Monday Morning Stepback: You Raise Your Kids and I'll Raise Mine Edition

The weekly links, opinion and personal updates post

1. Links of Interest

I’ve announced the winner of my Romcon ticket giveaway (Jacqueline). If you are still in search of a free ticket, there is another contest on, at the Borders True Romance blog.

I’ve put up a page with a list of RomCon attendees. It is woefully incomplete, I realize. If you plan to attend, comment or shoot me an email and I will add you.

Faced with the happy prospect of choosing between a Kindle and an iPad for reading? Take this helpful quiz at Dirty Sexy Books.

Nick Carr on the difference between social media addiction and dependency, discussing the results of a University of Maryland study which asked students to unplug for a period and write about their experiences (from @jafurtado).

At the Fourth Vine, a rant against authors who rant against fan fiction (via @nadialee). I think it gets at some of the deeper issues at play:

Fan fiction folks took your power away. It used to be that the Anointed Few stood at the front of the room – sometimes a tiny classroom, sometimes a giant lecture hall with video cameras catching each golden word for those not lucky enough to hear it in person – and spoke. And everyone else was just audience: the listeners, the readers, the passively entertained. Fandom has turned your lectures into seminars. We keep speaking up. We keep having our own ideas. We don’t even have the courtesy to raise our hands and ask to speak. And sometimes we lock you out of the room altogether.

Marg at Reading Adventures The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader on When a New Book isn’t a New Book:

Not too long ago, there was a Nora Roberts novel released under the name of Big Jack. What wasn’t particularly clear was that this work had previously been released as the first half of Remember When, which was a novel where half had been written as Nora Roberts and the other half was written as part of the In Death series that she writes as J D Robb. If I had been buying her books only to realise that this was a poorly publicised re release I would not have been happy.

Also by Marg, who is on blogging fire (with a lovely new design to boot),  “You Haven’t Read That?”:

Some times one particular book seems to be popping up everywhere. Maybe part of the reason for that is that as a blogger I tend to gravitate towards the blogs of people who I know have a similar reading taste to me. Some times though, that hype is more manufactured that organic and there are times when it isn’t easy to tell the difference.

At The Millions, All Great Works of Literature Either Dissolve a Genre or Invent One: A Reading List. It’s a fun list (although the choice of Elizabeth Costello among Coetzee’s works is baffling). But you know what I liked best about it? In my Google reader, it was followed by a big ass advertisement for:

Last week was the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill. Gail Collins had a good op-ed on the importance of this little pill, the utter absurdity of its continued controversial status, and why we cannot relax our efforts to protect women’s reproductive rights:

Even though 100 million women take the pill every day, to the great relief of 100 million or so of their partners, the terror of mentioning birth control is so great that the humongous new health care reform act has managed to avoid bringing it up at all. Advocates are hoping that when the regulations are finally written, they will require health insurance to cover birth control pills like any other drug. But nobody is sure.

The trend to turning a literary genre into a self-help manual continues, as there is another nonfiction romance book on the horizon, Make Love Like a Romance Author. I think readers know I generally turn a jaundiced eye to these kinds of projects. But we’ll see.

2. Kerfuffle alert: A 15 year old reviewer at Dear Author named John reviewed an erotic romance, and some people didn’t like it.

I have no comment on it, but please follow one of the links provided if you would like to participate in the ongoing discussion.

I do want to respond to one claim: that no minor should be reviewing anything on a blog that also reviews books with adult content.

I have run afoul of his rule by allowing my older son to review children’s books here on occasion. I also review erotic romance on occasion, and write posts on things like rape in romance. Have I placed my child in some kind of danger by allowing him to post on this blog? Obviously, I don’t think so. As his parent, it is my job to to control, mediate, or share sexual information in ways I deem appropriate, in accord with the sexual ethic in which I believe. My son doesn’t read the erotic romance reviews, or indeed do anything online of which I am not aware (helpful tip: keep the kids’ computer in the kitchen. Works great for us!). Sharing this blog with him is a way to share my love of reading, and to include him in a hobby which has become very important to me.

For those who are worried about adult content and minors, let me just add that by the time they are 18, most children in the US will have been exposed to millions of powerful visual images of sexuality and violence — often combined in ways that buttress rape culture  — thanks to their televisions, video games, and movie theaters. I would much rather have my ten year old read a review his feminist philosophy professor mother had written of an erotic romance, a book typically written by a woman celebrating women’s sexuality, than be exposed to a portrayal of women like the one of “the girlfriend” (i.e. “tits and ass”) from Transformers 2:

Managing my children’s access to this blog is no different from managing their access to anything else. I appreciate your concern, but when it comes to my children, please leave the parenting to me.

3. Philosophy and taking time

The New York Times debuted today The Stone, a “new forum for philoosphers on issues both contemporary and timeless.” Today’s installment is an essay by editor Simon Critchley on What is a Philosopher? Although my friends in feminist philosophy have already criticized it, I liked it.

He starts by giving the pop culture account of the philosopher:

What is a philosopher, then? The answer is clear: a laughing stock, an absent-minded buffoon, the butt of countless jokes from Aristophanes’ “The Clouds” to Mel Brooks’s “History of the World, part one.” Whenever the philosopher is compelled to talk about the things at his feet, he gives not only the Thracian girl but the rest of the crowd a belly laugh. The philosopher’s clumsiness in worldly affairs makes him appear stupid or, “gives the impression of plain silliness.” We are left with a rather Monty Pythonesque definition of the philosopher: the one who is silly.

And then he continues with his own take:

Pushing this a little further, we might say that to philosophize is to take your time, even when you have no time, when time is constantly pressing at our backs. The busy readers of The New York Times will doubtless understand this sentiment. It is our hope that some of them will make the time to read The Stone. As Wittgenstein says, “This is how philosophers should salute each other: ‘Take your time.’ ”

I understand why many philosophers have reacted negatively to the “otherworldy” emphasis in Critchley’s piece. We — especially we politically engaged philosophers — are all about this-worldliness. But while I don’t like Critchley’s terminology (this is a bit much, for example: “Nurtured in freedom and taking their time, there is something dreadfully uncanny about the philosopher, something either monstrous or god-like or indeed both at once”. Blergh.), I agree with him that creating time and space for reflection is something important that we do.

Prior to writing this post, I was in clinical ethicist mode. I met early this morning with a team of physicians and nurses in our palliative care unit, in their conference room on the 6th floor of the hospital. Just getting this group together was a major feat of scheduling (not mine). And getting them to shut the conference room door and not answer the phone or their pagers was another. I had them for 60 minutes, and we talked about respect, and dignity, and suffering, and moral residue, and ethical dilemmas, and the boundaries of responsibility, and all the things they don’t have time to talk about when they are racing against the clock.

Nothing was officially “achieved” in the session. Nobody’s life was saved, no clinical decisions were made, no papers were signed, no CTE or CEU credits were earned, and there were no “action items”. We didn’t even have an agenda, which I am sure violates some hospital rule of which I am blissfully unaware. But I think it was a good meeting (external signs of this were the clapping, and one doctor asking if she and I could have a mind meld), and I think philosophy was practiced in it. Giving these people the time, space and permission to turn momentarily from the pressing needs of particular patients and families, and to think about the concepts that inform their particular decisions was a contribution I made as a philosopher, and I felt privileged to be able to make it.

By the way, Critchley is a very controversial choice. See Brian Leiter’s “What is the NY Times Thinking”, in which he refers to Critchley as “a complete hack”.

One last thing — not that this has anything to do with philosophy, mind you — but there is a new website, The Versatile PhD:

The Versatile PhD mission is to help humanities and social science PhDs develop and demonstrate their versatility as professionals. We want you to be informed about academic employment realities, educated about nonacademic career options, and supported in preparing for a range of possible careers, so that in the end, you have choices. The key concept here is versatility: the ability to apply your skills and interests in a wide variety of fields

4. Personal update

Not much to report. On Thursday I think I will attend our local library’s book club. This is a practice run at “socializing” prior to RomCon. The books are Janet Evanovich’s One For the Money, and Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking. I am reading them now. I will report back.

I don’t know for sure what I will post this week, but I promise to post the second part of my PCA presentation and probably a review of Felski’s Uses of Literature.

Also, remember that the Jane Eyre discussion begins Sunday.


53 responses

  1. I didn’t realize John over at Dear Author was 15. And since that’s all I know of him at this point, and it’s not enough to really think anything, I won’t comment any further than – huh. Interesting.

    And I agree with you on leaving the parenting to the individual parents or parental units. Unequivocally yes.


  2. Someone who would criticize you for doing a joint review with your son? Because you have some “racy” content? They should suck it (in the words of my kids). I do think, however, that is muddying the waters. I love whoever made the comment that I’ll do and talk with my own kid about whatever but I’m not going to do the same with her friend.

    I checked with my arbiter of all things young (my 20 something dd) and she said she thought it sounded skeevy. That word works for me. I did not agree with peeps and tweeps and online folks who said he should not be reviewing on DA — they want him to review YA fiction, have at it. Him reviewing erotica and then the aftermath (gross generalization) … him/them saying he choose it, it is not going to happen again, him defending them and himself all over the interwebz, that for me, blech. Someone said (paraphrasing) to him, “You handled yourself like a real pro.” Just want I don’t want to read — particularly since I’m mentally substituting 15 year-old girl.

    Personally it all sounds like the last Law and Order SVU show I watched: the psychologist had this thing going with her underage male patient and her last words as they led her away, “He was so mature”. I figure kids are totally sexualized and up to the minute on all this stuff but I don’t have to make it all even more accessible. I’ve shared this story ad nauseum but my dd’s school (and tons of other private schools) shut down the sex drugs and rock and roll aspects of Facebook — because they could — because, frankly, it wasn’t helping academics, the whole college admissions process and as they told the students, when you graduate, it’s your ball of wax. While you’re students here, this is the deal.


  3. As someone who isn’t really that fond of fanfiction herself (and sometimes, in a moment of self-absorption, dreads what fanfiction may be written about my works if they’re ever published), it was interesting to read that rant. There is a grey area, definitely, but I dislike the ranter’s belief that we hate fanfiction because we’re jealous/inferior/powerhungrier than fanfiction writers.

    Um, no. I just dislike the idea that I can create new characters and new stories, and a fanfiction writer can, instead of creating their own characters or using other characters as a mere influence, take my characters from the whole cloth and change them and claim they’re doing the same thing I’m doing.


  4. As I said over at Dear Author, if John If had reviewed classic erotica such as Fanny Hill or Lady Chatterley’s Lover, would there be some issue then?

    I read some steamy books at his age. VC Andrews in particular including Sandra Brown who taught me all about oral sex in ways I never knew about.


  5. @Janet W: Janet, juts to clarify. no one criticized me personally. They wrote that no minor should be writing for a blog that has adult content.

    @AnimeJune: the fan fiction thing is such an interesting topic. I won’t opine on it because I don;t know what I am talking about, not having read or written it, and not being an author of any kind. but I do love reading what others think.

    @katiebabs: I learned about sex from two siblings in an attic myself. So healthy!


  6. Oh yes, and the wonders of siblings who get married! I learned everything about sex from the romances I read.

    Such a shame the fireworks and seeing stars and happy little fairies was false though. Still put out about that.


  7. The controversy over John’s review does seem to ignore that by age 15 many of us have been exposed to much more explicit material with much less adult input (even if the adults in question aren’t “his”). I think that the explanation of how he came to be reviewing that particular book makes sense and, while a minor reviewing such material for publication at a blog targeted to adults doesn’t thrill me, nor does it alarm me. If John has any kind of agreement with Dear Author, then his parents or guardians likely had input into the arrangement (Jane’s a lawyer, right? I doubt she’d skip that step) and so he must have some level of supervision of this activity from the adults in his life.

    Re: Fan fiction – I cannot read the link here at work but I think the bit you posted is wrong-minded. I don’t believe that once authors release characters or a setting or what have you out into the world that they now belong to us, the readers, to manipulate as we please. I think there’s room for fan fiction and a place for it in the reading life but it must come from the understanding that the elements don’t belong to readers as community property. The quote seems to be asserting just that by saying, “O.K. thanks for this raw material, I’ll take it from here you ivory tower author. Don’t worry your little head.”

    It’s a two way street, though. I have trouble reading an author now who tamps out fan fiction on a particular series by asking that fans wait to write until the series is complete. She won’t commit to it being complete even as no new books are planned. Meanwhile, her site and MB is full of sig files and fan-created book trailers and so on that use others’ images and creative works imagined as part of her fictional universe. You can’t have it both ways, in my opinion.

    Damn. I think I might have engaged in a bit of scope creep with that. Sorry!


  8. The Nora Roberts issue is not new. In fact, it’s so bad that she has the cute little logo on her new releases (in the US) so that readers can see that the book is a new work. An easy way to tell for NR is that anything pubbed by Silhouette is a reprint. She hasn’t written for that publisher for years. And, when in doubt, check the copyright page.

    Publishers have been reissuing popular authors’ backlist for years and paying to get them showcased in the “new releases” area. It is irritating, but not a new practice.

    As for the whole 15 year old reviewer, that’s a whole lot of nothing IMHO. By 15, many teens have already HAD SEX or are considering it. They, as you point out Jessica, have already been bombarded with sexual messaging in nearly every aspect of their lives. There’s a reason why the ALA has a Banned Books Week every year, and it is precisely due to this mentality: wanting to pass judgment on what is or is not appropriate for other people’s children.

    For those who read well above grade level, it’s not surprising they’ll come in contact with adult themes and content. And as long as the parents are okay with that, I find nothing wrong with it. In fact, erotic romance is often much better than standard 15 year old reading material: the Penthouse magazine hidden in their room.


  9. Amber, just to be clear: I’m not passing judgment on what kids read: I read books like that at John’s age and I presume most of us were educated through twins in attics or bridesmaids at weddings (The Godfather). Does that translate for me into being comfortable that a 15 year-old is a reviewer of erotica — nope. I think I was born reading above grade level but I didn’t think that was the point of this discussion.

    So please don’t put me on a wanting to Ban Books list. In fact, what really bothered me about your comment was this phrase, “And as long as the parents are okay with that” — did your parents OK your reading material when you were 15? Mine sure didn’t and I didn’t with my own kids. I can’t even go there.


  10. To clarify–I have no issue with reading material.

    If one of his parent’s maintained the blog or was a contributor, I would not have an issue with it. I perhaps was a tad too black and white in saying “no minor should contribute to blogs with adult content.” There are always exceptions. So, I actually have no issue with Jess’ son reviewing on his mum’s blog.

    The situation in question is very different and I do find it skeevy and a tad shady (thanks JanetW for the word…that better expresses how it makes me feel).

    For me, and I do wish to reiterate this, this is not an issue of reading material. I have always been an advanced reader so was reading far worse at 15.


  11. Regarding John at Dear Author. I was surprised at his age. He does give a well written response explains that he didn’t know it was an erotic romance when he requested it. The one thing I don’t want to do is discourage kids from reading. It’s up to the parents to be aware of what their kids are reading and while that’s not totally realistic, parents also need to trust their kids.

    My fifteen yr old daughter loves to read, 4-5 books a week. She reads YA and adult. I trust her to know what’s appropriate for her. We do discuss what she reads, including the sexual content. She has said to me, “Mom, what I see and hear in the halls at school is way more explicit than anything in the books.” Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me. I know I can’t monitor everything she reads, sees or hears so I just have to trust her.

    I’ve tried to get her to write some reviews for my blog but have only gotten one out of her (The Time Travelers Wife) and that was because she had to write it for class. :)


  12. You know, when you read the “What was your first romance and when” posts at SBTB and other places, they’re invariably steamy historical romances at 12 or 13. Mine sure as hell was. EVERYTHING good I learned about sex (and relationships and romance and communication), I learned from romances. And I was certainly DOING it…around John’s age, and reading about it way way earlier than that. I think our insistence on desexualizing teenagers is as dangerous for the teens themselves as the hyper-sexualization we all undergo.


  13. I’m a little unsure about the whole issue, but I think there’s a world of difference between you having your kid write something for your blog about a children’s book and the DA situation. What really bothers me in this instance is not that a kid is reading erotic romance, but that he’s in the middle of an Internet controversy that obviously bothers the hell out of him (from all he’s writing to defend himself) and he basically has no one protecting him. I think he’s gotten into a situation bigger than he’s old enough to handle and I think the adults in question should have forseen that probability and protected him from it. They’ve been doing this for years, they know how this shit happens.


  14. 1. My kids do not want to read my books, certainly they’d never post anything related to the romance genre. I think they’d rather die. However, what John does is up to John and his parents. Because my parents told me nothing about sex and I learned the hard way, I began discussing the issues with my own children while they were still in their cribs…sex talk sprinkled with warnings about drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and abusive men/women and the need to use birth control. Brain washing.
    2. The U.S. is odd in that we allow our children to watch almost limitless violence on television and at the movie theater, but sex is off limits. I have never cared about my children viewing a normal sex act. I always and will always draw the line at gratuitous violence and horror. No slasher films allowed in my home.
    3. Fanfiction? Who said imitation is the highest form of praise? Fanfiction certainly brings a great deal of attention to authors who are the victims/beneficiaries of it. I have yet to make up my mind about fanfiction.
    4. Wow, you have an amazing job!


  15. Type your comment here@Janet W:
    “Does that translate for me into being comfortable that a 15 year-old is a reviewer of erotica — nope.”

    The issue for me is not so much what an individual is comfortable with so much as the judgment about others that inevitably comes with that. If you’re not comfortable with it, fine. But so often that stance includes a judgment that those who seem to have no problem with it are somehow “skeevy.”

    As for parental permission, my point was this: parents have the responsibility to know what their kids are up to. They should not delegate that responsibility to people outside of their family and then get outraged when that oversight doesn’t match up to their expectations. In the same way parents in the US try to get books they feel are “inappropriate for age group” moved out of the children’s section or from library circulation entirely instead of monitoring what their children check out and discussing their reading choices with them. (Thus my reference to Banned Books Week and the ALA).

    I think this is entirely about reading choices just as much as it is about where he posts. If he posted about the same books on a blog of his own, I have the distinct impression that many would have the same reaction. Just the impression I’m getting.


  16. “If he posted about the same books on a blog of his own, I have the distinct impression that many would have the same reaction”

    An interesting point, because I don’t think that would have bothered me at all. (Not saying that it wouldn’t have bothered others.) It helps me clarify where my real problem with this is.


  17. What willaful said: it would not have bothered me one whit if he posted about these same books on his own blog. His choice of reading material is not the issue, or at least it is not for me.


  18. Jessica, if you are looking for an academic perspective on fan fiction, Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture or his blog might be good places to start.


  19. @jmc: Oh, yeah, Jenkins is generally the one “fans” reference for for the best definition of what fan ficiton is. Don’t know if you’ll ever find it anywhere on his site now, but this was what was quoted from him back when I was writing fan fiction – oh, over a decade ago. Sorry, don’t know the specific source paper.

    “Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk.”

    Henry Jenkins
    Director of media studies at MIT


  20. I have sat here for 10 minutes trying to type a cohesive argument about children and teenagers and sexual content that does not dive into a ranty, ranty, spew, spew and can’t so all I’m going to say is . . .

    thoughtful and thought-provoking as always, Jessica and RomCon looks like a blast. I wish I had the $ to go. But I don’t. :)


  21. On fanfiction, The Book Smugglers had a pretty nifty round up of links to another kerfuffle, started by a blog post by Diana Gabaldon (which was deleted, along with hundreds of comments). Very interesting reading, IMO.

    On children and sexuality… I haven’t read the review and wasn’t even aware of the brouhaha, but it always puzzles me to see strangers parenting other people’s kids.


  22. “claim they’re doing the same thing I’m doing”

    What, writing? Creating? Because they are doing that. Very few characters are as original as their creators think they are. I’ve written fanfiction and original fiction. I can tell you the processes are the same, the level of creativity is the same, the difficulty is the same. The only difference is that one is saleable, the other not.

    But once again, the people most upset by fanfiction are the ones least at risk of anyone paying their work enough attention to write fanfic about it. Interesting that many of the giants in the writing world aren’t at all bothered, but many of the more obscure…and shall we say, unoriginal?…authors seek every opportunity to bash their creative fans. More for me, I say.

    I’m going to piss off all the parents on this thread by saying the thoughts of 15 year old boys about erotic fiction aren’t of the slightest interest to me – and neither are the reviews of people who haven’t got the knack of critical commentary. Sure, opinions are like arseholes, but if I want to get inside a book properly, then I want someone with a bit of life experience, and whose critical training is more advanced than what they got at highschool (and this isn’t a remark about John, but many of the so called ‘top’ reviewers whose skills of analysis and description aren’t nearly as big as their reputations.)

    Leaving aside John’s age (which isn’t an issue from a moral perspective at all for me) his gender is a problem – I’m not interested in the vast majority of male opinions on this genre, the more so because they think they are so special for having one. Sorry, John, but you’ve been ‘dicked’ over in that respect.


  23. Haven’t read the DA piece, and it’s the first I’ve heard about the kerfuffle, so I’m not commenting on that.

    Just in response to Azteclady’s post – I think there are occasions where it’s our responsibility as adults to intervene, even if the child’s parents aren’t bothered by a particular situation.


  24. “I think there are occasions where it’s our responsibility as adults to intervene, even if the child’s parents aren’t bothered by a particular situation. ”

    And I think that very often the adults who assume it’s their responsibility to do this, who are least qualified to make that assessment.

    The idea that other people should tell a parent what their kids should or should not read is the kind of curtailment of parental rights that should make parents absolutely furious. Unless the parent is demonstrably feckless, immoral or unfit, it’s for them to decide, not the local busybodies. Or even a community of busybodies – which is what this is looking like.


  25. Marianne, I agree that there are situations in which adults should intervene, whether the parents themselves care or not–when a child or youth is being abused by his/her peers or other adults, either physically or emotionally; when there is a clear and present danger, please, by all means, people, please intervene.

    But from there to setting absolute rules (i.e., “no minor should be reviewing anything on a blog that also reviews books with adult content.“), there is a huge gap, IMO.


  26. Wow, I love that you gave those busy docs and staffers that space to think…I can only imagine how valuable that must have been. The few times when I have had to stop and reach inside myself and decide where I stand and what I think and value have been some of the most important to me.

    Oh, that poor kid. Internet controversy. Way too toxic for a young person.


  27. “I’m going to piss off all the parents on this thread by saying the thoughts of 15 year old boys about erotic fiction aren’t of the slightest interest to me ”

    Ann, I’m a parent (of a boy, no less) and I wasn’t remotely offended. :-)


  28. Okay, now bear in mind, this is coming from somebody who will openly state-my hot spot is kids-too often, too many people don’t care enough for them, they expose them to things they aren’t prepared for. This is a sore spot for me, and I can’t help it-I’ve seen too much crap through my work.

    BUT… for crying out loud. A kid reading a romance. A fifteen year old kid.

    What this 15 year old kid reads… that’s between his parents and him. Period.



  29. Shiloh, perhaps you haven’t had time to read through the comments here — I myself, and I believe I may be speaking for many — could care less what he reads. If he reads what I read at 15 and frankly quite a bit younger than 15, he’s reading lots of lively stuff. I know I did. What of it?

    Can I tell you how annoying it is for me to read “what this 15 year old kid reads … that’s between his parents and him. Period.” Do you know very many 15 year olds? I had three and I was one myself. What 15 year old checks in with his parents on what he reads? What parents feel that they’re part of that equation? I had a library card and an allowance and my books were my choices, from as long back as I can remember.

    Kids are a “sore spot” for you but you can not see how some people — myself included — might raise an eyebrow or two about a 15 year old reviewing erotica and discussing it online. I’m not asking you to agree with me but can you see that for me it is totally NOT about what he’s reading but where and with whom he’s discussing it.


  30. “can you see that for me it is totally NOT about what he’s reading but where and with whom he’s discussing it. ”

    Can you not see that this is none of your business, Janet? Unless you believe Jane et al inveigled this child into reading OMG!Smut and forced him to review it, then it’s his parents’s job – not yours – to decide if that’s appropriate. And if they want to monitor their teenager so closely that he has to submit all his reading material to them for approval in advance, then that’s their choice too.

    I was reading romances at fifteen, and other books with explicit scenes in them. I got them from the library, they sat in the house where my mother could see what I read, and somehow, her lack of prevention didn’t turn me into a pervert. Are you arguing that John should have less freedom than you did, because someone else is making parenting choices about their own children and you didn’t get to vote on them?

    For fuck’s sake. There are real children in real danger in the world, at risk from real perverts, and this is the hill people want to die on? Puhlease.


  31. @Azteclady.

    I suppose what I think is that when we’re working with children – whether in a paid capacity, voluntary capacity, or in this virtual reality, there is a reason for Child Protection.
    And I understand what you’re talking about – the rules often seem wildly over protective, and even counter intuitive – how does it protect a 3 year old if I can’t help her pull up her knickers after she’s been to the toilet?
    But still, if you don’t have absolute rules, you’d end up with relative ones – don’t be alone in a room with a child unless in your judgement there’s no problem – and those don’t protect the child at all.

    So again, haven’t read the DA stuff, don’t want to and you can’t make me…
    But I would feel that an organisation that had as part of it’s Child Protection guidelines the absolute rule ‘No adult in our organisation will supply sexually explicit material to a child, or employ them to read or view such material’ would be acting in a responsible way.

    Yes, in some cases that sort of rule might be restrictive and over-protective, but the point is, surely, that you imagine the possibility that someone in your organisation does want to abuse the child: would get their kicks sending something inappropriate to a 15 year old and using that to initiate sexually explicit conversations. You want to have rules in place that would make that impossible.

    I don’t see absolute rules as a bad thing.


  32. “‘No adult in our organisation will supply sexually explicit material to a child, or employ them to read or view such material’ ”

    Marianne – the ‘explicit material’ is the kind of thing anyone – of any age – can legally buy without restriction in America, Australia, Britain, and a good many other places.

    Since you are so determined not to look at the actual case, it’s a bit pointless to argue with you – but are you seriously suggesting that DA should be more restricted than your average public library or bookstore? And are you suggesting that if John’s parents are okay with him reading this material, that his parents should have Child Protection looking over their shoulders?

    Maybe you should stop making such over the top comments until you apprise yourself of the facts. I know it’s not the Romancelandia way to let reality intrude on a good old tear but since you are basically accusing Jane and DA of child abuse, this might a good time for you to sit on your hands and reflect, rather than continuing throwing out these outrageous accusations.


  33. @Janet W:

    Kids are a “sore spot” for you but you can not see how some people — myself included — might raise an eyebrow or two about a 15 year old reviewing erotica and discussing it online. I’m not asking you to agree with me but can you see that for me it is totally NOT about what he’s reading but where and with whom he’s discussing it.

    Thanks for that clarification, Janet. I completely understand why some would feel uncomfortable discussing erotica with a minor whom they do not know, even in our rather distanced quasi-literary sense (hardly titillating). I do think that this was a one-off, though, so I haven’t felt inclined to opine about it, except in the general sense of “should a minor review on a blog with adult material per se”.

    @Marianne McA: I appreciate your point about rules, and the concern for child welfare. I think we can all agree that nobody wants a child to be exposed to sexual material or actions that might harm them, although I suspect we might disagree about what material is harmful and what isn’t.

    I mentioned earlier that I thought there was something to the concerns you and others raise, and to me, it is the colliding of worlds. It is inevitable that at the edges of romance we will meet YA readers who are in fact minors. Asking ourselves how they fit into a community ostensibly of adults is worthwhile. With 93% of teens online daily, I am sure there are already minors reading our blogs, although the latest data suggests Teens Don’t blog or Tweet. You have to go to Facebook to find them! I am not in the camp that says a 15 year old is exactly like an adult just because they might read some racy material. I think age matters, but how it matters … I am not sure.

    I agree with @Ann Somerville on one point in particular: I want to be very careful of equating reading a novel, even a sexually explicit one, with child abuse of any kind, and I’m even more leery of making the kind of serious accusations about DA to which such an equation naturally gives rise.


  34. @ Jessica – I’m not talking about DA.

    I don’t read Ann’s posts: she kindly exempted me from that some time ago. If she, or you, suggest that I equated a child reading sexually explicit material with child abuse, you are mistaken.

    Two of my three internet-using teenagers are sitting important exams at the moment: I need to be generating an air of calm, and that allegation has just put my blood pressure through the roof. I can’t afford to do heated debate this month. So, sorry to dip out, but I’m withdrawing from the discussion.


  35. Janet W – It is your business. Of course, it is your business. It’s all our business because children who are raised by permissive parents socialize with children who are raised by strict parents, and inevitably the permissive worldview wins out. Peers become far more important than parents to kids years before a child reaches adulthood, and I think in fact that many today are counting on that fact. Wait for the priggish parents to die off, then we’ll have the New World Order, etc., etc.

    You cannot have a functioning society when there are no agreed upon rules by which the young are raised. This is a large part of why we do not currently have a very functional society – because we just love, love, love the moral relativism. It is so much easier. Unless you’re a parent and you do not want your child growing up thinking that current mores are, well, moral. Then good luck to ya.

    I read romances as a teen. I do not think this is evidence for why or why not I am or am not screwed up now. The climate in the 1980’s is not the climate of today, but I also do not believe Gen X came out unscathed.

    On a further note, I think it’s sad in a different way that a unifying piece of literature for Gen X is Flowers in the Attic. Because is wasn’t a very good story and it wasn’t terribly well written either.


  36. My mom didn’t monitor my reading. Or maybe she just didn’t object, or didn’t voice her objections. I’m sure that my choices weren’t what she would have chosen *for* me, and I love her for letting me go my own way.

    I agree with Carolyn that the internet can be toxic. Some of these kerfluffles send seasoned pros into meltdowns! I don’t consider this situation “skeevy,” however. I’m not seeing personal or inappropriate comments on either side.


  37. I was reading Anais Nin and Henry Miller when I was 15. I bought them at the book store. My parents would never have approved of me reading that but since they didn’t know, I never shared with them.

    It did me no harm and if I were to have grown up in current times with the internet, I most probably would have discussed those books with others online and not thought anything of it.

    I wonder, would people (mostly women who hang out on DA and other blogs that discuss erotic material) be so upset here if this would have been a 15 year old girl?

    Is part of the squick factor that some are feeling maybe to do with being older women discussing erotic material with a 15 year old boy? Would they feel different if it were a well articulated girl of 15 whose been reading romances?

    Personally, I don’t have a horse in this race. I’m not a parent and I don’t tell other people how to raise their kids.


  38. @Rachel:

    It’s all our business because children who are raised by permissive parents socialize with children who are raised by strict parents, and inevitably the permissive worldview wins out

    I disagree with this on so many levels, it’s unreal.

    If you’ve raised your child to be an independent thinker, which is what each of us as parents should do, then no-the permissive world view does not win out, and no, I’m sorry Rachel, but what my child reads is NOT your business.

    “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Pr22:6)

    If you’ve done your job as a parent, then what the kids around them isn’t going to factor in as much as you think-they are going to realize that the kids who are getting into sex at too young an age isn’t smart, and they are going to realize that drugs aren’t smart, and they are going to realize that as much as it sucks, school is a much-needed thing.

    This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t monitor who our kids hang OUT with, but it also doesn’t mean we get to pick and choose what other kids read. Frankly, that isn’t your place. At all.

    The kids who are reading are usually the more intelligent, more mature and the ones who are less likely to get in trouble. And you’re worried about them?

    I worry about the bullies, the ones into partying, the ones into alcohol.

    This isn’t just coming from a parent, either-it’s coming from somebody who has spent years working with kids professionally. Give them some credit-especially the ones who read. They are a lot smarter than people think. A lot smarter.


  39. You know, I rarely touch discussions like this with a ten foot pole. I know nothing about the situation on Dear Author with that partcuarlar post. Nor do I care.

    However, you know what keeps popping into the back of my head reading all this? Me. Early 1970s. High school advanced placement English. William Faulkner. Sex with animals.

    It truly amazes me sometimes that I’m considered one of the “conservatives” in romancelandia. Get over yourself people.


  40. The kids who are reading are usually the more intelligent, more mature and the ones who are less likely to get in trouble. And you’re worried about them?

    Not really. I spend no time worrying about what kids are reading these days. What kids have access to now is only a symptom of a much larger societal problem, part of which is a complete lack of adequate supervision of teens by their parents. That – and the inevitable results of that lack of supervision – is what I am worried about.

    But what’s done is done, and can’t be undone. It doesn’t freak me out that John at DA is reading and blogging about erotica as this is only a natural extension of where we have been going as a culture for decades. At this point my focus is on limiting the exposure my kid has to this toxic landscape by unplugging him from it as much as possible.


  41. I feel like kids have fine judgment in realizing if a book is too mature for them or not. From what I could tell John read the erotic romance but realized that genre wasn’t for him. Sounds kind of open and shut to me. He’s a good reviewer, I’m glad DA brought him on.


  42. @ Janet W

    Kids are a “sore spot” for you but you can not see how some people — myself included — might raise an eyebrow or two about a 15 year old reviewing erotica and discussing it online. I’m not asking you to agree with me but can you see that for me it is totally NOT about what he’s reading but where and with whom he’s discussing it.

    Actually, yes, I have read them, and I can see and respect your point. But honestly, were it *my* 15 year old? I’d rather my 15 year old be discussing a book on a blog with articulate lovers of a genre than in a chat room where a lot of predators just love to hang out.

    But yes, again, I understand and respect your viewpoint. And I can see where the concern is coming from. A fifteen year old is still a minor in the US, but I’m also, admittedly, less concerned about 15 year old who’s displayed his maturity level, than a number of the 20 year olds I’ve met who still don’t possess that sort of maturity.


  43. @JanetW

    Do you know very many 15 year olds?

    BTW, actually… yes. Before I stopped nursing to work full time, I worked in nursing, specifically pediatrics. I can’t tell you how many kids I watched go from elementary to gangly teen. I did doctors office’s too, so it wasn’t like I was in and out of their life for just a day-I KNOW the kids. I actually, very often, prefer kids/teens to adults many days.

    So I’m not just speaking out the side of my mouth-I relate to kids and teens fairly well, and for quite a while, I did it professionally.


  44. Shiloh, I can really see your point — particularly the example from your nursing background. It sometimes, perhaps understandably, is easier for a teen to speak with an adult with whom he feels comfortable and safe, rather than with his parents. As I said to you earlier, “What 15 year old checks in with his parents on what he reads? What parents feel that they’re part of that equation?” Really as much of a sweeping statement on my part as your saying that teenage readers are less likely to get into trouble than their non-reading counterparts. Yet I think both of us are mostly right. My kids put off some behaviors for longer than their peers because my dh and I were so clear about what we thought and why and conversations were frank from the word one. And we didn’t monitor their reading. None of them had computers before they went off to high school but we did restrict TV somewhat during the week — mostly because that’s how I was raised and I wanted them to get hooked on books.

    If I understand you correctly, this teenager, a reader, reviewing erotica (whether is was a one-off or not) and then having back and forth convos online with people he doesn’t know, is not a problem for you altho you can see how it is for me. You see, even if you do prefer teenagers to many adults these days, surely it doesn’t happen with total anonymity? Does that make me naive? I am friends with many of my dd’s Facebook friends altho I have not “met” all of them but it’s under “her” umbrella. Jill Sorenson’s opinion notwithstanding, I agree with my 20 yr-old dd: the DA situation felt skeevy to her and it makes me uncomfortable because of a) his age b) the adult venue c) the lack of disclosure that was clear and overt at the beginning of the review.

    Thanks for taking the time to clarify your remarks. I think I have probably exhausted my thoughts on this topic! Clarification: “prefer” means enjoy their company … and I just signed up to have 17 gals spend the night at our place after a national championship so I do get what you mean — their company, their spontaneity, their music … I enjoy it all. I hope this doesn’t come across as “my way or the highway”, it’s just my opinions and thoughts and I suppose being a parent does enter into my world view a bit.


  45. If I understand you correctly, this teenager, a reader, reviewing erotica (whether is was a one-off or not) and then having back and forth convos online with people he doesn’t know, is not a problem for you altho you can see how it is for me.

    It’s not that it’s not a ‘problem’ exactly… I will say I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea. However, I’m more comfortable with the idea of a mature 15 year old who is definitely intelligent and obviously able to voice his concerns that this isn’t the thing for him than, say, a 19 year old girl who is reading the same book and thinking ‘some day my prince will come’.

    Geez, we see ADULT WOMEN moaning and sighing and wailing over the fact that they can’t find a guy to measure up to the men they see in books.

    This 15 yr. old. can obviously appreciate fiction…so while I’m not entirely comfortable with his chronological age, his maturity level impresses me enough, because he’s able to admit he’s not entirely at ease with what he’s reading.

    Does that make sense?


  46. Shiloh says, in part,

    I’m more comfortable with the idea of a mature 15 year old who is definitely intelligent and obviously able to voice his concerns that this isn’t the thing for him than, say, a 19 year old girl who is reading the same book and thinking ’some day my prince will come’.


    I know several women over 40 who are still waiting for their prince to rescue them from their lives–compared to them, this kid is very much adult in his thinking.


  47. I read the review at DA and thought he explained his points of what he liked about the novel, plot and characters and what he didn’t like. He should get brownie points for that alone.

    Now I’m at comment # 10 and I’m more bothered by how we as adults talk to each other. I’m guessing at this point no one knew his age so some people figured it’s fair game to say whatever you want to someone you don’t know. The bigger issue is, of course, he’s a minor and the automatic response is to protect and defend. (And I know if I was John’s mother I would have come through the computer to choke the shit out of one commenter.) Yet I still keep coming back to what about respect, period? Why does my age make it ok for you to disrespect me? Now I’m all for a good debate, but I’m really starting to find the vehement attacks on personal taste, well, distasteful. It took comments being aimed at a 15 year old for me to see it how gross we can be.


  48. How is intellectual maturity an indication of emotional maturity? No matter what your stance is on a minor reviewing an erotic romance on an adult blog, an articulate teen does not necessarily indicate an emotionally mature one. Such an assumption is naive.


  49. “How is intellectual maturity an indication of emotional maturity?”

    I was hoping someone would reply to this, but since they haven’t….

    Not that it’s your business, Sarah – because the people who should be making these decisions are John’s parents, and I can imagine the howls of indignation from you and women like Rachel if someone talked to and about your children the way people are talking to and about John – but John has demonstrated a good deal more emotional maturity than many of the adults in this conversation.

    At least I won’t have to wonder whether I’ll be reading him defending rapists and blaming rape victims in ten years’ time.

    If John is the face of the future, then that’s enormously heartening. But if certain people I’ve seen talking about this are the face of future parenting, then that’s horribly depressing.


  50. @Ann Somerville My question was a general one. I don’t know John and I wouldn’t presume to make a judgement on his maturity level. As you said, that’s not my place.

    I posed the question out of a sense of exasperation. I taught high school students for several years. The behavioural expectations placed on the brightest students were, at times, baffling. I never understood why a smart student should be held more accountable for a transgression than his less academic peers simply because “he should know better”. Smart does not automatically equate emotionally mature, nor should it.

    And for the record: the victim of rape is never to blame. If my kids grow up spouting that crap, then I really will have done something wrong.


  51. Pingback: Oh hypocrisy–and Rachel, formerly from AAR, is at it again. « Her Hands, My Hands

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