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I Hate Censorship

A friend mentioned having the Terminal Cut edition of BloodRayne to me recently, and in researching what the changes were from the original releases, I saw that the swastikas were still omitted, as they had been on the original PC and Xbox releases but not on the (non-German) PlayStation 2 and GameCube releases.

Before I go further, let me be clear: I do not think that whether swastikas are in BloodRayne has any real impact on its quality. I played the PS2 and loved it; I played the PC and loved it just as much. Had there never been swastikas in any of the releases, I would not argue in favor of their addition. However, they are a reasonable bit of iconography to have in a game that is primarily about killing literal Nazis, their inclusion does nothing to promote Nazism given that the Nazis in the game are categorically explicitly irredeemable villains who the protagonist disdains unambiguously and only interacts with to any meaningful degree by killing them, and since they were in the game from the beginning, it annoys me that they were removed later on just on the principle of the matter rather than the specific case.

(Given the original releases from which they were omitted, I suspect it was a case of swastikas being against Microsoft’s policies rather than an active choice by Terminal Reality, which is what makes the situation so irritating to me, because it is an outside party exploiting their position of power to influence the content of a work against the creator’s wishes)

Nobody who I know or have spoken to takes a stronger stance against policies of censorship than I do. I have no problems with guardians curating the content that any specific children in their care are exposed to; far from it, I think that is a responsible act that can help their relationships in many ways by getting the guardians to pay attention to what their children are interested in. I have no problem with private entities (be they people or businesses) choosing not to promote certain ideas in their creations because any creation will be a reflection of its creator(s) and their internal values. Where I have a problem is when an external authority intervenes to decide what is or is not appropriate content for a broad audience, particularly when it is a matter of removing content that had been available previously. Content warnings are fine, so that the potential audience can make informed choices. Content banning is not, because an adult should be able to decide for themselves what they do or do not wish to experience (as long as no non-consenting persons or animals are hurt in the process, of course).

On one of Beau of the Fifth Column’s videos about recent book-bannings in the United States (and it irritates me to no end that any such videos were necessary in the first place), I made a comment to the effect of being against any legislated censorship of school library contents. Someone decided to challenge me on that, asking if I thought it would be appropriate for a primary/elementary school’s library to have books about anal rape or bestiality. I did not deign to reply there, because I knew it would go nowhere, but I can see reasonable arguments in favor of both.

If a children’s book is about anal rape, I would think it should go without saying (though I will say it anyway for clarity) that the act itself should be framed extremely negatively, because any actual rape is a horrible thing (I say “actual rape” to draw a distinction from rape fantasy play between adults who are only pretending it is nonconsensual; I know there are arguments to made that that is a horrible thing, too, but I think it can be done safely). That said, I could see merits in using that to tell a story about the importance of active consent, healthy skepticism of the intentions of people with power over you, recognizing and making reparations for causing harm, and/or respecting personal boundaries, among other good lessons. I am sure the same lessons could be done without needing to include anal rape in the story, too, but at no point did I say anything to the contrary; I am merely saying the topic of anal rape in and of itself does not make something a bad, destructive, toxic work unfit for consumption, because the important part is not what is used, it is how and why it is used.

Bestiality is even easier for me to argue in favor of because I do not see anything inherently immoral about it, as long as any animals involved are not harmed and are always free to stop the act whenever they choose. The fact that the commenter saw some degree of moral similarity between a person wanting to have intercourse with an animal and a person forcing nonconsensual intercourse onto another was a major reason why I did not reply to them on YouTube. If I were to write a children’s story about bestiality, my first inclination would be to frame it in a neutral way as a tool for imparting lessons about tolerance for differences in interests, willingness to find a healthy way to do what you want to do rather than feeling forced to conform to social expectations, and/or being able to get along with people whose personal tastes/interests are not entirely aligned with your own.

However, for the sake of argument, let us take things a step further on both fronts. Suppose that both topics were gravely immoral (one is already, after all, so this should not be difficult to imagine) and that there truly was no way to write a story about either topic that would be appropriate for young children (I doubt that any elementary school libraries in the United States carry books for students with such content, so their catalogues reflect this part of the hypothetical already, conveniently enough). That would not stop people from still engaging in such acts, because anal rape is something that does happen in the United States already. At best, it would just stop people from talking about it, and perhaps even worse, it would stop people from talking about it with children at a time when children are likely first developing their understandings about morality and so would be primed for instilling foundational beliefs.

This ties back to my general opposition to censorship as a whole. It does not solve any problems, it just tries to hide them, and in doing so, it increases the stigma around the topics (while simultaneously lending them a Forbidden Fruit appeal) and thus makes the actual expressions of the topics more likely to feed into dangerous/destructive/toxic/etc. aspects of society. A problem that is not discussed is not going to solve itself by magic.

Normalizing all human bodies, removing the stigma around non-standard sexual practices (again, with the condition that no non-consenting parties are hurt in the process, which is why I am against blackmail or homewrecker play that goes beyond fantasy, but I digress), and encouraging people to accept their kinks and fetishes as a part of who they are rather than as something to be repressed would be actual steps towards reducing sexual violence. They would be actual steps towards reducing the risks of engaging in inherently-dangerous acts like autoerotic asphyxiation because there would be space for healthy communities to spread awareness of safe practices just as there is for spelunking or skydiving. They would be actual steps towards reducing the exploitative, disempowering, dehumanizing aspects of sex-based businesses.

But no, rather than working towards real solutions, some people continue to argue in favor of just pretending that the problem does not exist.

I leave it as an exercise for you, dear reader, to decide whether those making such arguments are unaware that they are causing more harm than the material itself would or if they making such arguments because they want to cause that harm. Whatever the case may be is irrelevant to me; I will continue to speak out against censorship either way. Even if it is a matter of no import in and of itself (like whether swastikas should have been taken out of BloodRayne), giving ground on those minor points is how the practice gets normalized to the point of accepting blindfolds that cause actual damage.


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