After watching this video from an adult fanfic reader critiquing the mainstream porn industry, I initially posted this response to Facebook, but on later reflection, I decided that this blog may be a more appropriate venue in which to vent. Of course, the link will be shared to Facebook, so I’m not really sure what difference it makes, but it is what it is.
So, at first viewing, I was all “YEAH!” and “PREACH ON, SISTER!” I can totally understand preferring to read about characters you feel you have some kind if intimate connection to, people you care about to want to know what they do next and why. And it’s no joke that the porn industry has given us all kinds of unrealistic ideas about sex.
But then a couple of things occurred to me.
First, she’s talking about Harry Potter. Harry. Freaking. Potter. They’re teenagers. Okay, maybe some people are reading about older characters like Snape and Dumbledore or whatever…but how many aren’t? I can’t help but point out that conventional porn involving adolescents is illegal in this country. How does taking erotica featuring adolescents and putting it on fanfiction.net legitimize it? I guess it’s okay to fantasize about teenagers if you *are* a teenager…but I’m betting that quite a few people who read and write NC-17 Harry Potter fic are over 18. For one thing, NC-17 by its definition means you’re not supposed to be viewing it unless you are an adult. So…ew. Better to stick with reading and writing about consenting adults.
But that brings me to my second point: even stuff about consenting adults is problematic. Let’s talk about that 50 Shades of Grey mess that started out a Twilight fanfic. I never read the original. I’ve never read the Twilight books or seen the films. I know that the Twilight source material is meant to be young adult, but I don’t know how old the characters are. By the time they’re reinvented – er, renamed – for 50 Shades, everyone involved is over 18. So, okay.
Except….what this thing passes off as a BDSM relationship is actually an abusive relationship. (Read here for just one sampling of what’s wrong with this mess: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carey-purcell/fifty-shades-of-grey-feminism_b_2395932.html) And though I never read the original fanfic travesty that gave birth to this thing, I can tell you that the amateurish handling of the sex in that book wasn’t changed from the original, because entirely too much adult fanfic reads that same way. What you have there is the product of fantasy and an author trying too hard to make it “hot,” not the product of experience or research. How can I tell? Because even the BDSM community calls b.s. on this book. (Read this for more about that: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/aug/25/fifty-shades-submissive-sophie-morgan) So again, fanfic fails to deliver on that “more realistic than mainstream porn” thing, to the point of perpetuating misconceptions and being dangerous.
Furthermore, I was at the movies last weekend and I saw a preview for the film adaptation of 50 Shades. The release date? VALENTINE’S DAY. So now abuse can be even MORE romantic. How ’bout that????
Not all fanfic out there is like that. As with all things, some of it is better than others, and “better” is often in the eye of the beholder. The vast majority of it isn’t even erotica. And among the NC-17 stuff, some of it is well-written and demonstrates what, by modern standards, is a healthy sexual attitude among consenting adults.
So while I agree with the critique of mainstream porn, I’m not sure that Harry Potter was the best example to use while making that argument. A lot of the erotica in fanfic is the way it is *because* of mainstream porn – sex is personal and it’s still hard to talk about in a lot of ways for a lot of people, so porn often becomes the default barometer for how sex works. Much of what this young lady has been reading was probably inspired by that which she is criticizing.
(Video is NSFW.)