The Electronic Frontier Foundation letter to Paypal.
If you don't know what this is about, check out the Banned Writers site, There you can find links to all sorts of articles and blog posts and petitions. Basically, Paypal sent a number of ebook publishers a letter telling them to stop publishing erotica (and one would assume other works as well) containing themes of rape, incest, bestiality or they'll have their accounts basically shut down. So these ebook publishers informed their authors to take down any offending works. This bothers me so much, that I'm writing here to try and make sense out of why I'm so all-fired-up about it when on first glance it doesn't affect me at all.
The other day, I posted a short piece over at We Who Are About To Die, a "lit blog" that I sometimes contribute to. The title of the piece was "First they came for the underage, incestuous shapeshifters." Yeah, it's a cheeky title, but I'm quite serious. Erotica, which I write, and have published, is being targeted right now, not "literature." In fact if I recall correctly, the wording of the original request had to be reworded so that it was understood that only "icky" writings had to be removed. [I could be wrong here - I remember reading something - but I've read so much the past couple of days that if I go searching for it, I'll never get this post written.]
Literature is full of underage sex, rape, incest, and bestiality. Here is a short list that Remittance Girl compiled.
The Old and New Testaments
Most Classic Greek homoerotic poetry
Romeo and Juliette
A Clockwork Orange
The Tin Drum
Flowers in the Attic
Everything by the Marquis de Sade
Story of the Eye
Tess of d'Urbervilles
I'll add (though some may not consider it fine literature) an international bestseller that's been made into a movie twice: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. This book has all those no-no themes as the basis of the entire plot of the book! I mention that now since I'm rereading it after having seen the 2011 US version, so it immediately came to mind.
Remittance Girl (RG) is one of the first erotic writers I came across when I started to explore erotica online a number of years ago, long before I ever thought to share the few things I'd written or write it (erotica) seriously. And publish it? Never did I dream...
But I did. The saga of my journey is contained in the posts of this blog, now more than three years old. The friends I've met in the erotica community of writers are some of the most supportive of any community I've ever been part of. And so it only seems right to me to be supportive of those writers, even though I've not personally been affected. At first glance.
If you look over on the right side of my blog, you'll see the link to Coming Together: Al Fresco, the anthology that my first piece of published erotica (other than on this or other blogs) can be found in. If you click on the link, it takes you to a page about the collection, published through All Romance Ebooks. But if you click on the link that takes you to ARE so you can buy it, you get a page that says "You must be logged in to view this page" just like you see when you click on the "Erotica" link on the site. You cannot see the books that are offered. You can see other books (including "Erotic Romance"). So, since CT: Al Fresco is exclusively through ARE, that means that the anthology that contains my first published story is, in my opinion, not really available. That makes me sad, even though I've always felt a bit conflicted about the label "romance." Which is ironic because my first published IN PRINT erotica is in Best Erotic Romance. Go figure.
This morning I was taking a walk and was thinking about the whole situation. I'd signed the letter. Even though I don't foresee myself writing any underage rape incest bestiality stories anytime soon, and I sure don't go searching them out to read, I most certainly don't believe that those subjects should not be written about, no matter how repugnant you find them. It is in the shameful shadows that these things occur in real life, and I believe that writing (whether fiction or non) shines a light. Writers who want to explore these subjects should be able to, AND be able to share their work with those readers that want to read it. I wondered how it felt to suddenly find that your work is "banned."
We're used to submission calls listing what we cannot write about. I've not been writing long enough to feel comfortable (or even uncomfortable) writing - that is JUST WRITING something with one or more of the forbidden topics. I understand the reasoning. I understand it all too well. Don't want to make something that is damaging in real life seem attractive or even worse, arousing. But wait. If we're writing stories, make-believe, why then don't we ban anything that has violent themes? Why allow books that have murder in them? I'll get back to this in a minute.
It's because of the sex. People in general are terrified of the power inherent in sexuality that's shown in all it's complexity. Makes us "animals." And even more terrifying is women's sexuality. That's plainly clear in the current round of slut-shaming and contraceptive wars. Most of this "transgressive" erotica is written by women for women. It's scary to the powers that be.
Maybe you think that this kind of writing should be banned (though if you do, I'm not sure why you're here reading this blog - because most of the searches that bring folks to my blog are pretty interesting). But it's a slippery slope. If these nasty things are banned, what's next?
Already many authors are feeling the irritation of the binds that they have to work under. Early on in my erotica "career" I sent a short flasher to a blog contest, one of Alison Tyler's flasher contests, anonymously posting it in comments like was required. When my entry did not show up, I inquired. Turned out that my story, Pulsating Jets, which concerned a couple–not alone–in a hotel room, couldn't be posted the way it was written. The couple was sharing the hotel room with their children, who were asleep. Could I change it? I did change it. I understood the ramifications (someone I respected having her blog shut down) and I wouldn't have wanted that to happen. It wasn't a major change, but going back and rereading it, I realized that the change made the story less "true" in a way. By the way, here it is (scroll down to read the story).
I have other stories that I've never attempted to publish because I remembered that. Stories in which married parents of children have sex with each other. But the children are in the beginning of the story (at the school bus stop) and I was afraid if I didn't cut that out, nobody would want it. And I didn't want to cut it out. Maybe that's just me being overly cautious. I'm still finding my writerly erotic voice.
Some of us write because we want others to read what we write because we enjoy reading what other writers have written. I think it's sad when I stop myself from writing something because I'm afraid of what other people may think of it (I've done that a lot this past year). I think it's sad when others do it. But this time I'm bothered enough that other writers are being told their work isn't "okay" that I'm not only standing up for them, but standing up for myself.
This is not finished. I have much more to say. But it's almost 6:30pm and dinner is almost ready.