Let me offer you a scene.
A small bank in any town. Morning. The light slants through the front windows and splashes over the polished granite flooring. A conservatively dressed woman stands at the front of the line, waiting for the next available teller. A place becomes free and she steps up to the counter.
"Hello, I'd like to withdraw $50 dollars from my account." She slides her withdrawal slip across under the glass barrier.
"Good morning Mrs. Smith. $50? What denomination would you like that in?"
"Two twenties and a ten, please."
"What are you going to use this for, Mrs. Smith?"
"It's a new policy, I'm afraid. What are you going to be using this money for?"
"Hmmm. Well... I'm going to buy some books. Okay?"
"None of your business!"
"Oh, but I'm afraid it is our business, Mrs. Smith."
"You've got to be joking."
"I'm afraid not. We wouldn't want you to buy anything that contravened our corporate values."
"You're a god damn bank!"
"Look, do you want the money or not, Mrs. Smith?"
In the last few months, PayPal has slowly but systematically effected a chilling change. It has threatened to stop processing any transactions and freeze the vendor's account if online eBook vendors do not immediately purge their virtual shelves of any fiction books containing incest, rape, bestiality or underage sex.
AllRomance eBooks, Bookstrand, and Smashwords have all been forced to conceed to their demands, because there is no other transactional service out there that can efficiently process their transactions. Some of them have knuckled under with barely a whimper, but Mark Coker, of Smashwords, has done his level best to negotiate a sane relationship.
And your first reaction may very well be: Great! Good riddance to bad rubbish. But please consider what is happening rationally. An online microtransaction provider is deciding what people can and should read.
Fictional representations of criminality are not criminal. These are absolutely legal books. They may not be to your taste, but they are legal.
And consider who the decisionmaker is here. Not the publisher, not the bookstore, not a literary critic, not the government, not the courts. An online bank has exercised its power in the transactional phase of the book buying process to act as censor.
My best selling novel, Gaijin, is one of the books that has been banned. It has representations of non-consensual sex and I leave it up to the reader to decide whether they are arousing or not. I do this quite deliberately, because over 40% of all women have rape fantasies of some kind. I wanted to explore why and what lay beneath this phenomenon. Two psychologist, Critelli and Bivona, published a wide-ranging and groundbreaking study on rape fantasy and found that, for many women, rape in fantasy had other meanings. It reflected historical social reality, but was appropriated and metamorphosed into mechanisms for permission to explore sexual fantasies.
And before you judge me as an author, or judge my book as filth, please read this reader review.
If this carries no weight with you, consider this: if we were to cull the canon of Western Literature using the PayPal banned content guidelines, here is what would disappear:
The Old and New Testaments
Most Classic Greek homoerotic poetry
Romeo and Juliette
A Clockwork Orange
The Tin Drum
Flowers in the Attic
Everything by the Marquis de Sade
Story of the Eye
Tess of d'Urbervilles
Need I go on?
Readers do not have to buy or read books that offend them. But denying them the right, as adults, to choose what they read, is obscene. And to have a bank do it for them is worse.
First the came for the erotica writers. Are you next?
Causes Remittance Girl Supports
Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women The Pleasure Project: A sex-positive organization working in the HIV prevention field.