Sex, sexuality and sexual explicitness have long been controversial in the United States, where the attitude has traditionally been repressive and deeply laden with sexual guilt. Prior to the mid-1960s, sexually explicit books like Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer were banned, copies confiscated, and booksellers intimidated for selling them even after the ban was lifted in 1961. It wasn’t until 1964 that the US Supreme Court declared Miller’s book not to be obscene and its sale protected by the US Constitution. But this wasn’t until his publisher, Grove Press along with the ACLU had filed a lawsuit arguing that it was illegal for officials to interfere with its sale, and Grove Press had spent more than $100,000 fighting 60 cases nationwide.
This opened the floodgates, not only for Miller’s books, but sexually explicit works from many other new and established writers like Anais Nin, launching what we all thought of as a “sexual revolution” in the arts and behavior. Finally, many believed, we have won the battle against sexual repression and the toxic beliefs that accompany.
What it did was drive it underground where it has lived on, appearing every now and then from James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Jerry Falwell’s
Moral Majority and politicians like Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann.
But none of it has had any real clout until now. What is the difference?
In an article titled Slippery Slope, writer and blogger Selena Kitt recently had this to say: “Well, the morality police are at it again. And this time, it’s scarier.”
What is scarier? PayPal, the well-respected credit card alternative, has begun clamping down on publishers and distributors of books containing “obscene” content (apparently defined by them, not by any law). What are their hot button words and themes? At this point, they are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica. (Reading this list, I wondered what PayPal means by “titillation” -- as defined by them, by readers, or what?)
In an email sent to authors, publishers and agents who have published erotica, Smashwords asked that they proactively remove and archive any work that contains such material. Smashwords is not the only one affected by this. Selena Kitt reports that Bookstrand and All Romance Ebooks have also received this ultimatum. What about Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple? I’m not sure, but if credit card companies and the banks that back them begin objecting to content, then that could be a problem, and a serious one, for mainstream publishers and writers like Stieg Larsson, author of the “Girls with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy (“Millennium Trilogy”).
Two things disturb me the most about this issue. First, it is the power of big money to bypass the law on obscenity by financially shutting down publishers and distributors of works PayPal defines as obscene. Second, it is big money defining what people can and cannot read by shutting down publishers and distributors by shutting off their money supply, just as big ranchers shut down small farmers by damming their water supply.
As writer and friend Soooz Burke eloquently said in a recent blog post, “We fight wars to allow others Freedom of Religion, for Freedom of Choice, Freedom of Expression...
Freedom to be permitted to live our lives without impeding the same FREEDOM to others.
Freedom to not have our reading matter decided and selected for us by anybody else.
The thing that troubles me the most is..”Where will it end?” The possibilities are more than a little worrying.”
The possibilities are more than a little worrying to me, too. Once again, big money marches in and attempts to control the universe. Well, the USSR created the grassroots Samizdat movement, where individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed them from reader to reader.
I hope this isn’t where we’re headed. One more thing for the Occupied movement to think about.
For Soooz Burke’s post, here’s that link: http://sooozsaysstuff.blogspot.com/2011/09/topic-censorship-in-literature-should_18.html
In : Publishing,
Tags: censorship money erotica indie publishers sex book distributors george polley freedom of expression