The Heights, the student newspaper at Boston College, reported on March 12 that the erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” has been pulled from its bookstore.
Assistant Director of the Boston College Bookstore Tina Plotegher told Jennifer Suh, a reporter for The Heights, that the bookstore staff decided to stop selling the trilogy in response to customer complaints.
“They didn’t believe the University should be promoting a book that goes against Catholic religion,” Plotegher told The Heights.
The Rev. Richard Malloy, S.J., highlighted a more unconventional way in which the trilogy goes against Catholic ideals.
“That book really isn’t about sex, it’s is about power. It’s money and being able to do things other people can’t because you have money. That might be what’s more against Catholic values,” he said.
Malloy encouraged young people to look for loving relationships as opposed to meaningless sex.
“What the church says is, ‘Let’s live our lives as loving human persons,’” Malloy said. “It’s not that we’re against ‘Fifty Shades,’ we just look at ‘Fifty Shades’ and say, ‘Well, is that really floating your boats? Is it really working for you, or is it just degrading women?’”
“I’m not a big fan of censorship,” Malloy said of stocking the trilogy in The University’s bookstore. “But on the other hand I’m not really interested in providing crap.”
Both The University’s and Boston College’s bookstores are operated by a third- party organization, Follett Bookstore Management, which is not religiously affiliated. Malloy feels that third-party companies should be cognizant of their partners’ values.
“When we partner with a company, they should respect who and what we are,” he said.
Several public libraries across America have pulled “Fifty Shades of Grey” for a variety of reasons. The Brevard County Public Library in Florida called the trilogy “pornographic material” and removed the trilogy from circulation. The Harford County Public Library in Maryland also called it pornographic and chose not to add it to circulation. Library Director Mary Hastler told the American Library Association Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom that after reading the first two books in the series, she decided it did not meet Harford’s selection criteria.
“In my personal opinion, it’s almost like a how-to manual in terms of describing bondage and submissive relationships. A lot of the reviews that came out very publicly and quickly defined these books as ‘mommy porn.’ Since our policy is that we don’t buy porn, we made the decision not to purchase the series,” Hastler told the ALA Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom.
The Weinberg Memorial Library does not have any copies of the trilogy, though it is available on the PALCI E-Z Borrow network to request from 35 university collections across the state. All seven of nine copies in the Paterno Library at Pennsylvania State University that are available to check out are on loan until May 7.
Reference Coordinator and Chair of Library Faculty Betsey Moylan said that the library does not have a book budget. Instead, books are purchased by academic departments and donated to the library.
“We are against censorship, as librarians,” Moylan said. She added that the library generally avoids purchasing leisure reading books.
Vintage Books, the publisher of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” released a statement after the trilogy was pulled from Brevard County in which it decried the library’s “act of censorship.”
“The very act of rejecting erotica as a category suitable for public libraries sends an unmistakable message of condemnation that is moralistic in tone, and totally inappropriate in a public institution dedicated to serving the needs and interests of all members of the community,” the letter said.
The ALA released an official statement on the controversy surrounding “Fifty Shades of Grey” in which it offered its support to libraries making decisions about how to allocate their resources.
“ALA encourages libraries making decisions about their collections to keep in mind their basic missions and the core values of intellectual freedom and providing access to information,” the statement said.
Ken Hall, the Font du Lac Public Library director, said he chose not to circulate the trilogy because it was poorly written. He told the ALA Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom that while he has been bombarded with negative feedback since he decided not to stock “Fifty Shades of Grey,” he has also received a few compliments on his decision.
“With this type of book, we will get somebody questioning our decision no matter what decision we make,” Hall told the ALA Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom. “We live in an age where people don’t like to talk about gray areas. No pun intended.”
March 27, 2015.