This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography

Remember last September, when the book banners crawled out of their pits of nastiness to try to remove YA literature from classrooms and libraries?

It is September again, my friends.

Wesley Scroggins is an associate professor of management at Missouri State University. He was also a speaker at Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, a recent seminar whose purpose was to “To educate our pastors, legislators, educators, students, and all citizens as to the truth about America’s Christian Heritage and the role of fundamental, Biblical Christianity in the establishment and function of our legal, legislative, and educational system, and to work towards the successful reestablishment of these values in our society.”

(Note: I love Jesus. My dad is a United Methodist minister. I point out Scroggins’ affiliation with this group so readers can understand his larger agenda.)

Wesley wrote an opinion piece in the News-Leader of Springfield, MO, in which he characterized SPEAK as filthy and immoral. Then he called it “soft pornography” because of two rape scenes.

The fact that he sees rape as sexually exciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying. It gets worse, if that’s possible, when he goes on to completely mischaracterize the book.

Some people say that I shouldn’t make a big deal about this. That I am giving him more attention than he deserves. But this guy lives about an hour and half from the school district that banned Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN this month.

My fear is that good-hearted people in Scroggins’ community will read his piece and believe what he says. And then they will complain to the school board. And then the book will be pulled and then all those kids who might have found truth and support in the book will be denied that. In addition, all the kids who have healthy emotional lives but who hate reading, will miss the chance to enjoy a book that might change their opinion.

All because some wingnut grabbed the opinion page of his newspaper, bellowed his lies, and no one challenged him.

I have already received incredible support on Facebook and in my inbox. Paul Hankins, an English teacher from Indiana, has started a Twitterfeed –  #SpeakLoudly  – where people can tweet their opinions. And my hero, Judy Blume, wrote to say she is bringing this nonsense to the attention of the National Council Against Censorship.

(I must confess – receiving a message from Judy Blume made me shriek a little. I am such a fangrrl of hers.)

I love the support from the blogosphere, but am concerned that the people in Scroggins’ community who might be swayed by his nonsense are not reading those blogs or following Twitter feeds on the topic. So I am writing to the school district superintendent and to the newspaper. But I know (because I’ve been here before) that my comments will likely be greeted with scepticism because I have a vested interest in the process.

I need your help.

Please share your experiences with SPEAK; your own response to the book, or the way you’ve seen it work in a school setting. Tahleen has already posted her thoughts on her blog. You can do the same. Please share links to your blog in Comments.

But then, please speak up to the people who can make a real difference in Republic, MO.

You can submit a letter to the editor of the News-Leader.

You can write to the superintendent of the Republic School District, Dr. Vern Minor, or to the high school principal, Daren Harris.

You can comment directly to Scroggins’ opinion piece.

Here I am reading “Listen” the poem I wrote based on reader response to SPEAK.

Banned Books Week is only a few days away. Consider this your chance to get a head start on speaking up about a good book and defending the intellectual freedoms guaranteed us in our Constitution.

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  1. Posted September 30, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    This year was the first time I have read your book. As I was reading it, I said to myself, “I wish this book had found it’s way to me when I was 13.” I will never know how different those years would have been if there was a book like this around for me. Perhaps I would have spoken sooner. It enrages me that someone would dare attempt to take the opportunity for empowerment away from another young girl. I will be writing a letter to the editor and encouraging others to do the same both on my blog and in my community. Thank you so much for writing this book and I wish you the best.

  2. Mary
    Posted September 30, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    My son is 13 next year he will be a Freshman. My older son who is sixteen was assigned this book when he was a Freshman I was so impressed with the book and it’s story line I assigned it to my 13 year old to READ. This book kept his attention and gave a great discussion for my family. I suggested it to his 8th grade teacher. GREAT READING and a lesson learned

  3. Lindsay
    Posted September 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Well, i don’t have a blog, so i am just going to post my response here.

    let me just say, that i literally just finished reading SPEAK for the first time a few days ago. AND IT CHANGED MY LIFE.

    this book is one-of-a-kind and does not deserved to be banned. i even checked it out from my school library.

    Melinda is in a way, just like me (except i’ve never been raped and i dont normally hang out in a closet and im not very good at drawing trees or anything) but just the fact of all the inside thoughts she has on the world around her, THOSE ARE THE SAME THOUGHTS RUNNING THROUGH MY HEAD! Any teenager can relate to Melinda and i feel as if she’s one of the most inspiring characters ive ever read about.

    this book changed my life.

  4. christy
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    so totally disagree with the idea of book banning. who really has the right to say what anyone should or shouldn’t read. same thing goes for music movies or tv. what’s art or trash is subjective. but if the right of choice is takenaway, what do people have? i never read the book,Speak, but saw the movie and was moved by it. when i was in middle and high school, i was bullied and sexually harassed. thats what caused me to start my self injury. i’m glad there are writers like Laurie and Ellen Hopkins and others who are willing to talk about things like rape and sucide intheir books because it happens and needs to be talked about, not swept under a rug.

  5. Posted October 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Here’s one illustrator’s animated response to Wesley Scroggins letter:

  6. Posted October 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Here’s one illustrator’s animated response to Wesley Scroggins’ letter.

  7. Posted October 5, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to share a post I wrote about this on my own blog: Writing is important; reading is important. Knowledge is good. Exposure to new ideas and different world views is good. You go, Laurie.

  8. Teaira
    Posted October 6, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I believe, that “Speak” should not be banned. This book, is a very life changing book. For an assignment, I’ve been having to read this book. This book has truly changed my life in a good way. It made me think about things more. So, I hope that he doesn’t ban this book, because everyone should have the right to read this book.

  9. Posted October 11, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I will be blogging about this and writing to Republic. I love SPEAK, as does my roommate, and quite a few others here in “Main Hall.” I know what it is like to deal with sexual assault and sexual abuse, and this book is such a wonderful, valuable resource for those who have experienced it and don’t know what to do.

    Scroggins calling it porn says more about what he gets off on than it says about the content of the book.

    It’s not even about sex! It’s about rape!

    It’s about a young woman who has been silenced. And now this man–and this school district–is going to silence her again….

    Thank you for this book and for speaking up in light of recent criticisms.

    Andréa deCarlo
    Moravian Class of 2011
    Moravian Theological Seminary

  10. Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    wow, I hate censorship, I believe that everyone should be free to decide what is right for them to watch, read, hear and experience. that choice is only up to the person.

    anyone that calls rape porn is obviously either sick or extremely sheltered. one doesn’t need to be personally affected by rape to know that it affects people for the rest of their lives, and changes them accordingly.

    To have an insight into this, to the pain that people suffer, is life, not porn.

    An opinion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one. It’s fine to be proud of it. But please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around, and PLEASE don’t try to shove it down children’s throats.

  11. Posted October 12, 2010 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Wesley Scoggins sounds like a typical bigot, the type of person who gives all of Christianity a bad name with his agenda. Even his name is creepy. A creep who finds rape exciting. A creep who doesn’t even know the difference between rape and sex. I haven’t read this book but now I will. Banning books is nasty but usually has the oppositie of the intended effect. So one wonders why the nasties bother. You have a new follower.

  12. randymcda
    Posted October 13, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Want your site’s visitors to skyrocket to 2965 per day go to http:// You won’t believe it

  13. andrea
    Posted October 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I just don’t understand how a book that has comforted so many people can be seen as something worth banning. Frankly, it disgusts me.

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