Amazon Censorship Story # (Who is Keeping Track Anymore?)

There is always reason to hate Amazon. During the Greaves scenario, they kept his Pedophile Guide up for the sake of free speech. Then they removed it. Then the guy got arrested. Then they removed incest erotica. Then Selena Kitt got mad.

The latest victim of Amazon's so-called guidelines is Kyle Michel Sullivan.

Kyle Michel Sullivan is an erotica writer, as well as a screenwriter. His is the author of books such as The Porno Manifesto and Bobby Carapsi. But what came under attack were his "rape titles": How To Rape A Straight Guy and Rape in Holding Cell 6. In a letter sent by Amazon to Sullivan:

Dear Publisher,
We are contacting you regarding the following DTP titles that you have submitted for sale in our Kindle store:

          How To Rape A Straight Guy (ASIN B003ZYFCA6)
          Rape In Holding Cell 6 (ASIN B00403N14A)
During our review process, we found that your titles contain content that is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we have removed the books from our store.
Please note that if you continue to submit content that violates our content guidelines, we may conduct a general review of your account.  Actions resulting from such a review could result in a termination of your account.
You may reply to if, after reading our content guidelines, you believe this decision has been made in error.
Best regards,

Of course here are Amazon's guidelines. And of course, no one at Amazon has read the books in question.

Mainly, Amazon argues that Sullivan's work is porn. And since it is porn, they--as a store, refuse to sell it, as is the right of any store. But of course, it being Amazon, there is no clear definition of porn. This is not porn (well not hardcore anyway); this is "gay interest", and this is definitely not fetish. Why Amazon refuses to sell porn is of course another question. If were talking about porn films, they're missing out on big money. Likewise, with "porn" books--mainly hardcore literary erotica--they are missing out on more money because with the digital age, comes discreet reading. Either way, they do not have a clear definition. What is obscene, and what is not and in whose eyes? Who is anyone to judge the value of sex scenes in a piece of work. If they deem an erotica piece as art, how is it "art" compared to a scene that is called porn.

Sullivan wrote a letter back, giving several excellent points, exposing Amazon's uneven censorship: (the full letter below)

Dear S------,
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.
Thank you,
Kyle Michel Sullivan

Furthermore, Amazon has not just stopped carrying the print titles. They have gone ahead and deleted these purchased ebooks off readers' Kindles: no hassle to the consumer! As Sullivan writes: "next year I'm going after Amazon, and starting at the top of the fucker's food chain, not the scum-laden bottom." While I'm always hesistant to agree with anyone who compare themselves to Joyce or Nabakov, I have to agree with him.

Make a New Years Resolution: stop buying from Amazon. As a major corporation, they cannot be trusted to further art or free speech (How can a corporation ever be trusted with that?) Buy local. Or buy indie. (One of his banned title his also available on BetterWorldBooks--buy porn, support a writer, spread literacy, all in one click [also, they have it down as nonfiction...])


  1. This is utter insanity. It doesn't even make sense. Amazon sells hundreds of erotica titles, straight and gay. Why did they single his out? The fact Amazon can even delete items off a user's Kindle is so disturbing. We need to cultivate alternate venues to bypass all this corporate censorship bullshit like Steve Job's "freedom from porn" manifesto and Amazon's schizophrenic action and inaction on their own terms. If Amazon wiped off Cleis Press' titles they'd be screwed since a huge percentage of their sales come from Amazon.

    Can someone make an open souce ebook marketplace? Maybe it already exists and I just don't know about it? I've seen bits of Linux's Ubuntu One Music Store and it seemed to be working okay. We need that for books. I'm so sick of the inertia Amazon and Apple have, and people are too lazy to go anywhere else because they're brand zombies.

  2. @Rob: an open-source ebookstore is something I've been pondering for a while. It's definitely doable. I just haven't had time to make it happen. Yet.