What if Books were Rated like TV and Movies?

I read an interesting article awhile back about the impact 50 Shades of Grey had upon the erotica genre as a whole. Now, I don’t write erotica, but I thought the author made some good points. One of the things she mentioned was that erotica, as a genre, gets really scoffed at by the literary world, and many really talented authors are lost in erotica because erotica caters to a very specific type of readership, and oftentimes, those readers are just as happy with something poorly written, (like 50 Shades) and don’t care about the actual quality of the writing, because that’s not why they’re reading it.

Her suggestion was that since sex is a strong motivator and a regular part of most people’s lives, it should be incorporated into literature as such.

Now, I’m not defending erotica or suggesting sex scenes should be part of every book. But I think her suggestion had merit. One problem, though, is that we as consumers would need some way of knowing what’s what.

The author on the article pointed out that erotica is labeled with a big red X (or an Adult Content warning) and so it’s an automatic turn-off for some people, yet millions of people read Game of Thrones, which contains plenty of sex and violence, yet is not considered erotica.

I’ve been reading an ARC of Steven R. Fairchild’s book, Living Ashes, Parts One and Two. I’m enjoying it. It’s a great concept and the it’s very gritty and real. But I wouldn’t want my kids reading it. There’s a mature content warning at the front, which I think is a good idea. It lets readers know what they’re in for, and then readers can’t say they weren’t warned if they’re offended by what they read.

Then I thought about how this works on TV. With Hulu and Netflix and Amazon Prime and all the other online viewing options, finding shows with mature content is easy. It’s accessible. We have a “kids” setting on our Netflix account that won’t allow anything above a certain rating on the kids account. (Granted, it’s easy to get around–they can just log in on the parent account–but for they’re pretty obedient and trustworthy, and we keep a close eye on what they’re watching.)

TV shows have different ratings (you can click here for a breakdown of what they are), and you can determine whether a particular show has content you don’t want to see based on the rating and the qualifiers for why it’s rated that way.

We need that for books.

50 Shades of Grey would be AO, Adults Only. Game of Thrones would be MA, Mature. Harry Potter would be T, Teen.

This way, you could have a really good, classic sci-fi, but rate it G for General Audiences, if it was clean but not a children’s story, or you could have some New Adult content that is a little more edgy, but still not inappropriate, and rate it T or R, for Teen or Restricted, and so on. It would make finding books that fit what you’re looking for much, much easier.

What do you think? Should books have ratings like TV and movies?

If books had ratings, what would yours be rated?

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