There are some books so hideous, they can only hit the market as self-published. That was the case for Phillip R. Greaves’ The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child Lover’s Code of Conduct, which flooded retail giant Amazon.com with angry criticism and boycott threats for promoting it as an electronic book for Kindle. As a general policy, Amazon allows unknown writers to self-publish with the site and then share the revenue, but now, people are starting to wonder what procedures, if any, has Amazon set to monitor what books are tied to the website.
The ebook, controversial and grammatically incorrect throughout, became available from Amazon for $4.95 on October 28, where it only sold one copy until several days ago. It didn’t start garnering attention until Techcrunch posted news of it yesterday, and the book’s 3000+ sales shot its Kindle store ranking from 158,221 to 146, “an increase of over 101,000% in less than a day,” notes Gawker’s Adrien Chen, “selling like it was just announced as an Oprah Book Club selection.”
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“To tell you the truth,” the book’s author told reporters, “I don’t think it’s always bad for the child. But I do think it’s always confining for the adult because there are just so many more things that adults can enjoy with each other that they can enjoy with a child without hurting the child.”
The more you know, the worse it is
Almost too absurd to be true, the title initially evokes a knee-jerk reaction from most people. And yet the more you read about it, the worse it sounds. In a phone interview with CNN on Wednesday, Phillip Greaves said he wrote the book to address what he sees as unfair treatment of pedophiles in mainstream media, stating that the word literally means “to love a child” and that “true pedophiles love children and would never hurt them.” He told media outlets on Wednesday, “Every time you see them on television, they’re either murderers, rapists or kidnappers, and, you know, that’s just not an accurate presentation of that particular sexuality, it’s not.”
It should be noted here that Greaves is a 47-year-old self-described “manic depressive” from Pueblo, Colorado.
In his sloppy philosophical, maybe spiritual, defense of pedophilia, Greaves wrote:
“Do not imagine that you have been given a mere code of ethics. Instead consider that the nectar of love has been given from the hand of compassion and grace. To this the eye of truth and fairness doth witness. Ponder upon this, O people of vision.”
Compared to the Holocaust
He compares the plight of the pedophiles with the plight of the Jews during World War II and believes that pedophilia is only a crime when it includes action upon sexual impulses toward children. He further describes the book as an
“attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles… 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 lighter sentences should they ever be caught.”
When CNN asked on what rules he advises, Greaves answered, “Penetration is out. You can’t do that with a child, but kissing and fondling I don’t think is that big of a problem.”
While the book doesn’t point out where child predators can go to pick up underage sex slaves, it does contain disturbing instructions on how to use rubber gloves as condoms for little boys and advises pinning up photos of clothed children (he acknowledges that nude photos can get a person arrested) as masturbation material, and to include any photos of children a pedophile has been with in his/her past in fantasies. “I’m saying, if you’re going to be in this situation handle it this way because this way is less traumatizing to the child than what could’ve occurred otherwise without using those principles,” argued Grieves. Or there is this bit of so-called statistical and geographic logic:
“As long as both partners have passed the age or majority, there is no question of pedophilia. So, a ninety-year-old is not a pedophile if its partner is thirteen and they both live in New Mexico.”
“The child’s pleasure and happiness come first,” Greaves says. “The child should never be asked to do anything that would be stressful to it.” When asked by ABC News about his “code of conduct,” he replied, “I’m not saying I want them around children; I’m saying if they’re there that’s how I want them to behavior.”
Spoken like a man with no psychological training who relegates children to the depersonalized pronoun of “it.”
His own behavior?
When CNN asked Greaves about his own sexual misconduct with children, he told them that he has not had any as an adult, even though he “could have.” He stated that while the book is written from an adult perspective, it’s not spoken from personal experience. When asked what makes him an expert on the subject, he answered, “projection.” He also told CNN that he “was introduced to oral sex when I was seven” by a ten-year-old girl, and then continued to engage in sexual activity with other kids until he was fifteen, and “everybody involved enjoyed it,” but “my father put the fear of God in me to stop. Most of the children I was with were younger than me at the time.”
According to his Amazon bio, Greaves calls himself “a rogue scholar with respect to the topics of religion, sexuality, and politics.” He claims to have joined the Christian Cult of the Way Ministry, then converted to the Baha’i faith at the age of 18. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, and eight years later, “he embraced the view of rational disbelief.” He is also a fan of Aristotle and Ayn Rand’s Objectivism.
Even though Greaves has never been arrested, mental troubles “came to a head about three years ago” when he suffered a mental collapse while working as a nurse’s aide. He was hospitalized for nine months, and then institutionalized in a state mental facility. When he got out, he decided to recommit himself to writing, which he says he started in eighth grade.
The Pedophilia’s Guide to Love and Pleasure is the first byproduct of that commitment. Given his past, one can’t help but wonder if the book is a result of Stockholm Syndrome, his use of it designed to legitimize or even justify sexual misconduct that was committed against him during his childhood. Greaves now has several other books up on Amazon, posted during the month of October.
At first, Amazon refused to pull the book, stating that it “believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable,” which is often a politically correct cop-out to avoid liability. In an email to one protester, the website wrote that it “does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts; we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.” So why not take a stand against this type of material and let people make their purchasing decisions about it elsewhere? Refusing to carry the book doesn’t equal censorship. That’s almost like accusing Massachusetts of censorship because the state doesn’t elect Republicans to Congress.
Under Amazon’s Digital Text Platform Program, certain guidelines are set up, one of which expects writers and self-publishers to make sure that what they put up complies with all local, state, national, and international laws. Yet, as Business Insider pointed out, the site offers plenty of Holocaust denial books, which are illegal in many countries other than the United States.
They offer a link to report inappropriate content, but it has to fall under one of two categories: “contains pornographic content” and “violates the Amazon Kindle terms of service,” both of which are technically not applicable to The Pedophiles Guide to Love and Pleasure. Amazon does have guidelines that ban certain materials, they say, but refused to elaborate, saying, “what we deem offensive is probably what you would expect.”
Judging from this reaction, I’m really not so sure. Especially because pornography and “titles which may lead to… illegal activity” are listed in the guidelines as grounds for pulling a book from the site. Why is Amazon waddling around like a lame duck with this book? The First Amendment protects obscene words, but not obscene imagery, and since the book doesn’t have any illustrations, it rests in a grey area of whether or not it can be legally upheld as obscene.
According to Anthony Zenkus of the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect, one of the most troubling aspects of this story is that what’s getting promoted is a piece of writing that oversimplifies the effects of child sexual assault, under the guise of the assumption that pedophiles don’t always hurt their victims, but rather “are always putting the juveniles pleasure and happiness first.” Zenkus explains, “Whether or not the act is physically harmful for a child, it’s psychologically and socially harmful for a child.”
Reviewer and customer uproar
Over 2,000 reviewers commented on the book, and most threatened a civil embargo against Amazon until its title is removed. Petitions are circulating online. At least two Facebook pages are dedicated to the boycott cause. The most common tag used by reviewers was “offensive,” closely followed by “disgusting.” There’s also a “boycott amazon” tag, which puts the book in a group of about 30 others on topics ranging from dog fighting to Scientology. Child online-safety advocacy group Enough is Enough says that “selling the book lends the impression that child abuse is normal.”
“Amazon is like the local library; it’s become that in our Internet world,” said American Humane Association CEO Dale Austin. “This is available to anyone and everyone, and that’s of grave concern.”
Conspiracy theories are already bouncing around, calling the book a publicity stunt, a hoax, even an FBI sting. One user wrote: “People… Relax… This book is obviously promoted by Amazon per request of FBI in order to track down and catch pedophiles. This book is obviously a bait for the sickos that are lurking around out there trying to prey on our children.”
When asked by ABC News about the outcries, Greaves replied, “I can see where they would come to that kind of conclusion and to a certain extent I wanted that kind of notoriety to effect the book… I wanted it to effect sales.”
Amazon finally gave in to the public outcry and pulled the book from its website late Wednesday.
Money and sales always talk louder than the ethics of free and constructive speech.
More to the issue
But Amazon’s promotion, and then pulling, of The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure runs deeper than questioning the company’s self-publishing procedures. While many are calling for the book’s removal, others are defending its sale under the First Amendment. There is now a “Why Amazon is Right” discussion on the page where users have been debating the constitutional implications of promoting versus pulling the book. One reviewer wrote: “While I deplore the agenda of this book, I defend the author’s tight to say what he wants and the readers’ rights to read what they wish as long as it doesn’t escalate into something more than speech.”
Another user wrote
“While I think 99.9 percent of us object to pedophilia (even though I think this particular book was a publicity stunt/joke), I think we can all agree that we don’t want someone else censoring a subject matter that we may be interested in. Religion, atheism, homosexuality, etc. are some subjects that spring to mind… and they have been censored in the past until we realized that it’s best to let all information (even if we don’t like some of it), rather than allow some authority or individual decide what we can and can’t know about based on their own opinions or motivations.”
If the book weren’t a guide to getting away with felony behavior, then yes, but the difference is this: religion, atheism and homosexuality are not illegal; sexual misconduct with a child is. Yet, like the 2002 controversy surrounding Amazon’s sale of David L. Riegel’s Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers, this book describes pedophilia, but it does not necessarily, under legal terms, instruct it. In 2009, Amazon once again came under fire and subsequently stopped selling the first-person video game RapeLay, which depicts the protagonist stalking and then raping a mother and her daughters.
Unfortunately, says Wired Safety executive director Parry Aftab, pulling the book will only generate more attention around it. “There are better ways of dealing with this issue than having Amazon not sell it,” she says, “The more noise that people make about it, the more people will buy it.”
In other words, there’s no such thing as bad press.
A spotty history
Yet, as the LA Times notes, “Amazon has not always been such a careful supporter of controversial content on its site,” citing an outcry in April 2009 when hundreds of books with adult or gay-themed content disappeared from the site’s search results, including Becoming a Man by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award. Amazon blamed a “glitch” for the massive de-listing. One can wonder what they will blame for their current massive de-friending.
“The irony,” wrote BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, “is that it’s the web which has made so visible an obscure book which might years ago have passed around furtively among a few dozen men in some American city.” He raises the fact that Amazon, like other online giants, has insisted that it not be viewed as a media firm (and hence not responsible for its site content), but as a tech business that’s shaped by user’s desires. “Now it’s the web and its global community of users which may force Amazon to change its mind about censorship.”
Just over six weeks before Christmas, it’ll be interesting to see how this book will affect Amazon’s holiday sales this year. Then again, the site is still taking pre-orders for the hardcover version of I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, in Five Easy Lessons by Luca Rastello.
Whether Amazon agrees with this book or not, they still profit from its sales. Amazon, way to go. How do you like them johns?
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