Every now and then a novel comes along that causes a big stink and book burnings etc. However, in the end, the author tends to be better off and the banned book becomes more famous. Now, I'm against censorship and this isn't really about censorship pro/con. It's more about...comparatively speaking books are the most free things out there.
Think about it. Video games, movies and television shows all have rating systems. Even CDs now have parental advisory warnings on them. But at the current time there is no such rating system for books.
You have to be an adult to buy/rent/go see an R rated or NC-17 rated movie. You have to be an adult to buy a Playboy or Hustler or any of thousands of movies with charming titles like: “Debbie does Dallas.” I have a very hard time believing she did ALL of Dallas, but whatever. ;)
Books aren't like this. Even novels of erotica share the same shelf space with the other books. There is no red curtained off area. There are no parental advisory labels. There is no rating system. There is no law that you have to show your ID before purchasing it. An erotica novel can be purchased by anyone with money to buy it.
Now granted, any individual store clerk might say: “Now, honey does your mama know you're buying this” if some 14 year old were to approach the counter with 'Story of O' or the erotica of Anais Nin for example, and yet, there is no law saying that 14 year old couldn't purchase it.
I wonder why that is? It's definitely adult material. And judging from recent freakouts over the word 'scrotum' in a children's novel, surely words like 'cock' and 'pussy' are things conservative people who set themselves up as protectors of our morality and children should be in an uproar about. Not to mention BDSM fiction. Sometimes I wonder if our gatekeepers of morality are even aware of how inundated in our culture games of dominance and submission have become.
I think it's kind of a bizarre situation to tell the truth. Online erotica stories have stiff warnings of “you must be 18 to view this material” blah blah blah to cover their collective legal asses. And yet, a fifteen year old who manages to get a hold of mommy's credit card, or buys a visa gift card, or is savvy enough to exchange their spare change at a coinstar machine for an amazon gift certificate, can hop on over to Amazon.com and buy an erotica novel, no questions asked or hoops to jump through. Not even a button to clicky clicky saying you're 18.
Although I have no idea how/why anyone thinks this honor system works. I can only assume it's to protect the seller because they didn't knowingly sell to a minor. I can assure you, almost no kid feels guilty for lying on the internet about being 18.
To some degree I think we overprotect both minors and adults from sex and it shows in the sexual hang ups a lot of people grow up with. It's not healthy. Human beings might not be super emotionally mature before 18, but they are sexually maturing before then.
While I believe kids should be allowed to be kids as long as possible, and the sexual exploration of a minor should happen between minors and not between minors and adults, exploration will happen. They will explore, and figure out what they need to figure out. And they're going to masturbate. Get over it. Keeping them from reading a book with the word Scrotum in it, only makes you look like a ninny.
It also makes me wonder how many adults have forgotten their own sexual awakening. Have they just blocked out of their memory the first time they had a dirty thought, read something 'naughty' or masturbated? I really don't get it.