Fetlife Brings Back Issue of Paypal Erotica Censorship

Fetlife is no longer allowed* hosting incest, zoophilia or scat.** It doesn’t matter if it’s consensual, and between two adults. It doesn’t matter if it’s fantasy. It doesn’t matter if they’re just idle desires that no one would act out on. On their announcement notice, they say:

From all the research we’ve done over the past two weeks, the Big 4 no-no’s are:

1. Anything Under 18.

2. Incest. (Even between consenting adults.)

3. Zoophilia.

4. Scat.

We won’t even be able to allow people to fantasize about incest (between consensual adults), zoophilia, or scat… if we want to continue to be there for the community.

In a story that will sound familiar to erotica authors from last year around the same time, Fetlife’s payment processor cut off their service and threatened to fine them after finding pictures of cartoon jokes of the Simpson’s characters having sex, among other things.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Paypal Censorship issue of last winter, PayPal told Smashwords, All Romance eBooks, and other sites that PayPal would no longer serve them as a client if they continued to host erotica with rape, incest, bestiality or scat.**

PayPal pointed the finger at Visa and MasterCard. Visa and MasterCard pointed it right back. It was almost impossible to find out who made this determination and rule, and in the end, PayPal reversed its rule to only include pictures of the offending topics.

Still, with Visa cracking down on FetLife, this is the time to start talking about how much control these payment processors have over other businesses, and how comfortable we are with it. People keep talking about how this is definitely the time for some other competitor to step up to the plate, but if no one has during last year’s fiasco, I am doubtful it will happen now.

Like many writers, censorship of any form greatly concerns me . . . [redacted] it’s a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It unfolds in our imagination. I’ve always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind. From an imagination perspective, erotica is little different from a literary novel that puts us inside the mind of farm animals (1984), or a thriller novel that puts us inside the mind of a terrorist, or a horror novel that puts us inside the mind of an axe-murderer or their victim. All fiction takes us somewhere. We read fiction to be moved, and to feel. Sometimes we want to feel touched, moved, or disturbed. A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved.

- Mark Coker – Smashwords

These corporate bodies, the payment processors, are telling you what you can and cannot spend your money on. These payment processors have the potential to make a site — and people’s jobs, their livelihoods — disappear unless they’re strong armed into doing something they don’t want.

Smashwords and FetLife have nothing against people with these fetishes and fantasies, but because someone who holds more power does, they’re put in a position that they can’t be true to their values. Their vision. These things are not illegal – it would be thoughtcrime at best – and so there’s no reason why it should be banned except for a desire to force an individual’s morality on other people. Even worse, it’s forcing a corporation’s morality on others.

Being forced to censor people’s fantasies, even if some make us squirm, is something I will struggle with. But hopefully something, as a community, we can come together and fight. And not by just allowing people to post content we are not allowed to let people post… like in the past… but by fighting the good fight. – John Baku, FetLife

They are going against everything a corporation stands for – making profits – to take a moral stance on people’s erotic fantasies, and I’m not comfortable with that. I’m guessing if you are comfortable with that, it’s only because this doesn’t affect you. You don’t like scat or incest, so payment processors have a right to do what they want. You might even include an argument about how this is a free market and that if we don’t like it we should start up a competing company.

Starting up a company, especially a company that requires such technical, business and legal know-how isn’t something that can pop up overnight, especially not when they then still have to deal with the corporate morality of Visa and MasterCard – the place where this is, once more, alleged to have come from.

When companies have such control over what type of media and entertainment you can access, when they draw the line in the sand and tell you what fantasies are okay to have and what aren’t, we have a problem. Keep in mind, all 500k members of FetLife are at risk of being affected by this, whether or not they love incest or hate it.

This isn’t the case of erotica where people are buying and selling books with incest and rape. This is people supporting a fetish website that caters to a variety of kinks and sexualities, which serves as a place for people to connect and bond over their alternative lifestyles. Visa (if it is truly them) is punishing everyone, not just the people that they believe are offending their delicate sensibilities, because they can.

Because we let them. Because we don’t speak up and tell them it’s not acceptable for them to police our words this way. Because we don’t say that it’s inexcusable that they’re trying to force us to abide by their moral code.

Mark Coker stood up to the big companies in the PayPal Erotica Censorship debacle, and they backed off. They’d changed the landscape for erotica authors, they’d changed the way publishers handled content, but they backed off. The only way they’re going to listen is if there’s enough power and enough thread behind our words. We need the big names to support us, and stand up for us instead of acquiescing to their demands. There is no legal reason that an adult can’t talk about his incest fantasies. There is no legal reason that an adult can’t explore her scatological fetishes.

It’s unacceptable for them to try to get us to lay down and bend to their morals.

*Member Only Site
**Child Porn was also listed, however this was already against both Fetlife and ePublisher’s rules.

7 comments

  1. jemima101 says:

    Baku being his normal self there. This was always my major objection to Fetlife, its a business, no different to collarme, but the people who used it seemed to think it was some kind of charitable institution.(Not ben a member for 2 years)

    Yes this is censorship, yes this is totally unnecessary, a swinging site I was on tried to do something similar, blaming the credit card companies. Every forum post with the word son, daughter, daddy, was blocked, 1 day of protest and pointing out many parents were member of the site and the ban was lifted.

    Fet is a business, censorship sucks, but they are always going to bow to the god of mammon.

    • M. Keep says:

      It’s an absolute shame and a disgust that they’re trying to make expression of thoughts a crime. Already there’s been obscenity cases around the world, and it doesn’t matter if the consenting adults signed contracts up and down, if some politician judges it subjectively obscene, it becomes objectively so.

      I understand that corporations have a right to exert control, and that they do not guarantee, nor do they need to guarantee, free speech. It doesn’t make it less frightening or frustrating for those of us that simply can’t fit our fantasies into this acceptable box.

  2. Gareth says:

    As a developer, I wonder what it takes to become a payment processor, and how many people would genuinely be interested in another one…

    • M. Keep says:

      Well, Fetlife is a huge community, and though I can’t speak to their liklihood of accepting a new processor, I can say there’s definitely a market.

      There’s a lot of hardcore sex/porn sites out there, and even the less hardcore stuff could use someone on our sides. Currently there’s a lot of erotica that can’t be published because of the sketchy gray area in regards to incest, beast, necro, rape, scat, etc.

      I’d say dealing with the credit card companies, however, will be the hardest part because they keep saying that’s where it’s coming from. There’s no proof that I’ve seen, but they could post a very large legal problem if certain people got involved, so the developer would be taking on a huge financial risk just to try to keep their business legally afloat. It’s not going to be an easily won battle, if it can be won at all.

  3. Charles M says:

    No offense to those in here but I support Fetlife banning the first 3.The scat one can be debated as I don’t understand why thats banned.

    • M. Keep says:

      My biggest problem is that it isn’t Fetlife’s decision. If Fetlife had decided not to allow the content, I would have been unhappy (because fantasies are fantasies), but I would have accepted it. However this is a case of someone outside of fetish communities dictating what we are and are not allowed to be aroused by.

      I just don’t like the precedents this is setting. Instead of having to go to court on obscenity charges, we’re not having to deal with private companies dictating what is and is not acceptable content.

  4. [...] I don’t see a single thing about scat, which other places have had to ban because of similar cc/processor demands. Another site I use has bans on fisting and watersports, [...]

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