I’m writing for a new site called Slixa, which is primarily a directory for escorts and other adult entertainers, but is putting up some really cool and intelligent writing about sexuality on their blogs. Even better, they actually pay pretty well. My first piece for them went up this morning; it’s titled “Pandora Blake and Censorship: Getting Spanked by the Billing Company.”
The piece focuses on the recent problems faced by UK spanking model and webmaster Pandora Blake when CCBill demanded that she make extensive changes to her site, Dreams of Spanking, or they’d cut off her billing services. Some of the changes seem downright absurd, like removing pictures that showed fully-clothed people using rubber or wooden swords in a fight scene. I’d never heard of Dreams of Spanking before, but I’m glad that I have now, even if it’s only because Pandora had to go through some awful shit. It’s a charmingly nerdy and ethical site, and it puts a lot of emphasis on the ethics of real-life consent while playing out non-consensual fantasies. That’s an important discussion to have, and the fact that Pandora tried to talk about those issues in ways that are ignored by many BDSM sites (and often even kinky communities) is actually one of the things that got her in trouble; CCBill demanded that she remove all uses of the term “non-consent,” regardless of the context.
The article goes into detail about Pandora’s troubles, but in a larger sense, it’s about how censorship has become privatized on the Internet. Although the Internet sometimes feels unrelentingly public, one of the big problems with it is that there is very little publicly-owned space. In America, the First Amendment protects your right to “peaceably assemble” and say whatever you want. You can stand on a street corner with a sign protesting homophobia, or racism, or whatever you want, and you can do that because the street is a public space accessible to everyone. Although the First Amendment formally applies to Americans on the Internet too, it doesn’t have much practical strength. The government might not be able to prosecute you, but the private entities that make up the web can shut you down. Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Google are functionally irreplaceable parts of the public square today, but they are under no obligation to let you use their services. Unlike the street corner, you have no actual right to speak your views on Twitter. Whether you’re fighting for queer justice or the right to bash queers, you’re only there as long as Twitter allows you to.
One of the points in my article is that the Internet has functionally privatized money, as well. The currency of the Internet is controlled not by the Department of Treasury, but by Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal. In addition to Pandora’s situation, the article talks about my friends Maggie and Ned Mayhem, who last year had their ability to collect money on their site revoked because Visa found images of Maggie inserting rosary beads into her cunt to be “sacrilegious.” While Maggie and Ned had the right to be sacrilegious — and even to sell their sacrilege under the First Amendment, that right doesn’t exist in their relationship with Visa. Even when they tried to write about the problems on their site, Visa was able to make them remove the post. Still another example of privatized censorship was written about by Tizz Wall on Slixa, when LinkedIn announced that escorts and sex workers couldn’t have profiles on their site, even if their work was legal in their area.