morgan_dhu: (Default)

Fortunately, I remembered to check my outstanding book orders - I had an open order with some unshipped items from Amazon.ca. I cancelled my order immediately, and made use of the nice little box they provided for comments to explain exactly why I had cancelled and why I would not be ordering from them again while this "adult books" policy is in effect.

Now, of course, I will go find somewhere else to order the cancelled items from, because it's important that the authors don't suffer from our protest actions - many of them are already going to hurt enough when their books don't appear in searches and on bestseller lists - because that's one of the very important ways that authors reach new readers, and that's why this issue is about so much more than just making it harder for us, the readers, to find the books we want to read.

Authors who are writing the kinds of books that we will no longer be able to find from casual searches are going to lose sales if this policy continues, and some of them may not be able to find publishers in the future if their sales numbers fall, and that will make all of us immeasurably poorer.

So - don't just protest this.

If you can, if you have the financial ability to do so, please consider going to your local independent bookseller, or to an online bookseller that's not out to censor books and impoverish authors who are writing "adult" material, and buy one of the books that has been stripped of its sales ranking on Amazon. There's lots of good books to choose from.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Shall we call this AmazonFail 09?

It seems that Amazon.com and its subsidiaries Amazon.ca and Amazon.uk – and possibly other Amazon subsidiaries as well – have decided that books addressing gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other queer issues – and a number of other books dealing with issues of sexual diversity - are very naughty books. You can still buy them, if you know how to search for them, but books that have been identified as dealing with these issues have been stripped of their sales rankings and therefore do not appear in bestseller lists or (I am told, I haven’t in the past used Amazon often enough to know the ins and outs) certain kinds of searches based on sales rankings.

One small press publisher who noticed that the titles he sells had lost their sales rankings asked Amazon what was up, and received this charming note in response:


In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D
Member Services
Amazon.com Advantage


People who have been checking out the extent of the stripping have reported that, while the exact list of “disappeared” books varies from country to country, the kinds of books being excluded are:

*Gay and lesbian romance which is not sexually explicit, or is no more sexually explicit that your typical straight romance

*Literary classics such as James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain, Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness, Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle and E. M. Forster’s Maurice

*Books on gay and lesbian parenting

*Non-fiction books on everything from theological discussions of homosexuality in the church to gay histories to reports on the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy

*Biographies and autobiographies of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangender people from John Barrowman to Christopher Isherwood to Harvey Milk to Oscar Wilde


Apparently, fiction and non-fiction books dealing with BDSM, polyamory, and other kinds of sexual difference, ranging from Jacqueline Carey’s very popular Kushiel fantasy series to non-fiction books on sexuality aimed at people with disabilities, have also lost their rankings.


A master list of books known to be affected on at least one of the Amazon websites can be found here.


Information on how to complain to Amazon.com and its various subsidiaries is being posted in various places. On-line petitions are in process and strategising for protest is happening. For more information on taking action, look through the posts being archived here.


As for me, I certainly won’t be shopping at any Amazon website until this policy has been changed, and I certainly urge anyone who reads this to consider doing the same – and to let the Amazon website that serves your country know exactly why you are refusing to buy anything more from them.

And if you can think of anything else you can do to bring pressure to bear, the more power to you, and to us all.

morgan_dhu: (Default)


Incest.

Rape.

Child molestation.

Sexual abuse.

The sexuality of children.

Yes, I'm interested in these things.

I'd be interested in them even if I hadn't been sexually molested by my mother's husband when I was eight and raped by a stranger when I was 12.

I'm interested in discussion of the issues that surround these acts that humans engage in. Why do people do commit them? Are they always harmful? If they are, how harmful, compared to what? What are the effects of such actions on victim and perpetrator? How best to reduce the harm of such acts once they have been committed? How best to reduce the likelihood that they will happen? What is the history, the psychology, the sociology, of these acts? What functions have they served in societies now and in the past?

I'm also interested in the portrayal of these acts in cultural products - fiction, films, music. All kinds of cultural products. Yes, that means porn too.

I know, as it seems many people do not, that the word, the image, is not the action. Writing rape porn is not rape. Writing fan-fiction about sex between two underage wizards at Hogwarts or proto-slayers hiding out in Buffy's basement is not child exploitation. Writing a novel about Pharoah Ahkenaten and his daughter-wife Ankhesepaaten is not incest. Writing Lolita or Bastard out of Carolina is not child molestation.

The thought is not the action either. Reading about rape, or child molestation, or incest, is not rape, or child molestation, or incest. In fact, reading about rape, or child molestation, or incest, and getting all hot and excited about it, is not rape, or child molestation, or incest either. It's thought. It's fantasy.

The fantasy action is not even the action. Rape play or age play between two consenting adults is not rape or child molestation either.

Rape is rape.

Child molestation is child molestation.

Believe me, I know the difference.

Why don't you?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Well, now that we have to be able to defend any cultural product, whether it depicts a real or an imagined sexual act involving a person under 18 years of age, I figured that I'd have a look and see what I might need to defend ownership of.

I know that some people will tell me, and all those members of the Canadian artists community, that I'm exaggerating, making a big fuss about nothing, because the law has some phrases in it that would surely prevent them from challenging the status of real "art."

After all, the work has to have "as its dominant characteristic the description, presentation or representation, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years."

And "No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the act that is alleged to constitute the offence (a) has a legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art; and (b) does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of eighteen years.

One of the big problems with this is that the onus is now on the originator, distributor or owner of "any written material, visual representation or audio recording" that contains representations of sexual activiy involving someone under 18 to prove:

1. that the sexual activity is not its dominant characteristic
2. that it does not have a sexual purpose
3. that it has a legitimate purpose related to one of the specified areas
4. that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under 18

Now I agree that if the nature of the sexual activity is heterosexual and vanilla, and there's a plot in it somewhere, you will likely get a pass - in fact, if there's enough of a plot, it might not even be challenged.

But let's talk about work that involves kink, or queer sex. You really think that a book about a baby leatherdyke finding herself and coming to terms with her sexuality can easily prove, in this society, it does not have a sexual purpose (whatever that means), that does it has a legitimate purpose and that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to minors? Because the Canadian public and their elected legislators may have just barely agreed queers can get married, but lots of them still don't want to think about what queers do in bed (or on the kitchen table, or in the dungeon), and they don't want their kids finding out about it either, lest their kids realise that it sounds interesting.

And who says that a work in which the dominant characteristic is sexual activity involving minors is automatically TEH EVOL? Can anyone honestly argue that Romeo and Juliet aren't filled with teenage lust right up to the very tragic end?

And who decides what is a legitimate purpose? Obviously, the legislation presupposes that auto-eroticism is not a legitimate purpose. Would a book that helps young women who have decided to have sex (as is their right if they're over 14) develop skills for negotiating safe sex issues with their partners be a legitimate purpose? Is writing a political rant that mentions a book about young women aged 14 to 18 who have decided to have sex a legitimate purpose?

Many people are going to tell me, I expect, that these new restirctions are necessary because of the Supreme Court rulings in the case of John Robin Sharpe (more details here). Yes, the Supreme Court found that under the old law people can't be prosecuted for producing written or visual of their own imagination, for their own use.

And you know what? That was fine by me. It was illegal to show these works to a minor. It was illegal to use these works to persuade a minor to agree to sexual acts with an adult or another minor. It was illegal to use representations of real minors in creating these works. And it was certainly illegal to try to do any of the things in these works if a minor was involved. Making it illegal to even create the works is censorship and creation of a thoughtcrime. It may well be regugnant to most of us, but there's nothing demonstrably harmful about anyone wanking off in private to kiddie porn he or she made themselves without any exploitation of a minor person.

We didn't need laws about creative works to convict John robin Sharpe. He was also using porn produced through the exploitation of minors. That was illegal, and rightfully so. But it was his acts that invovled minors, not his solitary use of written porn, that caused harm.

And if you believe that only people who commit acts of pedophillia with minors would ever get off on kiddie porn, think again. Think about all those people who like to do sexual role-playing involving schoolgirls, or infantilism, or want to be leather daddies, or imagine initiating the hot young pizza boy. Think about people who use porn that depicts teenage sexuality (without actually using tennager to produce it) in order to regain the rush of their own adolescent sexual explorations. If people were only honest about it, there would be a great many people who include some sort of fantasy ageplay in their sex lives. Very few of them ever commit sexual acts with minors. Why? Because they know that what they're into is a fantasy. They don't want to really have sex with a minor of any age. They know that would be wrong. They just want the fantasy. Laws like this are trying to turn fantasies into thoughtcrimes.

So I thought about what I own that might make me guilty of thoughtcrime. My partner and I took a casual glance at a couple of our close to 50 shelves of books, and started making a list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that depict some sexual activity involving a minor or minors. We don't know what "dominant characteristic" means, nor are we sure about "sexual purpose," because we can think of lots of sexual purposes that have nothing to do with wanking.

Here, in no particular order, is the first installment of the books I own that could be determined to be works of child pornography.

Dorothy Allison - Bastard out of Carolina
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
Rita Mae Brown - Rubyfruit Jungle
Michelle Cliff - Abeng
Moyra Caldecott - Guardians of the Tall Stones, Daughter of Ra
Frankie Hucklenbroich - A Crystal Diary
Anita Diamant - The Red Tent
Margaret Laurence - The Diviners
Alice Walker - The Color Purple
Anne Rice - Belinda
Anne Marie McDonald - Fall on Your Knees
Marion Zimmer Bradley - The Mists of Avalon
Lauren Greenfield - Girl Culture, Fast Forward
Bernard Lefkowitz - Our Guys
Susan Faludi - Stiffed
Pat Califia - Public Sex
Susan Hemmings (ed.) - Girls Are Powerful: Young Women's Writings from spare Rib

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, I'm such a thoughtcrimer.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

One might think that my joy would be unalloyed today.

The Civil Marriage Act was passed in the Senate last night, and received Royal Assent today. Canada now officially in all provinces and territories defines marriage as a union between two people.

In a particularly bizarre bit of last minute asshattery, Conservative senators attempted to introduce an amendment "stating the traditional definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, but that civil marriage is between two people."

Said one of the amendment's supporters: "It would have brought a great deal of comfort to same-sex couples that they would not be perceived as having somehow gained their legitimate rights at the expense of those for whom the traditional marriage of a man and a woman was so terribly important," said Conservative Senator Noel Kinsella, who supported the amendment.


Yeah, right. All us queers and queer-friendly allies would have been so comforted to know that even as Canada finally acknowledged the rights of any two people to get married, the Religious Wrong was trying to have it enshrined in that very law that same-sex marriages might be legal, but they weren't really "real" marriages like those that happen between a man and a woman. Because nothing is real unless there’s a penis in it somewhere - as long as it's nowhere near another penis, of course.

But let's move on. I'd much rather my last thoughts on this Parliamentary struggle be about Senator Nancy Ruth, who danced in the Senate Chamber, and said "the whole country should be dancing."


Unfortunately, the Senate has also given us a very good reason not to dance, but rather to start the next fight for civil rights.

Yesterday the Senate passed Bill C-2, AN ACT TO AMEND THE CRIMINAL CODE (PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND OTHER VULNERABLE PERSONS) AND THE CANADA EVIDENCE ACT. In an attempt to disprove Stephen Harper's allegations from the last election, Paul Martin's government has now passed an anti-child porn law so vague in it's attempt to catch all the child porn in the world that it may even be illegal to discuss what's in it, unless I can prove in court that I am doing so for a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art."

So humour me, folks, I'm educating you. Legitimately. Right?

In the Library of Parliament's Legislative Summary of Bill C-2, one of the problems that has cultural workers and arts organisations across the country up in arms for their right to write is discussed as follows:

Bill C-2 eliminates existing exemptions for material with "artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose," leaving the statutory defence of a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art." Bill C-2 further specifies that the material in question must not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of 18. Amendments also broaden the scope of the offence by eliminating the need to show that written materials advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity with children. To satisfy the definition of child pornography, it will be sufficient to establish that the "dominant characteristic" of any written material is the description, "for a sexual purpose," of sexual activity involving a person under 18 that would be an offence under the Criminal Code.


Representatives of cultural workers, particularly writers, have been vocal about this legislation. From a Press Release released by the Writers' Union of Canada, dated June 20, 2005:

"Real abuse of real children deserves zero tolerance," said Brian Brett, Chair of The Writers' Union of Canada, "but this proposed legislation forces an accused writer to prove that his or her work does not present an undue risk of harm to children. What has happened to the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'? We are urging the Senate to hold hearings on these issues and not rush through such important and sweeping legislation."


A spokesperson for the Quebec Writers' Union said this week:

"They're trying to clamp down on child pornography, but they're going too far by making too loose a definition of it," says Charles Montpetit, chairman of the freedom of expression committee at the Quebec Writers' Union. "Any description of sex involving people under 18 will be considered child pornography. It's absurd because the age of consent in Canada is 14. Between 14 and 18, teenagers can legally have sex but we can't talk about it because that would be child porn."


And let's not for a moment forget that it's young women and young queers of all kinds who often have the most need to be able to explore a variety of writings and imaginings about sexuality, because there's not much representation of sexuality from these perspectives in the mainstream culture.

Canada has a bad history of targeting queer writings with its porn laws. If anyone has any doubts that important explorations of queer sexuality and coming out among youth will be particular victims of this law, then you need to look at the kinds of works that have been challenged in the past and think again.

Just last night I watched an interview with author Susan Swan talking about the indignity of having to defend her well-known bookThe Wives of Bath from accusations of child pornography under the previous laws, which allowed for a defence of "artistic merit." For those unfamiliar with the book, it explores, among other things, the sexual awakening of two girls in a boarding school. It was a finalist for the Guardian Fiction award and Ontario's Trillium award, and was the basis for the film Lost and Delirious

To say nothing of writers and readers using literature as a way of discussing and dealing with issues of child sexual abuse. Will anyone in Canada be able to see the film based on Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina ever again, let alone read the book?

Arggh. I’m disgusted and appalled.

Next up: Watch this space for future posts in which I list the books we own that may well be child porn under the new law. Just to make it easier for the cops to find me. Any other Canadians out there feel like telling everyone what evil works of child porn they're hiding on their bookshelves or among their collections of DVDs?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

It’s all over LJ, so you probably know about [livejournal.com profile] anniesj and her visit from the Secret Service over comments she had made in her LJ that she describes as “some rather inflammatory things about George W. Bush in a public post in my LJ, done in a satirical style.

She has written a new entry in which she responds to some of the discourse that has occurred in response to her experience. Now, [livejournal.com profile] anniesj has every right to her own thoughts and responses to this experience, but I also have every right to say that I think she is very wrong in some respects.

In her follow-up, she says:

1. I made a very big mistake in posting what I originally posted. I did not intend to threaten anyone with what I originally said. I was pissed off by what President Bush said, and I ranted about it without thinking that what I said could be construed as a threat against the president's safety. Obviously, I was wrong and I admit responsibility for making an inflammatory post. I apologize to anyone it may have offended, and I will be much more careful in the future when expressing my political beliefs.

2. My political beliefs did not trigger this, and what happened to me was not political. The reason why I was reported to the FBI was because I made the mistake of posting something that could be misconstrued as being a threat to the president's safety. I understand this, I apologize for it, and I will not make the same mistake again. I repeat, I do not seriously wish to harm anyone else on this planet, and in the future, I will make certain that I never give that impression again, no matter how pissed off I get.


[livejournal.com profile] sistermarysith has already written a wonderful response to this, but I need to put in my two cents’ worth as well.

Free speech is one of the most important rights that a citizen can have. Any attempt to suppress it is a political act. It’s true that most democratic nations have placed some prudent limitations on some forms of speech, such as inciting crimes, hate speech against minorities, slander and libel. But citizens must remain able to challenge any and all of the cultural and political assumptions, issues, policies, processes, parties, and powerful individuals in their society. And to ensure this, limitations should not be placed on speech because it is offensive, or satirical, or speculative, or obscene, or even violent.

Satire, in particular, has a long history of using violent images to make its points. And satire is a mode of speech that is open to anyone, not just professional comics and satirists. The use of violent imagery in satire does not mean that a real threat is being made. Emotional utterances are another area in which people use a lot of violent imagery that has no literal intent. Again, just saying something violent doesn’t mean you are going to do it, or even that you really want to do it.

For instance, I could make a satirical comment about George W. Bush being too arrogantly sure that he is doing God’s will and under God’s protection to bother getting out of the way of a deadly plague of locusts. Does this mean that I, personally, am planning on making this happen, or even that I want to see harm come to him?

I could write a play about George W. Bush waking up one day and finding himself transformed into a pregnant women, and cover in great detail the agonising process of trying to find an abortion and failing, only to end up bleeding to death on a back-street abortionist’s table. Does that mean I really want to see that happen?

Or I could create an animation in which George W. Bush can be made to walk into a toxic waste dump and die choking on the chemical fumes while all the birds and animals harmed by his environmental policies express their hopes that a new President will do something to let them live. Does that mean I want him to die a slow and painful death?

I might blurt out in the heat of anger or frustration that often surrounds intense political debate, that the world would be much better off if George W. Bush were dead, or even that he deserves to die because of all the Afghani and Iraqi civilians murdered in his wars. Does that mean that I want the man dead, much less that I plan to kill him myself?

I have the right to be offensive. I have the right to think about violent acts, and to speak about them. It may well be impolite and inconsiderate and even counter-productive to utter offensive and violent speech, but unless it’s coupled with immediate threat of bodily harm, it’s still just speech and it’s my right to utter it. And it’s a lot less offensive than sending armies to kill innocents, or wilfully turning a blind eye to policies that ravage the environment.

What I - or anyone - do not have is a right to commit violence, or incite someone else to. And if a government cannot understand the distinction between the act of speech and the act of violence, if it tries to limit speech about a public figure, no matter how offensive or violent that speech may be, that would be an act of political repression, no matter how nice and polite the brown-shirted thugs in their government-issue camouflage suits are when they arrive at the door.

And that is what bothers me, not just about what happened to [livejournal.com profile] anniesj, but also about the tone of her response to it. [livejournal.com profile] anniesj was silenced, and unless we fight that silencing, it could happen to anyone else. The lesson I take from what happened to her is not to be cautious about what I say, lest someone think it is offensive or threatening and call down the dogs of thoughtcrime upon me, but rather to struggle for the right of everyone to speak in freedom.


First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
-Pastor Martin Niemöller

May 2017

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