Thoughtcrime

by | Feb 21, 2019 | General | 5 comments

In January, I released the third book in my Vegas Babes erotica series, Sin City Sweethearts. This no-holds-barred erotic romp features a pair of fraternal twins, Marcie and Maddy, who come to Las Vegas to attend university and to escape from their overprotective family. They move into the apartment below Annie and Ted, a slightly older, recently married couple who have an open relationship. Annie and Ted undertake to initiate the two newcomers into the hedonistic, carnally-permissive lifestyle of Sin City. Needless to say, the twins are eager and attentive pupils who take their lessons to extremes even Annie and Ted didn’t predict.

In self-publishing this tale, I used the procedure I’ve adopted recently, setting the book up as a pre-order on both Amazon and Smashwords. This tactic means that by the time release day rolls around, the book will have purchase links on all the third-party platforms to which Smashwords distributes, such as BN and Kobo. In the past this has always worked like a charm.

With this book, though, I ran into problems, specifically with Kobo. On release day, more than a week after I submitted the book, there was no trace of the title on Kobo. I waited for another week. Still no Kobo link. Finally, I sent a support request to Smashwords.

I got a prompt and courteous response promising to investigate. After a couple of rounds of emails, I got the answer: Kobo had rejected my book because it violated their content standards.

What? I pointed out that the two previous volumes of the series, which are just as explicit, were available on the Kobo platform. The diligent customer service rep from Smashwords dug further and came back with the news that the following lines had caused the book to be banned:

Holy Shit! Was Marcie licking her own sister? That thought, along with the blonde’s oral talents, pushed the ignition button.”

Apparently this was considered as breaking their rule against depiction of incest.

Note that there is no actual incest going on in this scene. Ted has Maddy sitting on his lap, bouncing up and down on his cock. Here’s the context, the paragraph preceding the offending sentences:

“Argh…” he sputtered. The sensation was almost too intense. Marce backed off a bit, letting him breathe. When Maddy raised her body off his shaft, Marcella swiped her tongue along the exposed length. He arched up to bury himself in the brunette’s juicy passage. The blonde’s daring tongue followed, keeping contact with his rod until it was completely hidden in Maddy’s cleft.

In short, Sin City Sweethearts was banned from Kobo because one of the characters was thinking about incest, and finding that thought arousing.

We’ve apparently reached the state described in George Orwell’s 1984, where merely thinking about forbidden things is considered a crime.

Arousal begins in the mind. Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Our characters’ sexual journeys originate in their fantasies, before they take any action. If Kobo’s rules were consistently applied, our characters’ hottest, most taboo fantasies would become unpublishable. This includes not only incest fantasies but also rape fantasies, golden showers, enemas, fantasies about dogs or horses…

After twenty years in the business, I still don’t understand the double standards that govern sexually explicit fiction as opposed to other fiction. If authors can write about murder, terrorism or war, why the special rules for sexual activities? But even if I’m willing to exclude some categories of sex acts from my stories (and there are some actions I’d be loathe to write about), must I censor my characters’ thoughts as well?

I suppose that Kobo might argue that there is no distinction in fiction between real actions and character fantasies, in that both exist only in the imagination of the author and the reader. I think this is wrong-headed. In reality, and in fiction, humans have control over what they do, but not what they think. If I’m attracted to my brother, I’m not going to do or say anything to reveal this situation, but that doesn’t make the attraction disappear.

In 1984, the supposed antidote to “thoughtcrime” is called “crimestop”.

The mind should develop a blind spot whenever a dangerous thought presented itself. The process should be automatic, instinctive. Crimestop, they called it in Newspeak.

He set to work to exercise himself in crimestop. He presented himself with propositions—’the Party says the earth is flat’, ‘the party says that ice is heavier than water’—and trained himself in not seeing or not understanding the arguments that contradicted them.

My brother is not attractive. I don’t find that horse’s schlong arousing. I have no interest in watching two eighteen year old sisters pleasure one another.

Doesn’t seem to work for me…

The rep at Kobo suggested that they’d reconsider their decision if I modified the offending line. I thought about it. It’s not as though my sales are so high that I can afford to forgo listing on a popular platform. Indeed, I’ve been buying many ebooks for my own consumption from Kobo. I find their interface, their policies and their service far superior to the Mighty Zon.

Ultimately, though, I balked at the notion. I’m not willing to participate in this ridiculousness.

So you can buy Vegas Babes Books 1, 2 and 4 on Kobo, but not Book 3. I do hope some eager readers will bug them about this inconsistency.

About the Author Lisabet Sarai

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Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both.

Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point!

Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation.

For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author.

At this point, Raw Silk has been reprinted by three different publishers. The most recent version is available from Total-E-Bound and still selling well, I'm pleased to say. Since that initial release I've published more than fifty single author titles in erotica and erotic romance, including eight more novels, and have contributed to dozens of anthologies.

In addition to writing erotica and erotic romance, I also edit the stuff. I'm very proud of my anthologies of literary erotica, Sacred Exchange: Stories of Spirituality and Transcendence in Dominance and Submission (with S.F. Mayfair) and Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. I'm also editor for the Coming Together Presents altruistic erotica series. Each Presents volume offers work by a single author, supporting a cause selected by that author. So far we've released seven volumes of stellar erotic fiction, each of which does double duty by making the world a better place.

A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. Black Lace itself has bitten the dust, as has my second publisher Blue Moon. The e-book revolution has made it easier to get published but a great deal more difficult to get noticed. Promotion claims at least as much of my time as actual writing. Speaking of which, I blog regularly at Beyond Romance and Oh Get A Grip, and offer news, excerpts, free reading, reviews and more at Lisabet's Fantasy Factory.

I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    One of my favorite or least favorite topics, ragging on publishers to dinging us when we express our creative mind. I just released my latest story, Swinger’s Box Set, for pre-order and it was immediately thrown into the dungeon. I really thought the cover was acceptable but apparently, Amazon didn’t think so. Changing the cover and doing a lot of begging got the story accepted.

    • Avatar

      It all makes no sense. That was a great cover… the current one can’t hold a candle.

      Sigh….

  2. Avatar

    That there are people who desire desperately to police and censor our thoughts is disturbing enough, but to police and censor the thoughts of fictional characters in the works of authors is far more disturbing. It’s downright scary, in fact.

    And the double standard, one for mainstream fiction and one for erotic fiction is, at best discriminatory, at worst nothing less than a kind of passive-aggressive persecution. Needless to say, however, the perpetrators of this type of aggression are nothing but hypocrites. They target those who don’t have the two critical resources (money and time) to do battle effectively. That double standard is so obvious to those of us who read and enjoy mainstream fiction that introduces erotic material without it specifically being labeled erotic. I don’t think it’s accidental that in mainstream fiction, especially in the thriller and murder mystery genres, the authors go into some detail when describing events/crimes of a sexual nature. Those descriptions are, without a doubt, very appealing to anyone with a sexually sadistic streak, the darker side of a good number of people who would never commit such acts, yet who are not necessarily appalled by the actions of the fictional perpetrators of such crimes. That effect notwithstanding, mainstream fiction containing transgressive material sells like hotcakes.

    The idea that the thoughts of any characters in any genre of fiction are grounds for non-publication is far more appalling than the thoughts of those characters might be to those who find them distasteful. The purposeful dismantling of freedom of speech leads directly to the creation of Orwell’s prescient term:..thoughtcrime.

    One current meme that struck me the first time I saw it is: “1984” was a warning, not a how-to manual.”

    And good on you, Lisabet, for not folding on Volume 3 of your series. Just out of curiosity, is there any other way that your readers can have access to that volume?

    Rose 😉

  3. Avatar

    Hi, Rose,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Of course, I agree 100%. The double standard is downright peculiar, in fact. Sometimes I think that maybe I shouldn’t label my work as erotica, but as something else. But unlike some people, I like to be honest.

    The book is available on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and surprisingly, Amazon!

  4. Jean Roberta

    Banning the THOUGHTS of fictional characters does sound ridiculous. I’m just hoping that in due course, the rules change. They always do.

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