It takes all sorts.
I read in the Publishers Lunch newsletter that Richard Curtis (a smart NY agent) has sold (actually resold) John Norman's 26 Gor books to Rob Simpson of Dark Horse Books.
The books are described by PL as a 'controversial science fiction world chronicling dominant men and submissive women', the action taking place on the imaginary planet Gor.
The phrasing made me smile a bit. I have never read a Gor novel, but they're famous in a modest sort of way. There is, for instance, a web site set up by and for fans of the series: it grew out of one woman's (note that, please) love for the series. But what amuses me (somewhat) is the way people wriggle and squirm when discussing these novels.
The Gor books began to appear in 1967, and they soon centred on the sado-masochistic relationship between men and women on the planet Gor. Actually it would be more accurate (apparently) to speak of the relationship between men and slave girls on the planet Gor.
Eric Lindh's essay on the series gives you a reasonably concise insight into what is on offer, and it nicely illustrates the difficulty which nice, decent, law-abiding, church-going liberals have with this kind of thing.
On the one hand, our nice et cetera liberals believe in a free press and free speech, and they oppose censorship and so forth. But here we have a series which, to quote Lindh, 'orbit[s] around uncomfortably nasty sexual humiliation of women. Sure, this has been an (often implied) element of most weird heroics, from Conan on, but Norman goes over the line that many readers would find acceptable. Elaborate set pieces of sexual torture and slavery are the essential core of the stories; they are not plot devices insomuch as they become the plot. Sadism, rape, and violence are repeated ad nauseum (sic).'
And yet, you see, Lindh also feels it necessary to point out (because he is a fair-minded nice et cetera liberal) the following uncomfortable fact: 'The creepy thing is that Norman has touched quite a chord out there. The books are tremendously successful, and not just among men. A bookseller who hazarded some statistics had at least half of his sales being made to women.'
Oh dear oh dear. This is all very distressing, isn't it? At least it is if you're one of the many who haven't yet got their head round the general principle.
And the principle is this: If you want to publish your own work uncensored -- unmodified by political correctness, religious dogma, or any one of a thousand other forces which are all too ready to interfere with what you have to say -- then you have to accept that the reciprocal applies. It other words, you have to accept that other people are going to write, publish, and read, material of which you heartily disapprove. Simple as that.
But oh what heartache it causes.