Friday, March 2, 2012

Dirty Mind vs. Debit Card -Banned Author Interview

Beginning today, I'll be bringing you interviews with writers who've had their titles pulled due to PayPal's policy, hoping to show people why this sub-genre should not be suppressed, and in order to tell anyone listening why women read--and write --erotica.  I hope also to provide interviews with readers of erotica, willing to share why they read it, and what they expect from the experience, other than the tingle.  

One piece of news from me. I'm putting together an anthology of the exact kind of thing PayPal is suppressing. If you write hard-edged erotica, non-consensual erotica, dubious-consent erotica, please e-mail me for information. Right now, I'm thinking along the lines of a 15,000 word limit, --but you can probably tie me up and force me to take more if you insist <grin> and would like to have a minimum of ten stories, but would gladly take more.

Welcome Today's Dirty Mind, remittance girl!

EC: Welcome Remittance Girl! You're an indie author who has a story recently banned on Smashwords. Can you tell us a bit about the title you were forced to pull because a debit card company found it too threatening?

RG: The work that was removed off the Smashwords site was a book called Gaijin. It is the story of a woman who goes to Tokyo, romanticizing about the beauty of Japanese culture and ends up in hell. What got the book banned was that it contains non-consensual sex scenes. There are a number of them, and some violence. 

Essentially it is a story of how we fetishize each others' cultures. So, to a certain extent, it is a literary novel. It has very real characters, a very strange plot, and a very ambiguous ending. It's certainly not a happy one, but the protagonist gets away.

What makes Gaijin a problem stems from the fact that, just before I wrote it, I finished watching Deadwood - the HBO series. I loved the character of Swingen. You start out really hating him. And, morally, he never becomes a nicer guy, but somehow you start to feel for him, to get a sense of why he's such a bastard. You actually start to like him. I thought that was masterful writing, and so that is what I wanted to do, with my male protagonist, Shindo. He's a small-time Yakuza thug, with a thing for blondes. He hates the influences the West has brought to his country, but the West also makes him feel small. Jennifer, the protagonist and the blonde girl who works at the bar sort of encapsulates everything he both hates and is attracted to about the West. When he grabs her, he does it out of ego, and stupidity, and a way to save face.

If I had just written really ugly violent rape scenes, I could have sold it under the thriller genre. But I didn't want to do that. I wanted to explore the way fictional depictions of certain rapes titillates certain women.  And there was simply no way I was going to shove this under the thriller heading, untagged, so that a woman who had experienced rape trauma could stumble over it unwarned. I wanted to make sure people knew it was explicit and contained non-consent. And make their own informed decisions about whether they wanted to read it or not.

EC: How long was Gaijin up on Smashwords prior to being banned? And if you wouldn't mind sharing, how many copies were downloaded in that time period?

RG: It was up for about a year. Honestly, I sold about 5 copies tops from Smashwords. It isn't the sales issue. It's the principle. Most of my sales are on Amazon.
Not a huge number either. Maybe 1000 a year. My press is tiny. It doesn't do any promo and I'm not very good at it either.

Also, it's just not an easy book to read. Yes, it's erotic, but it's also telling a pretty ambiguous story. There's no romance in it. And it ends really badly for him :P

EC: I acknowledge there's a difference between erotica and erotic romance. I would also agree it's the principle involved, among many other things. In fact, I have spent some time in the last few days wondering why such a small portion of sales is being targeted. Have you wondered that, remittance girl?

RG: I have. I wish I had answers, but all I've got is guesses. I think the world has become a very strange place.  We use sex to sell practically everything. There's porn pretty much everywhere. It has become so much a part of the mainstream that people use terms like 'money shot' as a metaphor for proof of something being real. There are a lot of people who find this very uncomfortable. They don't know how to stop it. Even big companies are run by individuals who have moral stances. PayPal will not process 'Adult Entertainment Products' and I think that when they saw certain types of erotica getting more and more edgy, they decided to see if they could stop processing those sales too. I certainly don't believe the excuse of 'higher charge-backs'. In the thousand copies I sold this year, I had 4 charge-backs.  From what I've heard, that's lower than most mainstream books.

I've heard people say that it isn't PayPal's decision, that it is Visa and MC that are forcing them to do that. But that doesn't make any sense. The credit card companies have no problem with processing visual porn. Some of it very hardcore stuff. Dramatized non-con, etc. So I don't buy that. They might want to charge a higher transaction fee, but they are fine about processing the stuff.

Underlying some of the reticence PayPal is having with selling books containing fictional depictions of taboo sex is a general discomfort, I think, with the fact that it is women writing this stuff and women reading it. I do believe, behind it all, is a certain feeling that they should save us from ourselves.

EC: I also got a disturbing sense of paternalism from the commenters on some of the articles posted in the media about the PayPal crackdown. 

RG: Oh, I agree. I think it is there in spades! Even from a number of people who claim to support freedom of expression utterly. You get comments like "Well, I'd NEVER write that sort of thing, but... you know,  I support your right to write it." What author in their right mind can say I'LL NEVER WRITE anything? Do you know what you're going to write 10 years from now? Hell, I don't.

BTW, please don't feel shy about asking me to justify why I write erotic non-con. I have no problem with justifying it. And yes, BTW, I actually DO think I should have to justify it. :P 

EC: I don’t feel you should have to ever justify anything you create.
Art of any kind is optional, a sort of bonus content for your life. if you don’t like it, don’t look at it, read it or watch it. Problem solved.

RG: Well, I don't think you should have to justify anything you choose to write about either. But I do feel I need to justify it to myself, as a writer. In the same way I would feel the need to justify the PoV I choose, or the tense I've decided to write a certain story in. 

EC: Alright then, why write such inflammatory stories? Why can't you be a good girl and give us love stories with a HEA ending like the majority of writers? What drives you to such dark places in your writing?

RG: Well, there are days I just want to read something that makes me feel good. Personally, I'm a cozy murder mystery addict. I know how it's going to end. I know the bad guy will meet justice.  But some of my most transcendental moments have been when I've read books that excited me, disturbed me, and made me examine myself and my reactions. Those are the books I grew from. They're the books that haunt me still, years after I have read them. I wanted to write books like that.

There are lots of good writers around the world giving people love stories with happily ever after endings. I figure the niche is pretty much full. I decided to aim my pen at the less densely populated area. Although I don't always write on taboo subjects, most of my fiction is 'uncomfortable' in one way or another.

Plus, I've always been very disturbed about why I had rape fantasies. I identify myself as a feminist. I have been raped (although admittedly, it wasn't a terribly traumatic rape). So why the hell do I, and 40% of the female population have these sexual fantasies? I felt it was something I wanted to explore in my fiction. I guessed that a certain proportion of the other 40% might want to also.

One day I had a light bulb moment. I realized that the rapists in my fantasies were created by me. That sounds obvious, but it was actually quite a revelation. In the real world, women don't have control over who victimizes them, but in fantasy and in fiction we do. And that got me thinking that women have come a long way in a very short time. From chattel to voters in less than 50 years.

But the ingrained history of where women have been on the power pyramid can't be erased or overturned like a law. Deep in the fabric of our culture is still the myth that good girls don't like sex. That women who give it up too easily are whores. That sex without love is a sin.

I think that 'rape' in sexual fantasy is a metaphor. And the rapist in fantasy is also a metaphor. It is the mechanism by which some women allow themselves to go places mentally, sexually, they don't feel comfortable going under their own steam.

I remember those very old movies, the silent ones, with Rudolph Valentino as the Sheik. He'd whisk us off to his tent in the desert and do the nasty stuff to us no nice girl would ever actually go shopping for, or ask for. In essence, my male protagonist in Gaijin is just like that. He's a projection of our desires to be what we won't give ourselves permission to be. I made him foreign and exotic just like Rudy. And just like Rudy, he's impenetrable and hard to understand and he won't take no for an answer. Just like Rudy, he desires us beyond the bounds of civility.

But ultimately, he's ours. We make him. We set his limits. Ultimately, we're written him and we can kill him off.

So, despite what people assume about non-con in erotica, it's very empowering. Because most of us can't just suddenly erase 4000 years of horrific repression. But we can re-write it and turn it into something that gets us off.

I know that some writers will disagree with me, but I'm going to say it anyway. The male protagonists in non-con erotica are no closer to being realistic than most Alpha males in romances. They aren't men, they are a part of ourselves. A projection of what we want, the way we want it.

I think the only difference between me and a lot of erotic romance writers, is that I'm much nastier to the male characters. Once they've done what I wanted them to do, I kill them off. 

EC: So, bottom line: For you, your writing is about sexual exploration and a way to take control of your deepest fears and fantasies. Does your debit card have the right to censor that? Does MINE? Does the plastic in any woman's wallet, or the wallet of her spouse, have the right to impose their social values on them? This may not be a legal issue, but I'll state it's a consumer issue, a social trend that scares me enough to wonder how cute I'll look dressed as June Cleaver. Will business and banking in particular force me to give up the equal rights earned in my late teens and early twenties?

RG: It's not just about sexual exploration. It's about exploration of many things through an erotic lens.

The bottom line is this: if PayPal believes what I write is harmful to people, then they should do what any other citizen needs to do - petition lawmakers or go to court and try to have a law passed that makes what I write illegal. But a company that poses as a facilitator of transactions but picks and chooses what is 'good' for a person to buy is interfering with the free market.  

Personally, I hate guns. I think it should be illegal to own one. But I still wouldn't sanction a credit card company who refuses a gun sale just to realize my dream of a gun-less world. If I cannot effect a change in my society through the law, then I have to accept that MOST people don't agree with me. I have to suck it up and live with it.

The vast majority of Americans believe that what a person reads is their own goddamn business. That, for the most part, obscenity lies in the eye of the beholder. If they didn't believe this, the Miller Test would have been overturned long ago.

This is a sneaky and dishonest way to control what people can read. And it's just plain wrong.

And all I know is, considering what has happened to the economy and how much the banks and other financial institutions are to blame for it, you would think they had better fucking things to do than worry about what women are reading. Nothing I could even dream of writing could do a tiny fraction of the damage that most of these financial institutions have wrought on the lives of ordinary people.

I could not agree more. Thank you so much, remittance girl. I appreciate your taking the time to drop by and for giving us such an open view of why you write what you write, in hopes the average reader will see they do have something at stake here.

I believe this is a consumer issue, a woman's issue 
as well as an artistic issue. Don't we deserve the chance to decide what we read? If I pay a plumber to come into my home and perform a service, would I allow him to cull anything from my bookcases while he's there, because he finds the content offensive? No. This is no different than what PayPal is doing. 

Comments always welcomed. 


  1. Truly stupendous interview ladies. RG your responses and explanations were insightful and full of passion.
    I am having a bit of a giggle at how non-consensual is considered a No-NO in erotica but hello, did not the Grand Dame of Pink Romance, Ms. Barbara Cartland make a living out of innocent girls being taken by the tall, dark broody man? Albeit it was a HEA but nonetheless it was still non-consensual...
    Maybe if it is only alluded to through purple prose is it acceptable?
    Keep writing what you are passionate about RG not what others tell you is correct.

    *bites n kisses*

    1. Thanks for reading, and for sharing, Dezire, we need women to see this affects us all,no matter what we write, no matter what we read, it's our choice. We fought for these basic civil rights,and we cannot stand silent while they shrink away.

  2. Hello Dezie! Well, Eden asks great questions.

    And yes! Many, many of the romances of the 1970's and 80's contained non-con. Hell, the Flame and the Flower opens with a rape! I think there are good reasons why these books resonated with so many women.

    It's strange, but I feel we're almost caught between the first-wave feminists and the conservative moralizers. The first seems to have no understanding of the fact that our understanding of sex has been crafted by thousands of years of oppression, and the latter just wants to go back there.

    It's a bloody strange place to be.

  3. It's a very good point that is made - that non-con sex in books written by women is different because no control is lost. I know that one day I was dreadfully upset merely because some bastard grabbed a breast while I was innocently walking down a city street. I was so furious I was sick with it.

    Yet I can write non-con sex, and I can write that the victim enjoys it in some part of herself or himself. Yet from the moralist's point of view, such enjoyment is forbidden.

    Such hypocrasy. Just a couple of centuries ago, innocent teenage girls were given to men in marriage, not knowing the men, and not knowing about sex. The legal 'act of marriage' that followed was rape. In many countries, they still do this, sometimes with girls of just thirteen and fourteen. Yet instead of attacking all the true evils in this world, they'd rather attack stories of fantasy, written and read by people who choose to write and read them.

    1. Anonymous,

      You make such a good point. The truth is that we in the West are incredibly privilege. Because in MOST of the world, girls are still married off very young, with out their real consent. Very often the consummation IS rape.

      So you make an excellent point. Now we're not allowed to write about the reality most women on this planet actually live in.

  4. It's ironic how non-con in fiction (excuse me, EROTIC fiction) is being censored by non-con in reality. We (authors, readers, publishers, booksellers) are being raped by money handlers. Double plus ungood.

  5. RG you have, yet again, so clearly articulated many things I feel, but couldn't put into words. Indeed, much of the pleasure in reading and writing about extreme situations is the fact that we always hold the control, removing any threat and allowing us to experience the situation through unbiased eyes. Wonderful post.

  6. What an extraordinary and insightful interview. RG, you articulated exactly what I feel about this issue and managed to give me additional, valuable perspective. Thank you.

  7. Great interview. I think it's true that non-con can allow us to go places that our ingrained boundaries will hesitate to.

    I also think that sometimes I just want to be sad. In our society this is frowned upon. When someone asks "What's wrong?" the correct answer is "Nothing." We're not allowed to just feel sad, or ever want to feel sad, or it means we need medication. But that seems silly to me, and unlikely.

    If it were just me who did this, I would still defend the right, but it's not. Other people do things to make themselves sad or shocked. They watch a scary movie or read a gruesome (nonsexual) book or, hell, they even go to a haunted house. I don't do any of those things. They're not morally wrong, I just have no desire to be made to feel bad by those things, but sometimes I like dirty, violent non-con erotica to do the trick.

  8. I carry a PayPal debit card, and I'm very disappointed to learn it won't buy me a copy of Gaijin. I'm a long time fan and subscriber to Remittance Girl's newsletter, and a frequent visitor to her site I'm also a man, and a writer and a fighter for freedom and women's rights, and against repression in it's many forms, especially any form of censorship. Who appointed PayPal to the ThoughtPolice ? Women of the world, Unite. Perhaps a petition would help us to make our feelings known?

    1. Why thank you. And I don't know who appointed them thought police, but there is indeed a petition already up and running here:

  9. So does anyone know why they (Paypal/CC companies)are doing this? Are they imposing the same restrictions on visual porn? If not, then what is the diversion intended to obscure? Which cc companies are involved?

    Remittance Girl, I fist read of the ban through your Tweets and deliberately went and bought a couple of your publications as protest. Always very enjoyable. "The Illustrated Teacher" is one of my favorites.

    Paypal and cc companies, hands off my sexuality please. I have not invited or consented to your interference in what goes on in my head.

    1. Hi, and thanks for reading.

      There has been some commentary saying PP is being pressured by the larger CC companies, but most of us think that's not the case. This is their policy, and they've had it for a while, but have only now decided to enforce it, and they have chosen to target primarily indie-published works. We've written to ask for an explanation of their motives; no response to date.

      What's needed here (my opinion) is for every female holding a PP account and every female whose male significant other holds a PP account, to call and write in protest, demanding PP stay out of matters of conscience and personal taste. At the end of the day,I feel PP will choose money over conscience.

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