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.
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.