What Currently Constitutes Obscenity
March 6, 2015 3:30 PM   Subscribe

I am about to publish an e-book of poetry that includes sensual and sexual imagery. This is a part if Amazon Kindle content guidelines "Pornography We don't accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts. Offensive Content What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect."

There is no graphic porn or penetration in the books. There are 2-3 striking photos that I would consider Penthouse-like from 15 - 20 years ago, along with 2-3 tasteful sketches.

When is the line crossed? What is the current definition of obscenity? I am thinking that since Amazon is a business their take on what is pornographic and offensive is different than what's been decided in court.
posted by goalyeehah to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As far as what courts say, you can read about a case in the U.S. federal courts that resulted in two people being sentenced to a year in prison each for obscenity in 2009.
posted by XMLicious at 3:44 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: From an author that would prefer to remain anonymous:
Hi there, this is a rule I'm very familiar with, because I write and publish a lot of erotica. I also assist other authors in determining if their books will be blocked or adult-filtered, and in getting their books unfiltered or resubmitted successfully. Based on what you've said here I would say your book is permissible but may get filtered depending on the cover and if any nudity appears on the Look Inside of your book once published.

What Amazon's definition means is that there are hard lines that aren't permitted: bestiality, necrophilia, scat, child sex abuse, incest, pictorial depictions of hardcore sex. But it also means "whatever we want". Amazon has in the past blocked vast swathes of content as a response to media coverage, but it's always been close to one of the big five I listed earlier.

If your book is about human sexuality, doesn't run afoul of one of the things I listed above, and you categorize it correctly, you should be just fine. If for some reason Carlos F. gets ahold of your book and gets his knickers in a twist, 95% of the time it will be blocked and that's all that will happen. Rework it, resubmit and hope for a better reviewer.
posted by mathowie at 3:48 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am thinking that since Amazon is a business their take on what is pornographic and offensive is different than what's been decided in court.

Exactly. If you just want to know what the current US obscenity laws are, you can check links from Wikipedia, but Amazon's restrictions are actually more restrictive than only what is obscene so you'll have more luck getting information from folks like the anonymous commenter above. There is a lot of erotica on Amazon and if your collection of poetry is mostly that with a few non-hardcore images you'll be fine most of the time. You might want to poke around in the Kindle Direct Publishing forums where people talk about these things for more pointers (don't use words like daddy/brother in your erotica titles, even if it's not incest-y it can set off flags, etc)
posted by jessamyn at 3:55 PM on March 6, 2015

Listen to the author that mathowie shared the comment from. I recognize the advice from two forums that spend a great deal of their time discussing various facets of that particular Amazon line in the sand, and their info is accurate.
posted by stormyteal at 9:45 PM on March 7, 2015

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