Maybe this is just me venting, or maybe I’m looking for validation that I’ve been treated poorly or maybe I need to hear that I should just shut up and accept things, but I’ve been dealing with a situation over the last day involving a library where I was going to be giving a presentation about pornography addiction. They decided to back out and I just need somebody to let me know what they think from an independent perspective.

I don’t want this to come off as sour grapes on my part, so I’m not going to talk specifically about where the library is or the names of the people I’m dealing with. I understand that they are legally entitled to do whatever they want. I just want to know if I’m correct in thinking that I’ve been treated unfairly. Sometimes I have a complex about these things.

Some background:

In early March, after donating a copy to this library in a nearby state, I was taken up on my offer to give the presentation “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” which while it shares a title with my book, it is more an educational lecture about pornography addiction, looking at statistics and what the signs of addiction are, while also sharing pieces of my story. The whole “porn addiction expert” thing comes from having the experience of being one, plus being well-studied on the subject. This presentation is the best of both worlds.

About three weeks after we set a date for May, I was sent an email suggesting the appearance be moved to September, for fear that a nice Sunday in May might keep potential attendees at home. I figured they knew their stuff and agreed. I haven’t spoke to them directly in almost three months.

However, as the book has caught the interest of libraries across the country (and New Zealand…no idea why 4 libraries have it there, yet I still can’t get one into a state ending in the word “Dakota”) I have periodically updated a list kept on this site. I’ve always noticed that library never appears. It was never entered into their electronic catalog.

So, anyway, we move into the last 24 hours. Yesterday I got an email that says:

Hi Joshua
Some sad news – there has been a change in directors since we last talked and they do not want this program. One of her concerns is that people would think attending indicates they have this problem too and they don’t want to have that reputation. She is the boss now so we won’t be able to work with you.
BUT
I was thinking if you set up a discussion panel with you and a therapist or some professional counselor who deals with this – that would make libraries feel more comfortable.  All the podcasts on your website lend a lot of credibility. In your letters to libraries you could mention the website with all your radio and podcast work. And maybe a library would feel better having this as part of a series on addiction:  not just including substance abuse but work addiction and adrenaline addiction – those are not talked about very much either.
I’m disappointed since I know you are doing a good work for the community. But good luck in the future.

This absolutely floored me, but I’m smart enough now to think before I speak…or write. I did want to know one thing though. What happened to the book I sent them? Much like my presentation, was it deemed too controversial? Here is the response I got:

No – I am embarrassed to say it is still on my coffee table for me to read. It definitely has not been removed. For items that could be challenged by a community member I like to read first so I can have the arguments ready as to its inclusion. In all my years of library work I have not personally had a book challenge – but you never know. Take Care

If I was floored yesterday evening at seeing the first email, this one left me looking around to see who was playing a prank on me. Maybe there was some Candid Camera/Punk’d for a new generation involving addicts or authors. It seemed more likely than somebody being serious about worrying their patrons would be seen as porn addicts or that the book would be so offensive that it needs to be examined, even if nothing in the history of the library has ever been deemed offensive. So, I decided to give myself a little bit more time and went out to lunch with my parents and my son to celebrate his last day of school a couple days ago. When I returned, I wrote this:

I have done four library presentations to this point, with (OTHER LIBRRARY) being the only other in (STATE), and I’ve not been met with any of the resistance that either you or your director seems to fear. The idea that people who attend the event are going to be labeled as porn addicts is only true if either of you are doing the labeling. Would you invite an author to present a book on the Holocaust, but assume the attendees are Nazi sympathizers? Would you not allow a book by somebody who was an Army sniper for fear attendees would be the kind of people who like to shoot others?
In (OTHER LIBRARY), I think we drew 8 or 9 people. It was mostly middle-aged women who worked in health care who wanted more education. I don’t think anybody jumped to any conclusions about them, and if they did, so what? Shouldn’t those people get the chance to hear a presentation that is about the healthcare crisis of pornography addiction? After the event, a woman, probably about 35, came up to me and admitted she had a problem and wanted help. After a couple of days of exchanging messages, she found a therapist and began attending a 12-step group for women in (NEARBY MAJOR CITY). So you’re right, you may get an addict there. In this case, it was one who finally got help. She finally met someone in real life who experienced addiction years ago, doesn’t judge and was able to be a resource.
The book is in almost 200 libraries in four countries at last count. I get email daily from some of the people who read the book. Most thank me for trying to start a discussion. To date, I’ve done over 50 radio shows and podcasts not to just promote the book, but to educate about the addiction. A recent study by Canadian researchers said that in the last 6 months, 98% of married men and 70% of married women under 35 looked at pornography. 48% of households say porn has a negative effect on their home. 24% of people have looked at porn at work in the last 6 months. If your fear is that people in (LIBRARY’S TOWN) may end up with the assumption porn addiction is a problem for many of its residents…it is. I can guarantee that, no matter how much people wish it wasn’t so. And the library should be a place that residents can find resources. If this were 1982, would books on heroin and other opiates be ignored because back then, most wanted to believe the people who used those drugs were just the kind of people society looked down upon. Now it’s hard to find a family not somehow affected. Why? Because our society was reactive to the opiod crisis, not proactive.
If this is just a matter of “porn is gross” I don’t disagree with you. There are lots of gross things in this world we wish weren’t here and it’s every individual’s right to make the decision to stay away from it. It’s just a bigger deal when that person is the gatekeeper of information in a community, much like your role and the director’s role in the library. Prior to entering recovery and learning as much as I could about this addiction, I would have fought you hard about the library’s actions because it seems so unjust to me. Somebody standing in the way of someone else delivering information because the first person doesn’t like it just smacks of censorship. I would have taken to social media and contacted the newspaper and try to stir things up, but I’m just not that guy anymore. It wouldn’t really matter anyway because it wouldn’t spread the message that porn addiction is going to be a healthcare crisis of a new variety for the 21st century. I didn’t expect a large audience, nor did I expect the book to have holds on it for the first six months in was on the shelf, but it is nice to think that, like those libraries who didn’t cancel me and who haven’t hesitated putting it on a shelf, their patrons can make that decision for themselves. I hope the irony of the title “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” isn’t lost on anybody on your end. 
If you choose not to put the book on the shelf because it will introduce dangerous ideas to your community, I’d just ask you donate it to a Goodwill, Salvation Army or local church fair. Thank you for hearing me out.

 

I half-expected that to be the end of it. I figured the only response could be one that either doubles-down on her vague position, or admits to being wrong upon further analysis. Instead, I got a strange blow-off about an hour later earlier today:

Thank you for writing this – it is very informative.  Your book will 99.99% end up in the collection – the only delay has been that it got stuck in my reading queue but I will put it at the top now.  From the bit I have scanned through I don’t see any problems – but for due diligence I need to go through the whole thing.
It is most excellent your experience at other libraries and hearing of the kind of audiences.  Can I recommend you mentioning this in your website – the well received library visits – and the exact libraries?  If they could give you a blurb to put on your website too – that would be great. After you’ve added the library stuff to your website you can ask one of the libraries to recommend you on a listserv that most all librarians in (STATE NAME) read. Ask one of the libraries where your program was really successful to put a recommendation on the list and contact info on that list. This gives you a lot of credibility and will definitely increase your bookings.
So can I ask you to contact me in 6 months? If you’ve gotten libraries on your website and even a rec on the list – it will be an easier sell for me.

A big piece of me wants to send a response asking if they had to spend time going through all of the pro- and anti-Trump books coming out now on their shelves. A bigger piece of me wants to prod them into telling me point blank what the REAL problem is. I think I know what it is – it’s the “porn addicts are gross, we don’t want one here and would rather pretend they aren’t in our community” stance. The biggest piece wants to write back and say, “Don’t tell me how to become all prim and proper so I can possibly book your library down the road. I don’t want to step foot in your library…ever.”

But I won’t. I won’t send any of those things. I’m going to let it go as far as they are concerned.

I’m just left sitting here trying to think if I’ve been treated poorly, if I’ve been essentially discriminated against, if anybody with a porn addiction is being discriminated against and if the poor people in that town don’t have unfettered access to information at their library. It’s like Footloose, but actually important.

If nothing, it’s at least bad form to book somebody and cancel, right? I know you’re only getting my analysis of the story, although I gave you as much as I have to go on. Am I right to feel slighted and hurt or am I making too much of this? I’d love to know what you think.

Oh, and if you’re new here and don’t know the book I wrote that I’m talking about, you can get the details of it on Amazon HERE. Buy several. Send them to the residents of that New England town.

 

21 comments

  1. Wow. I honestly don’t know how libraries work but it does seem quiet weird to me that they would need to read everything being put on their shelves. I live in a small town with a small library and although I love to read and I devour books – I would not be able to read all the books prior to putting them on the shelves. I’m assuming the reality is they only read “certain” books – I’d be curious to know what their criteria is for a book that needs to be read first and what books have slipped past that requirement.

    Personally, I think you have been treated unfairly and it is very sad (and ironic) that they have backed out. I guess if they had promoted it and the community freaked out that would be different, but in this case the community is not even being given a chance to speak out for or against it. I do agree at this point the best thing for you to do is let it go.

    Her recommendations to you, quite honestly come across to me as being a bit condescending and my guess is that a part of her realizes she is in the wrong and is being defensive. However, you will probably never get them to be honest about what the real problem is.

    Bottom line – I think you are getting discriminated against and some people who really need to hear this will not be able to now. However, it would be a waste of your time at this point to fight it. Take her suggestions and if any of them are something you like and want to do – do it. Otherwise, just walk away. You did what you could and can walk away knowing this is not on you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for that excellent response. It really is a matter of radical acceptance at this point and I can deal with that but it’s one of those moments where I need to look around and say, “Anybody else think this is kind of f’d up?”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s absolutely fucked up. Porn Addiction like any other addiction has the potential to degenerate into something far worse for some individuals. I don’t think that happens in 1 in 10,000 porn addicts but I don’t think there’s any numbers either. I would seriously think any community would be safer with knowledge of addictions and available resources than without. This seems farcical. If my library was doing this I’d want to know.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is messed up. I will admit, but this is just a sign to take your efforts(ministry) elsewhere.

    Don’t sweat it or let it get you down. Shake your feet off and move forward where your book will be appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow. Discrimination at its finest. I was butt-hurt by a comment left on my blog today and I wrote a whole post to validate myself too. Lol… damn addicts and their need for validation.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So I have some thoughts that may differ from yours and the previous comments.

    Do keep in mind, I TRY to look at things from different angles, I’m generally not biased, and I’m Just a tad logical. Oh and I love organized lists, hence the numbered list.

    1. Poorly handled on their part, absolutely.

    2. I think the best thing you could’ve done from the first email was ask to be put in touch directly with this new director.

    3. Sarcasm is a poor way to resolve issues (on your part). But you did go on to give some hard facts which was awesome. You’re in a situation where you need to decide how you’re going to handle these issues as they arise. I’m guessing this won’t be the last incident. I would think you want to strive to build professional relationships.

    4. Discriminated against—nah. Don’t they have the legal right to put what they please on their shelves? Right, wrong or indifferent. If it is their right, then it is. Really, that’s a question. I don’t know the answer to that. At worse, they went back on their word.

    5. If she was being honest, really sounds like the new director has an issue with it, and likes to play it safe. It IS a new job for her.

    6. Her recommendations to you … I agree with what someone else said – a bit condescending. But in the end, perhaps helpful.

    As an added thought; remember your purpose! In order to reach the masses and help those whom you seek to help, you may have to endure some harsh, unfair, bias treatment, etc. because not everyone is comfortable with your message.

    Life is not always fair, but KEEP whatever control you do have.

    Confession, when you first started following me, it took me a few days to follow you because I wanted to make sure your message was one that I agreed with. So I browsed first. Telling you that to say, again not everyone is at ease with your message.

    My opinion may be more than you bargained for.

    I’m cheering for you and the people you will help.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I did ask for the name of the new director in the first email. There were 2-3 paragraphs of each of our first emails I cut because this thing was so, so long already. I guess I should have left them.
      I agree that I was somewhat sarcastic, but I was trying to illustrate a point. I think it was more hyperbole, but I will play closer attention in the future, thanks for that perspective. My style has never been to say “I think this is ridiculous” and leave it at that. It’s always been to make a list of other ridiculous things to hopefully illustrate their action fits into that category. Hyperbole…sarcasm…maybe it’s just semantics and it’s wrong either way. I’ll have to reflect on that.
      Is it your belief that if something is legal, it can’t be discrimination? They do have the legal right to put what they want on their shelves. I never questioned that. My question is the criteria upon which they choose. If I decide today that I’m not going to read blogs written by women simply because they are women, my choice is legal, but is it discriminatory? Absolutely. It’s prejudicial treatment based on certain characteristics.
      When you decided to follow me or not, were you not at ease with my message or not as ease with the topic? You spent the time to find out what I saying before you decided to follow. You did the research. You made an independent, informed decision. You could have said, “Porn…icky…go away” and never given it a second thought. That would have been fine, too. But if you had a button that would suddenly not let the next 5,000 bloggers make their own decision about my blog and pushed it, is that proper?
      I’m bothered that a public library, which receives taxpayer dollars and is supposed to be one of the places where first amendment rights are vigorously protected and defended even if you’re appalled by what is in certain books, made this decision. You’re right that they have a legal right to do whatever they want, but if they’re filling the shelves and only allowing guest speakers based on the set of social/political/moral criteria of one person, shouldn’t the public be made aware? I cringe almost every time I hear Donald Trump open his mouth, but I’d stand next to him and shout down any liberal who wanted him to silence him. I’m not going to go a rally to listen to him speak, but I’d like the option, and I’m not going stand in the way of someone else going.
      I think you’re right this is going to happen again and again. And I think part of changing the narrative is not just in spreading education, but in pointing out there are others who are uncomfortable with that education being spread. (I’d normally start listing over-the-top other examples through history…but I’m going to pass…see, you got through!)
      Again, I appreciate your perspective. Dissenting voices are what help us to explore perspectives on issues we hadn’t considered. Thank you for letting me know what you thought about the situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. For what it’s worth, it does seem like the writer is trying to find a way to get you at the library but has to tread a fine line between your agenda and that of their boss. Yes, it’s condescending as Sensible says, but the suggestions are something you can work with; maybe you could even team up with a couple of other experts to form some sort of panel.

    I guess there will be those organisations that will welcome your presentations and those who would never countenance having you anywhere near them. The challenge you are facing is dealing with those who are uncertain and every time you do that you sharpen up your arguments and find better ways of presenting your agenda so you can spread the message further.

    It’s clear this whole exchange has disheartened you, but keep in mind that what you are doing is important and I’m sure, in a few years, you’ll be seen as a pioneer in a field society needs to address.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It’s probably hard for people to recognize this based on the specifics, but her suggestions don’t make a lot of sense in this situation. I’m guessing she’s embarrassed and I’m even guessing she may have fought for this against someone who feel like they need to make their mark as new director. But, like I mentioned to Sensible, I think part of changing attitudes is not just changing the attitude, but calling out discriminatory practices when they are on display…for this instance again a community who now doesn’t have the right to choose to hear my presentation or not. If I would have gone and nobody showed up, it would have sucked, but people would have had the choice. They don’t have that option now and that bothers me. I would think there would be library patrons that would never, ever come listen to me, but who still would disagree with the library’s position of booking someone and then pulling them based on unfounded perception concerns. Those people are the ones who lose the most in this, because who knows what other material they are not allowed access to aside from this incident?

      Like

  7. Hey,

    Just my 2 cents. Firstly you are completely valid in feeling what I heard was frustration, irritation and indignation – if I had an appointment and someone cancelled the day before I would be livid – especially since not only is it ruining my schedule but I had been looking forward to it and planning for a while and then have it just blow up in my face – and especially one day before.

    Their point that they need to read something prior to putting it on the shelves is something brand new to me – I highly doubt that any library (even a very small one) – would have a staff member that has to read every book that comes on the shelves. If they are doing it I suspect it’s only because of the stigma and controversy surrounding the topic that you are writing about – rather than a general rule – however it sounds to me like they weren’t being up front about the controversy/stigma surrounding the topic being the reason that they needed to read the book up front – and were trying to make the case that this was done for every book – which was disingenuous.

    The other issue is that you are not dealing directly with the person who made the decision to cancel the appointment – but rather the junior person – I know i’ve been in situations in the past where I could let out my frustrations at certain lower level employees in a beaurecratic organisation which was not fair to them. I also assume that while the person you were emailing may agree with every point you are making I assume there is a possibility that because she values her job she won’t place criticism against her superior in the email.

    The worst thing is I suspect that after you had quoted all those facts to her it is possible that the supervisor didn’t even read it – and this to me communicates a simple lack of respect for you. This is actually irritating for me and I’m not even in your situation – I’m just imaginging confronting this manager on the phone – since it was her decision – and giving her a piece of my mind in a way that’s assertive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for giving me your take. Try not to get too irritated for me. I’m practicing radical acceptance. It’s not like if I was invited today I’d really feel comfortable going back. It’s more an experience to get people’s perspectives and better prepare myself for next time. I just wish there were some code the junior managers of the world could include in communications that the rest of knows means “I’m totally with you, but I need this job”

      Liked by 1 person

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