February 19, 2015

Barnes and Noble: An Adult Bookstore?

By Sarah Purple, NCSE Intern

Sports Illustrated recently published its raciest Swimsuit Edition cover to date, and Barnes & Noble has no qualms about displaying it prominently in their stores. This year’s cover features model Hannah Davis and advertises anything but the swimsuit she’s wearing, or rather practically not wearing. The cover draws particular attention to the model’s pubic area as she nearly pulls down her bathing suit bottom. Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition is known for its soft porn images, but the magazine is really pushing the envelope on this one.

The magazine is featured on ground level displays in most supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as many book stores, like Barnes & Noble. A visit to a Washington, D.C. Barnes & Noble revealed that they had an entire stand devoted to this one magazine. And what was right next to the stand? The magazines for young girls, of course.

This is not the first time that Barnes & Noble has pushed inappropriate material on customers and specifically on children. The hugely popular bookstore was featured on the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s (NCSE) 2014 Dirty Dozen list for placing pornographic books right near the children’s section.


Barnes & Noble also sells dozens of pornographic magazines and a variety of sexually explicit photography books featuring sexualized images of children at its bookstores. In addition, they offer hundreds of free pornographic books on their Nook e-reader. However, the store’s pornographic magazines are mostly wrapped so as not to be immediately visible to the general public, except for one – Maxim. And when compared with Maxim, this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover is even more pornographic. Maxim’s covers are certainly highly sexualized, but they do not call the same amount of attention to the female genitalia. As far as covers that are visible to the general public go, Sports Illustrated stands alone in this department.


Not only is Barnes & Noble pushing pornography on its customers, but by placing Sports Illustrated right next to the magazines for young girls, Barnes & Noble sends the message that girls should desire to be objectified and must reveal their bodies in obscene ways to be considered beautiful. With young girls already have a plethora of media outlets shaping their body images for the worse, why does Barnes & Noble deem it is necessary to add to the pressure?

In a response to a letter which the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE) sent to Barnes & Noble, asking that the Swimsuit Edition be covered like most other pornographic magazines, a representative defended their choice to display the magazine by citing their desire to reflect the diversity of customers’ interests and philosophies and arguing, “freedom of choice is at the very heart of our democratic society.” If this is true, Barnes & Noble, then why are you forcing your customers to view this pornographic magazine by displaying it prominently? Viewing pornography should be based on an opt-in system, and bookstores should be safe places for children.



Maybe it’s about time that Barnes & Noble gets out of the porn business. The D.C. store also featured a Valentine’s Day display in the “Love and Romance” section which included dirty coupon books on display for Valentine’s Day, reminiscent again of a sex shop. Barnes & Noble’s mission statement reads “Above all, we expect to be a credit to the communities we serve, a valuable resource to our customers, and a place where our dedicated booksellers can grow and prosper.” If Barnes & Noble truly expects to accomplish their mission, they should remove pornographic materials from their store and treat their customers with the dignity they deserve. Leave the porn and adult materials to the sex shops, Barnes & Noble.

Take Action:

Concerned citizens can contact Wal-Mart, Kroger, Walgreens, Safeway, and Barnes & Noble here:

Further Reading