Dear Anuj Nayar, Director of Communications at PayPal:
My apologies for not responding to your post in the commentary section, but since the comments are disabled, I’ve been forced to write this open response and publish it on my own website. Anyway, let’s get to it, shall we?
I read your statement (PayPal’s acceptable use policy on sale of certain “erotica”) early this morning and must admit that I found myself staring at it in disbelief. While I considered going through your post on a point-by-point basis, other authors have already taken that approach and handled it quite well. Instead, I will simply point out that you, Sir, are a complete hypocrite.
You see, after reading the condescending commentary (Chatter? Really?!) you posted, I spent a little time over on that ‘other’ website your company owns, Ebay. I discovered that there were 3,675 results found if I searched for Erotica, including Books (2,345), Music (531), Collectibles (304), and even Art (138). More importantly, I discovered that, at the time of my search, there were 315 nonfiction titles under the classification of erotica, as well as multiple DVDs and hundreds of images. What was it you said?
An important factor in our decision not to allow our payments service to be used…is that this category of eBooks often includes images.
This type of content also sometimes intentionally blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction.
Whoops! Looks like you are breaking your own Acceptable Use Policy. But let’s get even more specific, shall we? I found two of the listings particularly interesting. It seems that, on Ebay at least, it is quite alright to sell copies of Flowers in the Attic (in either Book or DVD format), a story whose very plot centers around the commission of incest between an adolescent brother and sister or to offer up copies of the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, which contains so many offenses under your Acceptable Use Policy that I can’t imagine trying to recount them all.
In light of your hypocritical approach to your Acceptable Use Policy, I hope you will reconsider your suppression of writers across the globe, though I admit I’m not very optimistic on the subject.
such a rush
i never knew i held sway over the souls of all mankind never knew i held you trapped
your mind swirling and whirling through a cesspool of sexual thought
blood pounding, flooding your veins and enlarging your brain
unable to reach for the peace of your book the shelter of your God
each time the little white pill slipped from between my thighs
I want to share a story with you, but first I should warn you—some readers might find the themes contained within this material to be too extreme for their liking. With that said…
Hunkering down behind a burned-out car, John Lot shaded his eyes from the unrelenting glare of the sun. His gaze slid across the horizon, his body thrumming with nervous energy as he scanned for signs of activity. Nothing moved, no signs of life stirred as far as he could see. He felt a moment of despair as he wondered if he was actually the last man alive on Earth. He began to pick his way through the outskirts of the ghost town, each movement precise, each step predetermined. To anyone observing him, he would have seemed calm and collected, his appearance giving no hint to the chaos of his thoughts.
In those first shattered days when the retribution was handed down, the world had changed forever. Even now the loss of his wife was a searing pain, a grief that would not fade despite the anger and betrayal he felt at her reluctance to leave, her disbelief in his vision. For six years he’d kept his daughters safe, hidden away from harm high up in the mountains. Now, as he moved past the remnants of civilization, his thoughts turned to his daughters and the future that awaited them. Would they ever find someone to love, get married, have a home of their own? Or were they doomed to live like animals forever, hunkering down in a cave with only the daily observances of life to keep them going? He took a deep breath and shook off his dark mood, offering up a silent prayer to God as he started the long trek home.
Rebecca paced the small confines of the cave, though her gaze never left her sister.
“Sarah, don’t you get it? I’m 19 now, and you’re almost 16. We should be married by now and you know it. Father is getting old and there are no others…” Her words trailed off as her sister interrupted her.
“No—we can’t do it!” Sarah shook her head violently. “Its wrong! It is no better than rape, and to do it with our own father—we just can’t!”
“But I had the dream, Sarah.” Grabbing her sister’s hand, Rebecca prayed for the younger girl to understand. “Don’t you see? We have to. Its the only way. The only way. If we don’t then it really is the end.”
“It isn’t right, Rebecca.” Shaking her head, Sarah moved closer to the fire, letting the warmth seep into her body. Night was beginning to fall and their father would return soon. Was her sister right? Had her dream really been sent by God, a message telling them how to ensure the human race continued? After the destruction of the cities, they had seen no one else. Six long years spent with just the three of them, hiding in this cave, no hint of others who might have survived.
She let out a sigh.
“I can’t think of any other meaning for the vision you were given. So how will you do it?”
“We’ll use the medicines father brought back from the city last week. One of them makes you sleep very deeply. I’ll put it in father’s wine tonight and once he is asleep I’ll go to him, just like in the dream. I’ll be gone before it wears off.”
Sarah twisted a strand of her dark hair between her fingers. “What if it doesn’t work? What if father wakes up and realizes what you are doing? What then? And how will we explain to him what has happened once we can’t hide it anymore? I’m pretty sure he’ll notice that we’re both pregnant.”
“It will work. I’ve seen it. If we lay with father, then God will grant us each a child and ensure that Father’s anger doesn’t harm them or us. Now hand me his glass, quickly, and go keep watch.”
I’ll go ahead and fade this story to black here, since I think there is enough revealed for you to understand the general plot. So now I ask: were you offended by the theme? Does the idea of two young girls participating in the rape of their own father disturb you? In truth, I found it off-putting, even as I was writing it. If all this leads you to question my reasoning, consider the recent actions of PayPal across the realm of the Internet and you might begin to understand.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here is a message from BookStrand, explaining that PayPal has been cracking down on websites which offer up reading selections that the company finds distasteful:
We were informed by PayPal, without notice, and by our credit card processing company, that we are required to remove all titles at BookStrand.com with content containing incest, pseudo incest, rape, and bestiality, effective immediately.
We request that you immediately log into your account and unpublish all titles that contain the restricted content. If you have uploaded titles containing restricted content and do not unpublish these titles as we are requesting, we will deactivate your entire publisher account, which will remove all your titles from sale.
The “forbidden content” rules include:
- Pedophilia in any size, shape, or form.
- Any form of sex with minors or any character under eighteen years old.
- Sex with a young character still in high school or using variations of “teenager” or “barely turned” 18 or 19 for sexual titillation.
- Hatred for characters based on race/ethnicity or religion.
- Hatred or bashing of gays/lesbians.
- Titles with covers that show male or female genitalia, butt cracks, or the female nipple.
- Any combination of incest or sexual acts involving an immediate family member.
- Pseudo incest or sexual acts with parents or siblings (“step” or “foster”) for the purposes of titillation.
- Rape for the purposes of titillation.
- Scenes of non-consensual bondage or non-consensual sado-masochistic practices.
- Bestiality with naturally occurring animals.- Sex with non-animated corpses.
- Scat play (sexual acts involving urination and defecation).
- Harmful content such as instructions on how to make a bomb, etc.
Now, I can tell you that I personally wouldn’t choose to read much of the content that falls under these themes or topics, but I’m concerned by this censorship of material legally publishable under current U.S. Laws. Not only am I against censoring the written word, the whole practice smacks of discrimination. That’s right—discrimination. See, you can still purchase a copy of the Bible with your Paypal card and the content in the Bible is much worse than anything I’ve ever written. Well, except for the short story above, the one that kicked off this blog post.
That story, you see, wasn’t actually written by me. Sure, I fleshed it out a bit, adding in a few descriptive details and expanding the text, but someone else wrote the story a long time ago. You might recognize it in its original form:
30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.
31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:
32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
The Bible is rife with stories such as these. Many people defend this content, saying the stories aren’t meant for titillation, which makes them okay. I disagree. Consider the case of National Geographic, a respected publication, which has been squirreled away under the beds of hormonal teenage boys for years. Its authors weren’t creating it with the hopes of titillating their readers, yet it invariably found its way into that role. Let’s face it: humanity likes erotica and, in the absence of actual erotica, it will find it where it can.
So the question then becomes one of drawing a line. Who gets to determine what is or isn’t acceptable content for a book? To say its a slippery slope is cliché, but quite true. Yet there is another aspect of this controversial move by PayPal that I feel needs mentioning—their rights as a private company.
We are discussing the idea that a company can choose to allow or disallow the purchase of content based on its own moral code of conduct. I actually have no issue with this practice in theory; its the reality that makes it a problem. In theory, authors or publishing houses looking to market content which is outside those guidelines would simply create another method for consumers to use while shopping for these items. Its the basic idea of a free market—there will be a need and someone will step in to fill it. But will that actually happen in this particular realm of publication? What if another processing company doesn’t step in to fill the role—and what happens if one does? Would you as a consumer be willing to sign up for a service which is solely dedicated to purchasing ‘censored’ items? And finally, who gets to decided which content must be purchased with the ‘sex card’ and which can be purchased on the standard credit card?
I find the entire situation very disturbing and believe that anyone who is a fan of free speech should be concerned.