26 August 2023

Yass Valley Council rejects attempt to remove youth sex ed book from library

| Claire Sams
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A Notice of Motion organised by a Yass Valley councillor to ban a youth sex education book from the shire library has been defeated. Photo: Tom Hermans/Unsplash.

An attempt to ban a youth sex education book at a regional council meeting has failed.

The book in question is Welcome to Sex: Your No-Silly-Questions Guide to Sexuality, Pleasure and Figuring It Out, written by Dr Melissa Kang and Yumi Stynes, with illustrations by Jenny Latham.

Yass Valley Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones had lodged a Notice of Motion in Tuesday’s meeting (24 August) to pull Welcome to Sex from Yass Library’s catalogue.

Addressing her fellow councillors during the meeting, Cr Jones said that while youth sexual education was important, it should be done responsibly.

“Sex education books are a vital tool for our families and teens, for us to discuss and learn, and should be part of our library’s collection,” she said.

“However, local families have raised the alarm over this particular book.”

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Cr Jones said she was concerned by the book’s discussion of sexting by teenagers, and the advice to crop one’s face out of any images.

“I would argue the advice should be ‘You should never send a nude photo of yourself or keep any that you have received’, she said.

“It is not enough to crop the head off a naked image of a child – someone under 18 – and still share it.

“This can be illegal with serious penalties – so what is the law?

“Under federal child pornography laws, it is still illegal for a child under 18 to take, keep, share or send sexual images of someone under 18, including images of themself, by phone or online.”

On publisher Hardie Grant Publishing’s website, Welcome to Sex is described as an age-appropriate introduction to sex and sexuality pitched at teenagers aged between 12 and 15.

Cr Jones also raised concerns about the book’s discussion of masturbation, including the use of household objects, which she termed “irresponsible and misleading”.

She also spoke against the book’s description of sex acts and the use of sex toys.

During the meeting, she said the bright colours and illustrations featured on the cover could see children younger than the book’s target audience pick up the book.

“[The book] has cute little pictures, cartoon pictures with eyes drawn on them,” she said.

“My five-year-old would be attracted to that book.”

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Cr Jones also said the book had a pro-sex stance.

“Our children have a right to cherish their celibacy, to value their virginity, to look forward to committing to a monogamous relationship within the intended partnership of marriage, if they want to,” she said.

“This book is an arrow to the heart of families who hold those values and their children.”

Following Cr Jones’s address, several of her fellow councillors spoke for or against the motion.

Some agreed that the book’s content was too explicit and inappropriate, while comments from those speaking in support included that they found out things they didn’t know and that it should not be a library’s responsibility to determine what was appropriate for each child.

Several also said that they had received many emails from the Yass community before the meeting on the topic. The motion was defeated by seven votes to two.

A second part of Cr Jones’s motion, for the council to consider creating a group to review concerns about library content, lapsed.

Meeting agendas and minutes are available on the council’s website.

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