I’m going to start by saying this is not my area of expertise and there’s a bunch of other people who can flesh out this topic a LOT better than I can. But they’re not here because this is my personal blog and I get to ramble about my very not-expert opinion. Yay! I’m going to be mentioning some heavy topics by name only like “child porn” and “pedophilia” but there will be absolutely no details, no graphic descriptions. I also talk about my own gender dysphoria. That being said, you will absolutely not hurt my feelings if you peace out now. Thank you for making passed the title.
On Twitter I use the muted words function to block two kinds of topics, red-hat conservatives and anti discourse. Anti is short for anti-shipping and is a catch all term for people who are against “problematic” fictional ships and “problematic” fictional content. This is a very decisive topic that will add to you a dozen different block lists faster than any other topic I’ve come across no matter what side of the argument you fall on. The term “problematic” is problematic (lol) because that’s like trying to define what is “moral” without the conversation spiraling down to “it’s whatever I say it is”.
I admittedly use the word “problematic” a lot because it’s so vague. I use it as a way to ease people into what I hope will be a productive discussion. It’s my way of saying “I’m not saying your wrong [yet], I just have one or two minor [glaringly huge] issues with your argument that I need you to clear up for me.” If you saw my post about bi-lesbian discourse, I said calling nonbinary folks “woman-alined” as a generalization was “problematic” because binary folks were using it to blaketly describing other people’s genders which is totally different situation from nonbinary folks using the term to describe their own gender experiance. Telling people they’re “wrong” just makes them mad and shuts down the conversation while saying specifically X is “problematic” seems to just make them cautious and keeps the conversarion going.
“Problematic” content in fanfiction and fanart includes, but is not limited to, rape, abuse, incest, underage sex, bdsm, kink and fetishes primarily in fanworks but doesn’t generally seem to include general violence, guns/weapons, bullying, death-threats or telling people to kill themselves. It’s not a matter of “this is nsfw content, it shouldn’t be easy to access” it’s “this content is immoral and shouldn’t even exist”. It’s for that reason that opponents have dubbed anti rhetoric “purity culture” because they’re trying to police the fandom experience to only include wholesome and acceptable content because they’re trying to “protect women” and are “thinking of the children”.
The obvious question is it’s fiction, and not just any fiction it’s fanfiction, it’s not real, so why do you care. My question is why does your version of morality hyper focus on sexual content without mentioning also violence or harassment in fiction as “problematic”? The answer apparently is, “if you enjoy this problematic fictional content, then you condone it in real life” which is total bullshit. This is the point where I get added to 20 blocklists, but I’m saying it- it’s bullshit.
Apparently a ton of people had a media studies intro class as a prerequisite in college because they’re all quoting from the same quizlet study guide page to support their argument. Seriously, I’ve been told to “just take a media studies class” and I would “know” that “art affects reality” and “media affects how you think”. I’m going to take a moment to explain that “just take x class” is one of my berserk buttons. The conversation is over the minute somebody whips that line out.
[rant] It’s classist bullshit and lazy because that says that you can’t even defend your own argument so you’re going to tell your opponent to “take a class” on it. Oh, sure, I’ll “just take a class” if you’re willing to shell out the cost for tuition, cost for text books, cost for transportation, and pay me for the loss of wages because I wouldn’t be available to work full-time. I’ll take any class you want if you’re the one paying for it. I’m pretty cheap. Now lets see you also shell out for childcare for the next person you harass with with that line. [/rant]
Like I said, berserk button. I had to get that triad off my chest before getting back on topic:
“Art affects reality” is a little too reminiscent of my favorite topic to bash on- linguistic relativity. Where experts find tiny traces of “significant” statistical data that while interesting, doesn’t actually prove anything. It’s the whole “violent video games are the cause for violent crimes” argument all over again except instead of violence it’s sexual content. It doesn’t matter how many spite-fics I read, I’m never going to think that non-con and abuse is okay. It doesn’t matter how many Hannibal episodes I watch, I’m still going to be eating mostly plant based foods. I just think “eat the rich” is a funny meme, I don’t mean it literally. But the thing is, I’m an adult. I don’t expect children and teens to have a solid grasp of reality yet and I am 110% for setting stronger boundaries so that nsfw and adult content stays out of underage hands.
So, underneath all the mudslinging and calling your opponents “pedos” and “predators” for shipping Thorki, what is the actual debate? There really is a super real problem and that is that adult content and nsfw content is created by the same artists and is being shared in the same spaces as general content and sfw content and the real question is how to you fix that very real, very serious issue? Antis want to ban all nsfw content…and have the artists, writers, and consumers arrested for being “pedos”. Which is a big yikes. Several folks have been pointing out how similar anti discourse is to Evangelical and fundamental Christian rhetoric.
I’m very leery of people who throw out the accusation of “pedo” like it’s nothing because it’s historically been used to attack LGBT and it is still used by homophobes and TERFs to target trans folks. Do “Bathroom Bills” any bells? The most frustrating part is I see queer activists on Twitter retweeting purity discourse (i.e recycled homophobe/TERFs tactics wrapped up in a shiny “think of the [queer] children!” bow) and I can’t deal. If I blocked every anti I came across I would have to unfollow a whole bunch of people I consider part of my online queer community. I hate to bury my head in the sand, but the mute words function on Twitter is a beautiful thing. I know they still Tweet about it, but this way I don’t have to see it. Usually.
Sometimes purity discourse does sneak into my feed. The other day someone was complaining about how the #4 video on PornHub was torture porn and there was no way anyone would ever consent to that. That sparked out rage from folks to defend the BDSM community, which is nice to see because LGBT kink groups are a vulnerable target for conservative and religious groups and purity discoursers who like to scream “pedos” first and ask questions later. My problem with the whole argument was if it’s the #4 most watched video on PH (and forgive me for not verifying this because it’s definitely not my area), then chances are it wasn’t shot with a cellphone in somebody’s basement. This is me drawing huge inference because I’m not actually comfortable going looking up the video, but for a video that “good” you’d need a lighting guy, a sound guy, probably a script, and a video editor at least and if the budget allows for it a studio, a camera crew, and multiple takes. She’s a (very young) actress getting paid to play a film role. If she’s not being paid or if any part of the setup is unsafe that’s a worker’s rights issue, that’s an industry oversight issue. Let porn actors unionize, have better industry standards and make it easier for victims to report abuse without being forced to relive their trauma. (See: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford)
Folks who are actively opposing anti discourse consist of a mix of actual media studies people who made it passed the media studies intro class and are trying to gather data (which is a struggle for similar reasons to why it’s a struggle to gather data on linguistic relativity), censorship opponents and critics, and confused adults (like me!) who recognize there’s definitely a problem but aren’t sure how to approach it. The commonly cited “parents just need to do better!” argument is actually pretty weak because it’s classist. Not every parent can a) afford to monitor their kid’s internet us 100% of the time, b) even knows how technology and the internet work and/or c) probably think parental controls actually do something. Yes, some parents probably could do better with establishing reasonable boundaries but it’s not entirely on them and tech companies could do a HELL of a lot better and have a wider impact than individual parents.
As I said, I prefer to mute the whole thing because some antis will gang up on people, harass them, doxx them, and be general horrible humans because (like radfems, red-hat conservatives, and ace-exlusionists), they can excuse telling people to kill themselves and organize mass harassment campaigns because they have the “moral high ground”. Same shit. Different day, different target. My (uninformed) opinion was originally that it is logistically impossible (if you’ve read my other two latest posts, are you sensing a theme yet?) to ban all “problematic content” from the internet because there’s too much wiggle room on what was considered “problematic” (and all too often LGBTQIA content is labeled as “problematic”). The easiest method is you have adult content and you have general content; you have legal content and illegal content. Boom, boom. First of all set reasonable boundaries so that there’s actual adults spaces and definite general spaces.
Okay, yeah, good luck with that first one unless tech companies want to make it a mission. Individual artists have made a solid effort to make clearly outlined adult spaces. They use invite-only accounts, list content warnings, use cropped previews so that you have to actually click on something before you view the content and it’s amazing! I love content warnings! I’m an aromantic asexual and content warnings allow me to pick and choose what nsfw content I want to interact with without blocking all nsfw content. It becomes my choice, as in I get to consent if I want to view or interact with specific content which is a nice change from “All LGBTQIA is mature content, but anything straight is totally fine so we’re going to find a way to stick straight romance and sex in every media form possible regardless if the story needs it or not”. Bleh. When I get to have a choice of what type of content I want to interact with, whether it’s nsfw, sfw, gen, adult, romantic, non-romantic, violent, or wholesome is an amazing feeling and it absolutely sucks when purity-pushers ruin that for me.
A common tactic used by anti and purity harassment campaigns is to remove (i.e steal) nsfw content from its designated space and repost it in general space without content warnings to whip people up into a “oh my god! think of the children!” mob mentality and it’s horrible because I did not consent to being shown that content and suddenly it pops up in my feed. Recently some antis stole some a graphic image of Steve/Tony mpreg and reposted it in general space without content warnings of “graphic birth”. ick.
I’m an AFaB nonbinary person and anything related to birth is going to trigger my dysphoria. I have my GP do all my “wellness exams” because I can’t even be in a gyno’s office because of the diagrams and models they have in the examination rooms and the last time I was in a gyno’s examination room I overheard the office gossip and they were being way too descriptive. It was awful and I haven’t been to a gyno’s office since. You can probably imagine how upset I was when some asshole reposts stolen art for the shock value and the mob mentality kicked in. People kept quote tweeting it without adding content warnings so it kept showing up in my feed and I had no way to block it. My ability to choose got taken away from me and it’s not the artists fault; It’s the fault of the assholes who posted it for shock value and took away my ability to say “no”. Taking away my ability to consent and triggering my dysphoria is not justifiable in the fight for “good morals”.
Honestly it really should be much easier than it is to report illegal content and harassment (remember harassment is honest to goodness actually illegal) to authorities. We should be holding tech companies more accountable for their part in making the internet a free-for-all. Obviously the content antis steal and repost isn’t actually illegal or else they would get into serious trouble for reposting it. The asexual community has had a problem for far longer than I’ve been apart of it of trying to create their own space, group chat, or whatever and then have a bunch of acephobes spamming the space with porn pretty much constantly and in general the harassment is ignored because we somehow “deserve” to be harassed because “not wanting sex isn’t oppression” in acephobe logic. There really needs to be swifter response to harassment reports especially since a lot of asexual spaces are supposed to be a safe space for minors. It’s funny how people will dogpile on someone for liking problematic fanworks or porn, but when asexuals raise alarm bells about people flooding their spaces with unsolicited porn it’s crickets from the masses. I will never understand people who’s moral compass is based on valuing fictional characters over real people.
If antis and purity culture people really cared about “problematic” content they would be targeting published horror, suspense, and mystery fiction writers. Obviously antis can’t bully big name people Stephen King, so instead antis focus on small time fan writers and artists and shame their fans for interacting with the art. No matter how many times antis claim it’s their mission to “protect women and children” it’s women writers and writers of color who are hurt the most by purity culture. Censorship always favors those already in power instead of actual groups who are vulnerable to abuse. Antis seem to ignore that fact. So, in a nut shell anti discourse is obviously another case of just a bunch of bullies finding an acceptable target and are just rehashing old arguments. Same shit, different day different target. This is where I would have finished this long ramble except OH MY GOD THIS VICE ARTICLE
Canada is not currently among the countries that imprison writers based on their published works. But that may be about to change. Last April, Quebec author Yvan Godbout and his publisher Nycolas Doucet were charged with producing and distributing child pornography. The charges against them stem from a single paragraph in one of Godbout’s novels, a dark retelling of Hansel and Gretel, in which a father sexually assaults his daughter. Godbout and Doucet were arrested in March 2019, after a reader came upon the passage and called the authorities. The work was not marketed to children, contains no explicit visual images, a content warning was printed on the back, and the scene is meant to be horrifying, not erotic.
Okay, so anti discourse and purity discourse might be something worth thinking about a little more seriously. I’m a queer author and I’m now terrified. It’s worth asking now who gets to decide what is “problematic” and what the consequences of that might be. Why is it only sexual situations are demonized and not violence? Why was it that one paragraph in his book and not the rest of his horror series? Who is it okay to silence when it comes to the question of censorship?