Falling Off The Cliff: Banning Books
Today’s Brew: My last Pumpkin Spice K cup. Must. Get. More.
In this week’s news, the US Government got the band back together. Whatever. Besides the people who were unfairly put out of a job because of their foolishness, I don’ t think many of us noticed they were gone. There was also another group of workers effected by foolishness of big bureaucracy: self published authors.
This is how I understand it: WH Smith, a UK bookseller, received complaints that pornographic books were being marketed along side children’s books. Instead of simply fixing the problem, they took down their entire website so they could remove all self published books.
Again, this is how I understand it: Someone at WH Smith didn’t do their job correctly in the first place, causing books that should never be mixed together to come up together. Instead of fixing the immediate problem, they punished a huge percentage of their vendors who aren’t part of the problem.
Instead of pointing and laughing about how stupid this is, Kobo pulled all their self published books from its UK site. Amazon and Barnes and Noble pulled hard core erotica.
The UK has an Obscene Publications Act, which is vague at best, and the United States Supreme Court famously defines pornography as:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. –Justice Potter Stewart
So you don’t write Dinosaur Daddy Porn and you’re not self published. Why should you do more than shrug?
Think about building a beautiful house overlooking the ocean. Of course you build a safe distance from the cliff. You need to protect your family, your safety, and your investment. But each storm erodes a little bit of the earth that separates your beautiful family home from falling into the ocean. Your neighbor’s house starts to fall into the ocean. Suddenly, you’re not so safe anymore.
If this seems like an extreme example, this is a real concern on the south shore of Massachusetts, and I’m sure many coastal communities.
When someone draws a line, we all get closer to it every time. First it’s “pornography” or “offensive literature.” But we already decided we can’t define it. So hardcore erotica goes first. So what about all these BDSM books? Are they safe? Let’s look at paranormal romance. We have humans having sex with shapeshifters, or part time animals, so bestiality, or humans having sex with vampires, or dead people, so necrophilia. Pretty offensive when you think of it like that. Now what about extramarital affairs? Sex before marriage? Sex before a certain age? Kissing a boy?
When do we start attacking books that are too violent? Horror? True crime?
See where I’m going here?
I read the Story of O earlier this year, and I thought it was one of the most abusive tales I’d ever encountered. But that’s safe since it has a major publisher. VC Andrews books are still up, in all their incestual glory. So as long as you have the backing of major publishing, your offensive literature is safe. For now anyway. But self published romance authors have had their books removed. Magan Vernon, a contemporary romance author, had her work removed from Kobo. It’s back up in the United States, but she’s not sure about other countries. I’ve read Magan’s work. It’s not pornography.
Romance is the top selling genre in literature today. That includes erotica. I know it’s because women love having the anonymity of reading steamy books on their electronic devices. They don’t have to face a cashier to buy it, and no one can see what they’re reading on the train. If it wasn’t for sex, none of us would be here. Why are we so uptight about human nature? The more uptight we become, the more outlandish people will act in response to the repression.
I don’t condone abusive behavior of any kind. These booksellers should have filtered out books that advocated sexual violence against children in the first place.