Please help, I would like to advertise my fantasy adventure novel, Ages of Aenya, but it won’t let me get started because, for some reason, the book has been labeled as erotica. My book is NOT erotica! It has never been erotica. There is a lot more adult/erotic content in Game of Thrones and other fantasy novels. The cover is intended to be reminiscent of Classical / Renaissance art, the kind you might see in churches in Europe. There is nothing suggestive about the pose or the background or the situation. It is clearly an adventure story. If you would not consider Michelangelo’s Sistene Chapel erotica, you should not label Ages of Aenya erotica either.
Any help in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
It isn’t just Amazon—both Facebook and Twitter have rejected attempts at advertising my book on their platforms due to “erotic” content. This is patently ridiculous, when you consider the amount of rape, incest, and prostitution jumping off the page of America’s current favorite fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire, better known as A Game of Thrones. No social media outlet has any issue promoting that series, which I would never consider giving my kids to read. But Ages of Aenya, which could probably be made into a Disney film, is banned from public perusal because, God forbid, we go displaying the female form and NOT be selling sex.
There is no rape, no mention of masturbation, and no lurid description of body parts anywhere in the story, and yet Ages of Aenya falls into the erotica category, according to the house of Jeff Bezos. There is, admittedly, a single mild sex scene lasting one paragraph out of 667 pages. But since Ages of Aenya features naturist heroes in it, most Americans assume it has something to do with sex, because readers who know nothing about naturism believe nudity always = sex.
Naturism is the opposite of porn. Porn fetishizes the body, sexually stimulating viewers through imagery that emphasizes and exaggerates the genitals. The goal of naturism, however, is opposite that—focusing attention away from our reproductive organs, so we might learn to see ourselves in a healthier and more natural way. Porn dehumanizes, naturism humanizes. Human worth (and that of other humanoid species) is a major theme in Ages of Aenya. Nudity serves as a metaphor for humanity, and it plays out throughout the novel, in the way the Ilmar, with their wanton disregard for body taboos, are regarded as simple savages; to how the aquatic merquid are considered mindless monsters; to the way the conquering Septhera treat humans like herd animals; to the book’s closing chapters, where a cyborg named Horde, having lost the humanity he once possessed, regards all other life forms beneath him. I suppose it’s a bit ironic how Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and a host of likely-to-be-disappointed readers, have misjudged and mischaracterized the book, in the same way the Ilmar are misjudged and mischaracterized in the actual story. It’s life imitating art!
I guess I should have been more practical and never have commissioned such a risque illustration, but I honestly believed that the cover could in no way be misconstrued. Yes, there’s implied nudity on display, but there is not a butt crack, nipple, or bush to be seen. Thelana is depicted in profile, and not in any kind of suggestive pose, yet Facebook calls it, and I quote, “sex services.” Like I was making an ad for a Vegas bordello. Meanwhile, customers at checkout counters throughout the country are treated to magazines like this:
We are not, by any means, a prudish country, but a sexually depraved one. In my writing, I have introduced a different way of looking at ourselves. But American biases are too deeply rooted. A history of Puritanism, combined with a multi-billion dollar clothing industry and porn industry, have merged into a perfect storm of duplicity. In the good ol’ US of A, we’ve got two choices: 1) Disney and 2) PornHub, and what middle ground exists is quickly vanishing.
Xandr and Thelana are based on Classical and Renaissance art. What most Americans don’t seem to realize, with their chainmail-bikini-clad Red Sonja figures, is that UNDERWEAR as we know it, simply did not exist in ancient times. Modern bras, made popular by the Sears department store catalogue, are roughly one hundred years old. Bathing suits would also have been a complete mystery to the Greeks and Romans of antiquity. What is disheartening, for me, is when I visit a tourist shop in Greece and find some inaccurate and anachronistic statue of Leonidas, a national hero made famous after the film 300, donning some ridiculous, Fruit-of-the-Loom-style briefs. Puritanical values have been hoisted onto my heritage, with the suggestion that we should feel shame for an attitude we have never, in two thousand years, felt the need to feel shame over. Fortunately, the statue at Thermopylae retains the tradition of the heroic nude, though I imagine many American tourists getting offended by the penis on display. What is this, sex services?
Now, just for shits and giggles, let’s look at some Classical / Renaissance art through the American cultural eye (ALL of these are comments I have actually received in reference to Aenya).
When I published The “Volunteer” in 2016, I went ahead and listed it with the erotica tag. It was about a young girl who had to go nude in public for a sociology experiment, and because of the belief system she held while growing up in this textile world, she struggles with sexual feelings because of her nudity. As she progresses, she deals with this better. I thought it was a realistic portrayal of a situation that most people will never find themselves in. It took a few months for me to realize that the book wasn’t really erotica (after hearing from readers who had been looking for erotica when they found my book), but Amazon will not let me remove that category tag from the book no matter what I do. Of course, there is a discretely covered nude female on the cover, and that cover has also prevented me from advertising (although oddly enough, if I post an advertisement with a picture of the book and not with the book cover taking up the whole image, I have gotten Facebook ads approved).
Hi, D.H., thanks for stopping by! I think I should probably make it clear that I find nothing wrong with erotica. There is definitely a market for it, and I am not opposed to it by any means. If you labeled your book erotica from the onset, you probably did so because you recognized that there was an erotic element to it. I’ve read ‘The Volunteer,’ and I don’t think giving it that label is too far off the mark. It certainly isn’t your typical sex book, and I can see where some of your readers might get disappointed if that’s what they thought they were getting. But I also think that readers with voyeuristic tendencies, the kind of people who get off perusing “nudist” sites that aren’t really nudist, would find something to enjoy in your book, just as I am sure some people find pictures of Thelana exciting, but in the wrong way.
Put another way, I don’t think I would give my kids, ages 9 and 14, to read ‘The Volunteer,’ but I would have no issues with them reading ‘Ages of Aenya,’ barring that single sex scene, which could be removed for a PG-13 rating. This is the reason I was so incensed by the mislabeling of my novel, because there really isn’t anything in there to excite anyone, and because, like I said, it could be made into a Disney flick, just as the Jungle Book, Tarzan and John Carter were made into Disney flicks, all of which feature naked protagonists in their respective novels.