Dicks are still dirty, even if it’s art

Today I logged into my Smashwords account to check up on my ebook titles and see if they’d all been approved for listing in their premium catalog. When I did so, I found the following notice on my title “The Unbelievably True Story of the World’s Worst Sex“:

Some of our retailers are super-sensitive to nudity. Please consider uploading a new or censored image.

This is only the second time any of my erotica ebooks have been flagged for nudity, which is odd, because one has a straight-up naked ass on the cover, and that didn’t cause anyone to bat an eye, whereas the tits on “Acting the Part” had to be blocked with a black bar.

I’m a little puzzled by this one, though. Here’s the image in question:

In case you couldn’t tell, it’s a painting. It’s a Baroque painting, actually, by the Italian artist Guido Reni. The title is “Bacchus and Ariadne.” It was painted in 1621, when people apparently had no qualms about flaccid dicks just hanging out there for the sake of art. Especially in the case of a classical mythological character like Bacchus, the god of wine, women and revelry!

Odd how, in 2012, naked cocks are automatically deemed “offensive,” no matter what the context. I mean, first of all, it’s an erotica ebook. By definition, this title is about sex. If it offends you, why are you browsing this section at all? It’s not like you’re going to find a dissertation on quantum physics here, so get your mind into the gutter or don’t go down the drainpipe at all.

Secondly, does simply viewing a penis make one horny? Or does it assail one’s eyes? Sure, it’s a sexual organ, but if it’s not standing at attention, I think it’s safe to say it’s just another body part. Likewise for Ariadne’s exposed bosom. She’s not squeezing her nipples or making any sexual advances on Bacchus (who is, by the way, her husband). She’s just hanging out.

In fact, she looks kind of annoyed with him—as if she is maybe saying “Can’t even get it up for the ol’ ball and chain, can you?” That’s why I picked it for my ebook cover. She’s irritated with this guy, and it shows. Plus, he’s got a tiny penis, which fits the theme of my story perfectly.

So why is this offensive and in need of censorship? I thought this was a beautiful painting. And an ironic one, as you can clearly see a mere mortal giving a god the gears, which most humans can’t get away with (even in classical mythology). Reni also painted a really femme-y Archangel Michael, which I dig, and which may or may not have inspired the nipple-protruding breastplate on the Batman costume.

Just look at this shirtless wonder! Plus, I think Fabio is tweaking her nipple here... Highland Rogue indeed!

I think it’s really odd that Smashwords is suggesting retailers would take offense because of an erotic ebook cover that features a classical painting of two naked people hanging out. It’s art, after all, and I’ve seen plenty of oil paintings and pottery and sculptures depicting mythological scenes on the covers of books over the years, some of which even involve (gasp!) nudity, where people are just hanging out. None of those publishers argued about whether it was art or pornography; they just slapped it on their cover. Hell, this one’s not even depicting an orgy, for which ol’ Bacchus was famous!

So, yes, my cover involves nudity, but it’s not even half as steamy as the romance novel covers with Fabio on ’em (see just one example at right). And isn’t it, really, the suggestion of nudity, more than the nudity itself, that causes people to get all turned on?

I guess my ultimate question is: does my ebook’s cover offend you, and if so, why?

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