But, PayPal, I thought we were friends…
I mean, seriously, it’s right there in your name! For those of you who haven’t the foggiest what I’m talking about, I’ll streamline it for you as only Sable J can. *wink*
PayPal recently dusted off its TOS (or inked in a new line, you be the judge) and said, “Holy strawberries, Batman! Are we ever in a jam! We’ve been accepting and processing payments for people that sell *gasp* erotica? For *gulp* years? This simply won’t do! We must rectify this posthaste!”
So, out went the PayPalettes, zipping off form letter after form letter to indie ebook distributors, like BookStrand and ARE, and to indie publishers who sell directly from their sites, like the super awesome excessica.com *insert stadium applause*. And what was in that letter? It wasn’t an, “Our bad, we didn’t know we were processing payments for your filthy-minded writers”. Nooo, it was much more robotic: “Boop—This is the PayPal-o-matic 9500. You are not in compliance with rule 5,760a that we’ve never enforced before. In order to get in compliance with rule 5,760a, you must immediately remove all titles containing themes that discuss or hint at rape, bestiality, incest and pseudo-incest. You have 30 days to fix this situation or we close your account and keep your money. End transmission…boop.” Mind you, this includes BDSM, which is a specific brand of mind-fuck that could totally include all of the above at once if the author’s crafty enough.
Well, the saying “shit rolls downhill” ain’t a saying for nothin’! Soon after, BookStrand and ARE scrambled to comply; the former terminating the accounts of a number of indie authors and threatening to terminate the accounts of indie publishers as well if those disgusting books weren’t removed, the latter asking authors to filter their works into newly defined categories of Erotica and Erotic Romance. (It should be noted ARE claims they were never contacted by PayPal, but if everyone else has been, I’d think they were too). That last bit about the categories doesn’t seem so bad, now does it? However, if you consider the ARE policy change just so happened to coincide with the PayPal crackdown, one could conclude they’re gonna end up pushing those erotica titles off a cliff. In short—Serial Eroticide.
This is the abbreviated version of events to date, if you want the full scoop, (without my brand of sarcasm) you can read it here along with the snappy e-mail from BookStrand to Dear Author in which BS (after asking Dear Author to “Kindly get your facts straight”) stated its publishing division, Siren, “NEVER has and NEVER will publish books with the disgusting themes of incest, pseudo incest, rape for sexual titillation, or bestiality with naturally occurring animals." As you can imagine that line is complete and utter, er, BS.
You all caught up? Perfect. Either which way, the point is PayPal is not the friend of the erotica writer. The speculative blame is being placed on chargebacks common in high-risk industries like porn and gambling—you know, after you’ve read your book and got your jollies, you call the credit card company and say you did not mean to make that purchase. BTW, if you do that, may the fleas of a thousand camels rise up and infest your armpits. Anyhow, I don’t think chargebacks are at the heart of this matter, but it’s a nice scapegoat...
Now, many authors are asking what’s next? We’re all screaming about 1st Amendment rights and burning our bras! (not really, bras are expensive nowadays) #OccupyPayPal is trending on twitter! (it’s sooo not trending on twitter, but if it does, you know where it started). Censorship Killed the Erotica Writer tee-shirts are flying out of stores everywhere! It’s Bedlam, I tell ya! Beeeeeddddllaaaammm!!
Like everyone else, I don’t know what’s next. In fact, this post isn’t really suppose to be about any of that, but I had to give you some background or you’d think I was crazy(-er?) just jumping head first into what follows.
BDSM, rape, bestiality, incest, and pseudo-incest, defined as sex between non-biologically related people, e.g., step-dad and step-daughter. Some of your eyes have glazed over and you’re thinking, YUCK! GROSS! I would never read anything like that. Icky, icky, icky! To which I cough, bullshit. Whether you’ve read it in an erotica title like me (I’m a grown ass woman, I do what I want) or in a mainstream (i.e., socially acceptable) piece of work, chances are you’ve read it. The list would be exhaustive for books, but The Bluest Eye springs to mind for the rape theme (as does the Bible, but unknot your panties, I’m not going there) and there are a lot more. Perhaps you’re a watcher. Ever seen American Me? Platoon? Deliverance? I could go on. Or maybe you think those are depictions of rape, and not meant to titillate (which seems to be the word du jour). How about Righteous Kill—a break-in and rape scene, meant to, ahem, titillate.
Let’s move on to incest. Scarface. BAM! That. Just. Happened. Yes, there’s an incest theme very prevalent in this hardcore, badass gangsta flick. Tony is secretly pining for his little sister. And right before she’s killed, she tells her brother to fuck her. “Come on, fuck me, Tony.” (Could be paraphrased). Not meant to titillate, but there. “Say good’ni to da bad guy…” But WAIT! The bad guy does it again in The Devil’s Advocate! There’s a scene where Al’s screwing Charlize (his daughter) and offers her to Keanu (his son) who, in the movie’s “real life”, are married. If that ain’t confusing…
Okay, I’m not going into pseudo-incest, because while it may ick some people out, it ain’t illegal. You’re not blood related. (FYI, if not for negative recessive gene traits presenting, and the sometimes horrible mutations, society would once again say inbreeding was quite all right. Remember, being pureblood used to be a good thing. Hello—Gladiator? “Am I not merciful!?”) And I’m not going into BDSM, because the range on that is huge! Really, tying a partner to a bed is bondage, and many of you do it, so you’re into BDSM, and therefore cannot use PayPal… Comply, dammit!
Bestiality was a hard one for me, and I actually had to turn to the web to find something (scary, I knew the others off the top of my head. Hm…) And after sifting through the infamous “farm-girl screws horse” videos, I came upon Sleeping Dogs Lie. I’ve never seen the film, you’ll have to investigate further, this is merely a point of illustration.
See, as a society we’ve been quite all right with slipping these “disgusting” themes into our movies and calling it art. We’ve watched a guy stick his dick into apple pie and laughed, for the love of all things yellow! And PayPal has no problem processing an eBay purchase for the sale of any of the aforementioned movie titles, or video games for that matter. Why is erotica different? Well-written erotica is not, I repeat, NOT porn. Don’t believe me, read my older post. Yes, there are authors out there pushing the limit when it comes to sex, but since when did we lose our ability to choose? You don’t have to buy or read things you don’t want to, same way you don’t have to watch movies you don’t like, or smoke a joint, or drink, or dance, or…or…or. I’m a big wuss when it comes to horror. Wouldn’t I be an idiot to go watch Paranormal Activity, scare myself witless, and then demand that everyone else be prevented from watching it too? Not choosing to read an erotica title with a theme you’re not okay with does not make you a prude, it makes you a friggin’ adult!
But that’s what this PayPal shakedown feels like—a handful of people decided they didn’t like what was being sold on Amazon (or BN, or wherever). Having already tried to bring down the naughty list on Amazon and only getting marginal results with the whole censorship business, they went for the pockets. How are these small companies (authors) being paid? PayPal. Well, let’s take it straight to PayPal. And PayPal, not bothering to do its homework, decided it needed to cover its ass by hacking off its nose, making an already hideous face even more so. Spite away, PP.
Now, back to what this means for you, Average Natasha, writing edgy romantic suspense that does not talk directly about all the fun bits of the human body but does involve hot kisses, heavy petting, and alludes to more horizontal levels of intimacy? It means you’re next. But..but, why? My characters have the decency to do it off-screen! My books aren’t nasty! Says who? PayPal? Isn’t that an adult theme? What if one of your characters being raped is integral to the plot of the story? In most novels, the sex and sexual tension between two characters pushes a story along. Do you take out the scene so you are in compliance with the PayPal or BS or ARE TOS? Aren’t you then censoring yourself?
And, you, Average Dominic, writing fast-paced conspiracies with lots of murder and government cover-ups. Get in line, because once they figure out how to stop us pervy erotica writers from writing altogether, and convince Natasha to not have her hero and heroine kiss or touch and walk around in hermetically sealed bags to prevent the transfer of bodily fluids including-but-not-limited-to semen, saliva, and sweat, you can bet your ass your days of killing characters by means of gun, knife, hardback book, credit card, or any other object that could possibly cause harm are good and over.
You’re laughing. You think I’m just rambling and that this is all a tad over-exaggerated. It’s not. Remember earlier I said shit rolls downhill? Well, we’re in the same cart, and eventually it’ll get on us all. Whether you’re an indie author writing about your character’s struggle with life on the streets, or your characters are doing things frowned upon in a made-up world in a time and place we can’t even fathom seeing—we are none of us immune.
What to do about it?
First, let me reiterate, we are in this together. That means staying informed on this issue and discussing the matter will be key. You can follow TheSelfPublishingRevolution.blogspot.com for more detailed info.
Next, there’s a petition circulating to stop internet censorship. If you agree with it, sign it. And tell a friend to sign it, too.
Some are calling for a boycott of these big corporations like Amazon, BN, PayPal. People tend to understand things when they get hit in the wallet. This might be an option, and may include figuring out where to relocate your titles or how else to get paid for your work. Again, all of that is still up in the air at the moment. But do NOT let this issue die. Share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter or pick up a phone and call! Send snail mail if you must, but let’s continue to get the word out that these unfair practices against all creatively inclined people will not be tolerated.
That’s my dollar’s worth. Go spend it.