Or: Your Intellectual Dishonesty is Making Me Bald Prematurely
TW: Rape, incest, pedophilia, CSA (child sexual assault), slavery, blackface, Nazism, general violence, torture, death threats, and self-harm.
For anyone who may not know, every form of fiction comes with an online fandom — a group of people who are invested in the series either casually or heavily. Within fandoms, there’s discourse about how to engage with said fiction. Sensitive topics such as abuse arise, either because it takes place in the story or because fans inserted it into their creative works. The question is: does there need to be a certain tact in how those topics are approached, or does it not matter because it’s fictional? There are defenses for the former and the latter. My list highlights the issues with defenses of the latter.
Truthfully, the list I’ve created never needed to exist. Trauma never needed to be brought into this discussion. Every point I initially wanted to make could be explained without invoking victimhood. Every point the other side of the discourse wanted to make could have been explained similarly. But victimhood became a trump card, with the question “What about survivors engaging with sensitive fiction?” shutting down discussions. IE. “How can you form an argument that doesn’t consider survivors of the trauma you’re discussing? You must be the bad person here, and you are in the wrong.”
After what began as an earnest question became a silencing tactic and slander campaign, how can I not discuss trauma in relation to media and fandom?
So, I offer you this list. It contains issues with the framing of sensitive fiction, the defenses used to justify poorly-framed sensitive fiction, some of the critiques leveled at “antis,” and more. Read before you react. Let’s begin.
+Purposely conflating “abuse should not be romanticized or eroticized in fiction” with cathartic works from a survivor that honestly portray their abuse, including the complex views of their abuser (mistaking abuse for love, rationalizing their abuse out of love for the abuser, romanticizing the abuse due to a trauma bond), to form an argument. Good ol’ straw-manning.
+The above in conjunction with not caring at all if the creator is a survivor or the work is cathartic since “It’s just fiction, who cares!” which makes me wonder why you brought survivors into this discourse in the first place.
+Expecting me to believe “Hnnng [character] is so sexy when they’re raped” is a cathartic work from a survivor, let alone one above critique, and gaslighting me when I don’t think so because I have more than two brain cells.
+Thinking your survivor status precludes other people’s sense of safety. You might consume fiction that portrays your trauma. You might also value discretion and not want to be outed as a survivor. So, you might be posting glorified abuse without the context (catharsis) for others to feel safer. All we can glean from this is that you’re a stranger on the internet with an expressed interest in abuse, in fandoms where romanticizing / sexualizing abuse and defending that behavior is a prominent issue. Other survivors are allowed to feel unsafe from strangers posting content of their trauma in a positive light and rabidly defending that. They don’t know you, so there’s no trust.
+Say you are open about being a survivor. It’s common for survivors to fetishize the abuse they experienced. However, survivors do not just fetishize being the abused party, evidenced by abusers who are also victims (this is a minority BTW). I don’t know what aspect of the abuse intrigues you, nor do I demand an explanation from you. But I do not know you, so being a survivor doesn’t automatically make you trustworthy. Many of the people whose caution you shame were abused by trauma survivors. Being able to see red flags in anyone is an unfortunate necessity. Everyone doesn’t get the luxury of thinking a survivor would never enact the abuse they’ve experienced.
+Saying things like “fiction is a place to explore things you can’t in real life,” and thinking I can’t be wary of a stranger’s interest in exploring sexual violence. Especially thinking this vital skill for avoiding abuse (recognizing signs of a proclivity for violence before it escalates) is anti-survivor.
+The above in conjunction with not questioning your interest in exploring sexual violence. Scapegoating it with the medium of exploration: fiction.
+As a survivor, automatically conflating any exploration with healing while refusing to think critically about your coping mechanisms. Shutting down any analysis with “I’m a survivor!” when clarity is essential to recovery.
+Saying we can’t compare mass media to fandom media because it doesn’t have the same reach so it cannot have the same impact. Then arguing that such fandom works have had a massive impact on survivors as a coping mechanism, and therefore it would be detrimental to the community if we deem poorly-framed abuse in fiction unacceptable. We praise fandom’s reach when it comes to women and girls, the LGBT community, and marginalized youth. It’s suspect to downplay that when discussing the potential for harm.
Besides, fandom antis have the same reach as other subsets of fandom. If you say we can potentially cause profound harm, so can you. If you say we can derive from powerful axes of oppression like puritanical Christianity, sexism, the far-right, and radical feminism, then you can also derive from oppression. If you say we can proliferate oppression in fandom spaces, so can you. Boop.
+“What about survivors?” in conjunction with telling other survivors, “You should be thankful people draw porn of your trauma because it helps me,” with no regard to how triggering or upsetting that may be to them.
+The point of the above: asking that we allow survivors to heal at others’ expense, and viciously attacking them for expecting “What about survivors?” to include them — survivors that don’t legitimize your ships or fandom works.
+Upholding coping mechanisms as an absolute good while ignoring how coping mechanisms often manifest as self-harm, especially for survivors.
+Creating an environment for survivors around denying that fact.
+“What about survivors?” Then eye-rolling when anyone says, “Portraying something that has devastated countless lives as the pinnacle of love and/or extremely sexy is wrong.” Somehow, that goes against survivors. Because there are people who romanticized their abuse to cope, from grooming, or as a result of abuse, we should allow the total consensus that abuse is attractive.
+Saying that the statement “abuse should not be romanticized or eroticized in fiction” forces survivors to out themselves. No one asked you to disclose because that statement stands true regardless. Please understand this before you disclose information you are uncomfortable with sharing.
+Saying romanticized and fetishized abuse in fiction can’t be tied to reality because they’re fantasies, then demonizing survivors for not wanting their trauma to be turned into a fantasy. Saying this sentiment is anti-survivor.
+Directly extracting fetish/romance content from real-life abuses and filtering it into a form of entertainment or porn, while swearing it is divorced from its IRL (in real-life) counterpart. Abuse has an IRL precedent that all content of it is working from. That precedent may be your own abuse, notions of abuse you have from media, or what we learn of these subjects as we grow. It could be a combination of the three. Either way, there is no conception of abuse that comes from thin air when it exists so commonly around us to the point of being cultural phenomenon, or even in our own lives. This article has good examples of kinks replicating the power dynamics of society and its abuses, though I am not sure I would say BDSM is inherently harmful.
+Saying poorly-framed abuse in fiction is fine because it doesn’t hurt anyone, then victim-blaming survivors when they explain how it was used to groom them so you don’t have to acknowledge this fiction has hurt people.
+“What about survivors?” in conjunction with the above.
+Calling examples of your fan community hurting people an “agenda.” When someone who lives and breathes a pedophilic ship is outed as a pedophile, you tell antis not to turn it into “anti discourse” because “real people were hurt” when only a moron would be surprised their good friend @LoliconLuvr666 likes children. Victims are not to blame for being deceived. I am criticizing people who build communities around openly enjoying virtual porn of kids, blindly trust them to protect the image of said community, then lash out at people who address the underlying issue when someone gets hurt.
+Asking people to separate the artist from the art when it’s convenient. You ask that we consider the age of consent in different countries when analyzing blatantly pedophilic work in foreign media like anime. Or that we consider survivors, predominantly female genres, and LGBT genres when critiquing such works. You want us to consider the cultural context the artist was raised in, their personal experiences of trauma, gender, and sexuality that shaped their perspective and made their art what it is. Yet, when it comes to the artists’ framing of abuse, now art and artist should be separate. Sure, Jan.
+Minimizing how often abusers are creators who make art that aligns with their values and tastes. See: the correlation between the #metoo #timesup movements outing predatory Hollywood men and the commonly large age gaps between men and women in romance films, every Woody Allen film, the overwhelming amount of sexual violence against women in film & TV, and the age-old misogynist tropes that media keeps framing as romance & true love (stalking, possession, pursuing women after they’ve said no, etc).
+The above in conjunction with defending poorly-framed abuse in fiction by assuming those creators are survivors, or at least posing the question. This effectively shields predators who are not and allows them to get closer to survivors and potential victims. While it’s important to mention that survivors are a part of these communities, it’s crucial to mention that predators are too, without trying to minimize it with “most people aren’t like that” or “it has nothing to do with their interests, though.” If you can’t honor both fiction and reality, you can’t neatly separate the two like you think. That means you have to lie about or deny reality in order to indulge in fiction.
+Treating each of the above cases as isolated events rather than a serious community issue because it reflects badly on the community.
+There are obviously predators in spaces that glorify predation, but you swear the number of bad people must be tiny because everyone is very nice.
+The above in conjunction with “look out for actual signs of someone being predatory, not the media they consume and how they consume it,” said the person who thinks someone is safe because they’re nice. See: abusers are often nice to disarm the victim, and to disarm the community around them to their abuse (environmental grooming). Niceness means nothing.
+Asking people to trust complete strangers who’ve expressed interest in abuse for the sake of portraying the “dark themes” subset of fandom as a safe space separate from real abuse. This would be lovely if you had a way of verifying that the people you interact with aren’t abusing anyone, but you don’t. You’re merely projecting – you give people the benefit of the doubt you wish antis gave you, and to hell with the potential consequences of it.
+Saying you would rather someone consume fictional content than act on their predatory desires. This means you know there are people who have predatory desires within your fandom circles, and you’re fine with that.
+The above in conjunction with again not being able to verify if a stranger on the internet has abused someone, so you’re choosing to trust people who have openly expressed predatory desires because they’re “non-offending,” which you don’t actually know. Amazing how easily predators are trusted.
+The above in conjunction with telling people to look out for actual warning signs when you don’t think people admitting they’re attracted to children is a warning sign as long as they simply say they’re “non-offending.”
ON FICTION AND REALITY
+Saying fiction does not affect reality or the people within it… then explaining how that exact work of fiction helps you, a real person, deal with your trauma — your reality. This article by @theangryvictim discusses a lot of things regarding fandom, but also poignantly discusses fiction as catharsis.
+Refusing to acknowledge that since said portrayal of abuse affects you and your reality positively, it can affect someone else and their reality negatively.
+Using terms like black-and-white thinking, nuance, and complexity in conjunction with the above. If you acknowledge the positive effects of said fiction for you while rabidly denying the negative effects of that fiction on other survivors, you don’t have the right or the range for those terms.
+Knowing fiction helps you deal with your trauma because it portrays that abuse, yet getting angry at anyone saying it portrays that abuse.
+The above in conjunction with vaguely describing what you’re into as “problematic,” “fictional ships you’re uncomfortable with,” “dark themes,” etc. instead of calling it what it is, making people think antis hate fiction being slightly flawed or having anything bad happen ever. Cue the condescending threads on how fiction requires conflict to hold interest, and conflict requires bad things to happen. Thank you for that potent analysis. Truly insightful.
+The above in conjunction with calling racist fiction racism, homophobic fiction homophobia, misogynist fiction misogyny, etc. and never thinking it can’t portray or perpetuate bigotry because it’s fictional. Also, saying antis are coopting these issues because you noticed these are obvious examples of fiction affecting reality, so it’s extreme cognitive dissonance time.
+The above in conjunction with saying that calling works of fiction the abuse they portray diminishes the real-life abuse. This also ties into refusing to acknowledge indirect harm (perpetuating abuse through media) and only caring about direct harm (predators). Both are vital to targeting, attacking, and wearing down any vulnerable group of people. Both matter.
+Thinking the premise of fiction applies uniquely to abuse:
The premise is that none of it is real; this is the unspoken context of all fictional works so that a story can be told in an immersive way. Otherwise, stories would sound like this: “Once upon a time, but not really because this is fake, a man, who’s not really a man because this is fake, walked the earth alone, but he really didn’t because guess what? This is fake! That’s not really Earth!” And so on.
So, we regard fiction as what it portrays without needing to clarify it’s fictional because the medium makes that clear. Saying we can’t regard fictional abuse as abuse betrays the core tenant of fiction itself — that nothing is real, so the content therein represents what it portrays. “It’s not real so I can enjoy this” is an additional layer of justification so you can immerse yourself in a way fiction did not intend — “these bad things are not bad because they’re not real” (BROKE) vs. “fiction portrays both good and bad things, and their inherent qualities are not changed due to the storytelling medium, they are merely represented” (WOKE).
+The above in conjunction with “Fiction vs. reality! Antis can’t differentiate between the two,” when you don’t understand the basic function of fiction.
+Saying fiction doesn’t affect reality in conjunction with “this ship is great representation for [insert marginalized community],” when representation is rooted in fiction affecting reality. There’s no getting around that fact.
+Saying fiction does not affect reality while speaking out against racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism in fiction. Easily being able to explain how those works of fiction affect real people in a tangible way.
+“Fiction does not affect reality” in conjunction with “Fanfiction helped me and many other teens realize and understand our sexuality, and it helped me navigate my shame & confusion.” Be honest with yourself. At least try.
ON SOCIETY & “REAL LIFE”
+“What about violent video games” when we don’t live in a murder-is-okay culture, meanwhile we do live in a rape culture & a pedophilic culture, so the social context murder fiction is created in is different than the social context of abusive fiction. That article I linked to by non. touches on this as well.
+Refusing to reconcile violent video games with their social context so you can strawman. Meaning, do violent video games cause violence? No. Do Americans live in a society that has been violent for centuries, so we consume violence as a form of entertainment due to internalizing it? Yes.
+Refusing to apply the above logic to romanticized & sexualized abuse in fiction. Is that fiction the predecessor to abuse in our society? No. Has abuse been a social norm in our society for centuries, so we consume media that glorifies it without batting an eyelash? Yes (peep the link between rape culture and the eroticized rape of women in media). The role media plays in cultures of violence is reaffirming the status quo rather than challenging it, which helps maintain the status quo. It becomes a violence-affirmation cycle that we perpetuate. This is pointedly different from the view that people absorb all media’s contents, so if they see violence, they’re going to reenact that violence.
+Saying that abuse in fiction helps us tackle abuse as a society by showing what is wrong with our culture and what to fix. If it can help us tackle abuse on a societal level when it’s well done, why can’t it deepen abuse on that same level when it’s badly done? Intellectual dishonesty, anyone?
+Saying we should be concerned with things that are illegal and immoral in real life. Legality is not morality. It was legal for the government to take Native American children away from their families until 1978. The chattel slavery of Black Americans was legal. The Holocaust? Yep, legal. It’s still legal to involuntarily sterilize the mentally ill, the disabled, and women (especially of color). It was legal to torture Black American women, which is how modern gynecology was founded. Sometimes, the laws or lack thereof embody the worst of society, and you just have to use your f*cking brain.
+The PROTECT Act includes “a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting that… depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.” PROTECT stands for “Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today,” not “Useless Revisions to Law for Things That Hurt No One Just to Achieve Moral High Ground.” But that’s not all.
+RE the above: my point is not that law or this revision is perfect. My point is that child exploitation experts — with vast knowledge on what directly causes child sexual abuse, what indirectly perpetuates it, and what creates legal loopholes for pedophiles to operate under — felt that fictional depictions of minors in sexual situations was inextricable from those things, and important enough to prohibit. Are we going to ignore their expertise and paint them as right-wing purity nuts trying to win an internet ship war too?
+There’s an emphasis on antis lacking civility that makes my negro sensibilities tingle. They’re my spider senses for dogwhistles, if you will. One may try to say that calls for civility in the wake of oppression is the issue, and that cannot be applied to fandom… except it can. Bigotry is ever-present in media and fandom, and it is often proliferated in these spaces. Perpetuating the violence-affirmation cycle of rape / pedophilia culture, then asking the affected to be civil in its wake is an equally violent use of civility.
+The above in conjunction with stereotyping antis as violent, even using dogwhistles such as “hostile,” “militant,” and “policing” (courtesy of people like @freetofic). This also makes my negro sensibilities tingle. Also, I find it incredible that “militant” is being used to describe tweets instead of organized extremist violence. When antis do resort to disgusting behavior, it can more accurately be described as cyberbullying. This is social media, not ISIS.
+The above in conjunction with priding yourself on civility, in which moral high ground is a crucial framework. “Calls for moderation and civility… are common in moments of moral and political crisis. But they are not apolitical. They take the focus away from injustice and put it instead on the behavior of those protesting it. This allows critics to adopt a moral high ground as the civil, reasonable ones…” (source) It then sets the stage for demonization.
+Using the ridiculous title “antis” to cover up what we’re against. Makes it easier to attack us without looking bad. It also serves to explain discourse to uninformed people while omitting every detail so they’ll agree. It has the same linguistic function as SJW, setting the tone while obscuring meaning.
+Calling things death threats when they are not. Threats impose violence by creating the fear of personal danger. Whether there was any intent to harm or not, the possibility is there. “Electric chair” and “lethal injection” are not death threats because no one in fandom has the power to carry out a state-sanctioned execution. “Starting a kickstarter to put Lauren Montgomery down,” followed by the benefits of killing her, can absolutely be considered a death threat. Despite the fact that it was a joke, murder is within anyone’s ability to carry out. Conflating all cyberbullying with death threats is an attempt to shed light on serious issues at best, and disingenuous at worst.
+RE the above: harping about antis sending death threats while ignoring the death threats and other threats of violence your subset of fandom sends.
+Thinking that receiving death threats automatically makes you right. If you continue to rally against antis when they receive any threats, then threats don’t become solid proof that your views are correct when it happens to you.
+Claiming that antis as a whole are responsible for the actions of its worst individuals, while treating your worst individuals as isolated incidents so your community isn’t credited with its issues and isn’t held accountable.
+Saying that antis are stopping you from enjoying things as a fan. No one can physically stop you from doing anything, especially not someone who can only access you through social media. No one’s held at gunpoint. You are free to do these things. I am free to think critically on it, point out the greater implications when necessary, consider them red flags, and warn others.
+Demonizing the act of antis warning people about dangerous subsets of fandom , then calling out anti culture — a subset of fandom — and its dangers.
+Saying that antis make it harder to recognize “real” predators when this has always been hard. The internet has made it even harder to recognize and prosecute pedophiles since its conception, you’re just late to the party (“party” being the insidious nature of predators and how the internet facilitates that).
+Accusing antis of caring more about fictional characters and ships than real people while labelling them “anti-shippers” and creating an entire politic around being “pro-ship.” This is caring more about ships than people.
+Demonizing antis for wanting safe spaces while vehemently fighting for your own. You want fiction and fandom to be a safe space for you, for survivors (albeit to a limited extent), and your interests… just like antis do.
ON ANTI-ANTIS / PRO-SHIPPERS
+Coopting another group’s struggle and applying it to yourself to achieve victim status. Here is the fandom definition of purity culture, and here is actual purity culture. Here is the fandom definition of a lynch mob, and here is an actual lynch mob. My point on the use of “militant” is another example.
+The all-or-nothing complaint that you can’t write about abuse at all when asked not to romanticize & eroticize abuse. See: men saying they can’t speak to women at all when asked not to harass them; men saying they can’t have sex with women at all when asked not to assault them. Broad strokes, y’all.
+The all-or-nothing complaint that if you are against poorly-framed abuse in fiction, you want everything to be “good and pure, with no room for the marginalized within or outside of fiction to be flawed, and no room for grey morality.” Apparently, your only options are to either allow everything bad or ban everything that isn’t good. Also, since when is abuse morally grey? Whew.
+The above in conjunction with accusing antis of black-and-white thinking.
+Thinking that treating survivors the same way we treat marginalized groups RE: fiction is “evangelical” and “conservative,” when the institutional, systemic, and social treatment of survivors shows they are marginalized.
We can all understand the difference between a blatantly racist work of fiction, and a Black creator holding no punches when depicting the reality of racism in their art. We understand the author’s identity changes the effect of a work; a White person portraying blackface vs. a Black person portraying it will never be the same. We understand that “stop making racist films / TV shows” does not mean “stop portraying racism in media for any reason ever.” We don’t say that being anti-racist media is being anti-Black just because we like to grapple with racism in our work for awareness and catharsis from generational trauma. Fiction’s ability to highlight repulsive things, cope with traumatic realities, and heal deep-seated wounds is not unique to abuse. Stop presenting these ideas in the context of abuse as some brand new phenomenon to justify special rules for it.
+Knowing sexual violence is inherently tied to social inequality, as it has a heavy presence in every axis of oppression and human atrocity ever, and still demanding sex/kink to be divorced from politics for the sake of your orgasm. No, sex and sexual violence are not the same thing. Yes, sexual violence and oppression shape social opinions of sex and sexuality. Asian fetishism, the hyper-sexualization of Black men, gay men being stereotyped as pedophiles, trans women being stereotyped as predators, BDSM having anything from slave auctions and Nazi “kinks” to suspension & whipping (this is a chattel slavery tradition). I could go on, but you get it. The personal is political.
+Thinking “dark themes” must be romanticized and sexualized abuse. It couldn’t possibly be abuse framed properly and handled with care in fiction.
+Being against censorship in its entirety, even when what’s being censored perpetuates both indirect and direct harm onto a certain group of people.
+Genuinely believing the internet can be a safe, controlled environment just using a tagging system. There are definitely people who seek out content they hate as an obsession or form of self-harm. However, it’s unfair to say I can curate a website in its entirety, so if I see anything triggering, I sought it out.
+Viewing fanfiction as educational for minors, yet not realizing that if kids directly learn from fan works, that is another example of fiction affecting reality, and the content in those works must be approached with care.
+Building your politics around the fact that it’s just fiction, knowing you’re about to explain why you wouldn’t be mad at that abuse in real life. This happens so often that I’m dedicating a list to these defenses below.
GASLIGHTING 101: IT’S JUST FICTION, AND I DON’T SUPPORT THIS… ANYWAY, THIS IS OKAY IRL, SO IT’S OKAY IN FICTION TOO!
The following points are commonly made in fandom to defend portrayals of abuse they would never condone. Actual predators say these things to groom victims and defend their abuse, so once these statements are made, I’m out.
+“The age of consent in Japan is 13,” throwing a whole country of children and survivors under the bus, as well as painting Japan as generally pedophilic.
+“Pedophilia is prepubescent children age 14 or younger.” Then why use a 13-year-old age of consent as a defense? It’s almost like you never cared.
+“When children hit puberty, they are no longer children,” despite many kids reaching puberty under the age of 13. Marginalized kids reach puberty at a younger age, enabling violence against an already vulnerable group.
+“They’re adopted siblings/step-family, so they’re not actually related.” So adoptive parents who can’t conceive can never have a real family, then? Adopted kids don’t really have parents? Adoption is second to biology when many people’s biological parents are abusive, neglectful, or deceased and their only shot at a family is adoption? Gotcha. Also, plenty of incest laws explicitly include adoption in the United States and in other countries.
+“Sexual abuse is bad because it lacks consent. If the minor consents, it is not abuse.” Too bad minors can’t consent to significantly older adults due to the power dynamics from developmental differences. Age of consent laws exist to stop a 17 & 19 year-old relationship being criminalized, or to avoid labelling a 16 & 18 year-old relationship as statutory rape when the older person turned 18 while they were dating. They are meant to make sure teen relationships with their peers are legally protected, not to protect pedophilia.
+“Viewing teens as kids infantilizes them.” You want them to be old enough to sexualize while telling bothered teens to “do their homework.” Whether adults dismiss or invoke their childhood depends on what they want kids to be at the moment— entertainment, convenience, or silence.
+“Teenagers have sex. Being against portraying that in fiction is being against sex as a whole.” They sure do have sex, but if your account is marked 18+ and bars minors, that portrayal isn’t for them. It’s for the titillation of adults. Being against this is not anti-sex, it’s common sense. I’m not saying to let kids in. I’m asking you to be honest about who and what your gratuitous porn is for. The characters aren’t sentient beings anyway. Arguing for their nonexistent sexual urges reminds me of men saying their busty female characters they designed have their tits out to exercise bodily autonomy. LOL
+“16/17 year-olds are old enough to do adult things like driving and making their own decisions, so they can date adults.” Ability is not adulthood. That infantilizes disabled folks and allows adults to justify dating kids by arbitrarily defining adulthood using other markers than development.
+“They’re mature for their age.” There needs to be a pedophilia watchdog that barks loudly at this statement, similar to the racism watchdog. Woof.
+“They don’t look like a child, so it only makes sense not to treat them like one. Why would I?” Because they are one. Woof.
+“My dad married my mom when he was 28 and she was 18 after dating for a year, and they’re doing just fine.” Woof.
+“Pedophilia and ephebophilia are two different things.” The insistent parsing of pedophilia and ephebophilia is a tactic used by actual predators to attempt lessening the severity of their actions. Using a word that invokes no social, legal, or cultural awareness is a mask for their behavior. Also, I have to wonder why we don’t split hairs with hebephilia. It seems trivial to say that once a child hits puberty, their assault has to be called hebephilia or it hurts CSA (child sexual abuse) survivors when that child could be 10 years-old, but we are expected to do the same with ephebophilia. The terminology isn’t the concern, really. It’s that plenty of people who can’t justify sexualizing young children find it acceptable to sexualize teenagers and want to differentiate it.
All of the above are examples of hiding your real views behind fiction and gaslighting people into thinking you would never condone that in real life. The following points are some honorable mentions I’d like to include.
+“Using the word ‘pedophilia’ outside of its specific definition cheapens the word, and that is actively harmful to survivors.” I disagree. While we are going to be more reviled at, say, a toddler being assaulted rather than a 14 year-old (the younger the child, the angrier we tend to be), both are still pedophilia. Those kids are going to be affected differently because of their age despite being in the same category of abuse. Pedophilia is layered, and you have to contextualize it, not create a different label for every nuance.
Furthermore, terminology is no substitute for education. Recognizing older and younger CSA survivors under one term is not why pedophilia is misunderstood and disregarded. Currently, “pedophilia” and “CSA” are almost synonymous in popular usage. If CSA wasn’t socially acceptable, giving that definition to the word “pedophilia” wouldn’t have a negative effect. So, if you feel like pedophilia is undermined by this conflation, the real work starts with challenging social perceptions of child sexual assault, not with semantics.
+“Pedophilia is a mental illness.” You’re missing a key factor: psychologists cite that sexual paraphilia must genuinely distress that person in order to be a mental illness, so most people’s atypical sexual desires are not a disorder.
+Upholding the DSM as something that is always indisputably correct when being gay and transgender were classified as illnesses and later removed because they were wrong. Science isn’t always unequivocally right.
+“Certain things can be used to hurt others, but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently abusive/harmful. Almost everything has been bastardized or manipulated to hurt someone else.” While some things are fine and they’re merely distorted to weaponize against someone else, some things just are inherently damaging, including any form of abuse and any media that uncritically glorifies abuse for entertainment. Not everything is complex.
WHAT I HOPE NO ONE DOES, BUT EXPECT NONETHELESS
+Whittling this list down to ship/fan wars because ironically, engaging with this content guilt-free requires a severe dissociation from the content and its greater impact on the people that view and/or are portrayed by it.
+Whittling this list down to hating women because caring about children, survivors, and how media perpetuates cultures of abuse is misogynist.
+Whittling this list down to hating the LGBT community. What better way to support a group stigmatized as predators than defend fandom subsets that perpetuate pedophilic, incestuous, rape-y ideology and call it progressive as long as it’s gay? This definitely isn’t setting us back a few decades (sarcasm)!
+Whittling this list down to the media alone having a negative social effect. At this point, the associated community itself is equally harmful.
AN HONORABLE MENTION
+A Taiwanese fanartist received needles in homemade cookies from a fan. This happened at a con in Taiwan, yet people conveniently place the blame on Western antis. They jumped to the conclusion that this is because of her Sans/Frisk art without knowing. The people who popularized this theory admitted they don’t know why the artist was attacked and they are literally assuming. ( screenie 1, screenie 2 | source, source) Everyone who says the culprit is a minor from the Undertale fandom who hated the ship cannot link you to where they got this idea from because it’s just that — an idea. Now it’s become false “proof” that if you’re an anti, you condone attempted murder.
Here’s the thing: you can make your own list of things that antis have done wrong and the resulting harm. They aren’t perfect, and I have my own gripes about the culture as well. But can you do it without doing any of the harmful things in this list? Furthermore, without deflecting to what antis have done wrong, shifting blame, or treating core issues as isolated events, can you simply address the issues within your community? Can you acknowledge that you have community issues to begin with? Then — and here’s the tough part — can you reconcile those issues with your desire to engage with such content uncritically? Additionally, can you accept that being aware and critical doesn’t solve every problem? Most people have the foresight to know this final step is the logical conclusion, so they forfeit accountability for the sake of enjoyment and/or healing. Then, the gaslighting, the bullying, and the slander ensues.
I’m not here to be proven right or wrong. You don’t have to prove yourself to me. I’m not fighting a fan war or rallying behind a ship. I ask that you care about survivors like you say you do and stop privileging some over others at their expense. I ask that you be honest with others and, most importantly, with yourself. I ask you to stop the perpetuation & normalization of abuse, as well as the gaslighting. I ask that you stop comparing marginalized people to their oppressors while utilizing the tactics of those oppressors when it’s convenient. Think just as critically about the fiction you consume and your fandom subculture as you do about the anti subculture. Stop basing your politics around ships. Start thinking about real people beyond shippers, beyond survivors that like your ships or similar content; this centers the fiction, not the people. “Beyond” is not at the exclusion of, it is in addition to.
It’s important to note that not everyone who is “pro-ship” does every thing on this list. This subculture of fandom is filled with various types of people. There are predators with a personal investment in their values (or lack thereof) being portrayed positively, and survivors looking for catharsis and community. There are right-wing redditors and 4channers who don’t care about abuse or bigotry at all, and the average person who doesn’t get why any of this matters because we’re all just having fun. There are very extreme fans mapping every form of social justice rhetoric onto anti culture that they can to posit it as a power structure, and less informed people who think, “How is art an issue? No child was harmed to create this.” Everyone isn’t malicious.
Beneath the vitriol, this discussion is as much intracommunity dialogue between survivors as it is general discourse. Disagreement comes with the territory. Not everyone agreed on things we see as clear-cut today, like blackface and Nabokov’s Lolita (I might write about both in-depth another day). But one thing is clear: when you couldn’t reach a consensus on whether something should stay or go because it had both positive and negative aspects, you considered impact. Who was being helped, and who was being hurt? Then, can we — should we — ignore the damage being done in favor of the benefits? History says no. History also says we like to ignore it and inevitably repeat it, causing damage that could’ve been avoided had we just learned.
RE the claim antis are repurposing TERF ideology: Wrong! The epiphany that fictional media affects reality first came into collective consciousness through blackface. Over 180 years of blackface characters in entertainment media, and antiblackness is now ingrained in American pop culture, as well as worldwide. This epiphany then extended to general portrayals of black people and other minorities in media. And with accidental blunders like Lolita, a fictional novel recounting the sexual assault of a young girl through her abuser’s perspective, this media-reality connection extended to portrayals of sexual assault in media, particularly its framing. Sorry, this didn’t come from radfem, anti-kink, Christian purity movements online in the 2000s. Pre-existing biases set the tone for inflammatory or poorly-framed fiction to be made & to reaffirm those biases. There’s almost two centuries of proof.
RE Lolita: It’s meant to highlight the reality of child sexual abuse and deconstruct pedophilia by focusing on Humbert’s distorted views of Dolores. Unfortunately, framing determines how readers internalize a story, and the author made a mistake by expecting most people to understand or agree that framing Dolores as a seductress was wrong. The interesting thing about Lolita is that it does prove that everyone who creates fiction about pedophilia is not a pedophile. It also proves that you can be well-meaning, but if framed badly, the fiction you create can have tangible effects on real people. Finally, it proves that people with pedophilic inclinations and their apologists will sympathize with fictional pedophiles as a reader; creators could, too. So, it is understandable and even necessary to regard how people interact with fiction, both the messages they extract from and/or insert into it, as red flags.
RE complicity: Antis are people who recognize how media in all its forms, large or small in reach, can harm real people, and focus on how that applies to all forms of abuse. There is overlap between antis and SJWs: people who are against racism, misogyny, homophobia, and all other forms of bigotry. This is because the online discussion of media’s impact on reality first became popularized from racism and misogyny in high fantasy. These groups are people who are marginalized due to race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. They are people who have survived trauma that our society affirms in the legal system, institutionally, and in media. We are not perfect, but we are not in a position of power that can adopt the concept of complicity as it applies to power structures like whiteness. Indict us all in the damaging actions of a few to dismiss the cause, and it contributes to a tangible harm that’s been centuries in the making, only under a newer, “progressive” name.