Gabrielle Bisset

Friday, February 24, 2012

Erotic Romance vs Erotica Redux

I may have been hasty in my praise for the move to separate erotic romance and erotica at All Romance eBooks considering the move by Bookstrand to eliminate all indie pubbed erotica that didn't conform to the strict PayPal rules.  (For a full rundown of the issue, Selena Kitt does a nice job.)  What it seems like now is that all the third party sites are kowtowing to PayPal's idea of what's appropriate. 

Censorship is never a good thing, no matter what the ultimate justification given is.  While I don't read or write books that contain incest, pseudo-incest (stepfathers and uncles seem to be the favorite main characters here with barely legal young women), bestiality, or rape for titillation, I accept the fact that there is a market for it.  Don't believe me?  Visit the erotica section on Smashwords and Amazon and check out the titles.  Yeah, there's a market for it. 

So where's the line to be drawn?  I don't know, but for me, I always prefer to err on the side of liberty.  I may seem naive here, but is anyone forcing  people to read these stories?  At no point on my trips to Amazon, All Romance eBooks, or Bookstrand has any entity attempted to have me purchase anything that the powers that be claim crosses the line.  And what about certain epubs that seem to focus on this type of book?  (Always leery of the legal issues with my first publisher, I will leave the names out.)  Bookstrand seems to be making it seem like only indie pubbed authors were publishing the "inappropriate" works, but a quick look tells a different story.  Epubs have been dipping into this murky pool too.

But I don't care about those books or those publishers as much as I care about the idea that this is quickly becoming a case of censorship.  No, it's not a First Amendment rights issue because it's not the government behind it, but it's censorship, nonetheless.  We walk a very precarious line when we do this.  What's next?  Any sex that someone finds offensive?  I find badly written sex in romance offensive.  It makes me cringe when I have to read purple prose like "honeyed portal" and I want to throw my Kindle Fire at the wall.  Should books that contain it be censored?  (The answer is no.  They should just be written by better authors who've had good sex once or twice in their lives.)

The ironic thing is I remember the publisher of my first novel telling me readers would hate my main character because he killed his first wife in the heat of passion and was put away for it.  His behavior would offend them.  As she spoke to me on the phone explaining why I had to change him to be nicer (I didn't), I clicked through the publisher's website and read a number of blurbs containing the issues being ruled as offensive today and thought, "This is fine, but Varek killing someone and paying for it with his freedom isn't?"  I may never enjoy those types of books, but I wouldn't suggest they be eliminated.  All I asked was the same for my story.

Just as I didn't allow her to censor my book, I don't believe we should censor these books that are now upsetting people.  Unless we're talking about stories straight out of snuff porn, it's simply a matter of taste.  Just don't read them.  It's that simple. If the sex is not your flavor, then don't read it.  But making it next to impossible for writers to sell erotica that makes you uncomfortable is the first step down a road that will inevitably turn on those who want to censor because at some point, your idea of what's appropriate will fall out of favor.  It may not happen tomorrow or the next day, but it will.

First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.
--Martin Niemöller


Kayelle Allen said...

Thank you for speaking about this. I wasn't aware book stores online were doing this. Glad to know what's up.

Gabrielle said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kayelle! :)

msmjb65 said...

Hi, Gabrielle:
I've been reading alot about this issue and I appreciate the major point that you brought up which is always at the core of censorship, be it books, movies, music, etc. If you don't like it, dont read it, watch it, listen to it, etc.! I will never understand the people who don't get this simple concept. As you said, no one is making you read stories that you don't want to.

I think what Paypal and Bookstrand are doing is a real shame, because you know that there are groups of people who are applauding their actions. Unfortunately, these are a lot if the same folks who are against gay marriage and abortion (yes, I went there!) because it goes against their beliefs, which they seem to think are more important and valid than thr rights and freedoms promised to us in our Constitution. Ok. Fine. Don't marry a person of the same sex and don't get an abortion. But, please don't infringe on my rights to do so.

Lastly, I believe that all of the authors who will be affected by this will find a way to get their work out to the public. I read a lot of books by independent authors and I don't believe for a second that this is going to stop them from writing wonderfully sexy, naughty and hot books and it definitely won't stop me from buying them. As it often happens when any group that gets oppressed or singled out in some way, the people affected- the authors and those who support them - the readers come together to bring the issue to more people, causing the conversation and subsequent actions to grow. Always a good thing!

Always up for fighting the good fight!

PS. Did you write the paragraph at the end of your post or did you quote it? Regardless, it really touched me and, as history has shown, it's all too true.

Gabrielle said...


Thanks for stopping by! I hope you're right about the authors finding outlets for their work. And I'm happy you "went there." LOL

As for the paragraph at the end of the post, I merely quoted it. It's from Martin Niemoller and how he saw the German intellectual community react to what the Nazis were doing as they took over Germany. It's very powerful.

dave94015 said...

Thanks for reminding us of the analogy. If we don't stand up to censorship, we're in for trouble!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing this issue into the open, Gabrielle.

Every writer needs to stand up against censorship - government, corporate, religious, or whatever. Even when the material goes against your religious beliefs or offends your sensibilities. By not speaking out, a very clear signal is sent to anyone who wants to limit what writers say - it's okay to censor, as long as you go about it gradually, targeting writers on the fringes first.

Megan@Riverina Romantics said...

This whole topic has seemed to blow up overnight. I'm kinda feeling lost and bewildered with it all. It doesn't make sense. There is no equality in this ruling. I've read a few posts on this subject in the last 24hrs and here are some double standards that people have mentioned:

V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic This book involves some serious incest. Is it no longer going to be sold?

M/F barely legal (18 yr old w/older partner) is on the no - no list but M/M stories with the same age issues are OK.

Am I mistaken or does this mean that any testimonial type book by someone who has been raped now belongs on the must not be sold list?

Loved the quote. You couldn't resist your history prof tendencies could you? ;-)

Megan@Riverina Romantics said...

Wait, retract that last statement about the testimonials. I blanked out there for a second on the words fictional literature.

On the other hand. I know of horror and dark fantasy books that contain rape scenes. Are they going to be thrown out the door too?

Gabrielle said...

Even more so, Megan, I've heard BDSM between consenting adults (like in Love's Master) wouldn't be allowed and possibly Vampire Dreams could be an issue because he uses hypnotism on Arden.

And the inequity of the rules is outrageous if M/M is allowed but M/F.

And the history is always there. I just don't bring it out all the time. :)