Paypal managed to strike yet another blow on freedom of speech in America when they issued an ultimatum to Smashwords regarding erotica in their publication cue. After many negotiations, the independent publishing platform had to let the bigger dogs win. Smashwords will now be taking down hundreds if not thousands of erotica books from their system.
The problem is the type of erotica: stories dealing with incest, pseud0-incest, bestiality, rape, and similar sexual persuasions. Moralists object to material of this nature and have taken stands against its liberal publication throughout various periods in American history. It’s rocky ground for publishing houses of any type as a result, and more often than not I’ve seen those houses crumble more than once.
But as Mark Coker of Smashwords himself says in the related press release, “Regardless of your opinion on incest, it’s a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It unfolds in our imagination. I’ve always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind. From an imagination perspective, erotica is little different from a literary novel that puts us inside the mind of farm animals (Animal Farm), or a thriller novel that puts us inside the mind of a terrorist, or a horror novel that puts us inside the mind of an axe-murderer or their victim. All fiction takes us somewhere. We read fiction to be moved, and to feel. Sometimes we want to feel touched, moved, or disturbed. A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved.”
I happen to agree with him, being the publisher and writer of Heavenly Bride – whose primary love interest is a young woman described as “barely legal” by a jealous teacher – and often find myself concerned on the directions Paypal takes based on their own version of high morality. I don’t consider Heavenly Bride to be erotica per se, but it does have the occasional erotic situation. Even without that element, I often worry that I and it may someday fall under the line of fire just for the fact that it deals with an all too real situation: an older man falls in love with a younger woman, a student of his.
As Mark Coker puts it further, “The moralists forget that we humans are all sexual creatures, and the biggest sex organ is the brain. If it were not the case, none of us would be here. Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple. Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica. That’s not fair.”
So I continue to watch this virile situation with interest and may or may not keep you informed.
For more information on Smashwords’ stance in this matter and what is now allowed through their publication platform, check out the press release at the following link: