Paypal, Smashwords and Bookstrand – Erotic Romance/Erotica and Porn

Paypal, Smashwords and Bookstrand – Erotic Romance/Erotica and Porn

Posted by on Feb 25, 2012 in #erotic romance, #erotica, #smashwords, Bookstrand, e-books, paypal | 15 comments

     Today as an erotica author (among other genres) who has published on Smashwords site (since moved), I received an e-mail from Mark Coker, informing me that they are modifying their Terms of Service regarding erotic fiction that contains bestiality, rape and incest because the website Paypal would not support such fiction. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Coker for what he created with Smashwords, and I’m glad he’s made the decision. (I’m a little surprised his vetters didn’t bring up concerns regarding ‘rape’ stories, but that’s just me.) However I’m a little uncomfortable with the links provided justifying some of the content.
     Now, most people who know me know I’m no supporter of banning books or censorship, but this is neither, for two reasons.
     First, while Paypal is the largest secure on-line service for payment, it’s not their only option – Visa and Mastercard are hardly likely to care, and the sites themselves could develop their own on-line secure purchasing platform. Many do. For example, Diesel E-books has their own secure ordering site, but some of these sites simply don’t want to invest the money in doing something similar just to cover erotica. Paypal is simply more convenient. It’s also much easier to slam them for censorship.
     And if you look on Diesel E-books you’ll find  they still have erotica books listed – including bondage and (Step)Daddy does Debbie. In fact, they wisely spun off their erotic titles as a separate entity. Something I – an erotica writer – suggested to Smashwords months ago when I noticed that the listings were disproportionately weighted with titles that were going beyond erotica (generally erotic romance), into erotic fiction and verging into porn, much of the type that Paypal found objectionable – particularly rape and incest.
     Why? Because in reality they’re illegal and send a terrible message to both women and men. As with the difference in freedom of speech from yelling fire in a theater because there is one, to yelling fire in a crowded theater for fun causing a panic that threatens lives, it’s a matter of common sense.
     Again, most people who know me or have read any of my books know that I’m a firm believer that if you can show violence in a book you should be able to show people making love.
     That’s a far different thing from making rape and incest look appealing.
     Some would even argue that most of the incest that takes place in some of these books is ‘okay’ because it’s step-father/step-child, no direct blood relation. They forget the uproar around Woody Allen when he admitted he was shagging his step-daughter by Mia Farrow. No blood relation there, either, and Soon-Yi was also adopted. But as with any relationship where one individual has a position of power, influence and trust, taking advantage of that position is a minefield of psychological dangers. Where it might actually result in a healthy relationship for someone like Woody Allen, giving tacit acceptance to it by putting it in an open forum it may send the wrong message to someone else. And that’s a scary thought.
     Such content also belittles the victims of rape and incest, who know how devastating it can be, by making their pain a source of titillation, and fuels stupid comments by sports figures and politicians. (Do you think they don’t read it? Really?)
     So, am I advocating censorship? Isn’t that what Paypal is doing? And how is that different from say Barack Obama requiring churches to provide contraceptives?
     Well, first Paypal isn’t saying all erotica, just the really objectionable and illegal stuff.
     Secondly because it’s not censorship, there are alternatives. Some would argue women have alternatives, too, they don’t have to work for some Christian organizations. But that, again, is pushing someone else’s views on individuals and it’s wrong. As its wrong to push the view that rape and incest are ‘okay’ under certain circumstances.
     All is should have taken was simple common sense to look at some of the covers and the blurbs during the vetting process and recognize that these books pushed the envelope. A decision could have been made, as Diesel did, to move those titles to a separate branch, giving those who wanted to read them the ability to do so. After all, you don’t recommend putting those titles on the shelves of your local bookstore or supermarket, and in the bad old days of video rental stores you had to go into a separate room for those videos. In terms of bestiality you may not want to walk down an aisle to see Donkey doing Dallas or a ‘rape’ scene where the victim is clearly tied down and appears terrified. For the same reason, separating erotic romance into one category (story centers around the relationship with more graphic language) from erotica and porn (where the sex is the primary focus and the language is all hard core), isn’t book banning or censorship, it’s common sense.
     We have a responsibility as authors for what we write. I make no bones about the fact that I write for adults whether as Valerie Douglas or V. J. Devereaux. I firmly believe that the act of making love is one of the most beautiful and sometimes the most fun things two adults can do, and that if you can show someone blowing away a couple dozen people with a gun, showing two people loving each other should be just as acceptable. But I don’t write for children or YA. Where given the option, I make clear on my book pages and elsewhere that my content is for those 18 years or older. While I could wish our attitudes about sex and violence were more evolved and that all human beings could treat each other with respect, we’re not there yet. If you doubt me, just read the headlines lately.
     Until then, we have to rely on common sense. And I’m just putting in my own two…

Here is the link to what Mark Coker actually said https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/27

    15 Comments

  1. I'm afraid I feel the need to correct you. The only illegal type of textual erotica is material that deals with pedophilia. Of the types of erotica that have been now excluded from Smashwords, NONE contravene any laws at all.

    You may find them offensive, you may WISH they were illegal, but fictional accounts of bestiality, rape and incest do not break any laws.

    I'm afraid your protestations of not supporting censorship ring a little hollow.

  2. Wow. Okay. Legally the ACT of committing rape or incest is illegal, and given the bestiality of that act, should not be considered titillating. However I understand that people like you do consider it so – who've never experienced the vaginal tearing, who've never bled for days, who've never had difficulty walking for the pain of forced penetration. It probably does seem exciting to you to have someone not care whether you want to have sex or not force themselves on you. That's the reality of rape and incest.
    On the other hand, I don't openly advocate the banning of such material, I understand that people find it exciting.
    A few months ago, seeing how much of such material proliferated on Smashwords, I made a suggestion to them, to take the more hard core versions and put it in a separate location – Smashwords Red, perhaps. Not censorship, still available. It would probably increase sales.
    I do understand that there are some people who find fictional accounts of the degradation of others exciting. As an erotica writer myself, I don't want to be gagged, but unless you're advocating giving such material to 16 year old girls, there should be some separation.

  3. I like the idea of separating erotica and erotic romance. What I don't approve of is the pick and choose attitude that these sites are taking. If your saying no incest then that should cover all fiction that deals with this topic such as V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic series. BDSM is not illegal but that's gotten the boot too.

  4. Honestly, I don't think paypal should demand those stories be taken down. It does feel like a form of censorship. People are weird when it comes to sex and enjoy reading about kinky or objectionable topics. Let's face it, some people get off on it. That doesn't make a person who enjoys reading a story about rape a bad person or go out and actually rape someone, but that's just shows how complex (or messed up, your choice) people are.

    I guess what makes this subject so tricky is the fact some ppl find it exciting and others (victims of such acts) find it horrifying. How do you find a balance between the two so no one is hurt and nothing is censored?

    I like your idea of separating the erotica titles into their own site, Valerie. It will make it easier for people to sort through and find the type of story (or kink) they are looking for.

  5. Actually, Flowers in the Attic would have been exempt because it didn't glorify incest. BDSM hasn't gotten the boot, I double checked the text. Only non-consensual – that is without safe words, constituting rape – has gotten the boot.

  6. Paypal is a business like any other, and they can choose what they condone and what they don't – just like the corner grocery.
    I can't govern them, neither can anyone, as Mark Coker points out. They tried to negotiate, neither side could find common ground….

  7. I think that the story line in Flowers in the Attic establishes the situation they were in, it was also not marketed as erotica. (Personally I wasn't fond of the book myself, but that's me.)
    And while Selena might have spoken to Paypal, according to Mark Coker's statement re:Paypal, BDSM is NOT out at SW. Se may have an issue with her own site, but Mark Coker has apparently negotiated a different arrangement.
    https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/27
    Perhaps rather than argue with me, you could take the time to do your own research.

  8. Actually, I wasn't trying to argue with you at all. I thought we were engaging in a conversation and I was sharing with you not only my opinion but also where I had heard some information that was related to your post.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Sorry Megan – but to be honest, I was taking a lot of heat from a lot of people for a blog I thought was a reasoned response to the situation. There's definitely a lot of misinformation flying around. My apologies because response was unnecessarily snappish. Many people have brought up Flowers in the Attic, as well as Lolita and other books as examples of fiction that might be banned. But none of those were written as erotic fiction, or explicitly to use rape, incest or sex with minors as titillation. That's an entirely different thing.
    So, I do apologize for being a little rude.

  11. This is my last and final statement on the matter. It will be copied and posted each time a 'friend' comments on the matter.
    Re: Smashwords and Paypal.
    Legally it's not an attack on free speech and it's not censorship – which requires the government – it's simply a corporation saying No, I won't promote sex with minors, rape, incest or bestiality. Which they have the right to do.
    There were and are alternatives but everyone drew lines in the sand. I don't support book banning or censorship, but this is neither. It's a corporation saying, I won't.
    A part of me wants to applaud their courage in declaring that they won't participate in the degradation of women and children.
    Another runs to raise the sword and say "I will defend to the death your right to write about any subject you choose."
    Difficult as it is, there was the alternative of setting up separate sites, making such material available in other ways. None of the participants chose to do so because it was "difficult". Easier by far to blame Paypal for not wishing to participate or condone those who wish to abuse women and children by making rape, incest objects of titillation and abuse.
    Personally, as a writer of all kinds of fiction, including erotica, I find such subject matter abhorrent in the extreme, but I can and will fight to the death for your right to want to publish it. But this is not it. There are alternatives. Find them or create them.

  12. Thank you for the apology. Though I don't agree with everything that you said, it is obvious to me that you put a lot of thought into this post.

    Yes. I know that Flowers in the Attic isn't marketed as erotica or erotic romance. I guess I'm just annoyed at the whole situation. There is just way too much censorship going on and I'm worried as to how far it will eventually go as well as how much of a double standard is going on. If things that aren't illegal are getting the ax then will YA books like Flowers – that deal with illegal issues – going to come under the blade eventually too?

  13. When Flowers in the Attic was first released – something I remember – there was no such thing as YA. The scenes of incest within it weren't written to titillate.
    In an case, it's not relevant.
    There ISN'T too much censorship going on, censorship is a legal process. What Paypal is doing is questionable, but it's not illegal, and technically it's not censorship. As a business they have the perfect right to do what they're doing, whether you or I approve or not. Please understand, I'm not saying that I like or approve, because I don't. It's judgmental, it's restriction of commerce, but it's not censorship.

  14. Point well made on the labeling. Judgmental it truly is, especially if censorship is considered only applicable if done by the government, not by media outlets or other controlling bodies.

    I can't remember when Flowers was released. I just remember reading the 4 or 5 books in the series as a teen and wondering about genetic mutation issues lol. But I guess that's what would come to mind for a nurses daughter.

    Thanks so much for going back and forth on this issue with me. As there are no people close to me that know anything about what's going on at all, it's nice to be able to "toss around" the issue with others like you! =O)

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Valerie Douglas, Author is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache