25 February 2012

An Open Letter to Mark Coker

Dear Mr. Coker:

I've read the brouhaha on a few blogs and was pointed to the actual email/release you sent to erotica authors. And while I understand your decision, I cannot agree with it. I'd like to, as you put it, calmly discuss why.

Please understand, the decision by Smashwords to remove all erotica pertaining to rape, incest, and bestiality is not an unwarranted one. All three acts are illegal and while such erotica might be "fantasy," it's still disturbing. And still smacks of censorship, which I am totally against. However, such things also promote illegal acts. So, the decision is still up for grabs as to whether or not I feel it's morally a right one. But that's not my problem.

My problem is the why, the reason that Smashwords came to this decision. If it had just been a policy decision, while disagreeing with the censorship angle, I could have been a bit more comfortable with it. But that wasn't the reason for the decision. The reason comes about because of PayPal's heavy handed extortion attempt of withholding their service unless you do.

According to your own statement, "PayPal is requiring Smashwords to immediately begin removing the above-mentioned categories of books." PayPal is requiring this? Excuse me, but since when did a "banking" institution start giving a crap about publishing? And since when did they get the right to tell anyone how to run their business? No one tells them how to run theirs, how did they suddenly decide that they should tell you how to run yours, tell me how to run mine? They don't have that right; morality is not their concern. Taking care of money transactions is their concern and nothing more.

The truth is, Mr. Coker, that you set a very dangerous precedent by knuckling under to their demands. Today, it's all about what kind of erotica. Tomorrow, it'll be the "moral high ground" and they'll demand you stop publishing all erotica. If you give them the power, they will use it and they will begin to tell you what, when, and how. That's how power goes, Mr. Coker. That's how it always goes. You give one inch, and they demand that mile. They're business bullies and you don't have to accede to their demands, especially when they have nothing to say in the matter.

It's your company, Mr. Coker, not PayPal's. They cannot tell you what to publish if you don't want them to. And considering that there are other companies who will be more than happy to help you take payment through your website, PayPal is not the only game in town. Do not surrender your business to their blackmail. Tell them to go stuff that ultimatum in a hat and stay out of your publishing business. If they still demand, meet their bluff by going to another of the many services out there that are just as reputable and just as reliable. I'll even send you the URLs of a couple because my day job uses them. We got tired of PayPal's heavy handed crap as well.

Don't let PayPal ruin this for any of us. Or for Smashwords.

Ms. Jesse V Coffey


Remittance Girl said...

Thank you for posting this. I am glad you oppose censorship of literature - even literature you do not approve of personally.

I really do need to take issue with you over the statement that fictionalized accounts of these taboos promote illegal acts.

You wrote: "However, such things also promote illegal acts"

For years, social scientists have been trying to prove that they do, but there is no credible data on offer. In fact, quite the opposite. Japan, where explicit, eroticized drawings and fictional descriptions of rape are incredibly common, has one of the lowest rates of rape in the world.

I understand that somewhere you have 'heard' that transgressive fiction promotes illegal acts. This is an often repeated falsehood. But there is simply NO scientific evidence that it does and there have been very interested and agenda driven entities trying to prove it for the last 40 years.

One of the reasons people find it so easy not to stand up when works like this get censored is exactly because of the perpetuation of these sort of falsehoods. They feel they are playing their part in protecting vulnerable members of society.

But consider that countries like Egypt, with an outright ban on all written erotica and visual pornography, has the highest rate of female circumcision in the world - almost 90% of all women in Egypt. If that is not sexual torture, I don't know how you classify it. It's torture that lasts a lifetime.

RoseRaven said...

Interesting. I hadn't heard about this from Smashwords. I do know that Siren Publishing chose to disable the paypal option rather than censor their books.

Personally I don't care to read the sorts of literature that is under attack here but will fight to the very end for the freedom of the author to write it, publish it and sell it if someone wants to read it.

I understand the whole "this is a free market and they can choose what they do and do not sell". Well I look at it this way. They are a financial institution just like a bank. It isn't their place to tell me where I can or can't spend my money. Trust me, I will not be doing business with PayPal any more than I absolutely have to in the future.