Indexing – The legal boundaries of erotic literature

Erotic literature has always been a controversial subject and its influence on society is debatable. From moral and ethical standards to legal implications, the publication and distribution of erotic literature walks a fine line worldwide. Different countries have their own laws and regulations governing the publication and distribution of erotic literature.

One such law is indexing. Some countries use indexing as a means of restricting the distribution of sexually explicit material. But what are the legal limits of indexing when it comes to erotic literature?

In most countries, censorship of literature is generally prohibited. However, the laws and regulations governing the publication of erotic literature vary from country to country.

The situation in the USA

In the U.S., books are banned from public discussion, advertising, and distribution to minors. These books are called “challenged books” by the American Library Association (ALA).

The ALA defines a challenged book as “a book that is challenged by an individual or group because of its content, language, or presentation.

According to the writers’ organization PEN America, a total of 2,571 books were removed from U.S. public school libraries in 2022. Of these, 1,109 books were banned by either proposed or enacted legislation or government regulations.

The reasons for banning these titles vary. In most cases, these are books that deal with topics such as sexuality, racism, discrimination, or religion. Books dealing with LGBTQ+ issues are also often targeted for banning.

In recent years, attempts to remove books from libraries have increased. This is largely due to the increasing polarization of society in the US. Conservative parents and politicians are trying to remove books that they find offensive or immoral.

Here are some examples of books that have been banned in the U.S. in recent years:

  • “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe: This book tells the story of the author’s gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This novel tells the story of a black teenager who witnesses the murder of a friend.
  • “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi: This nonfiction book examines the history of racism in the United States.

These books have all been deemed offensive or immoral by conservative parent groups or politicians.

Censorship in Germany

In Germany, erotic literature is indexed by the Bundespr├╝fstelle f├╝r Jugendmedien (BPjM). The BPjM is an independent agency established by the federal government. The BPjM may place an index on a work if it believes that the work is likely to morally endanger children or young people.

An indexed work may not be passed on to minors. Nor may it be publicly exhibited or advertised. Anyone who distributes an indexed work to minors may be fined or imprisoned for up to three years.

The number of indexed works in Germany has decreased in recent years. In 2022, only 15 works were indexed. In the past, during the sexual revolution of the 1970s, more than 1,000 works were indexed each year. In the 1980s, there were as many as 100 indexed works per year.

There are many reasons why erotica is indexed. Generally, works that are considered harmful to minors are indexed. These are works that could affect their development into mature and socially responsible people. For example, the distribution of pornography that depicts the sexual abuse of children is prohibited. Works that glorify violence, promote criminal activities, or encourage other immoral acts may also be indexed.

Recently, more and more works have been indexed because of their racist or sexist content. This is of increasing concern to the literary community as it infringes on the freedom of expression of writers.

However, the list of indexed titles cannot be viewed in Germany because of fears that it could be misused as a recommendation list. Since these titles are not allowed to be advertised publicly, even used bookstores that have included these books in their online catalogues often only find out about the indexing when they receive a letter from a lawyer.

Censorship in the Islamic World

In many Islamic countries, censorship of sexually explicit literature is mandated by law or informally.

The reasons for censoring erotic literature in the Islamic world are many. First and foremost, sexuality is a taboo subject in many Islamic countries. Sexual content is often considered offensive or immoral.

In addition, censorship of erotic literature is also used as a means of controlling sexual morality in society. In many Islamic countries, governments try to prevent the spread of pornography and other forms of sexual imagery in order to protect the traditional values of society.

The way in which erotic literature is censored in the Islamic world varies. In some countries, there are legal regulations that prohibit the distribution of pornography. In other countries, censorship is carried out informally by the authorities or religious institutions.

Here are some examples of censorship of erotic books in the Islamic world:

  • In Saudi Arabia, the distribution of pornography is prohibited. Those who distribute pornography can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years.
  • In Iran, the distribution of pornography is also prohibited. Anyone who distributes pornography can be fined or imprisoned for up to two years.
  • In Turkey, the distribution of pornography is not prohibited, but it is often censored by the authorities or religious institutions.

In some Islamic countries, censorship of erotic literature has been relaxed in recent years. In Morocco, for example, a law was passed in 2022 that decriminalized the distribution of pornography.

Nevertheless, the censorship of erotic literature is still a widespread phenomenon in the Islamic world.

Censorship and authorship

Writing erotic literature is an art that must convey sensuality and at the same time explore taboo topics in society. Censorship regulations make it even more difficult as they restrict the creative freedom of authors. The indexing of certain topics often leads to massive censorship, and authors avoid writing about these topics for fear of their work being banned or getting into legal trouble. Paradoxically, this censorship sparks interest in such works, and authors may want to use this to their advantage by writing around such taboos.

On the other hand, some authors perceive the censorship of their works as an attack on their right to freedom of expression. They may deliberately use taboo subjects to challenge censorship regulations and draw attention to the fact that the restriction of artistic freedom violates their constitutional rights. However, this carries a significant risk as publishers shy away from such titles, making it difficult to distribute quality texts that deal with such controversial topics.

If publishers refuse to publish controversial titles, authors can turn to self-publishing. Self-publishing allows authors to circumvent censorship regulations and publish their work despite the restrictions of traditional distribution channels. However, the appeal to the wider market can be limited due to the smaller readership and the lack of guarantee of media coverage or professional editing.

Writing erotic literature is a delicate balance between artistic freedom and social regulation. Authors must select their subject matter carefully, ensuring that their work is both creative and socially appropriate. While censorship may limit the scope of the subject matter, it’s not always necessary to avoid controversial themes. Instead, authors may choose to approach the subject matter differently, addressing the issues creatively. Though there may be a danger of publishers avoiding problematic titles, there are now alternative methods like self-publishing. Finally, while the marketing strategy of banned books can increase public awareness, authors should be cautious of any potential consequences and be true to their creative vision. At the end of the day, writing should be an authentic expression of creativity, and authors must do what they feel is right, regardless of external pressures.

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