I need to vent here for a few minutes. With all the technological advances that allow us to prevent children getting their hands on material that is not age appropriate, why do people insist on censoring what adults are allowed to read? I don’t mean subjects like rape for tittilation or child sex – they’re taboo for a reason and a lot of publishers (and writers) won’t touch them. But consensual sex between adults is still treated like it’s dirty and shameful.

I could get into a long, rambling rant about my feelings on the subject, but that’s not on the agenda today. I just wanted to point out that some of the services who make money from this material are full of it. I have two examples from yesterday. Those of you who have read my work (or had even one conversation with me) know there is sex in my stories. All of them. The level of explicitness doesn’t change whether I’m writing a sweet love story or an erotic short, because that’s my writing style. I believe the way I write consenting adults is tasteful.

Here’s my issue. I was informed that a merchant won’t sell a story of mine because it contains sexual material. There was another comment about the description of the same story – it’s too explicit. The reason I was and am still irritated is because ALL OF MY BOOKS HAVE SEX IN THEM. This story wasn’t singled out because it’s the only one I have with adult content, it was singled out because it was appropriately tagged as erotica. Not erotic romance, not romance, not mature literature or whatever other false descriptor I might use. A computer program scanned my story for specific words and sent up a flag. Funny, because I use those same words (body parts, positions, etc.) in all of my work. But they’re only bad (dirty/vulgar/inappropriate) when the story is labelled erotica. And my book was only scanned because I put it into the correct category, otherwise they would have rejected all of my work. My choices are to deliberately miscategorize my book (which could get my publishing account cancelled), censor my story (hell no), or call them out on their hypocrisy and/or pull my stories from this distributor.

Here’s where it really gets fun. The two merchants in question have accepted the romance and erotic romance stories I’ve submitted. All the up against the wall, in the shower, beg for it on their knees action is apparently fine if I say it’s romance. (I have to stop rolling my eyes or I may pull something). But labelling stories as romance just to get past a gatekeeper is not an option for me. I don’t have one ounce of shame over what I write. And these stores are happy to make money from it.

Note: I have no way of knowing if the trigger to scan my story was merely because it was labelled erotica, or because it’s gay erotica.

And yes, I’m aware merchants have the right to sell or not sell whatever they please. And distributors (like Draft2Digital and Smashwords) have to go along with whatever the merchant tells them. But arbitrarily applying the rules isn’t fair to anyone. They’re not rules if they’re not consistent. They’re just an excuse to censor.
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Wait. Stop. I had been prepared to post this when I decided to read the terms of service and look around both sites. The first merchant has all of the items they sell hidden (it’s a subscription service), and this is in their terms of service:

Broad. By those rules, nothing with material more salacious than a kiss should be allowed. Also “otherwise inappropriate as determined by us” gives them a license to discriminate against whatever they want without a solid reason. Remember when I said all of my stories have sexual content and the same level of explicitness?

The second merchant didn’t have anything against sexual material in the ToS. They even have an erotica section. Went there, browsed for a few seconds and found this book listed at the top of the page:

Yeah. That was acceptable while my book description was too explicit:

“There’s no point beating around the bush. I like it rough. Hard enough to bring tears to my eyes and long enough I forget everything but how good it feels. Tonight I’m ready for a new playmate. When my eyes met his across the bar, I knew I was in for the ride of my life.”

Perhaps I should publish with the company that got that other story past the gatekeepers.

Also of note is that the second merchant allows you to browse their catalog without being signed in. So, someone could read about this guy’s wife being pounded or the other one I saw about a professor bending over a student without an account. Oh, but the book covers are blurred out, so I guess that makes it okay. Good to know they have some standards.

Tl;dr: my issue here is with the distributor sending my books to these stores applying their rules inconsistently and the merchants who accept or reject books on a whim, not a solid set of standards.
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Edited to add:
After the initial post, I went through my emails again to look at exact wording before writing to the distributor. Several of my erotica stories were labelled as  “rejected” by the first merchant in my account on the distributor’s website, but the emails from the distributor state they never sent the stories in question. I edited the above post to reflect that several stories were in question, not just the one I was using as an example.