Diary of Anne Frank Too ‘Pornographic’ for 7th-Graders

Diary of Anne Frank Too ‘Pornographic’ for 7th-Graders

The Diary of Anne Frank is one of those books that almost everyone you know in the western world has come into contact with, either through school or via one of the adaptations for film and TV. To be honest, I’ve never thought of it as ‘pornographic’, nor would, I suspect, many other people who’ve read it.

Last week Gail Horalek, a concerned parent in Northville, Michigan, filed a complaint with her local school district and told Detroit-based Fox2 that passages in the unedited version of the diary in which Frank describes “exploring her own anatomy” made her seventh-grade daughter “uncomfortable”.

"It's pretty graphic, and it's pretty pornographic for seventh-grade boys and girls to be reading… It’s inappropriate for a teacher to be giving this material out to the kids when it's really the parents' job to give the students this information… If they watch any kind of movie with a swear word in it, I have to sign a permission slip," she said. "It doesn’t mean my child is sheltered, it doesn’t mean I live in a bubble, and it doesn’t mean I'm trying to ban books."

That’s fair enough and I have to give her credit for that last comment. The edition (which is more complete than the version I grew up with, obviously) Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (The Definitive Edition), is used in a number of curriculums across the country, but it doesn’t always seem to have made this impact. In 2010, a school district in Virginia “quietly” stopped using this version after a complaint by a parent, and have since been using an edited version of the diary.

Interestingly, The Diary of Anne Frank didn’t make the Top 10 list of banned books compiled by the American Library Association “for books banned in American schools between 1990 and 1999”. What does that say about this situation? Maybe no one’s reading it? As I think back to the large number of people in my classes reading Catcher in the Rye just for the salacious bits, it strikes me that maybe it isn’t the kids complaining about it being “porn”.

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Dean Fetzer

News by Dean Fetzer

Dean Fetzer is originally from a small town in eastern Colorado, but has lived in London, England, for the past 21 years. After a career in graphic design, he started a pub review website in the late 90’s; He left that in 2011 to concentrate on his thriller writing, as well as offering publishing services for authors, poets and artists. When not writing - or in the pub - he can be found in the theatre, live music venues and travelling.

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eirikodin's picture
eirikodin from Auburn, NY is reading Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler April 30, 2013 - 8:39am

Why not stop teaching the atrocities of world war two while we're at it.  Ban history because it's scary and horrific.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine April 30, 2013 - 8:44am

Well, the passage in question IS pretty frank (rimshot!), but pornographic is a poor choice of words. It's kind of a textbook description. It's not like she was describing rubbing one out. And what prudish 7th grader isn't intimately familiar with their lady-bits?

Gerd Duerner's picture
Gerd Duerner from Germany is reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm April 30, 2013 - 9:36am

"And what prudish 7th grader isn't intimately familiar with their lady-bits?"

Gee man, channeling one of King's dirty old men there? :/


However, without knowing the passage in question it's hard to build an informed opinion on the topic.

Anthony Banter's picture
Anthony Banter April 30, 2013 - 9:48am

Instead of having a open dialog with her child about what she might read in Anne Frank's book, this mother wants the world to hide that info from her daughter.  This is a recipe for an over-the-top sexual exploration based on ignorance for her child in college.  This lady is so inadequate as a parent!  Does this parent know that children as young as 13 are freely having sex?  Does she know how damaging this veil of secrecy is to her child? 

Rich Morton's picture
Rich Morton April 30, 2013 - 10:57am

I have to agree with the poster on the point about the knowledge level that 7th graders have. Its idiotic to think that Junior High age kids don't know about sex or are just innocent babes-in-arms.

ohnochastity's picture
ohnochastity April 30, 2013 - 1:15pm

I can see the mother's point about the movies, however.  No seventh grader would be allowed to watch a movie with even the HINT of an off camera exploration of their body.  However, I feel pornographic is an incredibly strong term, and there are probably a lot of seventh grade girls that would be able to relate to that (no matter how uncomfortable it makes them).  It's a question of context, really, and movies can't take that into account because they are much more visual than a book.  However, my argument against her movie permission slip isn't as concrete as hers, so in court I would lose...

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading currently too many to list April 30, 2013 - 2:52pm

There is one problem with her argument: Parents aren't discussing this stuff with their kids. This is why her daughter felt uncomfortable. And who is to say that her mother hasn't told her that self exploration is a sin, which would make her daughter view it as disgusting and "pornographic". You can tell when a child is taught that the human body is shameful. Teachers aren't allowed to teach students about sex, but the parents are doing a crap job at it too.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig April 30, 2013 - 5:28pm

The passage is a teen girl doing what teen girls read... and this parent thinks it is "inappropriate" for her teen girl...

Yeah, I am going to guess that "parents" (or at least that parent) aren't discussing these things with their kids, or it would be a non-issue.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things April 30, 2013 - 7:42pm

For reference, I found at least some of the passage on the internet:

“…Until I was eleven or twelve, I didn’t realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn’t see them. What’s even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris…When you’re standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you’re standing, so you can’t see what’s inside. They separate when you sit down and they’re very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there’s a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That’s the clitoris…”


Looking at it, I'm not entirely sure exactly what the parents think is new information for the average seventh-grade female. It's the mother's responsibility to tell her seventh-grade daughter what the vagina looks like? It's especially odd considering that Anne Frank was about the same age as a middle-school reader, and therefore is writing the exact same thing any seventh grader reading the book would have written.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 1, 2013 - 7:18pm

I kind of see how this would make someone uncomfortable, I don't know that I'd want kids reading about genitals/sex and the Holocaust in one book. 

"Hope the Nazis don't kill us all, sucks to be here. Hope the Nazis don't kill us all, sucks to be here. Hope the Nazis don't kill us all, sucks to be here. Hope the Nazis don't kill us all, sucks to be here. I was looking at my junk! Hope the Nazis don't kill us all, sucks to be here."

It sounds like that could somehow give impressionable youngsters bad ideas.


SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading currently too many to list April 30, 2013 - 10:30pm

Dwayne, what kind of bad ideas?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 1, 2013 - 2:59am

I'm sure there are others, but "hiding from Nazis is sexy" or "Jews are perverts" seem like possible (horrible) take aways from throwing this all together.

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading currently too many to list May 1, 2013 - 11:20pm

Interesting. I don't know of a single teen who has thought either of those, upon reading her diary.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 2, 2013 - 4:30am

Instead of addressing that statement, for lots of reasons I hope are obvious, I'll ask a few other ones I fell more to the point. Is there some reason this version is better then the older version? She was in the process of editing when arrested, hoping for inclusion in a collection about Dutch war experiences Gerrit Bolkestein planned after the war. He had spoken about them on broadcasts from London her family listened to while hiding. Does it really seem like something she would have chosen to include if she'd had the chance to finish her revisions? Maybe I'm just a prude, but unless there is a very strong answer to at least one of those I can't see why revising the material so it mixes genocide and a young woman exploring her sexuality is a good idea. More so with younger children.

JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 2, 2013 - 10:19am

Why do people assume that Anne Frank discovering what her vagina looks like has anything to do with exploring her 'sexuality'? News flash: vagina's are for more than just sex.

And whilst I disagree that all 7th grade girls will already know their own bodies (I didn't), it is a shame that a passage about a girl discovering her own anatomy is seen as dirty or somehow innappropriate. So much damage is done by not talking about our bodies. And the student who felt uncomfortable probably felt uncomfortable because such candidness is so alien. It's a real shame that when people get uncomfortable the solution is usually to get rid of what's causing the uncomfortable feeling, rather than more discussion about it so that it stops feeling uncomfortable for everyone.


SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes May 2, 2013 - 12:00pm

My 5th grader is currently reading this book and I have no problem with her reading this passage. I feel this book should be mandatory for all people. It gives a face to the victims of the Holocaust. It shows the victims weren't just some emaciated beings who we barely recognize as humans. No, the victims were the little girl up the street with cute pigtails that gets in trouble for talking too much and has lots of friends. My daughter is just like Anne and I hope that if she reads this book she'll be motivated not to let something like this happen again. That, and I have always talked to my child about sex and drugs because I would rather her be overeducated, than a drug-addicted teenage mom.  

JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 4, 2013 - 10:16am

Nicely put SamaLamaWama :)