I know I can’t be the first person to ever discuss this, but it was just something I started thinking about a few weeks ago while commenting on a post about whether sex should be allowed in YA books over at (un)Conventional Bookviews.
It seems to me that content ratings would be helpful in order for readers to find what they want and avoid what they don’t want, but I suppose everything has pros and cons and obstacles that come with it, so let’s get to discussin’!
First of All, What are Content Ratings?
You all probably already know this, but just so we’re all clear, I took this definition off of Wikipedia. It’s about films, but this the concept I’m referring to:
A motion picture rating system is designated to classify films with regard to suitability for audiences in terms of issues such as sex, violence, substance abuse, profanity, impudence or other types of mature content.
Benefits of Content Ratings for Books
– It’d be easier to find what you like.
– It’d be easier to avoid anything that makes you uncomfortable.
– It’d be easier for parents to choose books they think are appropriate for their kids.
Drawbacks of Content Ratings for Books
– It might lead to more censorship in the form of parents stopping their kids from reading certain books or even stopping kids and teens from being allowed to purchase certain books.
– Inaccurate/subjective ratings could prevent people from reading books they might’ve liked.
– It might cause unnecessary drama.
– It might hurt sales for some authors.
Obstacles to Determining Content Ratings for Books
– How would it be standardized? These types of things are subjective. What qualifies as an explicit sex scene? How many times must a curse word be used for the book to be considered as having strong language? What’s the difference between mild and graphic violence?
– Who is going to give out these ratings? Movies go through a lot before they’re put on the big screen, but books are just published all over the place because even random people on the street can write a book and post it to Amazon to be sold. It’s not as though every single book can be read by an appointed group of people because there are just too many.
I actually do include info in my book review posts about whether a book has violence, strong language, and sex as well as if there are any possible triggers or mature content such as rape, drug use, etc. Obviously I only read so many books and not every person visits my blog before picking up a book even if it is one that I’ve reviewed, so my inclusion of that info isn’t going to revolutionize the book industry. And even my determination of these things is completely subjective. But I include these things because I know some people may like to avoid (or find) certain things, and I do think the information can be helpful for anyone who does happen to stumble upon my site.
That being said, I can’t see this happening on a national or global level. It definitely would have some benefits, but we can generally get the answers we need from reviews with a bit of effort, or we can even ask questions on Goodreads. But to implement a real system, the obstacles would be too big. There are too many books, it’s too subjective, and it would likely create more problems than it would fix if it was ever put into action. Plus I was held back from reading most non-YA books as a teen by my parents as it was, and I wouldn’t want to implement anything that would create more censorship for others. But of course that’s just my opinion, so now I want to hear yours!