Non-con

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Synonyms: Noncon (no hyphen)
See also: dub-con, Rapefic, Sex pollen, Aliens Made Them Do It, Incest, Fuck-or-Die, Slavefic
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Non-con refers to non-consensual sex in fanworks, particularly forcible seduction scenarios.

Non-Con versus Rape

Some fans who enjoy creating or consuming such fanworks make the distinction between the aesthetic of "non-con," which eroticizes elements of non-consensual sex such as aggression, helplessness, and power imbalance, and an aesthetic that treats rape more realistically.

Other fans feel this is a meaningless semantic distinction; non-con is just a dressier word for rape. They may feel that rape should always be treated realistically or that it is an inappropriate subject for fanwork (especially RPF).

The labeling issue is complicated by a subgenre of hurt/comfort fic where explicit, but non-eroticized, rape is the "hurt" event. These stories tend to warn for "rape" rather than "non-con."

For those who distinguish non-con from rape, the difference is often a matter of emotional consent vs legal consent--non-con covers some conditions that are not legally rape (forced marriage/bonding, some sex pollen stories, offering oneself to the villain, spousal sex in some places, sex with payment in some areas), and generally does not cover some conditions that legally are rape (most notably in regards to underage, but some other issues like drug/alcohol/sex pollen lowered inhibitions, prisoner seducing a guard, etc.) Non-con deals with a character's mental state; "rape" is a term describing a legal state. Non-con can be erotic; rape is not. (The two can both be present in the same story.)

From an essay by torch:

"That discussion often starts because part of the reading audience is reluctant to label forcible seduction scenarios of the X ties Y up and has sex with him and Y stops saying no and has a wonderful time type as rape stories. [...] More subtle issues-of-consent stories where force or violence usually doesn't enter into it, but seduction or blackmail or misunderstandings or external fuck-or-die threats do, are possibly my favorite kind of party game at this particular party. But they, too, frequently do not get classified as rape stories because the element of coercion is usually psychological rather than physical. And to label stories like these as being rape stories is also in some sense misleading, since there is a certain difference in how the subject is treated, and a person who is bothered by brutal rape may not have a problem with blackmail (and a person who is looking for rape trauma and recovery may be disappointed at finding that the aliens forced them to boff like bunnies and they rather liked it). So what should we call these other stories? Non-con? Forcible seduction scenarios in particular are among the stories that more frequently get labeled as non-con instead, perhaps because the word rape is so loaded."[1]

Non-Con versus Dub-Con

Non-con may be distinguished from dub-con (that is, fic which involves dubious consent) depending on how explicitly refusal is made, whether force or coercion is used, whether one or both characters is under the influence of mind-altering substances, the pre-existing nature of the characters' relationship and/or whether the issues of consent stem from an inherent power imbalance in the relationship.

Some fans feel that dub-con is a meaningless category that should be folded into non-con: consent cannot be assumed if it's not given explicitly, and sex without consent is rape. For other fans, dub-con is a useful marker for fanworks that play with the titillating nature of (fantasy) rape without the more problematic associations of non-con.

Some Fan Comments

A 2000 post by Sandy Hereld:

One of my biggest fannish kinks is rape of one sort or another. (Though, just to keep this in perspective, my biggest fannish kink is miscommunication.) A year and a 1/2 ago, I started a non_con link page. This doesn't make me any kind of authority, of course, but I have done a lot of thinking as I've read and categorized the roughly 350 stories linked to my page.

A couple of people have said something like:

'Non con' and 'rape' are the same thing.

I tend to disagree. Most jurisdictions have levels of sexual assault -- 1st degree, 2nd degree; variations like sexual molestation, statutory rape, etc. What we usually think of as rape is *one* of those categories (clear cut, either by a stranger, or be overwhelming force or fear of force...) -- noncon, for *me*, encompasses all of those categories.

Mind you, I completely agree that many of the noncon situations in fanfiction would never come up in a court, and so trying to figure out whether they would legally be called rape or not isn't very useful.

It has nothing to do with whether the victim ends up enjoying it, for goodness sakes.

Absolutely. My eyebrows were hitting my hairline during that entire piece of the thread. Yet, if that's where your kink intersects with noncon, *that's* the pertinent piece of information to you.

I don't think the appeal of it is in any one explanation.

Oh *yeah*. There are so many types of noncon stories, for one thing. Stories written to appeal to the person who identifies with the rapist, ones written to appeal to the person who identifies with a fighting victim; ones written to with a humiliated victim; ones written mostly for the aftermath/comfort, ones with no comfort anywhere, ones with mostly physical details, ones with mostly emotional details... (I know, I know...duh.)

I do have to say, there are plenty of rape stories that contain subtext as least as horrifying as any DD story -- Way too many versions of "Jim rapes Blair because he can't hold in his passion anymore, Blair forgives him, and instantly, they're in a relationship." Not all partner rape stories do this, obviously -- and maybe that's the difference: that rape, or even partner rape, doesn't *have* to have terrible politics, and non-sexualized DD do? <Sandy waves red flag in front of Anna for sport...>

However, there *are* lots of "non-con" [...] stories out there that have one partner raping the other. They are labelled as slash. I don't necessarily think it's the *correct* label, but if it's any sort of "m/m pairing" (as it's often put), then it's slash. Not much we can do about it, I don't think.

Well, there's two parts to that. For me, if one BSO rapes another -- that's within my definition of slash. ("amateur fiction containing sexually-*charged* relationship between two same-sex media characters, usually men.") But, if an OMC rapes a BSO, and at no time does either of the BSOs show any sexual desire or tension -- then I would agree, that's not slash. For example, Susan Williams' "The Devil You Know" is a great gen m/m rape story.

But m/m fanfic that isn't slash...that's a small and strange group of fiction, isn't it. My version of that non-existent archive would include BSO raped by OMC stories, OMC/OMC pairing stories, and ExtremelyMinorCharacter/OMC pairing stories. But I'm fully aware that other people would make other choices. And functionally, (a) they're a small enough group of stories that there's no reason to break them out separately <note: correct spelling> and (b)the audience for them overlaps so strongly with the slash audience that there's no reason to break them out.

I'll confess to a major kink for noncon in public situations.

Me too. I've had this one ever since TOS -- Kirk and Spock were constantly having to do it (on fur!) in front of Romulans, or (on sand!) in front of Spock's family, or (again on fur...) in front of a entire Pre-reform hunting camp. They got to me while I was young and impressionable; it's not my fault <g>.

I don't think of it as rape, because they're both being forced to do it by an outside party.

Well, this is a perfect example of cool story ideas that would rarely make it into a real life courtroom. I can't think of a good TS example right now, but there's a wonderful M/K story (Hard as Hell, by torch: http://www.strangeplaces.net/torch/hardashell.html) where Krycek has been ordered to have sex with Mulder, but Mulder doesn't know that -- he thinks they're both having a great time. To me, there is a rapist in that scene, but it's CSM, not Mulder. But that would never be prosecuted...

One last thing--over time, I have come to believe that there are rape fandoms, and non-rape fandoms, and The Sentinel is pretty close to a non-rape fandom. There are a fair amount of OMC rapes Blair stories (but most of them could just have been written as standard h/c without the rape), a very few OMC rapes Jim stories, and darn few partner rapes. (For the curious -- X-Files is a rape fandom, as is B7, and of course, OZ!) [2]

Meta/Further Reading

  • Thinky Thoughts: Rape vs "Non-Con"; archive link, by were-lemur ("Warning: may be triggering. So I've been avoiding the discussion of rape because dammit, I know my triggers, and I'm not in a place where I can afford to be jumpy and flinchy for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. So yeah. But then events transpired, and while it's not part of the discussion (to my knowledge, since thinking about this is making me edgy enough without going back and reading everything), I'm trying to figure out the implications of a particular bit of terminology. Why "non-con"? Why not call it what it is: rape? Or maybe there really is a difference, at least when it comes to fanfic?") (June 2009)
  • Issues of Consent - a rape recommendation page that was influential in defining and illustrating the non-con genre
  • Dark Rooms - an archive for X-Files non-con fanfiction which defined non-con as "a sexual act committed without consent, which is conducted in a low-violence and a non-seriously harmful manner, and/or that results in the victim actually ending up enjoying the episode, usually indicated by sexual climax [coming]."[3]
  • Force Me, Please: On Noncon and Noncon Play in Fanfic by bironic (May 31, 2011)

References

  1. torch. Consent (defunct), 13 December 2000.
  2. July 17, 2000 post to Prospect-L by Sandy Hereld, re-posted with permission
  3. Submission Guidelines for Dark Rooms, via Wayback circa 2002. (Accessed 05 March 2011)