Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Where Do We Draw the Line Between Censorship and Personal Boundaries? #WriterWednesday

Recently, I had a strange and frustrating discussion about censorship. I had a man in one of my writers' groups that portrayed himself as M/M romance--and, to be straight up with you, some of his books were adult M/M romance. I don't have a problem with that at all. I'm a supporter of the LGBT community and am open to just about everything.

The key word above is 'just.' 

It came to light that he advocated the "secret and misunderstood life of pedophiles" in several of his books---not as someone who had overcome victimization, but someone who celebrated the lifestyle. At first I scoffed at the accusation because the author had always been very kind to me on one-on-one conversations, so I bought the book and read it myself. I must have looked like a cartoon character with bulging eyes leaping from my face on springs at one point! Yes, the accusations were proven true and I felt blindsided in a lot of ways.

I removed him from the groups I managed because (A) I don't want to promote that to my fans and his books were on my Twitter stream (B) I had a team of other authors that I needed to consider and (C) it violated my personal ethics. The result? Most people were thrilled that he'd been removed because he'd been making them uncomfortable, even before the issue came to light. The energy in the groups immediately changed and became lighter.

However, there were a few who decided to accuse me of censorship and discrimination, two words I abhor, and started debating the fact that, in some romance and erotic romance novels, consent is a blurred line; therefore, I should be more tolerant.

If you've been reading my blogs or know anything about me at all, you'd know I am tolerant. Not only am I tolerant, I have more patience than most, give more second chances than is wise, rescue more dogs than I should, am Pro-Choice, pro-LGBT (my brother is gay and I love him), and believe there is more good in the world than not despite what the news says.

There are issues where I draw the line, though, especially when it comes to children and their innocence. Adults can do what they want with each other. People can buy whatever books they want--there is an abundance to choose from and, luckily, we live in a world where you can find a book about whatever subject you'd like. People can love whoever they want--as long as it is consensual. Children cannot consent.

I love being a writer. I believe people should be able to write whatever they want. I also think it's a writer's duty to push the boundaries and make people uncomfortable. If we're not pushing the envelope a little bit and being true to our art, then what's the point?

But where is the line? If I don't like censorship, who am I to say "that's unacceptable"? For me, it was when asked to promote it myself or to allow my teams of authors to blindly promote it. It is a free country--at least at the moment. Obviously, Amazon doesn't care about the content of his book because it's up and available--looks like it has sales as well. But I have the right to say 'no' if I don't want to promote or tolerate that type of material to my own fan base.

I left another group about a year ago that allowed incest books on the promotion team. They weren't the Daddy Role Play books, not at all. They were truly advocating incest between a father and daughter--sometimes a step-daughter. Know the adage "guilty by association"? Well, that's how I felt. When the administrators of that group responded with "to each their own, don't want to censor", I left.

I've had people tell me that my books go too far, I've responded with a shrug and a laugh. I write mainstream romantic suspense and contemporary romance. I do at times push the boundaries, but my characters are all of legal age of consent. I don't want to be censored--but I've been thrown out of promotional groups myself for being "scandalous" because of a shirtless man on my book cover.

So where is the line? Is there one anymore? Should I, just because I am in the romance genre, be forced to compromise my own moral code in the name of 'tolerance'? One person's scandalous is another person's boring, it seems. When is saying 'no, I won't support that' censorship compared to simply a decision to protect personal boundaries?

I personally think people are too uptight these days. More often than not, I want to tell people to take the stick out of their ass and relax. Live and let live has been my motto for as long as I remember...yet, in this instance, I had to do what was right for myself. Does that make me a hypocrite? God, I hope not. When I hear about bakeries who won't make a cake for a gay couple, I get all fired up about how wrong that is. I honestly believe that the world needs to embrace each other with compassion and understanding.

Being confronted over my decision by an outside member no less and accused of discriminating based on the author's homesexuality triggered an anger in me that I hadn't felt in a long time. Don't throw that word around, not when you don't know the full story or my core belief that love is meant for all human beings.

I ask you again, where is the line? Some people censor my books--consider them too sexual or too violent and ban me from groups. I'm not screaming "discrimination"--I simply move on with my "live and let live" motto and the knowledge that people's reading preference is purely subjective. I never take it personally. So, why then, when I simply remove someone for content that I felt crossed the line in a group I created, am I confronted with words like censorship and discrimination? Have I become that uptight person I loathe? Was it hypocritical of me?

No matter what your answer, I stand by my decision. At the end of the day I am accountable only to myself and my heart. Aren't we all? That being said, I am fully aware that that line of thinking can lead to a slippery slope, but I trust myself not to fall.

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also writes five different blogs, works as a professional editor and author coach, creates a line of inspirational journals, volunteers for children's literacy, and advocates for suicide awareness. In addition, she is the mother of two extraordinary human beings who lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit


Pandora Spocks said...

It's a fine balance and I think you've managed it well.

R.B. O'Brien said...

Nope. Sorry. There are lines. Period. And involving children is one of them. 'nuff said about that from me. Nice work here. Another great article.

Unknown said...

I disagree with your critics' claims of censorship (unless you're advocating public access to his material be rescinded.) You're choosing to disassociate yourself and your brand from, if I'm understanding you, a proponent of child molestation; someone most of us find offensive. You have every right to choose who you wish to associate with.

Amber Lea Easton said...

Yes, you are correct. I was simply saying "no" to promoting his work in my marketing groups and on my timeline/blogs/social media.