A Mother's Crusade to Remove Hardcore Pornography from the Middle of Seattle Libraries

Comments

206
to answer your question, mike @ 202 -

codes of conduct exist all over the place, from not talking on the phone at the theater to not wearing shirts with profanities on them at school to not smoking in bars and restaurants. i think it's perfectly reasonable to have a code of conduct about not sexually gratifying yourself in a public space.

i would not object to violence on screen in the library because (with the exception of a few) the person viewing a violent movie or video game or tv show in a public space is not doing it as a means of including bystanders in a sexual situation without their consent.

it's not about "think of the children," but about just insisting on conduct that doesn't interfere with others' ability to use the space under circumstances that don't harm them. i am pro-porn and pro-first amendment, but i wouldn't want someone in the seat next to me on an airplane watching porn, for example, and i wouldn't object to the flight attendant asking him/her to stop.

it took me until there were 184 comments to fully decide where i fall on this, because i know it's complicated and there are some fundamental issues at stake here. the truth is i don't know exactly where i would draw the line, but after much consideration i've decided that watching porn in the library in view of other patrons is on the other side of it.
207
i'm curious as to how this pans out with SPLs own guiding principles:
it hardly 'supports children and youth' to have laid out computers so minors could be exposed to pornography...

furthermore, SPL maintains a plethora of 'rules of conduct' which could be construed as violations of free speech... so why is some free speech censored, but other free speech acceptable? i think fnarf is dead on with this one...

not allowed at SPL:
-entering in shoeless or shirtless
-offensive body odor or personal hygiene
-distributing literature, signature gathering
-possession of a firearm
-obscene acts such as sex acts & indecent exposure

furthermore, "Library computers and wi-fi may not be used for any illegal activity including... Displaying, printing or sending any material that is obscene, libelous, threatening or harassing"

SPL seems to be as consistent as mitt romney.
208
How is it that in fifteen years of using libraries and internet cafes of every shape and size all over America, I can't remember a single time I've deciphered what other patrons are doing at their screen?

I was taught not to read over other people's shoulders, which I also apply to looking at their screens. A porn-viewer could be trying all day long to get his jollies off by making me uncomfortable by watching porn at the library and I would never know, because I avoid looking over at what strangers are doing on their computers/laptops. Volume is a different thing, and it should have rules placed on it. Looking at someone's screen is the same as looking over their shoulder as they read. It's rude and annoying.

Seriously, if you can view someone's screen (especially their *laptop* screen) in public long enough to tell what is going on, as some here have mentioned, you are nosy. You are not in a cramped space, you are simply nosy and need a reminder that minding your own business is free, legal, and takes no extra time. It's not a rule, but in the public library it ought to be the first expected standard of public behavior.
209
Plenty of things are legal to do in the privacy of your own home that aren't allowed jn the library: drinking alcohol, for starters, and physical fights. I can't believe the Constitution conflicts with a rule that patrons watching porn have to turn their screens so other patrons can't see them. And no, the answer is not to turn all the computers toward the wall. That place is going to turn into Dirtbag Alley and nobody else is going to want to use the library's computers. 

If you're homeless and you don't have a private space in which to watch your porn, oh excuse me, Eyes Wide Shut, you're out of luck. I'm a far left Democrat and I'm still OK with not spending tax money to build you a viewing booth. I have watched "video of sex" myself at home often enough, but not when my Internet connection is down. You can live without it too. 

Also, +1 to Fnarf an team. I mean, shit, people. 
210
@208, not sure about Seattle, but Portland's computer sections are sometimes quite crowded. Better privacy screens are the answer, I think.

@204, no, I think (at least here in Slog) that three of the most vocal pro-censorship folks have been dudes--Fnarf, ryanayr and kenmeshi.

@197, well, around here, SB is a contrarian--that rhymes with librarian!

Which brings me to my final point: If you find you're on Seattle Blues' side in an argument, reconsider your position.
211
@202 - Thank you so much for asking that! I am if anything quite a bit more bothered by violence on screens than by most porn (violent porn such as Fnarf was describing is a special category that I am extra bothered by). I just don't want to see that! But I will defend someone else's right to watch it, no matter that I am deeply concerned about the implications of people choosing to watch that kind of thing. Rights are for everyone, even people doing things I don't approve of.

And in fact in this modern world I think it would probably do us all good to be a little more discriminating about what images we put into our brains. Once it's in there, you can't take it out. That said, not looking at things I don't want to see is mostly my own responsibility.

However. I am startled and kind of apalled by all the people on here equating a desire for consideration for others in shared spaces with repressive censorship. I will, therefore, try to be clear and to differentiate between the two.

I do not want a law prohibiting graphic sexual and violent material, or religious or scientific or any other material, from the library. I do not want content filters on the computers. I do not want censorship.

What I DO want is simple: I want library patrons, who are after all enjoying a shared space that belongs to none of us individually, to act with respect and consideration for those around them. I don't see anything wrong with a library having a policy to that effect, with a statement that a patron engaging in behavior that bothers another patron will be asked to stop, and persisting in that behavior will be asked to leave.

This applies equally to a person having a cellphone conversation, watching porn or erotica, watching youtube videos of people jumping out of the world trade center, listening to loud headphones, and many other things. Shoot, I've been asked to put a large-format illustrated anatomy book flat on the table instead of upright because it was upsetting to someone. I didn't mind; I felt bad that I hadn't thought of that.

The other part of this equation is that if someone is doing something that bothers you, you have to SAY. Ask the person to have their conversation elsewhere. Tell them that what they are watching is distracting or upsetting to you and ask them to stop or move. And then if they don't, the librarian should have the authority to ask them to stop or leave.

This doesn't require any censorship at all. It just requires that people make the really minimal effort required to refrain from bothering their neighbors in a public space. It is totally possible to watch porn, or read porn, or masturbate in a library without bothering anyone else; I've done all of these. The basic precondition is a desire not to bother anyone else. If they are unwilling to make that effort, I don't see any need for them to be welcomed into the public space.
212
@209

But hobosexuals are Seattle's latest disadvantaged, oppressed minority!! If we can't protect the rights of members of our newest 'vulnerable community' to surf and jerk in front of the whole world, and ruin our public libraries by turning them into government funded peep show salons, well you know what happens next? Fascism!
213
Fnarf, if pointing out your inconsistencies and hypocritical attitudes means not being your friend anymore, I'm good with that. Honestly, if you are in such agreement with SB, and that doesn't give you the slightest pause…

Civil liberties trump all. Irresponsible and yucky behaviors already have remedies, and can be addressed without impeding them.

That is all.
214
@209 by Team Fnarf I mean keshmeshi (who I believe is female), ryanayr, Sea Otter, mr. herriman et al, not Seattleblues or the "hobosexual" troll @212.

@210 and 213, just pointing out that SB has cooties is not enough. I probably don't share his reasons for not wanting to see somebody else's porn in the library, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong, any more than liking to draw makes me Hitler or being refreshed by a glass of water makes me Charles Manson.
215
@ 214, you're not Fnarf, though are you? You're not making the argument that Fnarf is, are you? One which happens to be emotive, based on exaggerated personal accounts (see his comment @ 123) and exaggerated comparisons? Tactics SB always employs?

Basically, what's going one between Fnarf and me is what's going on between Fnarf and me, and what I say to him isn't fully representative of my position here. If you want a better stated argument, COMTE does a splendid job here. (Notice Fnarf doesn't take him on?)
216
@213Civil liberties? Really? Not being able to look at porn in the library is not "censorship," and does not impede anyone's civil liberties. Saying so is basically just abusing those words. See @209.

Again, where I live the public library has an explicit "no watching porn on the computers" policy. I have hardly ever thought about this, and consider it a perfectly reasonable request, given that it's a public space and there are children around, but from what I'm reading here it appears that I should be calling Amnesty International over it. Maybe I should stage a Rosa Parks style protest by refusing to refrain from watching porn in the library.

Sheesh.

217
mr. h. @206:

i think it's perfectly reasonable to have a code of conduct about not sexually gratifying yourself in a public space.


By "sexually gratifying," do you mean that you think everybody watching porn in the library is masturbating? Or are you saying that enjoying a pleasant sexual thought is sexual gratification? If it's the first, then I must have misread the complaint(s), because I didn't get the idea that the library patrons were masturbating at the computer. If it's the second, then I hate to tell you that I sexually gratified myself a couple of times on the bus to downtown. Sorry! There was a beautiful person who smiled provocatively and I had a dirty thought or two. Hopefully there were no kids on the bus.

My question here is: is it the actual video that hurts other people in the library, or the intent of the watcher? Because as I've read this discussion, you're making it about the intent of the watcher here.

it's not about "think of the children," but about just insisting on conduct that doesn't interfere with others' ability to use the space under circumstances that don't harm them.


A moment ago it was about having a boner in the library, and now it's about hurting people. I'm losing track of where you stand. Or are you saying that having a boner in public is hurting people? I can't believe that's your position.

But in any case you haven't answered my question. Why is porn in the library hurting people but violent movies aren't?

I have a broader question to the no-porn-in-library folks: what happens to a kid who inadvertently sees porn? Brain damage? Seizure? Instant sexual activation? How many of us never once saw porn when we were kids?

And why is porn so much more offensive/harmful than video of people being beaten, tortured or killed? Why is slavery worse than anal sex, but a video of anal sex worse than a movie about slavery?

I ask these questions genuinely. The anti-censorship crew's position is clear-cut and distills to an easy implementation guideline, while the anti-porn-in-libraries folks' position seems to me to be largely undefined and seems to come down to "have some consideration" or "nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable in a library," which do not reduce to easy implementation guidelines but are instead prone to lots of interpretation and ultimately disagreements involving the ACLU.
218
Just a quick self-serving note here, as once again someone has come up to me asking about my comments here: my name happens to be David Wright. (@176) Unlike David Wright (@176), I am not a libertarian. I am a librarian. Like the other DW, however, I do donate to the ACLU share the his appreciation for the occassional internet porn.

I think this is actually one of the better discussions of this issue that I've seen. It is certainly true that this is an area of frequent concern, especially at smaller branches, and also that the use of laptops and tablets in libraries have added much complexity to the mix. The best solutions are compromises on top of compromises; I do hope (given our limited means)we are able to find better compromises, while not compromising our responsibilities as a government institution as regards the constitution.
220
I agree with what's been said before by Fnarf @171 and Thisbe @211. Instead of approaching this from the standpoint of censorship, it should be an issue of public conduct. If you're in a library you are in a public place; ergo, you should not be watching porn. It doesn't matter if you are using library computers or your own laptop, it's the disruptive behavior that is the problem.

The library staff should have the authority to ask people who are watching porn or otherwise disrupting the study environment to stop doing so. If the patron refuses, the library staff should be able to ask them to leave, and should be able to ban repeat offenders. This is similar to the policies for all other kinds of disruptive behavior in the library, isn't it?
221
This is a design issue. Privacy screens, 18+ computer rooms (both hands on the table please). When you are over 18 you can view what you want. Under 18 you have to have parents permission. No porn viewing allowed in all ages areas. What's so hard about that?

And the notion that "a hostile environment for women" @197 is a form of exceptionalism. It can equally be considered a hostile environment for anyone by your logic, not just one group. Fact is, many people are just offended by porn regardless of sex.
222
@202 - Thank you so much for asking that! I am if anything quite a bit more bothered by violence on screens than by most porn (violent porn such as Fnarf was describing is a special category that I am extra bothered by). I just don't want to see that! But I will defend someone else's right to watch it, no matter that I am deeply concerned about the implications of people choosing to watch that kind of thing. Rights are for everyone, even people doing things I don't approve of.

And in fact in this modern world I think it would probably do us all good to be a little more discriminating about what images we put into our brains. Once it's in there, you can't take it out. That said, not looking at things I don't want to see is mostly my own responsibility.

However. I am startled and kind of apalled by all the people on here equating a desire for consideration for others in shared spaces with repressive censorship. I will, therefore, try to be clear and to differentiate between the two.

I do not want a law prohibiting graphic sexual and violent material, or religious or scientific or any other material, from the library. I do not want content filters on the computers. I do not want censorship.

What I DO want is simple: I want library patrons, who are after all enjoying a shared space that belongs to none of us individually, to act with respect and consideration for those around them. I don't see anything wrong with a library having a policy to that effect, with a statement that a patron engaging in behavior that bothers another patron will be asked to stop, and persisting in that behavior will be asked to leave.

This applies equally to a person having a cellphone conversation, watching porn or erotica, watching youtube videos of people jumping out of the world trade center, listening to loud headphones, and many other things. Shoot, I've been asked to put a large-format illustrated anatomy book flat on the table instead of upright because it was upsetting to someone. I didn't mind; I felt bad that I hadn't thought of that.

The other part of this equation is that if someone is doing something that bothers you, you have to SAY. Ask the person to have their conversation elsewhere. Tell them that what they are watching is distracting or upsetting to you and ask them to stop or move. And then if they don't, the librarian should have the authority to ask them to stop or leave.

This doesn't require any censorship at all. It just requires that people make the really minimal effort required to refrain from bothering their neighbors in a public space. It is totally possible to watch porn, or read porn, or masturbate in a library without bothering anyone else; I've done all of these. The basic precondition is a desire not to bother anyone else. If they are unwilling to make that effort, I don't see any need for them to be welcomed into the public space.
223
Um, sorry - don't know exactly what caused my deeply time-separated double-post, although there was definitely an internet issue going on for me before. Weird.
224
"Which brings me to my final point: If you find you're on Seattle Blues' side in an argument, reconsider your position."

That's actually one of the 3 reasons I post here, curiously enough.

In some small degree I post here because Savage and his little pet writers here represent a real threat to the continued survival of America as a place any decent person would wish to live. Actually, that's imprecise. They aren't intelligent or coherent or original enough in their (for lack of a better word) thoughts to be a threat. But they are the expression of that threat posed by more intelligent coherent and original thinking men and women whom they copy.

I also test my thinking and perceptions out here. If I disagree with something a Stranger writer or most of those posting here say, I know my disagreement to be well founded. If I agree with it, I need to re-examine the idea. Sometimes, as with Fnarf et al on this occasion differing people can come to the same conclusion. Usually I find a flaw in the thinking that caused the agreement to begin with.

Finally and most importantly for me, you guys are hilarious! Seriously. Discussions of gender in which someone sincerely writes that having male or female genitalia doesn't make one male or female are side splittingly funny. Statements that the biggest crime Romney can commit in your eyes is financial success for himself and his family? Comedy gold! Comparing real civil rights issues with women and minorities to the Gay Special Rights lobby? That one hits closer to home since so many are fooled by your silly rhetoric on it, but still funny at heart. And now a sincerely meant contention that we have some first amendment right to watch anal sex videos in front of kids in public and that asking people not to do so is the rise of the police state, that one is the funniest yet.

Oh, and love the comparison to someone asking for reasonable standards of public behavior to Hitler and Manson at 214! Next to the heartfelt cry to consider the plight of the poor, poor hobos who can't afford an internet connection to watch hardcore anal sex videos that one is my favorite on this thread. Thanks guys for the belly laugh!

You just can't write this kind of comedy intentionally. It almost has to be the result of an already bad political theory carried to reductio ad absurdum, the daily stuff of Slog. Honestly, you folks just crack me up.
225
He may have a constitutional right to view whatever he likes, but the library does not have a constitutional mandate to present him with the means to do so, in full view of the public. My guess is if they created a private place (even just a cubicle around a computer) the whole exercise would lose its allure. The point does not seem to be to watch porn, but for others to see them doing it. There is no part of the first amendment that says congress shall make no law abridging the freedom to watch porn where others can see.

If women and families (and others) are making less use of public libraries because of this behavior, it is time to balance their rights against the rights of the porn viewer. This mother is not saying that they should not have the right to see the material at all, but that it be presented in a private place.
226
@224: I'm going to be charitable here and correct you on the least pants-on-head leotarded error you made in that post. "et al" needs to be written as "et al.", as it is short for "et alii", "et aliae", or "et alia". The rest of the bullshit in that post makes me wonder if a child should be named after you soon.
227
@208, not sure about Seattle, but Portland's computer sections are sometimes quite crowded. Better privacy screens are the answer, I think.

@204, no, I think (at least here in Slog) that three of the most vocal pro-censorship folks have been dudes--Fnarf, ryanayr and kenmeshi.

@197, well, around here, SB is a contrarian--that rhymes with librarian!

Which brings me to my final point: If you find you're on Seattle Blues' side in an argument, reconsider your position.
228
@ 222, I see only a single post, and an excellent one at that.

There is a line between viewing content and all the possible behaviors that such viewing induces in the viewer, which is lost on a lot of people here.

Monitor behavior, enforce policies about it, and ban repeat offenders.

@ 224, I'd rather live in a country that's free then one where the government mandates "decency." If you prefer decency, you'll be better off somewhere else, like Iran.
229
@ 227, keshemeshi is a woman. She's also been the only anti-porn-in-the-libraries debater here who has made any reasonable arguments.
230
*keshmeshi* not "keshemeshi.
231
@226 - Honest question: I italicize et al. when used in sentences (at work), but I'm not sure where MLA or Chicago lie on that. Thoughts? Also, is slog an adherent to MLA or Chicago Style?

@227 - To critique: a) ryan is also a girl's name; how dare you. b) I'm arguing to kick out of a library those who lack discretion/decency/are being really creepy, not censorship. But, maybe that's potayto potahto. a la #220, to me this is an issue of conduct restrictions, not content restrictions c) I'm not a frequent reader of seattleblues, but if he said he liked potato chips, I would still like potato chips.

232
@176- This has been the SPL's policy since the beginning of the internet, and they're great resources for parents and excellent places for kids.
233
@228 - Well, glad you liked it. I think it's possible that we're on "opposing sides" of this issue, but then again maybe I am just squarely in the middle.
234
Obscene material describes or depicts sexual conduct that, taken as a whole by the average person: (1) appeals to the prurient interest in sex (obsessive interest in sex), using community standards; (2) is patently offensive, using community standards; and (3) lacks serious value of literary, artistic, political, or scientific nature, using a national reasonable person standard.

I think that the library banning porn would be allowed due to obscene speech being allowed to be censored in some cases based on the standard above. So ban it and let them sue, good luck with the Supreme Court of ours.
235
Many of the pro-censorship folks in here are operating on the assumption that watching "pornography" is a discrete act, and compare it to a number of things that are illegal or restricted, as in @171 and @207. But in those examples, media content is not the reason for the behavior's restriction. The issue here is about how it is not the public library's place to apply subjective moral standards to content.

It would be defensible if, due to the apparent epidemic of porn viewing at library computer terminals, SPL decided to disable video on all its computers. This would rightly be viewed as an overreaction, but since the supposed danger to [children, the religious, women, prudes] is so great, it would be a justifiable, objective way to preserve the public's vulnerable eyes. But to ban only a specific type of content because some, even a majority of people deem it offensive? Where do you draw the line?

For what it's worth, the Supreme Court seems to agree with Fnarf et al, per @196: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Stat…
236
Hey Gang,
We/it made the morning paper:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/lo…

Still agree with SeattleBlues, Fnarf, ryanayr et al.

This guy's viewing of porn at SPL should be restricted.

237
I am not supporting a standard consisting of banning any particular content. Rather I am supporting a standard that if Library Patron A is disrupted by something (other than quietly looking at a book or text on a screen) Library Patron B is doing, Library Patron B ought to be asked to stop; and if Library Patron B does not stop, B may reasonably be required to leave.

Doesn't really matter to me if Library Patron B is looking at porn, playing drum rhythms on a table, reading aloud to a child, snoring, reading prayers aloud, or any other damn thing. I also don't care why Library Patron A is bothered. The point is, coexisting in a public space requires consideration for others. When people violate the social contract (with inappropriate public behavior), they don't get to use a social resource (the library) to continue their inappropriate behavior.
238
@234 That bogus definition has been amply proven, well, bogus. You have noticed that porn is all over the internet right? Once again, who defines 'artistic merit' and 'community standards'?

It is not a question about whether the library is 'allowed' to ban porn it is a question of whether the library should be in the business of censoring what people are looking at. Get that any of you censorship enthusiasts? I don't see any evidence that any of you are getting it. Kudos to the library for holding its ground.
239
@238 - Walk into a library and start yelling at the top of your lungs "IN MY OPINION, CARROTS ARE DELICIOUS AND A GREAT SOURCE OF VITAMIN B" The librarians will tell you to shut up, and if you don't, your ass will be thrown out. You can claim they were censoring you, and violating your rights to free speech. But they wouldn't be kicking you out because of your opinions or rights to free speech, they would be kicking you out because you were being an obnoxious jackass who was making it difficult for other people to enjoy the library. In my opinion, same goes for porn-watchers. Also, I haven't said we should ban porn in the library. I have said that we should kick people out of the library if other people are being made to see their porno. If they keep it to themselves, I don't give a shit what they watch.
241
Also, the ultimate fix to all of this, is the privacy monitor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgN4r1Yuf…

It's a computer screen with the polarizing film removed, and glasses with the polarizing film on the lenses.
242
@196, To reference the only example I know of, the SF public library system explicitly refuses to comply with CIPA, per a city ordinance that bans filtering of web content for teen and adult public access computers within the city. Essentially this means they do not accept any federal subsidies for internet services, to the tune of a couple hundred thousand dollars per year.

http://www.webjunction.org/cipa/articles…
243
@242 - Actually, if I'm not mistaken, and correct me if I'm wrong, the original intent of the San Francisco law was to not comply with the PATRIOT Act, which had scary provisions about library records and government surveillance.

http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=2000060601

244
@240 I don't think that the library should be in the business of censoring what people are looking at. You do. You are talking about censoring what people are looking at, let's not beat around the bush. You are also a drug war cheerleader if I remember correctly, so no surprise there.

Also neither you nor anyone else here has come close to adequately explaining how one is supposed to differentiate porn from other content that may well offend some busybody or other.
245
@243, Correct. The SF act that bans filtering actually pre-dates CIPA; the issue is that CIPA is incompatible with city law, hence SFPL does not comply. I suspect that even in the absence of this city ordinance, SFPL would still refuse to comply.
246
@ mike -

ahh geez. so i didn't answer your question. i set out to, but you're right, i didn't. of course i don't think having sexual thoughts or getting boners in public is wrong or harmful to others. c'mon, you know me better than that. and i know that most people aren't masturbating at the computers in the library. but publicly viewing porn is a far cry from just enjoying a pleasant sexual thought. i get that you're just pressing me to articulate my argument, which i acknowledge i haven't done very well here, but don't be insulting.

publicly viewing porn vs. violence - i can't tell you why i feel it's different, but in my opinion, it is. i'm factoring in a whole lot of things in forming my opinion, and that's really all i've done here - just adding my opinion to the discussion. i agree that reading my comment back, trying to make sense of my reasoning is a challenge. shorter is: i would not object to rules against viewing porn in plain view in the library. i wouldn't demand it, but i wouldn't object. i'm not trying to set the rules - sometimes you just have to decide how you feel about a thing.

as for the effects of porn on children, i'd have to say that it depends on the nature of it, but that is topic for another conversation.
247
I just read every single comment here. And really, the only word of sage advice I can think of to offer is this : you will all die one day. Some hopefully a little sooner than others.
249
@239 How are "other people are being made to see their porno?" If pornography is something that you know when you see it, how long are you forced to watch, two seconds?
250
@249 - Not understanding. Rephrase?
251
@250 -- I think 249 is saying that nobody can be forced to watch something. The act of watching is voluntary. If you see something on someone else's computer screen that's distasteful to you, just stop looking over that person's shoulder.

I can understand parents not wanting their kids to be inadvertantly exposed to porn, but again, those parents need to be supervising their kids. If the kid's old enough to be hanging out by himself on the computers at the public library, he's probably old enough to have seen porn on his own anyway.
252
@251 - In that case, walking by the creeps next to the stacks and aisles in the stacks with their computers running porn, you see it, you can't help to. Also, the creeps that the above librarian(s) mentioned who actively show people the porn or print it out. Again, the only experiences I have with the creeps are in the stacks.

also this
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-QuvUIBX1JSM/Tr…
253
Walked into the goddamn bathroom at the library last week and found a pervert jacking off. Thankfully my wife was with me and took our 4 year old daughter into the womens' restroom.
254
Right. It's hard to imagine a library patron's behavior that is so intrusive (but not to the point of harassment) that a ban on a specific type of content is warranted.
255
I realize I've neglected to say this: I go to a SPL branch (either Lake City, Downtown, Green Lake, or North East) about twice a week. I have never noticed anyone looking at porn.
256
@252 If an image on a computer can offend you to such a significant degree, maybe choosing to avert your gaze from others' screens could be a more reasonable alternative to outright censorship.
258
I think someone should do a study of people who view porn in easy view of other patrons in libraries. Go around to each person who is clearly watching graphic sexual content and ask them about their motivations. I'd be fascinated to see the results! Also, I'd love to see some demographic information collected, like age, gender, race and so on.

I'd also like to know what percentage of computer using library patrons are watching graphic sexual content and what percentage of computer time-use is spent showing graphic sexual content.

I haven't made up my mind on the issue, and results like above wouldn't turn me one way or the other, but it would lend some evidence and information to a discussion that is otherwise very anecdotal.
259
Holy crap - I can't believe I agree with Seattleblues. This loser’s behavior was intentional. He is an angry predatory asshole who wants to impose on others and is probably registered somewhere. What’s next; do we let him whip it out and jerk off so long as he calls it performance art? Sad losers like this can check out their porn and go to a corner somewhere where no one else needs to see it. The tax payer is not obligated to accommodate some sex-offender’s desire to impose their behavior on others and our free speech rights will not go down the tube if we don’t. Seriously folks, you are not sophisticated enough to get these things? Not imposing ones sexual problems on others goes both ways. Ken Hutcherson has no more business doing it than perverts in the library.
260
And for the people whining about parents “not watching their kids”, a library is a place where well behaved older children should be able to roam around freely and safely. This has been going on in libraries across the country for years. Many of you probably did this when you were children. That should not change just so we can accommodate creepy bitter assholes who want other people to view their porn preferences. Holy shit crybabies! Figure out your damned priorities!
261
@260- I go to the SPL with my daughter (age 8) all the time and have no trouble leaving her unsupervised. This discussion makes it seem like there is porn everywhere you look, but like I've said (in 6 years of going at least twice a week) I haven't seen it once.
262
#261 - Glad to know. That is as it should be.
263
@261 -- I'm in the same boat as you. Several other regular library patrons have also posted saying that they've never noticed anyone watching porn. Then there are people like @252 who claim to be having run-ins with porn-wielding perverts every time they try to check out a book. I think people are blowing this way out of proportion.

@252 -- That link did make me laugh though. Point well taken.
264
I work at a university that has a similar policy about porn viewing on the computers. I have managed to NEVER see someone else's porn, even on the prominent public-use computers. Something about not looking, especially when I think it might be someone who's viewing porn. The few times that I've been sure someone was and checked to see, they weren't.

I used to work in an adult education lab, where one of the GED students, who came from a restrictive ultra-Christian home, got in the habit of viewing his porn in the lab. We rearranged the computers so they were all visible from everywhere in the room, and it stopped. (I realize that wouldn't stop someone who wanted to be seen.) We had an SB-type working in the lab, who, in addition to demanding that the Rosie posters promoting reading be taken down ("This should be a family-friendly place to study!"), tried unsuccessfully to unilaterally kick the poor kid out of the program, which is illegal. My suggestion at a staff meeting that we get the kid a subscription to a beaver-mag was not well-met. The SB-type also was passionately against ESL students reading any material in Spanish.
Fun side fact: The SB-type had, some time ago, before finding Jeebus, lowered his naked, aging manflesh into a public swimming pool full of grade-school children.

Anyway, bigger problem in the library is all the damn kids hogging the computers playing MMORPGs.

SB: if you think people are polite and quiet in the country, then you are utterly ignorant on the subject. Country folks are, per capita, way louder and more obnoxious than city folks. And you'd know that if you knew anything about it. You fucking liar.
265
@264: "I have managed to NEVER see someone else's porn, ..."
Just noticed the implication of that, heheh.
It's late. I'm tired. And sick.
266
I didn't read all the comments, so forgive me if someone else has said this.

I'm concerned that poor children are going to be disproportionately effected by library porn viewing. Whether or not seeing porn is bad for kids (or, say, worse than the other violent stuff on TV), it is objectionable to most parents. Wealthy parents can take their kids to other activities, but poorer parents can't. When I was growing up, we had very little money for things like summer camp or swim lessons, but my mom made sure we went to all the free events at the public library. I'm sure that contributed to me getting to college and grad school. It would have sucked if my mom had stopped taking us to the library because of a couple of creeps.
267
I have a question (I apologize if this has already been asked before).

Let's say there is a guy in the library. He is watching a video of himself masturbating on a computer that is visible to the public. Many people would say this is fine, yes? Now, let's say that rather watching a video of himself masturbating, he is making a video of himself masturbating in a manner that is visible to to the public. Should this also be allowed? Why or why not? In both instances, he is masturbating in a manner that is visible to the public.

I'm not asking this sarcastically. I am aware of some differences (for example, the librarians might not want to clean up after him if he was actually masturbating in the library) but one would assume these issues could be overcome and do not pose any more of threat than any other bodily fluid issue (for example, of blood).
268
I'm sure this has been pointed out before, but it wasn't in the 100 or so comments that I trudged through.

Watching porn in public in the way described isn't an inconvenient necessity, it's a deliberate act.

How is that different from indecent exposure, as alluded to in #267 above?

I am NOT in favor of censoring material at the library, but deliberately exposing others to your nasty porn choices? Totally actionable.

Have an 'unrestricted section', make all the screens face the wall, disallow laptop porn viewing outside the 'unrestricted section', whatever.

Ignoring the problem will only make the solution more drastic and repressive when it finally comes.
269
For chrissakes, its the fucking LIBRARY. Come ON. I'm all for civil liberties, but how is this even a question? People should not be watching porn at the library. Full stop.
270
I think, like a lot of others here, that you can't decide to ban something without having a clear definition of what it is. That means that you have to have a clear definition of the threshold ... the extremes are easy (creepy old guy flashing porn at kids), and they allow folks to get up on their hind legs and claim that this is a black and white issue. But at what point does an educational video about condom use become "actionable" porn?
In my rambling above, I stumbled across an example of what happens when you leave it up to the librarian's (or instructor's) discretion: the rule ends up being whatever that person finds offensive. My coworker found Rosie O'Donnell offensive and would have probably objected to any It Gets Better videos because they are offensive to him. He definitely would have vetoed anything regarding birth control.
This is less important in a large urban setting, where people have options. In small-town U.S.A., where there often are no options, and where repressive opinions and practices thrive, the librarian who is offended by birth control information or sex education could effectively end access to that information for everyone who doesn't have access at home, which includes a lot of kids.
For the record, I'm skeeved-out by public-library porn viewing, but where is the line? Serious question: Where is the line? And don't give me that "We all know it when we see it" bullshit. Is a video of correct condom use, including rolling it on, porn? A majority of the U.S., especially outside the urban centers, would probably say yes.
271
239, Your analogy doesn't work. Asking someone to keep their voice down in the library isn't the same as banning reading material, and media some might find offensive. Why should you get to control what another adult gets to see?
272
I think a good rule is "don't inflict your viewing on others". Remembering the golden rule is the best way to make things work for everyone. Porn viewers should not be obnoxious about it. Porn viewers - don't choose a screen that is widely viewable to a large portion of the library. It's the "don't be a dick" rule everyone should abide by.

Someone doing research into porn at a library would likely take steps not to be obnoxious - just like that person wouldn't pee at the computer desk or leave food wrappers (or even eat) at the computer desk.

It is not too much to ask someone to be respectful of those around them. That way, porn doesn't have to be banned - it's the obnoxious conduct of the viewer that would get them kicked out.
273
You can't pull your cock out and beat it in the library.

You can, however, film yourself beating your cock and play it in full view of everyone at the library.

I would say that something is seriously wrong with that. Instead I'll just say God bless the United States of America.
274
It feels like both sides are talking past each other here. It seems to me that there's little difference, really, between a video of anal penetration and, say, a book of Beardsley art that contains his illustrations for Lysistrata, or a book of Nobuyoshi Araki photographs (for the sake of comparing apples to apples, I'll focus on images, rather than confuse the issue with references to, say, Bataille, de Sade, or Lautreamont). It seems to me that if someone is looking at any of these discreetly enough, there is no wrongdoing. If they are doing so indiscreetly, they are guilty not of looking at pornography (for which no one need, in my opinion, feel the least bit of remorse), but of treating other patrons disrespectfully. And any institution has the right to mandate respectful treatment of its patrons . . . right?

So I support a policy that allows one to look at porn, for the same reason that I support the library's right (indeed, insist on the library's duty) to stock work by Araki or Beardsley (or de Sade, Bataille, Lautreamont, et al); I would even go so far as to say that there are certain "canonical" works of pornography that a library system of any integrity would keep in its DVD section. I also support the right of librarians to "police" (if only by way of responding to complaints) the engagement with such work as regards its effect on patrons who are offended by such material. Asking someone to be more discreet doesn't amount to censoring content.
275
I think the SPL does censor. I was browsing the magazines and noticed the black Muslim hate group Nation of Islam newspaper. The headline was "Farrakhan reveals how Jews are respoinsible for Black Suffering". NOI is responsible for more hate crimes in the last 20 years then the KKK and Aryan Nation combined. I noticed none of their publications were available. Why not? They are no worse. Looked at their book catolog and saw many books authored by Farrakhan but not by David Duke. Why does the library in one of the whitest cities in America have plenty of material by black racist hate groups, but none by white? Absolutely censorship and racist too.
276
@202- Why are people bothered by porn but not violent movies? Well people don't tend to watch violent movies in order to get off. I think violence in movies is more harmful then porn. But if I am sitting next to a stranger I would rather they be watching a violent movie then porn. For reasons explained above.
277
@276 - Doesn't that kind of depend on what you mean by "getting off"? I actually can't think of any reason one would enjoy cinematic violence other than because it gets one off...even if one doesn't actually experience physical orgasm while watching it. The grunts elicited by Ryan stomping the guy's head in an elevator in Drive or by Gina Carano's chokehold (with her thighs!) in Haywire certainly seem erotic in nature.

Still, if we can make reasonable distinctions between "getting off" (shrug) and "getting off" (shake head sternly), it seems that one can as easily avoid the latter while watching porn as while watching violent cinema.
278
@275 It is unreasonable to expect the Seattle Public Library to carry every book and magazine ever published. If there were great demand for David Duke books, would the library really continue not to carry them? I assume whoever is in charge of selecting which titles to carry approaches the job seriously and takes a wide number of factors into account, including demand.

I admit I don't really know a lot about the groups you mentioned. Do you have a citation for "NOI is responsible for more hate crimes in the last 20 years then the KKK and Aryan Nation combined"?
279
@270, Okay, the argument that things might be different in a small town where people's options are limited does make sense to me. I'm also pretty much working under the (urban, liberal) assumption that librarians wouldn't boot anyone out for looking at sex ed material or Aubrey Beardsley drawings, or whatever. I mean, my local library has books on the shelves, like this one, that are pretty sexually explicit, and they seem to be okay with lending them out....So I can't actually imagine them invoking the no-porn rule unless it was a very clear-cut case like the one we're discussing. I guess I should keep in mind that things aren't the same everywhere.

Nonetheless, I still think that being able to access porn does not fall under the definition of "rights." It's a sticky issue (er, no pun intended), since people have different ideas about what constitutes porn, but I'm a bit of a curmudgeon about it because I think we should probably start maturing a bit more as a society, to the point where access to vital information like how to put on a condom is considered a "right," and access to porn is a privilege.

I also think that, if we're going to start talking about rights, we should keep in mind that sometimes we let some rights override others. For instance, children have the right to be protected from certain things until they're old enough to understand them, and I think in a shared, public space, that right overrides whatever rights I might have to look at sexually explicit material.

I also think that computers in the library are a very different issue from books. Book banning is particularly offensive, because a book is just information that's sitting there for anyone who cares to look. If you're not interested, don't look. A computer screen in a public space is very different because of its potential to be intrusive. When I walk into the room where the computers are, I see what's on other people's screens whether I want to or not.
280
@273- "I would say that something is seriously wrong with that. Instead I'll just say God bless the United States of America."

I could say go fuck yourself... Go fuck yourself.

Heh, look, I said what I meant and nothing bad happened.
281
@275- As far as I can tell with a quick bit of googling, neither the KKK nor the Aryan Nation have a newspaper or magazine in current publication. It's really hard for a library to subscribe to papers that don't exist, or only exist sporadically. As others have pointed out, not stocking something (even if it exists) is not in-and-of itself censorship. And while Seattle might be lily-white, maybe the white people of Seattle aren't racists.
282
@279: " ... people have different ideas about what constitutes porn ..."

I understand what you're saying. I sympathize. But you can't just gloss over that issue. It's not a minor detail; it's the crux of the matter. There are parts of the country where Cosmo is considered porn.
And you need to imagine every possible abuse of whatever restriction you're proposing and decide whether it's worth it.
I guarantee that whatever rule you impose on internet access will, somewhere some day, find its nefarious way into the stacks. So you'd better think very carefully about that rule would say.

My vote is for improving the privacy of the screens, so no one else can see what you're looking at.

With all of you damn snoops out there who can't keep yourselves from staring at other people's screens, I think I'd rather you can't see my email or Facebook page, too. :-)
283
@279- "When I walk into the room where the computers are, I see what's on other people's screens whether I want to or not."

The SPL does everything it can to make sure you don't, and I have never seen anything explicit displayed on a screen in the SPL.

The raciest thing I've seen at the SPL are probably the romance covers in the New Books area. Explaining to my daughter what "Tamed by a Highlander" meant was awkward.
285
Well presented, Sea Otter, so take my challenges with a grain of salt, a good shake of pepper, and a touch of cumin (for that earthy flavor).

What falls under the definition of "rights" is always a sticky issue (pun not unwelcome); after all, "rights" do not occur in nature, and only theists, resting all argument on a speculative presupposition, can make a logically consistent argument that they do. A lion does not recognize a gazelle's inalienable right to life; that it does not illustrates that rights are contractually realized, and generally between organisms that have some hope of finding a common mode of communication. So I would submit that we have no natural right to look at porn, or, indeed, to look at art or literature, to do research, etc. Even the enumerated right of free speech doesn't grant us access to that speech; that is, if all information were to be packaged by those with easiest access to it and sold to all others for a fixed price like any other commodity, such an arrangement would not run afoul of any legal mandate. Thus, even treating access to books as a privilege is well within bounds.

Given that, I guess the question is why we have libraries at all. The trouble with distinguishing between books and computers is that while they invade the lives of involuntary participants in differing degrees, the essential function is the same: they exist to store information. What's more, a greater and greater percentage of information is being stored online, even as less is stored on paper. Now I have my own misgivings about this (as a theater person, I'm engaged in means of communication even more imminently endangered than books), but there it is.

Now, on one level, it seems to me that the primary function of libraries historically is not the offering of information to us plebes so much as the preservation of all information for future generations of academics. In this regard, it seems that we know enough about the inherent subjectivity of the line between art and pornography (if there is, in fact, any line at all; I'm skeptical, personally) to all but mandate that this function must necessarily include the ostensibly pornographic. Whether this information, particularly in video or digital form, should also be subject to the more modern, egalitarian notion of offering that preserved information at no cost to us unwashed masses is worth debating, I suppose; what I object to is the assumption that the terms of the debate are simple.
286
@285-"...it seems to me that the primary function of libraries historically is not the offering of information to us plebes so much as the preservation of all information for future generations of academics."

"Historically" there weren't public libraries. But in the history of public libraries, educating the plebes is exactly what they're there for. Like the side of the Boston Public Library says ""THE COMMONWEALTH REQUIRES THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFEGUARD OF ORDER AND LIBERTY". Whatever your take on rights (and "natural rights" is a terrible place to start) it has great utility for a democracy to provide the public with access to any and all information.
287
I'm not sure anything you say amounts to a refutation of my statement, dwightmoodyforgetsthings. I could also point out that the purpose of institutions of learning hasn't historically been to education us plebes, and you could point out that in the history of public schools, educating the plebes has been the purpose, and we'd both be right. It's one of the reasons I didn't use the word public to begin with.

"Natural Rights" is a terrible place to start in the sense that I don't believe they exist (and that Natural Rights, like Natural Law, amount to theism with the anthropomorphism removed, but not satisfactorily replaced). That said, it seems that you need to establish the absence of natural rights to assert, as I do, that rights only exist so far as they are agreed upon, enumerated, enforced. When we throw words like "rights" around, caution is in order.

As I like to tell Seattleblues--if you think you've thought of something that I haven't, you're likely missing some part of my argument. :)

That said, I ABSOLUTELY AGREE that ANY society will be well served by providing the public with access to any and all information . . . including pornography, within reasonable parameters (that is, to adults, and in a forum where accessing that information does not infringe on the rights of others to remain sheltered therefrom).

On balance, I think we're on the same side of this matter (so far as I can be bothered to ally myself with any side). I would rather err on the side of liberty, and suspect that the kind of flagrant abuse of the "privilege" of looking at porn in the library is so rare that it borders on absurd that we're discussing it at all, let alone to the tune of 287-or-so posts.
288
Wow, 287 comments already. I wish I'd seen this earlier.

I wholeheartedly support this woman's concerns and appeal for some solution. I have experienced exactly the same situation she describes at a Seattle library (Ballard).

As this woman makes clear, the problem is not that this person is privately viewing pornography in a library.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE PERSON IS **EXHIBITING** PORNOGRAPHY TO A NONCONSENTING PUBLIC.

It is equivalent to opening the centerfold of a hardcore magazine and holding it up in front of everyone in the room. Or how about putting an enormous picture of hardcore (ass) fucking up on a full size billboard over a public street. Would that be OK?

Please understand that the so-called "privacy screens" are joke. They hardly limit the viewing angle, are easily removed, and often are not present at all. Anyone who has the perverse intent to display pornography to people around him will simply remove the "privacy screen". This is what I have observed.

The person I observed doing this made his intent clear by calling porn up on his monitor, backing away from it, and looking around for people to see the images and then watching their reactions. He wore a grotesque smile on his face. I saw him single out a teenage female library employee, pushing a cart around reshelving books. He locked eyes on her and waited for her to notice the porn on his monitor, and when she did, he grinned at her in the most disgusting, malicious way imaginable.

People should also realize that the height of a computer monitor is exactly the same height of the eyes of the children wandering around any given library.

I also reported the problem to library staff, and then wrote an email to Seattle police. I was rebuffed by both in the same way this woman describes.

Censorship of information being expressed or accessed is absolutely oppressive and insidious and must be fought.

But please do not conflate the private viewing of controversial material with the PUBLIC EXHIBITION of controversial material.

THESE ARE WHOLLY DISTINCT ISSUES.
289
the only argument that makes any sense, and where the desired outcome would be achieved, is photographing, public shaming, and spreading the photo far and wide. All legal, and morally solid. Just make sure to have good running shoes on, as said perv would likely be violent.
290
I'm pro-porn but anti-porn-where-kids-are. I've had a problem with the libraries about this for YEARS (it is one of the few things Dr. Laura and I agree on). I was in a Shoreline library gosh, must have been 10 years ago now and saw children of about 10 years old looking at porn on the computers. I told the librarian who handed me a pamphlet telling me that the kids had the "right" to look at porn and told me she couldn't intervene. I was LIVID. I went over to the kids and asked them if their parents knew what they did at the library and told them that they could either turn it off or I'd follow them home and let their folks know.

I know kids are curious about this stuff but I don't think kids should be learning about sex from porn. Don't we all have enough fucked up perceptions as is?
291
@124 My problem with your argument is that parents don't have to accompany children to the library or give them permission to use the computers, etc. so saying it is the paren't responsibility to make those choices is ridiculous since you've taken the power out of our hands. Sure, we have to sign the form for them to actually check material OUT but we are pressured to do that by the schools who take the kids on regular trips to the library and we don't get to specify what matierial they are allowed to check out and what they aren't. Would you want to be the kid who had to stay behind on field trips because his mom wouldn't let him check out books? Would you want to be the parent who does that to your kid?

Oh, and I'm sure you never went anywhere without your parents knowing when you were a kid.

Just one more point on this and I'll shut up (because I have to get to an appointment), if I provided my children with hardcore porn, I'd be looking at trouble with CPS. If a strip club or adult theater admitted minors into the clubs, they'd be looking at fines or worse. It hardly seems fair that the library would not be held to that same standards to protect children that the rest of us are.
292
To all those people who say "if you don't want your kids seeing porn, then supervise them in the library", I think a LOT of parents think there is absolutely nothing to worry about if they tell their 5th or 6th grade aged child that it's okay to go to the library after school so they can do their research paper, or check out a novel, or whatever. I will also point out that a kid that age can quite easily be at an intellectual level to enjoy books in the general section of the library, but I would put it to you that they are awfully young to be seeing hardcore porn in the library. I also know that if I had seen something like that in the library at that age, I would NEVER had told my mother because I'd have been too embarrassed to do so, so the whole conversation about porn that you all think parents should be having with their kids who've accidentally been exposed in the library would never have happened. There's a period in a kid's life in which they're definitely old enough to not be supervised by adults every single minute of the day, but also in which they're very impressionable and exposure to intense material (like porn or intense violence) is inadvisable.

Also, when I think of public spaces, I think of "public" as meaning that everyone should feel comfortable and able to use it. Why do we want people to feel comfortable watching porn in a library? We don't feel comfortable with people being loud in a library, because that's a nuisance. We aren't okay with people talking on their cell phones in a library, because again, it's a nuisance. I think that people watching porn in the library definitely counts as a nuisance, not just because of kids, but because I'm sure it makes many patrons uncomfortable. I think the part of the public that wants to view porn in the library is a much smaller portion of it than the part that feels uncomfortable if they know someone is watching porn next to them.

In conclusion, I don't think it's appropriate to watch porn in the library, and I think that it's perfectly acceptable to have a policy saying that one can't. I don't think web filters are a good idea, since they're both bad at filtering and ineffective, but the librarians should be able to tell porn-viewers to either stop viewing the porn or stop using the computer.
293
What's wrong with people crying free speech violation in this case?! This is weird... Let's see, I'm a female in my late 20s, I don't have/ want kids and spend very little time thinking about them, and I watch a lot of hard core/ BDSM porn. At home. Libraries, being paid by the *public*, should strive to make everyone welcome to pursue the main goal: research and reading. I would not feel comfortable writing my research papers beside a perv watching any of the videos that I may watch at home, and libraries, in their mandate, should have rules against that.

*Nobody* is talking about making watching porn illegal, but yet the pro-creepy dude are all ripping their shirts about how it shouldn't be illegal. Have you guys heard of policies? Rules? Like the fact that you can't shout in the library. *No one* is suggesting shouting should be against the law. Have people completely lost their common sense in America? "How about if the porn is research for school?" Easy: you tell the librarian it is research and show him your work. How complex is that? Rules exist for society to function well together. But using judgement is *permitted*. And the "Where do you draw the line?" argument, where do you draw the line anywhere? We may not have a clear line between erotica and soft core porn, but we all know that 'Teen Cum Dumpsters 4' is porn. Is there a clear line between what is whispering and what is talking in the library? Do they count the exact decibels before telling someone to keep it down?And the rest, because it's not a law, but a library policy, you can use your communication skills to present your case if you feel it's unfair.

294
"The minute you start going down the the slippery slope of censoring this or that, some don’t like kids looking at video games and or some people don’t like this political view," (Andra) Addison says."

Who in their right mind compares kids looking at porn with video games!!! Come on. This is child abuse and I think CPS ought to be called in to investigate this being openly displayed towards children. What about the rights of children??? And yes Andra, you're right; porn is not illegal. But showing it to kids is. It's considered sexual abuse when shown to children (ever heard of an "X" rating? It's not legal for the kiddos to watch, or in this case, be forced to watch.). If a parent let their child view porn, or if it was shown in other public places, let's say the schools or at a community center, you can bet your resource collection the authorities would be right on it. Why not the libraries? You're just active (and cowardly) participants.

The privacy screens are a joke.
295
"The minute you start going down the the slippery slope of censoring this or that, some don’t like kids looking at video games and or some people don’t like this political view," (Andra) Addison says."

Who in their right mind compares kids looking at porn with video games!!! Come on. This is child abuse and I think CPS ought to be called in to investigate this being openly displayed towards children. What about the rights of children??? And yes Andra, you're right; porn is not illegal. But showing it to kids is. It's considered sexual abuse when shown to children (ever heard of an "X" rating? It's not legal for the kiddos to watch, or in this case, be forced to watch.). If parents let their child view porn, or if it was shown in other public places, let's say the schools or at a community center, you can bet your resource collection the authorities would be right on it. Why not the libraries? You're just active (and cowardly) participants.
296
I do find it interesting that the pro-censorship people in here do not think that a library patron has the right to look at whatever they want, but do think that it is a right to look at whatever anyone else is looking at, and to not be offended by it.

Also, anyone who wants to restrict what type of content citizens are allowed to consume in the library should, at the very least, provide clear, unambiguous guidelines for what they consider unacceptable. "Pornography" is a subjective term.
297
@292 Exactly!