Home » Personal » Playthings in the Hands of the Arbiters of Decency

Playthings in the Hands of the Arbiters of Decency

First off, just to let you know, I’m going to get rude.  I’m going to use bad language.  You know what that means:  if you don’t want to see the nastiness that’s coming, then you don’t want to go beyond this paragraph.  But, hey . . . before you leave, here’s something on Lauren Faust’s Super Best Friends Forever!  It’s really cute–trust me!



That said, onward . . .

I gotta tell you, the thing with PayPal getting all medieval on some of the ebook publishers, in particular Smashwords.  I don’t know if I should say “medieval”, because this is the 21st Century, and you’d think by now people would actually be intelligent enough not to keep bringing up things like birth control, women’s sexuality, and erotica as things in need of control by others . . . oh, what?  Sorry, I must have set the controls to the TARDIS incorrectly; I thought we were living in the future . . .

Now, if you read the press release from Smashwords, you’ll see PayPal was all up in this thing over four areas:  bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.  Now, personally, I’m not too upset about bestiality and underage stories, because that’s not my scene.  Incest can be tricky; after all, that’s the corner stone of one very famous TV episode that caused viewers with easily blown minds to completely lose their shit–Home, from The X-Files–and it played a very small part in the movie, The Crow, but gave you an insight into two of the characters.

And when you discuss rape-for-titillation . . . wait a minute, Jack, ’cause I gotta ask a question here:

Who the hell really writes a rape scene with the thought in the back of their mind, “This is really good, I hope it gets a lot of people off!”?  Rape is violence, and no one should ever get off on it–

‘Cept people do.  And we know this.  So by saying “rape-for-titillation”, you’ve basically said, “No rape, ever!  Got it?”  Even if it’s something that’s essential to the plot of your story–say, like if you have this OCD-troubled genius woman who’s a hell of a hacker, but, you know, getting raped a few times really messed her up–you can’t have it.  And so, according to the hammer that PayPal just swung, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo might be a title that would need to get yanked from Smashwords.

Or any other publisher doing business with PayPal.

I’m not going to get into Smashwords shit over where what they did was right or not.  Some groups are fighting it by telling PayPal to stick it, and they’re going with some other way of giving and receiving payments.  You see, that’s what PayPal is:  they are a payment service that was originally designed to help manage payments for eBay.  That’s all they’re suppose to do.  Money in from one place, money out to another.  It’s a pretty simple process, and I can say that because my “real’ background is 25 years in IT, and I’ve worked with this sort of thing.

Sure, Smashwords says they can’t kick PayPal because they pretty much integrated into their website.  I might suggest starting to “integrate” other payment services as well, because, lets be honest . . . PayPal is screwing your authors.

See, this isn’t about incest or bestiality or, my favorite, rape-for-titillation–there is one I’m leaving off, and for a good reason that I’ll get to later–this is about The Big C . . . Censorship.  This is about someone coming in and saying, “Hey, I don’t like this shit, get it off your site or I’m gonna hold your money for ransom!”  Yes, I can imagine that PayPal put the boots to Smashwords and wouldn’t budge, but still:  this is, once again, about someone finding material objectionable.

I’m not going to lie:  I hate censorship.  I learned early from, from many of the writers who were my idols, that once you let censorship get a toe in the door, the goddamn thing is gonna keep coming until it’s all the way in your house, your business, your school . . . everywhere.  And once it’s there, it’s gonna start clucking its fat tongue and say, “Oh, my, my, you certainly have a lot of dirty books, don’t you?”

I don’t need that shit.  Why?  Because I can think for myself, that’s why.

Sure, the Smashwords release has this tidbit to justify one of their actions:  “The slippery slope is dangerous, but I believe this imperfect decision is in the best interest of the community we serve.”  Were he a younger man, Harlan Ellison–one of my idols, and one of the people I would love to have, say, 1/100th of his talent–would be kidney punching your ass this very moment.  You see, the censors want you on that slippery slope, because once you’re on it, pal, they can just keep pushing your ass again, and again, and again.  They don’t like something, hell, you play ball, or you get pushed right off the slope.  And they want to keep you there, forever, playing their game.

It’s how they game the system.  They get you where they want you, and then they come on like a mob enforcement team, telling you to toe their line, or it’s, “Hey, it’d be a shame if something bad happened to this website, you know?”

Right now Smashwords is catching a lot of shit on this deal, and I don’t blame them.  I do have a story there, and so do a few of the writers I know who publish erotica.  Personally, I don’t have any skin in this game–oh, wait:  I do.  I have a story there.  It doesn’t matter that it’s not erotica–what matters is that I’m a writer, and if one writer can have their works removed because of something PayPal didn’t like–like, at this moment, I’m thinking the one I saw the other night, Fucked by Werewolves, got the heave-ho–then there’s always the chance my story will get yanked as well.

So it does no good to say, “Oh, this doesn’t affect me.”  Do you write?  Yes?  Then it fucking affects you.

Let me show you where the slippery slope comes into play.  Smashwords included this little bit in their release concerning rape:


“At Smashwords, rape no longer has a place in erotica.  It has no place anywhere else if the purpose is to titillate.  Non-consensual BDSM – or any other form of non-consensual violence against another person – is prohibited.”


See, we have a couple of pushed buttons here that bother me.  One is “erotica”.  A single genre is being singled out.  Does that mean if I’m writing science fiction–which I do–I can get rape happy?  And this line, “It has no place anywhere else if the purpose is to titillate.”  Sorry, but I’ve written fetish fiction for site around the Internet, and believe me: rape will titillate some people.  Just as pregnant, lactating women titillate  some people.  Just as the fantasy of a woman getting turned into a gynoid (female robot) and being used by an owner for whatever the hell they like will titillate some people.  You make a comment like that, and pretty soon you can’t even write a mystery where a woman gets raped, because, by these guidelines, Smashwords via PayPal ain’t gonna like it.

And this last . . .  “Non-consensual BDSM – or any other form of non-consensual violence against another person – is prohibited.”  For my friends and I in the erotica biz, one of the things you learn is BDSM is always consensual.  If it isn’t, then it’s not BDSM, it’s something else.  But wait a moment:  violence is pretty much always non-consensual!  Violence is violence, and it can have a place in a story, because the aftereffects of it can do something to a character.  To me, this is another of those, “BDSM doesn’t mean what you think it means,” definitions.  And the way the statement is worded, it’s so fucking gray it could be a Liam Neeson movie.

And this doesn’t just affect Smashwords.  Do a little investigating, and you discover Barnes & Noble can use PayPal for payments, and this makes you wonder–is PayPal going to lay a little smackdown on them as well?  I mean, if we go by Smashwords guildlines–which, in my opinion, they got handed to them by PayPal–then we can see what sort of shit we gotta get rid of . . .


Right off the bat, one of my favorites:  Titus Andronicus.  You got rape, mutilation, murder galore, cannibalism . . . what the hell, Willy?  What sort of sick son of a bitch were you?  Out with ya!

Lets take a look at 1984.  “Wait a second,” you’re saying, “ain’t got none of that stuff talked about up above!”  Well, remember that slippery slope?  I know a little about BDSM, and I could argue that the Ministry of Peace is one huge dungeon, and O’Brien is totally the Master in charge of that hellhole, and Room 101–well, that’s where you take your slave you’re trying to condition–and the Ministry of Peace is all about conditioning, mind you–and you strap that sucker to a chair, against their will, and you do whatever it is that’s the worst thing in the world you can to break them–and that might include strapping a mask with a rat in it over the slave’s face.  If that isn’t non-consensual BDSM, I don’t know what is.  Look at it this way, George: people have been looking to ban your ass for decades.  Now they can!

Now there’s another favorite of mine:  the uncut version of The Stand.  If you know me, you know where I’m going:  The Kid and Transcan Man on their way to the Eisenhower Tunnel.  Put two psychopaths in a hotel room for the night, and what’s the worst that can happen?  How about The Kid totally dominates Trashy, bends him over, and sodomizes him with the barrel of a pistol?  Non-consensual BDSM, for sure, and while it’s not rape done for the sake of titillation, I can bet you that somewhere, someone read that scene and got aroused.  Or maybe PayPal will let this slide because (1) it’s a famous author, (2) it’s not erotica, and most important, (3) it doesn’t involve a woman.  Hum . . . fuck it: slippery slope and all.  Better chuck it!


Notice there’s one thing I’ve left out, and that’s the last category:  underage erotica.  This has be confused, because most people will tell you anything concerning sex and the underage is erotica . . . actually, they’ll tell you it’s porn or smut, but that’s another story.

Does this mean that anything that’s considered “real” literature gets a pass?  Because–and you know where this is going–since a whole hell of a lot of people consider anything even remotely touching on the subject of a minor having sex is gonna have people seeing red . . .


Like, oh, Lolita.  I mean, do I really have to tell you what it’s about?  This is a book that’s been loathed by a huge number of people since it was published, and even Nabokov came to hate the damn thing.  Is it going to get a pass because it’s a famous work of literature, or is PayPal gonna call it smut and have Barnes get it the hell out of their server?

Finally, let me tiptoe over to another Stephen King novel, It.  Oh, sure: shapeshifting monsters, scary murder clowns, a band of kids to take them all on.  What could be wrong here?  If I were a douchebag prude, I’d say, “How about Beverly?”

You know, Beverly?  Sexually abused girl; chain-smoked like mad; lets herself get into an abusive relationship when she’s older because, hey, that’s just how she rolls.  And lets talk about how, when they are fighting It the first time, they feel their magical bond starting to slip away, so what does Beverly do?  She has sex with all the boys.  Six of them.  Hell, even the black kid gets a ride.

Did I mention they were all about 12 or so?  No?  Humm . . . well, I did now.

And we’re not talking about action that takes place off-screen.  Nope.  We’re talking about “Get on top of me and put it in now!” sort of things, and once it’s done they all feel better and they go kill the scary monster–maybe.

Is this going to be another novel that gets The PayPal Pass because it’s not erotica, it’s just happened to have a scene where a young girl has sex with all her friends, because they don’t, the monster wins?

These slippery slopes . . . they are a bitch.


I’ve loathed censorship of every kind since I was young.  I was reading at an adult level when I was like five, which meant I always had people telling me what I could and couldn’t read.  Once I said, “The hell with it,” and started reading whatever I wanted, I began learning a hell of a lot more than the kids I went to school with–or even the school board.

See, the high school I went to . . . in 1976 they banned the American Heritage Dictionary because it had “inappropriate words”.  Actually, that’s wrong:  it was banned because some shit-for-brains woman in Texas, Mrs. Norma Gabler, used her influence from getting books banned in Texas to convince a bunch of assholes on the Cedar Lake, IN, school board, to remove the AHD because of definitions for things like “bed”, and “knockers”.

Yeah, great laughs.  That could never happen these days, right?  ‘Cept a school board in California banned the Merriam Webster Dictionary because there was a definition in it for oral sex.  And said banning took place in 2010.

PayPal believe they are keeping the “really bad stuff” out of the hands of people.  I say they’re sticking their damn noses in places where it doesn’t belong.  Because if they can tell publishers what they can and can’t sell with this edict, does it stop here, or does it goes on?  ‘Cause once they are able to do it once, what keeps them from doing it again?

I’ll make a deal with you, PayPal:  I’ll write, and you transfer money.  That’s what we do.  Don’t tell me what I can write, and I won’t tell you how I think you could improve your service.

Because once you start telling me what to write, then you’ve screwing me.

If I don’t agree to it, that’s rape.  Which would mean you’re going against your own edicts.

Does that mean you’re going to ban yourself?

Didn’t think so.

39 thoughts on “Playthings in the Hands of the Arbiters of Decency

  1. If I still had the equipment, I’d offer to have your babies. *wild applause* Well-written and devastatingly documented post, Raymond.

    One author I know has been made to take down her title due to the age of her female main character. Said character is 18. That’s right, in the real world, this character could have sex and not a soul would be able to legally stop her, but in the grey area inhabited by the minions of censorship, that’s called ‘barely legal’ and as such, is being tarred with their brush. Last I checked, any dictionary, banned or not (chuckle), will tell you barely doesn’t mean ‘not’. Therefore, Paypal has ALREADY begun blurring the line between what is a literal definition, and what their censors find offensive. When the vendor nodded silently and made the author reclassify her work, the slope just got wetter, and if my phrasing titillates someone, oh well, you’ll have that.

    As for ‘alternate funding’, I had someone post a list on my blog of alternate payment providers. To the last one, they all have a clause against use of their service to purchase ‘obscene materials’. A quick Google search will reveal how long and how hard the Supreme Court has wrestled to find a standard by which any material may be judged absolutely and even this learned body has been forced to modify their standard time and time again, seeking to eliminate the grey area. Perhaps they should just consult the ‘Enforcement Division’ at PayPal and save us all some time.

    Another author I met this past weekend was told she couldn’t offer her title for sale on Smashwords any longer, but she can offer it as a free download, since that would sidestep any need for PayPal, and she’s so mad, she’s considering doing that very thing.

    As always, the devil’s in the details. Can we expect each vendor to hold the line and fight for each inch? I doubt it. For them, it will be easier to get on with business and simply reclassify every title Paypal objects to, while as an industry, we learn how to manipulate tags, titles and blurbs to not set off any alarms. One vendor has already come up with a plan to combat the censorship, not by confrontation, but by ingenuity. No Boundaries Press is now selling ‘pressing points’ which are credits. Credits are neutral widgets, and cannot be found objectionable, thus keeping corporate hands clean of smut, while allowing an adult–you do have to be one of those to own a credit or debit card-to purchase what they damn well please. .

    • This it what I’ve tried to make clear in my post: who gets to decide for us what we can and can’t write? And what is affected by this? Just saying “erotica” means works where undersaged sex *is* shown is okay as long as it’s something like a horror novel (and this is in no way a slam at It, because I loved the novel), but if you’re character is 18 it’s too close to 17, so it must be illegal!

      I’m really so tired of this bullshit, and kills me to see how someone can have so much control. And what’s next? We don’t like your political opinions, so we’re going to block that now? We don’t like your opinions on women’s rights, so we’re not going to sell your novel? This is such a load of crap. I’d love to see a class action against PayPal, because this is truly preventing people from producing what they want to produce.

  2. another excellent post on this oh so important topic. I am the proud author of now banned books. I will not alter my words to fit someone else’s definition of what is acceptable – period. I refuse to set so much as one toe on that slippery slope – I will not censor myself, I will not allow others to censor me. My mind, my ideas, my words are just that -mine – it’s not open for discussion and no one gave them a vote.

    • I feel the same way, Sessha. I wouldn’t change a word. I’d rather set up my own sight and sell things on my own, and find other ways to get the money transferred. It’s censorship, pure and simple. And the publishers need to fight this, as well as the writers.

  3. Yeah, sadly I don’t have the equipment anymore, so I can’t offer you babies, but the thought is there.

    You left out A Clockwork Orange, written from the PoV of Alex, the rapist. You left out Equus, by Peter Shaffer, the multi-awardwinning stage play about a boys erotic /religious obsession with horses. You’ve left out the magnificent The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. Incest and underage sex. You left out the breathtakingly beautiful and erotic ‘The Lover’ by Marguerite Duras. These aren’t just accounts of these taboos, they explore them erotically. They are disturbing and challenging and exceptional literature. And I can assure you, if Paypal could find a way to stop processing payments on them, they would. But they’re in the Classic Literature section and the press would find out and call them philistines.

    Oh, and then there’s the New Testament, where a 13 year old virgin gets impregnated by a god, and the whole world celebrates it.

    But who is going to stand up for a book with a title like ‘Debbie Does Daddy?’ No one, apparently. And they know it. They’ve targeted erotica because they can use rhetoric to blur the line between reality and fictionality and have all sorts of people up in arms about how they don’t support ‘rape’.

    No one supports RAPE. Or pedophilia. Or bestiality. Or incest. But we support the right to allow artists to explore the darker sides of our nature in the safety of words on the page. It’s why Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, with his incestuous mother and his murdered father. It’s why Oedipus Rex still has the power to make us ponder on the meaning of fate. It’s what good literature is about.

    Let me be clear and honest. I write transgressive erotica. I have written a number of stories that eroticize rape. They’re not ALL ABOUT RAPE, but it’s in there. I wrote them because I am one of the 40% (or more) of women who have rape fantasies. (don’t believe me? http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2372/is_1_45/ai_n24383385/ – it’s a landmark study)

    So when Mark Coker says that ‘rape for titillation has no place anywhere’, I say:

    Men have been fucking telling me what my sexuality should be like for the past 4,000 years. I’m fucked if I’ll take it NOW. I will have the fantasies I want. And I will explore them in my writing. I will do it with literary merit and integrity, BUT I WILL DO IT.

    Sorry for the rant. Thanks for yours.

    • You’re quite all right to rant out. Not a problem. And I loved your post as well; if you like, leave a link here so others can read it.

      Yes, there were so many I could have included, but, lets be honest: there were far more than I could have ever listed. It’s all about small minded people trying to tell other what they can and can’t write and read.

      As you say, by labeling this as “only erotica”, they go for things they believe no one will give a shit about. Just give it time, and they are on the way to getting other subjects they don’t like.

  4. I saw an article earlier today on this subject, but didn’t read it. While PayPal is but one provider of online payment, I guess they have a right to run their business as they choose. What I worry about, is the censorship our Government and the online Media would impose on us if given the opportunity. Look at SOPA for instance. If they could have, they would have, regulated the internet in general. People need to stand up for our 1st Amendment rights. However, when it comes to Companies like PayPal, the fight is not so cut and dried if you know what I mean.

    • I wrote about the SOPA and PIPA situation as well, and yes: I could be just as bad. To me, ANY form of censorship is bad, and I’m not a fan of it. With the PayPal situation, my interest is more like, “How far will, or could, they take it?” Where do they stop with ultimatums? It’s not just the government who can control this medium; it’s anyone who has an influence over what we see and hear. We have to keep on our toes all the time.

  5. Very well written argument about the crapness that the genre erotica gets, it’s one which is really in some ways taboo in some of the topics that a writer dares to envelop. I mean yeah, Mills and Boon caters for some (dare i say dull) people, and then you have the nasty, dirty, forbidden stuff online and in anthologies that people get off on reading from toilet slaves, to lactating women and yes the eroticism of rape fantasies.

    To censor means to influence thoughts and words and it’s a tricky line to negotiate. I mean to label erotica in such ways means so many other books will inevitably will misconstrued and hell, banned for what reference or an honest depiction of the reality of the world. I mean one of my favourite short stories of all time by Angela Carter is included in a mandatory English University book list and is a gothic, brooding piece about the female protagonist being married off and raped…. i’d hate to think it along with other classics was unfit to read, broadcast or be published. Sad, sad times.

    • I agree with you completely. I feel very strongly about this, which is why I had to say something. In the long run it might not make a difference, but it’s another voice that’s going to be heard.

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  7. Reblogged this on Sheri Hart and commented:
    This post by Raymond Frazee is another great argument against PayPal’s censorship efforts. Check out all the great novels cited by Raymond and his commenters that would never pass PayPal’s morality test.

  8. Great post. I’m so glad some writers and book lovers are as outraged by this as I am. Hope you don’t mind if I reblog you.

    On the topic of books that would surely attract the PayPal morality police, has anyone mentioned those by Nancy Friday, whom Wikipedia calls a “feminist erotic pioneer.”

    I spent some happy times with Nancy and her books, MY SECRET GARDEN, FORBIDDEN FLOWERS and WOMEN ON TOP. I’m pretty sure most of my girlfriends have a copy of at least one of her books on their bookshelves (or hidden in the nightstand drawer).

    Here’s a sampling of “rooms” from the third chapter of Forbidden Flowers, called “The House of Fantasy”: Rape; Pain and Masochism, The Sexuality of Terror, The Zoo, Incest, Young Boys, Domination, etc.

    These books were extremely explicit, sold in HUGE numbers, and validated the sexual lives and fantasies of women. (Sadly, they’re also currently highly pirated.)

  9. Pingback: PayPal, Credit Cards, Transgressive Fiction, and The New Day « Crimson Melodies

  10. Pingback: My Take on the PayPal Controversy | Lady Laid Bare

  11. Pingback: Erotica Book Banning Roundup – Part 2, and Smashwords Bows Under Pressure | S. V. Rowle

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