A. The Publisher's Rights
a) First of all, I wholly accept that any publisher has the right to define which materials to accept and which not. Whith this right to define
I mean to make explicit which guidelines and rules a submission has to meet to get published. These guidelines and rules may be (1) formal or (2) non-formal or (1+2) a mixture of both. In any case they need to be made explicit. Otherwise there'd be no ground on which the publisher could operate.
aa) In the case of LIT (online publisher in a sense) there's a mixture of (1) and (2) stated above. I analyze this mixture as follows:
: sole creator of submission, 18 years or older, legally able to write submission, giving LIT right to publish submission.
: at least 750 words, without major spelling errors, broken into paragraphs, no links.
: no sexual activity involving underage characters or bestiality.
b) These are the guidelines and rules defined
by LIT as a publisher. As such they are the only
grounds on which LIT ought to operate and thus only on these grounds authors ought to expect LIT to handle their submissions.
bb) If LIT does not cheat on its self-defined operating rules, then there's no censorship to be found at this point. True, (in fiction) both 1) zoophilia and 2) sexual activity involving minors are protected by freedom of speech. In fiction several works that deal with these themes can be named, for example:
1) William Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night's Dream” (Titania loves donkey), Lucius Apuleius's “The Golden Ass” (man turned into donkey and woman), Balzac's “A Passion in the Desert” (soldier and panther) . . . .
2) Thomas Mann's “Death in Venice” (Gustav von Aschenbach and young Tadzio), Mark Behr's “The Smell of Apples” (Marnus' Dad sodomizing Frikkie), Paul Russell's “The Coming Storm” (25yo Tracy Parker and 15yo prep-school student Noah), William J. Mann's “All American Boy” (14yo boy Wally and adult Zandy) . . . .
However, according to a) above, LIT has legitimately laid down the publishing rule to not accept submission dealing with 2 themes protected by freedom of speech: 1) and 2). It's the same right that romance (or similar genre) publishers make use of when they turn down manuscripts that don't fit their generic requirements or when publishers of books by women turn down manuscripts by men (though they may readily cheat by imprinting a female pseudonym on the male author), etc.
B. LIT's Publishing Practice
a) According to my conclusion in A.b) above, there's nothing wrong if LIT rejects stories on non-formal grounds (see A.a) solely because of the correspondingly defined 2 conditions stated above (see A.aa): zoophilia and pedophilia. (And, of course, rejection on grounds of the defined formal conditions is equally valid.)
To decide if LIT cheats on its self-defined rules, i.e. rejecting submissions on grounds other then the defined publishing rules (see A.aa), a look on the actual publishing practice is called for. To decide this is also to decide if LIT is practicing censorship, for suppressing submissions on grounds external to the defined publishing rules means nothing short of censorship. The latter practice equals moral condemnation, but failing legitimate publishing business.
b) After all but then there's this notorious post by KillerMuffin which lists, inter alia, the following question to ask if your story was rejected by the site’s Editors/LIT:
Was there excessive violence, snuff, or abuse of characters in your story?
Your story was too extreme for our guidelines. These judgments are subjective, and thus we can't give an exact definition of what exactly is "too much". Certain "violence" in a BDSM situation between consenting adults may be allowed, while the same "violence" between strangers in a non-consentual situation will not. Tone and respect for characters, as well as the "violent" scene within the context of the story, are what we make our judgments upon. If your story is rejected for this, feel free to send the story back with a polite request for an explanation and we will tell you why it was rejected. If you disagree with our assessment, you are more than welcome to publish your story elsewhere rather than alter it to our guidelines. We respect your rights as authors to write on whatever you like, however you like.
bb) Are the conditions stated here by KillerMuffin consistent with LIT's publishing rules (see A.aa)?
Compared against the latter it's clearly evident that KillerMuffin's stated conditions exceed the official submission guidelines by far. In fact, nothing
stated by KillerMuffin here is anywhere to be found in the official rules laid down by the site owners, let alone even remotely corresponding to them (see A.aa). KillerMuffin's reference to "our guidelines" confuses LIT's publishing rules with her own (or some other Editor’s) moral feelings. That also provides an explanation of her strangely speaking of “too much”, emphasizing “subjective judgment”, or the arbitrary and, at least to my mind, also counterintuitive distinction of “allowed” violence in BDSM and non-consent, which are all merely her emotive expressions that miss to correspond to the defined terms on which publications ought to be handled on LIT (see A.aa).
Therefore the conditions stated by KillerMuffin here, i.e. “excessive violence, snuff, or abuse of characters,” are merely tacked on by her to the rules as they’re actually defined. And solely on ground of the latter LIT ought to operate. Hence KillerMuffin’s stated condition are not
consistent with LIT’s publishing rules.
Nonetheless KillerMuffin makes explicit what is involved in the practice of LIT’s Editors who pre-check uploaded submissions. (The other and far more important check is done by the readers in giving a story their thumbs up or thumbs down.)
cc) Evidently, KillerMuffin implies that in practice stories are rejected for reasons that are not, I emphasize certainly not
, part of the official submission guidelines. Hence, all other things being equal, submissions are rejected in the course of LIT’s publishing practice that actually accord with the LIT rules. These stories are not rejected on a legal basis (i.e. LIT’s publishing rules) but for “reasons” of a purely emotive conceit (i.e. KillerMuffin’s moral objections of "too much", etc.). A conceit that persuades itself into believing that it had the moral superiority to suppress submission deemed objectionable on purely subjective emotive grounds without
taking notice of the contradictory facts (i.e. LIT’s publishing rules).
dd) Thus I strongly disagree with you, pure, that this “policy” stated by KillerMuffin does not constitute censorship. On the contrary it’s exactly that: censorship. For suppressing submissions on grounds external to the defined publishing rules constitutes censorship. And an Editor, or whichever position KillerMuffin holds or held, who illegitimately expands on the legitimate rules to align them with her own moral standards is performing the role of a censor and imposing censorship on a site that, measured against its (f)actual own rules, hitherto did not per se
c) Moreover KillerMuffin's statement about LIT's “respect [of] your rights as authors to write on whatever you like, however you like” in suppressing your writing by Editors (or isn't censors more appropriate?) who are over-expanding and thereby, in one sense, disregarding the rules they're ought to be bound to, and complimenting you to go fuck yourself and to deposit your unlovely rule compliant smut elsewhere but not on this isle of ‘free (lovely) speech’, all this “respect” is strongly akin to a mockery of the oh so respected writer and a travesty of LIT's self-proclaimed adherence to Free Speech, No Spam!
C. Inherent Flaw?
a) As a result, there seems to be a grave inconsistency between LIT’s publishing rules (see A.aa) and practice (see B.dd), translating to censorship. However, KillerMuffin’s statement, which gave rise to the hypothesis about censorship in the first place, is linked
to in the “Frequently Asked Questions” section. And since the FAQ are a part of the “officials section” where LIT gives visitors (and potential submission contributors) all the general information about LIT, including explanations of its operating procedures (“F.A.Q. - All your Literotica-related questions answered!”), the inference seems likely that the information given here is consistent with the site’s actual agenda, which first and foremost involves the publishing rules.
Therefore there are two possible solutions to this issue:
1) Despite the prima facie inconsistency KillerMuffin’s conditions are approved of by the site’s agenda. In this case, the defined publishing rules are only seemingly less precluding than KillerMuffin’s conditions but ultimately fragmentary because the “Submission Guidelines”, which are not part of the FAQ (!), were not updated since KillerMuffin’s post so that the (crucial) information about the grounds on which LIT’s publishing procedure operates are unintentionally missing from the defined guidelines and rules a submission has to meet to get published.
: There’s no true inconsistency. The true publishing rules consist of the “Submission Guidelines” + KillerMuffin’s conditions. Any prima facie flaw is unintended.
2) Since the “Submission Guidelines” are not
part of the FAQ but instead of the greater category of “Writer’s Resources”, and in the light of the distance of time that lies between (i) the creation of LIT and its publishing rules in 1998 and the date of KillerMuffin’s post in 2003, and (ii) the time between the date of KillerMuffin’s post in 2003 and the (unadjusted) publishing rules today in 2011, the inference is natural that the prima facie inconsistency is a real
inconsistency. For it were indeed illogical and inconsequential to not
adjust the all-important and essential publishing rules all this time if there had (really) been any such substantial change to them like KillerMuffin’s post implies.
: There’s true inconsistency. The true publishing rules consist solely of the “Submission Guidelines”. Somehow sometime someone didn’t check different parts of the greater picture, LIT’s agenda that is. It’s an inherent flaw.
b) Of course, the decision between 1) and 2) also afflicts the decision concerning censorship. If 1) is true, then there’s (at least today) no censorship on LIT, although LIT would then unveil a rather ugly moral pointer fetish and suppressive, unfree face (and wholly failing its self-proclaimed mantra of “Free Speech, No Spam!”). On the other hand if 2) is true, then there’s censorship (at least implied) on LIT, which ultimately might not be the case if the supposed inconsistency is only a superficial lack of review of the whole “official” content site. Though, again, a grave flaw like that to be unnoticed for straight 8 years seems unlikely. Far more likely in this case is that the Editors took matters into their hands and unpacked the moral cudgel.
Decide the issue for yourself!
All the best,