Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Risks

"The shock of September 11 is subsiding. Each day adds distance. Distance diminishes fear. Cautiously our lives are returning to normal. But 'normal' will never be the same again. We have seen the enemy and the enemy is among us .... the publishers, producers, peddlers and purveyors of pornography."

It didn't take me long to find that quote. It came from an LDS Web site, Meridian Magazine, but I could have picked fifty others. In light of that kind of hatred, I think it's time to have a chat about what it can mean to ... well, do what we do.

We write pornography. Say it with me: por-nog-ra-phy. Not erotica – a word too many writers use to distance themselves, or even elevate themselves, from the down and dirty stuff on most adult bookstore shelves – but smut, filth ... and so forth.

I've mentioned before how it's dangerous to draw a line in the sand, putting fellow writers on the side of smut and others in erotica. The Supreme Court couldn't decide where to scrawl that mark – what chance do we have?

What good are our petty semantics when too many people would love to see us out of business or thrown in jail? They don't see any difference between what I write and what you write. We can sit and argue all we like over who's innocent and who's guilty until our last meals arrive, but we'll still hang together.

I think it's time to face some serious facts. Hyperbole aside, we face some serious risks for putting pen to paper or file to disk. I know far too many people who have been fired, stalked, threatened, had their writing used against them in divorces and child custody cases, and much worse.

People hate us. Not everyone, certainly, but even in oases like San Francisco, people who write about sex can suffer tremendous difficulties. Even the most – supposedly – tolerant companies have a hard time with an employee who writes smut. A liberal court will still look down on a defendant who's published stories in Naughty Nurses. The religious fanatic will most certainly throw the first, second, third stone – or as many as it takes – at a filth peddler.

This is what we have to accept. Sure, things are better than they have been before and, if we're lucky, they will slowly progress, but we all have to open our eyes to the ugly truths that can accompany a decision to write pornography.

What can we do? Well, aside from calling the ACLU, there isn't a lot to we can directly do to protect ourselves if the law, or Bible-wielding fanatics, break down our doors – but there are a few relatively simple techniques you can employ to be safe. Take these as you will, and keep in mind that I'm not an expert in the law, but never forget that what you're doing can be dangerous.

* Assess your risks. If you have kids, have a sensitive job, own a house, have touchy parents, or live in a conservative city or state, you should be extra careful about your identity. Even if you think you have nothing to lose, you do – your freedom. Many cities and states have very loose pornography laws, and all it would take is a cop, a sheriff, or a district attorney to decide you needed to be behind bars to put you there.

* Hide. Yes, I think we should all be proud of what we do, what we create, but use some common sense about how easily you can be identified or found: use a pseudonym and a post office box, never post your picture, and so forth. Women, especially, should be extra careful. I know far too many female writers who have been stalked or Internet-attacked because of what they do.

* Keep your yap shut. Don't tell your bank, your boss, your accountant, your plumber, or anyone at all, what you do. When someone asks, I say I'm a writer. If I know them better, I say I write all kinds of things – including smut. If I know them very, very, very well, then maybe I'll show them my newest book. People (it shouldn't have to be said) are very weird. Just because you like someone doesn't mean you should divulge that you just sold a story to Truckstop Transsexuals.

* Remember that line we drew between pornography and erotica? Well, here's another: you might be straight, you might be bi, but in the eyes of those who despise pornography you are just as damned and perverted as a filthy sodomite. It makes me furious to meet a homophobic pornographer. Every strike against gay rights is another blow to your civil liberties and is a step closer to you being censored, out of a job, out of your house, or in jail. You can argue this all you want, but I've yet to see a hysterical homophobe who isn't anti-smut. For you to be anti-gay isn't just an idiotic prejudice, it's giving the forces of puritanical righteousness even more ammunition for their war.

I could go on, but I think I've given you enough to chew on. I believe that writing about sex is something that no one should be ashamed of, but I also think that we all need to recognize and accept that there are many out there who do not share those feelings. Write what you want, say what you believe, but do it with your eyes open. Understand the risks, accept the risks and be smart about what you do – so you can keep working and growing as a writer for many years to come.

2 comments:

  1. I’m glad I found the association, in particular this post. You’ve given me a lot to think about before my book comes out next year, but I can’t “hide,” nor can I “keep my yap shut.” I have though assessed the risks and while they’re high, I strongly believe that meekly accepting the status quo doesn’t do anybody any good.

    We have the First Amendment to protect us and those that don’t like what we write have the right not to read it. If the LDS gets their way and stifles our right to freely express ourselves, then it just makes it easier for another group to muzzle the LDS for say, being a religious cult.

    It’s easy for me to be so bold though -- I worked 20 years in public relations. I’ve squashed legislation by putting crying mothers and happy toddlers on local news. I managed to get a dying friend access to the drug Erbitux in the middle of the Martha Stewart/ImClone scandal by pointing out to the Wall Street Journal that the real scandal was that thousands were being denied a last hope with all the focus on Martha. I’ve crushed competing companies by hogging all the “free” media, forcing them to buy ads for attention -- and go out of business. I’ve fought off a lawsuit from People Magazine simply by begging the lawyer who called me to bring it on, because PR-wise that would keep my client’s story in the paper all through out the trial.

    And all of the above will more than likely keep my ex-wife from suing me because my book defies the decree (that I frickin’ signed) which forbid me to write anything about her into frickin’ perpetuity. She’d have a case but she knows I’d turn it into a PR opportunity for the book -- and I’m not above collapsing on the stand just to keep the headlines coming.

    So to the cop, or sheriff, or a district attorney who decides I need to be behind bars, I say, “Please, Brer Fox, please don't throw me into the briar patch!”

    I know I sound like I’m slagging on you, but I’m really not. Your post has emboldened me at a time when I needed it most. Yesterday I had someone from the Department of Justice crawling all over my site and it honestly terrified me.

    Before you ever face such scrutiny, please check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s legal guide for adult material bloggers: http://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/adult.

    In a nutshell, you’re quasi-safe from prosecution as long as what you write about is non-commercial and gets no where near underage persons. If you stick to text only, then you’re fine. If you use images and you’re worried about a cop or a sheriff, then simply keep records that prove the ages of all models and you’ll be in compliance with 18. U.S.C. 2256, whether you’re a commercial endeavor or not.

    If you do write about underage children, then God help you. Jail will be more unpleasant for you than most.

    If you do all that and you still get in trouble, get in touch with me. I’ll raise a stink with your local press and use all of our stories to make our case in the national press.

    I’m still not slagging on you, but isn’t this what an association does, protecting an informing it’s members?

    I don’t write erotica. I don’t create porn or smut. I create art. And I’ll assume you and your readers do as well. If not, and to use a local expression, if you can’t run with the big dogs, then you’d best stay under the porch.

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  2. PS: I am using the alias "Bertrand Morane" as an alias just for now while I'm building an online community. When my book is closer to publication I will be using my real name -- and like you mentioned in your post, I'm certain that no one will want to hire me for a straight job again. So if my book isn't everything I think it can be, then I'm pretty certain I can work PR for the porn industry. They need help with their business model and that would be a challenge to help them fix their business model. 8-)

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