Friday, March 30, 2018

Sex OR Violence

Vice published an article outlining how Amazon has (again) throttled erotic books on their site. The official statement from the retail giant is that it was an accident, and it's fixed now, but this isn't the first time Amazon's policies and practices with erotic books has affected the authors that depend on Amazon for the vast majority of their sales.

I find it interesting because our genre never comes under attack here. Even the ones that feature a lot of sex (many Amazon romance authors report being labeled erotica when they were simply "hot" romances). Seems crime fiction writers can have their characters shoot at each other, stab each other, beat the living shit out of each other, and whatever else we please because we haven't made the mistake of focusing on sex (or being a female dominated genre that deals with love - oft regarded as the most feminine genre, and not surprisingly, oft the most derided).

It's unsurprising that Amazon's policies would favor violence over sex. It's an American tradition, after all. Recently, a tv series I enjoy, (The Last Man On Earth) featured Fred Armisen as a cannibal. We saw him murder and eat people, we saw him dig a corpse out of the ground and eat various parts of his body, and finally, we saw him blow himself up with a puzzle box bomb. But when Will Forte and Kristen Schaal's characters have sex it's an awkward, perfectly still scene, just as last week's SNL featured a "sex scene" that featured a fully clothed woman on the lap of a fully clothed man - perfectly still. Both shows have confirmed it was to appease network censors. See - you can slit throats, eat corpses, and be blown to smithereens on network TV - but if two people wiggle a little during sex, all hell breaks loose.

In a society overrun with violence, and with weird, often harmful views of sex and sexuality, we're still letting whatever violence creators can imagine through, and hiding any instance of two people enjoying each other in a sexual way. This is not to say that violence in books or on TV causes violence - all the strange dancing around sex in entertainment hasn't stopped us from fucking, after all. But it's worth questioning why we accept increasing levels of violence in our entertainment, but freak out if we think a kid under the age of twenty-one might see two people go at it, even in a show like Last Man where the characters were not only married, but actively trying to have a baby. They're straight, too - if it were a porn, it would be the kind that's inexplicably marketed to hardcore religious people.* Still, the sex can't even be a little sexual.

It's weird, right? I don't have an answer, and this isn't exactly a new viewpoint, but I wonder when the reckoning is going to come. When are we going to talk about our weird attitudes about sex in entertainment in a meaningful way? How did we become a society that's okay with blowing up Fred Armisen on Prime Time but not with wiggling on late night TV?

I don't mind violence in my entertainment - some of my favorite books and films feature enough of it that they're routinely labeled "gratuitous." I don't think violent entertainment causes violence. I do think having extremely permissive ideas about hurting people, versus extremely strict ideas about pleasing people is unhealthy. The ideas behind the actions are what worry me. America has some shit to sort out and this is only the beginning of the beginning.

*remember when that was a big news story? A Google session couldn't confirm that it's still a thing.

1 comment:

Old Folkie said...

I'm certainly among the customers who wouldn't have noticed the change.
I remember a time when Amazon excerted practically no content control, which wasn't a good idea either when it comes to erotica, and now we see them swing in the opposite direction.
That in itself wouldn't worry me, if it wasn't for reflecting a bigger trend in (US) society.

I didn't mind when we got rid of the seventies and their sex and violence mentality. It may not lead to sexualized violence IRL but you can't prove that idea by me, so I'm glad we got (mostly) rid of it ... only we didn't, did we?
Watching some TV-Shows it seems rather that it's not that they try to get rid of sex-scenes, it's that they are not terribly keen on featuring consensual sex.

And when I see the escalating trend towards ever more violence in private TV, and watch the current trend in New Adult and Dark Romance writing, I fear it's only a question of time before "Hot Romance" just means Rape Fantasy all over again.

I wonder where Amazon and will stand by that time.