I’ve been writing erotica for a few years now, exploring ideas and situations that interested and aroused me, trusting that they would find an audience of readers who were also interested and aroused by them. I’d been doing well, then Amazon and Apple decided to ban a short story of mine, and suddenly everything changed for me. I began second-guessing myself as I wrote, and felt like I had a censor on my shoulder saying “That’s unacceptable” while I was in the drafting stage, which other writers will know is the death of creativity.
I let myself be influenced by an arbitrary judgement against my work – a judgement, I might add, that seemed to have no relevance to content of the story banned. Other stories I’d written had far racier contents, but this short story – Stella – had handcuffs on the cover, and a blurb that read: Tris isn’t the smartest bank robber in town, but this particular mess isn’t his fault. It was pure bad luck that the sexy teller he was menacing turned out to be Stella, his long-lost first love – someone who could easily identify him. Tris kidnaps her to keep her quiet, and gets more than he bargained for, but will he also get what he’s always wanted from Stella?
(*spoiler*) It’s a story about lost love, and how we change so much that the people from our past sometimes can recognise us when we see them again. Tris hasn’t lived up to his potential, and he’s so stressed about being a bankrobber and how that will look to Stella, he fails to notice that she’s turned into an even badder-ass than he has, and she’s about to give him some filthy payback for his awkward sexual menacing in the bank. It’s funny and sexy and romantic and Stella most definitely wins the day. But it was banned, and I’m still not sure why. I loved it so much I made it the FREE short story, to encourage people to try my work, and I wonder now whether that had anything to do with it. Although that doesn’t explain why Apple pulled my Darkly Delicious Short Story anthology, which also contains Stella. No, I think they just saw “bankrobber” and “kidnap” alongside the cover picture of underwear and handcuffs and drew their own conclusions.
An article on book banning came up on my radar today: http://www.npr.org/2013/09/22/223174127/banned-romance-whats-so-bad-about-happily-ever-after It talks about books that have been banned in the past and how often it was men doing the censorship, and that books about sexual adventurous women who have a happily ever after like Fanny Hill and Lady Chatterley (of Lady Chatterley’s Lover) were banned. In contrast, women who suffered unhappy endings after leaving their husbands like Anna Karenina, Clarissa and Madame Bovary were approved for general sale.
There seems to be a feminist slant to the above argument, that men have been responsible for repressing female sexuality. Maybe that’s true. I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t like anyone telling me what I can and can’t read. The rise of the ebook reader has meant reading privacy. I’ve seen how that affords women the chance to read whatever the hell they want without anyone telling them romance is stupid or erotic is mummy porn. I like that freedom. I want variety and personal choice. So censorship worries me – particularly censorship that seems so arbitrary.
I don’t want to fight this, however. I firmly believe that What you resist, persists. I want to accept that my book has been banned. I’m okay with that. I just need to find a way back to the unfettered writing I had before this started. At the moment, that’s hard.