I Am Not A Pornographer


Good Morning Hank. It’s Wednesday, January
30th and today’s video comes to you in one part. Part one: I am not a Pornographer. Hank, you may remember that almost three years
ago my first novel, Looking for Alaska, was published. I just found out that Looking for
Alaska is about to be taught to 11th grade english students at Depew High school, outside
of Buffalo, New York. Alaska is taught in a lot of English classes around the country,
but it’s still pretty awesome to hear that someone is gonna like, teach your book in
a regular english class, and people are gonna read it closely and think hard about it. So here’s what happened. Because there are
a few scenes in Looking for Alaska that some people find controversial, the Depew High
School administrators and English teachers got together, and they wrote a letter saying,
‘We’re gonna teach this book. We think it’s pretty good. If you’re okay with your kid
being taught this book, please sign this permission slip, otherwise the kid will read some other
book.’ So parents who are cool with their kids reading Looking for Alaska get to have
their kids read Looking for Alaska, and parents who aren’t cool with it get to have their
kids read some other book. But there were a few people who weren’t happy
with this solution. These people didn’t actually have kids who are in the 11th grade… but
no matter. They think my book is pornographic and that it will cause immoral thoughts and
actions in children. These people believe that no one should be allowed to read the
book, even those people whose parents signed the permission slip. *Grumbles* Now Hank, it’s no secret that I like for things
to be about me, but this really isn’t. Still I have to tell you that when you’re told that
the novel that you wrote for teenagers is pornography, you start to feel a little bit,
mmm… mad. I don’t know exactly what it is that bothers me about that characterization.
I mean, it’s not the -ography. I wouldn’t be mad if someone was like, ‘We must get this
book out of our classrooms; it’s full of geography!’ Or, ‘No teenager should ever have to read
this disgusting work of lexicography.’ No Hank, it’s not the -graphy that bothers
me. It’s the porn. Pornography is designed to titillate. Hank, I don’t think there’s
a single halfway-normal person in the world who would find a single thing in my book in
anyway arousing. There is one very frank sex scene. It is awkward, un-fun, disastrous,
and wholly unerotic. Hank the whole reason that scene in question exists in Looking for
Alaska is because I wanted to draw contrast between that scene, when there is a lot of
physical intimacy but it’s ultimately very emotionally empty, and the scene that immediately
follows it, when there is not a serious physical interaction, but there’s this intense emotional
connection. The argument here is that physical intimacy
can never stand in for emotional closeness. And that when teenagers attempt to conflate
these ideas, it inevitably fails. Hank, it doesn’t take a deeply critical understanding
of literature to realise that Looking for Alaska is arguing against vapid physical interactions,
not for them. Now Hank, some people are gonna say that kids
don’t have the critical sophistication when they’re reading to understand that. And I
have a message for those people. Shut up and stop condescending to teenagers. Do you seriously
think that teenagers aren’t able to read critically? When they read George Orwell’s Animal Farm
do they head out to the pig farms to kill all the pigs because they’re about to become
communist autocrats? When they read Huck Finn do they think that Huck should turn Jim in
because the demented conscience of the community says so? When they read Waiting for Godot
do they think that it’s cool to just sit around and do nothing? Well, probably they do actually,
that one doesn’t really work toward my point. Now obviously Hank, I don’t think that a few
parents should get to decide what the kids of other parents read in school. Those parents
are qualified to sign or not sign that permission slip as they see fit. And to speak frankly
Hank, it also pisses me off when small groups of well-organized would-be book banners try
to take over America’s public school systems. Now fortunately in Depew, there are a lot
of teachers and school administrators and school board members who are standing up for
my book and for the right of teachers to teach it, and for the right of parents to choose
to have it taught to their kids. But Hank, sometimes these people who make
stands for intellectual freedom can feel like they’re going it alone. Which is why I’d like
to ask from the bottom of my heart that any nerdfighters that live in or around Depew
go to the school board meeting on February 5th. (Info in the sidebar.) Also, I’ve written
a letter in defense of the teachers who would like to teach my book. If you’d like to write
a letter, send it to sparksflyup at gmail dot com and I’ll be sure to forward it on.
Hank, thanks to you and all the nerdfighters in advance for your emails.

100 thoughts on “I Am Not A Pornographer”

  1. People who don't want kids to read stuff in school "I'm worried that those teens who aren't even my kids may be manipulated or psychologically damaged by the fiction that they read. Well, better stop them learning how to think critically under guidance and supervision of a qualified academic and hope that they never come across any actual damaging literature while alone with an untrained mind" lol

  2. I love the comment about killing off the pigs because they are communist. Whenever we read books in class we only look at the text for higher meaning. We look for the "so what". We constantly read between the lines for a greater theme that applies to life and other texts. In a high school classroom this would be a good book because it brings up good points and it's an interesting book that kids want to read.

  3. I actually wish we read books as awesome as this in my 11th grade English class. But I graduated in the 90s and we didn't have awesome authors like John Green.

  4. Just a thought I had while this video was loading… What if you had made your video limits 3 minutes? Or 5? What would we know or not know?

  5. My 6th grade English teacher got pissed off because one of her students read Looking for Alaska. I know sixth grade is quite young to read that book but I knew the girl who read it and her mind was far beyond the content of the book. I have read it and it's nothing that my class mates couldn't handle. Most of them talk about that stuff on a regular basis. It's also a very deep and intellectual book that I believe can benefit students everywhere. John Green made a truly beautiful piece of art that needs to be read by the age it was intended to be read by.

  6. Hi John. What I don't understand is why the school have to inform about which books the students will be reading? They never did that to us. We were just given 1984 and told to read it. Same with Lord of the flies, as a 13 year old. I think that the exposure of great litterature at an early age is vital and make young people grow. I myself was a late reader but when I started to read things that i wanted I swallowed classic after classic. My teacher told me which books I should read and I wrote them on a list and at the end I had over 40 classics that I read each one before my 18th birthday.
    That some uninformed parents think that they have the right to refuse me of that groth and expierience is dreadful and shameful!
    With love, Malin

  7. I think looking for Alaska as your best work … and yes I have read all your books .. you are one of my favourite authors … 😊

  8. I probably would have rather pointed to Orwell's 1984 rather than animal farm. the rebellion is a sexual act, but schools around the world prescribe that book.

  9. I haven't read Looking for Alaska but I've read 'Will Grayson, Will Grayson' and OH MY LORD IT IS THE SINGLE MOST FUNNIEST BOOK IVE EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER READ LIKE ITS AMAZING! It doesn't just appeal to me because of its comedic value but everything and every word of it is perfect! Can't wait to read more, LOVE U SO MUCH MAN❤❤❤❤

  10. This video was posted in 2008. That was 9 years ago when I was 5… I have fallen down quite the rabbit hole and I love it. These older videos make me feel nostalgic even though I've never watched them, and am a relatively new subscriber.

  11. I guess I'll blabber a bit and rant to. I suppose. So these people have knowledge (of sin) then have imagination (of a perfect world) and they have implementation (cast out all impurity). Problem? of Course. However, would you have a problem with these same people if they were railing on a book by Rene Gion being taught about 'sex before 8 or else it's too late' and 'sex before 5 why deprive'? Probably not. They should really probably not cry wolf unless there is a wolf. I think I'll bring up the mystical aspect of the soul and mention that I think prominent groups in society have imprinted on their soul the concept that 'to abhor sin is good' without also imprinting on their soul the concept 'what you don't want done to you don't do to someone else'. This mismatched imprinting creates injustice which sometimes leads to violence and hatred and needless strife. It seems to me that to abhor for the sake of abhorring is like gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge and in the end it's all just bad entertainment I suppose. It's complex I suppose and motives matter.

  12. When I read the book, I did not get that those two scenes were supposed to be contrasted. But I DID relate to the awkward sex attempt. It was exactly as unerotic as my own first attempts at sex.
    However, I did generally understand that the narrator felt closer to Alaska than to his supposed girlfriend.

  13. John Green's book shows the reality of most teenage lives. My school library doesn't have "Looking for Alaska" because according to them, it is "inappropriate". I hate it when people says that just because they want to "protect" us from immoral points of the book. I love John Green. He's the best.

  14. I recently studied Heart of Darkness and Romeo and Juliet. Looking for Alaska is like a cuddly teddy bear in comparison. Heart of Darkness contains discrimination, murder, torture and mass suffering. Romeo and Juliet while be considered a romance is in fact really violent with 6 on stage deaths and one off stage sex act between a 13 year old and 18 year old.

    The people who object to Looking for Alaska obviously don't understand the novel and are only capable of looking at it at a surface level. Those people have no right to talk about good literature if they themselves can't think critically. These are the sort of people who would object to Catcher in the Rye. They are too narrow minded to understand it's depth and are therefore hinderances to education. It is also a major act of injustice to deny other young adults access to reading good books based on your own personal views. By doing so you are actively sabotaging someone's education and freedom.

    Another thing the Guardian reported that one resident in Kentucky said that it was books like Looking for Alaska that lead to teenage pregnancy. I'd like to point out that Kentucky ranks as one of the highest states in teen pregnancy birth rates (https://www.thoughtco.com/states-highest-teenage-pregnancy-birth-rates-3533772) and one of the worst states at providing comprehensive sex education (http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/sex-education-requirement-maps_n_5111835). So if you wonder why teenagers are getting pregnant, you should look in the mirror.

  15. This video is so old that John said "sidebar" and I shuddered. Other than that, this video still makes me feel important and empowered to this day.

  16. I understand that you are mad. I teach it to 14 year olds in Germany and they love the book. I told them I’d rather have them read about it than see it. Hugs from Germany.

  17. It's funny how i find that John has a very very hard time accepting other peoples opinions, not only on this subject (because that scene is, shame on me, so dont comment about this!, a bit arousing), but also on climate change etc. So wtf?

  18. There 11th grade English students there already having immoral thoughts and actions there teenager's they think about sex it's just a normal of being a teenager heck it's a normal part of being human you can be 25 and still be thinking about and or having sex and most people do

  19. The idea of people censoring a topic for the youth that needs to be talked about just makes the issue more taboo, thus more uncomfortable. Maybe if there is a negative consiquence with said topic, then the consiquences will turn into an incredibly large problem. That scene in your book was talong about the consiquences of sex, and censoring that can lead to a chain of problems for youth.

  20. I'm reading Looking for Alaska as my AP English assignment over the summer. I'm supposed to research a book often criticized and/or banned in places, but also widely considered "good" by people who apparently got licenses to rate books or something (all in America, because that's where I live). I can definitely see why people don't like it or feel it to be inappropriate, but banned? Banned? Really, America? It shouldn't be legal to ban a book. Put a warning on the front, maybe rate it like they rate movies, sure. (Honestly, that'd probably be a GOOD idea, use the movie rating system to rate books in a similar way so people know what they're getting into.) Just don't BAN it. People should have the right to read what they want to, and cities, states, or countries should not have the right to stop a book if they don't like some ideas in it. I don't think I was made aware free speech doesn't apply to books.

  21. Hey John,
    I’m a student from a German school and we read the book in our English class. We definitely understand your point and your problem. Our class dosen‘t think that your book is pornogaphy at all. Was a nice book.

  22. I'm 13 and I love looking for Alaska my parents are ok with me reading it , it's my favorite book by you

  23. I live in the Buffalo area of NY and I had to read Looking for Alaska this year. I've always loved you and your videos so I was really excited when I found out I had to read this book. When I actually read it though, I was kind of disappointed. That one scene I can assume you're referring to was a bit explicit and it made me extremely uncomfortable. The book was alright but there were some stuff I sorta disliked about it. After watching this video a second time (first time being way before I read the book) it gave me a better understanding as to why you put those scenes in there. If I didn't hear your explanation and reasoning, I probably would have wished they weren't in there at all. I still think it should have been less explicit but overall it was a good read!

  24. When I read Animal Farm a few days ago the only thing I got from it was not to be an extreme communist autocrat.

  25. What monster would make kids read waiting for Godot? Reading takes a good amount of focus over time, so that would be an intensely boring and overall degrading experience. Watching the play is fine in my opinion, because you Don't have to put much energy into watching and listening to it.

  26. Book banning is so absurd. Each parent should be able to choose for their own child whether or not a book is "allowable' for them to read. When this video started, I couldn't even recall any sexual scenes from Looking for Alaska, until you started talking about it… That's how NON erotic it was.

  27. It makes me angry, this trend of school boards even on the college level who try to censor things from youth because they feel we will be 'misguided,' whether that's sexual stuff or acts of violence or mental suffering and mental illness, in works of literature. It's important and necessary for things cast as 'inappropriate,' or 'too upsetting,' to be brought to our attention, so we can know that they're out there, and know that they're painful and complex issues that need to be dealt with with a lot of thought. We need to address these things so we can formulate our own intuitive reaction to them and then act justly to create a change, a small step forward in our own personal way, to further guide the infinitely long, gruelling crowd of humanity into clear thinking. Emotional maturity. The light of reason and sensitivity combined.

  28. I'm willing to say that your book is full of geography. I mean, Alaska is a place. Even though that's not what you meant, but you know.

  29. I don't remember when I first read it. But Looking for Alaska is still one of the best books I have ever taken the time to read.
    I missed if this was ever resolved. Was the book permitted for study material? Is it still, if so?

  30. I had forgotten about his amazing ability to speak without moving his head or face at all. Like cover his mouth and it could be a still image.

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