Saturday, February 25, 2012

Want Me Barefoot and Pregnant, Too? Open Letter To PayPal

Do You Want Me Barefoot and Pregnant, Too? An Open Letter to PayPal   

   To my fellow writers: Be heard. Stand up and scream, use your blog, your social media accounts and your God-given talent to publicize this new form of rape.

     Dear PayPal,

     I’m a nine-year account holder. And I’m angry.

You see, I was an eBay seller for over seven years. I used your service for the convenience of my eBay customers. If you refer to my file, you will see how many times I participated in an arcane process you like to call dispute resolution’.  Your track record there was less than stellar.

However, your questionable policy allowing you to seize my funds—yes, mine, the ones I earned and which you were given permission to MOVE for me -- is not the policy I’m complaining about today.

This one is bigger. More insidious and at least as arrogant.  You see, growing bored with writing eBay auctions, I moved to writing romance novels. My novels depict characters having sex with each other.
Sex happens. If you’re uncomfortable with the topic, I recommend you simply not read my work.
But don’t you dare tell my readers they cannot pay for my novels using their funds in your possession. And don’t try to dictate to me what I may buy, sell and pay for with my funds in your possession, either.

You see, romance novels have always been there red-headed stepchild of the publishing industry. Romances in general and erotic romances in particular are the novels no one will admit to reading, and the ones the Big Publishing won’t market, at least not under their respectable house names. But they do sell.  (link)  In order to satisfy the demand, especially with the advent of electronic reading devices, many small e-publishers have flourished, giving many of who have a knack for writing these stories a new income stream.

And once again, my funds are being moved through your SERVICE. My publishers use your service to collect payments on my behalf, and they deposit my royalties in my PayPal account. I use the term service, because that is all you are. I look upon you as I do the guys who pick up my trash. My trash collector has a right to deny me the right to put certain items in my refuse container. Not because they arbitrarily decide they are offended by, say, dirty diapers and old lampshades, but only if carting off dirty diapers and lamp shades would violate LOCAL, STATE, or FEDERAL LAW.  Otherwise, they take away what I toss out, and in this economy, they’re damn glad I haven’t decided to haul off my own trash.

You do not get to tell me what I can and cannot spend my money on.
Oh, you’re trying.  You have written some arcane new policy you believe allows you to JUDGE what I write, purchase, or promote, and disallow my sales or expenditures based on your idea of what is ‘appropriate’.
Guess what? The last time someone tried that, I was seventeen years old. I’m now fifty-one. I’m more than capable of choosing what I want to write—and read. I don’t need or want you looking over my shoulder in the guise of looking out for my best interests. I may have breasts, but I assure you, I can handle the job.
To further disrupt my small business enterprise, you are now targeting my distribution.
Wait. That is not quite true.  You have not yet affected my works. You have, however, decided in your almighty arrogance, that you may dictate to distributers who also handle my titles, which titles you will authorize payment for.
Here is copy from one distributer’s web site:

  1. Content subject to approval.
  2. If you upload romance with explicit sexual content, please do not cross over the line regarding pedophilia, sex with a minor, sex with the barely legal, incestuous sexual intercourse with any immediate family member, rape for sexual titillation, non-consensual BDSM, bestiality with a non-sentient being, and necrophilia.
  3. No hard-core erotica will be accepted.

  • For BDSM, place a note before or after your blurb indicating it is "consensual BDSM."
  • If your heroes or heroines are siblings in a ménage/multiple partner romance, the siblings cannot, at any time, be sexually involved with each other and cannot touch each other for titillation. Place a note after your blurb indicating "There is no sexual relationship or touching for titillation between or among siblings" (or similar wording of your own).
  • Pseudo incest involving sexual intercourse with non-blood related family members, although legal, is a hot button. If "step" family members are involved with each other, premise of the story cannot be for the sole purpose of titillation.

To recap: I may hear of these situations on the news, or in a television drama or a movie, but I may not read or write about them, if I plan to pay or get paid through your intuition.
Uh huh.  NO. No, PayPal, you do not have the right or the qualifications, to decide what is and is not obscene. You are a company chartered in the United States, and I’ll be damned if I feel you’re smarter than the US Supreme Court. There are days I have issues with the decisions made by these justices, but at least they were vetted by Congress, which is one hell of a lot more than you can claim. They went to law school, served as lower court judges and wrote many a scholarly dissertation and reasoned opinion prior to being nominated for the seat.

What the hell did you do? You merely typed a new clause into your customer agreement, and you think you’re gonna shove it down my throat. Honey, I know fiction when I see it. That’s what your policy regarding obscene material is, fiction. I seriously doubt you can back it up in court. I seriously doubt you can back it up using my money.
Based on my experience with your dispute resolution mumbo-jumbo, I know you’ll try.

For the edification of those who haven’t seen it, this is how your company is making their end-run around the Constitution, as related by an online retailer of erotica and erotic romance:

On Saturday, February 18, PayPal’s enforcement division contacted XYZ Online Book Retailer (name withheld)
with an ultimatum. As with the other ebook retailers affected by this enforcement,
PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened
to deactivate our PayPal services. I've had multiple conversations with PayPal
over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team
has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the XYZ Online Book Retailer mission. I appreciate
their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best
to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.

Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica. (sic)

But, Eden, you say, you’re a fifty-one year old female, living on the buckle of the Bible Belt. You can’t possibly support novels with rape scenes, incest scenes, and for God’s sake, surely not donkey-sex involving minors!

Oh, yes I can. Here are three reasons why:

1. When you clean the shelves of the above list of ‘objectionable material’, will that satisfy you? Or, fresh from your success of leveraging MY MONEY against me and my chosen profession, will you come after something I actually write? 

2. Many of us who write in this genre do so for therapeutic as well as financial reasons. Oh yeah. So, if at some point in my past, I was traumatized by the swinging dong of a donkey, owned by my cousin who also raped me (fictional example though this may be) do you think you can deny me the chance to write this and make it commercially available to someone else on this planet that might also have experienced similar trauma? I’m going to say you are not qualified to make that judgment call, much less have the right to make it.

3. It’s fiction, yo. That means it’s not REAL. It’s fantasy, it’s emotional exploration in the safest possible manner, in the privacy of one’s own home. You absolutely do not have the right to dictate what I may or may not read, explore or fantasize about by virtue of the fact I PAY YOU TO MOVE MY FUNDS ABOUT ON MY BEHALF. Again, I say you’re not qualified to determine what is and is not obscene. You move money, and there are times you do a piss-poor job of that. To give you this kind of control without a fight makes as much sense as asking my dentist to deliver my baby, or my house painter to choose my cancer treatment facility. 

You can’t follow the federal regulations you’re required by law to obey, based on lawsuits which are a matter of public record, yet you seek to set a precedence of this caliber and dictate to me what I may write and sell, or read, by squeezing me where it hurts, in my purse?

Clean up your own house before you come to sweep out the dirt in mine. There’s every chance that will keep you plenty busy.

Perhaps you don’t realize I’ve been discriminated against before; had my human rights violated by being passed over for a in favor of a male with lesser qualifications,  offered lower pay for equal work, been fired for getting pregnant, and a few other tidbits I’m too angry to recall.
I suppose you think because my daughter has taken all my generation’s progress in this arena for granted, and paid her money and mine for rap music denigrating women as ‘bitches and hos’, I must have gone senile, and won’t notice you’re trying to screw me, no dinner, no kiss and no lube?
Think again. Effective immediately, I’ll be withdrawing my funds from your possession. Until my publishers find a new way to pay me, I will discontinue use of your bit of plastic, and have you send me a check through the mail, this depriving you of additional fees my card activity gives you.

I’m only one woman, I admit that. However, you’re the one implying my words and the words of my fellow erotica writers have so much power we must be controlled, at the expense of the US Constitution. That makes me think you might have a fight on your hands.
And I’ll be waiting for that enterprising class-action attorney who sees this situation for what it is, an opportunity to right a wrong, while lining his pockets. That’s the American way, after all. But he or she will use the law to do that, while you have nothing to stand on, in my humble opinion, except your arrogance and your erroneous belief I’ll bend over and take this like a good little girl.

Good little girls are fiction too. I’m a woman, I write erotica, and I’m not bending one more inch. You show me the power of money, and I’ll show you the power of the pen.

My post looks at the issue from the consumer's angle. This one calls out one of the online booksellers who's given up without any sign of a fight:

Raymond Frazee's post is hard hitting, and references many works which fit these literal definitions Paypal is forcing on us, and yet which would never be banned.


  1. Phew! Talk about taking the bull by the horns! You really went for the jugular with this post (please excuse the clichés. I salute the forthrightness, and if this doesn't make Paypal sit up and think about all the accounts that may disappear from their books, my own included. Bravo Eden, this needed to be said!

    1. This is something that we cannot ignore. WE must ALL take action. This policy is rape, financial rape, emotional rape and artistic rape--and if we shut up and take it, they'll tell their metaphorical sons how much we enjoyed it. As the story goes, what will we tell the next woman who is moved to write an erotica story? "We had the means to combat this, but we were--too scared? Intimidated? We decided to take the easy way and side-step the brutal grass-roots and court battle and found alternate sources of funding."? I don't think so. I gotta be able to sleep nights and know my daughter's rights, whether she's smart enough to want them or nit, will have them safely in waiting. This is a responsibility, not a mere choice.

  2. I am the proud author of books now banned for content (hard core BDSM, rape and sexual torture (that part isn't for titillation, but if you're bent that way . . .) I refuse to change what I write to fit ANYONE'S moral standards. I have spent over half a century fighting for my rights to do what I want with my body, now they want to control my mind too! Enough is enough, this will spread.

    1. It only spreads as far as we take it. I see a lot of erotica authors shrugging this off with comments about 'switching payment processors'. To me, that's hardly the point. The point here is Paypal is setting a precedent, and each tiny erosion of personal liberty is one step closer to the landslide allowing 'them' to take something else. I say make 'em fight like hell for everything they take, because I too, have earned the right to write what I want, read what I want and pay for it with a card or account I FUND.

    2. You are correct, Eden - what I meant was the censorship would spread. I totally agree that we can not side step this or make an end run around it. I am saddened by how many authors I see rushing to re-edit their work to fit these guidelines.

    3. I'm saddened by how quickly these distributors bent over to comply with a policy which is being arbitrarily enforced, at beast. Look at the PayPal blog--then you tell me, are we being selectively targeted? Charmillionaire is cool with PP, but erotica writers must be banned:

  3. Excellent post Eden, this is outrageous behaviour from what is just another 'company'. Why is it just our genre that is getting penalised? Too many grey areas have us all looking at our work with a magnifying glass when we shouldn't have to. I have a story about an 18 year old, one of my best sellers, apparently she is a minor under the new rules and l may have to remove this from sale. How long before Amazon gets twitchy? l know they don't use Paypal, but l feel this discrimination will escalate.

    1. I think Amazon is already twitchy, Gemma. I have seen rumors hey are about to start their own witch-hunt, sadly. We will know soon enough. This is a horrible precedent.

  4. Damn good article Eden!! So well written and AMEN!

  5. Hi Eden you don't know me, my name is Mercy nice to meet you.

    Years ago I was an ebay powerseller. Between ebay and it's goon paypal I was forced out of that market. Had my funds frozen. Money refunded to buyers who learned how to play the game of destroy and blame. No product to return. Then I couldn't charge for insurance to protect my buyers. I quit ebay. I don't even buy there anymore. But I kept my paypal account for the same reason you listed. Payment from my publishers. Ease of money transfer for services related to self publishing. I admit it's easier to hit that paypal button when I want to buy a book that go find the credit card. Why am I posting this? I'm published with several reputable epublishers as well as self published. One of my books with a reputable epublisher falls into this mess. Pseudo incest. This book was scheduled for release in April it was moved to May on the day this Paypal mess hit the fan. I am worried that the contract for this book will be canceled. I write erotic romance and M/M romance and erotic romance. Next week gay content will be added to the list. After that sex out of marriage romance. After that we'll only be allowed to publish romance that deals with the groom seeing his wife for the first time at the lifting of her veil after money and farm animals have changed hands. In the last week I've stopped using paypal. I've gone the extra mile to make sure I put no money into their hands. I have stated on my blog and on my Facebook page, all of these companies already have additional credit card companies. Removing the paypal button shouldn't be that hard. Sue for illegal withholding of funds and kick the company to the curb.

    I'll be sharing this article. Thanks so much for taking the time to post. And thanks for the support.

    Mercy Celeste

    1. AMEN!! I'm so glad to find another who sees this situation as alarming as I do.
      Nice to meet you, Mary. It sounds as if you and I have traveled parallel paths more than once now. I have nightmares about being jerked around by PP. As for their current outrage, I want to know WHEN during the purchase process they will reject a title. The more I think about the policies they used when I was an eBay seller, the more I see huge potential for charge backs,and those who don't have mine and your unfortunate experience stand to be shocked at the aggressive way they freeze funds. Not to mention disallowing 'innocent' titles. WHO will judge the titles? How competent are they? What is that person's educational background? Will they read the blurb, or the book? Will they allow charge backs from unscrupulous readers (eBay taught me to expect anything)who read and then ask for a refund through PP because of some 'objectionable' sentence or phrase? Will PP then add an 'innocent' title to their Do Not Allow List, without review? title due to one complaint? See, you and I know all too well these publishers are assuming a lot, to trust PP to do anything and do it well. Are they going to deny the sale at point-of-purchase? Or will they 'review' it before they actually send the money, long after download, wreaking havoc on these small, unprepared e-pubs with a flood of charge backs only people with our unfortunate experience would see coming? Bottom line: I don't want PP judging a damn thing I write, and for them to presume to have the right is overstepping their purpose so far, it takes my breath. Thanks for sharing my article. I've talked with a few innocent lambs who have said 'it won't be that bad, they're only rejecting stuff which should never have been published to begin with'...and I shiver with dread. This is going to have a huge negative backlash, I feel, and a ripple effect felt far and wide--it's about a lot more than a few 'questionable' titles. Only people such as us could know just how inept this company is.
      For PP to have such a clause in their TOS makes my hackles stand up. People say the policy has been in place since 2002? I know for a fact many eBay sellers who dealt in pornographic material on eBay took Paypal. Now they resurrect this buried policy suddenly--for what? I don't want anything to do with them. I'd love to get my royalties some other way, but that's hardly my biggest fear. I know how to deal with all these small e-pubs? Do they see this wolf in sheep's clothing on their doorstep, ready to grab their working capitol while pretending their concern is morality?

      I'm not stupid. I can find no good, valid reason for a money-changer to have such a policy buried in their TOS to begin with..much less to resurrect it nearly a decade later. This is so much worse than censorship. This is like giving the power to censor to your mechanic, who dropped out of school in the eighth grade. And who is watching to see if we swallow this..and what will they want to take from us?

      Some have called me an alarmist. I just smile grimly and tell them to come back in a year, and talk to me again.

    2. "This is so much worse than censorship. This is like giving the power to censor to your mechanic, who dropped out of school in the eighth grade."

      So damn true. That's exactly what it is like.

  6. Oh, I think I love you. You said it so much more eloquently than I did.

    1. Thank you Sara. I'd love to read your post. Please feel free to post the link here.

  7. Oh, yes! And with what passion and what courage! Brava! I can't add anything. I'm just smiling. I think this is the first time I've smiled in a week. Damn, woman, you give me courage. Thank you!

    1. Here's a dose of irony for you:, Charmillionaire is okay, but we are filthy and must be suppressed

  8. Well said!

    I've blogged, tweeted, Facebooked, etc. on this issue... multiple times, but I've yet to achieve any sort of resonance with readers/viewers. You certainly have!

    1. Post your link here. We have to get together and get LOUD. Please share your thoughts and your blog. This is not about the impolite, self-promoting spammer, this is about an outrage no one seems to give a damn about. We have to make them care. We MUST be heard, all of us, together, telling one story, in every possible way..

  9. The only person I know who was able to get PayPal to reverse their idiotic decisions is April Winchell at The sheer force of the public outcry she was able to harness caused those pompous, self-righteous douchebags to back down and reverse their moronic decision that essentially took Christmas gifts away from needy families. Just typing that has sent my blood boiling again, and now this...

    It's no surprise that a company that would actually take gifts away from kids, a company known to have a ridiculous policy about sex (anything sexual they seem to consider porn), would move on to censorship but it's unconscionable. Unfortunately for erotica writers, the public outcry is never going to match that as when PayPal's Grinch saddles up and takes gifts from under trees, but we have to fight this as best we can.

    Grrr. Not what I wanted to wake up to. The bastards!

  10. WE have to force action. Standing mute in the face of this breathtaking act of arrogance is not an option. Finding 'alternate funding' is like telling a rape victim to grab a band-aid and suck it up. My DEBIT CARD cannot tell me how to spend my money, so long as I'm breaking no laws. This is about censorship, it's about the theft of personal liberty AND, dammit, it's about targeting women and small enterprise. For profit. They will seize funds of every distributor, mark my words. They didn't suddenly wake up last week and decide 'hey, let's make the world a better place. Hell no, they said 'Oh, look, lambs to shear."

    Share this post, share Remittance Girl's post, scream bloody murder to your PUBLISHER, insist they scream at their distributors. You wait until you go through their dispute process, it's like having all your teeth pulled, minus the anesthesia. They COUNT on you giving up. And if we give up now, before they get the first dollar, do you honestly think they'll give up after they have our money to use to defend themselves in court?

  11. Great post, really hitting all the hot spots. I've been talking about it this morning with some of my friends, and I do agree it has all the predispositions of becoming a chain reaction. Today it's incest and non-con, tomorrow it will be homosexuality and sexual content in general. Homosexuality is not legal everywhere in the world and apparently PayPal has decided that we should all abide by the rules of the countries where it's perfectly normal for a woman to end up killed or in jail after being gang raped.

    Limiting our freedom to buy and sell is just as ridiculous as censoring what we are allowed to say or write. We should just keep our mouths shut and bend over when asked, really? I was against doing business with PayPal in the first place since they were restricted in my country and I honestly just don't trust as easy. But my publisher only did business through PayPal and now it's only a matter of time when my books with a bit tamer content will face the firing squad.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. I've passed it along to other networks.

  12. Oh my God! I think I just came a little. You really *are* a powerful pen. Great - GREAT job. I hope you've sent this to every paypal address available. If you haven't, Wayne has listed them all:

    I have also blogged on the matter and I intend to blog more, next time with a link to your entry:

    1. Thank you Erica! You just handed me my Sunday activity. I will indeed be hitting those addresses. And thanks for your link as well. We must work together to stop this outrage.

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  14. As a published author and one who's had a book pulled and reshelved for a rape scene and for one who's had criticism from other writers stating I should basically shut up - I'm appalled we have to go through this for the sake of capitalism. This is about freedom of speech and while there's freedom of choice as well, we need to think about where this is headed. Paypal is trying to be thejudge and jury for something they have no right to. Now this can only make me wonder about what's really hiding behind all of this and you know there's something. For all of the naysayer writers - what's next? Painters? Musicians? You bet. You need to stand behind making a change and not allowing Paypal to control. How do we do this? Together number one and by making sure we support the new companies that WILL come along. There are a few smart people and leaders out there. Shall we work together to make this happen?

    1. Count me in, Cass. I'll look forward to your blog post on the topic, I'm sure it will be hard-hitting and well done. Please link it here for us.

      I am shocked by some erotica authors attitudes over this as well. I've been told to shut up many times in the last few days. Sadly, shutting up is not one of the things I excel at :p

  15. For anyone interested, here are some alternate third-party payment services other than PayPal:

    (Google One Pass)

    (Moneybookers is being renamed Skrill)

    Linkpoint payment gateway

    (Ecommerce Software/NetSuite)

    Here’s a link for creating your own online store:;jsessionid=53ae2c94db7332512394061622ee:iSGs

    Lea Ellen {night owl in IL}

    1. two more for the list, though they are US only at the moment

  16. Thank you Lea Ellen! I'm passing these on to my publishers :)

  17. Oh, so well said, Eden. Thank you, and, while I have no place in this fracas (I'm a reader and usually use my credit card for purchases), you all have my total support :)


    1. Hello Carole-Ann, we need all the support from readers we can get , it's nice to meet you :-)