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Incest Porn @ Your Bookstore

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave me three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. I’m giving you a blog post on incest porn. Guess I’m not your true love.

A couple of weeks ago someone sent an amusing email to the ALA Council listserv. Amusing, at least, if you find the idea that people think incest porn is, you know, just another way to express your personality, than, say, just another way to mark yourself as a person of concern.

A councilor was asked to forward the message by an incensed incest porn writer. “Because of my interest in keeping [incest porn] information flowing in society, I  am doing so.” You can read the message without looking at the Council email archives, because it turns out to just be a forwarded blog post. Those incest porn writers like to get the word out.

Why would anyone think the ALA Council would care? After all, incest porn has nothing to do with international wars, health care policy, or airport security, some of the other issues Councilors like to address. Well, it seems that the incest pornographer has been censored. Or at least “censored,” which is usually enough for the ALA to take a stand.

The incest pornographer was one of the writers Amazon.com dropped from Createspace and the Kindle Store. For those of us with healthy sexual fantasies, the kind that might involve nipple clamps but definitely not on your child or parent, it’s pretty obvious why Amazon would drop incest porn. The incest pornographer complains that their terms of service are too vague to justify the cut, but the terms of service of most of the human race already preclude expressing sexual desire for blood-members of your family. The relevant term from Amazon would be “offensive.” That would be the relevant term for the rest of us as well. That might be why Amazon doesn’t publish books about pedophilia, either.

What brouhaha there is seems to be of the “but everyone finds something offensive, therefore incest porn is okay.” Which is about as persuasive as saying that if we don’t support incest porn, the terrorists have won!

Though she constantly confuses the issue to make her case, even the pornographer seems to be clear that it’s the incest porn and nothing else that Amazon removed. “I have over fifty titles selling on Amazon, all of them in erotic fiction categories. The only thing these three singled-out titles had in common, besides being written by me—they were all erotic incest fantasy fiction.” Huh. Maybe there’s a good reason for that.

We can get a good idea of why this person write incest porn rather than analytical essays by following her reasoning after this. The part that cracks me up the most is this:

In speculating on the motivations of Amazon’s actions, as they have not been forthcoming with any statement or explanation, I am concerned that they may be acting out of reactionary fear. This may be based on pressure from a small number of vocal and complaining conservative and/or religious right extremists who object to and are afraid of sexual fantasies and erotic printed material (including incest fantasies). It may also be based on threatening governmental pressure related to the recently removed WikiLeaks.

It’s hard to know what one can say to bizarre speculations like this. Since it’s extremely clear that Amazon, along with just about everyone else in the world, considers incest and its porn to be offensive, there’s no need to “speculate” on the motivations. The motive is too keep Amazon from being a publisher for perverts.That makes these speculations even more bizarre. Does Amazon really seem like the type of company reacting out of reactionary fear, for example? How far out there does one need to be to realize that one doesn’t have to be reactionary to find incest fantasies sick?

But, of course, it “may be based on pressure” from right-wing extremists who are afraid of sexual fantasies. It may also be based on pressure from the Pope or space aliens, but that doesn’t seem likely either. In what perverted la-la land does objecting to incest fantasies make one a right-wing extremist who is “afraid” of sexual fantasies?

Notice the duplicitous commingling of “incest fantasies” with “sexual fantasies” as a whole. Good grief, as if fantasizing about sex with your hot teacher or that ripped guy at the gym is the same thing as fantasizing about making it with your father. Is she seriously implying that right-wing extremists are fine with other sorts of porn, but draw the line at incest? That’s the illogical speculation she makes.

And government pressure related to Wikileaks? We have truly stepped through the looking-glass now. That’s right, the United States Government is so afraid of some incest porn being on someone’s Kindle that the President picked up his secret hotline to Jeff Bezos.

Or this bit: “I’m not saying what I write isn’t controversial, but it’s not illegal (at least in some states) or a threat to national security, and seems as undeserving of censorship as… well…” Hmmm.

All of this ignores two very obvious facts. Incest fantasies are the sorts of things most people, not just “right wing extremists,” find offensive. If you want to fantasize about child molestation or having sex with your parents or siblings, keep it to yourself. The other obvious fact is that no one is being censored (unless that Wikileaks “speculation” was dead on). A publisher choosing not to publish something it finds offensive isn’t censorship, period.

She could take all of her incest porn and post it to Alt.Sex.Stories, where it could live for eternity in the more squalid portions of cyberspace. No one is stopping her from publishing her incest fantasies online, and if she did, no one would care (unlike that Wikileaks guy, for example, who the government actually does care about). She could start up her own publishing company and publish it in print herself. Other people have.

Her friends and “fellow authors” aren’t much help, either. “As fellow author, Will Belegon, noted, if Amazon is going to start pulling books with incest in them: ‘I just re-read Genesis 19: 30-38 and realized that Lot’s daughters got him drunk, had sex with him and bore sons. I demand you follow your clear precedent and remove The Bible from Kindle.’” That’s the kind of poor exegesis that gives unreligious people a bad name.

Incest is not the issue. Incest fantasies and porn are. Confusing the two to score a puerile point either means you’re too stupid to tell the difference or you think other people are. Go back and read Genesis. Lot’s daughters didn’t do what they did because they were fantasizing about shagging Dad. They were living in a cave in a strange land, and the older daughter pointed out that “there is not a man on earth to unite with us as was the custom everywhere.” It’s still some pretty sick stuff, but it was sex born out of desperation, not fantasy. “Last man on earth” isn’t the same motivation as “Sexiest Dad Alive.”

The last amusing bit I’ll quote continues with the bizarre speculation:  “While I am not a lawyer, constitutional scholar or legal expert on free speech and intellectual freedom, I am an author and publisher and know that, regardless of the technical legalities of Amazon’s actions, buckling to this pressure and the removal of books will hurt their bottom line.” I’m not sure how the first half of that sentence connects to the second half, but the last clause is strange indeed.

First, it still assumes with no evidence whatsoever that Amazon was “pressured” to remove incest porn, rather than just repulsed by the content. It also assumes that an incest porn writer knows more about what will hurt Amazon’s bottom line than Amazon does. Yeah. That’s why Amazon is one of the richest companies in the country, and you’re peddling incest smut. Not publishing incest porn is better for the bottom line, which is why most publishers won’t touch it.

So far no one on Council seems anxious to take this up, which for the sake of the organization is a good thing. The ALA is already a de facto defender of child pornography on library computers; it doesn’t need to add defender of incest porn to its repertoire. But it would surely make for some lively debates during Council in a couple of weeks.

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Comments

  1. TeenLibrarian says:

    Unless the incest participants are below the legal age, what the hell is the matter? Sheesh people fiction is fiction.

    And who uses newsgroups anymore? Try literotica

  2. SK says:

    I think the relevant description here is fiction, and that’s what she is basing her objection on. We’re not talking actual incestuous videos, photos, or biographies (although most of that last is probably – hopefully – about survivors of abuse and their stories). It would be interesting to see if Amazon had also dropped incest fantasy videos, mind. As for the popularity thereof — judging from the, uh, semi-popular appellation of “Daddy” in pornography, I think it’s probably best just to leave that alone. Disturbing but true.

  3. Techserving You says:

    I’m pretty sure this stuff isn’t offered at my local library. Therefore, my local library is also censoring it. (Picking and choosing what to spend a library’s acquisitions budget on = censorship.)

  4. hapax says:

    A-a-and the Annoyed Librarian again takes the brave and principled stand, “If I find something icky, it’s automatically Bad Speech and unworthy of protection.”

    The issue isn’t whether you find the subject matter palatable. The issue is whether Amazon.com includes subject matter in their terms of service contract for their self-publishing service (possible, but questionable), and whether they can unilaterally choose to abrogate that service on the basis of their (or your, or anybody else’s) finding that particular content distasteful.

    But by all means, make it All About your particular squick. After all, the mere existence of this content offends you, whether you read it or not.

  5. Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian says:

    “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” – a sign I have seen in stores many a time over the years.

    When the federal government destroys all copies of a text/video/audio creation and prevents all access to it, that is censorship. When a private company says ‘piss off’ to an ‘alternative erotic literature purveyor’, that is a business decision.

  6. hapax says:

    FNL, just because a store puts up that sign, doesn’t mean they actually have that right. Look up “public accomodation” and “discrimination.”

  7. Otto says:

    After entering the term “incest” into the amazon search engine, I found that Amazon doesn’t seem to have a shortage of literature on the subject. For that matter, entering in a variety of other terms, ranging from sex torture to fake snuff films and other questionable sex-related material, the search engine seems to find plenty of material (including VHS! amazing! I thought they would have disappeared). Now, while I have a hard time equating business decisions to not carry a particular item with censorship, I would point out that Amazon does have some peculiar thinking if it decides that one item is objectionable but others almost exactly the same content are not. Given that I do not remember any previous similar decisions, I believe that it’s likely that someone in a small office somewhere in the Amazon headquarters took offense to this and somehow managed to roll the change into their policy. A disappointing conspiracy theory to be sure.

  8. Morse says:

    hapax, there might be laws about public accommodation in public places, but there are no laws that require a publisher to publish something they don’t want to publish. Amazon’s terms of service for everything, including apparently their publishing service, are vague enough to let them do what they want, so it would be difficult to even claim they had violated a publishing contract.

  9. “The ALA is already a de facto defender of child pornography on library computers….” If anyone wants any evidence of that, let me know. We can ask that Holyoke, MA, library director who covered up such a crime according to her own employee, the complaining librarian. Or the patron who was kicked out of the library for reporting it. Or the library employee fired for reporting it. Etc.

  10. Techserving You says:

    It looks like some posters really need to brush up on the law.

  11. MIghty Kasey says:

    Many of us may want to condemn this material, but perhaps we should remember our ancient history. In 1979 and the early ’80s most every American Library carried Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind and the succeeding titles in this series. These books included incest between an adolescent brother and his sister. They were censored in several libraries but the rest of us provided them to a huge number of patrons. There were 85 million copies of Flowers in the Attic in print at that time. Maybe most readers did not consider them to be erotic or prurient. But, I remember the scene in the movie Clockwork Orange (which many libraries also stock) where the villain is reading the crucifixion scenes in the bible while “getting off” on the sadism and masochism. The Sears catalog of boys clothing can be erotic for pedophiles. We never REALLY know why people read anything. If we did, we should consider censoring everything.

  12. Techserving You says:

    Yes, some people get off on pictures of kids in catalogs, and others get off on crucifixion, but obviously the points of those things are not to be “erotic.” Libraries usually carry The Hotel New Hampshire, which includes scenes of incest. Newspapers will fairly graphically describe Elizabeth Smart’s ordeal, being kidnapped as a 14-year-old, chained up, and raped on a daily basis by a grown man. There is a difference between items which may happen to turn on certain types, and items which describe illegal and exploitative acts towards children with the intent of being “erotic.”

  13. Mr. Kat says:

    Seems to be a slippery slope on either the right or the left…just how did we get ourselves over this barrel, anyways???

  14. James says:

    You are completely missing the point of her complaint, and others who have experienced similar treatment from Amazon in the past year.

    Amazon’s terms of service are very, very vague when it comes to what they consider “obscene.” When the Kindle ebook phenomenon started, erotica authors walked into it blindly, trusting that Amazon would let them know if they crossed some invisible line.

    For the last few years, Amazon has allowed incest erotica that depicts consensual relations between adults. It is one of the most popular types of erotica on that service, in fact, along with BDSM and paranormal erotica.

    Suddenly, out of the blue, Amazon jumped in and removed a number of incest erotica fiction ebooks overnight. They also (initially) disappeared from the Kindles of people who had purchased them but were storing them in Amazon’s cloud. There was no explanation from Amazon, though a few days later they did restore the ebooks to those who had already purchased them, again with virtually no explanation.

    A few days later, the same thing was done to a handful of male/male erotica titles that had the word “rape” in the title. At least one of these titles didn’t even focus on rape, and didn’t present it in an erotic context at all. Again, no explanation to the writers, customers, or e-publishers.

    Earlier in the year, Amazon had stripped sales rankings of hundreds of gay and lesbian books (not necessarily erotica), with no explanation. When things exploded in the press, they restored the rankings, claiming that it was a “glitch.”

    Amazon can sell what it wants, and set the terms of service to whatever it likes. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that they won’t define what is and is not acceptable, and have developed a habit of suddenly removing (or stripping sales rankings) of books en masse in unannounced overnight sweeps, with no explanation ever given to anyone. LGBT and erotica authors literally have no idea of how to stay within the guidelines, because there really don’t appear to be any.

    Ms. Kitt (and others) have stated publicly that their main issue is not being told why their specific books were pulled, particularly when many others with similar themes (including some that are far more explicit) were not touched.

    Ms. Kitt is one of the most successful authors in independent erotic ebooks, with very good sales over a period of years and a definite following. Most of her erotic fiction doesn’t deal with incest at all. She (and other authors) simply want to know where the boundaries are, and why the invisible rules are being applied in a haphazard fashion.