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Zines for Teens (labeling zines for age appropriate content)

Hello Folks,

I am teaching a zine class at my local public library. It is my first time teaching a class, and I am really exciting to bring the ideas of zines to my town. The age group for the workshop is age 12 to adult.

So I looked through my zine collection of some 50-100 zines to possibly filter out zines with swears, sexually explicit context like photos, drawings or writing of sexual experiences.

It was a daunting task because only one zine out of 100 said 18+. Almost every zine had at least a few swears words, and I had to go page by page to find them. I manage to separate some 5-10 zines out of 100 most of which were my own.

Have other people had this issue with teaching a zine class?

What do other people think about the idea of labeling their zines for appropriate age ranges?

B Stein  


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If I was labeling my zines for being age appropriate, I wouldn't have marked them as not appropriate for 12-adult because they had a few swear words.

If enough people did it, though, your job would have been a lot easier if the back of every zine just said something like "this zine contains a few swear words, photos of naked people, and references to drugs."
I hope I don't sound mean or discouraging---well, I guess I usually do---but it's as if you want to introduce "the public" to "zines", but your underlying message is, "We think zines are GREAT!", (except the ones that are foul-mouthed and raunchy, which we won't sully our clean, wholesome library with...which happens to be the vast majority of them).

And also, what OTHER content in zines besides naked people doing kinky things and using scatogisms is "unacceptable" to "the public, teenagers, their parents and other respectable members of the community and library board"? Are some IDEAS too "dangerous" for delicate young teenage minds to be exposed to? Egoism, fascism, Satanism, anarchism, racism, amoralism, nihilism, a million and one wierd, bizarre, extremist philosophers, lunatics and CULTS???

BTW, I and my own zines are relatively tame. I'm a rather reserved person and I don't make any apology for that. But I get contributions for all kinds of people across the inoffensive/offensive spectrum, reviewing their zines and printing their letters. How can you present "zines" to the public when you have to sanitize them. It seems you're distorting their whole spirit!

There's just no way you're going to get a zine that doesn't have some sort of "portal" to dark and dangerous world, be it an ad, letter or review, to something that's going to offend "the library board" or a "concerned parent".

I agree with you. To a forum of strictly over 18 adults like say a college class, I would have no problem showing my entire collection in all its tame, kinky, radical, comics, and sexual glory. My job is to get people excite about making zine in a library setting. I certainly will not censor what the people want to create a zine about. That is on them.

The real issue is would I feel comfortable showing this zine to a 12 year old who is sitting next to their parents? And would the parents, and/or library admin freak out and never offer a zine class again, at least by me?
why would you want to filter out zines with swearing and explicit content? i think many twelve year olds can definitely deal with swearing and probably sex related stuff that is not too graphic. i don't like the idea of labeling zines for a specific age range because i think people's comfort level is determined by a lot of things, not just age, and we should let people censor themselves. i know one zinester who sometimes writes on the cover "triggering" when her zine discusses harassment/abuse and i do think that is a good idea.
maybe at the beginning of the class you could explain that zines are highly personal much of the time, and because of that often discuss mature topics, and that people in the workshop should be aware of that.
kitty magic,

I think is it really cool you are passionate about zines. Like I said above, I have encourage anyone to create a zine about whatever they want, and however they want. The issue with this discussion thread is about what ziners think about providing a age label for their zine. Most zine do not.
I'm a librarian interested in introducing kids to zines and have had some of the same thoughts cross my mind. It's not an issue of "censoring" but picking out the most appropriate zines for a certain age group. Of course, because of the nature of zines, there will never be a zine rating system. I think it is a matter of previewing each zine on your own (as you've been doing), or reading descriptions from zine reviews that can give you an idea of the nature of the zine.
I think it'd be pretty silly to label zines by age. Emotional state is more appropriate in my opinion. Whether someone is 12 or 62, reading a zine about the death of my 4 month old nephew could be potentially harmful to the reader emotionally. In fact, a younger person may handle it better if they have not yet started a family.

As far as you finding so many zines with sex... there are a TON without. That isn't really my most favorite thing to read about unless it is regarding survivor stories of abuse. There are probably way more zines out there which are appropriate than not.

If you are picking from your personal collection and that is one of your favorite topics, then of course you will have trouble finding zines that do not contain sex.
Most of the zines I have in my collection are pretty random because I usually collect my zines in my library from trading at zine fests. I never know what I am going to get, and I usually leave it to the person I am trading with to offer me what they think is a good sample/intro to their work. I do a zine comic, so I like to trade for comics if possible, but I'll take anything. Until I started teaching a class at the library for a wide age range, I never thought if a zine was age appropriate. I think most people who attend the zine fests are high school, and college age, so the idea of creating content for younger people may not come up.
I think the difficulty would be with zines in the "grey" area ---we'd generally agree that zines with detailed descriptions of sex or disturbing ideas and imagery would be inappropriate below a certain age. But just the mention of sex? Or swear words? There's no universal consensus on those-- there are words you can say on UK television that are not allowed on US. Some UK swear words are not swear words in US English. Even professional ratings organizations debate what is appropriate on a page or on a screen. My latest zine has a photograph of a lingerie vending machine in Japan. I would have no idea where to set the appropriate age range on that.

The only exception I make in my distro is for comics, because I realize there are still folks out there who think comics are for kids, so I specifically warn them in writing when that is not the case!


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