Trigger Warning: The Amazon Controversy And Why I’d Rather Talk To My Kids Than Boycott

amazonWhen I first heard about the pedophilia how-to book, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure by Philip R. Greaves, being sold as a self-published book on Amazon for Kindle, I was shocked. Horrified.

I kept thinking: It’s a guide on how to perpetuate abuse. How to hurt children and get a lighter sentence.

Seriously. Here’s the about the book blurb:

This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certain rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter [sic] sentences should they ever be caught.

Because I firmly believe that pedophilia is not about sex at all but about abuse and power. So I KNEW how I felt.

And then Amazon sent variations of this statement to several inquiries (I don’t know if it’s OFFICIAL though):

Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.

So then I started thinking. And here are my questions:

  1. Does Amazon sell the original Anarchist’s Cookbook? Because I want to be sure that censorship isn’t just being thrown around here, and when I searched Amazon’s site, I could only find an updated (read: less dangerous) version. What about a how-to book on blowing up the Pentagon? Would that be okay?
  2. If we (and by we, I mean the collective outpouring of #amazonfail and #boycottamazon going on in the Internets) are successful in getting this book pulled, what about Lolita? Because I haven’t read the how-to pedophilia book, but I have read Lolita and it’s not exactly an anti-pedophile book. Is fiction different? What about a pedophile’s auto-biography? Are we educated readers who can discern between filth and writing or do we need Amazon to do it for us? And should Amazon, the biggest online seller of books, do it for us?
  3. If the FBI can track downloads of this book (and my quite paranoid self believes they can), is it okay then? In fact, maybe it’s PURPOSEFULLY on there and we just ruined a sting op. All right, the last sentence is a bit far-fetched but after reading this post by someone who actually read the how-to book in question, it’s not a bad idea.

So there you have it. More questions. And I haven’t taken my Kindle ad down nor have I stopped being an Amazon affiliate yet. Although I chose to not link to Amazon at all in this post out of respect for those who are boycotting. (FYI: I have made no money on my Amazon affiliation and have considered removing it before this controversy. Not that it’s really the point of this post, but just so I don’t get accused (again) of having ulterior motives.)

I did take the opportunity to discuss my son’s private areas and why they are private.  And I have always encouraged my children to have autonomy over their bodies. If they don’t want to kiss or hug me or someone else, I don’t force or guilt-trip them into it.

I also give to our local domestic violence shelter and at various times have spoken out against ingrained cultural behaviors that condone and/or normalize sexualization of children and abusive situations.

I, of course, find the book appalling.  But I wonder: Is forcing Amazon to take it down really a solution? Or is this just another opportunity for us to pat ourselves on the back while doing nothing in our real lives to create safe places for our children?

Do we have more important work to do than take down some advertisements?

PS. These really are questions. If I had the answers, I would give them to you. More importantly, if you want help talking to your children about their bodies, here is one resource from the AAP. Or email me and I can talk to you about how we do it.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

57 thoughts to “Trigger Warning: The Amazon Controversy And Why I’d Rather Talk To My Kids Than Boycott”

  1. You are wise. This is so well said. I got fired up, tweeted about it, and about 10 minutes later was droning on to my husband about censorship, and how I never want to be that book-burning-loony-lady.

    I agree that the book is gross, and wrong, and completely despicable. I also agree that there’s more to be done than just sit in outrage.

    1. I was the same way. I just happened to talk to my husband BEFORE tweeting 🙂 And by the time I read about it, I felt uncomfortable that there was a mob-esque mentality on Twitter. And so much patting on the back. I don’t know. I still don’t know what to feel about it. Because I don’t want to normalize pedophilia which having the book so assessable does. But I’m so afraid of censorship. You’re honesty and reflection are admirable.

  2. VERY interesting view! Personally, I agree with your point of spending your time and energy teaching your children about their private areas and the importance of keeping them private as opposed to boycotting.

    1. Thank you. I like being interesting 😉

      But really do wonder how many moms thought: Look how I’m helping my child stay safe without realizing that a book isn’t the problem. In all likelihood, the person who would abuse their child is going to be know to them. (just writing that creeps me out btw).

      And even with the book gone I still see tweets about boycotting. I wonder why…

  3. I am sickened by the book. But, I think the best censor is ourselves. If no one bought it, it wouldn’t be sold.
    Your AAP link is great by the way. And whatever we do, boycotting Amazon or not, we must talk to our children so they are armed with knowledge.

    1. Yes, instead like hundreds of people bought it. And the author even made mention of starting a controversy to help with sales.

      I’m glad the AAP link helped. And yes you are so right here: “And whatever we do, boycotting Amazon or not, we must talk to our children so they are armed with knowledge.” I need to remember the point of this is not to stop the boycott.

  4. Excellent post, as usual.

    I think this pretty much sums it up for me: “[W]e do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.”

    For those who are freaking out, I say this: You can’t protect your child be attempting to root out every danger and strike it down for them. We as parents must teach our children to utilize their critical thinking ability effectively; to approach potentially dangerous or questionable situations cautiously (but not make them ridiculously paranoid!). That’s our job. Let’s keep our priorities straight (and realistic) shall we?

    1. I loved this and thought of it a lot: “You can’t protect your child be attempting to root out every danger and strike it down for them.”

      I wonder if part of the drive to boycott and uproar Twitter was an attempt to control what we cannot control. We can educate and hope — but life sometimes sucks. And our children will not always be safe. Bullies, abusers and accidents are out there. Maybe it helps parents to feel less powerless — removing a book? I dont know.

  5. Wait, this is actually a piece of published, written material? How come everyone knows about this but me? As horrendous and scary and offensive as this book sounds, I’d be curious to read the “reviews” of people who have actually read it. Crazy. And how about that Anarchists cookbook! Meth for everyone!

    1. Good luck actually finding a review from someone who has read it. As far as I can tell, Amazon’s review section for the book has been flooded with outraged posts from those who read the description and flipped out.

    2. So I’m sure that you’ve seen by now (I didn’t link directly too it because I didn’t want to support the author that way) — I’m sorry that I couldn’t reply sooner.

      There aren’t many reviews but excerpts are available on the internet.

      And I was surprised that the Anarchist’s cookbook was even ON amazon. However, it was clearly an updated version. What is in and what is out I don’t know… I wonder if the bomb making is still included?

  6. I agree I am grossed out at the idea of this kind of book for sell. But at the same time I don’t want to support censorship. So let the garbage be out there, but know I will not buy it. And like you said it is a good wake up call to make sure to have that conversation with your kids that their privates are privates. And that only mommy and daddy can touch, but if they feel uncomfortable to tell you. Also that doctors don’t touch them unless you are in the room. Worries me so much sometimes to think of all the things we need to protect our kids from.

    1. I felt exactly this: “I am grossed out at the idea of this kind of book for sell. But at the same time I don’t want to support censorship.”

      I worry sometimes to the point that it’s overwhelming. I hate eyeing other adults with suspicion. Because it takes other adults to help raise children. But the statistics of abuse are frightening too. I think education is the answer. Not paranoia. Because I want my child to maintain that innocent awe of the world as well. WHY IS IT SO COMPLICATED!?!?

  7. Thank you for putting into words what I have been trying to formulate in my mind all day.
    My knee jerk reaction to this morning wjen I saw posting on the book was to retweet the info and jump on the band wagon, and then I thought about everything I believe in and stand for. I firmly believe in freedom of speech and freedom of press. I as well firmly disagree with censorship of any kind because I believe that if we start letting other make or decisions we will lose the power to make decisions.
    I may or may not stop using amazon but that is yet to be decided.

    1. Thank you for commenting and for making me feel less alone in all these thoughts that were swirling around in my head as well. The urge to RT and the urge to stand up for books. I kept picturing the poster of banned books in my local library. But then I was like is this the same as literature. What makes a book a book and not garbage? Who decides? Are we allowed to write about illegal things? Who sells it? Does selling it normalize it?
      Out of curiosity: are you boycotting?

      1. My husband (a cop) and I have been having this discussion a lot. He feels that it should be illegal (because it is a how to) and I feel that if we start calling a “how to” illegal we are walking a precarious line that is about to infringe on my rights. The entire thing makes me think about The Handmaid’s Tale- Margaret Atwood ( I know the book is to the extreme but my mind naturally goes to the extreme) and if start to give away our power a little at a time, soon we will have no prower left to use for ourself.
        It also sends a bad message to big business and the government that we are not smart enough to censor ourselves and need them to make all of our decisions for us, and I’m just not ready for that either.
        I do believe it is our job as consumers and parents to censor ourselves and children but I do not want someone doing this for me!

        And to answer your question: No as un-hip as I am about to sound I am not going to boycott (i’m sure amazon will be thrilled to know seeing as how I bought all of 4 things from their site last year and they were used books through dealers. I’m big into instant gratification). I respect those that are but I just feel too strongly about my personal freedoms to boycott.

        1. I do not think that by selling a book on pedophilia, and more exactly male/boy pedophilia, is going to normalize it anymore than it is already normalized. There are many books already out there about the subject and some are even well know and loved classics take for instant Symposium- Plato. I think the thing that is truly the most important is education: education of your children, education of yourself, and education of the other people in your child’s life on what to look for (because it takes a community to raise a child). I also think that another way to protect your child is to helicopter parents because if you are with in eyesight of your children it greatly diminishes the risk.

          1. I think that the Handmaid’s Tale is a great example. Another commented talk about how any censorship has been historical bad for women. And I think it’s true. We are so good at shooting ourselves in the foot that way…

            And I see your point about how it doesn’t contribute to normalizing. Plus if that is the line we draw, so many other books must be pulled. Any book normalizing skinny is harmful right? I’d rather overreach and include some horrible books then under reach.

            I do tend to helicopter parent as well. Although I am a quiet helicopter in order to let my kids explore. Like a stealth military one. A Black Hawk perhaps?

            Thanks for your insight. I’m not boycotting either.

  8. Yep. Censorship is wrong and it’s opening a huge can of worms that can’t be shouted down by twitter. I have talked to my kids many times about their private parts and also about strangers. Removing a book won’t have nearly the same impact.

    1. I keep thinking now that the book is gone: what children have truly been helped?

      And I’m terrified of the censorship can of worms. Especially with so many other liberties being tossed aside in the last decade.

  9. appalling. disgusting. I just can’t even deal with it. cannot process knowing a book like this has been written, published, released. I disagree with censorship but.

    I went to a book signing tonight for Lissa Rankin’s book “What’s Up Down There.” and she has had trouble with her tour, with being able to say vagina on air. or euphemisms of vagina. we are censoring vaginas but not pedophilia? where is the disconnect?

    I would say that Lolita isn’t a novel about how to be a pedophile, but more a challenge to the reader. Nabokov weaves a tale in which you have to question yourself for enjoying it. He’s accusing the reader and making you question yourself. Lolita isn’t a book for pedophiles; it’s a book for regular people who find themselves in a disgusting world tenderly written. I may have written a huge paper on Lolita. Sorry.

    1. I had heard about Lissa Rankin’s problems with vagina and euphemisms. But I wonder if censoring the pedophilia book hurts her cause. They aren’t related in that one is such a healthy view of our bodies and one is an abusive and disgusting use of power, but are they related in that someone, somewhere won’t let people write certain things? Not that I’d want this guy to have a forum for his views (although all the controversy gave him just that) and I think that we are disconnected but who are these people who get to decide? What if they aren’t people we agree with?

      Anyway, maybe we need to write more about Lissa Rankin and other authors and less about this… hmm…

      And thank you for talking about lolita here and in the email that I forced you to write to help me understand better.

  10. I was shocked when I first heard about it, then thought, give it no press, no time, and it will go away!
    I also never guilt my kids into the hug or kiss to anyone, and coming from an Italian-Catholic background, that isn’t always easy! I really enjoy reading your blog! 🙂

    1. Thanks. It’s really hard I think for the generation before us to understand that we don’t make our kids kiss or hug… And the Italian-Catholic is probably a whole other level!

      And I think the press and time did cause a lot of problems. But maybe if people talked about education and abuse, it was worth it?

  11. My thoughts exactly. I was severely sexually abused from the age of 5 until high school and I was nonplussed with the amazon boycott outcries. I also think the book is awful and I understand where people are coming from, but I think that the outrage would be more productive if redirected into an effort to volunteer or donate to services for victims of abuse, treatment. Or even writing one’s congressional representative about mandatory minimums for pedophiles… you know, something to affect ACTUAL pedophilia. That stupid book doesn’t MAKE someone a pedophile, it won’t turn a perfectly sensible person into a child rapist. It’s just a stupid book. There are actual children who are actually raped every day who could use as much support in their struggle as this amazon boycott has received in the last 24 hours though.

    1. This: “There are actual children who are actually raped every day who could use as much support in their struggle as this amazon boycott has received in the last 24 hours though.”

      That is what haunts me about the entire issue. What are all those boycotter and RT-ers doing tonight to help?

  12. I agree with the idea of productive outrage. here’s the thing: productive outrage takes work. Hashtagging “boycottamazon” take 5 seconds. Having a conversation with your kids, educating yourself about trafficking and the porn industry and abuse–all that takes work. And it takes a strong stomach. And it makes you “that girl” who can ruin a cocktail party with passionate outcries against the companies and people who support this stuff. Or maybe that’s just me.

    1. Yes: productive outrage takes work. Hashtagging “boycottamazon” take 5 seconds.

      And the “strong stomach” part: Educating not creating fear. Honesty without paranoia. It takes so much effort and it’s so much easier to pretend it just won’t happen to my kids

  13. I don’t have much to say about the book on Amazon – only that the problem of pedophilia will not get worse or go away with the sale or non-sale of a book like that.

    Thank you though for mentioning the not guilting or forcing your children to hug or kiss you. I never thought about the effect that could have in other situations with non-parental adults or unknown adults. Also, thanks for the link because I often have wondered how my husband and I will go about the discussion of privates and abuse of them when our son is older.

    The information we share AGAINST pedophilia will be more powerful than the information pedophiles may share with each other – that’s my hope. It’s our counter-attack.

    1. This is my hope as well: “The information we share AGAINST pedophilia will be more powerful than the information pedophiles may share with each other”

      And I really appreciate your comment about the helpfulness of the link and listing some of the things we do. It really made me feel like this post mattered. Thank you.

  14. While it may be SIDS or choking for some parents, fear of vicitimization of my children in this way is what has practically filled my brain since they were in utero. I think my greatest fear is what it does not only to the child but to the adult for they can be lifelong wounds.

    We have worked on the private parts-stuff with Ezra and never force/hand him over to anyone he doesn’t feel like hugging or snuggling with. I hope that small measures like these prevent whatever is humanly preventable.

    1. It has been my great fear as well. (And drowning.)

      And I will not carry this sentence with me: “I hope that small measures like these prevent whatever is humanly preventable.”

      Because that is what we can do. Thank you for your eloquence.

  15. Interesting. I haven’t weighed in one this, but I was appalled by the book and am glad/relieved that it has been removed. I don’t think it deserves consumption (or the attention that has, unfortunately, been the result of the boycott).

    That said, I am not opposed to censorship. I think that there are certain things, ideals, true crimes, etc that need not be produced or consumed. Amazon sells a lot of white supremacy crap – how-to guides for the aryan nation. Does that disturb me? Hell, yes. Do I think they have a right to publish it and make it available to the public? No, not really. But, that is based on my ideals and what I believe is right.

    We don’t have ‘freedom of speech’ in Canada the same way you do in the the US, so I come with a different perspective. But, I do think there are things out there more important than someone’s right to say and right whatever the hell they want without fearing consequences.

    Also, Amazon censors porn.

    1. I guess my fear is that who guides the censorship? There are people who would sensor any mention of LBGT. Or if the Aryan Nation was running Amazon, all the Jewish books would be banned. So even though it seems so obvious to us what is or is not okay — I think that we’d have to be hired. And SOON!

      In the US, if the speech or writing leads to clear and eminent danger, it is not okay as far as I understand. But I’m not a lawyer or US constitutional scholar. And of course, we break our own rules constantly — especially in the last decade — so really what does anyone know what it means to have free speech?

  16. I have no answers either, but felt unsettled by the flurry of links back to this book. I also wrote about it. The book is gone… so yay, I think.
    More important to educate and empower our kids.

    1. I purposefully didn’t link back to it for that reason. It felt unhelpful.

      And the book is gone, but do you think people remembered to educated their kids? That’s what I worry about… This flash in the pan uproars.

  17. Sooo….ahem.

    I’m anti-book banning. But I don’t think, if I were a retailer, I could sell that book. Sure it’s hypocritical but it’s true.

    Just like I’m pro-choice but I don’t think that I, personally, could ever get an abortion. It’s just not in my make up.

    So, I can’t define pornography but I know it when I see it.

    1. Actually I think that this is one of the best arguments: “I’m anti-book banning. But I don’t think, if I were a retailer, I could sell that book.”

      Because Amazon choosing to carry the pedophilia book? Does that legitimize? Normalize it? Or as the biggest online book-seller are they obligated to carry everything they can in order to uphold the anti-book banning. Because if they don’t carry it, is it effective LIKE a ban?

  18. I’m curious about where the line is for amazon. Would “The Rapist’s Guide to Love and Pleasure” be acceptable, too? While they can argue their right to sell what they want, they also have the right NOT to sell certain things. I just placed an order with amazon before coming here, but I don’t feel the need to cancel the order. I do believe ‘active outrage’ is important. It’s just hard to know where the line is drawn by amazon or any other company. I’d love to see a list of what amazon does sell, like the Anarchist’s Cookbook but not something else.

    1. I just went to amazon to look at the listing for the book. It showed a link for it (but no picture of it). When I clicked on the link, it said:

      “We’re sorry. The Web address you entered is not a functioning page on our site”

    2. Thank you for the update. Sorry I wasn’t able to respond sooner. And to your original comment: they do pick in choose to some extent. They sell an updated version of the Anachrist’s Cookbook. They ban pornography.

      So I don’t know why this one was okayed. We are allowed to write about illegal activities. I think that if they decide not to sell something it’s a bigger deal than a local bookstore (unless that is the ONLY bookstore) because as the biggest online retailer is it effective like a ban? Or is selling it NORMALIZING it? But they sell lots of books that I think normalize things that are hurtful to people. But maybe not as hurtful as childhood abuse. Because few things are.

      I still feel unsettled by the event.

  19. A VERY good blog. I was totally unaware of this! I personally hope “they” (cops, gov., BIG BROTHER) uses this to hunt people down for doing this. Excuse me while I throw up. Anyway, I guess this would be cyber book banning perhaps? If I OWNED amazon, I wouldn’t allow people access to this. I guess amazon just has to decide if they truly want all books available or if they are going to try to be a moral compass. And then, where to draw the lines? Very good point. I thought about boycotting Amazon at first reading this and thought you had some great play out points. I also hardly ever buy a book or even use amazon. Instead, maybe praying for the soul that wrote this, that he won’t come in contact with children, that children across the nation would be saved from this, and that others will not purchase or read this book, but instead seek help. I am making a commitment to pray for protection over kids across the world every morning – human trafficking, pedophiles, all types of abuse. It makes my heart hurt.

  20. I spent a semester studying at the University of Amsterdam while in college. One of the classes I took was called Experiencing Differences. We actually had a member of the Pro Pedophilia Association speak to our class. Completely disturbing that such a group and book exists.

    1. Pro Pedophilia Association makes my jaw drop. And that it was a part of your class… I think that is actually what scared me about the book. That it normalizes something that should never be normalized. And having a group like that speak in a school does the same thing.

      Although I can’t say that they should be banned either.

  21. I commented over at Avitable’s sight, and I’ll say the same thing here. Don’t like the book? Don’t buy it. Censoring in any form is wrong. I agree that pedophillia is disgusting and wrong, but we have the right to write what we want. If they censor that book, then the next thing might be that it’s ok to censor gay pride parades, literature, etc.

    People could then say I only feel this way about gay rights because I’m gay. But really, what would be next? Where would it stop???

    1. This: “If they censor that book, then the next thing might be that it’s ok to censor gay pride parades, literature, etc.” is my fear too. I mean there are people who feel very strongly about how “wrong” lgbt is — who would even put it in the same category as the pedophilia book. (which is upsetting in and of itself)

      Who gets to be the censor? I feel like we’d only want to chose ourselves. And I don’t think Amazon is hiring.

      And it IS a slippery slope. Dangerous. Especially for any of us with less power (minorities, lgbt, women, etc)

  22. I think boycotting is a bit much, but I think it is poor taste of Amazon to still keep the book for sale. I don’t know if that is even legal and I don’t believe in censorship; so I can see how this may not make sense; but that books creeps me out. I still buy things from Amazon and still will, but I still think they should take it down.

    Talking with our children, as you said, is the most important thing, always. I think having a certain kind of ‘fear’ in the world is a good thing. Being armed with knowledge is always best. (Sorry I am rambling.)

    1. The book creeps me out too. And I am surprised that Amazon would’ve let it on it’s site in the first place. I don’t think of any big corporation as a bastion of civil liberties and freedoms. Maybe they backed themselves into this corner by an oversight? I don’t know.

      And I like your rambling. Feel free ANY time!

  23. I get myself in trouble all over the blogs for saying this, but here we go again:

    Censorship–ANY censorship–is historically BAD for women. It’s always, always a first step toward repression of women’s sexuality. AND–it’s almost always started by the women themselves. For the children, you see.

    If you don’t like a book, DON’T READ IT.

    There. I feel better.

    Censorship isn’t for the kids. Parents do that. Censorship only makes the parents feel better about how they don’t do that right.

    1. I completely agree. And as the moms got more and more adamant and afterwards more and more congratulatory, I thought: What have you done? Do we even understand what this means?

      And have any children who have been abused or are being abused really been helped? Does the books removal make a child safer? Or do we just feel better about ourselves?

      1. Exactly. Meanwhile, these same self-righteous self-congratulators are deploring the conviction and probable death sentence of that poor woman in Iran who dared to say something bad about the Prophet.

        And somehow, don’t see the connection.

  24. Gracious. I boycott all the time and I talk about why I boycott but I think I”m not even going to discuss this because it is too ridiculous, telling a kid how to enjoy…well, you know. I can hardly believe it. It’s right up there with what the Supreme Court did with Citizens United. What is the world coming to.

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