Your Right to Get Off in the Library Ends Where My Right to a Sperm-Free Keyboard Begins


When I was a librarian, we spent an absurd amount of time dealing with the “sticky keyboard problem,” not to mention the human emitters of said stickiness and the terabytes of digital stickiness they left behind. We ordered Purell in bulk.

But blocking access to porn was never an option–the American Library Association considers it an infringement of First Amendment rights to let Chester McPervy know that the Internet station in view of  the reference desk isn’t his not-so-private peep show booth. When Chester was pulling up girl-girl-guy threesomes during his searches for guy-guy-girl threesomes, it was our job to help him refine his search. And afterward when he got to work whipping up a batch of his own special sauce, we did our best to ignore him.

It’s considered a sacred librarian duty to connect patrons with any and all information, no matter how stimulating they find that information. So this doesn’t surprise me:

Shakespeare’s plays, Einstein’s theories — and porn queen Jenna Jameson’s steamy online sexcapades.

New Yorkers can take their pick at the city’s public libraries, thanks to a policy that gives adults the most uncensored access to extreme, hard-core Internet smut this side of the old Times Square.

The electronic smut falls under the heading of free speech and the protection of the First Amendment, library officials say.

“Customers can watch whatever they want on the computer,” said Brooklyn Public Library spokeswoman Malika Granville, describing the anything-goes philosophy that’s the rule at the city’s 200-plus branches.

I’m not anti-spank material as long as the spanking is done in private. And I have no objection to libraries making explicit materials available for checkout if they meet publicly posted collection development criteria. But the only people who download porn in a public library are doing it because they get off on exposing others to graphic sexual imagery.  And get off they do.

Suggesting that someone’s First Amendment rights are being trampled when a public library won’t provide free, unlimited porn downloads is equivalent to saying that Second Amendment rights are meaningless without taxpayer-funded guns and ammo. You have the right to download porn until your palms are raw as long as you do it in the privacy of your own home.

We’ve reached a ridiculous point of moral relativism in this country. Taxpayers are asked to foot the bill for skeevy pervs to access hardcore porn alongside high school seniors downloading college apps. And library patrons who are uncomfortable with what they’re seeing and hearing are expected to find another place to do their research.

Libertarians argue that masturbating in public is already a crime so there’s no need to penalize the mere access of information, no matter how pornographic. But do you really have a right to use publicly funded bandwidth to play explicit videos in a shared public space where others can hear and sometimes see what you’re watching? Does someone have the right to stroll past a junior high school with a copy of Barely Legal open to the centerfold?

We have public indecency laws for a reason, and I’m pretty sure Chester’s fondness for watching 2 Girls, 1 Cup in a public library qualifies as indecent, whether we can see what he’s doing with his hands or not.

And let’s face it: we know what Chester’s doing with his hands.

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3 Responses to Your Right to Get Off in the Library Ends Where My Right to a Sperm-Free Keyboard Begins

  1. Ezra says:

    While my ex-wife was studying to be a librarian, her professors addressed this issue, saying that those in their trade must defend "intellectual freedom." That means that even if some creep goes into the kids' section of the library and starts looking at porn, you can't make him stop. I fail to see how it falls under "intellectual" freedom as there's nothing intellectual about it.

    • Jenn Q. Public says:

      Ezra, one of my first assignments in graduate library school was to read an article arguing that an antelope is a document. Seriously. An antelope.

      It was an exercise designed to make new librarians realize that **anything** can be considered information. The point we were supposed to absorb is that it's a librarian's job to deliver information, not make a judgment about whether it has intellectual or cultural value. That laid the groundwork for future lessons on why we couldn't interfere with the right to view porn in public.

      One of many reasons I'm an ex-librarian.

  2. Brad S says:

    "You have the right to download porn until your palms are raw as long as you do it in the privacy of your own home."

    Or the "privacy" of your Droid or iPhone. Which would get into a whole 'nother set of issues.

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