Paypal: Taking A Sledgehammer To Artistic Freedom

I’ve thought long and hard about how to address what is happening within plain site of the masses and I’ve finally given up on being eloquent and level-headed. There are plenty of well-written, intelligent blogs out there speaking eloquently to the situation (I will provide links at the bottom of this blog) so I’m just going to vent my spleen, if you will.

Recently, Paypal took it upon themselves to be the morality police and as such, went on a search and destroy mission to strong-arm all literary venues using their services to censor their contributors with “objectionable” material.

Specifically speaking: erotica.

Let’s be clear: erotica — even in its most obscene is not pornography. And why is that? Simply put: it’s made up bits of naughtiness that only existed in the author’s head before the words were committed to paper. No one is acting out the scene except in the reader’s head and frankly, Paypal doesn’t have the right to police what others find arousing. Sexual arousal is as unique as the person and more importantly, private. The fact that Paypal has unilaterally taken a puritanical sledgehammer to the First Amendment and artistic expression with impunity is, in fact, frightening. With these most recent actions, Paypal has sent a message that no one is safe and indeed, censorship can and does rear its ugly head when opportunity presents itself.

The attack started with Bookstrand, then moved swiftly to All About Romance, and most recently Smashwords, targeting any and all erotic titles with certain themes: rape, incest, and bestiality.

At first glance, no one is going to openly support the themes in question because it makes them uncomfortable to admit anything with such taboo subjects could be remotely arousing. But here’s the grey area of that across-the-board ban: where does that leave dubious consent stories? Or for that matter any BDSM theme? How about May-December romances between consenting adults? Or menage fantasies? It’s a slippery slope to travel before we slide back to the days when sodomy and oral sex were illegal and punishable by law — no matter if the people participating were adults or not.

Goodbye Kama Sutra and candlelight; hello missionary with the lights turned off.

By all appearances, Bookstrand and All About Romance caved fairly quickly to Paypal’s demands. Although Mark Coker of Smashwords put up a good fight, in the end, he caved to the pressure as well and within days a take-down notice was sent to the all erotica authors who may or may not have questionable material in their library. The consequence of noncompliance was forfeiture of royalties accrued and elimination of the author’s account.

Several of my titles were taken down as they were considered pseudo-incest.What is pseudo-incest, you ask? It’s sex between step-family members. There is no blood relation between the characters and most of my characters have no familial attachments to the people they’re attracted to. It’s a taboo fantasy, but ultimately harmless. Writing pseudo-incest does not support nor condone child abuse — and to be clear, this isn’t what was being depicted. All characters were unequivocally 18 years of age and most erotica authors adhere to this simple rule.

This will hurt me financially — as it will every author who spent their time and resources creating something of artistic value with the intent to make a profit — and I’m angry.

Now, my banned titles are only available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. However, there are rumblings that Barnes & Noble may be next as they also do business with Paypal. Only time will tell — although judging by how swiftly Paypal has been systematically destroying the First Amendment with their morality judgements, I suspect if they are going to make a move on the bigger fish, it will be another fast and deadly attack within weeks, possibly even days.

So what can we do about it? First and foremost: money talks. I’m in the process of changing my payment methods on all venues that use Paypal. I will not give them my business. Plain and simple. Their small-minded actions will directly affect the way I feed my family. I will not reward their actions with more of my money — they’ve taken enough.

In plain and simple terms: fuck ’em.

Second, spread the word. Here are a list of bloggers who have taken a stand against Paypal’s blatantly unconstitutional act of open censorship. There is power in numbers. Take action where it counts — in Paypal’s pocketbook.

http://www.katiecramer.com/

http://remittancegirl.com/discussions/two-legs-bad-an-open-letter-to-mark-coker-smashwords-censorship-erotica/

http://www.rayvenyork.com/2012/02/and-there-goes-another-one-smashwords.html

http://marlenesexton.blogspot.com/2012/02/smashwords-falls-victim-to-paypal.html

http://selenakitt.com/blog/

These are just a handful of the bloggers out there. Be vocal. Add your voice to the chorus of outrage. Only together can we stand tall against tyranny.

Alexx Andria

 

 

 

 

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About Author Alexx Andria

USA Today bestselling romance author
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13 Responses to Paypal: Taking A Sledgehammer To Artistic Freedom

  1. Pingback: IMPORTANT: Smashwords Forced to Censor Books by Paypal: Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony Customers Affected | Katie Cramer – Erotica Author

  2. Pingback: IMPORTANT: Smashwords Forced to Censor Books by Paypal: Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony Customers Affected | Katie Cramer – Erotica Author

  3. Actually, despite saying that your post is not clear-headed or eloquent, I’d argue that it is. Also, you bring up a very interesting ontological question. After all, where does obscenity reside? In the WORDS on a page? Actually, no. Words are abstract representations (they are signifiers – letter combination symbols – for a reality). The obscenity lies in the mind of the reader to puts the words together, adds their own imagery and experience and experiences the reading process.

    If ‘pseudo incest’ doesn’t ‘do’ it for me, then the book is not obscene. It’s not erotic either.

    Ultimately you are right, what Paypal is doing is dis-empowering readers far more than it is hurting authors.

    Brava. Thanks for writing the post and thank you for the link to mine.

  4. Alexx Andria says:

    Remittance Girl,
    Absolutely. Your blog post, and others, spurred me from my stew of rage to actually do something about it. Thank you for posting!

  5. Pingback: Erotica Book Banning Roundup – Part 2, and Smashwords Bows Under Pressure | S. V. Rowle

  6. Pingback: Writers & Publishers Blogs: A link List #censorship #paypal #erotica | Banned Writers

  7. While I’m not affected by PayPal’s ultimatium or even read the type of erotica that they are trying to censor, I am morally against what they are doing. They know they are a superpower in their business and few if any can provide the same personal and business features they can.

    I’ve been searching for an alternative to PayPal since Selena Kitt mentioned PayPal threatening to remove their support from the excessia website in a post on
    self-publishing revolution. It has not been an easy endeavour and it’s frightening that we’ve allowed them so much power.

    Now that I’ve commented and rambled a bit, I’m off to check out the rest of your webite. 🙂

    • Thank you for posting! Although the majority of my catalog is not PI, the fact that a company is allowed to pass their judgment in a way that affects my livelihood just chaps my hide. Grrrr…

      Alexx

      • I probably should have added more to the comment above but I was commenting from my phone and the comment box….well, lets just say it leaves room for improvement. 🙂

        I have no problem with “taboo” subjects, I believe wholeheartedly in the right to speak ones mind, on paper as well as out loud. I also believe that every company has the right enforce their rules of what can and can’t be done with their product. What I find disturbing about what PayPal is doing is that while their policy states that users can’t sell that which is ‘obscene,’ and yet, they don’t list what they believe to be obscene.

        It reminds me of a writer friend. She writes historical romance with Christian overtones, at one time she labeled her genre Historical Christian Romance. But when Christians came to read her book it was considered obscene by them because sex doesn’t remain behind closed doors. She had a man stalk her online for months, telling her that she wrote porno and would burn in hell. He believed what she wrote was obscene. I would have called it a sweet, vanilla romance. It was all about perspective, and perspective is subjective.

        PayPal’s other policy is that ‘certain sexually oriented materials and services’ can’t be bought or sold using their product. Again they don’t specify what those are, and they can freeze your account for buying something you didn’t know wasn’t allowed. I’m hoping to find another account that has many of the same features as PayPal for my business, because I’d hate to be buying a picture for a book cover and find my accounts frozen because they considered it obscene or a certain sexually oriented service they don’t like.

        Sorry, I think I’ve rambled enough on your blog for one day. 😀

      • “…It was all about perspective, and perspective is subjective.”
        THIS.

        Agreed. What others find offensive, might be considered benign by others. It’s true Paypal can run their business as they see fit, but when a business is as big as Paypal and integrated into the infrastructure of other major businesses, it doesn’t seem right that they can impose their judgment onto the masses who might not adhere to their belief structure.

        Feel free to ramble any time you like! I appreciate the company and the chance to speak intelligently to a hot topic. 🙂

        Alexx

      • PayPal should have made their stance clear to begin with. Like you say they are too integrated into the business infrastructure to be changing their minds now. 😀

        And thanks. I do have a tendency to ramble on about some subjects and have nothing to say on others.

  8. Pingback: Adelaide Cooper | And so the dominos fall: Smashwords

  9. Pingback: A. D. Cooper | And so the dominos fall: Smashwords

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