Todd Starnes – It’s the sex that is inappropriate

Todd Starnes is rather angry about a book being made available in schools. 

The book is Jodi Picoult’s Ninteen Minutes and I am rather amused for the reason why. Let’s first see what his arguments are.

It’s not exactly Nancy Drew, but that’s the kind of sexually graphic content freshmen boys and girls are being exposed to at New Hampshire’s Gilford High School—without their parents’ knowledge.

You make it sound like a bouncy castle filled with used syringes.

Sweet Mercy, America, that’s enough to make even Hugh Hefner blush.

Not really? A book about high school kids that is sexually charged? Even Nancy Drew had a boyfriend. A chaste make out session maybe mentioned but you want to know something funny?

There were more Teen Pregnancies around the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys period than there are now. Clearly? Children aren’t reading books that have sex in them and going “GOING TO GO TRY THAT”.

The novel is based on a school shooting and deals with a variety of issues ranging from bullying to sexual violence. In previous years, parents have received some sort of notification about the nature of the novel.

But this year, somebody forgot to let mom and dad know their youngsters were going to parse a literary classic that includes this unforgettable line: “Semen, sticky and hot, pooled on the carpet beneath her.”

And none of those things triggered your outrage? It was just sex? The most natural thing we can do as humans is the most maligned? Not the fact that you live in a culture where school shootings are a fact of life?

Dickens it is not.

For then she could stand high-lone; nay, by th’ rood, 
She could have run and waddled all about; 
For even the day before, she broke her brow, 
And then my husband—God be with his soul! 
‘A was a merry man—took up the child: 
“Yea,” quoth he, “dost thou fall upon thy face? 
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit; 
Wilt thou not, Jule?” and, by my holidam, 
The pretty wretch left crying and said “Ay.” 
To see, now, how a jest shall come about! 
I warrant, an I should live a thousand years, 
I never should forget it: “Wilt thou not, Jule?” quoth he; 
And, pretty fool, it stinted and said “Ay.”

Shakespeare needs to be banned too.

I broke my heart into the smallest pieces, many times between thirteen and three and twenty. Twice, I was very horribly in earnest; and once really set upon the cast for six or seven long years, all the energy and determination of which I am owner. But it went the way of nearly all such things at last, though I think it kept me steadier than the working of my nature was, to many good things for the time.  If anyone had interfered with my very small Cupid, I don’t know what absurdity I might not have committed in assertion of his proper liberty; but having plenty of rope he hanged himself, beyond all such chance of restoration

Dickens it is. By the propriety of his day, Dickens had to be tame and leave luridness out. Or he would not be as well known. Remember, Dickens was famous during the day much like Mark Twain.

And while it may not be as raunchy as Shakespeare? It speaks of love and rejection.

William Baer became furious when he learned that his daughter had been assigned the book. He said the school not only failed to notify parents, but they also failed to offer parents a chance to opt their kids out of reading the book.

“I was shocked when I read the passage, and not much shocks me anymore,” Baer told “My wife was stunned by the increasingly graphic nature of the sexual content of the scene and the imagery it evoked.”

Not of the bullying, the sexualisation of bullyiing, the homophobia, the murders…


The Penis is bad the gun is good. Zardoz was right.

Baer, who is an attorney, put it in perspective. He said if someone had been handing those passages to students off campus, they might have been arrested.

Perspective is important Mr. Baer.

Ironically, it was Baer who got arrested—at a school board meeting to address the controversy.

Baer went beyond his allotted two minutes and then got into an argument with a parent who supported the book.

Baer was charged with disorderly conduct.

But he wasn’t the only parent to express outrage.

Because he started a fight.

“I am utterly appalled that this book was in my son’s hands,” parent Sarah Carrigan told The Union-Leader newspaper.

The school board issued an apology “for the discomfort of those impacted and for the failure of the school district to send home prior notice of assignment of the novel.”

Superintendent Kent Hemingway told me in a telephone interview that the district has been using the novel since 2007 and to his knowledge there have not been any complaints.

He also said the principal contacted every family in the affected classes and polled them on whether or not they supported the racy novel.

“More than 80 percent consented with their students continuing with the book,” he said. “Ten percent said no.”

He said 10 percent were still undecided on whether or not they wanted their youngsters to read about lovers grinding their loins.

Oh no! They are going to find out about sex from a novel!

Instead they should find out about sex the old fashioned way. Through rumour and gossip and surprise pregnancy.

I asked the superintendent if he would agree that the novel was a bit smutty. He declined to comment.

“I’m not going to make a decision on pornographic material,” he said.

Heaven forbid the superintendent of schools be the arbiter of decency. So who, pray tell, is responsible for deciding whether children are exposed to pornographic literature?

What is indecent is that people live in the USA who defend guns beyond all logic to the point that irresponsible gun use is protected in the USA. Where acts of school violence happen yearly and tragedy strikes again and again due to a language and culture of guns that promotes running amok.

People do little to deal with bullying and in fact protect it because “heaven forbid they are stopped from harassing the gays” and then suddenly wonder why children buy into the dialogue about guns and use them to solve their safety issue. Or seek revenge.

It isn’t videogames or TV or books. It is guns that is the problem and the bullying.

“It’s a decision of the local community,” he told me.

I was especially intrigued by the school board’s official statement. Read carefully:

“The School District policies IGE, IJ, IJA, KEC (available on the school district website) refer to the procedures for the use of novels containing controversial material. The district will take immediate action to revise these policies to include notification that requires parents to accept controversial materials rather than to opt out. Furthermore, the notification will detail more specifically the controversial material.”

Did you catch the part about forcing parents to accept racy, bawdy novels rather than opt out?

I think you were skiving (playing hooky) English.

What this means is that Parents have to sign a disclaimer form accepting that their children may be exposed to literature that deals with subject matter that isn’t wistful thinking about Mr. Darcy. Not parents being forced to accept that their children are going to be reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover whether they like it or not.

This school district may very well be the poster child for why you should home school your children.

Yes. So that they can hide from the real world of sex and a real education.

I used to think that the homeschoolers wished to do so because they feared the education their kids would get. In reality it seems to be due to the continuous destruction of the standards of teaching in the USA which means that most parents could probably do the same.

I have no qualms in saying that I have no skills to teach children and I admire the patient souls who do. I barely have the wherewithal to help my peers understand things let alone someone’s kids.

Author Jodi Picoult told the Union-Leader that she was aware of the controversy in Gilford. Her solution was to make the novel a family affair.

“Read the book with your kids, by all means use it as a springboard for discussion with your kids,” she told the newspaper.

And afterwards, why not take the whole family down to the local strip club for dinner and a show?

About gun violence, bullying and sex. Seriously?

The entire

Goddamn Point

Is that the events in the book could have been avoided. The school, the kids, the adults and the culture all had a role to blame in the tragic event of the books.

Baer told that he believes the incident is proof that public schools are trying to indoctrinate children with moral relativism.

“Many people in education and government truly believe our children are theirs,” he told the group. “These school incidents are a byproduct of this ‘we know best’ philosophy.”

Instead they should read a book of rigid rules that treated slavery as divine, rape as a property crime and where genocide was okay if god told you so.

So let’s review. An English teacher provided a sexually graphic novel to 14-year-old children. A parent complained. And when he complained too much, he was tossed in jail.

Sounds to me like the wrong person got arrested.

Yes let us jail English teachers for encouraging children to read. That will teach them to educate children and encourage them to think and read.

Good heavens! Reading novels that have sex in them? You must be joking! I find Harry Potter too raunchy! Enid Blyton it is not. We should be encouraging more people to read good wholesome Enid Blyton. Kids having adventures! Toys coming to life! Can anyone else think of a reason why?

Oh Right… That’s why


  1. Stevarious, Public Health Problem says

    Statistically, about a quarter of those 14-year old students are already sexually active. If this guy is as oppressive toward his daughter all the time, I suspect she’s one of them.

  2. says

    I read “Fanny Hill” when I was 13. That was quite a thing to discover in the library. And “Justine”, which mostly confused me so I stuck with Fanny Hill. It totally ruined my life, too – I was so disappointed to discover victorian undergarments were never coming back in style. (Waves fist!)

  3. smrnda says

    I really hate people who can’t see past the existence of sexual content, as if a book which graphically mentions sex is, by that fact alone, equal to the most mindless and banal hardcore porn. Sex is a part of life; you can’t have serious literature if you declare too many topics off limits.

    These people seem to have a mindless ‘sex == bad’ belief, where ignorance is always touted as the best way to handle sex. Apparently the idea that a book could be insightful and brilliant but also sexually graphic doesn’t occur to them.

    And also, how many of these outraged parents have bothered to actually read the book beyond the ‘smutty parts’ to actually know what they’re critiquing? Of course, teachers don’t know what’s good for kids, ignorant philistines do.

  4. angharad says

    I saw an Austrian show once in which an armed robber shot someone in a supermarket and the camera pulled away at the moment of the shot so all you saw was gun then body on the floor. The criminal then ran out of the supermarket and hid in a XXX theatre where you pretty much got to see everything. The difference in sensibilities from Hollywood amused me greatly.

    @Marcus Ranum – more teenagers should read Fanny Hill. The bit where she loses her virginity is enough to put even the most ardent off.

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