Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nanny State Gone Wild in the UK

9742995_sWell it's happened to our friends across the pond. The Prime Minister has made it official - pornography will be blocked by default on the Internet in the UK unless you choose to "opt in" to receive it. (And of course, if you do "opt in," your name will be forwarded to a UK government agency in charge of overseeing citizens who are seeking out banned material. Isn't that special?)

I'm absolutely horrified by this development and the attitude of a government who believes it needs to step in and regulate adults and adult behavior. The prime minister claims this is about children having access to pornography on the internet - but it isn't the role of any government to step in and regulate what goes on in people's homes. Pornography isn't illegal (yet) so why is it being denied to adults by default? I understand having a filter that can be turned on and off, although it is a bit of a slippery slope to have government supplying that filter. However, having that filter set to "OFF" by default makes it a much slipperier one.

When you have a child, do you expect the government to raise it? Do you expect them to feed it, care for it, change its diapers, keep it safe? I certainly hope not. It's not the government's responsibility, it's the parents' responsibility. As a parent, you're in charge of keeping that child safe until it's old enough to do so. If you have bleach, you keep it in a locked cupboard under the sink. If you own a gun, you keep it unloaded in a locked cabinet. If you possess pornography, you keep it locked away and out of a child's sight. That's a parent's responsibility. Not the government's.

A computer and the internet are no different. I'm a parent--I don't let my children have access to the internet without my direct supervision. But as an adult, I don't want my government making those choices for ME. I'm not a child and I don't need a nanny. A government that steps in and makes those kinds of decisions for parents by default is effectively saying to adults, "You can't parent. I must do it for you."

Is this the level the UK has sunk to?

And how long will it be before politicians on this side of the pond start making these kinds of decisions for us?

We've gone down this road already in the realm of erotic ebooks with corporate censorship. Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Paypal--the list of companies who have attempted to or continue to deny adults access to adult materials while claiming they're doing so to "protect the children" (never mind that they're still selling sex toys, porn DVDs, torture-porn movies like "Hostel" and books like Jack Ketchum's The Woman)--have all participated in some form of corporate censorship. Right now, the American government can get away with using corporations to do their dirty work--mostly because America itself is in the pocket of corporations, and government motivations are in line with the corporate bottom line.

But whistleblower Eric Snowden has given us a glimpse into just how much information the NSA is gathering about average American citizens while at the same time using the media to whip people into a frenzy with fear-mongering about vague threat of terrorists. What's happening in the UK just may be a portent, a keyhole peek into the future of government control and the ever-growing nanny state in our own country.

For example, Tumblr has always had anti-censorship beliefs and policies in the past, so well known for their stance they inspired articles like this one in Salon about the best adult porn Tumblr blogs. But recently, Yahoo purchased Tumblr. Soon after that purchase was announced, users started to return "no search results" for certain terms relating to sex and pornography. Yahoo effectively made adult blogs invisible, in the same way Amazon's ADULT filter makes adult ebooks invisible. Another example of corporate censorship? Yep.

Where does it end?

Right now, Americans are being offered a censored version of the world, and many don't even know it. I'm not sure if that's better or worse than the UK government stepping in and forcing ISPs to block pornography by default. The former is an insidious form of censorship, a creeping, crawling, sprawling sort of censorship that most won't even acknowledge IS a form of censorship. At least the latter is more direct. As we've learned with the "war on terror," or the "war on drugs," the enemies you can't see, the ones that come at you from behind or underneath, the ephemeral sort, are a lot harder to fight then those who attack directly.

This is a direct attack on personal freedom and liberty. It's shocking and appalling, and if you're not shocked and appalled, you should be. This is government censorship being wrapped up in a nice "protect the children" wrapping paper with a big fat bow on it. It's a slippery slope that should not only horrify and frighten you, it should motivate you to act. At least I hope so. You can protest. You can sign this petition. If you're in the US, you can write to your congressmen protesting legislation like the proposed SOPA. You can support the Office for Intellectual Freedom, Banned Book Week, the Open Net Initiative and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange or even just go and like our Facebook page - Banned Erotic Books, where I will post everything I hear about banned books or censorship - in all forms.

And if you're thinking, "Well isn't this a good thing? Aren't they protecting the children?"--think again. This isn't about protecting children, it's about control. Control of consenting adults that should be free to watch what they like. Maybe you think I'm alarmist, just being a Chicken Little, and you don't believe in slippery slopes. If that's the case, consider this - Scotland and Wales banned "pornography depicting rape" back in 2008. Now the UK has followed suit. This law now also makes it illegal to possess any sort of pornography depicting rape. So what does that mean? Is BDSM pornography illegal now? Even if it's between consenting adults? Even if there's a "safe word?" Who makes the decision about what is or isn't rape, exactly?

By effectively "banning" pornography by forcing ISPs to filter it by default, politicians aren't really solving any problems. It's an easy fix. They haven't done anything to keep actual children from being harmed in the making of pornography. They haven't helped any actual rape victims by making stricter rape laws. They haven't done anything to teach real children about real sex--its dangers and pitfalls, as well as its true nature, meaning, and significance in life. They haven't done anything to help actual sex workers who endanger their lives in order to make more money than they could working at the local Wal-Mart. They haven't helped the actual harmful practice of women being sold as slaves in human trafficking. They haven't done anything about curbing the mainstream media's portrayal of women as sexual objects. Pornography has nothing on Cosmo, folks. They've gone after pornography, but they haven't gone after the "torture porn" in movies. It's okay to watch someone's head severed, to see a woman's nipples cut off, her labia flayed in a horror film, but it's not okay to watch two consenting adults with nipple clamps and hot wax?

They have gone after what they see as an easy target, something that can be perceived as "action," but is, in fact, a non-action. It's not a step forward, it's a step backward. This law creates a false sense of security for parents. Worse than that, it encourages parents to take less parental responsibility when they should be taking more, and it sets up both parents and children (who will, in another generation, become parents themselves) to rely on the government to control them. If that isn't the scariest slippery slope of them all, I don't know what is.

So before you start cheering because you feel children are being "protected" by the law just passed in the UK, imagine a world where everything you read, watch or do is restricted by government control. Imagine China. Imagine 1984. It's really not as far away as it seems. As Chicken Little as it sounds... sometimes the sky really is falling. Sometimes a slippery slope turns out to be far slipperier than you imagined.

Sometimes you wake up in a world you don't recognize, and wonder how in the hell you got there.

But by then, it will be far too late. The time is now. The choice is yours.

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Breakthrough - I am JK Rowling

I had kind of a breakthrough.  I'm not sure I should jinx it though.  I started all these different things and they had similar scenarios.  I'd get the first scene written and think of something else.  In fact, when I re-read them, I had used some of the same names.  I decided that they were all pieces of one story, which means some names will be changed.  I put them all in one document and started writing the beginning.  Now I have 22,000 words. 

Today I thought about what was working and what wasn't, and I'm ready to make changes and add more.  I try to write a whole scene - dialogue first then I go back and add stage directions and stuff.  The next day I read it all and if it sounds stupid or repetitive, or doesn't make sense, I do rewrites.  It takes a while.  I stop when I don't quite know how to make the transition to the next bit of information.  That next bit will come to me the next day when I'm working out.  I don't know how it does that.  I think my mind relaxes or something.  I almost see it in a waking dream.  It tells me what to say and do, and what it all looks like visually. 

I almost feel like the story was there all along.  I did what made sense - I couldn't build another non-consent BDSM world without referencing Cinderella Club a little.  I am looking at one character in particular who had a spot on the periphery of CC, and now I have her story - sort of, and a number of others that can take place in the same location.

I don't want to share any of it yet because every time I share in real life, someone either copies me or tries to change the idea somehow - they want to be part of my process, which I thoroughly hate.  This story feels like I had written it before, in another dimension, if there is such a thing.  I would like that to be true because I would like to believe that somewhere else there is a Mia Natasha with a slightly different story.  Maybe a better one.

I also hate when people say "Life's too short" and "You only live once".  Life is not that short.  Sometimes it feels like an eternity.  An animal's life is short.  I look at my cat and I wonder what it will be like when we have to cross that bridge.  My cat represents a specific chunk of my life, like the Mayan Calendar.  When my cat is gone it will be an ending.  I will reflect on the time we had together as our dynasty or whatever, and assess my success during that period.  Have I made any leaps in this time?  What the fuck am I doing?  I don't really want to think about that.

When I'm writing, I am so into it - as though it's the greatest thing ever written - unique, original, refreshing....  I get high from it.  Not manic, just - happy.  Content that I am creating and I have the confidence to do it.

JK Rowling had good reviews on her pen named book but sold only a few copies.  So what did they do?  They totally told.  I don't buy that it was uncovered by other sources.  I think it was leaked to the media.  What if I said that I am really Jo?  Of course, no one would believe that, because we sound nothing alike.  Too bad.  Because I have good reviews too.  It's never enough.  You can fool yourself that it is, but it isn't.

I sent paperbacks to specific people hoping for the kind of media attention that is bigger than a random blog.  But nothing yet.  No responses.  Does anyone read blogs?  I know there are a few of you who read this even though you don't comment (Hi, Kelly).  I know I'm not talking to myself because if I were, well, that's a sad face emoticon, which I would post if I knew how.

When I re-read old diaries, I feel like it's a different person but I love that person.  That sounds about as narcissistic as they come, but I do.  I do love myself.  I am strong and courageous, organized and focused, (and I have a pretty fucking great ass).  I love the idea of finding my younger self  (in a time-travel) and sitting her down to tell her that she won't change very much.  And that is perfectly okay. (But oh my god, she's going to love my hair!)  I'm trying to think of a specific point in time that I would change that could change the trajectory of my life.  But I'm not sure I would change anything.  I keep wanting to go back to the night I first slept with The One so I can keep my clothes on and leave.  Would he have pursued me?  I doubt it.  Actually, I know he wouldn't.  I was always going to be just sex.  

Would I go back to high school and go slutty?  Fuck someone?  No.  Because I always wanted the relationship to be adult.  I never thought and still don't, that kids who live under their parents roof should be having sex.  I hate it because they are living children's lives but playing adult games and they are just not emotionally ready.  College students are the same way, let's be honest.  Dorm fucking seems to lead to marriage without even actually having dates, which is so fucked up.  I know women who had never even purchased sexy lingerie or stillettos because their relationships happened in sweatshirts and sweatpants, and one ratty bra that they washed on Sundays!

Which reminds me of the bondage pictures I see that people post on Twitter  - the homemade ones where the girl is roped up and in the background you see dirty laundry in baskets littering the floor, photographs of family on the wall instead of art (not placed there aesthetically either), and cheezy matchy-matchy furniture sets that would make the Architectural Digest editor's head spin while puking pea soup, and it's supposed to be sexy.  Is that sexy to you?

These days there are a gazillion twenty somethings living with their boyfriends on their parents' dime.  Apartments in big cities and jobs that can't pay for them.  And they are playing house.  To me that's not sexy either.

The men in my new book all own their own places except for one.  It's preferable for them to be in some way independently wealthy so they don't have to work in order for their Dom/sub relationship to be 24/7.  One will work from home... I have it all planned.  It's actually much easier to make them all have dead parents so you don't have to deal with them but I won't do that.  I think having the parents in there in small doses grounds the story because you see how the parents see the person and it's always different than the way they see themselves.  Like some people are complete fuck ups at work but their parents praise them galore!  Others work their asses off and their parents think they don't work hard enough.  I may have said this before in another post, but I love when each character in a show has their "problem".  In Star Trek the Next Generation, no one has the kid they want.  Warf's kid is like a Ghandi instead of a this-is-a-good-day-to-die warrior.  Wesley Crusher makes all sorts of stupid mistakes and gets emotional while his mother the doctor is calm under pressure, Jon-Luc had a son in one episode- not sure if he really was or he thought he was, but the guy did not want to follow rules.  In Beverly Hills 90210, every single character had a substance abuse problem or some other "issue".  Donna got drunk at prom, Kelly did coke, David was taking pills to stay up late to do that radio show....

Anyhow, there will be a huge cast of players in my new story.  I will challenge myself to write scenes with lots of people in them to balance the one-on-one scenes that can get repetitive.  Even so, people want the one-on-one relationships.

The other thing about that book from my previous post (On my own blog - http://mianatasha-erotica.blogspot.com/2013/07/thickening-plot.html) that I'd read for "research" :  the guy basically had no friends.  In the next book, which is so short because there is no plot, they go out with her friends and all he wants to do is take her home to fuck her.  The point of going out is to dress up, to be alluring while you are out in public showing off how much your man likes you, showing him to anyone  - look at this sexy fucker, everyone - he's going home w/ me.  Then you think about it, anticipate it and when the fucking commences, the hot liquid magma becomes full blown lava.

In real life, guys have tons of friends because they just hang out without the deep emotional stuff.  They like each other.  And that's the final piece to my puzzle today.  The men in my story will bond.  I'm aiming for epic - but if it is that in my mind only...then I really am JK Rowling.  And you will buy the book.  Should I have put that in caps?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

No Parental Controls? It's Not About Parents - It's About Profit

I write erotica for a living. I'm also a mother of four.
And I do not allow my children to search anything on Amazon by themselves.

That's right--a majority of my income is derived from book sales on Amazon, and yet I won't let my own children search for babysitting books or squirt guns on their site.
Why not? Because searching "babysitting" or "babysitter" can turn up 100 titles about babysitters fucking their employers. One of which is my own. And "squirt," in any variation, can turn up all sorts of titles about women "squirting."

Amazon doesn't protect children from those search results. Neither does Barnes and Noble. Both of my kids have Nook Colors--but I buy all their books. They're not allowed to buy a book on their own. And they're tweens (11 and 12) who have plenty of freedom in their day-to-day lives and are quite responsible.

But I can't count on Amazon to protect my children, and I can't count on BN to protect them, so I go out of my way to do so. Because I know exactly what's out there. And that's a parent's job. Ultimately, it should be up to the parent to set those boundaries, and I do so.

Unlike Google though, I can't even let my kids search on Amazon. With Google, I can set up a "safe search" function that blocks most, if not all, of the things I wouldn't want them to see yet. Amazon doesn't have that. Amazon has been making attempts, as we erotica writers know, to keep erotica out of the hands of minors by putting it behind a wall--labeling it with the "ADULT" tag and excluding it from the all-department search. And we all know this is a poor solution to a growing problem. In a post-50-Shades world, the rules have changed. "Mommy porn" has become a huge genre, and many, many new writers have come along to write it, flooding the market with erotica.
Amazon's solution is arbitrary and non-transparent. It doesn't keep children from finding books about babysitters having sex or women squirting, that's for sure. They just have to be looking for a book about babysitting in the Kindle store and voila! There's my book.

That's not good.

I write erotica, but I write erotica for adults. 

I never intended my audience to be under the age of eighteen, I make clear disclaimers in the front of my books that the intended audience should be of-age, and I don't want underage children or teens reading my books far before they're ready to handle the material contained within them.

I can protect my own children--but I can't protect yours. Only Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc. can do that. And there is an easy fix to this problem. Google has one--parental controls. It's a switch. On or off. Very simple.

So why haven't they done so?

I can guarantee you one thing--their motivation isn't to protect you or your children.

They are protecting their bottom line. Their profit. Period.

Follow the money.

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget