Wednesday, March 07, 2012

PayPal, Erotica, and Censorship

Warning: this blog post will probably offend more people than normal. You should stop reading right now.

No doubt you've heard that Paypal has given Smashwords an ultimatum, saying it must remove all ebook titles that involve bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest, and underage erotica.

Previously, several other online retailers also removed titles from their stores. Some didn't remove them, but made them harder to find by taking them off bestseller lists, keeping them out of various sales algorithms, etc.

Other bloggers have talked about this issue in-depth. I wanted to weigh in.

First of all, I think anyone who tells me what I can or can't do with my life, my body, or my mind is an asshole (as long as I'm not hurting anyone else) Keep your morals to yourself, or impose them on your defenseless children who will grow up feeling guilty and ashamed for good no reason.

Moral absolutism is silly. There is no black and white. There's always gray. And the gray keeps changing.

Throughout history, laws more or less coincided with the morals and values of the majority of any given population. Sometimes the ruling body of a country overrides what the people want, but this doesn't last forever.

Increasingly, the entities dictating morality are businesses. This is the current case with ebooks. Credit card companies pressure PayPal, who then pressures Smashwords. Ebook retailers don't like certain types of erotica, so they don't sell it.

This isn't censorship. It's businesses exercising their freedom to chose what they want to sell.

If you as an artist or consumer don't like that, too bad.

I don't like the fact that "In God We Trust" is written on my currency, but at least I have a legitimate gripe. The US Constitution grants freedom of religion, which includes freedom from religion. But the majority of my country is religious, so the phrase stays, unfair as it is.

It is not unfair if PayPal or Amazon doesn't want to be associated with "Daddy's BDSM Billy Goat Rape-A-Thon" (which, incidentally, I would probably buy, as long as the goat wasn't underage).

Though it isn't censorship, and it isn't unfair, I certainly do agree that it sucks. I'm not a fan of limiting choice. I dislike those who dictate morality. As a libertarian and a consumer, I should be able to get my smut where I want it, when I want it.

I also have other radical views. Gays should be able to marry. I should be able to buy liquor 24/7. Recreational drugs should be legal. Woman should be able to do whatever the hell they want to with their bodies (so should men.) If I want to die, I should be able to do so with dignity and without pain and get help if needed. I should be able to camp out in front of Wall Street for as long as I want to while protesting the wankers who screwed up my country's economy (and I say this as one of the hated 1%.) I shouldn't get fined for forgetting to wear my seatbelt. Victimless crimes should be abolished.

But these things aren't universally allowed in my country. That annoys me.

However, there are workarounds, and I'm still able to do the things I want to do. That's what I propose in this situation.

Porn is a billion dollar industry, and those smut-peddlers have found ways to make money online without PayPal.

Erotica authors should be able to do the same.

This isn't a set-back for authors. This is an opportunity to corner a huge market. If online retailers can't or won't sell "Spank My Donkey, Mommy: A Barely Legal Tale of Non-Consent" then artists need to stop complaining and figure out a way to sell it themselves.

There is an audience for this stuff. A big audience who is willing to pay. If the regular ebook outlets won't take their money, find a way to get it on your own. Hint: see what the porn sites are doing and copy them.

Authors aren't being censored. They aren't being treated unfairly. (If you want to know what being treated unfairly is like, sign a Big 6 contract.) So let's stop thinking in those terms.

Instead, think of how to exploit this situation for greater personal gain.

Supply and demand. There is a demand. Figure out how to supply it, without Amazon, B&N, Paypal, or Smashwords.

And when you do, contact me, so I have a place for my erotic masterpiece "Raped By Uncle Ostrich".

Here's the pitch:

Sexy Uncle Schlomo always made sixteen-year-old Betty Sue sopping wet with desire. So wet that she had to wear diapers.

But then a magic potion mix-up turns her hot uncle into a giant bird, and Betty's forbidden desire becomes even forbiddener.

When Uncle Ostrich gets high on marijuana and then marries Betty's own father (who then gets mangled in a car accident because he wasn't wearing his seatbelt, forcing Betty to smother Daddy to death in his hospital bed while riding his rock-hard manhood), devastated Uncle Ostrich begins raping everything in sight, and to poor Betty's delight she is next on the list.

This action is so hot it will melt your ereader! (Disclaimer: not responsible for melted ereaders.)

Also features spanking, abortion, toe-sucking, birding, elderly bondage, enema-play, cannibalism, erotic asphyxiation ending in murder, squirrel-play, injecting heroin into testicles, Pope-play, frotteurism, and irrumatio.

(Admit it, you had to Wikipedia those last two.)

So that's my take on the subject. Less complaining, more problem-solving. If some companies don't want to work with you, their loss.

All adult human beings are sluts. Figure out how to get our money.

Now I'm going to hop on Twitter and count the number of people who want to boycott or censor me. My current number followers is 8478. Let's see how many unfollow.

Addendum: The comments section is getting glutted with defining censorship. Allow me to clarify it here. If anyone disagrees with this definition, feel free to add to the comment thread.

Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.

(Since it came up in the comments: A media outlet is a publication or broadcast program that transmits feature stories and news to the public through various distribution channels.)

To suppress is to abolish, stop, put an end to, or withhold from disclosure or publication.

Is there any suppression going on by the government, media outlet, or a monopoly?

No. PayPal is not a monopoly, government, or media outlet.

PayPal is not preventing publication of erotica.

Hence PayPal's actions cannot be defined as censorship.

PayPal isn't infringing upon freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or human rights. They aren't censoring anything. They aren't suppressing anything. They're just refusing to sell certain titles.

Someone needs to point out a case where it is considered censorship when a retailer refuses to sell something.