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.