Incident at the Seattle Public Library

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    if a guy doesn’t want me to watch him watching porn at the library, he can use computers that make it more difficult for other people to see what’s on his screen.



    DBP. Where’s your evidence that the guys who want others to observe them watching porn at the library is a “small” number?

    —I don’t have any hard evidence of that, anonyme. But I didn’t present it as a fact. I presented it as a supposition. But while we’re on the subject of fact vs. supposition, where’s your evidence that viewing porn on a library computer adds to the titillation?

    If what El Jiggers says about the downtown library (post #125) is true — and I believe that it is true — I would infer from that that most library porn guys are in it for the porn, not the exhibitionism. But methinks no one is going to be taking a survey of porn users any time soon, so the point is likely to remain a moot one.

    Do taxpayers have an obligation to provide porn for the poor?

    —Strictly speaking, no. What taxpayers do have an obligation to do, though, is provide equal Internet access for all patrons* who want to use the library. Whether those patrons are rich or poor, and whether they want to use the Internet to view porn or to do their Sunday School lessons, is immaterial in the Library’s view. And rightly so.

    And aren’t teenagers required to use the computers with filters?

    —I believe not. Else, why the fracas over the computers in the Teen Area at the SW Library?

    (Note: Ms. Appling (post #117) told me that computers in children’s area do have filters.)

    In any case, if you do filter teen computers, you run up against the same problem of blocking too much stuff and preventing those same teenagers from doing research on more legitimate subjects.

    As women and children are the obvious targets, I’m not completely surprised at your casual attitude. Hey, you’re just a guy after all…

    —I’ll try not to read too much into this comment, anon. It’s true that I’m a grown up, and a guy. But in fact, I was a child once myself. And some of my best friends have been (and still are) women.

    And lest you conclude that I think porn is completely innocuous, let me state for the record that that is wrong. In fact, I DO see some harm in porn, even when that porn that is viewed in the privacy of one’s home.

    On the other hand, I think porn exists for a perfectly natural reason, and before you judge it (or the people who indulge in it) too harshly, I think you should try and understand it a little better.

    Which is all I’m trying to do here: help people understand.


    *Patrons who are also taxpayers, I might add.


    me on 28th Ave SW

    I think the computers are FACING the teen area and not IN the teen area at SW library.


    HMC Rich

    If memory serves they are right there next to the teen area.

    A lot people yell about freedom to… but what about freedom from?

    Maybe the private sector needs to start their own libraries. I don’t see many people viewing porn at barnes and noble, but my five year son does not need to be exposed(!) to adult activities that he is not mature enough to understand. He knows the biology of male and females. In fact it was a riot when he came home from school talking about his tentacles.

    Many of the parents we know are fairly open about the human body and its parts and what they do. But as a parent I should be allowed to gradually teach or reference various items in their life.

    Besides, being a guy. If I am watching there is a natural conclusion to the visual stimulation.

    No. It is not appropriate for those people to be watching porn at the library (my opinion). I will be voting, with my wallet, non-attendance, and my standards.

    You can’t please everyone and this disturbs me. Now, I have to decide, will I go there or not? Well, I won’t be going there to watch porn. That is not to say that email sent to me might not be G rated either. But I wouldn’t open that in public either.

    But I have to ask, do the viewers of porn at the library have to sit four feet away from the monitor? How about some food or alcohol too? Maybe the library should impose a pay to play on the net policy. No, I don’t visit strip clubs, but why is there regulation in private businesses and not in the taxpayer funded ones? This city…

    Viewing porn around kids is wrong. There, I said it.

    Reading an explicit book is much different from viewing porn on a computer. With books, people are being discrete or private, not so with computer. Peoples eyes are drawn to monitors with moving content. It is difficult to not notice a computer screen. The light from those screens is not natural, therefore hard to ignore.

    I would ban the porn viewing at the libraries. There are other places people can go to see it. And I don’t care if they can afford it or not. That is their problem, not mine. But by viewing it in public they are making it my problem.



    The lack of consideration for others in a public place is what disturbs me. Knowing that others might be frightened or feel less safe if they see what I’m watching, shows a detachment from other people, not caring if they are hurt by my behavior. But perhaps that’s part of the thrill of those who watch porn in libraries, the threat of getting caught. Many women see porn as an industry that victimizes women and young children. Some men see it as inexpensive entertainment, as visual candy. I hope the SPL makes changes so patrons can feel safe in the library. For many the library is a refuge. A knee-jerk liberal, I still do not support guys who disturb others by watching porn in public.



    ws4ever, thank you. Your words are exactly how I feel.



    Thanks for the offer of enlightenment DP, but I don’t think I need it on this topic. Better yet, I’d like to offer you some from a woman’s standpoint.

    First of all, I’ve lived a very, very, very FULL life. I could probably tell you some real-life tales of amor that would make your toes curl. I even watched porn when I was younger (although it always struck me as a bit boring and unimaginative). There is nothing at all that I view as taboo behavior between consulting adults – in private. I frankly don’t give a rat’s ass if some guy wants to watch so much porn – AT HOME – that his dessicated corpse is found drained of all bodily fluids. So you really don’t need to maintain this pose of facilitating understanding for us poor repressed females.

    I have a friend who is a CCO who manages sex offenders. The library has become a very popular place for her clients, who do indeed find the public “exposure” titillating. My objection to the use of public porn is that it is unquestionably used for sexual harassment. I’m guessing that DBP has never been asked to perform a sexual act in order to get a job, or had to put up with sexual harassment everywhere from the job place to the doctor’s office, or even been sexually assaulted. But a huge percentage of women in this country are very familiar with some or all of this behavior, which ranges from very subtle and passive-aggressive to overt and dangerous. A lot of porn sends a message that goes way beyond sex. It treats women in a way that is demeaning, sometimes to the point of abuse – and beyond.

    I consider what happened to me in the library to be blatant sexual harassment AT A MINIUMUM. And if the library allows this, they are creating a hostile and unsafe environment for a large number of patrons. I now check every time I enter the library to make sure that certain individual is not back in that corner, and only pass that bank of computers if absolutely necessary. I now have to sneak around the public library like a criminal while Mr. Palmer sits in the back row and gloats.

    A side note for other concerned readers: if you see someone watching porn at the library, make a note of their appearance and check it against the sex offender registry for West Seattle Neighborhoods. If they’re on it, make a report to the Sex Offender Unit of the King County Sheriff’s office. This is prohibited behavior for sex offenders on supervision, and may result in jail time.



    A side note for other concerned readers: if you see someone watching porn at the library, make a note of their appearance and check it against the sex offender registry for West Seattle Neighborhoods.

    Oh yeah. That’s just what we need at the library . . . Internet filters AND vigilantes. Are you sure you’re in the right country, anonyme? Sometimes I wonder.

    Thanks for the offer of enlightenment DP, but I don’t think I need it on this topic. Better yet, I’d like to offer you some from a woman’s standpoint.

    Go ahead. I’m listening.

    First of all, I’ve lived a very, very, very FULL life. I could probably tell you some real-life tales of amor that would make your toes curl . . .

    Oh . . . DO TELL!

    Ha ha. I like your style, anon. (Mostly.) Next time I see a guy with curled toes, I’ll think of you.

    In spite of whatever aventures de l’amour you may have had, the fact remains that you will never know how a guy feels about sex. Just as I will never know how a woman does. But if you want to hear some observations about how a guy feels from a guy who’s not too intimidiated to talk about this, then read on.

    If not, then have a nice day.

    Now then, where was I . . .



    Sorry, been away from this for a bit. I wanted to comment on something that babalou said:

    Could it be that they exercise judgment, discriminating taste, limits, boundaries, decide appropriateness, etc.

    This was actually a factor in the WA state Supreme Court decision you referenced–that filtering or restricting Internet content called for the same exercise of judgment that librarians use in deciding what should go in the physical collection. We don’t buy porn because it’s not part of our mandate (though my library DID once buy a video that had a rather racy cover–it was a documentary on images of men in society) so why shouldn’t we restrict it?

    I should point out that librarians don’t want to make this difficult, but ironically, it’s the very fact that public libraries are public that makes this a tricky question from a legal perspective. If a library is private it can pretty much do what it wants as far as enabling or restricting content is concerned–ditto kicking out people who are causing a disturbance. I’ve mentioned some of the relevant USSC cases already, and the issue that filtering software really does not draw distinctions as finely as we would like. Filtering software makers often have their own agenda, and their own definitions of what should be filtered that may go further than we want (the most oft-cited example was software that filtered out ANYTHING to do with breasts–including sites on breast cancer).

    The harassment angle is an interesting one, anonyme, and I’d have to go back and look at the literature to see if that’s one that’s ever been explored legally where this issue is concerned.



    When I was growing up, sex was never discussed in my family. Which seems especially odd to me when I think of what a huge role “it” played in our lives.

    See, my parents were a product of the same sex-doesn’t-exist upbringing that I was. Only in their case, the outcome wasn’t so good. So it’s all the more baffling to me that, with all their benefit of experience, my folks didn’t do something different with us than what was done with them.

    Supposedly, no one so much as contemplated sex in my parents’ home town.

    Especially not people who weren’t married.

    And ABSOLUTELY not teenagers.

    Not realizing that there was no such thing as sex, two high school sweethearts lay down together one day. And when they got up again one of them was pregnant.

    Bye-bye good-girl reputation.

    Bye-bye college plans.

    Hello poverty.


    Ma lost the baby. Or she aborted it, I’m not sure. She never told us kids that we almost had another brother (he’d be almost 70 now) until we were old enough to have kids of our own.

    But that’s another story, and all I want to say about that story now is that it might have turned out a much better one, if only the grown-ups in my parents’ town hadn’t believed that sex was something evil. So evil, in fact, that you couldn’t even speak of it around children.




    DBP, I’ve tended slightly your way in this discussion, but I gotta say I don’t buy this angle. Nobody, not a single person in this conversation, has suggested that kids shouldn’t learn about sex. But I’m sure I won’t be the first to point out that that’s not the same as having to explain what that guy in the library (or wherever) is watching on his screen, the object of which is usually titillation not education, Nina Hartley notwithstanding.

    I mean, I’d have been fairly appalled to run across some of this stuff when I was ten; six or seven years later, not so much. Even though by age ten I was already theoretically familiar with the mechanics, precursors, and potential consequences (including the fun ones), which I’d taken the trouble to learn about by reading a book.

    Which I got at the library.



    Children aren’t allowed to set foot inside strip clubs or bars even if they aren’t actually viewing the show or drinking. Yet, children are exposed to hardcore pornography at the library. By being inaccurately designated as “not an adult entertainment venue,” the library skirts adult entertainment regulations. Whatever freedom of expression arguments the city uses to allow porn in libraries can be used by any bar that wants to spice things up. How can the city prohibit a privately owned bar from showing adults the same material that is on view to children in a public library? Alternatively, children should be banned from the library on the same grounds that they are banned from adult entertainment venues and bars.

    Librarians will not restrict computer porn in the library because they hold to an idea that has been elevated to an absolute: free access to information for all. Due to this pre-internet, absolutist belief, librarians are unable to craft a compromise in this situation. They absolutely believe in Access to all Information for All, no compromises—a nice idea in theory but in practice it would mean subscribing to Penthouse, which of course they don’t (hypocrites!) So we must turn to our elected officials for help.

    Another reason librarians can’t deal with the porn issue may be that they are afraid of the old stereotype of librarians as prudes. But maybe squeamishness is the reason they prefer to ignore the porn being spat in their eye as well as the patrons. Instead of dealing with it effectively, they “look the other way,” and in so doing, passively enable exhibitionist pedophiles to watch graphic videos in public while staring at real children in the library. Even at wading pools in Seattle, men who show an inordinate interest in staring at the children are confronted. That’s because citizen commonsense is allowed to address the situation. Can you imagine if men at the pools were sitting 6 feet away, and looking at hardcore pornography while staring at the kids? Yet, this is what is happening at the libraries: at Southwest branch, a phalanx of computers abuts and faces the children’s area. We know there is legal hardcore porn being viewed on these monitors because we have seen it. If the library argues that illegal child porn is never screened on these computers, the only way to ensure that it doesn’t slip through the filters is to physically monitor everything viewed on these screens. And since that’s not going to happen, it is impossible for the library to guarantee that it is not flashing child pornography to children who walk by these monitors.

    Although the main argument has to be made on behalf of children, library staff are also arguably subject to a hostile work environment because of the presence of sexually degrading images. It took years for laws to be passed prohibiting a hostile work place created by the posting of hardcore pornography. It is established law that the presence of pornographic material in a non-adult entertainment workplace may constitute sexual harassment which is illegal. Hardcore porn on library computers arguably creates a hostile work environment for library workers who are reshelving books, and based on huge monetary awards won by workers who were subjected to pornography in the workplace, library staff may have a cause of action. The city’s main concern is lawsuits (1st amendment). So, I suggest we should sue the city of Seattle for allowing children inside an adult entertainment venue. And we can defeat the next library levy, making clear that as lovers of public libraries we are voting against being forced to view pornography against our will. Like many liberals, I have never been on the other side of a 1st Amendment argument, including now. I don’t deny the right of anyone who wants to, to view porn, but I will fight for my family’s right not to have to view it as a condition of using my tax-funded library.



    Not a person here has to view porn as a condition of using their tax-funded library. Not a person here has to look over people’s shoulders at a computer. They could mind their own bizness instead. Worried about your children, parents? Take responsibility for them, attend to them at the library and other places you take them and teach them how to mind their own bizness.

    I have never looked at porn in a library but I have used a library computer and I never thought about or worried if something I looked at might bother someone else. Why should I? It’s none of your damn bizness! Don’t be looking over my shoulder!

    sorry, but this seems to me like another one of those bs OUTRAGE issues that would be easy to address if some people would just mind their own bizness and take responsibility for their own actions and their children’s (yes, parents, you are responsible for them until they grow up).



    As has been pointed out here before, the porn on computer screens in the libraries is not private. The so-called privacy screens don’t work. From many sight lines within each library you can be looking at porn without intending to. Ick! But my point is that the city is inconsistent in applying regulations pertaining to adult entertainment. Children who are not even looking at the sex show aren’t allowed inside strip clubs. But they are allowed in the library. By extension, all bars should be able to show XXX movies.



    accidental duplicate, sorry


    You make good points cece



    cecerider, it’s not gonna fly, and I’ll tell you why: a public library is a designated public forum and a strip club is not. Government is very very limited in terms of what it can prohibit in terms of speech in public space, and when put to the test, pornography is considered a form of speech. There is legal precedent going all the way to the US Supreme Court about this. I’m not making this stuff up. (I’m also not a lawyer, so, you know, when I mention legal precedent bear that in mind.)

    If you want to bring that case, more power to you. However, I think you’ll find that any lawyer you retain to advance your case will encourage you to find another line of argument. It actually does make a difference whether what someone is looking at is live (as in a strip club) or recorded (as in a video).

    I’ll add the caveat that I work in a private library, not a public one, and therefore am not presuming to give the final answer on what librarians in public libraries can or should be doing, I work for a private institution and can and have told people to move if what they were looking at was disturbing others.

    Let me emphasize, however, that my reading of this issue has not been that librarians are opposed to filtering. I can’t presume to speak for my entire profession (and thanks for the stereotype, cecerider, that really warms the cockles of my prim and prudish heart) but my main objection is that filtering doesn’t work–it prevents access to content whose validity no one would argue.

    But if you want to say it should be implemented anyway, you can. The state supreme court has determined that it’s allowable.



    “you can be looking at porn without intending to…”

    I have to call malarkey on that. I use the library a lot…a whole lot because I love to read. I go at least once or twice a week. And I never-never-never- see what people are looking at on their computer screens. Why? Because I don’t look! I’m thinking about the books I’m looking for, movies I might like to see, browsing the CDs for music and I never see anything on a computer screen I don’t intend to because I don’t walk around behind the screens looking at them. I’d suggest you do the same.



    Dear Julie,

    I am a family columnist. I really want a chance to speak with you one-on-one regarding this incident. Can you contact me at within the next couple of days? Thanks.

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