naamah_darling: The Punisher skull with a red ribbon barrette. (Punisher Ribbon)
[personal profile] naamah_darling
I'm going to ask y'all for a favor.

Please, please, please spread the word about this:

Paypal Strongarms Indie Ebook Publishers Over Erotic Content

Because, y'all? I have seen zero people, zero, on my f-list talk about it. Two people on Facebook. Granted, I've been dealing with this shit while very upset and my memory is not the greatest on the best of days, so I might have missed something, but still, this is unacceptable. Y'all care. I know you do. So please spread the word. If you can't do anything else, cut and paste and link back here.

I have been so tired, and so demoralized, and so, so hoping that someone else would have the spoons to speak up about this, to start the push back. Hoping that big-name authors would take notice, would care, would make the articulate, well-researched, exhaustively linked posts that help get people centered around an issue . . . the kind of posts that I am too busy just trying to survive to make in a timely fashion. And it's not happening. No letter-writing campaigns, no petitions, no call to arms.

Folks, that call to arms needs to happen. This is going to really hurt people like me, like my husband, who make our money writing erotica that brushes up against the bars. And by hurt, I mean this is how we pay for our heat, this is how we pay for our food, this is how we pay for my medication, this is how we scrape by. I don't mean "This is how we pay for our research vacations to Brazil." I am talking the basics of survival, here. I am not fucking around.

And if you don't give a shit about one crazy pornographer in the middle of nowhere, well, okay, fine. Be selfish. No, really. This will affect you. It has the potential to affect everyone. Every reader, every writer, if their interests verge even a little bit into grey territory.

And folks? A tremendous amount of fiction goes there. Stories and novels and anthologies by popular and award-winning authors like Neil Gaiman and Terri Windling and Laurell K. Hamilton and Sarah Monette and Cat Valente and on and on A through fucking Z would be right the fuck out. Also, the Bible. Not that I personally give a flying fuck, but it's ironically on the list of shit that you couldn't buy through PayPal, if they had to adhere to their own rules.

Mark Coker's first email from Smashwords explained:

Today we are modifying our Terms of Service to clarify our policies regarding erotic fiction that contains bestiality, rape and incest. . . .

I've had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.

Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.

Which all sounds pretty indefensible, but:

A) It's all ill-defined.

  • This applies to all incest, including step-relations, and is so ill-defined that it might apply to distant cousins. Goodbye, realistic depictions of inbreeding in noble families throughout history.

  • This applies to all "rape for titillation," which is so ill-defined that it might apply to romance-novel bodice-ripping, and it applies to all "non-consensual BDSM" which, while that should certainly be illegal in real life, is also ill-defined, and might be stretched to cover all sorts of situations. I'm personally into BDSM in real life and I can tell you that most people are remarkably closed-minded about BDSM and have demonstrated a particularly atrocious track record at recognizing that there even is a distinction between consensual and nonconsensual BDSM. People who don't like it don't like it in any form, and they will try to shove it all into the box marked "rape."

  • This applies to all "bestiality," which specifically excludes fully-shifted shapeshifters and is furthermore so ill-defined that it might apply to gorgons, centaurs, sphinxes, and other mythical beasts that possess animal or partially animal bodies and human-level consciousness.

    B) We have to defend the indefensible, even if we do not like it. I don't care if it is the absolute worst and most horrible thing you have ever seen in your life, it is not PayPal's job to tell us what we can and cannot do with our money. If it is not against the law to buy or create it in the United States, i.e., if it is protected under freedom of speech, nobody has the right to tell us that we cannot create it or sell it or buy it. Not PayPal, not the banks, not Santa Claus, nobody.*

  • This started with Smashwords. I want to be clear, here, that Smashwords is not the villain, and Mark Coker has been working tirelessly to achieve some sort of détente whereby we can all carry on and profit without too much disruption. He despises the idea of censorship, but severing relations with PayPal would take time, and some sort of solution must be found in the meantime so that authors, who need to get paid by Smashwords, can keep selling. He is doing exactly the right thing, and I fully support his approach.

    It started with Smashwords, but it won't end with Smashwords.

    True, the big-name authors that you are likely to care about far more than you care about me and the rest of my porn-spewing ilk mostly don't publish through Smashwords, though some make their backlist available there. No, you probably aren't paying through PayPal when you buy their books. But this isn't just about who-gives-a-shit indie authors writing their dirty stepdaddy porn.

    It is about PayPal. PayPal says this is the banks' fault. That it's the banks putting pressure on them, so they're pressuring Smashwords and other indie outfits. And if that's true, we have a major fucking problem, because banks should not and cannot be allowed to do that. If that's true, that connection needs to be dragged into the light so that everyone can see it for what it is.

    Even if it's not true and it's just some asshole at PayPal with a burr up his ass, we have a major fucking problem. PayPal is huge, and the revenue streams for thousands of independent artists and authors get funneled through it. If they start telling us what we can and cannot put out there to sell, what we can and cannot buy, well . . . if you can't see there's a huge problem there, I honestly don't know if I can help you, and you might want to just go lie down for a while and hope the denseness passes.

    So I am asking you: please spread the word, please get people talking about this, please keep your readers, even if there are only two, abreast of this issue. And please, if you're an author with one of the big publishing houses, please, please post about this. In fact, if you know such an author, please ask them to post about it.

    I am not advocating spamming authors. I don't want to make people mad. But I want this exposed. I want people talking about this. I want acknowledgement from big-name authors that this shit matters, and I want to know that they are behind us, the way we have been behind them as fans and fellow authors.

    I am just asking that if you have a means of politely contacting them and asking them to weigh in on the issue, you do so. Twitter is good, comments are good, emails are good. Whatever, even if it's just a retweet. Please.

    This is not just about incestuous underage dog-rape porn, okay? Who the hell would rally to protect that? Nobody. Which is the problem, here. People glance at the issue and they see indefensible garbage, and they move on.

    That is a smokescreen! This is not about that crap. This is about people with no familiarity with genre fiction, with erotica, with the outer boundaries of sexual fantasy, being allowed to dictate how we express ourselves. This is about those people deciding where the line gets drawn between okay and not okay. This is not a new thing, though this crackdown is new, a new push against "obscene" content that previously nobody gave a shit about. They've already proven that they decide where the line is and that they can move it anytime they like; that they are doing this represents a shifting of that line. This is about being told what we can and cannot publish, and can and cannot buy. It affects everyone. And that should scare the shit out of you.

    And while we're at it, let's discuss that indefensible incestuous underage dog-rape porn. It's sick, and I don't write it, and I don't want to read it, and if a given indie self-pub outlet wants to say "we will not allow people to publish that through us" I suppose I am very grudgingly okay with that. But if a bank – and that is really how PayPal works, as a bank for e-commerce – wants to tell me that I cannot buy that stuff, THAT IS NOT OKAY. I will spend my money any goddamned fucking way I see fit. They have crossed the line. We need to unfuck this situation.

    And, final note, we need to discuss how to support independent authors and artists through this, because boycotting PayPal is going to hurt us. Frankly, I have no idea how to go about this, I am barely able to keep my own head above water, let alone think long and hard about how to fix the sinking ship, but I sure as shit hope that we can. I'm willing to suffer for the cause, yes, but I am not willing to go without my drugs for however long this would take to settle out. So we need to be talking about how to take care of one another, how to support each other, while still effecting change.

    I entered into the devil's bargain with PayPal because I had no other choice. No, you in the back smugly stroking your sense of superiority through your fashionably unfashionable pants, I did not have another choice. I needed, and still need, to make money, and that means 1) getting my stuff in front of people and 2) making it easy for those people to pay me for it. That is what sites like Etsy and Smashwords do. They make it easy for me to get my stuff out there and get it sold and get myself paid. As I have said repeatedly over the past few days, I cannot afford to abstain on principle. They are a luxury I am too poor and too screwed and too uninsured and too mentally ill to afford. I don't make much off my bargain with this company, but I need every fucking penny of it. So much so that I am terrified that if I post this, PayPal will suspend my account as punishment. Because I can't afford for that to happen. I need the security they allow me to provide for myself.

    What I do not need? This five-day headache with PayPal's name on it. The indifference of people – big-name, small-name, no-name – whose voices, if raised, could maybe make a difference. The assumption that indie publishing isn't important and that stuff put out through independent channels isn't any good and that I must, therefore, be trying to defend something worthless and indefensible. The assumption that this is only about indie publishing, and the assumption that this is only about porn – really sick porn at that.

    This is about freedom, and for some of us, it is about survival.

    Paypal email addresses and phone numbers, should you wish to talk about this with someone there. This is old info -- if anyone has anything better, I will post that instead -- but it's better than the on-site contact stuff, which is routed through overseas response centers. Please speak out, BE POLITE, be articulate, be reasonable, and be firm.

    FYI, I will be moderating comments on this post with a heavy hand. I doubt it will be necessary, but I want productive conversation, not bickering. If you don't agree that this is a problem, I ask politely that you move on. We've nothing to say to one another.

    Also, yes, I swear a lot. If you feel inclined to say that this is hurting my case, I invite you to think very carefully about the core of this issue, and what relevance it may have to what you are about to say.

    * I am not arguing with anyone about whether or not PayPal has the right, as a private company, to make up bullshit rules. They technically do, but they have a virtual monopoly on payments made through the internet, they are deeply connected to the big banks, and allowing them to do this sets a hideously dangerous precedent. If the government cannot censor or suppress "obscene" content without those uppity free-speechers getting all riled up, well, private companies can do it. Right? Yeah. I'm not on board with that.
    Page 1 of 2 << [1] [2] >>

    Date: 2012-03-01 04:02 am (UTC)
    delight: (Default)
    From: [personal profile] delight
    Has anybody gone to the Consumerist with this yet? If not, I will; they have a pretty impressively good track record of keeping up on PayPal failures and keeping tabs on how much PayPal is sucking right now. I actually wrote a paper on it for my Social Problems class last semester – on how much PayPal is a social problem and how social media money-sharing internet culture works, in a nutshell, with covering of fandom auctions and PayPal screwing over Regretsy &c – and I would totally look for myself if I were not exhausted and doped up on pain meds!

    Consumerist Link

    Date: 2012-03-01 05:17 am (UTC)
    chantry: (Default)
    From: [personal profile] chantry
    I just checked Consumerist - had to go back to the 27th to find it:

    Date: 2012-03-01 03:23 pm (UTC)
    redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
    From: [personal profile] redsixwing
    ... can't do it from work.

    But I bet I can raise some awareness from home.

    Date: 2012-03-01 05:47 pm (UTC)
    tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)
    From: [personal profile] tiferet
    This is not a new problem. I've been hearing about this for at least five or six years.

    This is why you can't pay for your Dreamwidth account with Paypal.

    This is why people who sell and trade adult, especially yaoi, loli or shota, doujinshi usually use an alternative payment service. Paypal has terminated accounts for simply selling these materials.

    Paypal used to be worse. It used to be that you couldn't use their service to buy or sell ANY adult material whatsoever. I think that probably changed when they merged with eBay and became the primary payment method on eBay.

    This is why you used to not be able to use Paypal to pay for Yaoi-Con and other convention memberships for conventions aimed at "adult" audiences.

    I can't afford to lose my Advantage account, so I keep my "adult" writing and my Paypal account far, far away from one another. :(
    Edited Date: 2012-03-01 05:47 pm (UTC)

    Date: 2012-03-01 07:19 pm (UTC)
    elf: Computer chip with location dot (You Are Here)
    From: [personal profile] elf
    PayPal says this is the banks' fault. That it's the banks putting pressure on them, so they're pressuring Smashwords and other indie outfits.

    They lie. Or they dissemble. The banks may indeed be putting pressure on them, but you can be damned certain that the banks did not say, "rape-for-titillation is too high risk to carry, but graphic murder by serial killers is fine," nor did they say "bestiality: no; necrophilia: yes." (Expect anti-necrophilia rules to be next; expect them to not clarify whether sex-with-zombies or sex-with-vampires is included.)

    The banks may be pestering them about what types of content carry more financial risk--which does indeed include the concept of "the more extremely kinky, the more risky," because, among other things, the more chance someone's spouse/boss/parent discovers it and there's a flurry of "omg, how did THAT get on my credit card? I will cancel that service/reverse those charges right now!" But banks did not hand out a list of *which* extreme kinks they don't allow. Banks are oblivious to shapeshifter erotica. They certainly don't have any problem with supporting sales of Harlequin romances, which have included rape-for-titillation followed by omg-it's-true-love for decades.

    ETA: For non-Paypal options: Dwolla is probably best for US-only businesses. Last I checked--a few weeks ago--it didn't support international commerce, but they're working on that.
    Edited Date: 2012-03-01 07:22 pm (UTC)

    Date: 2012-03-02 09:08 pm (UTC)
    ewinbee: (Default)
    From: [personal profile] ewinbee
    Of course they have a right as a private company to set their own rules.

    They also have the consequence, as a private company, of being hurt by a massively ragey consumer upset. This isn't like the government. If enough of us get angry enough, we can literally kill the company, and we can get angry about anything we feel like.

    So we have the right to object to any rules they have the right to set. We even have the right to be obstinate and dramatic. We can be finicky and fickle. Hell, we can object to their logo and be perfectly within our rights. We purchase a product from Paypal, which means they survive on our sufferance.

    And we can most certainly protest censorship over there without the least quibble about their rights.

    Date: 2012-03-02 10:36 pm (UTC)
    firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
    From: [personal profile] firecat
    I posted about it on February 25. One thing that bugged me was that a bunch of comments in the post where I saw it mentioned were all "Let's boycott Smashwords, then."

    We really need alternatives to PayPal. As long as they're a virtual monopoly, they're going to continue stomping on their customers in one way or another.

    Date: 2012-03-01 02:56 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    In the meantime, if you get a PO Box, let me know, and I, at least, will happily mail my subscription checks.

    Date: 2012-03-01 03:07 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Posted: Twitter, G+, and LJ.


    Date: 2012-03-01 03:10 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    I posted about this on LJ and I've done a series of posts on my author's blog (which few people read, but it's the principle of the thing).

    I may not like all the things that I'm defending, but they're hurting no one, and I've said time and again, that acts that are legally rape in real life are some of the most common fantasies in erotic fiction and always have been. And it's not just in erotica/porn. It's in general audience fiction (Stephen King's IT comes to mind for very explicit underage sex). Like you said, PayPal's opinions could theoretically affect mainstream authors as well.

    And of course, the problem is sex. Because sex is bad.

    I'm so mad I could spit needles. I swear.

    Date: 2012-03-01 04:01 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    From the man himself:

    The worst thing about this whole issue is that it's not going to be resolved by erotica writers. It just isn't. It's going to take mainstream writers and publishers and so on to make a difference, and they aren't going to do jack about it.

    Date: 2012-03-01 03:20 am (UTC)

    Date: 2012-03-01 03:41 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Re-posted on LJ and FB.

    Date: 2012-03-01 04:01 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Hi! I added you because I love your cf_h posts. I've also reposted this entry on my journal and FB. Vive la resistance!


    Date: 2012-03-01 04:18 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Actually, this didn't start with Smashwords. First, BookStrand had their account frozen until they deleted all the indie titles and put disclaimers up that their incest fiction didn't contain incest. eXcessixa Press was next. AllRomanceeBooks was contacted, and the have stripped the site of incest, pseudo-incest, rape, and bestiality. Only then did Smashwords get the call. This has been going on for a couple of weeks now. There have ( been ( many ( discussions ( And ( this ( is just ( a few ( examples. They're all over the place, authors and readers and publishers. There are two ( petitions ( It's all over the blogs and mailing lists surrounding the erotica and erotic romance genres. :) No one's being quiet.

    Date: 2012-03-01 05:08 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]

    Date: 2012-03-01 05:10 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    I don't know if you know this but one of the founders Paul theil of PayPal is funding Ron Paul and is very Conservative although he says he isn't a social Conservative because he is gay - So I don't doubt that Paypal would do this - So much for his stance on free market!

    Date: 2012-03-01 06:45 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    I hate that Paypal is the only game in town. I cancelled my account and am glad of it, but I still have to use them to process individual credit card/debit card purchases on eBay, Etsy and elsewhere. This censorship is insane. And what's next? What about autobiographies of rape survivors where the attacker was a family member? I doubt Paypal is going to read all these to make sure it fits their ridiculous guidelines. I hope more authors brings this to the public eye. This isn't being covered anywhere and should be considering how much negative press Paypal has received lately.

    Date: 2012-03-01 07:30 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    For the record, I think people should be able to read anything. Period. And there are all kinds of written word that people enjoy reading even if they would find it horrific in a real life setting.
    Edited Date: 2012-03-01 07:31 am (UTC)

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    From: [identity profile] - Date: 2012-03-02 01:19 pm (UTC) - Expand

    Date: 2012-03-01 07:39 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Both article and your post have been posted on my fb.

    Date: 2012-03-01 08:09 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    I know a couple other people who would be adversely affected by this. I'll spread the word.

    Date: 2012-03-01 12:56 pm (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Actually, I meant to say or do something when you first posted about this, but when I went off to try to find the wording of the new rules, I couldn't find them--so I'm glad you put up a link this time! (If you linked the last time, I totally spaced over it...but I really did put in about 20 minutes trying to find the new policy that was affecting you and couldn't locate it!)

    I guess I'm not surprised, since everything is starting to close in and become more repressive...

    Grey :(

    Date: 2012-03-01 01:01 pm (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Oh, hai--I know Sargon made a reference to the Regretsy mess that Paypal created by trying to stop their fundraising. (Do you guys read just Regretsy, or are you also in Club Fuckery?)

    Regretsy moved their processing stuff over to WePay--and are encouraging more and more Etsy crafters to do so, too. I recently had an EBay purchase where the Seller used ProPay. Is there any possibility of Smashwords, et al using some of these alternative funds processing sites and keeping the integrity of their stock?

    G :)

    Date: 2012-03-01 01:08 pm (UTC)
    ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
    From: [identity profile]
    Thing is, it's not Paypal.. or not just paypal, that's doing this. Paypal are pushing through this new terms of use policy due to the credit companies bringing pressure.. I can't find out which one is doing it, or it might be all of them.

    What it amounts to is the 'banks' are imposing censorship.

    and sorry I have been working up a post on this for a couple of days, but I was doing research first.

    Date: 2012-03-01 02:41 pm (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    I wonder who is pressuring the banks to do this.

    This suddenly reminds me of how Visa and others stopped allowing people to send money to Wikileaks, because they were pressured by the government (Senator Lieberman, perhaps others too) and it stinks. Maybe it's just, as another commenter said, this Paypal guy is a raging conservative, but I gotta wonder if it's deeper than that.

    I've posted links about this issue on my LJ/DW accounts, and on Twitter.

    (no subject)

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    Date: 2012-03-01 02:49 pm (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Can I link to you? I have people that should read this..

    Date: 2012-03-02 12:21 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Oh, yeah, feel free! I'd appreciate it.

    Date: 2012-03-01 02:50 pm (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    FYI the other system I know for accepting online payments, Square (, forbids "adult entertainment oriented products or services (in any medium, e.g., internet, telephone or printed material)". It is not clear to me if this is more or less restrictive than PayPal's policies - IMO it seems to forbid all categories of sexual content intended for the purpose of stimulation (all erotic fiction), but it seems to allow fiction that incidentally has sexual content.

    Regarding PayPal's forbidding bestiality, don't forget aliens. I suspect that 90% of Anne McCaffrey works, for example, violate PayPal's new policies (most of the Rowan series are ok, but most of the Pern [rape, incest] and Catteni [bestiality, rape] series are right out), not to mention nearly every episode of Star Trek (from The Original Series on down).

    Date: 2012-03-03 02:43 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    I thought Square only accepted in-person swipe payments?

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    Date: 2012-03-01 05:05 pm (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Linked on FB, will repost to lj. This is full of fail.

    Date: 2012-03-01 05:13 pm (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Signal boosted on Twitter, I'll link this entry in my LJ too, though it gets less traffic than Twitter does

    Date: 2012-03-01 05:49 pm (UTC)
    From: [identity profile]
    Very disturbing. For the record, the top number on that list rings nowhere... I ended up using the Customer Service number and got a rep in India who had never heard of this issue. She gathered more information about me than I was totally delighted to give, and made note of my protest & threat to take my business elsewhere in my account.

    The thread of articles led me to this piece on censorship by Stephen King. This bit left me a bit salty:

    Do I think that I have an obligation to fly down to Florida and argue that my books, which are a long way from either "Fanny Hill" or "American Psycho," be replaced on the shelves from which they have been taken? No. My job is writing stories, and if I spent all my time defending the ones I've written already, I'd have no time to write new ones.

    Do I believe a defense should be mounted? Yes. If there's one American belief I hold above all others, it's that those who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is "right" and what is "best" should be given no rest; that they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. No book, record, or film should be banned without a full airing of the issues.

    So a protest should be mounted, but it's not his job to uphold that belief he "hold(s) above all others"?. Yeah... very nice, smug bastard.
    Page 1 of 2 << [1] [2] >>


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