Why? Well, as you'd expect by now, there's a bit of an issue involving the author posting the following:
*REAPERS is a 21,000 word/72 page mixed genre paranormal novella (1-2 hours reading time) in the following categories: Erotica/horror with an undertone of romance.
**WARNING- possible objectionable material: This book is intended for an adult audience and contains marginal consent, RAPE, multiple partners, forced breeding, vampire sex, and oral play.
** **A note from the author: the above cautionary qualifier is in place (as it has been from the beginning), so that readers may make an educated choice prior to the download of this erotic story. After receiving twelve, one-star reviews in which the reader chose a story that did not suit their taste, I elected to bold the key wording above. Further: TDB novella series is an erotic-driven romance. This means that the sexual context of the story is primary and the romance is secondary. In subsequent installments, romance is flavored a little more strongly but does not overtake the erotic element. This is the first installment and is not a "stand-alone" as such. Thank you.
Update: Reviewers who post a one-star rating for content they've been warned about, have only one review (for this work) and whom are not verified purchasers of said work are suspect.
Needless to say, if the term "badly behaving author" isn't being bandied about now, it's only a matter of time. All I'm going to say about this is that it's entirely possible for someone to leave a review without a "verified purchase" point. It's optional and not everyone likes using it. It's also available on Barnes & Nobles, and there are some that like posting reviews on multiple sites or specifically on Amazon because it's more visible. Specifically saying that a review is suspect for this is sort of bad business because while it is slightly suspicious, you could say the same for the reviewers that gave positive reviews to this book and other books by indie authors. Especially since not all of the positive reviews have the "verified" label on them either. That label is no guarantee of the review being genuine. There's also some drama over someone going into various reviews and commenting.
Now here's where it gets interesting. Does a book deserve a lower rating for having content the reader finds controversial? Yes and no. In the end it boils down to whether or not the reader likes the story and when you write erotica with predominant rape themes, you're going to get criticism. ESPECIALLY if you publish in any format where it's accessible by the general public. After posting some content warnings, readers should expect to see rape portrayed in an overly glamorized and romanticized manner. However that doesn't mean that they can't comment on the way the story is written, whether or not it's believable for the main part, yadda yadda. If they went into it expecting to dislike it due to the rape themes, they need to be honest about that in the review and use it as a disclaimer at the top. There's no shame in getting a book due to hype, whether negative or positive. It's how I discovered Fifty Shades of Grey, the book everyone loves to hate or hates to love. You just need to be honest about what your mindset was going into it because that very much plays a part in how you perceive the book.
Rape erotica does exist, obviously, but I do need to stipulate that while it endorses it within the bounds of the story, most authors and readers do not endorse it in real life. It's akin to how you can have people that enjoy watching things like "Faces of Death" or play violent video games, yet wouldn't harm a fly. This isn't always the case, but I need to stress that these are are not the norm.
So other than the idea of a blossoming potential author drama, this brings up a more interesting question and something that really should be more of a topic for discussion than whether the author should or shouldn't have commented at all on the negative reviews. Why is it that people like reading rape literature or indulging in rape fantasies in general?
One answer is obviously that it is a form of escapist literature. An article for Psychology Today states that many women feel that it allows them to go into fantasies and actions that they wouldn't otherwise have liked. It also plays into the idea that the woman in the fiction or the woman in the roleplaying is such a hottie that the guy can't help them self. There are other reasons, but ultimately they fall along similar themes to where the women feel like they're entertaining ideas that they wouldn't otherwise have.
But this brings up the idea of whether or not it's healthy. There are different levels of fantasies involving rape or force. Some involve a token amount of protest before pretenses are completely thrown to the wayside in favor of completely consensual sex. Others continue the roleplaying until it's completely over.
I honestly don't know what to think about the idea of rape as erotica. On one hand I find it disgusting because I don't understand how anyone can romanticize rape. It's disturbing to me and I can understand why so many people are having such a strong reaction against the book and against the idea of anyone conceivably enjoying any rape erotica or rape play. Then again, another part of me keeps reminding me that liking such things does not mean that they actually condone the actual act of rape. After all, the fictionalized portrayals of rape are usually so overly glamorized to where they rarely resemble the actual act. While I've not set out to read rape erotica, anyone that reads online erotica as a whole will inevitably come across it in some format. Most of what I've read, which admittedly isn't much, is about as accurate a portrayal of traditional rape as "Debbie Does Dallas" is an accurate portrayal of the cheerleading profession. I want to stress traditional rape, as rape isn't limited to the traditional perception of such an encounter. Rape can happen in so many different formats, such as one person using something to get a consent they otherwise wouldn't have gotten (usually drug or alcohol related). For some rape lit might bring up shades of rape that they or someone they have known has gone through. Rape isn't just "pin her down and take her while she's screaming no", after all.
In the end this is a rather grey area that isn't easily solved by saying "don't read" or "you should expect this". Anyone writing in the rape erotica genre and publishing it in any mainstream format should expect a backlash. You might write something that is perceived as being well written (as in the case of the Marquis de Sade). You might write something that has a huge following. But as soon as it's out there in the mainstream, you're going to get flak for it. Look at the reaction to FSOG, where the sex is entirely consensual. If people are going to talk about a little slap and tickle in their erotica, they're going to talk about it when you're portraying outright rape. It's the responsibility of the author to understand that there will always be people complaining about this sort of literature based upon its content. Then again, as readers we need to try to approach the situation and any reviews about this genre with extreme caution and diplomacy. After all, this is a situation that isn't easy to paint in black and white. It's really hard for me to type out anything that provides an argument in defense of rape lit, as I find it morally disgusting, but I feel that outright condemning it without at least trying to discuss it in some depth isn't really explaining either side.
The only thing I can say without hesitation in this scenario is that Eros should have clearly marked the book with a disclaimer from the start. It would have circumvented a lot of the controversy over this book, which pretty much all started from people picking up the book without knowing it was rape erotica. After that point? It becomes a little harder to pick sides as to whether rape erotica is right or wrong since it ultimately boils down to individual cases.
I do want to state that this disclaimer has not always been labeled as such on the books. The series was initially entitled The Druid Breeders and the content was originally labeled as such: (taken via Barnes and Nobles)
*Why do women have erotic rape fantasies? Psychology Today
*Women's Rape Fantasies: An Evaluation of Theory and Research
*Reapers on Amazon
*Reapers on B&N