Again, the question is not about Offending the Audience.
The question specifically I would like addressed is whether venues, slammasters, poets, are encouraging the censoring of certain words or ideas.
The sense we got in Boston was that yes, the stuff said in our poems would not have been allowed in certain venues- slam venues. Was that hyperbole? Is this really happening?
Is there a Free Speech Code of Conduct being pursued in this community?
Again, there will always be people pushing the art in a certain direction. If you're asking if it's ok to say "bitch" then you are going to have a varied response, probably mostly on the, "please don't say that" or "you can't say that". Some folks might want to "have a conversation" that mostly consists of talking at you.
But when folks say "that would never fly on stage at my venue" most are saying "your ass would get booed off stage and you probably wouldn't make a lot of friends." I've never kicked a poet out of my venue for something said on stage, but I have kicked out audience members for crazy shit said from the audience. And conversations have certainly happened, most of the time with the poet not realizing someone was offended and opting to change material or not do certain poems. And we do say "free speech/hate free", so if we have something up that sounds like blatant hate speech, we will definitely have some more intense talks.
It's your right not to listen to them, just like it's their right not like it when you choose words they view as offensive. But if ENOUGH people find it offensive, maybe it's time to take a hard look at why you use that word and if it's really that necessary. There will always be morality police and folks speaking out when some genuinely fucked up shit happens on stage. Being part of a community is dealing with offensive people, sensitive people, and all the colors in between.
You really have two avenues to take (well, three, but let's just say getting out of slam is simply not an acceptable option)
1) Fuck em. Everyone has an opinion, it doesn't mean you have to listen to them. Just ride on the high of the folks that are in your corner and love your work. You can't please everyone. Hopefully you pleased someone.
2) Listen and Change. Recognize that there will be words or concepts that might not be great ideas, or might be offensive in ways you just never thought of. I watched a crazy poem with a poet playing both halves of his character's psyche, stating that being crippled was a fate worse than death, while sitting next to two friends with disabilities. That poet probably thought it was super creative and powerful and never once considered how hurtful this was. Maybe, just maybe, there's something to this criticism.