Monday, October 15, 2012

Google Policies Surprisingly Anti-Sex

Hello everyone, I'm Desmond. I work here with Agreeable Agony as the web designer and editor for the blog. I tend to keep to the shadows, but occasionally feel the urge to speak my mind on sex-positive issues, and wouldn't you know it, there seems to be this mighty-fine blog right here.

I'm sure there are funny stories behind every website. Ours involves a race against the clock, starting the night before a big convention, with the intent of having a working site up before vendors opened the next day. I'd like to think I leveled up that day in html and css. I had a working site up and running, able to accept sales, before 5pm. It wasn't pretty, but it was up, and we've been expanding, and improving on it since.

We're about to go through another serious renovation, one that we'd liked to have put off somewhat longer. In the long hours of the night, I jumped headfirst into Google Checkout, which seemed the best way to get rolling. Google provides the services that make Agreeable Agony possible, notably our email and this very blog. I thought that sticking with the company we'd worked so well with seemed like a good chance. I double checked their content policies, (more on that later) and decided that for the time being, we were within them.

We received an email in the past week, from the Google Wallet team, telling us that due to violations of their Content Policies, they would be shutting off our checkout system if we didn't stop selling the offending items in question. I specify, because they claimed in their email that if we removed the buttons from the specific items that were against policy, they would allow us to continue doing business.

What their email didn't contain was a list of which items they deemed unacceptable.

The non-automated portion of the email we received read the following:

Unacceptable product category: Adult Goods & Services
Please note that sale of Fetish sites or sites that promote ‘play wear’, ‘latex wear’, Sexual aids and device and All sex toys are not allowed through Google Wallet.
Below that, there were some helpful links to their content policies page, which I'll get to in a moment. They describe the sale of Fetish sites, as in web sites or physical locations, perhaps? We certainly don't sell websites. The reference play wear and latex wear, of which we have neither.

They come closest when they reference sexual aids and device[sic], but while much of what we sell is meant to be used in bondage scenes, none of it is inherently sexual. That is to say, the satisfaction in BDSM and similar alternative activities can be based in romantic or non-sexual fantasy as easily as it can be sexualized.

I don't see anything we sell as being a sex toy, and I should know, I used to sell sex toys. We sell devices for use in a highly sense-oriented role play, and what incredible sexual experiences our customers get into with them are purely the creativity of our customers. We encourage creativity.

We encourage creativity, and we try to provide helpful safety information to let that creativity happen (as it inevitably will anyway) safely, and with the best tools available.

So for posting information about safe sex with our products, we have been labelled dealers in "Adult Goods & Services" This is a sort of funny thing to label us, if only for Google's helpful Content Policies (I didn't forget.) They can be read here, but the important definition is as follows:

Adult Goods and Services:
Pornography and other sexually suggestive materials (including literature, imagery and other media); escort or prostitution services
From the very page they linked me to, it would appear that Google only explicitly bans the sale of pornographic media and prostitution services. So now we're pornographers, or maybe pimps, I'm not really sure, it's apparently been a busy day holding all these jobs.

In any case, we at AgAg are rather put out by Google's sudden disinterest in taking a small amount of our money in exchange for letting us sell things on the internet. Not that we wanted to stay with Google forever. I said earlier that I believed we were in bounds for the time being. In the future I'd hoped to switch to a more open source cart manager, effectively to get away from aggressive ToS.

Seems that Google decided to let the shoe drop first, and gave us a 5-day ultimatum. I'll be working hard to try to get something up and running that will work, but we may be unable to accept some sales for a period of time. I'm sorry to anyone inconvenienced by this.

In the meantime, I'm disappointed in Google for their attack on our small community. We've emailed them to appeal their decision, in the hopes to buy us a little time to make the transition. At this point, they have lost our business, small though it is. Even if they sorted everything out right for us, this has shaken our company's trust in the policies of Google.

It is to mend that lack of trust that we believe that Google should amend their policies to explicitly allow sex-positive shops to vend with their system. Until this happens, I urge all online shops to migrate away from Google Checkout, or at least have a backup ready, in case they decide to pull the plug on your site.

Update: We have officially had our ability to make sales cut off. We ask that any customers who know what they're interested in to send us an email, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can keep doing business while we get this sorted out. Sorry to everyone for the inconvenience, I'm working on shoehorning a new cart in without breaking everything in the process.


  1. I agree about Google needing to open up their policies to allow sex-positive ANYTHING. I had an account for my blog on Google+ but they tried to delete it for the same reasons. It was quite a surprise since I didn't expect to see such things from them.

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