Why Amazon Should Keep Publishing Rape and Incest Porn

Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 04:00 PM

(Amazon)

The online magazine Kernel is after Amazon for publishing pornographic eBooks that fetishize rape and incest. 

The books Kernel writer Jeremy Wilson found are awful. If your default position is to support free speech, these are the kinds of titles that make you wince. It's a lot easier to defend Huckleberry Finn than Taking My Drunk Daughter, Reluctant Brother Blowjob, or Forced By Daddy.

So how'd the titles even end up on Amazon? According to Wilson, the authors of the books set up their own publishing houses by registering an ISBN number for a few hundred bucks. Then they upload their work. Amazon doesn't police its digital publishing platforms in a meaningful way, so the books stay up, even though Amazon forbids pornography. 

And these are leagues worse than pornography. These are books that are written to give you, the reader, pleasure while you imagine someone raping a child. 

Amazon should ignore Kernel and leave them up.

We outlaw snuff films, child porn and, increasingly, revenge porn, because actual people are harmed during their production. Erotic fiction concerns fake characters who don't exist in real life. You could argue that entertainment that caters to people's darkest fantasies makes them more likely to enact them, but the science wouldn't support you.

As for the idea that these books are just in bad taste, well, absolutely. They're the worst. But you won't find these books unless you're looking for them. They don't show up in Amazon search results, you have to go directly to their link. They're hidden away in the digital equivalent of the video store's curtain-covered backroom. 

Since Kernel started writing about Amazon's back room, Amazon has deleted many of the offending titles without public comment. Which is too bad. I wish Amazon would say, aggressively, that they're for free speech, and that they won't ban a book just because it's a stomach-turning obscenity with no redeeming literary or cultural value. 

Thanks to Amazon, we're losing our publishing houses, who did a decent job finding the best writing and directing our attention toward it. Amazon doesn't do that. The best and worst thing you can say about Amazon is that they'll publish pretty much anything.  

In the pre-Amazon Dark Ages, there were small towns where the only place to buy a book was Walmart. If you wanted a book that was too risque for America's most squeaky-clean retailer, you were in trouble. If Amazon is going to be, essentially, the world's last bookstore, I'd like to know that Bezos isn't Steve Jobs, who defined freedom for his customers as freedom from objectionable content. I wish Bezos would say that while he despises these books, Amazon's role is to publish everything, even our culture's most irredeemable garbage.

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Comments [18]

Hidden Name from Cyberspace

Scott Hammond: "The article is titled "Why Amazon Should Keep Publishing Rape and Incest Porn" but I don't see any argument as to why they should keep this stuff."

Response: PJ Vogt DID give reasons: some people like to read this stuff and there's no other place that they can buy them as they are banned from bookstores in real life. He cited a study that said reading the books won't turn you into a rapist. It's a freedom issue.

Frankie: "According to the legal definitions of child pornography- even writing counts. "

Depends on the jurisdiction, otherwise it's just erotic and words.

Scott: "Amazon is not a government entity, and therefore is not required to provide access to this type of work. "

But the open marketplace had a demand for it.

Yossarian: "Tell you what PJ, if you're THAT into free-speech, maybe YOU should create a business designed to do just what you recommended for Amazon"

Personal attacks as an argument?

Anthony McCarthy from Maine: "I have come to the conclusion that pornography does, in fact, cause harm, mostly to people with less power, the group it harms the least are affluent white men as comprise the majority of those who work in and so control the alleged news media."

Words cause harm and hurt feelings, so let's ban them all.

Nov. 06 2013 04:03 PM
Rick from USA

Amazon didn't publish this book any more than it published Harry Potter or The Great Gatsby. Amazon is a distribution network and a retailer that allows individuals and publishers to sell their books on the Amazon website. These are self published books.

Oct. 31 2013 12:47 AM
Anthony McCarthy from Maine

Steve from Steeltown, the idea that the worst of the worst being published will ensure that other things are is nonsense. Look at TV and radio in the United States. It carries some pretty awful, right-wing lies. Due to "free speech" rulings making it virtually impossible for some public figures to sue for slander or libel, the most putrid lies about liberal politicians can be freely spread. Where is the honest, non-libelous truly liberal content that is protected by that "right" by those favored by the media owners and their financiers to promote lies to damage and destroy liberals? If the promotion of Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and on to even worse, guarantee the appearance of even the most honest and responsible figures of the left, where are they?

That Amazon or any other venue carries the worst of smut has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they will provide any other kind of content. I have never known of a porn shop to carry titles critical of porn or of irresponsible sex or of the porn industry. Your premise is nonsense promoted by the free speech industry, itself largely financed by the porn industry.

Oct. 15 2013 09:09 PM
Steve from Steeltown

I think more then a few commenters here missed the mark on this piece. PJ isn't saying Amazon must publish everything that washes up on its shores, just that it would be ideal. And I completely agree. Amazon absolutely has the right to self-censor or block any goods that deems in conflict with its interests. I would not argue otherwise. Just as I wouldn't argue that OTM absolutely must let me post whatever comment I want here. But I believe it is in the best interest of everyone if Amazon published everything that was submitted that doesn't break any laws. There are a lot of works I find objectionable, say 'The Turner Diaries,' that I would prefer never existed, but I have an interest in it being published so that I can also know that ideas that I am interested in will also get a fair hand in being distributed, even if they might be objectionable to some. I want Amazon to publish legal, fictional smut, no matter how objectionable, because I want to be able to read whatever my fancy leads me too someday. And, you know, to be able to fill my kindle with erotic fiction that I do like.

Oct. 14 2013 10:53 AM
Yossarian

'and that they won't ban a book just because it's a stomach-turning obscenity with no redeeming literary or cultural value'

'Cause yeah, why would any self-respecting business wanna do a crappy thing like that? Tell you what PJ, if you're THAT into free-speech, maybe YOU should create a business designed to do just what you recommended for Amazon. See, possessing the 'Creator' endowed right to say whatever you want, in no way enjoins others to disseminate your vomitous dreck. Or people who hold shares in publicly-traded companies to silently tolerate it. In short, PJ, put up or shut the f**k up...

Oct. 12 2013 04:18 PM
Adam from canada

Amazon is a private company, they reserve the right to publish and sell whatever they wish that is within the boundaries of the laws the govern them.

A lot of people also seem to misunderstand the intent of free speech. Free speech is that you are entitled to your opinion, can state your opinion and are free to publish your opinion and your government cannot prosecute you for it. The intent is that if people have a dissenting opinion regarding their government, they are entitled to make it known without fear of reprisal from their government. It does NOT provide you the right to say, write or publish whatever content you wish.

Oct. 12 2013 02:58 PM
Anthony McCarthy from Maine

I have come to the conclusion that pornography does, in fact, cause harm, mostly to people with less power, the group it harms the least are affluent white men as comprise the majority of those who work in and so control the alleged news media. They are the ones who have pushed the lie that porn is either harmless or that an irresponsibly libertarian position on pornography is good and a requirement to be a decent person. Talk about your Orwellian new-speak. You hear this slippery slope argument all the time from the pro-porn side, much of which is financed by the porn industry. But, thanks to the same internet that has made Amazon.com possible, we have, effectively, the complete pornography libertarianism that is the real slippery slope on which we have slipped to the bottom. The flip side of this is the line of "free speech" rulings including Buckley vs.Valeo and Citizens United which have damaged our politics and self-government, so the bottom of the slope is truly dangerous to democracy.

Now On the Media is saying that private companies must carry the most depraved pornography? It might not have occurred to Vogt that the audience that seeks out rape and incest porn is most likely to consist of those most likely to find it inspiring to their acts, of which Vogt is very unlikely to be the victim.

I don't buy your libertarian line anymore, it was always in the commercial interest of the media to push it because it is extremely profitable. Such venues as the Village Voice, where people like Nat Hentoff pushed it were in the business of selling ad space to the sex industry. In 2013, "The First Amendment" in the distorted form that is pushed by so many libertarians who mistake themselves as liberals is as delusional as "The Second Amendment" is for people duped by the gun industry.

Oct. 12 2013 07:33 AM
Martin from Itinerant IT Dude

Apparently, Amazon shouldn't make money publishing pornographic eBooks, but it's OK that kernel do so - In other words, if you were tempted to use their "Smut List" http://www.kernelmag.com/features/report/5966/the-smut-list/ to find some good reading, please make sure you remove the Amazon Associate links.
i.e. http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Daddy-Forced-Virgin-Seduction-ebook/dp/B00BXSS0M8
not http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Daddy-Forced-Virgin-Seduction-ebook/dp/B00BXSS0M8/ref=pd_sim_kstore_24
and so on

Oct. 12 2013 12:47 AM
dabble53 from Seattle, WA

Love the comment about how this speech hurts "someone." Well, pretty much any speech hurts someone. One of the biggest offenses is carried out by religious speech. Talk about harming women, minorities (meaning anyone not of the "appropriate" religion) - we should definitely inhibit if not out-right banning all religious speech. Then we can ban GOP speech, because that definitely is there to harm women (trans-vaginal anyone?)
Face it, free speech means you're going to have to put up with speech that hurts some one, some how, some where.
Vote with your money - if the product stays around, then maybe you're the one that's out of step. I don't happen to care for the stuff at all, but I wouldn't ask for it to be banned - the next thing banned might be something I really like and favor.

Oct. 11 2013 10:41 PM
Aaron from Salt Lake City, UT

Amazon would not be violating anyone's free speech by deciding to remove these books. If the government decided to ban the books, that would be a violation. The only responsibility Amazon has is their bottom line and they every right to do what they feel is necessary to protect it.

Oct. 11 2013 10:26 PM
Scott

I think the fact that there is demand for this type of fiction is the more disconcerting aspect.
Obscenity is not a form of protected free speech, but even that is irrelevant.
Amazon is not a government entity, and therefore is not required to provide access to this type of work. Certainly these authors, who are capable of publishing their own work, are able to advertise and sell their own work without the intervention of a third party. The idea that Amazon should be forced to allow these books to be sold through their store is tantamount to saying that a retailer cannot control what they choose to sell. That is an even more dangerous line to cross than whether or not rape and incest literature are protected forms of speech.

Oct. 11 2013 07:01 PM
Sarah M Mah from Montreal

Yes well this speech hurts someone. It hurts women, and it hurts children, regardless of whether the characters are imagined, drawn, written, or worse - real. Pornography is not speech that needs protection in order to preserve humanity because pornography DENIES women and children their humanity. Please think about this.

Oct. 11 2013 05:56 PM
Frankie

I think we can draw a comparison for clarity.
Is hentai porn? Yes.
Are the actors hurt? No, they are animated.
Does it count as child pornography when the drawings are meant to represent someone under 18? Yes.
Is it illegal? Yes.
Does it still exist? Totally.

According to the legal definitions of child pornography- even writing counts.

I'm all about free speech but this post seems to be advocating for new legal definitions, far beyond just Amazon.

Oct. 11 2013 05:20 PM
Jeremy

Scott, the answer to why is simple: because doing otherwise puts you in the censorship business, which will ultimately result in books like Huck Finn being banned. Free speech (except when it hurts someone, eg. when you yell fire in a crowded theater) is good for humanity, and any attempts to restrict, even if they seem like a good idea will ultimately hurt society.

Oct. 11 2013 05:12 PM
Sarah M Mah from Montreal

I don't see anything wrong with refusing to publish so-called "free speech" that serves to harm and in-fact SILENCE women and children. If you were really so concerned about rights to free speech, you would be looking at the rights of people who have no power, not those pornographers and pimps that exploit the powerless.

As for your source to a "scientific" paper that claims there is a negative relationship between access to pornography and rape? Well that is a laughing-stock, and you should be embarrassed that you referenced it without reading it. The man who wrote the article makes the claim based on mere internet access and rates of REPORTED rape - which says absolutely nothing in regards to the safety of women and children from men's violence. The author of the paper doesn't even understand what "rape" is, among other methodological and ethical problems in the paper.

Rape crisis centres have known for several decades that pornography is used in rape and sexual assault against women and children, and in the making of the pornography itself. It is male violence inherently, it sets a standard for men and boy's treatment of women and girls, and using it impedes the advancement of women's equality.

Perhaps consider promoting women in literature as has been in the news lately, as opposed to reinforcing material both politically and socially harmful to women.

Oct. 11 2013 04:22 PM
Andrew McDowell from England

I keep a list of reasons for allowing free speech for my own interest. From that list, the following appear to apply:

We let them have their say so that we can have ours.

Deciding what people can and can't say quickly turns into a big deal. Once you have silenced somebody, you start giving implict backing to those you don't silence, and you create a precedent that restricts what you can and can't allow later, unless you are prepared to be obviously unfair. This makes it much harder to change your mind, and thereby admit that you were wrong. Each succeeding statement becomes a question to you; do you censor this or not? and there is no way to duck that decision.... and so on.

People receive undue attention for their views, not because those views have any special merit, but because the speakers are reckless enough, or just stupid enough, to break the rules.

Oct. 11 2013 02:08 PM
J Stevens from USA

In fairness, the pieces published by the Kernel and Daily Mail have been remarkably bad, sloppy, and sometimes untruthful. The Mail reporter included an image of a book by a romance author who just so happened to put a dog on the cover. There wasn't actually any bestiality in her book. It was a total fabrication and very poor journalism.

Many of the rape stories the Kernel claims are on Amazon, like those by Erika Simmons, are only on B&N and other offbrand retailers. Amazon has banned the word rape for a long time.

That said, I agree with this piece. It isn't anyone's place to police what other adults want to buy. Amazon could easily solve the problem of children and sensitive persons getting access to these books by creating a user based filter for adult content with an on/off switch.

Another misnomer is that most of these books are actual incest with underage girls. That simply isn't the case. Most of the books on Amazon are pseudo-incest (step-fathers and step-daughters) and the characters are always eighteen or older. That kind of erotica isn't that depraved and it certainly isn't illegal.

I'm disappointed Amazon decided to delete these books without further inquiry - especially the poor romance author's book who was falsely accused of writing bestiality by a dumb Daily Mail reporter. They shouldn't shoot first and ask questions later.

I understand companies want to manage their reputation with social media more than ever today. But going crazy and deleting books when they're just mentioned by obscure blogs like the Kernel or on Twitter is very sloppy censorship.

Oct. 11 2013 02:08 PM
Scott Hammond

I'm confused here. The article is titled "Why Amazon Should Keep Publishing Rape and Incest Porn" but I don't see any argument as to why they should keep this stuff. You say no one was harmed producing it, unlike child or revenge porn, but that only explains why other forms of porn have been banned, not why this stuff should be kept by a private company. No traffic laws were violated creating these works of fiction, either, but companies don't sell products for that reason alone. Why should amazon continue to sell this stuff? What motive do you think they should have here? What good will it do others? I kind of feel like you wrote an article and accidentally deleted the paragraph with your thesis point in it when I read this.

Oct. 11 2013 01:33 PM

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