Monday, 27 February 2012

Banning books? The thin end of the wedge...

I’ve wanted to introduce you to my friend Sessha Batto for ages but the right moment never quite arose. Now it’s here. Sessha writes homoerotic fiction – yes, that's men having sex with one another. If you want to find out why (a question which has always fascinated me) then take a look at her post here.  I confess I haven’t read all her books because, well,  I guess I’m not the target audience. *smile*  But I love her to bits because she’s honest and kind and smart and generous and, if I had my back to the wall, I’d want her in front of me waving her sword. Anyhow, I found out yesterday that her books have been banned.
Yes, banned.  I dunno about you but that strikes a chill down my spine…   Anyhow,  I asked Sessha if she would explain what is going on and why it should matter to you – yes you – regardless of whether you read erotica (of any description) or not. Because, truly, once you start with censorship, you just never know where it will stop. So don't turn away because this is about freedom of thought.  

With no further ado, I hand the blog over to Sessh…

Shinobi - by Sessha Batto. Yup, a banned book.
“When Jane asked me to write a post about the wider reaching implications of the recent banning of some erotica from book distributors like Bookstrand, AllRomance and Smashwords I jumped at the opportunity. Then I sat and stared at a blank page for an hour. Censorship is such a dirty word, and believe me, having books you spent years creating virtually burned is a gut wrenching experience. Mostly though, I'm angry – angry at those who believe they alone hold the high moral high-ground and can dictate what I can and cannot read or write – and even angrier at myself, for not being more vigilant and doing something (I'll be honest, I know not what) before this came to a head.
If you haven't heard, Paypal – the largest internet payment processor – has banned certain content from being sold by any site that uses their services. This has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of erotica titles being removed from these sites. The implications of this are troubling on several fronts. First, should a corporation be able to dictate morality? Remember, they are merely money movers – they do not look at, handle, endorse or otherwise have anything to do with whatever is bought and sold.
Paypal has always had a moral agenda. They have exerted it before in lesser ways and will continue to tighten the noose until everything they deem ‘offensive’ becomes hard to obtain over the internet. Why? I have no clue, and, frankly, the thought of trying to get into that headspace makes me nauseous. As for the distributors – they acted due to business pressure, unfortunately in the process revealing some of their own moral prejudices, which gives the whole argument a self-righteous, holier-than-thou tenor that is particularly insulting to those of us who write intelligent, edgy, erotic literature. Morals are a personal thing, I believe everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and prejudices, however distasteful I may find some of them – but OWN them, don’t sneak them out when you can, smirking and wringing your hands in glee behind the curtain. Be up front with it. Personal responsibility. I’ve spent over half a century fighting against people who have tried to pigeon-hole me and tell me what I can do with my body and my mind. It hasn’t worked in the past, it won’t work now.
Banned? 

An even more troubling trend, in my mind, is the speed with which authors and publishers attempted to distance themselves from the situation. Loud cries of “I would NEVER write that” and “it's only the trashy books – they should be banned”. What these authors fail to realize is censorship is like cancer. It starts with one cell, in this case pedophilia, spreads to a few more like BDSM and rape fiction . . . but it doesn't stop, it grows faster and faster with each 'success' until it takes over. Wait a minute, you say, pedophilia – everyone hates that. You're right, BUT in this case it merely means sex with someone under the age of 18 – well 20, as they don't want to skirt too close to the line. If it were listed as erotica (which it is) instead of literary fiction (which it also is) Lolita would be banned. Bestiality? Well there goes Equus. 

Exploring difficult, painful subjects is one of the things fiction does best. 
It allows us a window into the mind's inner workings and a perspective outside of our own. Should an abused child be banned from writing her memoir? What about a rape victim? Catch phrases are easy to misinterpret, they are used to cause confusion and fear. We need to look beyond labels. We need to look beyond what we, ourselves, approve of.
Next in line? 
Some writers I know are in the process of re-working their books to conform with the new guidelines, refusing to see the hard truth. How many times will they put up with it – how much censorship will they allow? I have no question about my position, I refuse to alter so much as one word to conform to anyone else's moral compass – it is their compass, not mine. To think this cannot spread is hiding your head in the sand. If they chose to, under these same terms, electronic versions of works by Nabakov, Anais Nin, the Marquis de Sade, not to mention the Bible AND the Qu'ran would be banned from sale. The obscenity battles have been waged and won for works in print – now it is time for us to gird our artistic loins to fight the same battle for this new electronic world we find ourselves in.
Finally, and most troubling of all, this is primarily a woman's issue. Most readers and writers of erotica are women. This is about the attempt to once again enslave our bodies and minds, putting us back in the kitchen we only escaped in my lifetime. I've fought for my freedom to control my body and live my life on my terms, I had hoped those battles were behind me. Make no mistake, I'm even fiercer than I was as a youth, and just as willing to fight for my right to think, write, read and act as I please, not as I am told to.

Do not take this lying down, do not allow yourself to, yet again, be embarrassed into being marginalized. This is not about what you personally like or do not like. This is someone trying to tell women, as a group, that their fantasies, their thoughts, their secret longing are, somehow, unworthy and should be purged. They are WRONG, tell them they are wrong. Shout it from the rooftops. We are not puppets, or ho's, or bitches, we are intelligent, articulate, savvy consumers. Remind them who makes the buying decisions. You don't need to agree with the content; you aren't endorsing anything except your right to choose.”

There is an online petition – sign it here: 

If this interests you, here are some links to other blogs dealing with the issue. Please note that some of these sites contain adult material. 

Agnieszka's Shoes (Dan Holloway's blog)


See Sessha’s website at  http://sesshabattousai.com
And her books are available from Amazon.com here – and Amazon.co.uk here.

Now then, over to you. What do you think? Is it the thin end of the wedge? Should books be banned?  If so, which ones and why? Who should decide? Where is the dividing line? 

49 comments:

JD Revene said...

Banning books is never something to be casually condoned.

It seems to me Smashwords, who have been a wonderful supporter of the indpendent writer have behaved badly, albeit in a difficult commercial situation.

Paypal more so. And whilst I take the point Dan makes in his blog that we more and more expect corporations to act in accord with moral codes rather than simply pursue the mighty dollar, I shall be reacting to their moral stance with my own. I've 'signed' the petition to Paypal and, unless they change their stance, shall in future be using alternative payment channels.

I'll be linking to this blog from my book page and hope that others will also spread the word.

skybluepinkish said...

When I lived in the Transkei in the 80s (then an apparently "independent homeland of SA" I found the concept of banned books (and banned people) incredibly hard to get my head around. I always assumed it was to be a temporary experience, that when I returned back to the UK I would never come across a banned book again. I now find it hard to get my head around the fact that I was clearly mistaken.

Jane The Booklady said...

What shocked me about this post, is that I actually felt a bit nervous about writing a comment. It is so easy to feel that you might be seen to be agreeing to paedophilia if you don't just go along with the censorship.
But I have written and I do take a stand against books being banned, so I can only hope that many, many slightly cowardly people like myself will do the same. It's Vital.

Exmoorjane said...

Thanks JD and SBP ...and yes.

@Jane - Yes, and huge thanks for writing that honest comment and saying what I suspect a lot of people are thinking.

Sessha Batto said...

Jane - thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to reach a wider audience on your blog. This is, indeed, a scary topic. It's hard to take a stand when doing so seems to indicate support of individual books that you just can't approve of. It's hard for me, as well. I have a son, after all, but while there are books included that make a mother cringe, I think it is more important to show him that we stand up for what we believe in, and guarantee his freedom to choose. Choice is the key, I want him to have as many choices available as I have, and the freedom and intelligence to make the correct choices.

Exmoorjane said...

@Sessha - my absolute pleasure - thank you so much for agreeing and for your eloquent post. Would be great if you could drop by and answer any questions people may have about this.
Is damn important - for all the reasons you explain. Yes, as you know, I too have a son - and I am adamant that I don't want him to grow up in a society that bans books.

Bab's said...

I think the key issue is choice - freedom of choice. If I am honest I think on some of the comparisons you have made are stretching the point a little but I get what you're saying. In my opinion there is a difference between erotica and pornography. I guess the problem is that everyone draws the line in a different place? I do not, however, want anyone dictating to me what I can read and for that reason I signed the epetition before you wrote this post. I trust many more will sign.

Sarah said...

OK I signed. It's a disgrace that Paypal behave in this way, but I think that book distributors should seek for alternative payment providers. There are others out there, so don't take it lying down folks!

There's always a solution.

PS I hate that new wv system.

Sessha Batto said...

Babs - Thanks, and you're right, it IS a tough choice . . . but it's a choice. I just want everyone to be able to choose - adults should have that right in the 21st century.

Sarah- it gets worse, starting in April Paypal will be collecting more information on its users - verifying identities, running credit checks - all sorts of things that are NONE of its business. If you have an account CLOSE IT before it is too late!

Son of Incogneato said...

Was ever a slippery slope so slippery? The powerful and rich holders of the moral keys have picked out a few choice areas to censor today. Upon this victory they will surely press on with new goals tomorrow. With a stranglehold on the transfer of money, businesses fall to their knees, desperately clutching their cash-flow lifeblood.

PayPal - an American business. Oh the irony of that famous American slogan, Land of the Free, where the pursuit of happiness is actually written into the Constitution. A country originally founded by people who left their homelands because they were hounded by those who didn’t tolerate their differentness. Well, you are free to do as We deem fit and you can pursue those things that We find worth pursuing. Otherwise you are an outcast. Or an inmate.

In my time they spat at me ‘America: Love it or Leave it’. How dare you be so presumptuous, you ignorant, anal–retentive, hypocritical quidnuncs! The so-called founding fathers, whose names they toss about as if they were close relatives, surely do toss and turn in their graves, sickened even after death by the takeover of America by such reactionary morons. They pin flags on their suit lapels, bling-bling camouflage attempts at masking their true corporate and financial alliances. And the masses cheer them on, just like they did in a certain other country back 1930’s. There they burned books they didn’t like. Now it's easier, cleaner; they just erase them.

As Padmé so succinctly states in Star Wars: "So this is how liberty dies: With thunderous applause."

Remittance Girl said...

Thank you so much for this eloquent and well reasoned post. I don't have anything to add, you've said it all.

Fennie said...

Never thought I should be doing this but can I put in a word for that much maligned fellow the censor in his various forms? Censorship is a means to an end - not an end in itself and I suspect that in the matter of ends there wouldn't be much difference between us. But are we really saying that anything should go?

Are we saying that books and drawings that depict and describe, terrorism, torture, genocide, that promote the use of children as sexual objects, that encourage and demonstrate the torture of animals or which promote self-harm and suicide, that encourage people to have themselves killed for money - are we really saying that we should allow people free expression to say and show what they like regardless of the consequences - ever? Nor can you distinguish between words and pictures, nor works in one medium or another.

I don't care a fig about people's morals - it isn't disapproval - but I would argue there are some authored works whose potential to excite, inflame, mislead and to do general harm to society and its wider environment is such that we need to act to defend ourselves against them. It is not of no consequence whether they are banned or no.

Of course drawing a line is hard. Some writing will be caught that should be allowed and vice versa. But the fact that the dividing line is grey and blurred and constantly mutable doesn't mean that there ought not to be a dividing line. The pen really is mightier than the sword and with the internet behind it the evil pen can be very evil indeed.

We can all laugh at - and rejoice over - the futile efforts to ban books such as Lady Chatterly's Lover in the past. But would you allow manuals to circulate freely among the youth in bored rural communities such as Exmoor about badger digging with terriers with graphic illustrations of the injuries done to the beasts and recommendations for prolonging the animals' ordeal? Are we really saying that paedophilia and the rape of children should be subjects whose free circulation we should do nothing to try and prevent?

I would say that however desirable in theory complete freedom may be, however beguiling when set in the relatively inoffensive world of adult homo-eroticism, people should consider very carefully about what they wish for. Those who died in the cause of freedom of expression did not die so that others could stir up hatred, cruelty, oppression and degradation.

Sarah said...

I agree, Fennie, but PayPal should not be the final arbiters in what should or should not be censored when it comes to whole distributors. I will be checking how much I have left in my PayPal account and closing it when empty.

Sessha Batto said...

Fennie - you are, of course, entitled to your opinion. Unfortunately, censorship rarely occurs in such small, discrete bits. Sorry, let them ban one book and you're giving them the consent to ban anything they please. Do I like all books - HELL NO, but I have a choice not to read them - parents have an obligation (which too many try to evade) to pay attention to what our children are exposed to. Frankly, I can't think of a single sexual topic that I find more disgusting than the graphic portrayal of rape, murder and dismemberment which parades across our television every single day. Also, keep in mind that these banned books would NOT be considered obscene in print, why would you have a different standard for e-books?

zlsasnett said...

"Frankly, I can't think of a single sexual topic that I find more disgusting than the graphic portrayal of rape, murder and dismemberment which parades across our television every single day."

Exactly. Sex is still a dirty word and must be spoken of in hushed whispers behind hands and distributed with plain brown wrapping, but television and movies openly glorify violence.

...why is there not more recognition of this?

Sessha Batto said...

vlsasnett - exactly! Sex is bad, violence is good, is that really the message we should be sending our children? And books - people should thank the heavens their children want to read anything, modern technology is rendering most of them functionally illiterate. It's a sad commentary on society that we are so scared of something as essential to our nature as sex, and so welcoming of the violence which we should be afraid of!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I think once books start to be banned for their controversial content, a world of dictatorship has been borne. No author wants to find out their book has been banned. Where does the line get drawn? Do they start banning books about murder, about ghosts, about anything the provider CEO doesn't agree with? Surely we are responsible enough to make up our own mind as to what we like to read.

CJ x

Tyson said...

A great post, both here and on Sessha's page. I love the woman myself. For many reasons. And I find it ridiculous this sort of thing still exists in this time and age. But, I think a lot comes down to control.

Freedom of speech, but only if they like what you have to say.

Evie said...

I struggle with this. It's a more complex issue than simply saying PayPal is BAD for effectively banning books. What is at stake - I think - is freedome of trade.

With the backing of eBay, PayPal has positioned itself as THE payment processor on the web - a little research reveals dozens of competitors but the point stands, everyone uses PayPal. Having established a virtual (ha!) monopoly they are now overstepping their bounds to try to regulate commerce. This is the job of governments and courts, not "banks".

PayPal seized Wikileaks donations - allegedly at the behest of the US government.

They regularly "censor" individual authors - for example, a writer of books about the escort trade was "limited" last July.

They have seriously fucked up several charitable initiatives.

Cetera. I believe the website paypalsucks is rather good.

I'm not interested in discussing the merits or otherwise of PayPal's moral compass - although I am quite sure it is not applied by its parent company, but I am very concerned that they are exercising a right to refuse custom based on "ethics" rather than law. I expect PayPal (and eBay) to support all LEGAL financial transaction and act against the ILLEGAL. And if they will not do so then I hope that either

a) government will intervene - on the basis of "monopoly abuse"

or

b) one of their competitors will rise up to take their business.

However I won't be holding my breath. I also won't be using PayPal again until this - the wider issue - is resolved.

Greta said...

The thin end of the wedge indeed. What gives any corporation - indeed, any individual - the right to tell me what I can and cannot read? This is virtual burning of books, as Sessha said and it is WRONG.

Sessha Batto said...

Crystal, Tyson, Greta - thank you so much for the support. This is one of those loaded issues where so often hyperbole and exaggeration trump common sense - your calm collected voices speaking in defense of choice are a marvelous thing!

Evie - worse is coming, after April 1st paypal will be demanding proof of identity, bank information and even credit checks. Time to tell them that MY money is none of THEIR business, IMO.

Lorraine said...

I am not at all worried about supporting Sessha and others like her. I think it is a disgrace that someone not even involved in the publishing world can say they refuse to take money for anything sold they disapprove of. Sessha is a brilliant writer and friend, works darned hard and deserves her success. How dare someone come along and play the high moral ground.
I was married at 16 and had my son 120 months later when only 17 does. If it is legal to do that then how the hell can they say it is paedophilia to have sex with someone under the age of 18 or 20?
This is censorship at it's worst. Sessha, anything I can do to help just shout. xxx

Lorraine said...

I didn't have my son 120 months later! No idea how that happened- probably because I was annoyed for dear Sessha - I had him 10 months later!!

Ian J Smethurst said...

I have agonised over this for two full days, due to respect for my own readers I have decided to keep my work on smashwords, I should not punish them by restricting their own choice. And since both of my books are premium on smashwords, it is the main outlet that readers can access my work outside of kindle.

That being said though, I am not at all happy with this situation, what the heck gives the right of paypal to start basically making its own laws, which is what this is. They are a payment processor, nothing more. They are not the U.S. government, not the constitution (as I understand it - being British) they have no legal power whatsoever to enforce a change like this. And furthermore, who the heck are they to dictate to me what I can and cannot read.
It is for these reasons I have signed the petition as well.
And I do hope paypal are served with a lawsuit over this, they deserve to be.

Dan Holloway said...

It's always great to hear from Sessha, and she is particularly eloquent on this subject. Thank you, Jane, for having her. It would be good id this had all blown up before Sooz's series on censorship so it could be covered there.

On Sessha's points, I wholeheartedly agree with the latter and though I equally wholeheartedly disagree with the former (briefly on that - I have heard "don't look at us, we just move money" used too many times in the context of blood diamonds, Nazi art, stolen Jewish gold, and money tainted with sex trafficking and sweat shops to think anything other than that corporations absolutely should be held to account for where their money comes from - and that means there will always be the likes of Paypal who use that moral judgment for means I find utterly repugnant)

I will admit in my ignorance I hadn't realised there were writers either making their work meet the new criteria (Vichy, anyone?) or crying that they didn't write "that kind of thing". I don't write "that kind of thing" and I've removed my books from Smashwords in protest - isn't it the job of those who don't write "that sort of thing" to stand together with those who do? I find, as I think I wrote in my piece for Sooz, all the "of course I don't mean..." qualifications people use in the censorship debate utterly disingenuous. Thinking about it, I have seen lots of people wade in in the past condemning censorship but quickly qualifying either that they only write consensual stuff or "but of course I'm ont talking about xyz". The point is, either there's a line or there's not. If the line is what you find acceptable, then you have to allow that other people will find other things acceptable. If the line is the law - well, the law backs up the world's most repressive regimes, should we cave to them? So either you say there's a line and then try to chase down where it is and accept that it will get hellish messy and there will be all kinds of mixed motives. Or you say there's no line.
And that's where I get the same queasiness Sessha so expertly outlines - why was nothing said earlier? It's not a new thing that content is banned. No one I know writes erotica about minors, no one I know is anything but disgusted by it. But it was always banned and has been actively removed. And those "not me" sentences about that - how are they different from the "not me" sentences we are criticising now? That whole look-in-the-mirror-and-face-the-hypocrisy thing is damn uncomfortable. Is it the case we draw lines after all - in which case why are we standing with people now? Because we know and like them? Because deep down we feel comfortable with what they write? Isn't that *really* spineless?

Which brings me back to where I left my post for Sooz. Sex isn't something I have strong opinions about one way or another in terms of content. I don't think even the most repugnant piece of sexual writing ever started a war or caused misery to millions (unlike many seemingly innocuous pieces that perpetuate stereotypes). But if this were about race, say, or homophobia? Could I stand up and write a blog post enjoining my wrier friends to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone who demands their right to have hate-lit made accessible to all? I would say I don't know. But I do know. Of course I couldn't. And I really really don't like what that says about me as a person. But if I could, I wouldn't like what that says about me just as much.

All of which is to say, I wonder if I find it easy to say I'm with you on this one only because sex isn't where I draw my line.

Whichever way I look in this debate I see things which make me feel rather sick at myself. The only comfort I take is I think what Sessha's point is, is that what's sickest of all is that a whole bunch of people aren't looking.

Sessha Batto said...

Lorraine - I am SO glad you clarified that, I was about to start crying at the thought of 120 months of pregnancy, I barely made it through 9 ;) I appreciate your support - I am proud of my writing, and have readers who enjoy it. Not for everyone, of course, and I totally respect that. This is, though, an issue which has far reaching implications that everyone needs to be aware of. If we aren't careful things like this slip under the radar until it's too late!

Sessha Batto said...

Ian- I have said many times over the past few days that this is a very personal issue and everyone needs to make the choices that work for them. All I'm asking is that people choose, not acquiesce to whatever is thrust upon them. Eyes open and fully alert is where we all need to be, beyond that it's personal ;)

Jaxbees said...

If you don't like it, don't read it. It really is that simple. I couldn't really imagine me buying a homeo-erotic novel in the near future but nor would I be buying chic lit, I'm not calling for either of them to be banned though, just because they're not MY thing. We'll be burning books next. Absolute Ill-thought through madness. Poor Sasha. I hope this all gets sorted out quickly.

Sessha Batto said...

Dan - sadly many erotic and erotic romance writers have not shown the solidarity about this issue that I expected, and not nearly what has been shown by the community of writers at large. I have been roundly chastised for breaking the "rules" (and no - I never got the rulebook apparently), called a bully for urging erotic writers to pull their books rather than be subjected to censorship. Worst of all, I have been made to feel like a pariah for writing content that crossed the invisible line - and this by people who also write erotica :( Most troubling of all is the move toward self-censorship, writers rewriting to excise the content in question, or suggesting self-policing content boards made up of erotic writers. We cannot afford to start letting others tell us what we can think or feel or write.

Sessha Batto said...

Jaxbees - exactly my point. Everyone can choose for themselves what they enjoy - we're adults we CAN think for ourselves ;)

Dan Holloway said...

Absolutely. I'm 100% with you on sex - the problem I get looking in the mirror is that when it comes to racism, say, I want to draw lines. I really really hope this will make people think more deeply - I don't necessarily mind where people come out, but if they are happy with drawing lines, I hope they realise the full implications of what that means and stop being so hypocritical as to criticise the likes of China and other countries for drawing the line somewhere else. And if they say no line then I hope they will come out and admit that means allowing things they find repugnant like non-consensual sex with minors. Both those outcomes feel unacceptable, but in reality the only really unacceptable thing is not to think about it and cave in and do what the paymasters want because they're the paymasters.

And it would be great if there were less euphemism in this whole debate (something that absolutely doesn't apply to you, Sessha!)- it's very easy to support anti-censorship when it's about homoerotic erotica - for my money too much debate has focussed on pseudo-incest, because people feel safe on that ground. But censorship isn't a safe subject. And if we're going to stand up and be counted we need to stand up and be counted for what we're actually saying.

Sessha Batto said...

Dan - think how the ACLU must feel when they defend the Klan's right to demonstrate. Law school was very good for teaching me to segregate what my personal beliefs are from the overriding larger issue. We need to be able to choose - then we can exercise our right to NOT choose what we personally find offensive. We should not be the judges except for ourselves. Do I wish people would be more tolerant - of course, am I willing to force them into it - no. Everyone's karma is their own, we all need to defend our choices to ourselves.

Soooz said...

Soooz is re-opening the censorship discussion to everyone that would care to contribute.

I have only just calmed down sufficiently after learning of what has been so cleverly sugar coated by the power of PP. Lets use our own version of PP shall we...it stands for People Power.
People power my friends...remember that little place called Vietnam? Do you recall what happened when a groundswell of people said "Enough is enough!"

Okay? I'll work out the details, of you want to join in the 'Discussion" and I do mean 'discussion' send me an email at suzieb4burke@hotmail.com please note "People Power" in the subject line. Jane thank you for standing up to be counted, honey.
Soooz

Eve McFadden said...

As I understand this -- and I have posted on my own blog and other threads about this -- PayPal is saying that they do not want their service to be used to facilitate certain transactions. That is their right as a business -- and I'm not defending them. My own publisher is considering shutting down because of this.

Part of the problem is that Smashwords went all in with PayPal. Maybe they had no choice, maybe they thought it was the best idea; either way, this shows that diversity in suppliers can be good.

Anyway, PayPal provides a service and can place limits on the use of that service. They are not saying that these books cannot be written, or published, or sold, or bought, they just do not want to be part of that process.

We all have a right to free speech and expression, but no one is obligated to provide us a platform for that speech or expression. Publishers reject books all the time, and that's not censorship. Bookstores decide what to sell, or not, and that is not censorship.

PayPal has made it a little more difficult for some people to obtain certain types of books. There are other places to get these, and while it may not be as easy as one-click, it is still possible.

You are also free to set up your own site and sell your stuff. PayPal doesn't have to help you.

I wish they were not doing this.

Sessha Batto said...

You are absolutely correct, Eve - Paypal has the right to do whatever they wish within the bounds of the law. And we, as consumers, have the right to tell them we don't like it by raising a stink and voting with our wallets. If we do not we are agreeing through non-action.

Sessha Batto said...

Eve - You're right, it's a business decision and one Paypal has every right to make. We, as consumers, have every right to raise a stink and vote with our wallets and refuse to use their service. As long as no laws are being broken I do not think banks, or credit card companies, or payment processors should have a right to tell me what I can spend my money on.

Sessha Batto said...

Dan, thinking about your earlier post. So race, say, bothers you - are you one of the supporters of the rewriting of Huckleberry Finn? See, there's that slippery slope again. We can't ban ALL of anything, so we need to ban nothing and each impose our own personal sliding scale.

Exmoorjane said...

Great debate here, guys...and thank you all for being so honest and measured. And, again to Sessh for writing this and responding to your comments. I'm with her on the question of censorship, for the record...however distasteful we may find particular viewpoints and words, we cannot selectively ban and so we have to use our own moral compass to decide what we personally want to read and what we discard. There are plenty of things I would wish weren't in print but the old adage 'better out than in' has some weight here, I feel.

How we handle societies' less savoury aspects is a complex issue but it is not likely to come about by banning people from reading or seeing. That just pushes the issues underground where they become far more dangerous.

Exmoorjane said...

Do keep commenting, btw - that was just my added extra to the discussion. :)

Everything czyli wszystko said...

One of my books, 'Pro-vocation' was banned by amazon.uk for couple months last year. But that was for political reasons, so... yawn...

Ashen said...

I went to Soooz's site and left this comment, copied here ... seem's it is a political issue after all.

I find this all deeply worrying ...
Excerpt from Mark Coker’s reply to Maria K. ...
It's not so simple to just unplug PayPal. Their policy originates with the banks and credit card companies that power them, and if we want to continue accepting credit cards either with PayPal or any other payment provider, we need to understand from where this originates. I'll continue to work on behalf of all our authors to stand up against this, but I'm unwilling to martyr our business for the sake of one day's battle. We live to continue the fight on another day ...

This smells of social engineering, and I am reminded of how cigarettes are being airbrushed from photographs of public figures, like film stars and even Churchill. This is not just about not being able to call a spade a spade any more, it's back to 'holy silence' and goody-goody-two-shows (Freudian slip) projecting their unsavoury power-abuses into the one issue that most exposes power games - sex - in all its form.

Sessha Batto said...

Ashen - yes at times I feel Big Brother is carefully rewriting history to rid it of anything now thought to be politically or socially incorrect (like smoking and sex).

Sara said...

This is very scary stuff Sessha. I have been fighting for women's rights for years and it drives me mad! Censorship also fills me with fear. No one should be allowed to dictate your own morals in this form. They are a matter for the individual and I too will be reconsidering using paypal if they do not change their policy. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention, Sessha.

Sara Curran-Ross

Dan Holloway said...

What do people make of Mark Coker's latest e-mail?

http://www.fightingmonkeypress.com/?p=2231&utm_term=New+Blog+Post

It seems to use some of the right buzzwords though he again muddies things with the ridiculous "if it's legal" qualification.

Sessha Batto said...

I'm not sure what to think, Dan. It's nice to see him trying, but I'd like to see more of a willingness to move away from Paypal if issues can't be resolved. I have to stick to my position that any censorship of fiction is too much censorship - no matter how rational it seems or who is imposing it. We need to be free to explore all the dark areas of the human condition, not just the light ones.

Expat mum said...

Eve Mcfadden said what I was going to see - these books aren't banned, they're just not being carried/distributed etc. by some companies, and as private entities these companies have as much right to pick and choose what they do (within the law) as writers have about their subject matter.
Do I like it? No. I'm living in the USA listening to Republican candidates seriously attempting to force women to have a trans-vginal ultrasound against their will, (amended to just a regular ultrasound yesterday), and where the runner-up candidate says that US colleges are dens of liberalism and are corrupting our children. It's awful and quite terrifying.
However, there is an answer - vote with your credit cards, ie. take your money elsewhere. That's the only language big businesses understand. Just as the Komen Foundation realised when it tried to stop its grants to Planned Parenthood over here, if enough people are truly pissed off, there will be huge negative consequences.

Expat mum said...

"Say" not "see". Sorry.

Anonymous said...

If banning totally legal sexual writing is allowed to be suppressed without blowback, what about books about other things that many people find objectionable? Abortion? Contraception? Alcohol? Islam? Judaism? Catholicism? Communism? Evolution? Atheism? Vitamins? Eating Meat?

Donna said...

Two comments struck a deep chord with me, a Canadian: the first, fearing that not to support censorship might imply support for pedophiles.

Two weeks ago one of our federal leaders (Vic Toews) stood up in the House of Commons to pitch a new privacy bill (C20) that will give police the right to search Canadian's online activity and emails without a warrant. The Minister said "either you're with the gov't or you support the pedophiles." Fortunately, Canadians of all political stripes responded against this statement, recognizing that our rights stood to be seriously eroded. Censorship and privacy are sisters; if one is eroded the other will soon follow.

The other comment that struck me lead me to think about the horrific censorship that already exists in many countries and is growing worse by the decade. This censorship is not about removing books that contain sexual conten, it's about eliminating the histories of our countries that don't make us feel good. Many states in America are fighting (some succeeding) to remove all references to the slave trade from their history textbooks. In Canada, we did terrible things to First Nations children in stealing them from their homes and forcing them to attend residential schools some decades ago. Hundreds, if not thousands, of those children were abused. Do our own history books cover this important "event"? No. And many are fighting to keep it that way. This kind of censorship is equally dangerous and is happening quietly.

Thank you for your post about the censorship that has touched you personally. And to anyone who isn't sure what side of the fence they sit on because you're squeamish about explicit sex scenes... get over it! This issue goes deep and is very dangerous to all of our rights and freedoms.