A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Scrotum. Scrotum. Scrotum.

Two weeks ago, an Atlantic Beach theatre company received a complaint about their marquee.  Seems they were playing "The Vagina Monologues", and some mom drove by with her ten-year-old, who asked, "Mom, what's a 'vagina'?"  The mom, righteously indignant, called and complained.

The theatre company, in a fit of sardonic amusement, immediately changed the marquee to read "The Hoohaa Monologues".

(They did change it back a few days later, having made their point.)

Segue into the most recent news.  The American Library Association's listserv has been plunged into ripe controversy.  A discussion of the "10 most banned books"?  Complaints about parental interference?  Gossip about what happened at the Library Association meeting?

No.  Librarians taking a stand.  A strong, uncompromising stand.  Against a book.

We can't have a child's book that mentions "scrotum" on the first page!

O, the horror!

OmegaDotter, cover your shell-like eyeballs, for fear that you will be corrupted by the eeeevul influences of the wuuurld!

Kozmik All forbid that your innocent child should be subjected to the word "vagina" while driving down the road.  Or "scrotum" when opening the latest Newberry Award winning book.

Is "uterus" okay?  I've been telling OD that babies grow in mommies' uteruses (uteri?).  We do use play words--"dangly bits" are for boys, for instance.  But we've slipped a "penis" in here and there.  I'm afraid she's ruined for life now.

One of the things that bothers me most about this is that some librarians--those keepers of the gates against censorship--are refusing to buy this book (when librarians typically automatically order two copies of any Newberry book) for fear of complaints from parents.  Because of one word.  The story itself doesn't seem to be about anything too terribly controversial--a young girl is growing up and figuring out how to face the world.  But these staunch preservers of liberty of the written word are flinching from hordes of imaginary angry parents before they even manifest themselves.

This is sad.

Are they worn down, tired of fighting?  Are they just afraid?  Will they refuse to answer a kid who comes up to the reference desk and asks about the word "scrotum"?  What about "breast"? 

And those angry parents--who, I am sure, will appear--Does having a knowledge of certain words act like gateway drugs?  Knowing the word "scrotum" is going to lead, inevitably, to horrendous things like (gasp!) teh sex?  Is there a magic age at which it's okay to know the word "scrotum"?

The funny thing is that, in context, I know exactly what this author is talking about: 

“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,” the book continues. “It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”

It does sound medical...and secret...and important.  It's not a sound that you encounter in the English language very often, which makes it even more interesting.  It's just a neat word, plain and simple.

But, obviously, it's terribly, terribly dangerous in the hands of 10-year-olds.

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posted by Kate @ 2/18/2007 10:47:00 AM  
  • At 2/18/2007 04:22:00 PM, Blogger PAgent said…

    There just aren't that many clever euphemisms for the scrotum. I think that's partly because, as you've indicated, it ALREADY sounds like a word you made up. Plus, I just don't think the scrotum enjoys the kind of obsessive attention that other reproductive bits do. Frankly, it's all just a popularity contest.

    With that said, you can always refer to it as the 'coinpurse'. THAT should inspire giggles at the five and dime.

  • At 2/18/2007 05:04:00 PM, Blogger Space Mom said…

    Scrotum, huevos de oro, Balls, 'nads.

    I just discussed this with Jay INFRONT OF MY 2.5 and 4.5 year old. Do you think they will be corrupted for life?

    Let's see, if a teacher is NOT COMFORTABLE saying "that's a part of a boy's body" and "You can ask your parents for more information" then perhaps they are in the wrong role...

  • At 2/20/2007 08:13:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    PAGent--You would be surprised at all the cute double-entendres that have been floating around the blogosphere related to this story!

    SpaceMom--You said it. I scrutinized the comments on the NYTimes story, and out of 480 there were only 20 that agreed with the school librarians (I should have emphasized that it was school librarians, not public library librarians--different beasts). Of course, the realization that there were 20 folks who said things like, "since it’s a book for children , it would be much better for the author to descibe them in an implicit way through the wistful eyes of children to maintain the purity of childhood" was enough to make me gag.

  • At 2/26/2007 10:03:00 PM, Blogger Staci Schoff said…

    Honestly, if you've got a ten year old who has never heard the word "vagina" -- Well I just find that hard to believe. It's just the medical term for a useful body part people -- get over it!

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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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