Sexualized Saturdays: Fanfiction, Porn, and the Bigger Story

We here at Lady Geek Girl and Friends have analyzed fanfiction in a number of ways. We have discussed in particular how, despite what some people may believe, fanfiction is not just porn for women. And let me start off by saying I completely and utterly believe that; fanfiction is not just porn for girls. That’s not to say that erotic fanfic, or smutfic, doesn’t exist. And many fanfic readers enjoy reading them (myself included). However, many feminists have praised erotic fanfiction but talk about how evil or wrong live-action porn starring real people is. This attitude often seems to come off as people attacking porn but praising something that is almost exactly the same when it comes to fanfiction. I cannot speak for all women or all feminists, but I can at least talk about my own reasons for preferring erotic fanfiction over pornography. And this YouTube video in particular sums up many of the reasons I prefer fanfiction.

Trigger warning for rape below the jump.

Now let me just be clear here, I have watched porn and even enjoyed porn before, but in recent years I have pulled away from pornography. Regardless, I have always preferred erotic fanfiction to porn. Pornography (and sex work in general) is probably one of the most divisive issues in feminism right now. There are those who despise pornography and think that, no matter what, it is degrading to women and harmful to people of all genders. But then there are others who recognize that pornography is problematic, but believe there is a way that pornography can be done that is empowering. I fall into this camp. If you look for it, you can even find specifically feminist porn sites. However, there are a lot, a lot of issues with pornography. One of the biggest problems with pornography is objectification—taking away from someone what makes them a complex human being and turning them into a receptacle for sexual acts. Porn occasionally tries to have a story and said story usually falls flat—partly because people don’t go to porn for complex plotlines and character development, and partly because the sex is what is important to those writing and filming porn.

Yeah, this is a tough topic so here are some kittens to make you feel better!

Yeah, this is a tough topic so here are some kittens to make you feel better!

Secondly, while porn has improved over the years in making sure that its actors and content are all safe, sane, and consensual, that is not always the case. You only have to look at revenge porn sites to know that everything in pornography is not always done or procured consensually. And while many porn stars have more say in what they do today, they are still often pressured into doing things that they might not want to do. I personally always try to avoid porn that is “reality” based; videos with titles like “girl gets fucked at college frat party” always, always worry me. Because, maybe if it was all acting and fake it wouldn’t be so bad, but many of these sites pride themselves on showing “real events”. I always wonder if the girls and guys were coerced into sex, or if they were too drunk to actually give informed consent. Furthermore, I am concerned that many people in these videos were consensually having sex, but never consented to it being filmed and put on a porn site. Hell, this has happened more than once when it comes to celebrity sex tapes. It is one of my greatest fears that I have watched or will someday watch a person who is actually being raped in pornography, which is one of the major reasons I have moved away from porn. That being said, I do think there is a way porn can be done well. However, I still prefer fanfiction, largely for the reason that Brenna Twophy mentions in her poem in the above video:

I am an unapologetic consumer of
all things Potterotica,
and the sexiest part
is not the way
Cho Chang rides that broomstick,
or the sound of Myrtle moaning,
the sexiest part
is knowing they are part of a bigger story,
that they exist beyond eight minutes in
“Titty Titty Gang Bang,”
that their kegels
are not the strongest thing about them,
and still,
I am told that my porn is unrealistic.

Fanfiction, by its nature, is based on a larger body of work—work in which the characters have lives, interactions, and epic adventures. Romance and sex is something I enjoy reading about in fanfiction. Sometimes I just want to read the smuttiest, kinkiest fanfiction available to me via AO3, but even then, one of the key things I enjoy about erotic fanfiction is that I know these characters are multifaceted and interesting outside of the thousand-some word smutfic that I am reading. It makes me feel significantly more comfortable “knowing” these characters. I like knowing their strength and weakness and complexities outside of their relationships and sex lives. Not all fanfiction is well-written, but even if the author only writes some poorly-thought-out sex, the readers can dismiss it and keep imagining the characters in their original context, at least from their perspective. That’s not to say that erotic fanfiction can’t be just as problematic as pornography. It certainly can, and it is something we have discussed a lot in this column, but I think fanfiction is almost always helped by having outside source material. Porn doesn’t have that option.

Look at the pretty kitties!!

Look at the pretty kitties!! (via forwallpaper)

There is one other element to erotic fanfiction, or just in erotica in general, that tends to make me much more comfortable than porn. It’s that none of the people I am reading about are real. They don’t exist anywhere except on the page and none of them can actually get hurt or be harmed in any way. As I mentioned above, one of the things I most worry about is harm coming to those shown performing in porn. While I am aware that there are people who happily perform in porn, I am all too aware of the issues that still exist in pornography. With fanfiction, I never have to worry about people being harmed. I never have to wonder if the people involved in my erotic fanfiction are actually okay. It’s nice that with erotica, whether it’s of a fanfiction variety or not, I can explore my sexuality and revel in my own desires, without worrying that I am harming someone else.

Fanfiction is not just smutty porn, but even if it was, there is something to be said about women creating something that helps them explore their own sexuality and desires in a way that is safe, not just for them, but others as well.


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2 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: Fanfiction, Porn, and the Bigger Story

  1. I recently found out my 12 year old daughter has been reading lemon fanfics, and what those are. I also know that there are many websites with that type of fanfiction even though when you search for the site, they say these arent allowed. I think that all fanfiction websites should have a age rating, and content filters. My daughters top 3 sites were fanfiction.com, wattpad, and qoutev. It’s disturbing to me how explicit these stories were. They are not mild, they are not all near old enough. If she had to prove she was 18 to even read anything on the site, I wouldn’t be having to have a talk and tell her that true rape never feels good and makes you orgasm, that any family and/or violence is wrong, and age does matter!! Not all of the stories were like that, but enough to have me extremely concerned. And I know that flyers and age limits are not perfect but it would keep from children getting access to things they should not have!

    • Hey, we’re sorry to hear that you’ve had these problems. Fanfiction.net does have an age rating. While explicit NC-17 works are not allowed on that site, they do make it in. All those fics, though, should be rated M for Mature. The site allows filters between K, K+, Teen, and Mature. All K and K+ should have absolutely no overt sexual content, and any sex in the Teen rating should not be explicit.

      There is something you mentioned, however, during your talk with your daughter that I felt would be irresponsible of us not to address.

      “I wouldn’t be having to have a talk and tell her that true rape never feels good and makes you orgasm”

      Physical sensations are involuntary, and that means that more often than not, rape can and will feel pleasant. The idea that rape cannot is one of the many things that allow rapists to get away with their crime—many rapists will purposefully stimulate their victims because they know that the victim’s arousal will make the victim less likely to report the crime and it will make the crime seem consensual in a court of law if they do report.

      The idea that rape cannot make a victim organism or that it’s not a “true rape” can be very harmful for rape victims attempting to come to terms with what happened to them. Rape is rape regardless. Pleasant feelings are not necessarily wanted feelings.

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