It’s getting harder and harder to figure out which books Amazon.com will and will not sell. First there was last year’s banishment of gay fiction to the “adult section.” Then for the longest time it was willing to ship that how-to guide for pedophiles, until it wasn’t. Then came the removal of adult incest erotica, but not any from sci-fi scribe Robert A. Heinlein. And now writer Kyle Michel Sullivan says Amazon.com has yanked his self-published titles simply because they feature gay rape themes.
“During our review process, we found that your titles contain content that is in violation of our content guidelines,” Amazon wrote to Sullivan to explain his titles’ disappearance. “As a result, we have removed the books from our store.” And what titles were they? How To Rape A Straight Guy (ASIN B003ZYFCA6) and Rape In Holding Cell 6 (ASIN B00403N14A). Now before you start thinking either of these are how-to guides to rape, allow Sullivan to explain — as he did in a letter to Amazon — what his books are about.
I’m at a loss as to understand how my books violated your content guidelines. They are not pornographic and have solid stories and meaning behind them. The sex in them is not that much more detailed than what you find in Jackie Collins’ and Judith Krantz’s novels, all of which can be found in a library. Also, you carry items that celebrate the torture and murder of women (see “Saw2″ “Hostel 2″ (oops) where a naked female is strung upside down and butchered so her blood can bathe another naked female lying under her) and the gleeful slaughter of human beings (“American Psycho”, for example).
“How To Rape A Straight Guy” has a very provocative title, yes, and its narrator, Curt, is a very in-your-face sort of guy who thinks he can get even with the world by assaulting men. But it winds up hurting innocent people and destroying him. I even have a moment of foreshadowing in it, where Curt as a 6-year-old boy watches a cousin of his torture a dog until it bites him, then the boy’s father kills the dog and goes off to buy another one. The moral of the whole book being, if you treat a man like a dog his whole life, you shouldn’t be surprised if he bites you. And the sad reality is, when he finally does bite back, he’s the one who’s punished. Does that sound like porn?
“Rape In Holding Cell 6″, both volumes, is about corruption in the judicial system, and its main character, Antony, is investigating the brutal rape and murder of his lover in the county jail. He finds a legal and political system that thinks it can get away with anything and nearly drives himself insane in his quest for revenge, a quest that threatens to harm the innocent as well as the guilty as he becomes exactly what he hates. Does that sound like porn?
You pulled my titles because that reporter at the Fox affiliate labeled my book pornography. If you actually HAD done your research, you’d see that they do not fall under that category. I can see them being viewed as erotica because the sex is very intense…and not at all sugar-coated…but that’s it. And they were on Amazon’s website being offered for sale for years without a problem. So will you also be removing other books once viewed as porn, like “Ulysses” and “Henry and June” and “Lolita”? Will you continue to offer DVDs of movies that depict the torture and rape of women, like “Straw Dogs” and “A Clockwork Orange”?
I ask that Amazon reconsider this. My books are not pornography and should never have been labeled as such. According to the Supreme Court, “in Miller v. California , 413 U.S. 15 (1973) (The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, Roth, supra, at 489, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” (Emphasis added.)
Please have your panel look further into the matter and reconsider your actions.
Amazon did “look further” into the matter, and isn’t budging in its promise to keep them offline. Without having read them, clearly. The hypocrisy of the web retailer’s censorship policy is becoming more and more evident with each round of removals. But here we have an example where books about male-on-male sexual violence are pulled from Amazon’s store, while literally hundreds, if not thousands of titles that feature heterosexual sexual aggression and rape remain in stock. And no matter where you stand on whether these books constitute the “glorifying” of rape (which, really, they do not), shouldn’t patrons of Amazon demand the company either sell any type of book, or apply its censorship policy uniformly?
Which it won’t do, of course. Because that would wipe out some of its best-sellers.