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.
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
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?