Amazon’s “adult materials” policy (I didn’t even know they had one) is thus:

“In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature. –”

Which is annoying nanny-state garbage that disinclines me to use their site, but fine. However, it seems that some patrons of Amazon have noticed differences in the way this policy is applied, and that it tends to classify many books with gay and lesbian themes that aren’t necessarily explicit as “adult”, while keeping many heterosexual explicit works in the public eye…including a graphic novel:

We would like to hear the rationalisation for allowing sales ratings for explicit books with a heterosexual focus such as:

–Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds by Chronicle Books (pictures of over 600 naked women)
–Rosemary Rogers’ Sweet Savage Love” (explicit heterosexual romance);
–Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Wolf and the Dove (explicit heterosexual romance);
–Bertrice Smal’s Skye o’Malley which are all explicit heterosexual romances
–and Alan Moore’s Lost Girls (which is a very explicit sexual graphic novel)

Yet the following books, which have a gay or lesbian focus, have been classed as “adult books” and stripped of their sales ratings:

–Radclyffe Hill’s classic novel about lesbians in Victorian times, The Well of Loneliness, and which contains not one sentence of sexual description;
–Mark R Probst’s YA novel The Filly about a young man in the wild West discovering that he’s gay (gay romance, no sex);
–Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons in Love (gay romance with no sex);
–The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience, edited by Louis-George Tin (non-fiction, history and social issues);
–and Homophobia: A History by Bryan Fone (non-fiction, focus on history and the forms prejudice against homosexuality has taken over the years).

Please tell us, Amazon, why the explicit books with a heterosexual focus are allowed to keep their sales ratings while the non-explicit romances, the histories and the biographies that deal with LGBTQ issues are not. - Petition against Amazon’s policy

I like Lost Girls as much as the next guy, but how is that not an “adult” work when a non-fiction history of Homophobia is? Maybe it’d classify if adult if someone told Amazon about all the hot lady-on-lady or man-on-man action?

This is pretty gross. I realize the world is filled opportunity for outrage these days, but if you could muster some against a policy which will very, very likely be changed with enough attention, I’d appreciate it. Head over to:

and sign up.

EDIT: If you’re looking for more on this story, Jezebel has a great write-up, more examples of books stripped of their standing, and what it all means. Check it out at:

- Christopher

21 Comments on “#amazonfail – Exposes bias against gay and lesbian books”

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  1. Samtagious! » #AmazonFAIL - ONLY in USA! says:

    [...] Feministe, Metafilter, Reluctant Habits, Comics212, Alex Beecroft and many many more. Do a Google search for #amazonfail or better still – try a [...]

  2. Susanna says:

    Oh yeah, this is one policy that’s gonna HAVE to be reevaluated…after they get some well-deserved razzing, of course. Friggin’ hypocrites.

  3. James says:

    Stephen Fry .. Very Gay books …. Searchable or not?

  4. Brandon says:

    First of all your use of the term “nanny-state” is completely wrong. Nanny-state refers to what the government is doing NOT a private entity. Secondly, a private company has every right to do things in order to appeal to its core consumer group–that isn’t bias it’s business. Finally, all of that said, I would agree that if they are going to ban some items because of the moral implications–then they should apply that criteria to everything.

  5. Clare says:

    Have you watched the movie about the film rating? You can show a girl go down a a guy as long as nothing really shows, but not a guy go down on a guy. Even some language that insinuates homosexual behavior can cause a higher rating that if it’s straight sex. It makes me furious.

  6. Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment » Amazon blames ‘glitch’ for delisted gay and lesbian themed books says:

    [...] retailer Chris Butcher notes several books that are still being included in Amazon’s rankings and searches, including [...]

  7. // popular today says: // popular today…

    story has entered the popular today section on…

  8. StephanieInCA says:

    In addition to the obvious homophobia of Amazon’s actions, I’m concerned about what this means for the future of digital censorship:

  9. Scotsman says:

    Are these policies worldwide, or are they only applied by Amazon in some countries? Not that it is any better one way or the other! Just want to check before starting to hassle politicians in Scotland, and my party for having a tie-up with Amazon to boost funds when we buy books there.

  10. Fiona says:

    *shakes head*

  11. Amazon deforests « Precocious Curmudgeon says:

    [...] Christopher Butcher points to this comprehensive post at Jezebel. Comments [...]

  12. Chris Williams says:

    I certainly feel the pain of some of my friends who have been delisted. Amazon is an 800 pound gorilla and these authors rely on Amazon for a big bulk of sales. But at the same time, I can’t help but have a sense of schadenfreude for those who are suddenly upset at Amazon after using them as their sole online shopping spot for books.

    I hope this gives consumers pause before they run out (I mean hop online) to buy their favorite gay author’s novel from Amazon. There are many local book stores who not only PROUDLY carry these books, they even sell them online or over the phone.

  13. Torsten Adair says:

    “Amazon Says Glitch to Blame for “New” Adult Policy”

    First “King Kong”, now “Brokeback Mountain”… how does Amazon experience this, but not other book websites?

  14. Kuriousity » Blog Archive » AmazonFail, Discriminates Against GLBT Content says:

    [...] Is Amazon Removing The Sales Ranking From Gay-Lesbian Books? Amazon Follies Comics212: AmazonFail, Exposes Bias Against Gay and Lesbian Books Icarus Comics: This Can’t End Well… Amazon Unranks GLBT, “adult” books GGYMeta: Amazon, [...]

  15. The #amazonfail « Nurseandlawyer’s Blog says:

    [...] of smart, well-read blogs can give you the background, here, or here, or here.  The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students is stripped, and the Playboy book of [...]

  16. Jason says:

    The best way to combat this type of monopolistic censorship is to shop elsewhere. I buy at and other independent booksellers because I feel more confident my money’s not going to support the family values crowd. and Jeff Bezos is a well-documented supporter of the politicians who pander to them. Censorship of any king is insidious, and this under-the radar kind of thing is just plain creepy. Good thing is that someone noticed and now a lot of people are paying attention. But I say it again. You have a choice. Shop elsewhere.

  17. Amazon removes GLBT books from search, books back in online store « Blogging Censorship says:

    [...] Amazon removes GLBT books from search, books back in online store By Blog of the National Coalition Against Censorship The twittersphere has been, well, a-twitter (sorry!) about a story this weekend of Amazon pulling media with GLBT content from it’s sales ranking. Search #amazonfail to have a look. The excuse? The books were “adult” materials. However, it became quickly clear that it was GLBT content that was defining “adultness,” rather than the potential age-appropriateness of the content. [...]

  18. Jay says:

    They were hacked, apparently.

  19. #AmazonFail : Why Did Delist Gay, Lesbian Books? « WiredPen says:

    [...] exposes bias against gay and lesbian books [...]

  20. Rose says:

    This may be on another post I missed, but I think it is important to note that books on sexuality/sex related to the disabled (like “The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability”) were also deleted.

  21. AmazonFail, Discriminates Against GLBT Content | Tokyovation says:

    [...] Is Amazon Removing The Sales Ranking From Gay-Lesbian Books? Amazon Follies Comics212: AmazonFail, Exposes Bias Against Gay and Lesbian Books Icarus Comics: This Can’t End Well… Amazon Unranks GLBT, “adult” books GGYMeta: Amazon, [...]

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