Sunday, February 16, 2014

Censorship, rights, and erotica publishing

Today we're joined by Molly Synthia, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite people in the world! She's an accomplished writer, a deep thinker, and one of the genuinely nicest people I know. While the Lethal Obsession Birthday Blog Blast is about having fun and, hopefully helping you find some new and exciting authors, we also have to remain aware of the constant struggle for the rights to freely publish what we want, without government censorship. Whether it's erotica or political debate, a free exchange of ideas and discussion is vital to any society. A while back Molly took on the issue of censorship and Amazon's decision to stop selling some forms of erotica. I responded on her blog, and today she picks up the discussion. 

Well what a joy it is to be on your blog, Shandra! I remember when I published “The Simply Stunning Shandra Miller” on my blog.  You were a wonderful person then, and you still are.  You already know I wish you the absolute best in every endeavor, and I’m excited to take a bit of time today to discuss a little more about the whole Amazon censorship controversy. It’s the continuation of a discussion we started on my blog when I put up a post entitled, “Thoughts on Freedom of Expression.” 

Primarily, I argued that while Amazon’s changes in erotica policy were arbitrary and frustrating; they weren’t censorship and ought not to be considered a violation of our rights to free expression. 

To me, calling it a violation of our rights as opposed to bad business practice was to diminish real violations of our rights, when the government inhibits our ability to express ourselves.  I’ve written about Pussy Riot’s imprisonment in Russia as well as other dangerous acts governments around the world take against speech, and I pointed out that Amazon can refuse to carry one of my books but only the government could put me in jail for writing them.

Shandra, you wrote a well thought-out response in a comment, and I appreciate it. I thought we could explore it a little more together. I concluded my blog post with this:

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have anger toward Amazon policies. Hell, I’m very angry. However, I think we need to realize that when we throw around words like “free speech” and “freedom of expression” and “constitutional rights” in the context of this situation; we dilute the meaning of those phrases.  Calling Amazon’s hesitance to carry the books “censorship” and an infringement of our rights is akin to saying any publisher who rejects any manuscript is engaging in censorship. My biggest fear is that we’ll forget that the Bill of Rights was created to protect us from government and not from inconvenience.  How will we be ready if real oppression comes if we’ve been crying wolf for so long?

Shandra the Beautiful opened her comment with this:

Nicely written, Molly. You have an understanding that many people don't seem to possess, that the right to free speech from government interference is something the Bill of Rights promises, not the right to say anything we want anywhere we want. Heck, even the freedom of government interference is limited, as several Supreme Court decisions over the decades have shown.

So, you're right on there, sister. 

And that’s where it got fun. Right afterward, the conversation turned to the issue of free speech when our world has what might be called “de facto” governments. In other words, companies as large as Amazon and Walmart have so much influence in our lives now that they have some power to oppress. It was an interesting point, but I think it’s still nothing to do with our rights to free speech. Amazon and Walmart can certainly keep us from expressing, that’s clear. However, that’s not the same as someone preventing us from exercising the right to free speech. I’m guaranteed the right to expression.\I’m not guaranteed the right to be heard. I have the right to knock on every door in my neighborhood to try to get my message out there. Nobody’s obligated to keep the door open so I can make my spiel. Nobody is infringing on my rights if every door slams. I’m just not being effective. 

From there, Shandra the Magnificent talks about how protests have changed because our urban landscapes have changed. It’s hard to march downtown when there just aren’t any downtowns left. Since most places people congregate are on private property, protests can’t happen there either. Again, the argument isn’t that the malls are infringing upon a right so much as they’re making it impossible to exercise that right. I don’t agree. I think the days of physical protests are numbered. Ultimately, there are far more venues available that don’t involve showing up and picketing. Every organization on Earth has had to come to terms with new ways of getting a message across. Why are protestors any different? Ultimately, saying the ability to exercise the right has been infringed assumes that marching and singing “We will overcome” is the only way available to us.  It’s actually probably the least effective way now.
These were two well-thought out arguments, though. I disagree with both of them but I think it’s mostly semantic. We’re in agreement on the principal issues. I just don’t ever want the word “right” used in a context that doesn’t involve the government. The Bill of Rights was designed to keep us protected from tyrants, not from each other. The more expansive our ideas of our “rights” gets, the less we recognize when those rights are eroded, and as a woman who makes her living selling erotica or writing custom erotica, I can’t imagine anything more terrifying for me personally than society losing the battle to keep expression free. We already live in a world where a misspoken comment leads to scandal and resignation. Let’s not live in a world where saying something or writing something that offends someone else can land a person in jail.


And don't forget to enter the bit Lethal Obsession Birthday Blog Blast Give-away. Details here!


  1. Thanks so much for having me here, Shandra. You're a gem of a person and I enjoy your writing! I appreciate the opportunity to talk about freedoms here, and I appreciate you!

  2. You're welcome, Molly, and thank you so much for being part of the Lethal Obsession blogs. You're one of the best writers I know, and I'm thrilled you took time to be part of the tour. Thanks!