GLSEN & the Normalization of Sexual Abuse

I’m generally skeptical regarding accounts of Big Gay nefariously imposing a radical homosexual agenda on Americans.  You don’t have to be Freud to analyze the hyperventilations of some conservatives about gay sex being “shoved down our throats.” It was with that in mind that I read Scott Baker’s shocking rundown of graphic and unhealthy sexual depictions in the youth reading materials recommended by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

GLSEN’s bibliography of “pre-screened” titles for kids was compiled to further the organization’s “mission to ensure safe schools for all students.”  Books selected for inclusion were ostensibly “reviewed by GLSEN staff for quality and appropriateness of content.” The list was developed under the leadership of Kevin Jennings, the founder and longtime executive director of GLSEN who now serves as President Obama’s safe schools czar.

The recommendations for schoolchildren are divided into two categories, one for grades K-6 and another for 7-12.’s Scott Baker and his team looked at a random sample of books in the latter category and found passages that went far beyond the promotion of LGBT tolerance:

What we discovered shocked us. We were flabbergasted. Rendered speechless.

We were unprepared for what we encountered. Book after book after book contained stories and anecdotes that weren’t merely X-rated and pornographic, but which featured explicit descriptions of sex acts between pre-schoolers; stories that seemed to promote and recommend child-adult sexual relationships; stories of public masturbation, anal sex in restrooms, affairs between students and teachers, five-year-olds playing sex games, semen flying through the air.

Many conservative bloggers following this story have likened books on the GLSEN list to child pornography.  While I think that’s a stretch, there’s no question that the excerpts and scans available at Gateway Pundit are stunningly explicit and inappropriate for many teens. Some passages glamorize promiscuity, unprotected sex, and sex between teens and adults as part of normal and expected gay behavior.  The excerpts are available here and here.

After reading through dozens of passages, I’m left with the impression that exploitation, abuse, promiscuity, and risk are being promoted as normal, acceptable, and even expected experiences for gay youth.  Too many of these vignettes read like validations of the stereotypical hypersexual gay lifestyle.  Instead of reading about the challenges of coming out, gay teens (and their heterosexual peers) are being handed a degenerate’s blueprint for how to live a “gay life,” starting with being initiated by a pedophile and working up to unhealthy hate sex and anonymous restroom encounters.

I realize many gay people (and many straight people) have had formative sexual experiences with much older people. But regardless of any fond memories, sex between adults and adolescents is exploitation, not love, and I fail to see how graphic portrayals of sexual abuse contribute to tolerance and school safety.

The passages from the GLSEN-recommended books give unfortunate credence to the sexually obsessed, debaucherous caricatures that often dominate mainstream depictions of gays.  Incidentally, these are the very same caricatures that prevent broader support for gay marriage and adoption.  But being gay doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to a lifetime of loveless rest stop sex with strangers.  It doesn’t mean you can’t have a lifelong partner, intimacy, a family, and even a white picket fence. In my experience, too many gay kids don’t realize that, and these books certainly aren’t helping.

Dan Blatt observes that gay fiction frequently leaves the same impression as the titles on the GLSEN list:

They all seemed to define their sexuality by its sexual expression.  Only a handful (notably the eloquent Jim Grimsley) wrote convincingly about non-sexual longing and emotional intimacy.  Most included gratuitous and graphic descriptions of sexual activity.

The notion that homosexuality doesn’t put intimacy and true partnership out of reach is exactly what gay kids need to see.  Instead they’re getting the glamorization of pedophilia.  Healthy, mature same-sex relationships don’t begin with memoirs about sleep away camp circle jerks and wistful reminiscing about experiences with child predators.  They just don’t.

I’m left wondering if GLSEN staffers recommended these titles to somehow rationalize unhealthy experiences in their own lives.

The excerpts from these books attempt to mainstream experiences that have little to do with being gay. People may be born gay, but they’re not born with an inclination to sniff semen-drenched tissues left behind at gas station bathrooms.

How can any parent, any decent person, defend this stuff as instructive?

Predictably, conservatives criticizing the GLSEN recommendations are being attacked as homophobes by Media Matters.  Apparently social cons fail to get suitably worked up about explicit sexual situations in books like The Lord of the Flies. Newsflash: a flip book overview of the Western canon’s raunchiest high school hits wouldn’t come close to some of the violent and abusive sexual experiences depicted in the GLSEN books.

And comparing the GLSEN recommendations to the ALA’s list of banned books is contextually disingenuous.  The Lord of the Flies isn’t assigned because educators are trying to promote tolerance of the behavior described in William Golding’s novel.  The same can’t be said for the titles on the GSLEN list.  It’s all about context, and GLSEN is way off the mark.

Note to Media Matters: some things are indefensible, regardless of political ideology.

via Michelle Malkin


13 Responses to “GLSEN & the Normalization of Sexual Abuse”

  1. DodiaFae on December 6th, 2009 10:19 pm

    I was just horrified when Rob told me about this, and even more so when I started reading the links. I can’t believe what this group is promoting. No decent parent would stand for any group suggesting a list of books that portrayed young girls having sexual relationships with older men, male teachers, prostituting themselves, having sexual encounters in bathrooms, etc. And they wouldn’t be called “heterophobes” for protesting such a “recommended reading list”, either. Why then are parents and other concerned citizens being bashed for protesting this list? Just because a child is gay, doesn’t mean that they deserve less healthy relationships than the hetero kids.

    Oh, the pedophiles can’t know about this, or they’d be having a field day with it.

    Thank you for posting this. More people need to know about this.

    On another note… WTF is wrong with Obama??? First Ogden, now this guy???

  2. Jenn Q. Public on December 6th, 2009 10:40 pm

    DodiaFae, that’s a good point about how the reaction would be different if the books portrayed girls with adult men. I think we’re looking at the soft bigotry of low expectations, as if molestation and abuse are just part of being gay.

    Gay teens deserve better than they’re getting.

    As far as more people finding out about this, I wouldn’t hold my breath. If it even makes it to the most trusted news source in America (The Daily Show), Jon Stewart will just joke about how shelves in conservative libraries must be empty because they’re prudes and bigots.

  3. DodiaFae on December 7th, 2009 1:16 pm

    Well, I’ll do my best to help out there.

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid you may be right to a certain extent (if not completely)… in my experience, people don’t even want to think about the possibility of their own child being sexually exploited. Never mind their neighbor’s “gay kid”, or their child’s “gay classmate”, etc. Hell, this shouldn’t effect them or theirs if their kids are straight (or if they believe their kids to be straight), right?

    As for the excerpts I’ve read so far… I’ve always thought of “romance novels” as the “letters to penthouse for bored housewives” (apologies to any who may be fans of romance novels… nothing personal toward you, I just can’t get into them any more than I can get into watching porn.) Those book excerpts weren’t any less explicit, and even worse in the sense that they mainly depict children being exploited by adults. Disgusting. I ended up skimming some, and then couldn’t read any more. Had to take a break. If any of those stories are true, and not just fantasies made up by pedophiles and pederasts, then it’s really just heartbreaking that those children went through that.

    BTW, do you think that The Daily Show is really all that trusted? I watch it for a lark sometimes, but don’t take much of it seriously. Really? The Daily Show?

  4. Jenn Q. Public on December 7th, 2009 4:43 pm

    Yes, it’s the normalization of exploitation that’s key here.

    I imagine the stories are true. I don’t know the statistics, but in my experience gay kids are even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse (not to mention drug use, suicide, etc.) than the general teen population. These accounts may be completely honest, and I have no problem with adults reading these memoirs, but kids should be getting guidance that lets them know they don’t have to be walking stereotypes.

    Re: The Daily Show, I wasn’t kidding. A Time poll found that Jon Stewart is by far the most trusted newscaster in America. Obviously I take that poll with a grain of salt, but I do know people who got their news from Stewart during the 2008 election season.

  5. PatrickKelley on December 7th, 2009 8:33 pm

    “You don’t have to be Freud to analyze the hyperventilations of some conservatives about gay sex being “shoved down our throats.””

    Thanks, this is as of now the newest funniest thing I’ve ever read in my life.

  6. Jenn Q. Public on December 7th, 2009 9:12 pm

    Thanks, Patrick. It’s good to know that someone makes it to at least the second sentence of my posts. :)

  7. PatrickKelley on December 9th, 2009 8:03 am

    I linked this post, by the way.

  8. Jenn Q. Public on December 9th, 2009 1:22 pm

    Thanks for the link. Patrick, does your blog have an RSS feed? I couldn’t find it.

  9. Trish Deneen on December 9th, 2009 5:18 pm

    This is so disturbing, and I sadly agree that it won’t be on the radar of most people including parents who need to know about it.

  10. PatrickKelley on December 9th, 2009 8:53 pm


    I disabled RSS feed on my blog after somebody from the Netherlands used it to start a website under the name The Pagan Temple, using my original posts, and then tried to sell it to me. That’s why I also got my blog listed under Creative Commons. I figure it might not keep somebody from lifting my posts, but at least it should enable me to keep credit for what I write, since my posts are all dated and what have you. It might at least discourage intellectual property theft.

    I might enable RSS feeds again at some point, but I’m still kind of wary.

  11. DodiaFae on December 12th, 2009 7:25 pm

    Jenn, would you mind if I posted this piece to the “Campaign Against GLSEN” group on PACA with a link back here?

  12. Jenn Q. Public on December 12th, 2009 7:31 pm

    DodiaFae, sure, go ahead and post it. Thanks!

  13. DodiaFae on December 14th, 2009 1:51 pm


    Let me know what you think… I know that Rob prefers to post part of his RA posts and link back at the end, so please let me know if you’d prefer this, and where you’d like me to make the cutoff.

    Thanks for letting me post it!

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