You’re Next.

I’m a writer and I’m scared.

As most of you must know by now (and if you don’t you’d better get up to speed) PayPal, “The world’s most loved way to pay and get paid”, has put down their moral foot and forced Smashwords, second only to Amazon in e-book distribution, to eliminate certain books from the roster.

Say what?

Erotica books with themes such as r@pe, ince$t,and be$tiality are hearby banned from Smashwords (and other book stores) lest PayPal withdraw the privilege of doing business with them.

Here is an excerpt from a communication from Mark Coker, head honcho at Smashwords, sent to authors:

Today we are modifying our Terms of Service to clarify our policies regarding erotic fiction that contains be$tiality, r@pe and ince$t. If you write in any of these categories, please carefully read the instructions below and remove such content from Smashwords. If you don’t write in these categories, you can disregard this message.

PayPal is requiring Smashwords to immediately begin removing the above-mentioned categories of books. Please review your title(s) and proactively remove and archive such works if you are affected.

I am not an erotica writer, but this move on PayPal’s part is scaring me to my bones. Why? Because this is censorship, plain and simple. This is some third party entity sticking its nose in my business and telling me not only what I can and cannot read, but what I can and cannot write.

The issue is complicated because PP has a lot of clout. There is no other financial institution at the moment (although it seems to me there exists a prime opportunity for Google Wallet to make some moves) to whom Smashwords can turn to to handle the financial transactions required in running the business, and so have (reluctantly) decided to acquiesce to PP’s demands. I feel bad for Coker, because it is evident in his complete letter he is not at all comfortable between the rock and the hard place he now finds himself. He has chosen to live to fight another day, and I can’t blame him for that decision.

However, what scares me the most about this is PP is targeting erotica material NOW, but what will be the target tomorrow? Why is erotica being singled out? Why is it okay to have books on the shelves depicting violent acts such as murder or torture (which is illegal) but not okay to allow sexual acts? Why do we need PP to police what we, as adults, choose to purchase and read? Which is better? Two adults participating in a consensual sexual act or some crazed psychopath opening the skull of a dinner guest and eating his brain while he’s still alive? (I’m looking at you, Hannibal Lector.)

I think part of the problem (and there are so many parts to this my own brain is swimming) is PP has mistaken erotica for p0rnography. There’s a big difference, and I just find it outrageous PP would target a legitimate genre of fiction in its attack on freedom of expression of the literary world. They are a FINANCIAL INSTITUTION, not the moral police!

Right now, their target is erotica. What’s next? Religious-themed work? What happens if someone in the PP ranks decides Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is offensive to their beliefs? Because if you think, should PP get away with this, that other genres are not at risk, THINK AGAIN.

“Game of Thrones” – George R.R. Martin
“Deerskin” – Robin McKinley
“Romeo and Juliet” – Shakespeare
“A Child Called ‘It”” – Dave Pelzer
Anything from Greek mythology
THE BIBLE

And what parameters is PP using to judge what is allowable and what isn’t? Currently, they say “erotica” with these themes, but what happens to the classics with similar themes? Are they going to be banned as well? Is paranormal romance, with werewolves and shapeshifters included in the ban on “be$tiality”? PP has determined that subjects such as BDSM is the same as r@pe, which tells me who ever is making these distinctions has no idea of what they speak. Who is drawing the lines and where is it going to stop?

If you don’t like this type of material, the fix is simple. DON’T BUY IT AND DON’T READ IT. Because that is YOUR decision, not PayPal’s! I don’t want to live in a sanitized literary world — that’s why I read and write in the first place. To provoke thought, to explore other realms of expression, to entertain. And although none of those themes appeal to me as a reader or a writer, I will defend to the death the rights of those who do read/write erotica to do so without financial discrimination.

Thank you, PayPal, for trying to steer me toward what you deem is the higher moral ground, but the truth is, I am an adult and I can decide that for myself. You ain’t my momma, and what you’re doing here is bordering on criminal. What you’re doing is sucking major hairy donkey dick.

Now, spank me for my be$tiality.

Consider signing this petition to inform PayPal you do not support their action.

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14 thoughts on “You’re Next.

  1. Yep! And anyone who thinks it’s not important because it doesn’t affect THEM is in for a rude awakening later on. A financial institution should not be allowed to tell me where I can spend my money.

    • Oh, I’m certain money is a factor, for sure, but like you said, Becka, then why just those specific subjects? Besides the fact erotica and p0rn are two different things entirely, and it seems like the PP people can’t tell the difference or even that there IS a difference.

      Interesting article, thanks for posting it.

  2. I am an erotica author, and a few of my books have been removed by BookStrand and All Romance eBooks (two other places PayPal coerced over the past few weeks), and have been deactivated on Smashwords.

    Anybody who thinks it is just the “icky, extreme” stuff that is targeted should note that sex between two consenting adults who are unrelated to each other but who happen to be 18 or 19 is unacceptable to PayPal. No sexual activity of any sort between those under 18 is acceptable. Which is fine when you think “erotica”, but try reading young adult fiction these days, and imagine if every title had to be removed if it had any underage sexual activity of any sort, and where sex with a consenting adult who was 18 or 19 was unacceptable as well.

    • Tessie, I am so sorry. This is all kinds of wrong. You are correct about some YA, and I wonder how far and how fast this is going to go — and why some fiction is targeted and some is not. It’s unfair and seems totally arbitrary. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do. Best of luck to you.

  3. Yeah it’s definitely not just Erotica. I don’t know if anyone here is familiar with Zoe Whitten (not to be confused with Zoe Winters who is a different indie author) but while she does write some (generally comedic) erotica is generally a writer of Non-Erotic Trangressive Speculative Fiction. After receiving the email she queried the ‘erotica ban’ because it seemed to her that it would cover not just the one erotica title but several of her non-erotica titles as well.

    She blogged about the response today and it’s far from encouraging. http://zoewhitten.com/2012/02/28/censorship-is-about-to-silence-my-voice-on-smashwords/

    Now Zoe’s stuff is disturbing and has caused some people to give bad reviews based on perceived message, but other people – like me – have given positive reviews and read an entirely different message into them. But they’re definitely not erotica and it looks like they’re going down.

    Becka

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