Erotica Writers: Be Passionate but Be Careful with your Facts #paypal #censorship #erotica

I am overwhelmed and delighted to see the gloriously spirited and passionate response to the PayPal censorship issue. It’s good to see so many writers of all stripes blogging so eloquently about this issue.

However, there is something that is disturbing me. I’m seeing a lot of  understandable but er… careless wording. This is not going to help our cause. It makes us look like we don’t know what we’re talking about. It allows assholes to paint us as hysterical, over-dramatic ‘girls’. And that makes us easier to ignore.

US Law does guarantee its citizens the right to free speech. It guarantees the right to publish that ‘speech’ in the public sphere. It doesn’t, however, guarantee anyone the right to make a living out of it. There is a distinction here – a fine one, to be sure – but it is significant.

For the non-Americans among us, freedom of expression is guaranteed under international and national human rights law and is included as part of the European Convention on Human Rights and, in Africa, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Another reason to be precise with language is that it is easy and in the interests of supporters of this type of censorship to blur the boundaries between reality and fiction. It is important to be clear that fictional, textual descriptions of criminality are NOT crimes in themselves, nor are they in any way incitement to commit crimes. Portraying a fictional werewolf having sex in beast form does no more to encourage bestiality than murder mystery novels or thrillers encourage murder or terrorism.

PayPal’s decision to refuse to process the sales of erotica ebooks containing certain types of taboo content is not illegal. It’s not a violation of your right to free speech. Corporations are not government entities (although, god knows, you’d think some of them are, these days) and, so although they cannot stop you from writing whatever you wish to write, they can indeed refuse to sell it, or be a party to the selling process, the way PayPal is.

They are most definitely unethical, since they have a TOS that they apply very unequally. They are very probably terrible hypocrites, since they certainly aren’t about to stop selling non-erotica books that contain the exact same content they say the won’t process in ours. And it seems to be increasingly clear, from the time they cut off Wikileaks, to their refusal to process the sale of Cuban cigars in Germany, to this latest idiocy, that they are a company clearly driven by a political/moralistic agenda. Finally, they are probably liars. Since one of their arguments for not wanting to process these works is that the charge-back rates are too high. There is every likelihood that this is the case on pornsites and online sex services, but I would like to see the numbers on charge-backs before I accept their word. My guess is that the charge-back rate on ‘problematic’ ebooks is no higher or lower, book for book, than it is on other ebooks.

The second thing I’d like you to consider is that although this state of affairs affects writers economically, there are relatively few of us. Who it hurts most, by far, are readers who should have a reasonable expectation of having the freedom to choose what they want to read and how, within the bounds of law, to spend their money.

It is very easy to make this about us – the writers. But please be rational about this. It is not easy to find people, especially influential people, who are going to be willing to stand up and defend a group of writers who dabble in fictional descriptions of incest, bestiality and rape. They should, yes. But they won’t.

But the chances are much better that someone will defend the right of grown adults to purchase and read whatever they want and to not have a payment processing company dictate their reading habits to them or, in the case of the credit card companies, price gouge them for reading something transgressive.

Again, please… this is not a criticism of your wonderful, feisty and vibrant posts and comments. This is a plea for us to present ourselves as educated, fair-minded individuals who have a firm grasp on the issues and magnificent pens with which to state our case.

Meanwhile, a few of us feel this thing is better fought as a group than individually, and I have established the blog www.BANNEDWRITERS.com for this purpose. Please feel free to visit and join. I set it up as a clearing house for ideas, strategies and remedies to our dilemma.

I love you all,

RG

Alessia Brio added this in the comments, but I felt it was important to get it onto this page:

What I believe is getting lost in this discussion is that, while PayPal is indeed behaving inconsistently and hypocritically, this censure is not originating with PayPal. PayPal is reacting to pressures from “above” — as are other payment processors. PayPal is simply the largest and most visible of these.

As those of us who have, over the past week, scrambled to find alternatives have quickly learned, other payment processors (such as Verotel, AlertPay, and CCBill — all widely used by the adult industry) are being pressured in the same fashion.

To me, this speaks to a much larger (and potentially actionable, in the legal sense) issue. PayPal is not a bank. It is not regulated like a bank. MasterCard and Visa, however, are subject to banking regulations. If this censure has its origins with the credit card companies themselves, then there’s eventually going to be one hella class action lawsuit (and I’m going to be right there when it happens, cheering).

And, it also raises a host of questions. MasterCard & Visa are public companies. Their largest shareholders are a bunch of big banks. No corporation (I’d like to believe) is going to implement a policy that chokes revenue. They’re all about the bottom line. So, somehow they’ve managed to convince themselves that the bottom line will not suffer as a result of this action. How?

Deep thoughts for a Leap Hump Day.

 

 

  16 comments for “Erotica Writers: Be Passionate but Be Careful with your Facts #paypal #censorship #erotica

  1. February 29, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    RG,

    You bring up excellent points and I applaud you. I am working on a blog post in a similar vein.

    I shall most certainly visit Banned Writers and lend my voice, talents and finances as I am able.

    • February 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Yay, and YAY. We need all the smart, creative and feisty people we can get!

  2. February 29, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Well said (per usual).

    What I believe is getting lost in this discussion is that, while PayPal is indeed behaving inconsistently and hypocritically, this censure is not originating with PayPal. PayPal is reacting to pressures from “above” — as are other payment processors. PayPal is simply the largest and most visible of these.

    As those of us who have, over the past week, scrambled to find alternatives have quickly learned, other payment processors (such as Verotel, AlertPay, and CCBill — all widely used by the adult industry) are being pressured in the same fashion.

    To me, this speaks to a much larger (and potentially actionable, in the legal sense) issue. PayPal is not a bank. It is not regulated like a bank. MasterCard and Visa, however, are subject to banking regulations. If this censure has its origins with the credit card companies themselves, then there’s eventually going to be one hella class action lawsuit (and I’m going to be right there when it happens, cheering).

    And, it also raises a host of questions. MasterCard & Visa are public companies. Their largest shareholders are a bunch of big banks. No corporation (I’d like to believe) is going to implement a policy that chokes revenue. They’re all about the bottom line. So, somehow they’ve managed to convince themselves that the bottom line will not suffer as a result of this action. How?

    Deep thoughts for a Leap Hump Day.

    XOXO

    • February 29, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      If you don’t mind, I’m going to reproduce this comment in the body of the email, because it is quite vital information. Let me know if you mind.

    • February 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      yes and no – visa & mc prohibit sex with animals and sex with minors in writing – period. Visual depictions of nudity are more problematic, so racy covers are more likely to attract their attention. To my mind, this is someone trying to tell me how I can spend my money, the only way to change is vote with your wallets and boycott them in favor of other, non-meddling services. But bad press doesn’t hurt either. Any censorship of FICTION is too much.

  3. February 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    The thing is though, they’re not a store. If a store doesn’t want to stock or sell erotica, fine and dandy, but really all they are here is money-movers. Provided we’re not doing anything illegal I don’t see why they should care or why they should want to pass up on the profits. Especially given the socio-political makeup of Paypal’s founders (supposed Libertarians).

    Businesses are no longer allowed to turn away homosexuals (or Irish for that matter) so there’s an interface between the public and private already going on here. Rights CAN be enforced over private companies and groups.

    If there were a decent competitor to Paypal that didn’t have the same issues, this wouldn’t be a problem. As it stands they ARE abusing their virtual monopoly.

    • February 29, 2012 at 10:31 pm

      They are undoubtedly abusing their monopoly. But sadly, any independent business has the right to decide what it will be associated with. Sadly, edgy erotica writers aren’t yet recognized as an oppressed minority (although, god knows we are).

  4. Kathleen Bradean
    February 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Well said, RG. I dislike the imprecision in the discussion too as it gets no one anywhere.

  5. February 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    This is exactly why I have refrained from writing about/commenting on this issue (other than signing the petition): whilst I WOULD fight heart and soul, tooth and nail, I am afraid of getting my facts wrong because I am very aware of how much damage incorrect information can do. Clearly, I need to read more and think harder.

    • February 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      We all do, including me – especially me – because I have a hot as hell, hair-trigger temper. And I tend to get screechy.

  6. February 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    You’re right. This has nothing to do with free speech. I would question whether we could make a claim related to the fact that the dollar MUST be acceptable tender for any legal product, and that since Paypal has a virtual monopoly, they are interfering with my right as a consumer to do that. I don’t know.

    Here’s what I do know. I can pick up my credit card and buy a pseudo incest title from Amazon, from B&N or from other small retailers that never used Paypal. I can take that credit card and go to kink.com and get visual porn that probably includes actresses who are “barely legal” and they present nonconsent fiction. No, kink.com doesn’t use Paypal, which just proves the point further. Despite how certain people are trying to present this, this IS a Paypal issue. I can use my Visa to buy all manner of dirty things, just not through Paypal.

    • February 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      I must admit, although I do think that there certainly may be pressure higher up the chain than paypal, it is still the case that Paypal is not fighting this, it is being acquiescent.

      Being a writer, I cannot help but hatch a purely fictional dialogue.

      • March 1, 2012 at 12:54 am

        Being devil’s advocate, here: How do you KNOW PayPal hasn’t fought it? While it certainly appears PayPal is being docile & acquiescent, I don’t know what’s really transpired in house.

        It would appear ONLY fiction (not other adult media) has been targeted. So, to further the discussion, assuming it’s truly business-related instead of (as we are being led to believe) moralistic, who stands to benefit most by cutting off many sources of very popular sub-genres of erotica?

  7. March 3, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Great post, RG 🙂 Especially the point about the reader’s choice.

  8. Korhomme
    March 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm

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