Sunday, February 26, 2012

I Like My Erotica Uncensored!

Get it before it’s censored.

By now, I hope you have heard about the troubles facing erotica authors due to PayPal’s censorship measures. If you haven’t, I strongly urge you to learn about the controversy. In a nutshell, PayPal has decided to threaten eBook retailers with financial ruin if they do not remove content from their sites that PayPal has deemed ‘obscene’ or ‘immoral’ – naturally, erotica authors and those who publish them have been the hardest hit.

Some background: It is undeniably TRUE, that PayPal has had a morality clause in their Terms of Service since its inception. However, it has hardly been enforced and PayPal has reaped many benefits from this lack of enforcement. They are a staple of the e-publishing community when it comes to how readers pay for books online and how authors are paid by e-retailers.

NOW, PayPal has decided, for several reasons (political, moral, and financial), to give e-publishers an ultimatum: remove all titles that include incest, pseudo-incest, bestiality, rape for titillation, and BDSM titles featuring dubious consent or have your accounts frozen.

While many will turn their noses up at the categories being censored, please understand that the issue is less about content and more about censorship.

America is a society simultaneously obsessed with sex and censorship. We love sex! We also love censorship.

Until  the explosion in e-publishing and subsequently, indie publishers, the majority of reading content for sale in mainstream outlets was controlled by the ‘Big Six’ (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster). They decided what books and authors to publish. They decided what content the market could handle. They decided what, YOU, the reader could purchase.

But an interesting thing happened when Amazon, a huge online retailer, opened its arms wide and embraced indie authors: people bought books the Big Six would never touch! The biggest sellers? Anything having a title with ‘Daddy Does…’

While Amazon and nearly all retailers have a strict policy against incest stories, the category of pseudo-incest, that is, stories between step-relations or non-blood related, enjoyed a huge measure of success on these sites. People were apparently eager to buy these titles and retailers made lots of coin by selling them; authors did as well. However, as with anything of a questionable nature, the censor hounds were quite aggressive in expressing their desire to do away with these titles. But isn’t the fact they were featured in the top 100 a social commentary on what the public WANTS to read?

There is nothing illegal about pseudo-incest; just ask Woody Allen. Still, the subject is certainly taboo. The question is though, which do you find truly obscene: 1) Erotic FICTION available for sale and purchase, or 2) the mysterious ‘third hand’ deciding what’s acceptable for your eyes?

On the subject of rape and BDSM with dubious consent, I will quote Remittance Girl, who wrote an impassioned open letter to Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords:

“Fictional depictions of violence do not ‘advocate violence’, and fictional depictions of rape do not advocate rape. If someone submits a non-fiction text for sale with you, advocating either, I will be the first person to agree that you should not sell it. However, fiction, sir, is FICTION. And although I understand how you, as a male, may be puzzled as to why eroticized fictional depictions of rape are erotic to some women, I am disappointed that you did not think a little more clearly about the matter.
40% of women have non-consensual sexual fantasies. I’m not pulling this figure out of my ass, sir. There is an excellent study (unlike some of the shoddy pseudo-scientific studies seeking to link erotica with sexual violence) by Joseph W. Critelli and Jenny M. Bivona “Women’s erotic rape fantasies: an evaluation of theory and research” which estimates that in fact, the numbers are slightly higher.
There have been some intriguing attempts to answer the question of why so many women have these fantasies and a considerable number of feminist critics who have sought to humiliate the women who have them, but nonetheless, for whatever reason, we do.  And I claim it as my right, as a writer and as a woman, to explore this phenomenon in my fiction.”

On a personal note:
As a long-time reader, I soon became tired with all of the regurgitated story lines and lack-luster plots inherent in fiction, but especially in the romance/erotica category. I was disenchanted with all the sensitive ‘alpha’ males, who promised to be real bad-asses, but in the end were only misunderstood by the heroin. Why couldn’t I read about a ‘real’ bad guy? I wondered why no ‘horrible people’ fell in love?

Finally, I began writing the story myself. I wrote the story the Big Six wouldn’t allow me to purchase and read. Captive in the Dark is many things; it’s a story about vengeance, betrayal, pain, suffering, and yes…SEX. My characters are broken, they are real, and they make mistakes that force them to truly wonder about the meaning of their existence. Still, because my title features dubious consent, and worse, humanizes a monster of a human being, it is being censored. Is it being censored because my work has no literary merit? No. It’s being censored because despite the fact it is being purchased, read, and ENJOYED by over three thousand readers, it deviates from the mean.

As a writer, I am affronted by PayPal’s actions, but I am more upset by the retailers who have buckled under PayPal’s pressure.

And as a reader I am INCENSED, that anyone would deign to regulate what I’m allowed to fantasize about when I’m alone in bed at night.

How dare you.

If you are a reader, who feels as I do, please join the conversation. Get out on Facebook, Twitter, your blogs, and any outlet available to you, and let PayPal know you do not appreciate their censorship of your available reading material.


Other great articles on this issue:
Two Legs Bad: An Open Letter to Mark Coker #smashwords #censorship #erotica by Remittance Girl
Slippery Slope: Erotica Censorship by Selena Kitt
Erotic Censorship and a Home for the Homeless Books by Erica Pike
Putting the World According to PayPal in Perspective by Amber Adams
Erotica Book Banning Round-Up by Svrowle 

1 comment:

  1. a wonderful post on this important subject. I, too, am the proud author of now-banned books. They could certainly pass the obscenity standards set for printed books. Does making them electronic make them more obscene? Of course not!