In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart infamously said “I know it when I see it” when he was asked to define what, exactly, hard-core pornography was. And while those words were uttered more than half a century ago, it seems that one very this century company — Amazon — is now applying them to erotica. According to author Selena Kitt’s blog, Amazon is undergoing a mass re-categorization of books in their catalog, slotting titles into the harder to find “erotica” category without any clear rhyme or reason — or recourse for authors who feel their work has been wrongly categorized.As the head of Excessica, a small publishing house, Kitt realized what was happening when almost three quarters of her catalog was re-categorized as “erotica.” While she freely admitted that plenty of her titles fit the category, plenty of them don’t and yet were still slotted in with their smuttier siblings. This wouldn’t be an issue except for the fact that the entire erotica category is in its own “red light district” on Amazon. Books that are categorized as erotica are much, much harder to find than books in other categories like, for example, romance. While the line between the two can be hard to distinguish (“I know it when I see it,” perhaps?), Kitt points out that all books that include sex are not automatically erotica.
Additionally, Kitt found that some books in on her roster that were not even close to erotica had been placed in the Amazon red light district. For example, a horror book that she co-authored called “Hunting Season,” which has “zero sex” was placed into the erotica category completely incorrectly, making her question how, exactly books were being categorized.
Once a book has been categorized by Amazon, the author can’t change it back herself. Instead, she has to submit each book for re-categorization, a process that, it turns out, is much harder than you’d think. Kitt describes a typical conversation with an Amazon customer service rep as she went through the process of trying to figure out how to get books that she thought were wrongly categorized out of the erotica category.
“In my conversation with the Amazon customer service representative about this situation, I was told, “We are improving our ability to identify erotic content, so you’ll see more books put into erotica going forward,” Kitt writes.
“Me: Just going forward?
CS: No, we’ll also be identifying other content and moving it into the erotica categories.
Me: How will you be identifying this content?
CS: I can’t tell you that.
Me: How can we get our books out of erotica?
CS: You can change the content and resubmit it.
Me: How would we know what to change?
The reality is, no one really “knows it when they see it” when it comes to erotica versus “erotic romance.” Romance books have always been known for their explicit sex scenes, whether they had Fabio on the cover or were hiding behind the blank screen of a Kindle. Trying to split erotica and romance up — and ghettoizing both of them — is a waste of Amazon’s time and resources.
Get over it, Amazon. Welcome to the 21st century, where undeniably explicit hardcore porn is instantly available on tiny little screens that almost every American carries in their pocket. Limiting the visibility of stories with erotic content is not doing a damn thing, so I say, just let it all be equally searchable and give erotica titles the same treatment as every other title! Who, exactly, are they “protecting” or “benefiting” by hiding those titles away? It’s not like kids are voraciously devouring Kindle books in search of smut; that’s what the internet is for. And it’s not like grown women are being forced to read the erotica titles. This is just a silly example of sex negativity taken to the point of quite literally benefiting no one.
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