I’ve had an evening and most of today to think more about this and how it affects me. I’m still not sure if I’m more angry or more worried about the future implications.
This probably won’t come as a surprise to many female readers of erotica, but I like me some rape fantasies. Now, I say that as a survivor myself. I’ve been through the real thing and yet I still enjoy reading erotica that contains force, non-consensual and dubious consent themes. It’s just one of those things and I haven’t really put a great deal of thought into the hows and whys of it; it simply is, for me. If I were going to get intellectual about it, I’d probably say it allows me to take back control of my sexuality but really…reading a well-written force scene curls my toes, end of story. Writing one gets my pulse racing. I like the stuff.
I’m also a lifestyle submissive who has a love for BDSM themes, another area that tends to draw sidelong looks and raised eyebrows for those with no interest in the area.
PayPal has said no depictions of rape. Mark Coker has said depictions of rape have no place anywhere, not even in erotica, if the purpose is to titillate. Judgments are being made that have an effect not only on what I hope will become my livelihood but on me as a person.
I don’t like that much and it does make me worry what might be stage two of the smut purge. Incest, even pseudo-incest (why is it a banning offense to write about two consenting adult step-siblings doing it?), rape and bestiality in written form, gone. Next? BDSM? It’s another of those subjects that raises eyebrows. It’s a grey area so far as consent goes. Yes, initial consent is given but for people who consent to and enjoy boundaries being pushed, we recognize that outside observers might not see it as being full and complete consent. So far it doesn’t seem that M/m or m/m stories are being targeted (quite the opposite, on some sites they’re being ignored even as their het pairing counterparts are being taken down?) but with it being election year and so many Conservatives making the perils of gay anything a talking point, that might well change.
And then there’s just the fact that I don’t much appreciate anyone telling me what I can and cannot write. Even if I never intended to write a blatant bestiality story for public consumption (most of my stuff tends to go into the realm fantastic for that sort of thing), being told I can’t makes me want to write that. All of a sudden, all of my non-best/non-incest/non-rape ideas have flown out the window and all I can think about are the story seeds I was saving that had those elements.
Going forward in this is also going to be a little like the literary equivalent of picking my way through a minefield, in which I second guess every step I make while wondering if I’m treading a little too close to some arbitrary line of disapproval.
That takes some of the fun out of it.
Mr. Coker, as an author on Smashwords I understand why you chose to make the call you did. I do get it, PayPal has everyone’s metaphorical balls in a vise. I would like to think that you are going to look for a way to allow those of us with tastes in literature that you don’t share to continue using your service. I like Smashwords, I don’t want to take my work elsewhere; you’ve created a site that has the ease of use and services that I have been looking for.
But I am very, very disappointed. And a little sad that you think my tastes have no place in erotica…although, upon rereading that, you know what? What you think doesn’t matter so much. PayPal too. Yes, what I can put out there for public consumption has been limited in several ways, but no one chopped my fingers off. May you never find yourself in a situation where your personal choice in fantasy is set up for public judgment. Really, it isn’t fun. But it’s also not the end of the world.
All right, ramble and mourning over.
Approaching this practically, my options are:
1) To continue writing whatever the hell I want and just vary my submission patterns a bit. Split up where I’m sending things. A little clunky (especially for someone who is still learning the ins and outs of ebook publishing) but it would probably allow me the greatest freedom from censorship. Might be a little tricky since while Amazon may allow pseudo-incest, last time I checked they weren’t allowing works of non-consent. Can anyone tell me whether that’s accurate?
2) Stick with Smashwords for the moment in the hope that an alternative presents itself for those of us who have certain tastes. Write what I want to write but stockpile the pieces that are considered worthy of censorship. Maybe even offer them for free (or some of them. I have bills accumulating!)
3) Write what I want to write and put publication in any venue on hold for now until the dust settles, and we get a better view of the landscape, post-purge. Maybe look into PayPal alternatives and setting up my own site where I can sell what I want without the morality police breathing down my neck about my (and my readers’) personal tastes in fantasy.
Right now, these all have their pros and cons. I suppose the simplest first step to take is to re-work My Lover, My Brother into pseudo-incest and throw it over to Amazon. The possibility of them being childhood friends and next door neighbors exists as well but I think that would require more re-working of the story and after spending the better part of a week working on it, I don’t know if I want to spend another week re-writing it.
Meh. Meh I say.