February 2005

Chris Zammarelli

banned bookslut

The Sex God has Landed

Youíve heard about how youíre not supposed to judge a book by its cover? Pius Ruby learned that lesson in January. His 12-year-old daughter had brought home Louise Rennisonís On the Bright Side, Iím Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God from Sacajawea Middle School. The title so offended him that he submitted a challenge to the book to the Bozeman, MT school district. Unfortunately, he apparently hadnít read it first.

Sex God is part of a series about Georgia Nicolson, an English 14-year-old with a unique turn of phrase and an obsession with Robbie, a 17-year-old she has deemed the Sex God. Rennison wrote the first book in the series, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, after being asked by a British publisher to pen a novel for teenagers.

"I said, 'ErÖ why me?'" she said in an interview with BookPage. "And they said, 'Because we have never read anything quite so self-obsessed and childish, so we thought you could do a really good job.'" Rennison also admitted that the events portrayed in her four books are based on her own childhood. "So before you ask: Yes, I did go to a party dressed as a stuffed olive."

Sex God tells the story of how Georgia lands Robbie, only to find out that her father may move the family to New Zealand. Ruby, however, felt the title was "misleading, degrading and harmful to the minds and possibly the safety" of teenaged girls. He told the school districtís Learning Materials Review Committee during its hearing on Sex God that the book could encourage young women to pursue older men, which would lead to statutory rape, which would lead to STDs, which could lead to suicide.

He made this assumption based on the phrase "sex god," which he took to mean someone who is sexually experienced. One of the school's teachers, an Englishwoman named Sally Bell, explained that "sex god" is slang for a good-looking man.

Two librarians supported the book during the hearing. Brenda Wilson read a letter praising Sex God by two eighth graders, who wrote, "The more you know about growing up, the more you can protect yourself."

Later, MaryAnne Coopersmith told the committee, "No way, not in my community, are we going to allow censorship."

Ruby said he was surprised that more people didn't stand up against Sex God. He had heard from other concerned parents, but he was the only person who argued against the book during the meeting. In comparison, 10 people came to argue in favor of it. After reviewing the novel's content, the committee voted 9-0 to keep Sex God in the library.

When told of the ruling, Ruby said he would not appeal the decision, as his challenge was handled to his satisfaction. He told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that he was glad the committee responded seriously to his complaint. He added that his concerns about the novel were allayed by the students' defense.

He has read Sex God since then, incidentally, and he said, "It's a funny, good book."