Many people have been talking about how the AO3 is basically kind of terrible because of the hands-off approach to archiving and how anything is game on that site.
Many folks having these conversations are focused on criticizing the way that erotic/sexual stories involving underaged characters – either underage in canon and the story or adult in the canon and de-aged for the story (and generally written by adults, let’s be real here) – are super present in the space and how that’s just… not cool to them and probably shouldn’t be a thing we allow in fandom willy nilly.
(Several different people have created posts asking for people to report the site to the FBI because of the prevalence of this content and that’s one of the things other people are bringing up when they go to other people about AO3/fandom being censored/no longer free. I don’t think that’s going to work the way they think it will, but I’m not an expert on reporting websites to the FBI or anything.)
And a lot of people are like shouting censorship, worrying about a nonexistent slippery slope where “women and queer people will have to deal with losing their freedom”/all nsfw content will be shut down and literally saying stuff like “well this may be offensive and it makes me physically sick but i will fight for their right to write it” like I’ve seen at least two authors with a huge fandom presence outside of their own work actually share defenses or or write their own commentary on this content.
And like… my things are:
First: Why are y’all so focused on protecting people’s problematic desires in fandom instead of listening to people who are frustrated or upset by something being regular in fandom?
Next: Why are people acting like underage characters getting boned in fic is like a necessary thing to keep fandom functioning?
(I’m not talking about aging characters up to adulthood or teens writing teenage characters because I think that’s part and parcel of aging in fandom as a creator/consumer, like half the stuff tagged with “Underage” is like… A Lot. And yet folks aren’t allowed to get upset by how prevalent it is and how so much of the stuff tagged with “Underage” on AO3, especially once you set the rating to mature or explicit, is um…obviously for erotic purposes?)
Then there’s that whole “it makes me sick but its their right to create it” nonsense.
If something makes you sick because it’s so offensive and hurtful to you, why are you defending its right to exist in spaces you also exist in? Like there was this Jewish person the other day who actually said to me that:
I’m Jewish, and seeing antisemitic stuff and the word Nazi make me sick to my stomach. But I still think an alt-right extremist has the right to express themselves, even if that means writing horrible stereotypical stuff on Ao3.
IN THEIR APOLOGY TO ME FOR OVERSTEPPING PREVIOUSLY.
(And PLEASE don’t engage with this person. I saw that part of their response and like my soul left my body. I stopped engaging at that. So please, just observe without interacting with them.)
But like… you realize that something is horrifically awful and actively harmful TO YOU and your first instinct is “well they get to say that”?? No they actually don’t and this “well i’m going to defend their right to write awful shit” is how we wound up with all those dapper fucking nazi posts last year.
Oh but I forgot, fandom, reality, and fiction have NOTHING IN COMMON APPARENTLY.
And like, I want to follow this up with like folks are out here like screaming about censorship and rushing to protect the AO3 from those nasty SJWs trying to shut it down and the people going “straight up gut the AO3″ in these convos are the minimum compared to the people going “we would like to know why fandom is like this and we’d also like it to stop being like this”. But even if they weren’t?
Why is it that some women, some queer people, and some trauma survivors are the only people whose desires and trauma matter in these conversations and only when they’re saying that they don’t mind/care?
Also, NONE OF THESE PEOPLE ARE THINKING/TALKING ABOUT RACE AND RACISM IN FANDOM (or any form of bigotry that you can find, unexplored and potentially eroticized in fandom spaces and fan works) but like… Franzeska’s whole racist ass was two years ago and fandom has gotten increasingly racist and hostile towards fans of color that don’t support the happy go lucky, “don’t like don’t read” mentality many folks have fostered.
Lastly, look, I use the AO3 as a reader and have used it as a writer. I’ve written some of the very content that people are really not okay with. I have written fucked up crap to cope and I’ve written fucked up crap because it got someone off.
However, at the end of the day, as much as I hate being told what to do or how to do something because I am a TODDLER, I recognize that even if I’m not sure how I feel about ALL of the conversations happening or how they’re happening, the ONLY people I’m seeing being actually silenced or censored (but like… not because none of this is how censorship works) right now for this specific set of conversations about the AO3 are the ones trying to talk about how fandom is an unsafe space for them and the AO3 isn’t a great place for young fans considering some of the content.
Why does some people’s desire trump like… everyone else’s thoughts about fandom? Why aren’t people interested in talking about the ways desire can be harmful in and out of fandom?
Why aren’t we listening to other people?