Thoughts on the Recent Ebook Scandal

Posted on October 16, 2013


So this post started out as an answer to Kim Mullican’s post and became much longer than I was comfortable putting on her blog.

Quick recap: Online book store discovers they are selling fairly hinky porn right next to the children’s books.  Admittedly some of these titles appeared to be downright foul, such as ‘Doggy Daddy Daughter rape’ (all of the ick.), but they’re still legal to publish.

This is a reasonable link to how and why the books came to be on the website, scroll down the the Q&A part: Daily Mail UK.

I’ve been following the ruckus in the UK over the pornographic books and I suspect it’s not a little influenced by the child pornography and internet filter debate that’s been going on over there. That being said these purges tend to happen every few years. I recall not too long ago it seemed like PayPal was leaning on erotic booksellers to remove some of the titles they found offensive.

In my honest opinion I don’t feel like these books should be deleted. The problems in the UK started recently because someone noticed these books were actually being advertised next to children’s books.

That is a problem. However, it is one that’s easily fixed by having an adult and child’s section on your website and by actually have some form of website moderation. I think booksellers need to learn how to do the internet properly.

Reasons why I don’t think that the creation of these books is a problem:

  1. Children still need a credit card to actually buy the books. So they need their parent’s knowledge and permission (or are found out once the parent checks the credit card statement). Also if you’re buying a through the family book account the books you have bought show up in the library. It’s easy enough to keep track of what your children are exposed to if you bother.
  2. Adults should be able to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. I can watch a movie like Scream, Saw or the Human Caterpillar and not want to go out and do the god awful to people. I still derive satisfaction from the fantasy but I’m an aware and rational adult so I can accept that it’s a fantasy and that it would be seriously immoral and unethical and not a little sick to go out and butcher people. The same goes for the more taboo sexual fantasies. I can have a rape fantasy and not rape people. Hell if I’m adept at sexual negotiation and have a valued and trusted partner I can find a way to safely explore those fantasies for both of us.
  3. Publishing these books is legal. Unlike filmed pornography there is no need for anyone to actually participate in the acts depicted. I can write a story about a girl being raped without actually having to rape a girl or have a girl simulate being raped for the film. I harm no one in the making of the book.
  4. The deletion of the books actually seems to be rather haphazard and the booksellers are sweeping up books that shouldn’t probably be deleted whilst leaving books that the booksellers are actually targeting. Kim Mullican actually talks about a few of them so feel free to scroll back up and click on the link. This happened with the whole Paypal fiasco as well.
  5. These publishers are quite happy selling horror or crime fiction books without censorship. There are scenes in some of those books that are just as troublesome or graphic as the scenes in the books being deleted. So why only delete the erotica? Enforcing your sexual mores on someone else is not ok.

Essentially I think there could be a better way to handle material you’re not comfortable with than randomly deleting books in a moral panic. If the booksellers had bothered to moderate their websites to start with they wouldn’t have inadvertently exposed children to the content. It’s not their job to say what an adult should be able to buy and what fantasies they have. If they’re not comfortable selling those fantasies that’s fine but they should have made it clear long before now.

I wonder if someone had created a website where this kind of stuff could be sold whether there would still be a moral panic over the books. My guess is probably, which makes this problem more about the morality police than it does genuine concern over whether the children might be exposed to it.

Posted in: Book News