Age Statement

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Synonyms: age requirement, age restriction
See also: mailing list, archive, community, zine
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An age statement is a positive affirmation by a fan that they are of a certain age (usually eighteen). Age statements are sometimes required by zine publishers, or by the moderators of a mailing list, community or archive, as a way of keeping underage viewers from accessing adult content. In other cases, the moderators will simply assume that the viewers are of age until proven otherwise (taking the fact that they’re participating as an indirect age statement), or they simply do not mind if adult content is accessed by people under 18.

In the '80s, the phrase Age Statement Required was used as a rating or category, corresponding more or less to adult, or het + K/S.

History of Adult Zine Age Disclaimers

While they didn't use the term "age disclaimer," some early zines practiced the concept. They included statements which alerted fans to "adult concepts," for text rather than images, and were for het content.

An ad for the Star Trek zine, Angry Sunset (1974, reprinted in 1975) in the newsletter STAG #12 was the first UK zine ad with an age statement requirement. An ad for the 1975 reprint [1] read, "This is an ADULT story, and is available to members over the age of 15 ONLY."

An ad for the Star Trek zine, The Night of the Twin Moons (1976) in the newsletter, A Piece of the Action, was the first US zine ad with an age statement requirement. It read, "Not for sale to persons under the age of sixteen."

Explicit art became an issue in 1977 when at SeKWesterCon, Too in 1977, explicit art (nudes) was included in the art show. There was discussion of explicit stories in the panels, and explicit stories were nominated for Fan Q Awards. A fan wrote a vitriolic LoC to Menagerie #12, which was, of course, satirized in issue #13. [2]

R&R, the first zine series to actually label itself adult, brought out its first three issues between SeKWesterCon and SeKWesterCon, Too. This was the first time fans had seen this sort of material in fandom, and some fans had very strong reactions. A few month later, Spectrum #35 covered the pornography controversy:

"Last summer a feud broke out in STrekdom.... The feud was over the issue of pornography and indecency in fanfic. To some people the whole controversy seemed absurd since most people in fandom feel that fans tend to be more open-minded and liberal than the rest of the mundane world.... The height of the debates occurred last summer and early in the fall of 1977. The reason that the pressure died down is due in part... to pressure from STW The Star Trek Welcommittee to keep everyone away from everyone else's throats.""[3]

This led to decisions throughout Trek fandom to label any fanzine with explicit sexual material as such, and not to knowingly sell such material to minors by requiring an age statement for purchase. By a decade later, when the Surak Awards debuted, zines nominated were divided into two categories: "general" (which became gen) and "age statement required".

Two Reasons for the Age Statement (1988)

A fan expresses the opinion that age statements served two functions -- legal and as a gauge of taste. The latter reason is an example of the rise of fans' desire for labeling:

Age statements serve two main purposes. First, they act as insurance for the publisher. In the fabled case of a litigious parent discovering her minor child reading a zine she feels to be pornographic, the existence of that signed age statement offers a first line of defense. Of course 'literary worth' is the main defense against charges of being pornographic, and I'm sure all fan publishers feel what they are printing has value or they would have rejected it to begin with, but realistically, how many would look forward to having to prove that point in court? Which means that for this purpose whether to require an age statement depends on how fearful the publisher is and how she feels about her zine. Just how 'sexy' or 'likely to arouse prurient interests' or "obscene" (depending on one's attitude towards erotica) does she think it is? Given that homophobia is as common as it is, a parent is more likely to be upset by a line such … Kirk's penis being caressed if the partner is Spock rather than Uhura, so probably for the protection of the publisher the 'explicit-ness threshold' should be lower for K/S zines. to serve as a warning flag to prospective buyers, and this is where I feel today's practice is inadequate. If this purchase will be my first exposure to Publisher A's zines, how can I know if her standards mesh with mine? The fact that she's asking for an age statement implies that she thinks some people may be offended by some of the contents, but what yardstick is she applying—and to what type of content? Is the only problem some "blue" language? Nude illustrations? Are there explicit sex scenes? Is there detailed, gory violence? The same person's taste for, and ability to stomach, differing aspects of "adultness" can vary greatly. For example, "language" doesn't bother me and I consider most art and "sex scenes" to be as big a plus as almonds on a Hershey bar, but not those involving sadistically inflicted pain or the rape of a child, and prolonged descriptions of violence or suffering of any type repulses or depresses me. There is no way the publisher can be expected to know my tastes in that detail. But I do. And if she would only offer enough useful information in her flyer her public would be happy to make their own informed decisions. [4]

Examples of Age Statements

Zines

printed in Who You Know, What You Know and How You Know It were some examples of what fans submitted as their age statements, this is just a small sample, click to read.
an example of an age statement request from a flyer for Awakenings

Most zine editors require age statements from fans who want to purchase adult-rated zines. [5] [6]

An example of Bill Hupe's age statement request from a 1995 catalog:

"All adult fanzines require an age statement (a signed note stating that you are over legal age) or a copy of ID with birthdate (please cover the ID# thought!) will suffice; once is enough as we keep this information in your file."

Online Newsletters

  • "From the Big Brother is Watching You Dept.: Is everybody reading this at least the age of 18? We sure hope so. The K/S Press is adult material published only for paid subscribers the age of 18 and over. If you don’t qualify, drop this page like a hot Horta! Or, turn off that computer faster than Jim can wink at Spock. By subscribing to this letterzine, you are telling us you are of legal age to receive it." [7]
  • "Just a reminder that the Censorship Subcommittee of the United Federation of Planets’ Decency in Publications Board has informed us that in order to receive and read this letterzine: YOU MUST BE EIGHTEEN! Over eighteen is also acceptable, although we do not force you to admit to such a harrowing state. But under eighteen is a big no-no, and the Horta’s 27th-great grandmother will eat a hole through your door and give you warts if you persist in reading before you hit the big one-eight." [8]

Awards

In early fan fiction awards (such as the Surak Awards), the categories were often broken down into General and Age Statement Required (today's adult, or maybe today's het + slash).

Mailing Lists

To access online content on mailing lists or password protected archives[9], fans are asked to email their age statement. This can also be a way to keep trolls or sockpuppets out of community spaces. The ScullySlash adults-only mailing list, for instance, states:

An age statement is required, please send an email .... with your age and that you're aware of the adult content of the list and tell us where you heard about the list (this website, a friend, from another list, etc.) [10]

LiveJournal

On LiveJournal and similar social networking sites, fans have the option to list their birthdate in their LJ profile. This may be required by mods of LJ communities where adult content is locked. For instance, on the profile page of the community Harryslash, for slash about Harry Potter, fans are asked to "comment with your age and year of birth or an age statement" and "verify that your year of birth or age statement is visible on your profile",[11] but these additional statements are not always required and the mods often simply take a look at the user’s profile before granting community membership.

Archives

Archives that allow adult content (like Archive of Our Own or AdultFanFiction.Net) or are restricted to adult content only (like the Restricted Section) use different methods to ensure that the adult content is not accessible for minors. To get to the stories on aff.net, you first have to click on “I am 18 years of age or older.“,[12] which leads to a page where you have to enter your birthdate and legal name:

To enter this site, you must certify and affirm, under the penalties of perjury, your actual date of birth in the following Birth Date Verifier™ form:

"I hereby affirm, under the penalties of perjury pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. §1746, that I was born on the following month, day, and year:"

[…]

"I also agree that this transaction is governed by the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act), 15 U.S.C. §7000, et seq"[13]

On the Restricted Section, on the other hand, you have to register in order to have access to the stories, and enter your birthdate as part of the registration process.[14]

Other archives, like the Archive of Our Own, simply remind you again that the story is adult-rated after you click on the link, after which you have to agree that you are willing (or legally allowed) to access the content.

In Other Countries

Germany

Age statements are common in German fandom too, but bigger archives have to deal with some additional requirements. According to German law, it is forbidden to grant minors access to pornographic content and content that is considered obviously harmful to minors. Therefore all archives explicitly forbid such content, but especially with regard to pornographic material the question what is and what isn't pornographic is the matter of some debate. This has led to an extended downtime of YaoiGermany in 2004/2005, after a father alerted jugendschutz.net (the cross-national organization for the protection of minors on the internet, founded by The Youth Ministries of the German Federal States) to the fact that adult stories (explicit but not pornographic) could be accessed by his daughter by simply clicking through the warnings.[15] Given the fact that a high number of authors who post adult stories to the archive are minors themselves, this called for a creative solution. The archive maintainers discussed a number of methods with the authorities to make it more difficult for minors to read the stories and they decided to make them available only between 9pm and 6am, since methods used by other archives were not considered sufficient.[16]

Animexx, on the other hand, used a different method even before this. In order to gain access, the users have to have an account, and they have to verify their age, which they can either do by entering their ID card number (Germany only; every citizen age 16 or older has an ID card), or they can mail the copy of another official document (passport, diver’s license, foreign ID cards).[17]

FanFiktion.de refined this system and combined the two in 2009. They introduced two new ratings (P18-AVL and P18-AVL Slash) and restricted access to those stories to registered users who verified their age (currently only possible for citizens of Germany, Austria and Switzerland) once a month and for unverified (but registered) users between 11pm and 4am.[18]

It should be noted that it is still against the rules of these archives to post pornographic content (as a precaution PWPs are forbidden), because that would only be possible if the sites were restricted to a verified adult membership in their entirety.

Lying About Age

  • In Starsky and Hutch #16: the creator of Forever Autumn writes that she has learned that a “certain person, whose name I will not mention, ordered, paid for, and received a copy of Forever Autumn while under age… CONSIDERABLY under age. I know this was an exception as [F M-K] vetted my sales list and knew most of them. Okay, so FA was mild compared to many of the stories currently circulating: deliberately so as being a) the first and b) hopefully a slightly different approach after the white-heat of many later K/S offerings. That’s not the point. The point is, an editor TRUSTS people when they claim to be over 18. I don’t want to be accused of corrupting anyone’s sweet and innocent young daughter, especially as I went out of my way to make FA proof against such things… This is mainly directed towards that person, and I hope she is reading this. She need not enquire about any further zines produced by myself, nor about anything of a sensitive nature produced by myself or friends of mine. Harsh? I guess, but then how would YOU feel?”
  • "Since it was really hard to find things back then, I just stuck with this author I knew, and read her new stuff, and then the stuff she linked to. (Lying on age warning pages when necessary, of course.)" [19]

References

  1. The original 1974 printing did not have an age disclaimer.
  2. "Met, how could you? What about the cancer victims? What about the children under 21? What about the horses?, Met? Some of them are only 2 years old! This is disgusting! Dirty! Why, if God meant for us to have sex, we'd have been born naked! I bet Lestwe Fizz is behind this... Mary Sou." -- see Menagerie #13
  3. Verba, Joan. Boldly Writing. F T L Pubns, March 26, 2003, pg 40
  4. from Treklink #14
  5. Black Jag Publishing, Black Jag Publishing Order Form. Accessed November 28, 2008.
  6. Oblique Publications, Oblique Publications would like to announce the availability of a new Clark/Lex Smallville slash zine "An AGE STATEMENT that the purchaser is of legal age and understands the nature of what they are purchasing is absolutely REQUIRED with every order." Accessed November 28, 2008.
  7. from The K/S Press #18 (1998)
  8. from The K/S Press #27 (1998)
  9. For example: PSA, the Potter Slash Archive: "The NC-17 stories and art on this site have been passworded to protect younger HP fans from accessing and reading stories with graphic content. The password is available through the livejournal community psa_dungeons. Please read the intro post and leave a statement."
  10. Scully Slash Archive, The Email Lists Accessed November 28, 2008.
  11. Harryslash, harryslash - Community Profile Accessed November 28, 2008.
  12. Adultfanfiction.net homepage, accessed October 04, 2009.
  13. The Birthdate Verification Page on aff.net, accessed October 04, 2009.
  14. RestrictedSection.org User Registration, accessed October 04, 2009.
  15. Zukunft des Archivs on the YaoiGermany Web-Forum, accessed October 04, 2009.
  16. YaoiGermany Hilfe-Zentrum, in reference to the method used by Animexx, accessed October 04, 2009.
  17. Animexx Anfang (Wiki)
  18. FanFiktion.de – Hilfe/Faq on the topic of AVL ratings, accessed October 04, 2009.
  19. from dorothy notgale Nostalgia posted 14 April 2012, accessed 23 April 2012
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