You may have read in the last week that PayPal is making policy changes geared toward eradicating questionable material from their transactions. The literature in question contains incest, pseudo-incest, rape, bestiality, or underage sex. This targeted campaign has resulted in several erotica epublishers and distributors being forced to take down content (censorship), potentially drop authors, draw up petitions, and have their accounts–thus assets–frozen byPayPal. Some even plan to move to other front end currency handlers, in hopes of escaping the grips of PayPal.
Clearly there’s a more compelling, more pervasive business impetus driving this change, more along the lines of ill-gotten gains and killing indie publishing than controlling sexual morality or protecting pure minds. For instance, consider 1979 New York Best Seller, V. C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic, published by Pocket Star (Simon & Schuster). I first read this book when I was about twelve years old (I know, I know–wrecked from the start.), which makes this snazzy new snuggly cover its what, gazillionth edition? The story’s premise is an underage brother and sister falling in love, then banging like bunnies, through a few sequels, even. I’m sure that Simon & Schuster isn’t using PayPal to sell their books, though I can’t help but wonder how big publishers–or their distributors–are connected to PayPal’s corporate holdings.
If the execs behind PayPal (owned by Ebay) were that against the aforementioned sexual acts, wouldn’t they attack the big guns peddling smut, the publishers with jinglier funds and way bigger distribution reaching much bigger audiences? Better yet, instead of changing policy based on imagined injustices, wouldn’t they take a stance against real threat by, say, possibly bringing down the numbers of those hurt in violent acts through public donations to the Not For Sale campaign to stop human trafficking, or by providing support to those who are survivors of rape by openly allying with RAINN?
As an artist, for a third party to attempt to legislate what is acceptable art really annoys me. PayPal isn’t making this policy change because they’re concerned about protecting purity or shaping the morality of an industry. They’ve found a vulnerability in the indie publishing community and they’re exploiting it for all they can, financially. This ploy is about driving readers and authors back to the big publishers, like Simon & Schuster, big vendors, like Amazon, by legislating indie sales and transactions.
As a survivor of real human atrocity, it gripes my ass for an entity to pretend it’s doing humanity a favor by making art criminal instead of focusing efforts on prevention of harm or supporting survivors. Imagine how many lives could be positively impacted if PayPal put its money where its greed is and actually contributed to helping people. Because if there is real harm driving the publication or consumption of these sexual themes–and that’s a BIG if, by taking them out of the monitored public eye all PayPal did was drive them further underground where they will be untraceable. People will still be hurt. Dimes will still be exchanged. No life was saved by this policy change.
So thank you, PayPal, for helping me with nothing, for taking money out of peoples’ pockets to line your own, and for contributing fuck-all to the prevention of real crimes and hurts in the world. That’s just ace of you.