Texas mom Christin Bentley is taking a novel approach to get sexually explicit books out of kids’ libraries: she’s sending daily samples of the “filthy” books to all state lawmakers, who will soon be considering legislation to protect children from exposure to adult content while at school.
Christin launched her “Filthy Books” campaign in February.
“I knew I had to educate Texas legislators quickly on the content of the books, the amount of them, and that they are in every House District and Senate District across the state, urban, suburban, and rural,” Christin told Texas Scorecard.
“And I thought, there isn’t a better way to do that than through a Filthy Books campaign that provides examples and does so in a way that gets attention.”
She started with an email to all 181 members of the Texas Legislature explaining the campaign.
The email also included the first book report, from the title “What Girls Are Made Of,” a “young adult” novel that contains excessive profanity, explicit descriptions of minors engaging in sex acts, and other mature content.
New titles are emailed each weekday with book reports documenting the sexually explicit and inappropriate content, including images if the books are graphic novels.
By the end of the campaign, lawmakers will receive 72 sexually explicit book titles, with detailed content reports.
“Sadly, we have enough book titles to do this every day for two years, and we still wouldn’t be providing all of the books,” she said.
How It Started
Christin started working on the book issue locally in 2021 with an audit of a Tyler high school library.
I remember thinking, “I won’t find much of anything; I live in a very Christian, very conservative community, and there is no way we have these books in our schools.”
My audit revealed hundreds of sexually explicit “filthy” books, and some of the worst ones we find anywhere in the state. It told me how wrong I was to assume my conservative community was somehow sheltered from the radicalization of our schools and libraries. And, I knew if they could be in Tyler, Texas, they could be anywhere in the state.
“Since then, I’ve done hundreds of audits across Texas,” she said. “Unfortunately, I haven’t come across a school district that does not have sexually explicit books in their school libraries.”
In 2022, Christin was elected to serve as the State Republican Executive Committeewoman for Senate District 1 in Central Texas. Heading into the 2023 Legislative Session, she took the lead on advocating for the Texas GOP’s legislative priority to Stop Sexualizing Texas Kids.
Her goal with the Filthy Books campaign is to get good legislation passed this session that will protect Texas kids across the state from sexualization in their schools and libraries.
“We know that starts with awareness,” she said.
To truly understand this issue, you have to first see and read examples of the sexually explicit books for yourself; they are beyond most reasonable adults’ imaginations. These are books that are extremely graphic in nature, but also promote things like online pornography, sex “hook-up” apps to meet strangers for “tricks,” and sex toys to kids as young as 10 years old.
At the start of session, aside from a handful of Texas legislators, most hadn’t seen examples of the sexually explicit books for themselves and did not realize the sheer volume of them. And, just like when I started out, most of them still thought this was an isolated problem.
She has a list of more than 900 explicit books found in school libraries and says she’s still adding to it.
How It’s Going
One legislative solution she and the party endorse is House Bill 900 by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco), which sets up state-level library standards.
Dubbed the Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources (READER) Act, the bill puts the burden on school book vendors to rate books with sexual content as either “sexually explicit” (which would not be allowed in schools) or “sexually relevant” (which would require parental consent for students to access).
If a vendor fails to properly rate a book and it ends up in a school library, the vendor’s ability to sell books to Texas schools could be revoked.
“That bill does exactly what the Republican Party of Texas has asked, which is a prohibition of sexually explicit materials in our schools, and also provides transparency and a penalty,” Christin said.
HB 900 will receive a public hearing in the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday, March 21. Christin encourages parents who support the bill to contact their representatives and attend the hearing if possible. Texas residents can also submit comments about the bill online.
Christin is continuing to raise awareness among lawmakers and the public throughout the legislative session, which ends May 29.
In addition to the email campaign, she also posts about #FilthyBooks on Twitter.
She spoke about the Filthy Books campaign earlier this month during a legislative briefing at the Texas Capitol hosted by Texas Education 911, a statewide alliance of public education advocates promoting parent-backed school reforms. The group has endorsed HB 900 as one of their legislative solutions.
Others have joined the campaign as well, with groups of parents and grandparents visiting capitol offices weekly with paper copies of Filthy Books titles.
Christin said the feedback from lawmakers and staff has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve even had Democrat offices tell me they had no idea how bad the content was,” she said.
Why It Matters
For Christin and many Texas families, it comes down to protecting children.
“Fundamentally, the sexualization of Texas kids is abuse,” she said, adding there are certain “non-negotiables” for parents working on the Filthy Books campaign.
We WILL NOT support a bill that codifies into Texas law that sexually explicit materials can be in school libraries as long as they are rated, in a separate section, and with parental permission. This would take us backwards and undo the work of local parents and school administrators who have been successful at removing sexually explicit books locally. This would put those books right back into their schools, using tax dollars to do so!
“We also won’t support bills that only provide solutions related to parental rights or more local control, without providing state protection from sexual grooming to all children,” she said.
Christin added, “While parents should have complete access to their child’s school libraries and be able to restrict access to books they choose, the state has a compelling interest to protect all kids from harmful, sexually explicit content.”
Below is a list of “Filthy Books” sent to lawmakers to date. Click on the titles to learn more.
|What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K Arnold|
|All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson|
|Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison|
|Let’s Talk About It by Erika Moen|
|The Handmaid’s Tale: A Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood & Renee Nault|
|Identical by Ellen Hopkins|
|Jack of Hearts by LC Rosen|
|All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover|
|Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui|
|Collateral by Ellen Hopkins|
|Sold by Patricia McCormick|
|Boy Toy by Barry Lyga|
|A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas|
|Fun Home by Alison Bechdel|
|Guyaholic by Carolyn Mackler|
|Red Hood by Elana K Arnold|
|This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson|
|Goblin Slayer by Kumo Kagyu|
|Beautiful by Amy Reed|
|Rumble by Ellen Hopkins|