Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Trouble with Rectitude

I once thought that the province of literature was an open-minded one, where thoughts and ideas flowed freely. I believed it was the last vestige of the disenfranchised. When society turned its insensitive, unfeeling back on someone, that person could always find refuge in the written word. Those words might not always get published because not all voices appeal to all readers, but the whole point of literature is to give voice to people who have something to say.

Isn't it?

Well, no. Not always. I'm infuriated tonight because Archipelago Books in New York, a very tony "not for profit press committed to bringing works of classic and contemporary literature from all corners of the world to our shores" objected to my designating them as the benefactor in my recent charity auction on Ebay. This is an organization that presents itself as an entity of tolerance and acceptance, an organization that embraces new voices so much, it wants to be sure we get exposure to them. But apparently, sex is not an idea they can support. Mine is not an important voice, my ideas are not worth

Within hours of my posting a charity auction for a Quickie (which I want to do monthly and had intended to choose a different charity each time), Archipelago Books contacted Ebay to protest any affiliation with Custom Erotica Source. Ebay was then obligated to cancel the auction. Is it just me or is that hypocrisy in the extreme? How can a business (for profit or not) purport to facilitate subversive, unknown, or unpopular ideas and then turn around and exclude one because it objects on moral grounds? Can it be that they publish nothing that somebody doesn't find objectionable? I tend to doubt that.

You've all seen CES. It's pretty tasteful, given the subject matter. The whole idea behind CES is to present sex in a positive way and to make erotica accessible to people who might be shy about reading it. CES won't bombard you with pop-ups or make you feel like you need a shower after you leave it. But Archipelago Books objected on moral grounds, nonetheless. It wouldn't surprise me if they didn't even visit the site, and just saw the word "erotica" and panicked. (I shouldn't assume, but it certainly shocks the hell out of me that anybody could visit CES and really be offended by it. At least, anybody not firmly entrenched in the religious right.)

I've run CES since 1998 and this incident is just so typical of the barriers my business faces simply because it deals with a topic so many people are afraid of. The Better Business Bureau won't even allow CES to be rated (thereby ensuring that it never gets even a modicum of legitimacy). I must pay more than a "regular" business for my credit card merchant account because mine is an "adult" business. (How CES could even be remotely lumped into the same camp as "Teenage Facial Cum Shots" is beyond me, but that's the myopic world of business for you.) I cannot use PRWeb to distribute press releases any more because they've blacklisted CES.

And now even a charity won't accept a donation from CES. The whole situation defies comprehension. All I can do, however, is move forward because narrow-minded pinheads such as those at Archipelago Books aren't likely to change their minds. I've relisted the charity auction and selected Reading is Fundamental as the benefactor of the auction proceeds. (They didn't object to the M.J. Rose book auction I posted last month, so I think they don't make moral judgments about those who give them donations.)

So, if you'd like to bid on a Quickie and know that your money is going to a good cause, visit the new auction . And never, ever buy anything from rectitude-ridden Archipelago Books.