Essay–PayPal, SmashWords, Censorship

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Henry Miller. VC. Andrews. Stephen King. The Bible. Greek Mythology. Upanishads. Torrah. Quran

What the hell do these authors and books have in common? Scenes of rape, incest, beastiality, or underage sex. That’s right, folks. Books like Tropic of Cancer, The Library Policeman, Flowers in the Attic, etc all fit into these categories. Since Edward the vampire gets busy with a little high schooler, one can CERTAINLY claim Twilight would also fit the underage sex criteria.

So what?

Well, should these books be available on Smashwords, they must be pulled. Why? Because PayPal says so.

PayPal, the most popular electronic payment system for small merchants, individuals, and etc, has decided to launch an all out assault on Smashwords. Any books that contain “rape for tittilation,” under age incest, under age sex, or beastiality must be pulled from Smashwords, or PayPal will cease offering the independent e-book market its services.

Smashwords essentially uses PayPal as its financial institution. Charges for ebooks are made through PayPal. Payments to authors are made via PayPal. Without PayPal, Smashwords ceases to be a business and yet another independent merchant is crushed, leaving us authors and readers fewer and fewer places to purchase and sell ebooks.

When I say “rape, beastiality, incest, and underage sex,” many folks have a visceral reaction. In fact, you probably should. The ideas of those four categories is anathema. Well, mostly.

The concepts are taboo, but they are part of the human experience. Did you enjoy reading/watching The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Would the heroine’s personality be the same without the rape by her so-called guardian? Wasn’t that an integral part of displaying just how much shit she’d been through and why she has no trust in men?

What about VC Andrew’s tale about children trapped in an attic by their grandmother? Flowers in the Attic was an extremely visceral tale that displayed family dysfunction and righteous holiness gone insane.

These things happen. They are part of our world. I personally don’t want to read a book about a guy fucking a chicken, but what if I told that story as a joke? What if a character relates a story like that during, say, a Fiend’s tale? Perhaps Tony Downs has a patient who engaged in such an act. Can I talk about it, include this, without PayPal demanding my book be pulled from Smashwords?

I believe in freedom of speech. I also believe that merchants have the freedom to choose whom they do business with.

However, PayPal claims it’s not pressing Smashwords because of any moral problems. Instead, they are babbling something insane about possible legal ramifications if their services are used to purchase these items that contain this material. In fact, the head shill over at PayPal has made the claim that these ebooks often contain illustrations (which is false) and that the illustrations are what the problem is.


Okay, fine, so the guy’s a douchebag. However, he’s not an equal opportunity douchebag. PayPal does a LOT of business with, wait for it, Barnes and Noble. You’ll notice that in this rant I haven’t once mentioned PayPal pressuring B&N to drop books that contain rape, beastiality, incest, or underage sex. Why? Because they haven’t done it.

Instead, they’ve chosen the independents, like Smashwords, Diesel, Kobo, and etc. PayPal isn’t demanding those of us with PayPal credit cards refrain from purchasing “smut” or “sex toys” with the plastic. They haven’t denied us the ability to do so.

So what gives?

That’s the question, folks. What does indeed give?

PayPal can’t properly explain the reasoning for their new “policy” of censorship and sudden moral outrage. They’ve blamed the credit companies for the pressure, claiming that VISA, MasterCard, AMEX, and etc are the ones demanding they stop servicing erotica outlets such as Smashwords. However, VISA has put out a statement saying they have nothing to do with any of this and they cannot cease payment services for legal content. In addition, they say they are unaware of any SmashWords content that fits into the illegal category.

In addition, PayPal has not ceased servicing outlets that sell sex toys, “adult” videos and dead-tree books. So while PayPal wants to somehow blame other institutions for the pressure, it makes no sense that they would continue to service these other businesses, if, in fact, they really are concerned about being used to sell illegal content.

Now, here’s where I don my tinfoil hat and engage in serious conspiracy theories. In other words, I know I’m full of shit now and you should too. But think about it anyway.

The first theory is this: it’s all the Amazonasaurus’ fault. PayPal is not a proper payment method for Amazon at the moment. I believe this mainly stems from some kind of love/hate relationship between Amazon and Ebay. But, what if, what if Ebay is trying to make some kind of back room deal to get in on Amazon’s wealth by promising the destruction of its tiny foes? Since much of the fiction on Smashwords is, in fact, erotica, they could in one fell swoop destroy a lucrative market that Amazon can’t seem to, pardon the pun, penetrate.

Is that possible? Is it? It does sound insane even to me.

I think this one scares me even more, however.

Perhaps this really is some kind of moral crusade. A myopic moral crusade, perhaps, but one just the same. As with any form of censorship, one has to always ask the same question: where do we stop?

Today, it’s books including rape, incest, beastiality, and underage sex. Tomorrow? Larry Kramer’s “Faggots” is pulled from the shelves. After that? Brett Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho.” Clive Barker’s “The Hellbound Heart.”

Where. Does. It. End?

And that’s the real problem here. No one knows.

If this is a financially motivated crusade of insanity, my fellow readers, we have a choice. If you believe in independent media, do me a favor: send PayPal some serious hate mail. If you can, kill your account.


Crazy, I know. What’s worse? I’m a hypocrite. I have a PayPal credit card with an outstanding balance. At present, I can’t kill my account until it’s paid off. And I don’t have an alternative at the moment. So I can’t rid myself of them. Not yet, anyway.

I’m looking into alternatives such as Dwolla and Wepay. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a mechanism that isn’t at risk from douchebags in their high castles trying to dictate what we consumers can and can’t buy, and what artists can and can’t sell. Maybe you should be too.

To PayPal I say: fuck you.

To Smashwords I say: keep up the good fight.

If you don’t agree with the censorship policies of PayPal and Ebay, let them know about it. Please. The only power we consumers have is the power of our wallets. And as GoDaddy discovered during the SOPA bill fight, it’s a mighty big power. So, power to the readers, fiendlings.

Now, I’m off to buy some smut masquerading as literature. That’s right, I’m going to get an Aramaic translation of the Old Testament.

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