Writers’ Words- Censorship

‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

These words are attributed to Voltaire but they were first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906), as a summation of Voltaire’s beliefs on freedom of thought and expression. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Voltaire

This month I was going to write an article about plot structure but I’ve got involved in a debate about censorship.

My friend and fellow author Sessha Batto, has had her books banned from Smashwords (and other outlets such as AllRomance/OmniLit and Bookstrand ). This is because these companies have been pressured by Paypal, which they rely on for customers buying their books, into removing certain types of erotica from their sites. Sessha writes ‘explicit gay erotica, but not just that. Sex in all its permutations, from barely consensual sexual torture to tender lovemaking and the entire gamut in between.’ http://sesshabattousai.com/cgi-bin/wordpress/?p=1180

Obviously everyone is comfortable with different levels of explicitness in their reading but erotica has a specific and distinct market.In my opinion, erotica fans are being discriminated against by these new instructions to e-publishing sites. Smashwords used to be THE place to upload your novels, without question or hoops to jump through. Open minded and accepting, I always felt welcome there. But now it seems it will become a clone of all the other sites: ‘we don’t accept X, Y or Z because our sponsors don’t like it.’

What worries me is that this is just the beginning. If you start censoring erotica, what next? A ban on writing about gay relationships, as has already happened in some places, for example http://heidicullinan.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/rwa-shouldnt-be-in-the-business-of-discrimination/ A ban on writing about interracial relationships? Because these subjects weren’t written about decades ago- and neither was erotica- it made all these perfectly usual human behaviours sordid and hidden. But why should we go back to that? Haven’t we moved on and become more open minded?

I hope this will present an opportunity for another company to supply erotic adult books that will not be available to children. A niche publisher of books somewhere between ‘normal’ sex and porn.

Please see here to read Smashwords’ explanation of the situation.



2 thoughts on “Writers’ Words- Censorship

  1. Why a separate publisher? Why marginalize it at all due to a label. This same offensive content exists in the work of literary giants like Nabakov, Anais Nin and the Marquis de Sade. The bible contains far more objectionable content that I could ever write. We need to be careful not to look at this too narrowly and miss the fact that it has become a noose around all of our necks!

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