Sunday, 26 February 2012

Cracking the Whip on Censorship



There has been some chatter among writers about PayPal and Amazon’s new decision to crack down on obscene materials.  There is concern that legitimate erotica will be targeted along with erotic fiction involving pedophiles, incest, beastiality, rape, etc.  The guidelines are very vague and open to broad interpretations.  Things have been moving very swiftly and legitimate authors haven’t been given a lot of time to adapt or appeal decisions.  There is further concern that this decision with disproportionally target independent, small and self-published works, since the major publishing houses will have alternatives and lawyers.

The following statement may make me very unpopular with my fellow writers.  I support censorship of erotic material designed to appeal to pedophiles, rapists, etc.  I realize there are arguments about the fiction being an outlet, preventing action.  I also realize that censorship drives the fiction underground rather than eliminating it.

This is how I see it: the easier it is to get, the more susceptible people will get it.  Erotic fiction works best when it’s new.  Thus those people keep going for more and eventually words on a page aren’t enough and they go further.  So I’m in favour of getting rid of it.  It’s simple.  The actions described are illegal, therefore it’s a very clear guideline to use.

I’m not in favour of censoring erotica that deals with legitimate actions between consenting adults.  (We can deal with the parochial ignorance of those areas which still outlaw homosexuality in another post.)  I don’t have to like or approve of every sexual adventure.  If I don’t like it, I won’t buy it or read it.  Simple enough. 

I am concerned by how swiftly this crackdown is being enforced and worried about the vagueness of the guidelines.  I’m worried this will turn into a morality exercise or a witchhunt.  I’m worried it will unfairly target those without the resources to fight back.

But child abuse is not something I accept risks on.  Children deserve our protection and those who abuse them should be hunted down with every resource we can bring to bear.  (We have to be careful not to taint those who are innocent while still being vigilant to track down the guilty.)  The other specific references are disgusting, disturbing and I believe an argument can be made in favour of censoring them as well.

I also want to distinguish between erotic fiction and other fiction.  I have books where women and men have been raped or other bad things have happened to them as part of the story.  But the scenes are not designed to titillate.  I believe that those stories can be useful in helping those who have been victimized and help those who haven’t to understand the terror and difficulties which can result. 

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