Friday, March 2, 2012

Guest Post: It’s Obscene: PayPal, Erotica and Censorship

Words of wisdom from Brilliant Bryn Colvin, originally published on the loveyoudivine blog:

If you agree with these words, please copy them, and send them on by email, or blog them. All copyright waved (just in case you’re the sort of person who wouldn’t want to do anything illegal.)

So here we are, people, with a crack-down on online obscenity. By obscenity, we mean anything assumed to be for sexual titillation that somebody official finds objectionable. Both the ‘sexual titillation’ aspect and the ‘objectionable’ are totally subjective. You can bet they won’t be cracking down on literature, drama, crime or horror fiction.

Now, no matter how extreme the content, fiction, by definition, is not real. No one really does any of the things in the book. No one bleeds, or dies. So assuming an offence exists, we’d be talking about a victimless crime, and a thought crime at that. If you are offended by the construction of victimless crimes and thought crimes, about freedom of speech, and about who has the right to determine who can find what sexual, you need to start paying attention to what’s happening. This is also a situation in which hypocrisy is fine, and a suggestion of honesty isn’t. If you can pretend that the book is instructional, or memoire, or literature or crime… then you can write all the graphic rape scenes you want. No one is gunning for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, despite the graphic violence and anal rape. But it’s a crime novel, so we all know that no one reading it would get off on that kind of content, don’t we? Right.

There are real people out there being raped, really raped. Those in authority would rather use their time chasing people who write about it.

There are children being abused. Apparently it’s a better use of money to chase book distributors whose content might be a bit dark.

Victims of domestic abuse are beaten every day, but for some people, the things you imagine are in far more urgent need of policing.

While real victims are suffering the consequences of real crimes, it is not just ridiculous to spend time and money chasing authors and publishers, it’s obscene. It’s criminal.

Being raped is a horrendous experience, and the prosecution rates are very low. Being abused is life destroying. Reading about abuse and rape, can be cathartic and healing. It’s a big part of why we do it. The erotica industry is dominated by female authors, female readers and female publishers. It has a lot of gay, lesbian, transgender and otherwise not-straight people taking refuge in it, finding community and expression. Erotica is a voice for real experience. We don’t just tell pretty, inoffensive little love stories, we talk about life as it really is, for good and ill, what it does to you. Erotica empowers people to speak up, to understand what is good, to know the difference between consenting to something kinky and being conditioned into slavery. These are thought forms that could help thousands of abuse victims to recognise their condition, and thus be able to escape it.

The kind of people who would rather spend money policing the things that offend them, will harp on about the good old days, the upholding of family values. Ah yes, those good old days when a man could beat his wife and children, and no one would deign to notice. The good old days when there was no such thing as rape in marriage and your wife was your property. The good old days when your legally owned slaves could be killed on your say so, and your bastard children fathered on raped slave women could be left to grow up as slaves too and that was just fine. Hurrah for those old fashioned family values. Don’t we long for the days when it was fine to jail people for being queer, fine to lock people up for their underclothes, back when the poor knew their place and kept to it.

First they came for the pornographers, but I did not speak up, because I was not into porn.

Porn should not be inherently offensive. Abusing people to force them into the porn industry should be offensive. Letting human beings live in such poverty and hopelessness that they feel forced to sell their bodies, should be offensive. The priorities of those in power are very, very wrong.

We know how this goes, people, we know how this works. You start with the ones who are furthest from the mainstream, and work your way back in. Porn first, dark fiction writers, then what? Who next? This is not about real crime, real offence, or real harm, this is about curtailing the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. This is about making it harder to talk about the dark side of sex, rather than tackling the kind of people who actually abuse. Right now, I don’t know what any of us can do about it, but we can know and witness, and try to resist. Once it is established that you can lock people up for thought crimes, we are on a very slippery slope. If the state has the right to dictate what we can think about, write about, talk about, it’s power to quash dissent is absolute. Do not imagine that, just because you aren’t needing to express anything dark, or hardcore, it won’t affect you. Ask what comes next. Ask what we won’t be allowed to talk about tomorrow. What we won’t be allowed to do tomorrow.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak for me.

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