Following mounting public protests, a self-published book advocating adult-child sex is no longer available for sale on Amazon.
The book, "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct" by Philip R. Greaves II, includes graphic "first person" descriptions of a child's sexual encounters with an adult, "presented as an adult's recollection of his youthful experience," as well as advice to pedophiles afraid of becoming the center of retaliation. The electronic book, which is not illustrated, was available for $4.79 from Amazon.com's Kindle e-reader.
Amazon had initially defended the sale of the book, issuing a public statement that said, "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."
It is not clear if the e-book was removed from the Kindle store by Amazon or the self-publisher. The link to the original "Pedophile's Guide" sale page now returns an error message. Amazon did not immediately respond Thursday to msnbc.com's requests for more information. Adding to the mystery is today's discovery "Our Gardens of Flesh: From the Seeds of Lust Springs the Harvest of Love," another sexually-graphic e-book by the same author, also $4.79, briefly available on the site. The link went dead not long after 6 p.m. ET.
Speaking in a "TODAY" show segment about the "Pedophile's Guide" before it was removed from the site, Greaves said protesters "are free to think whatever they want to think about the book."
"Every time you see (pedophiles) on television, they are either murderers, rapists or kidnappers," he said as reason for writing and publishing the book. And you know, that's just not an accurate presentation of that particular sexuality."
Msnbc.com purchased the "Pedophile's Guide" for purpose of review before it was removed from the site. Greaves' self-published work contains six academically titled chapters in which the author attempts to add cultural context and express sympathy's for his intended audience's cultural plight.
Also included in the e-book are tips for "safe sex" with a child, as well as an emphasis on self-gratification using legal material such as teen magazines. To that end, the two sexually graphic stories "presented as an adult's recollection of his youthful experience" could be interpreted as thinly veiled examples of pedophilic-themed erotica.
Excerpts from "Our Gardens of Flesh" posted on Gawkerreveal text equally graphic and disturbing as that of "Pedophile's Guide."
"Besides an extended defense of pedophilia, (the author) includes a long account of one adolescent boy's sexual encounter with an adult ice-cream man," writes Gawker's Max Read. "The whole book functions as a kind of manifesto, a theory of sexuality and a creepy declaration of principles."
Similarly-themed written erotica, whether couched as fantasy or "an adult's recollection," is readily available on the Internet. When such content does not include imagery, it walks a thin, complicated line in the United States. Federal law defines child pornography as a visual depiction of minor engaging in obscene behavior. Unlike countries such as Canada and Australia, the U.S. does not specifically ban written child pornography.
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"You've got issues with respect to fantasy and imagination, and those are core First Amendment issues," pointed out Frederick S. Lane, attorney and author of several books, including "American Privacy: The 400-Year History of Our Most Contested Right."
"On the other hand, child pornography is a real harm to real children," Lane said in a telephone interview. "It's such a thin line to protect kids and prevent harm to them without trampling the First Amendment."
In 2002, Amazon.com cited the First Amendment as justification for offering another book that advocates adult-child sex, "Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers," by David L. Riegel. (The paperback book is still available on the site.)
At that time, Amazon stated, "Our goal is to support freedom of expression and to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any title they might be seeking."
On the slim-to-none chance such content was deemed "obscene" by a jury of 12 individuals, Amazon would be held accountable. That the e-commerce site now allows self-publishing, that opened the doors for "Pedophile's Guide," increases the risk — but not by much. Given the prevalence of such content on the Internet, combined with historical precedent, prosecuters rarely bring obscenity charges to trial, Lane said.
As it stands, Amazon is a private company and has the right to sell whatever it wants as long as it's legal, and as such, offers books that cater to Holocaust deniers and hate groups, as well as graphic dogfighting and cockfighting videos.
Adult (legal) pornography, while available in book and magazine form, is not permitted in the Kindle e-reader store. This is possibly because of its iTunes partnership with the notoriously porn-free Apple which removed both "Ulysses" and the "Kama Sutra" from its own book store. The Kindle connection may be a reason the "Pedophile's Guide" disappeared from the site, though neither Apple or Amazon have commented.
For whatever reason "Pedophile's Guide" was removed, Amazon's stand to offer the "broadest selection possible" may falter as did the protested policies of two other e-commerce giants, eBay and Craigslist.
In 2001, eBay caved to public ire and changed its policy to disallow the sale of Nazi memorabilia through its site worldwide. Previously, the ban only applied for eBay users in Germany, where the sale of Nazi-related items is against the law.
Earlier this year, Craigslist made several unpopular attempts at compromise before it bent to the will of vocal customers, human rights activists and politicians and completely eliminated the site's Adult Services section.
As with those two entities, the potential for damage isn't so much in a court of law as it is "the courtroom of the commons," Lane said. "It's a public judgement of what the public thinks about what Amazon should or should not sell. And Amazon does care about the next million people who join the 'Boycott Amazon' page on Facebook."
Indeed, there are nearly 12,000 members currently on the most popular "Boycott Amazon," though there are more than 20 new groups on Facebook with the same idea. True, wall posts in the most active group reveal a strong troll element attempting to agitate protesters. But among those jokesters using the Internet character meme "Pedobear" as avatars, there is also a growing contingent who may do damage to the online marketplace behemoth right before the holidays.
"I normally do my Christmas shopping on Amazon," writes one poster. "That will not be happening this year and I am not using my Amazon credit card either. I just activated an other charge card to do my holiday shopping with :) I will not deal with Amazon until they remove ALL their disgusting books condoning pedophilia."
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