind with the Men in Black Neuralyzer.

Or perhaps you have read Fifty Shades, just for a laugh. Maybe you thought it was the next great love story, or read it with the Twilight soundtrack playing in the background. You may have read it as a unique framing device for a story about maturity, both emotionally and sexually. Maybe you like “mummy porn.” Maybe you just wanted to.

The beauty is, you shouldn’t have to explain your choice to anyone. But you should have a choice. And if you do, that’s all that matters.

Other Hypable articles that celebrate Banned Book week

How do you feel about banning ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003217053155 Liliana Baptista

    Finally, an intelligent argument! I agree with everything, especially with “If you don’t like a book, don’t read it”. 5 Stars for the article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=567353755 Erica Jane Ostergar

    This is the best article I’ve read on Hypable in a while. So true!

  • DUH

    How would you know if you don’t like a book unless you’ve read it? ._.

  • upper_westsider

    I don’t believe in banning books, even so-called “mummy porn”. I haven’t read Fifty Shades, but I’d never try to stop others from reading it. “To Kill a Mockingbird” & “Catcher in the Rye” are books that I treasure. I believe my life would be diminished if I hadn’t read them and many others. Don’t ban books, ban banning!

    • PotionWillow207

      While I agree with the general idea of your statement in that I don’t agree with banning books, I am a little bewildered by your comparisons. I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, nor do I intend to after hearing every single one of my friends who did read it call it “pure, unadulterated smut.” I have a problem with a book with that description being compared to To Kill A Mockingbird and Catcher In the Rye.

      Mockingbird is banned because of it’s use of the n-word and other racial elements. However, those things are not in there just for the sake of being…radical, although they are indeed radical. The racial slurs are in the book to teach a lesson about the problems with racism and all prejudice. It’s not just racism for racism sake, I guess is the best way to put it. According to a lot of the reviews I’ve read or heard from others, 50 Shades of Grey doesn’t have that great of a story, or good character development, and the sex is in there just as a shock factor.
      I don’t think the book should be banned, but neither does it come even close to deserving a comparison with books like Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye.

      • upper_westsider

        I referred to Mockingbird and Catcher because as this article points out they have also been “challenged”. My comparison does not imply that Fifty Shades compares favorably with Mockingbird or Catcher. From what I understand, Fifty Shades is not even close. You misunderstood my comment.

  • http://twitter.com/theaterandi Adele Ivy

    I am against censorship, but for 50 Shades of Grey… I’m not so sure. In my high school a ton of girls are reading it and believe me, I normally would be happy some of these girls are reading but, the fact that they are reading “mommy porn” during school is just as bad as watching porn during school. My school has not adressed the issue yet and I won’t be the person to but I will not fight for it to be allowed in school.

  • American Moth

    I don’t think 50 Shades should be banned in public libraries, but I think it should be banned in Schools. They won’t let you watch porn at school, so why should they let you read it?

    • Vera

      Fyi: there are other books full of “mummy porn” in school. Such as the majority of Nora Roberts’ books. They’re not banned from schools. If you want to ban 50 shades, then you need to remember that there are many other books that fall into the same category and yet are present in schools.

  • http://twitter.com/CassiopeiaDrake Cassie Drake

    I don’t think it should be banned, but it should be treated like any other erotica book. Because what it comes down to is, yes, it is erotica. It is sold in sex shops, alongside “Busty Beauties” and “Hard Ride” and “Best Lesbian Erotica 2011″. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with erotica. I read erotica. But there’s a time and a place for it.

    Would a school library have “Best Lesbian Erotica 2011″ on its shelves? No, no it wouldn’t. So should it have “Fifty Shades of Grey”? No, no it shouldn’t. Would my neighbour come up to me and ask me what I thought of chapter 3 of “Hard Ride”? No, no she wouldn’t. So should she come up to me and ask me what I thought of chapter 3 in “Fifty Shades of Grey”? No, no she shouldn’t.

    I’m a firm believer that nothing should be banned. It is up to an individual to decide what is or isn’t appropriate for oneself. But what I don’t like is “Fifty Shades” being treated like regular fiction, when at bookstores you would see it shelved amongst the erotica and the harlequinn romances. And I don’t believe in double-standards. Unless someone is willing to openly discuss the erotica I read, then they shouldn’t be willing to discuss the erotica they read, “Fifty Shades” or otherwise.

    • Cristi

      Agreed! There is a BIG difference between banning/censoring a book and simply not including it in your library because it pornography and not appropriate for the age range you teach. You wouldn’t take an 8 year old to see a porn film, so why does it make any more sense to put a smut book where he/she might have access to it?

  • WeasleyWrock

    People can read it all they want, but they should remember that it doesn’t portray sexual consent that well (or so I’ve heard from multiple people). I don’t think that books should be banned in libraries. Maybe a slight book ban should be in place for elementary schoolers (not saying a little kid would read this, just giving a book banning opinion) and a loose ban for middle school (like having a parent sign a note for permission). I don’t think that high schools should ever ban students from reading books. Just be careful what you pick for your book reports.
    Great article!

  • http://twitter.com/atalyce Alyce

    great article.

  • http://www.style-abuse.blogspot.com/ Marcia

    Banning a book will never stop people from reading it. Just because you don’t like a book’s content doesn’t mean other people won’t enjoy it. I mean, I tried reading the 50 Shades Kindle sample and fell asleep, but it doesn’t go for everyone else.

  • Guest

    I think that it also depends on what lengths you’d go to to continue reading that book if it was banned. With the likes of Harry Potter or Catcher in the Rye etc. I think people would still try really hard to get their hands on a readable copy … but with 50 Shades of Grey … I HIGHLY doubt it.

  • http://twitter.com/DevenMichelle Deven Michelle

    all i have to say is that it really should be labeled for what it is. so many young adult books today are really for the 18/19+ age range, but YA seems to span all the way down to grade 8. this book is sort of presented as a teen book, but it needs to be labeled as the (very well written as such) erotica. i have read it (picked it up because of the “hype” and didn’t realize ’til i started reading exactly what it was) and i did enjoy it, i just think that (especially seeing as there is now a line of toys…) people should be more informed as to what they are picking up.

  • http://xyue-mayx.deviantart.com/ Dreamer

    I don’t think any book deserves to be banned. Like it is said in the novel, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. And in response to many people I’ve hear complain about how children don’t always have the capabilities to know what is appropriate for themselves to read, monitor what your children read. I don’t fully approve of this but if you’re really concerned about what your children are being exposed to, then you can monitor what they read. I usually think children and teens know what they can handle, they won’t read it unless they’re getting something out of it. As for 50 Shades, I don’t think young kids should read it, not that there’s really much of an issue of too young of kids reading it because they’ll either not be interested or be afraid of getting in trouble from reading it (because everyone can recognize it now).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=607519910 Catherine Lai

    SO TRUE. Thank you.

  • Ruby

    As was said in the film Quills by Kate Winslet’s character:

    Madeleine: Some things belong on paper, others in life. It’s a blessed fool who can’t tell the difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.fritch.5 Rebecca Fritch

    i would totally support getting rid of 50 Shades of Grey (at least in schools), but has anyone realized that if we officialy “ban” it, in the future we would technically be celebrating it when we celebrate banned books week? i’m pretty sure nobody wants that.

  • QuidditchMom

    If you ban it, then more people would flock to read it. And it’s just a very poorly written book.

  • Cristi

    As an artist, I am against censorship. That being said, there is a HUGE difference between censoring something and not including it in a grade school library. This book is soft porn and should be treated as such. There is a time and place for it but it doesn’t belong where children (especially young ones) can access it without their parents’ knowledge. You wouldn’t find work by the Marquis de Sade in an elementary or middle school library either (nor is it appropriate to shelve it there.) If a parent really feels their 8 year old is mature enough to read porn, then they can take them to the public library. This book should not be shelved in schools.

    • Cristi

      Also… if a parent thinks their kid is mature enough for porn, they probably shouldn’t be parenting.

  • charlton

    To be honest I haven’t read 50 Shades of Gray and probably won’t,no books should be banned.I have read To Kill A Mockingbird some people find it very offensive,but one would have to finish the book.

  • JohnAnon

    This is not erotica or porn, it is much more severe than that. It stems from the personal fantasies of someone who is clearly highly disturbed, perverted and has a sick twisted mind – they clearly need help and I would run a mile in the opposite direction from any woman who says she is looking for her Christian Gray – yuck, that’s just scary!! Any woman with fantasies like this is a monster and it’s selling like hotcakes yet women go on labelling men as pervs just for even looking at them. If women really want this kind of thing then why do they insist on being horrible, offensive and unreasonably rude to men who even show that they have an attraction to them?? One thing is for sure, this book has put me off women. If this is what they are really thinking about while calling you all the names under the sun just for finding them attractive then I don’t want to be a part of it… ever!

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