Why I'm Both Anti-Pedophile And Anti-"Anti"

Originally posted on Dreamwidth in 2020.

OK, so I'm going to explain my exact position on antis here, because I'm noticing "people who want to prevent child sexual abuse" and "people who want to be the Fandom Police" both falling under that name.  So let's be 10000% clear. 

My experience of people calling themselves, or others, "antis" is about 90% on Tumblr, not Twitter.  Which means I need to go into some background details.

"Callout culture" took over the younger side of Tumblr like a cancer starting around 2014 or thereabouts.  In "callout culture," you are not allowed to have ever done or said anything Problematic.  Even if you have grown as a person, apologized (a real apology, not an "I'm sorry YOU were offended" non-pology), and taken express measures to avoid doing the Problematic Thing ever again, you are forever Cancelled.  This means that if you are 30 and you did something Problematic at age 14 that's still online somewhere, even if you are absolutely nothing like Teen You and are embarrassed that you even said half the shit you did back then, you are officially Cancelled.  Forever. Because of some random text post you made in 2004 out of ignorance and immaturity.

This has, inevitably, led to the fandom version of purity culture.  "Purity culture," for those who are fortunate enough not to already know, refers to a rather ugly phenomenon in some forms of Evangelical Christianity, in which abstinence before marriage is taken from "something that would be really nice to do" to horrifying extremes.  Little girls, some as young as 5 or 6, dressing up with Daddy to take part in a ceremony in which they pledge to abstain from marriage, sign a contract to that effect, and are then given a "promise ring."  Teens told they are not allowed to do so much as KISS until they've walked down the aisle.  Parents selecting men for their teen daughters to "court," always under their supervision, and then marrying one of them to her after she and the young man have known each other for maybe two weeks, to make ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY CERTAIN that the girl has never done anything that could be remotely construed as being within 1000 miles of "sexual" before marriage.  It's ugly, and it's all a direct result of the idea that "Sex before marriage is always bad" being taken to the extreme of "Kissing, holding hands, or feeling like you're in love with someone other than your spouse is also always bad, so we need to prevent our daughters from falling in love until they get married."

Fandom purity culture also takes things to extremes.  To wit:  it is undeniable that when mass media continually pushes a certain message, that message is quickly and easily internalized by the people who consume it.  It is also undeniable that kids do the things they see modelled as "accceptable behavior" by the people around them.  Therefore (some people claim), any story that even DEPICTS abuse of any kind, at all, will make people into abusers and set them up to be abused in exactly the way they've read about.  Inevitably.  Furthermore, anyone who writes fiction about anything wants that exact thing to happen to people in real life.

The fact that imaginary characters, being imaginary, cannot feel pain or have PTSD, or that their arguments basically imply that Steven King and Agatha Christie were mass-murderers for writing horror stories, are beside the point.  The fact that fanfiction is written mostly by us queer folks, most of whom are also women or AFAB non-women, with ZERO corporate sponsorship or advertising budget, and thus reaches less than 100 people on average; and thus cannot possibly have nearly as much effect on culture as mass media that is aggressively marketed globally and seen by millions, if not BILLIONS of people?  Also beside the point.

I once agreed that the relationship dynamic of Reylo stories set just after TFA was probably abusive, in the context of a story in which Kylo Ren was still very much an Evil Asshole, just as he was in canon at that point.  I didn't realize that the people making this argument were trying to argue that those stories should therefore not exist, but judging by the sheer level of harassment Reylo fans get, that is exactly what they were arguing.  I don't ship Reylo, but I have never seen anything wrong with a person shipping whomever the hell they want to ship.

I have an online friend whom I've known for years.  Let's call them "ArtFriend," for convenience.  They draw some really nice fanart and post it on AO3.  They also draw a lot of smut, but only ever of characters who are:

1. FICTIONAL (and thus unable to be harmed), and also
2. Adults.

A lot of those pics are of some very popular slash pairings within their respective fandoms.  One or two are of rape of an ADULT by another ADULT, in a context that makes it clear that while the characters' culture might see rape as NBD, it's actually violent and traumatizing.  A handful of them are of FICTIONAL ADULT CHARACTERS having CONSENSUAL incest.  Again, no children are ever depicted sexually in ANY of ArtFriend's art, and all characters are FICTIONAL and thus cannot be harmed.  Also, ArtFriend tags every single thing that could possibly disturb or offend anyone about their art.  A depiction of abuse?  Tagged as the specific type of abuse that it is.  A picture of some foot action?  Tagged as "Foot Fetish" so non-fetishists don't have to see it.  Incest?  You bet your ASS it's tagged, warned for in the description, and is even all segregated to its own separate corner of ArtFriend's AO3 page because they know that a lot of people are gonna want to avoid that shit.

Pedo/shota/loli?  NONEXISTANT.

ArtFriend has a son, and occasionally draws family-friendly fanart for him, which they also post to AO3.  When ArtFriend mentions that something was inspired or suggested by their son, they also point out that NO, the kid is never allowed to look at any of the adult content that ArtFriend creates, because he's too young for that shit; he only got to look at this clean artwork that ArtFriend made for him.

ArtFriend has stated in their profile that while they're willing to draw commissions or trades for people, "I will NOT draw shota/loli.  EVER," and has specifically stated the fact that they are a parent as the reason that they will block you if you try to request it.  If someone that ArtFriend knows or suspects is underage requests pornographic fanart, they refuse to draw it for them.  ArtFriend has a Discord server, in which they are careful to keep all sexy talk in the NSFW channels, which are all off-limits to users under 18, because if an underage fan wants to chat with them on Discord and hang on their server, they don't want to warp the kid's mind.

ArtFriend is, in short, EXTREMELY careful not only to avoid doing wrong, but to avoid even the appearance of doing anything inappropriate with kids or teens.

Someone accused ArtFriend of grooming, if not outright molesting, their son because they drew IMAGINARY, fictional characters, who were also brothers, Doing It.  This accuser also took ArtFriend's offhand comments about incest ships out of context to imply that ArtFriend also totally loves for kids to get molested by relatives.  They got ArtFriend swamped with horrible messages telling ArtFriend to commit suicide, that ArtFriend was a monster and deserved to have horrible things done to them, that ArtFriend should be ashamed of being a pedophile (and again, ArtFriend is NOT a pedophile!!), all because ArtFriend drew things in a ship that are harmful when done to REAL PEOPLE, but not harmful to write/draw about fictional people because they are IMAGINARY and thus cannot be hurt.  Things totally and 100% unrelated to child abuse.  The accusers called themselves antis.

I have seen lengthy discussions about how the reason AO3 allows fic about literally ANYthing, is because censorship of fics about Actually-Bad Things To Do To Someone has been used on fansites repeatedly in the past few decades to get G-rated slashfic banned.  I have seen people pointing out that all depictions of things that are frequently triggering, or are harmful to do to people in real life, are required to have content-warning tags on AO3, and that since a website can't control which content visitors choose to look at, the onus is on the reader to block or just plain Not Read things that offend, disgust, or even trigger their PTSD.  And in every one of those discussions, the people who self-identify as, or are identified by their opposition as, "antis," are the ones arguing for censorship of online content and against responsible tagging by creators and responsible browsing by readers.

I have seen self-described "antis" refer to fiction about sexual abuse (even of adults!) as "pedophilia," thus equating fictional stories about imaginary people with the real-life abuse of real, live children.

I have seen self-described "antis" refer to fiction set in a time several years after canon leaves off, that describes the relationships of characters who are still kids during canon but are adults in the time period of the fic, as "pedophilia," thus equating stories about what fictional characters do as adults with the real-life abuse of real, live children.

I have seen this far more often than I have seen the exposure of real, live child molestors by people calling themselves "antis."  In fact, none of the people I've encountered who've exposed real, live child molestors were referring to themselves as "antis" at all.  "Anti-MAP" is the nearest I've seen to describe such people, and since MAP is the way real, live pedophiles euphemistically refer to themselves, it is actually clear what those individuals are actually against.

I have only ever seen the term "anti," as a whole word by itself, used to refer to the people who want to BAN any fic that depicts abuse or even makes them uncomfortable, not to people who are genuinely trying to root out the predators in fandom and protect kids and teens in fandom spaces.

This conflation of writing fiction about Bad Things with either doing or wanting to do those exact same Bad Things to other people makes it hard to sort out which "Problematic fic authors" are actually abusing children, and which ones just wrote a Drarry fic in 2001.  This makes it actually harder to identify predators in fandom than if the antis, and the anti-MAPs, both did nothing at all.

There's an old joke saying that "when everybody's special, no one is."  Well, when everybody's labeled as a pedophile, how will we know to believe you when someone, say, receives a commission from someone they KNOW is underage, of smut of the commissioning child, and doesn't immediately say "What, hell no, there's no way I'm doing that, also you should know that for an adult to draw you ANY kind of porn is a felony?"

Because that happened in the Pokemon fandom recently.  Someone was drawing smut of Pokemon trainers (not the adult ones, the characters who are like 12), presumably not aged up (I have no interest in going through all of this person's Poke-porn, just to find out how old he was drawing them as), and when kids asked him to draw porn of them, HE FUCKING DREW IT, "just to make their parents mad."  That's two felonies, right there:  distribution of pornographic materials to a minor, and creation/distribution of child pornography.  And if I'd seen the callout tweet from some rando, instead of someone I'd met in person and thus knew not to be a whiny kid, I wouldn't have read past "X is a pedophile" to the point where I saw the above details of the accusation, because that is where The Discourse is on the Internet right now.

If you help to expose people who groom children for abuse, and you do your best to protect kids and teens from those predators, then I wholeheartedly support you in that endeavor.  Those people are disgusting and should be kept far away from children and from the more child-heavy social media platforms of Tumblr and Twitter.


If you believe that depicting abuse (of whatever kind) of FICTIONAL characters in FICTION is exactly as bad as hurting real-life people who can actually suffer real-world physical and psychological damage from abuse?  Then you are part of the problem, and you are making it harder to stop the actual predators.  If this is your viewpoint, then I absolutely do not support you.

Because things that are Not Pedophilia, and often aren't even remotely related to pedophilia, are being called "pedophilia," people are being conditioned to IGNORE POSTS that start with "Hey, XYZ is a pedophile."  That is a dangerous trend, and it hurts children.  The only things you should be calling "pedophilia," instead of "depictions of pedophilia," "depictions of abuse," or "fiction that makes me feel bad," are the actual, real-life grooming or abuse of actual, real-life minors.  Don't muddy the rhetorical waters.