Yass Valley Council is being asked to remove a sex education book from its library, with claims it takes a pro-sex stance and contains “judgemental treatment of those who value virginity”.
Welcome to Sex: Your No-Silly-Questions Guide to Sexuality, Pleasure and Figuring It Out is written by Dr Melissa Kang and Yumi Stynes, with illustrations by Jenny Latham. On publisher Hardie Grant Publishing’s website, it is described as an age-appropriate introduction to sex and sexuality pitched at teenagers aged between 12 and 15.
The book discusses contraception, physical development, masturbation, gender diversity, safe sex, gender identity and disability but has caused a backlash, with some claiming its content is too explicit and inappropriate for young children and teenagers.
Yass Valley Councillor Jasmin Jones has lodged a notice of motion for this week’s council meeting, calling for the book to be removed from Yass Valley Library and for the council to consider creating a group to review library resources.
In her reasoning for the motion in the meeting agenda, Cr Jones said she was concerned about the book’s content.
“Of much concern is its specific advice to children regarding ‘safe’ ways to send nude photos [it is illegal to send nude photos of children],” she wrote.
Cr Jones also said the book failed to raise the important issue of the legal age of consent – 16 or 17 depending on which Australian state you are in – until page 119.
A response attributed to the council’s chief executive officer Chris Berry was included in the meeting agenda, where he said the book had been purchased in a bulk buy of new releases.
Mr Berry also acknowledged that there were concerns about the book.
“The staff responded to the concerns by placing the book in the Non-Fiction Collection for Adults and Young Adults,” he wrote.
“There is an expectation there is a level of parental supervision of young children to monitor their reading selections and therefore unlikely that young children would access the Adult and Young Adult collections within the library.”
Cr Jones also wrote that she was concerned children younger than the book’s target audience could read the book.
She said, on balance, it took a pro-sex stance and contained “judgemental treatment of those who value virginity”.
She said it used “non-heterosexual teenagers as examples of children ready to ‘put themselves on the map’ for sexual experiences in years 7-8, which is under the legal age of consent”.
In response to the motion, Mr Berry said any library restrictions on availability would follow a classification from the Australian Classification Board.
“Without an Australian Classification Board classification, the book is unclassified and therefore unrestricted,” he wrote.
“There are no age restrictions for a book without a classification.”
Mr Berry also wrote that establishing a group to review Yass Valley Library content would double-up on the board’s role.
The book is available in Big W stores, though it was pulled from the shelves in July after staff members were abused, and it is currently labelled as an ”online only” item on Big W’s website.
Amid the backlash, the book has topped Amazon Australia’s bestseller list.
Welcome to Sex is the fourth book co-written by Dr Kang and Ms Stynes in their Welcome To series of Welcome to Your Period, Welcome to Consent and Welcome to Your Boobs.
Yass Valley Council’s next meeting will be on Thursday, 24 August, from 4 pm.
Meeting agendas and minutes are available on the council’s website.