Strippers, Drag Queens, Sex Ed: Just Your Average Day at the Public Library

There is some weird stuff going on in the most unlikely of places—public libraries. I wrote previously about the trend of drag queens hosting children’s story hour in libraries, and that trend hasn’t slowed down. Meanwhile, in Lexington Park, Maryland, a former pole dancer taught a “sex workshop” for teens that parents were strictly forbidden from attending.

The event was hosted by the Southern Maryland Area Secular Humanists (or SMASH, as the group calls itself) and featured sex educator and former pole dancer Bianca Palmisano talking to teenagers ages twelve to seventeen about sex. “My talks are largely focused on clinical education and giving teens a safe space to ask questions without the watchful eye of parents,” she told Baynet. Parents, for some reason, chose to sign their kids up for the class, and the library had to bring in extra security to make sure that potential protesters didn’t disrupt the event. (Despite protests, about a dozen students took part in the class, and it was completed relatively peacefully).

Why was a pole dancer talking about sex to children in a library in the first place? Yes, the event was held in a room the library allowed outside organizations to pay to rent, and the Constitution protects our right to gather, but the existence of such events suggests not only some questionable parenting choices on the part of those who encouraged their kids to sign up, but also questionable judgment on the part of a growing number of library administrators.

And yet, libraries are apparently doubling down on such provocative events.

Drag Queen story time, a library-sanctioned event, is spreading across the country. Drag queens stopped by New Orleans for the first time on July 8, hosted by beauty blogger Kimberly Clark. “We are these kind of magical unicorn versions of people,” Clark told NOLA.com, “that show kids that they could be anything that they want to be … (and) dress up like whatever you want.” Library branch manager Seale Paterson said that Drag Queen Story Time is here to stay. “We’re hoping to make it a monthly or bimonthly event.”

In Bloomington, Indiana, an upcoming Drag Queen Story event for kids is causing a little more controversy. Two drag queens are scheduled to visit the Monroe County public library on July 21 to read to and sing with kids, which library associate director Jane Cronkhite says is a natural fit. “With children, there’s so much of an element of dress-up and play in what they do already,” Cronkhite told the Herald-Times, “We just want to say it is OK to express yourself, to express your individuality and get a sense of acceptance about that, what they are doing and exploring in themselves.” However, she did concede, “We’ve also heard from people who don’t think it’s appropriate for the library to be doing something like this.”

As these events gain in popularity, they have also understandably gained more critics. After the Boston Public Library hosted the Boston Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of drag queens who dress up as Catholic nuns, Princeton University professor Robert P. George spoke out. He argued that the group, whose slogan is “Go forth and sin some more,” was an inappropriate choice for a children’s storytelling event. “The ‘Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’ are sending a message that they have the power to enter into the public domain, a publicly funded institution,” George told CBN News. “And they’re sort of celebrating it and telling us all about it and making sure that we know that they’ve got it and we don’t.” He found the addition of the religious angle offensive, calling the event “a catechism class—an indoctrination session—in the religion of sexual liberation,” which was “incorporating a religious dimension or a pseudo-religious dimension” that was tiptoeing to the edge of the First Amendment, not to mention crossing far over the edge of taste by being aggressively offensive to Catholics.

George pointed out that such mockery of nearly any other group in a publicly funded forum would not be tolerated. “Just imagine the outcry if, instead of Catholic nuns, the mockery was aimed at immigrants, African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, handicapped people, Buddhists, Muslims; or, indeed, self-identified ‘gay’ or ‘transgendered individuals,’” he remarked. “It would be deafening.”

Not long ago, the idea of drag queens reading to kids in a public library would have seemed highly unlikely. Now, it’s becoming run-of-the-mill in these liberal strongholds, as library administrators push the cultural envelope by hosting pole dancers and men dressed as hypersexual nuns. Like many people, I will fight fiercely to protect people’s right to assemble and talk about what they want to, but why is it that the “edgy” programming at libraries completely ignores half of the population—i.e., those who hold more conservative views? I looked through many library websites, and if there is any programming being offered to help children or teenagers explore conservative values, I didn’t find it.

The problem with libraries hosting strippers is the same one that plagues libraries hosting drag queens: these events are being sold as a way to encourage children to have an open mind and embrace diversity from an early age. But as anyone who cares to pay attention will immediately realize, in fact they are a way to introduce children to one particular way of thinking—the accepted liberal view of sexuality—which is why you find drag queens and strippers, not pastors and police officers, at these story hours. Truly open-minded programming would present kids with a wide variety of readers from across the political spectrum, not just the same old drag queens.

Image: By Elvert Barnes (CC)

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  • Mack

    Time to run for city council.

  • Rock

    So what’s the real problem here. The lessons going on in the libraries, or parents letting their offspring attend them?

  • Alicia Westberry

    Kids are going with parental consent. Furthermore, unless “pastors and police officers” are being turned away from offering to read during storytime, I fail to see the problem.