February 2018
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letter to Oprah about the mag vs. 'lolita' book recommendation


Dear Oprah,
I recently picked up several old copies of your magazine at a used book store, curious to see what all the fuss was about. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that your magazine is very uplifting and encouraging, with a true focus on helping women to live our best life. Because I was so impressed and inspired, I am writing you about a glaring discrepancy in the June 2003 issue -- I believe that you want to help women and girls, and will want to make a change when you read what I have to say.

In your Bookshelf article for the June 2003 issue, Ann Patchett recommends the book Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. She mentions that the book is "about a man's affair with his stepdaughter" and goes on to praise the artistic skill of the writer. First of all, a child cannot have an 'affair' because a child is not capable of making the choice to have sex. It is molestation or rape, sexual abuse -- NOT a "romantic and sexual relationship" (as the dictionary defines 'affair'), and the implication that it is the choice of the child is absolutely devastating to anyone who has been a victim of childhood sexual abuse. If a person were to create a painting of a man molesting a child, would you comment on the lighting, the choice of colors, the intricacy of brushstrokes? No! You would say that this is glamourizing abuse, and is a very negative thing for anyone to look on. Yet because of pretty turn of phrase, you are willing to dismiss the pain and suffering of more than a third of women. The most recent studies state that 38% of women are molested or raped as a minor. This is not something that can be cavalierly dismissed -- and I do not consider it 'art' to glamourize the horrifying devastation of so many women. What I found even more appalling was the aption on the side of the page, "books that made a difference." What kind of difference has this book made? I shudder to think about it. The very concept of a seductive adolescent girl, or a 'Lolita,' is the justification many victimizers use. To suggest that the victim wanted the abuse is to exonerate the perpetrator.

Again, the reason I approach you about this is because I believe that you do want to help others, especially women and girls. I fervently hope that this was merely an oversight, and not something that your magazine has done on more than one occasion. ---

I had to trim out some of it because they wanted 2000 characters or less, but that's the gist of it. I do hope for a response, but I feel better just having sent it; it was really bothering me until I sat down and wrote it out. In fact, I feel so much better that I am thinking of joining a community to post some 'unsent letters.' hmm.

connecting: ,

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Comments
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bluebl00d ══╣Angie / Broken╠══
Oprah herself was sexually abused as a young girl, did you know that?
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
huh, no I didn't. But that makes me more sure that she must not have seen that --- I'm sure she doesn't edit the magazine herself.
beautymess ══╣╠══
*applause*
I'm glad you sent the letter.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
Re: *applause*
thank you. *hugs*
paradigm_shift ══╣╠══
Re: *applause*
eternitywaiting ══╣me╠══
As a literature major, I would contest the idea that unpleasant subject matter makes a "bad book" or something that shouldn't be read. If you're sensitive to a certain subject matter, you should avoid books that encompass it. I haven't read Lolita, so I can't comment directly on its attributes. Have you read it?

I have, however, read this. So I will never believe that Lolita or any piece of good literature cannot, simply because of subject matter, offer empowerment to women.
belenen ══╣antagonistic╠══
unpleasant? This is not about being 'unpleasant.' I understand the value of addressing an issue honestly, but there is a difference between addressing it and glamourizing someone else's horror.
belenen ══╣╠══
eternitywaiting ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
eternitywaiting ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
eternitywaiting ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
acid_burns ══╣╠══
I absolutely love the book.
belenen ══╣confused╠══
why?
acid_burns ══╣╠══
acid_burns ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
maladroitkat ══╣╠══
Well said.

I hope you get a response.
belenen ══╣gentle╠══
thank you. *hugs* I appreciate the support.
chelsrae85 ══╣╠══
I definitely don't support censorship, but I agree that it is completely detrimental to society that so many artforms (literature, art, television, etc.) glorify acts that should not in any way be praised.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
I agree! That's what I mean. Address the issue, yes, but not turn it into something 'pretty' that you call art.
eternitywaiting ══╣╠══
boobiequeen ══╣╠══
I picked up the novel after I saw the film Jeremy Irons was in, based on the book. I have yet to read it, but if the film is anything like the novel...it isn't at all graphic...and it is a type of art form. The novel is from the pedophile's point of view, which will make some people uncomfortable...but then...real, good art tends to make at least someone feel uncomfortable. This novel and the film are not porn. Just like the Kevin Bacon film "The Woodsman" or even "Dead Man Walking"...you get different perspectives...and while you may or may not agree with, enjoy or feel comfortable about another perspective, it is there. It's not pretty...but molestation never it. This book is supposedly one of the besst of our generation...I've heard that his writing style is brilliant, and I look forward now, more than ever, to finding time to pick this up and read it. I'll let you know how that turns out, if you like. :)
acid_burns ══╣╠══
the Kevin Bacon film "The Woodsman"

Amazing acting work in that film.
belenen ══╣╠══
boobiequeen ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
eternitywaiting ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
boobiequeen ══╣╠══
dangermike ══╣╠══
I don't want to turn this into a huge battle, but I think it's important to recognize that age of consent is a mostly modern construction, and it's pretty arbitrary. And to suggest that the book glamorizes pedophilia, I think, is a little off the mark.

"Nabokov's Lolita is far from an endorsement of pedophilia, since it dramatizes the tragic consequences of Humbert's obsession with the young heroine. Nabokov himself described Humbert as "a hateful person."
belenen ══╣antagonistic╠══
age of consent is a mostly modern construction, and it's pretty arbitrary

if a person is too young to take care of themselves financially and emotionally, then they are too young to consent to sex. There is a maturity level necessary in order to consent, and while I agree that a person who has reached puberty OUGHT to be mature enough to have sex, the fact is that in our culture, a 12 year old is far too immature.
dangermike ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
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acid_burns ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
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eternitywaiting ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
acid_burns ══╣╠══
eternitywaiting ══╣╠══
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belenen ══╣╠══
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belenen ══╣╠══
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ex_alariya46 ══╣╠══
eternitywaiting ══╣╠══
dangermike ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
eternitywaiting ══╣╠══
dangermike ══╣╠══
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belenen ══╣╠══
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darkpool ══╣╠══
darkpool ══╣╠══
poet_demas ══╣╠══
have you ever picked up the book Lolita? I was wary of ever reading it, and when I did, I found out it wasn't the horrible story many had painted it to be, but the descent of one man's soul and sanity. It's a depressing book and it deals with a controversial subject. It's highly artistic as Nabokov is known for. He dealt with a subject that no one wanted to.
darkpool ══╣╠══
I can understand your feelings, when people read something like that it normalizes that behavior for them whther they realize it or not, and that is not behavior that should be normalized.
camilleyun ══╣╠══
The letter you wrote to Oprah is extremely well done. I hope you receive a positive response.

I have never read Lolita. I think I may have seen some or all of the film but do not remember it.

I have a problem with a book called The End of Alice by A.M. Homes. A friend of mine sent it to me because he enjoyed reading it and I had liked another book [The Safety of Objects which was very different in style] by the same author. An imprisoned pedophile has a correspondence with a 19 year old. I do not like anything about this book. Not the story content, not the subject matter, not the way it was written. Nothing. Because it was given to me by a person I respect who saw merit in it, I tried to give it a very forced chance up to page 54 but I know I will never read any more. If you read the reviews for of praise for this book it would probably make you sick. I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I really cannot see how anyone can call that book brilliant or art. But whatever, people are going to think whatever they want.

I think maybe what that caption meant in the review about a book that changed things may have been pointing to the fact that those things had not been written about. I could be wrong but that was my interpretation. It was a taboo subject [and with good reason] and becoming this famous piece of literature changed the literary world or something like that.

Many people criticized the film The Woodsman because it is about a pedophile that is released from prison. The film was very well acted and does not promote nor glamourize pedophilia. I don't think that making his character sympathetic [in the manner that someone in the neighbourhood he lives in is going around molesting kids but it is not him and he is suspected because that's what he used to do] was condoning or excusing what he did either. It was very well presented in my opinion.
paravati ══╣╠══
I haven't read the book.
When I was 16 I ran away from my parents and was encouraged into a "relationship" with a 37 year old man who used the promises of food, shelter, and safety against me in return for sexual favors. And he told me that this was how "real women" did things. That "adult" women did these things and that was what made them "adults." And I wanted to be an adult, didn't I?

When I was 16, this man was my world. I believed in him, and I believed in the ethereal thing called "our relationship." People around me told me that it wasn't right and that I should leave and go somewhere else. They offered to help "get me out of the bad situation." I didn't understand what they were talking about.

I loved him. Or, at least, I thought that I did. Or should. And I defended to my last breath the right for us to have "our love" and "our relationship" without interference from the outside world.

After a year and a half or so, I ran away. And I lived in fear of him finding me again and making me come back for about five years. His person grew in my mind and made me very afraid to go to certain places, and certain parts of town. I would see vehicles similar to the one that he drove and my entire body would tighten up.

When I was 23, I called him on the telephone and asked to to take him to dinner. I had to confront my fears. He came, thinking I was going to pay him back some money he always insisted that I owed him. When he arrived, he was no longer the demon of my nightmares, but a pathetic guy in his forties who really wasn't scary at all. He was ugly and horrible and I looked at him and couldn't imagine how in the world I was "taken in" by him when I was younger.

I confronted my fear of this man, and healed.

I haven't read Lolita, nor does it sound like an appealing read for me personally, but if this book helps anyone confront their own situations or understand a little bit better how the fact that they were abused is NOT THEIR FAULT, then I think it stands on its own merit. I don't know for sure (because I haven't read it), but if it can demonstrate at least in part the sick way that a pedophile's mind works, and women READ IT, perhaps they can defend themselves and won't fall into the same trap that I did.

I don't think simply writing about a nasty subject is glamorizing that nasty subject. Did "A Color Purple" glamorize incest? Should Rita Mae Brown stop writing about growing up and finding out that she was gay? I think it's the very nature of art and literature itself that a piece of literature CAN explore the nasty side of humanity so that all of us can be educated. Whether we choose to read the book or not is up to us, the same way we can always flip the channel on the TV if the subject matter disturbs us.

That being said, I do commend you for writing to Oprah and telling her how you feel. Speaking out about your preferences and opinions is always a wondrous thing. I do hope she takes you seriously and responds.
invisibleglue ══╣ani d _vix3n-wiccan╠══
I can see where you're coming from Bel even if I don't completely agree, I hope you get a response hun.
ex_alariya46 ══╣╠══
Pissed the Fuck Off - but not at you!!!!!!
OMG.

Gar.

I'm sorry I haven't commented to this post sooner. Dammit - I offer you the same encouragement that Kevin did. I think it's so cool that you're actually trying to let Opera know what she was, hopefully, unintentionally endorsing. I've never, ever written a letter like that to a publisher because I simply didn't think of it.

One of the things I most admire about you is your ability to stand up for issues when you feel they need to be stood up for.

And I will apologize to you right now if I'm over-reacting, but I really want to go back to every post where Anika spit on your words and defend the crap out of you. I know you can adequately defend yourself, but this shit is pissing me off.
sunshinepill ══╣╠══
I'm really glad you were able to get your words out and send that letter. I also really hope you get a response.

I don't totally agree, but I understand the sentiment and respect your opinon and know those reviews hurt you.... I gotta say, it kinda surprised me that some people were so adamant that you give it (the book) a try when it's something you wouldn't touch would a 10ft poll.

I'm sorry that this is something that has upset you, because I can tell it's something that hurts to the very core (everything that this post has sparked) and I hope it's resolved soon.

*hugs*
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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.