Why All Readers Should Care About Erotica Censorship

This is the third in a three posts on censorship. See the first here and the second here.

Why should ALL readers care about erotica censorship?

A few “reasonable” people have responded to this discussion on writers’ websites, saying something to the extent of:  “I don’t care if they stop selling ‘that trash.’  I don’t read it, and I don’t think anyone else should, either.”

The “reasonable” rebuttal usually goes like this:

“It’s a slippery slope.  Today, they’re banning incest, but they have the power to ban books about cats, or the Holocaust, or lock picking, or anything they feel like banning.”

Though it pains us to admit it, this rebuttal is not quite a valid argument based on patterns of current culture.  Amazon and others have shown fear only regarding sex and people’s sexual imaginations.  Sexual material, especially that which makes the privileged power group uncomfortable, has always come under fire.

It is challenging in a way that cats or history is not — especially when this supposed cultural elite, the readers, the book buyers, prove that they’re as interested in sex as any other human being on the planet.

But here is why we think all book buyers and readers should care, even those who do not read erotica:

When a few people’s personal tastes are allowed to set the tone for the world (Amazon is unarguably a major global marketplace, not to mention Google), you’re reverting back to the traditional publishing bottleneck.

The personal preference or dislike of one agent, slush pile reader, or editor can make sure that the book never makes it to market, all because they feel that this is a book that is not “worthy.”  Amazon’s ADULT dungeon represents, at least to us, a regression toward this undesirable past model of publishing — one that restricted not only erotic readers’ choices, but everyone’s.

We believe that the era of the traditional taste-setter/publisher is — and should be — over.  Book retailers made it possible for authors to answer directly to the market, and let readers themselves decide what gets produced and what does not.

But freedom for one group of readers means freedom for all, even if that “all” encompasses non-vanilla erotica.  We thought Amazon was on the same page when they started KDP.  It leads us to wonder: Who does Amazon have to answer to, such that they’re trying to “clean up” their image?  Is it their own policy, or is there someone pulling their strings?

But all is not lost.

Our outrage mostly isn’t on our own behalf.  Amazon un-dungeoned us within a day.  Though they can throw us back into the dungeon at any moment, we’re not actually dependent on Amazon for our sales.  We certainly noticed it when sales of The Dark Earth inexplicably dropped some months ago, but it was only one source of revenue.  For us, business went on.

Even for single indie authors, there are still choices.  Amazon, though the best-known, isn’t the only ebookseller in town.  Though Amazon is aggressive about getting bigger and bigger shares of the pie, the internet (for now) is still in the hands of everyone. 

Even better is how erotica readers have proven that they will go above and beyond to seek out what they want to read.

The future of publishing still lies with you, the readers.

Adult fiction, especially non-mainstream romance and non-hetero erotica is still very much an underground market.  While companies like Amazon and Google in theory make it easy for indies on the same level as, for example, Harlequin, we’ve seen that this is not actually true.

And if something is drawn, not written, it is even more unfairly treated, as in the case of our tame, sweet DE 1 & 2, whose only crime was to be yaoi.

If a silent army of erotica readers is the hidden, massive force behind the ebook market, the power still lies with us.  We need to keep that power and not let a central company take away our choices.  Though Amazon is trying to redefine the very essence of publishing by their own terms, there is a lot that all readers can do to help shape the market into one that is free for all artistic expression.

What every reader can do:

  1. Promote the books, authors, and series you love.  Peer reviews — by readers, for readers — still drive a lot of sales for authors.  Amazon knows this full well, since they bought Goodreads.  If something has been ADULT-ed on Amazon, direct link to the individual books on other sites.
  2. Better yet, send people to the author’s own site, if the books are available.  Not everyone is set up to sell their own books on their own site, but many are.  The author makes more money, and is less dependent on Amazon if fans know to go direct.
  3. If you have a blog, help readers become aware of these important issues by continuing the conversation.  You can simply link to an article, our blog, Selena Kitt’s posts, or the kboards, where a lot of authors talk about these same issues.

– Raythe Reign Team

UPDATE!  As if this issue wasn’t topical enough, Barnes & Noble decided to implement two new and unfair things towards erotics and all indie writers (remember that this should be a concern OF ALL READERS? well, this plays it out:

(1) B&N have instituted a “glass ceiling” for some indie erotica and romance.  Essentially, they are “pinning” popular erotic novels at no higher than 125 on the Best Seller List.  So that Best Seller List isn’t actually accurate!  It’s just what’s APPROVED to be on it. And erotica need not apply.

Now you may say that being 125 on all of B&N is great! And it is, but the higher up the list you are you get sales in an order of magnitude greater.  Yeah …

(2) B&N is removing erotic/romance titles ALTOGETHER from B&N UK.  B&N informed a traditional publisher (they claimed to indies that they were “looking into the issue) that they want a “clean”, “family friendly” site so erotica/romance can go shove it …  Now mind you there is AGAIN no notice to any author that their work has been taken down and when that is discovered, B&N LIES about it.

Here are the links to the Kboards article and the Hugh Howey article on this.

These are big time sellers.  Lilliana Hart is probably one of the top selling romance authors out there and only 2 of her 22 titles are being shown on Nook UK.  Also, the “glitch” in rankings occurred to her, which B&N claimed they were “very sorry for” after she lost thousands …  RR isn’t so big, many authors aren’t so big, so you can imagine if B&N and Amazon act this way to the “big” names, how will they act towards the rest of us?

Oh, and the irony of this, is the 50 Shades of Gray, which saved B&N’s bacon, is STILL front and center on their website, but they don’t want all the rest of us nasty, erotic writers to join that one …

Further Reading on The Amazon Adult Dungeon & related subjects:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2313351/Amazon-Retailer-accused-corporate-censorship-adult-fiction-writers-claim-website-treats-utter-contempt.html

http://mangabookshelf.com/25280/apple-censors-still-targeting-lgbtq-content/

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/03/15/light-the-torches-amazon-is-censoring-ebooks-again/#.UZQxSoKf8nU

http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,151299.0.html

http://selenakitt.com/blog/index.php/2013/04/30/survival-tips-for-the-pornocalypse-erotica-writers-get-armed-and-ready/

http://www.kboards.com/index.php?topic=150737.0

8 Responses to Why All Readers Should Care About Erotica Censorship

  1. vessto May 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Topics of how powerful majority wanna rule and hide the marginalized minorities always pisses me off. We are all equal, being in a common group doesn’t make you more worthy. Also from every point everyone belongs to some majority or to some minority. This is how the nature made it. It is so horrible that people still thinks the different of them for dangerous, second-hand and enemies. And when this is combined with being in a “majority” and having power we are witnesses of the tragedies that happen today. This is outrageous. People are supposed to live together. Fear is dangerous and it leads to more evil. Especially when the fear is of the sex, the most wonderful thing a human can feel.

    • admin May 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

      You’re right that fear is dangerous and suppression is always possible unless we, as consumers, fight back. Amazon cares flip about me as an author, but as a buyer … that’s different. If more buyers call shenanigans on them and B&N it has in the past and could in the future institute change. If we don’t keep vigilant, next year we’ll be talking about this same issue or worse.

  2. LADYaoi May 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    it’s almost incredible how a majority of people are afraid of sex especially when it’s in written form. It’s unfortunate how history keeps repeating its self. If you ever watched a show on t.v. called “How Sex Changed the World” it’s really amazing how sex really did affect many important events in history.

    I don’t get why some people are afraid of the written word and I understand if it’s not for you then it’s not for you, but to act like it doesn’t exists is even more dangerous. So keep on writing and we”ll keep on reading.

    • vessto May 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

      “but to act like it doesn’t exists is even more dangerous”

      Nothing is more true!!!

      As I read once “real perversions are results no of the sex but of the lack of sex”.

      I’m strongly against perversion to be mixed with sex, sex is natural and incredible. When someone repress themselves from doing it that create perversions like angst against the weaker and the hate itself.

    • admin May 24, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      I saw part of How Sex Changed the World. I should watch the rest as it seemed very powerful. I can honestly say that though the fact that Amazon and B&N are HIDING what they are doing, tells me that they know it would look bad if it were out there. So the only way to put pressure on them is to shine a light on their actions.

      It makes me more grateful than I can say that we have an independent site. But it took a huge investment that most individual authors cannot afford (and an even huger leap of faith … to believe it could work and be profitable). So Amazon and B&N and others NEED to be held accountable as much as possible to keep those doors open for others to come in behind us.

  3. CDM May 25, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    I’ve read your three posts and all the related articles, and I’m really shocked. Outraged.
    What rights do they have to censure in secret, and without saying the reasons? How can they treat like that erotica authors? Why would they censure yaoi and erotica, except for a few money-making ones? Why are sex and homosexuality banned, while books with a lot of violence are ok?
    And why the HELL do they restrain my choices as a reader!! If I want to read gay erotica, and if authors are writing gay erotica… Amazon and other sites should help me buy those books, not hide them. Their attitude is illogical and homophobic.
    Sex is a good thing, it is (or should be) a important and good part of everyone’s life. Homosexuality is being accepted more and more everywhere (gay people can now get married in France), those who censure it are decades behind reality.

    I don’t know what I can do about it. As you suggested, I’ll write reviews on Amazon, talk to people about it, put links to your blog or Selena Kitt’s posts. I understand that books with naked bodies on the cover shouldn’t be displayed for children to see on Amazon, but as soon as a e-buyer has stated that he’s above 18 or has shown interest for books with mature content, I see no reason for these books not to be shown up front. And in our modern society, I think homosexuality should no longer be hidden, no matter the age of the internet user.

    • vessto May 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

      Absolutely agree, hiding homosexuality, sexuality in general or any other part of the human nature is inappropriate or even dangerous. Of course, it should be displayed in softened way for underage readers, but not to be hidden. And to be hidden from adults is simply crazy.

      It is really great GLBT people are more and more accepted and supported, recognized as families and having more rights. But the most great thing will be when it will be realized they shouldn’t fight for this acceptation, support and rights in first place because they are given to them from life.

  4. vessto May 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    I think a big hit might be done if the author of 50 Shades of Gray write some statement with defending erotica books. I don’t know what is her attitude towards GLBT matters and that if she’d defend them or if is she’d have the courage to speak her mind in defense of erotica books.

    “Family safe” and “friendly”, since when these are synonyms of erotica-free or sex-free matters? It seems that Apple, Amazon and BN work in the name of a bunch of conservative homophobic christian dudes instead of the name of the consumers.

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