I see a lot of posts going around talking about the need to be critical of fanfic, and how we gotta watch out for the messages we’re sending
Well, here’s one thing I’m gonna need us to be critical about:
Every statistic I’ve ever seen says fanfic authors are heavily female (or nb)
And Tumblr, which is a fairly US-centric cross-section of fandom, is filled with this discourse about fanfic writers who create pornography
I need us to stop and think about why we’ve decided that fictional sex is the most damaging thing anyone could ever find on the internet
I need us to think about the culture we live in, which encourages us to be sexually available (to straight men) but punishes us if we (sluts) enjoy it
Because here’s the thing: fanfic is not coming from a position of power and prestige in our society
It is a niche genre primarily written by women, for women, for free
And it is a place where many of us do find power in exploring our own sexuality (or asexuality)
Even when that exploration takes us to gritty, horrifying (or cathartic) places
I’m going to need us to think long and hard about why we’re prioritizing fictional characters over the needs of real women
And I’m going to need it to stop
Fandom purity wank is absolutely about control over women and women’s sexuality. There’s nothing ambiguous about it.
Just think about the hot-button issues in the fannish community, the topics that consistently and reliably get people worked up into a lather, the themes that provoke the nastiest conflicts and inspire the most dedicated resistance movements. Think about the fights that are most likely to spill out over their cyber boundaries and start affecting people in the real world - in public harassment at cons, in doxxing and ‘outing’ to family and employers, in malicious legal allegations.
It’s about sex. It’s always about sex.
From the constant tantrums over ‘problematic’ shipping to the righteous doxxing of ‘pedophiles’ (which in current tumblr parlance means anyone who draws or writes canonically underage characters in romantic or erotic scenarios), fandom’s big efforts at moral reform always seem to revolve around restricting and controlling the sexual expression of the majority-women community. You won’t meet many people who stay up past their bedtime to scream at strangers on the internet about unethical portrayals of non-sexual violence - unless, of course, they suspect the women involved in its creation are getting off on it. You’ll struggle to find an anti blog dedicated to the insidious social ills of torture whump fic, or goopy hurt-comfort where all manner of human suffering is put on display for the viewer’s enjoyment. The purity crew dress up their agenda as a desire for collective self-improvement and raised moral standards, but they don’t seem too worried about aspects of public morality that don’t somehow tie back into sex. What they’re upset about is the same thing conservative minds have been upset about since basically the dawn of time - there are women out there in the world doing icky sex things without the permission of their communities.
And these people, these moral guardians, they’ve gotten really good at couching their fundamentalist views in progressive language. They don’t say ‘you’re to blame if you provoke men to rape’ - they say ‘your fic normalises sexual violence and contributes to rape culture’. They don’t say ‘women ought to be chaste’ - they say ‘your fantasies are socially harmful and you owe it to the world to be more self-critical’. The messages are the same and the desired outcomes are literally identical.
The core assumption underlying all of it - an assumption that I’m sure our puritan forebears would find deeply comforting - is that women’s sexual expression is a matter of public concern, and that women are directly responsible for upholding the moral standards of their communities by restricting themselves to a narrow repertoire of publicly controlled, socially condoned sexual outlets. Anything beyond that repertoire is a grave moral breach.
To anyone who’s reading this - and there’s always a few - thinking, “this is just deflection! [X hot-button topic] is really bad and harmful!’, I’d like to encourage you to sit back for just a moment and think about why it is, exactly, that you feel the best and most important place to wage your war against moral corruption is in one of the only pockets of popular media that women unequivocally control. Of all the spaces in the world where you could be fighting for your view of a better society, you’ve chosen a place where women come together to share the fantasies that mainstream culture refuses to let them indulge. Why?
It’s bible banging bullshit in a progressive mask.