Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Internet is, for many people, an important outlet for expressing or consuming products related to their sexuality. It has the qualities of being worldwide, accessible and anonymous. Products such as ebooks are diverse, affordable and easily concealable.
It is undeniable that some of the side-effects of this accessibility are thatit allows socialising and material trading between paedophiles, it exposes vulnerable sex-addicted people to materials that disrupt their lives and it gives infidelity yet another avenue for expression. However, it is also true that the Internet provides support to people seeking to become more whole and more healthy. It provides places where sexual minorities such as asexuals, homosexuals and transgendered people can meet--as well as fiction that depicts their experience and shows that it is not unique, that the are not alone. Ebooks show sex as an expression of love and a normal and natural part of life. Online erotica gives all types of people positive and satisfying sexual entertainment and information.
Viewing and consuming erotica online is a positive experience. What should be condemned in people who harm others or themselves be it through sexually explicit material or any other avenue.
There really is, when you get right down to it, nothing all that special about sex. So why is sexual content of all types being so actively suppressed by online payment behemoths such as Google Checkout and Paypal? Google Checkout suspended the account of an organisation that ran a few speed dating events. Many erotic romance publishers have dropped the use of Paypal for similar reasons. As Amber Quill Press writes: "the purchase of any one of our romance books, whether erotica or otherwise, through PayPal (anything that deals directly with or suggests human sexuality or contains references to sexual contact in any form) could put us (and you) in jeopardy..." Both services are known to be not only prudish but arbitrary, quick to act and almost totally unresponsive to appeals. Banned products include non-erotic romance or gay fiction, Poser dolls that have genitalia, art prints or nudes etc. Paypal has frozen accounts not only of ebook publishers but also distributors and authors.
Paypal changed their policy to adult material in 2003 due to fraud and complaints associated with this type of material. Really? All erotic material is associated with high levels of crime? I think not. I think categorising the problem by sexual content shows the preoccupation of the staff in these companies, not the nature of the problem. Some types of erotica, I am quite sure, have no more complaints and difficulties that the trade and distribution of scented candles or engine parts--and I would suggest erotica romance is in that benign category. Other hard-core businesses are dishonest--but why does that whole genre, all of erotica and a good deal of romance and gay fiction get tarred with the same brush?
Most people selling and consuming erotica online are honest businesses and reasonable customers. What should be condemned is people who mislead and sell faulty products or do not shop with due diligence.
To say that erotic products and business to sell them should be outlawed *because* of the adult-content is lazy thinking indicative of companies that attempt to solve problems through arbitrary stereotyping rather than targetting the real culprits. It is genre-profiling, it is discrimination--and it is allowed because sex-writers are presumed guilty not only by corporate America but a large section of the general population who still consider all reference to sex either evil, shameful or sinful.
Imagine the equivalent in the physical world. Where all money was issued by private companies. If you tried to use this money to buy a product that even hinted at a sexual orientation, romance or nudity occasionally, without warning, not only that money--but all the funds in your account--would vanish along with the funds of the shopkeeper and the person who made the product even if all three were completely blameless of any harm or fraud.
And the saddest thing of all is that these services are so necessary and prevalent that the standard response has been to continue to use them whenever possible, but to stay under their radar like proprietors of a speak easy or pea shake (illegal gambling) house. When currency comes with someone else's morality attached we are left choosing between going without or acting as if we are ashamed of what we do, even when we are not.