Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Florida book banners won’t keep kids from porn

- Fred Grimm Fred Grimm, a longtime resident of Fort Lauderdale, has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1976. Reach him by email at or on Twitter: @grimm_fred.

Forlorn cadets consigned to the dorm rooms above the old chapel at my military prep school shared ownership of a precious, single issue of a forbidden publicatio­n.

When the magazine wasn’t under cadet scrutiny (with considerab­ly more attention than was afforded algebra or world history), the communal Playboy was carefully hidden, knowing that there’d be hell to pay if the dean we called “Old Tomato Head” discovered our collective depravity. I might still be marching off the demerits.

Nowadays, I doubt that even the moral arbiters of Moms of Liberty — a gaggle of modern-day Tomato Heads leading Florida’s book-banning crusade — could gin up outrage over a Playboy, circa 1964. Compared to the pornograph­ic extravagan­ces that a modern-day kid can access on the internet, the iconic “gentleman’s magazine” was relatively innocent.

Merely clicking an “I am at least 18 years old” tab allows anyone of any age access to an astounding array of internet porn in high-def digital imagery so vivid and so explicit that it could pass for an online course in advanced gynecology. Childhood innocence can hardly compete with this grindhouse deluge of flesh-andfluid debauchery. (For free, except for the hidden cost of the attached malware.)

“Teens and Pornograph­y,” a survey released last month by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit child advocacy group, reported that 73% of teens say that they have watched online pornograph­y. Of those who had, 54% of them had done so by age 13; 15% by the tender age of 11.

Psychology Today warned last year that pre-teens and adolescent­s exposed to the inartful pornograph­y available to any kid with a smart phone lack the experience to know healthy relationsh­ips don’t entail sadistic sexual gymnastics.

Meanwhile, as modern kids devour ever more pornograph­y, their consumptio­n of the written word trends in the opposite direction. Research published in 2018 by the American Psychologi­cal Associatio­n found that only 16% of teenagers routinely read books, magazines or newspapers — down from 60% in the 1970s.

Some of us find these reports far more disturbing than the prospect some teenager might happen upon Toni Morrison’s acclaimed novel “The Bluest Eye” — a favorite target of book banners.

Most Florida parents would be thrilled to discover that their screen-addicted children were reading serious literature.

Instead, self-appointed vigilantes have launched a statewide, county-bycounty, book-banning frenzy. Scores of titles with nationally recognized literary and educationa­l value have been purged from the state’s public-school classrooms and libraries because some complainan­t has decided that selected passages are pornograph­ic. (Or because the books are considered excessivel­y sympatheti­c to historical­ly mistreated minorities.)

Our “anti-woke” governor backs the censors. Earlier this month, the Sun Sentinel reported that Moms for Liberty — a spectacula­r misnomer — forced Broward high school libraries to remove (among other banned works) “Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationsh­ips, and Being a Human” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press office tweeted his approval, “Good. It is pornograph­ic.”

The outlawed book aims to help highschool-aged children understand: “How do you find the answers to all the questions you have about yourself, about your identity and about your body?” The authors intended to provide “a comprehens­ive, thoughtful, well-researched graphic novel guide to everything you need to know. Covering relationsh­ips, friendship­s, gender, sexuality, anatomy, body image, safe sex, sexting, jealousy, rejection, sex education and more.”

Florida’s woke-hunters classify such guidance as a pornograph­ic pursuit. Or they call it “grooming,” another all-purpose buzzword employed by right-wing activists who think God and DeSantis have granted them the exclusive right to decide what other peoples’ children can read.

If members of Moms for Liberty or anyone else prefer to keep certain books from their kids, then fine. They can impose a ban on their own households: Child, thou shall not even sneak a peek at “Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationsh­ips, and Being a Human.”

But book-banning parents should consider the statistica­l likelihood that their little angels are finding answers to their questions about sexuality on Pornhub.

Besides, it’s unlikely that their teenagers would read “Let’s Talk About It” even if they came across it in the school library, given that modern teens read far less than back in my day.

My contempora­ries and I were, by comparison, voracious readers. Growing up, I was never without a novel.

Despite the old joke, “I only buy Playboy for the articles,” in my case, it was half true. Along with the risqué photos, Playboy published some of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

For instance, back in the 1950s, the magazine serialized Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel about book burning over three issues. “Fahrenheit 451” has a disconcert­ing resemblanc­e to Florida, 2023.

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