Got a long note from Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords–me and probably several hundred thousand other people–regarding a policy change for publications there. It seems that PayPal, through which Smashwords channels its money, coming and going, is asking them to eliminate certain books from their list.
Here's the gist from Coker, in regard to PayPal's concerns:
"Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica."
PayPal swings a big and heavy stick, and Smashwords doesn't want to be whacked.
"Your ebook Your Way" might have to be altered to "Your ebook Our Way ..."
I'm not the guy to stand up and argue for any of these taboos. And if you are writing such, you won't get many sympathetic ears when Smashwords starts pulling those books from its list, but–and you knew there was a "but"–that line is going to be drawn by somebody. There will be obvious offenders, and easy targets.
There will almost certainly be many shades of murk, where vision won't be so clear.
If you have a rape scene in your book, who decides if it is done for dramatic reasons or titillation? If somebody mentions in passing that the bad guy probably buggers sheep, will that be enough to get a book pulled? If, as in a book I wrote long ago, the villain is a child-molestor who dies a horrible death? True, there wasn't anything graphic nor intended to titillate in that character's actions, and in the end, the villain was duped by somebody pretending to be something she wasn't; still, it's a new can of worms, and I expect there will be some noise made.
As Smashwords reaches countries all over the world, and as Amazon.com moves a lot of books worldwide, social mores in Africa or India or the Middle East start to come into play. At the very least, it is going to be like the Chinese curse: If you are a writer, the times are going to be interesting.