Monday, March 5, 2012

Dirty Mind vs Debit Card: Women Desire Taboos in Their Erotica

Welcome today's Dirty Mind, M. Keep, aka Anjasa.

Welcome Anjasa to our forum today. She's yet to have a title banned, but is the author of many works, along with her partner, which she despairs of ever being able to publish, due to the current chill around erotica in light of the PayPal crackdown on transgressive erotica. 

I've been exploring my sexuality since I was a six year old girl, when I first stumbled upon my father's Playboys. The first thing I did when I got the internet was start looking up pornography - specifically hentai, since I loved Sailor Moon at the time. I also read a lot - fiction and non-fiction - that focused frequently on taboo topics. I was fascinated by the sex trade, sexual slavery, rape, incest, and sexual deviance as a whole.

These three actions shaped my sexual development more than I could possibly know.

As an adult, I thought I was into BDSM.  However, I later found it too clinical. Too cold. Too well thought out. I'd rather a man wrap a belt around a woman's neck and use it like a collar and a leash than using a legit collar and leash. It's the same concept, but one requires far less planning both physically and mentally.  It’s more spontaneous.

So that's my sexual development, in a neat little three paragraphs. Now let's talk about me as a person.

I'm a woman, I have a successful career. I'm an empathetic person, and a dedicated friend. I have a lovely little rabbit, and I blog about humanist issues such as sexism and racism in the media. I'm a pacifist, I've never been in a physical altercation, I've never been physically abused in a relationship, and I'm well adjusted. I'm passionate about human rights, and want for the world to be a better, more peaceful, more compassionate place. I've been in a monogamous relationship for almost eleven years.

I also want the freedom to read erotica that pushes the boundaries of multiple taboos.

Not only do I believe that all literature and art should go ungoverned in any way, but I want it available for more selfish reasons as well. I enjoy reading the darkest of taboos. Taboos that are nearly impossible to find available for purchase, even before Paypal's crackdown.

Some people have said the reason for the ban on rape and incest and extreme bondage is that readers might get the 'wrong idea'. The implication being that people who read about rape will be more likely to rape; people who read about incest will be more likely to commit incest; people who read barely-legal stories will be more likely to have sex with barely-legal women.

Women are, by and large, the readers and writers of erotica, however. Women are, by and large, the ones demanding these rape stories, these incest stories, these barely legal stories. Women are able to place themselves in the situation of the victim, of the young woman, of the seduced sister, or the seducing daughter. This seems to fly in the face of the reasoning of it being disallowed - the idea that we're promoting crimes by writing and reading about it - since it's women desiring these taboos.

So should that change anything? I don't believe so, but I do believe it adds context to people's desires and fantasies, and how they aren't all wanting these things to be happening in real life. I believe the vast majority of humans, male and female, have a firm separation of fantasy and reality, and that just because someone is turned on by a rape fiction doesn't mean they wouldn't be appalled by real-life rape.

As a society we seem to believe that people are more defined and influenced by their sexual desires, that people are more willing to commit a crime if it sexually stimulates them. Books rarely get called out for violence and torture and murder, but erotica is being called out for consensual sex acts between two adults. Is this the message we want to send? That it's worse for an older man to have sex with a younger woman than for an older man to kidnap, torture, and eventually murder her? It's assumed we're not getting stimulated in the same way, and that when sexually stimulated we're more likely to want to try something in real life.

I have a strong separation of fantasy and reality. I'd never want to be gang raped by a band of marauding bandits, for instance. But I want the freedom to read about it, if I so desire. The only people possibly moved to commit violent crimes based on a book they read are mentally unstable in the first place - a book isn't going to convince a well-adjusted individual to rape or be raped any more than it's going to convince a well-adjusted individual to kill someone.

For further reading, I highly recommend Neil Gaiman's post on 'Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech.'

Do you have an affected title? If so, what is it, and why did you write it? Is it still available for purchase elsewhere?

I thankfully don't have an affected work - yet. My partner and I have some stories written, however, that we're debating what to do with because of the bans. is looking at ways to work around the ban, and I'm certain there are other sites as well, but they're still getting up and running. No one knows how this is going to go yet - it's a very uncertain time for erotic writers, even the more vanilla writers.

As for why I write what I do - I like a wide range of topics. Some erotic writers only write menage, others only write m/m, others only write interracial, etc. I write... everything. I have stories that are soft and romantic, and I've written others that have contained brutal, unrelenting gang rapes. I like exploring a wide range of topics and categories, and blending them together with an engaging plot. I write what turns me on, and a lot of different things turn me on.

To my mind, that means you're pushing the envelope as a writer, not that you're a dangerous subversive who needs to be shut up at all costs. I know others are also exploring a way around PayPal's policy, but shouldn't we allow the CONSUMER to dictate what they won't buy? That's the harshest censorship, after all. Personally, I write erotic romance, and to date, nothing I've ever submitted for publication would come close to this knife. But, I'll defend to my death any writer's right to write it, and reader's right to read it, and I'll state it has merit, by allowing people to let their minds take them they wouldn't want to go in actuality. Fiction is rexploration in the safety of your home.. 

In a previous interview, one writer, remittance girl and I touched on the paternalistic attitudes coming from interested observers as well as from some writers within the genre.  I've seen it from primarily  men who want to see the issue as one of PayPal's right as a business to set their own TOS, and younger females who shrug this off as 'stuff they don't write. How can they know today they won't be inspired to write hard-edged erotica in a year, or in five?  Have you seen this to be true? Any thoughts?

This isn't the first time PayPal has determined what you can and cannot buy. They've, in the past, stopped people from being able to donate to charities such as with Regretsy, they've stopped people from being able to donate to activist groups such as Wikileaks, and they've always been sketchy about allowing adult items, despite it being demanded by its consumers.

I definitely believe consumers should have the right to make their own purchasing decisions. I have a MasterCard and Visa and never have they declined me the right to use my card for certain types of purchases. While illegal purchases are treated differently, I will point out that purchasing fiction is very rarely illegal and none of the acts they've recently banned have ever been prosecuted in North America to my knowledge.

PayPal does have the right to form their own ToS, however I believe that with the Oligarchy of payment processors being what it is, they should be held to a high standard. Their Terms of Service in how it relates to erotica and pornography is confusing and vague at best. "Certain sexually oriented materials or services" are not allowed under PayPal's Acceptable Use Policy, however there are no clear cut rules about what those materials or services are. This, in turn, gives them a great power to be completely arbitrary and changing on a day to day basis.

As for people who are coming out in support of PayPal's ban for moral or ethical reasons, or because it doesn't personally affect them, I wonder how truly they're analyzing the situation and the implications thereof. While they might be banning incest (including step families), rape, barely legal adults and bestiality, they could just as quickly move on to banning all adult content - it's covered in their Acceptable Use Policy, after all.

They are treading on a slippery slope - both PayPal and their defenders - and I think it's time that all of us take a good, hard look at how much power we want corporations to have in our day to day lives.

I agree, this is the larger debate--and the issue many overlook: when business seeks to limit personal liberty in an arena where government treads cautiously you're giving up something you never had a chance to fight for. This is sexual politics at its dirtiest. Does Paypal have the right to set their own TOS? Yes, but I maintain I have the right to tell them to shut up and get back in the corner where they belong--as a woman, as a consumer, as a cardholder, and as a writer of erotic romance. I've said to before, elsewhere, but it bears repeating. I believe if we make a large enough outcry, Paypal will bow to public opinion because they won't risk losing customers over conscience. 

Thank you, M. Keep, for giving us your perspective on the ramifications of censorship by corporations, as well as for being so candid..
Here are her  links, if you want to learn more about her:  
Website     Blog     Twitter 


  1. Another amazing conversation and yet another set of reasons why. They seem to be so individual, yet there is one common theme - women want to choose for themselves what to read and write and why, just as we want to choose our own sexual partners based on our own preferences. Difference is what makes society exciting and engaging - how interesting would the world be if we all thought alike! Thank you, Anjasa, for sharing with us - and thank you again, Eden, for conceiving and hosting the amazing series of posts!

    1. Isn't that the truth?

      As each one arrives in my inbox,I'm progressively more awed. It's beginning to seem the real dirty secret has been the emotional value women find in this base of literature.

      (chuckle)I always knew this was a feminist issue. I just didn't suspect it cut so deep. There's a good theme for a dissertation in here somewhere.

    2. Women want to be treated like adults.

      I find the infantilization of women to be a huge problem - this idea that adult women are unable to make responsible decisions, especially when it comes to sex and sexuality. It's been seen for years in legal sex work like pornography and stripping, and it seems like this is the newest example.

      Thank you for reading the interview, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Wonderful interview! I really enjoyed that. And yes, I find formalized BDSM very cold myself. Not a fan of stylization.

    1. I suppose it mostly boils down to how much you value spontaneity in erotica.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. A terrific interview! I agree with you on BDSM. Very early on in my current relationship, my partner and I had a discussion about the trappings of BDSM, the prevalence of black leather and silver ornamentation. Ritual can be a great deal of fun but when the formalities take over the substance, something is lost.

    Thank you for adding in that link on Gaiman's essay. That's not one I'd seen before and it was a good read too.

    1. "Ritual can be a great deal of fun but when the formalities take over the substance, something is lost."

      For just a moment, my mind wandered to comments I've heard about organized religion. Or did I make those? Halfheimers. It can be painful.:D

    2. Gaiman says pretty much everything I want to say in such an eloquent manner. It doesn't even just apply to this, but to all laws - they are hammers. We need to be very careful of the implications of laws, even laws we agree with in spirit, because they can be very easily abused.

      Thank you for reading!

  4. Very very good! I think if stories seem to tell about pleasures of hurting another person, that is not acceptable. And of course underage or helpless party neither. But if it is to show the victim's side or the 'why are these things committed'-stories, then that's going to help to prevent crimes - and help perpetrators as well as victims. If it is about two people's enjoyment,even if it is a 'strange habit', no after-effects that are bad, I can read it and enjoy it too.
    Say NO to censoring! Unless cases I mentioned, what do you say?

    1. I've read a lot of non-erotica that tells about the pleasure of hurting others - thrillers, fiction, etc. all seems to have numerous books.

      The problem is that they're making the distinction that I can read about, say, rape or abuse in a fiction story that arguably glamorizes the crime, but if the book was sold as an 'erotica' it wouldn't be allowed.

      The problem with banning things based on personal tastes is that everyone has different ideas of what 'not acceptable' means.

      Thank you for reading and commenting! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  5. I think that for some, the ritual IS the turn on - for others it's the aggression, for others constriction, or pain - I'm sure the motives are as varied as the acts themselves. The thing about ritual is it takes time, time builds anticipation, moves you toward your desired headspace long before anything sexual happens, I think that's why it is such a big part of BDSM. Of course, that's just my take on it (and it could be my OCD talking, I have rituals for everything)

    1. I can definitely understand that, Sessha. I don't mean to diminish other people's kinks or desires - we should all be free to explore our fantasies in consensual manners. Just because something doesn't do it for me doesn't mean it shouldn't do it for another!