PayPal Censorship

* UPDATE (2012): PayPal revises their policies to allow legal fiction.

* UPDATE (2013): A quick post on why “erotica” isn’t “porn”!

In the meantime, I’ll be working on a couple of psycho thrillers.

My original post from early 2011 is left below (unedited).

* * *

ORIGINAL POST (March 2011)

In December 2010, Amazon started banning/deleting incest-themed erotica from their website. Several of my erotic stories/collections are thus not on Amazon.

In February 2011, some of the “sample buttons” on my books at B&N went missing (some are still missing, as of this date). Several other authors were hit (especially those writing erotica/erotic romance) — while many of their books’ sample buttons have re-appeared, several of my books are still missing the sample button. No reply from B&N yet There was/is a technical glitch at B&N, which they are currently working on.

I recently launched my “indie publishing division,” jessINK.com (thinking I could sell material directly from my website, via E-Junkie).

On 7 March 2011, I wanted to buy the following item from Etsy.com:

bdsm_collar
(Item = Vintage dark style red collar necklace with dangling star charm with red enamel on the back. Pretty, no?)

But I couldn’t purchase the item at checkout, because I had “limited access” to my PayPal account.

When I logged into my PayPal account, I saw the following message:

paypal_limitedaccess

Mar 5, 2011: We recently asked you to stop participating in transactions that violated our Acceptable Use Policy.

(Your case ID for this reason is PP-001-231-349-997.)

I don’t recall being asked, as I received no prior email or warning about how exactly I had violated the guidelines.

This is what I can and cannot do with a limited access PayPal account:

paypal_limitedaccess_2

Due to the limited access of my PayPal account, I am currently unable to receive money via PayPal, or make any purchases using my PayPal account.

After some clicking around, I got to the “PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy” page, which states:

paypal_acceptableusepolicy

(e) items that are considered obscene, are not allowed (highlighted in red)

After more clicking around, I found the guidelines for what is not allowed on eBay (which utilizes PayPal for transactions):

paypal_ebay

“Obscene materials, while not easy to define, aren’t allowed on eBay. For some guidance, we prohibit items depicting or describing bestiality, necrophilia, rape, scat, and incest (real or fictionalized).”

Isn’t the splattering of blood and guts via stylized explosions also obscene, whether real or fictionalized? Also, according to the above guidelines, Anais Nin’s books (classic literary erotica) should not be available for purchase on eBay. For the record, her books (I’m a huge fan!) are available for purchase on both Amazon and eBay, and her books do contain pedophilic, incestuous, as well as other deviant types of erotic content.

Since I have not had a reply from PayPal as to whether their eBay policy extends to PayPal as well (since they are two separate companies — eBay actually owns PayPal, thanks @kashicat), I believe my incest-themed material that I sell directly from my website is considered by PayPal (as with Amazon) to be “supremely offensive.”

To my knowledge, I am not doing anything illegal (if it is, indeed, a criminal offence to write about taboo subjects, why is this not clearly stated in the law? How do people know if they are “breaking the law” if the law is not clearly stated in the first place?).

I have always chosen to focus on erotica over pornography (I always aim to include some kind of artistic, or social/political point, when I write erotic fiction). What is “obscene” and “sexually explicit” can vary from culture to culture and over time. But as long as companies’ policies remain vague and unclear, there’s no distinction between erotica and pornography when it comes to censorship.

I am currently “evaluating other options,” as I still fully intend to continue writing whatever I wish (for both erotic and non-erotic material). Erotica/erotic fiction is an art form I take very seriously, so I will seriously do my best to make sure it is always available for readers/customers to purchase (in the meantime, I apologize that customers cannot purchase directly from my website. Keywords = “in the meantime”).

What I actually condone and/or do in real life is separate from what I put on paper and/or express via the written word — a distinction that some people seem to have a lot of trouble making, lol.

P.S. Just bought the vintage red collar (yeaaaah), using a friend’s account.

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Email Links and More Info:

Email: aupviolations@paypal.com (PayPal re: Acceptable Use Policy)

* PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy
* eBay’s Prohibited and Restricted Items rules

Email: ecr@amazon.com (Amazon.com, Executive Customer Relations)

* Amazon Censors (Facebook Page with more info)

PLUS

+ Media Coverage on Censorship of Erotica by Erik Sherman on BNET +

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About Jess C Scott

Writer/Blogger/Activist @ www.jessINK.com View all posts by Jess C Scott

7 responses to “PayPal Censorship

  • Joel B Kirkpatrick

    Jess, this may take an email writing campaign from your friends and fans to clear up.
    You should make your case number and email link from each retailer available, so people can use them to help combat the ignorance those retailers have applied.
    It might help, if they hear from a few dozen people that you have been wrongly judged.

    • Jess C Scott

      Hi Joel,

      I’ve had readers/customers who said they are unable to post online reviews of my erotic/deviant material (because they work in the educational industry / too dangerous re: background checks, etc), so I understand it is difficult for people to support erotica (unless it’s a class action suit by all erotica writers, or something on a similarly large scale!).

      Thanks for the note about making the case number + email links available — added to the blog post.

      I think the retailers care about their “brand image” and “reputation” more so than the views of a few dozen people…but I’ll continue exploring other options ^^. If I can sell it from my website straight (without PayPal, etc), I AM the retailer.

      As long as I’m not doing anything illegal, I’m not really breaking any laws, am I?

      According to Go Ask Alice!, to be classified as obscene by U.S. state or federal law, material must meet ALL THREE parts of the legal definition of obscenity by applying what’s called the Miller Test, which was developed by the US Supreme Court in 1973:

      * the average person would find that the work, taken as a whole and applying contemporary community standards, appeals to the prurient interest;

      * the work depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, when applying contemporary community standards; and

      * the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. (US Department of Justice)

      I can contest that my work has literary merit (subjective as that is).

      Would make for an interesting contemporary court case, methinks.

  • Stacey Wallace Benefiel

    Oh, for crying out loud! That is silly. Sorry this b.s. keeps happening to you. That necklace is totally cute. :)

    • Jess C Scott

      Yeah, what I find interesting is how the (great!) works of erotic fiction by Anais Nin (and D. H. Lawrence, etc) are routinely “untouched” by retailers. People are quick to respond, “because they’re literary masterpieces,” and while I’m not comparing my work to Anais Nin or D. H. Lawrence based on merit (just on content), who’s to say whether or not my work has “literary merit” too? Mainstream traditional publishers generally aren’t interested to publish anything sexually deviant/controversial, which is why I’m independently published in the first place. Everyone’s free to decide whether or not my work is erotica or obscene — including myself!

      Maybe it’s because I’m still alive and able to produce new material, lol.

      I’m not sure if there are people “spying” on me — if so, I think my deviant material causes them stress. Sex/sexuality is part of life to me, so it’s nice to see how people try to suppress anything to do with sex. Makes me fight / work harder all the more, lol.

      And yes, I love stars + the color red :D

  • Osi

    Paypal is not registered as a bank in the USA, however, they are subjected to state based money transmitter laws, as well as the Regulation E and the USA Patriot Act. By holding money hostage, they are violating US laws and can be prosecuted.

    Paypal is also registered as a bank in Luxembourg. They are regulated by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier. You can go there and submit the complain for violations.

    I went through the same thing “limited access” with them a few years ago. It took about 3 months, but they eventually got a clue and removed the limitation.

    • Jess C Scott

      Hi Osi,

      Thanks for the information — I did have that in mind (that PayPal is required to send me whatever amount they owe me). I didn’t know Paypal is registered as a bank in Luxembourg!

      I think my account’s suspension will be lifted once I remove the ‘banned’ items from my website [according to their email reply, which does not answer my question as to why Anais Nin’s erotic work is available for sale on eBay when eBay’s policy clearly states “no incest (real or fictionalized)”].

      I will, however, continue to “look into other avenues,” and continue building up jessINK ^^.

  • Censorship and Artistic Integrity « Jess C Scott :: Author, Non-conformist, Artist

    […] Summary: Amazon started banning/deleting incest erotica in Dec 2010; PayPal suspended my account in March 2011 for selling incest-themed stories directly from my website (that’s my […]

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