I don’t like Erotica. I spent zero dollars on it last year (last decade, too). The trends in cover art annoy me, the proclivity for boilerplate bothers me, and never in my life have I grasped the appeal of reading words about fucking. Fucking is quite possibly the most redundant and boring subject in all prose. I get more from reading tax law.
I told you all that to tell you that I support the sale of Erotica. Recently Paypal’s operators threatened to stop processing payments with Smashwords unless it stopped selling certain books. According to Smashwords-boss Mark Coker, the big ones were, “erotic fiction that contains bestiality, rape and incest.”
It’s not all Erotica. Bestiality, rape and incest, plus some pedophilia that Coker proudly declared his company already refuses to distribute. Pretty gross to the average person, and you can imagine that most Erotica writers trumpeting “rape” probably aren’t making artistic hay with it. The current trend of titillating Pseudo-Incest novels with “Daddy” in the title? Yeah. But it doesn’t matter.
Fellow readers and writers, don’t argue that it’s Erotica Vs. Moralists. It is a moral issue that people be allowed to write fiction about sex as they desire, and when not infringing upon the rights of others, that they be allowed to share, publish and charge for it. I am morally for freedom in fiction.
It is PayPal’s right not to facilitate sale of these products; it would be dangerous to legislate otherwise. Yet it’s bigger than this. We are treading on principles. Works classified as “Literary Fiction” have already been flagged for Terms of Service violation. One week in and we’re not in the realm of hypotheticals anymore, Toto. Readers and writers remember Amazon de-listing LGBT books in2009, and we are still living in a period when libraries ban classic books. This is more disturbing to me than Vladimir Nabokov getting banned; I fear for an aspiring no-name Vladimir Nabokov Jr. out there, whose career has yet to begin, trying to build a platform, who got told to click UNPUBLISH today.
But even if no Vladimir Nabokov Jr. got that message today, it doesn’t matter. This is not about a stranger deciding what is and isn’t titillating writing, and thus banning the next Gore Vidal or Norman Mailer. This isn’t about such pressures expanding to some day to suppress LGBT fiction, though it is easier to imagine than I’d like. And this is not about a corporation coming after me some day. If biases go unchecked then there’s a good chance someone will hate my transgender character, or that a snake has a crush on her, or that I depict succubae doing what they do and still place them on the “good guys” side. My novel is a safe distance from PayPal striking against rape-porn, but even if I was the next target on their list, it wouldn’t make a difference. This is unacceptable no matter where you are. That is morality.