Erotic Review Magazine

Moral Panic? WH Smut and others react…

20th October 2013

The contortions of the ebook retail giants in recent days to retain a squeaky-clean image are a sight to behold; this bears all the hallmarks of  tragi-comedy, i.e. you just don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But it also shows that in their rather unseemly haste to clean up their (inadvertently, of course) ‘filthy’ act, they have pushed some powerful moral panic buttons, judging by the predictably outraged and prurient prose of the Daily Mail, triggering emotive adjectives such as ‘horrifying’, ‘sick’, ‘vile’ and ‘disgusting’. So what exactly has happened? Well,  it seems The Kernela techie internet magazine based in the UK discovered that the e-retail departments of British bookshops such as WH Smith, Foyles (good grief!) and Waterstones were selling ‘amateur’ literature (i.e., self-published ebooks) that glorified rape, incest and bestiality, sometimes combining all three. Then Amazon and Barnes & Noble were found to have even larger ‘catalogues of filth’. If you want an excellent resumé of the unfolding story, plus some good comments thereon, read Laura Hazard Owen’s piece in GigaOM.

But where does this leave the e-publishers? And who is going to operate the censorship machine? At precisely what point does ‘coercive fantasy erotica’ – or, in other words, an awful lot of BDSM literature, including such popular literary masterpieces as Fifty Shades of Grey – become ‘rape-incest porn’? Looks like Amazon et al. are certainly going to have their work cut out for them.

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