In Boston where I live, every Borders store is closing. It’s sad news, especially for sex. I’ve always found the Borders staff to be a sex-positive bunch who don’t keel over with horror when I ask for the Sex section. What’s more, Borders actually has a Sex section. And that’s a political stance. Acknowledging the need for Sex or Erotica shelves is akin to announcing that sex is important – and baby, that’s a statement I respect.
Frankly, my relationship with bookstores often turns sour when I ask for the Sex and Erotica sections. Recently, in a little indie establishment, the bookseller responded by raising her nose in disgust and telling me this was a family store. Well, where the hell does she think family comes from, dammit? To prove a point, I spent my final few moments hunting the shelves for hypocrisy. I found Nabakov’s Lolita, Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus, and Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith. All of them can be classified as erotica and two of them contain incestuous sex. I’m pretty sure incest isn’t “family store” material. Snort. It seems that snooty woman was housing the bookshelves of doom!
In truth, any bookseller who claims they don’t stock books about sex has got to be pretty naive. Let’s face it, you can’t avoid the topic. It’s where we come from. And understanding sexuality is vital. For instance, a teenage boy who is beginning to believe he might be gay should be able to easily get his hands on a book about sexual identity. Likewise, he should be able to find literature about safe sex without having to ask stony-faced people who send him away with a flea in his ear. I can’t think of a more family friendly policy than having a sex section that anyone can locate. Not getting pregnant by mistake, not living in shame, not having unprotected sex…these are family friendly notions.
Still, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Bookstores with sex-positive policies do exist, and thankfully many librarians are knowledgeable about sexuality. I used to live near an excellent library where the collection of sex books was expanded every year. That said, I once borrowed a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and was greeted with a glare when I handed it over at the desk. (It was actually so hilarious that I got a fit of the giggles!). But would she have glared if I was a shy teenage girl who was borrowing a book on abortion? And what if that shy teenager wasn’t used to libraries, and had to ask a library assistant for help locating such a book?
So that’s one of the reasons I will miss Borders. But the battle isn’t lost. Next time you’re in a bookstore, ask for the sex section, especially if you know there isn’t one. Do it because you’re politically proactive and want plant a seed. Because the more we learn that sexual openness is vital, the more healthy this world will be.