Age of Consent? Ptui. What About the Real Problems?

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Title: Age of Consent? Ptui. What About the Real Problems?
Creator: Lexin
Date(s): January 39, 2002
Medium: online
Topic: Fan Fiction, Harry Potter, Underage
External Links: Age of Consent? Ptui. What About the Real Problems?/WebCite
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Age of Consent? Ptui. What About the Real Problems? is an essay by Lexin.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.


So, sour old bat, what are you doing reading Harry Potter slash?

I like Harry/Snape. I do, really. I can "see" Harry/Snape, though most of my friends think I am completely batsoid with a side order of magic mushrooms. It was the series that starts with "A Most Disquieting Tea", also by Telanu which dragged me kicking and screaming into this pairing. "Too Wise to Woo Peaceably" by JayKay is also very good. It is set when Harry's a bit older. Both (with minor quibbles about UK vs. US terminology) are excellent, and I think that both have the emotions perfectly.

Underage/overage? Interestingly, people in Potter slash fandom seem to veer round from 'overage' to 'just overage' to 'underage' and back without the chest beating and brow clutching which is so common in some others. I've really not been in the fandom long enough and I'm not on any of the HP general discussion lists, so I can't judge whether the issue has been debated and everyone's come to an agreement or whether the issue has never come up. Or even whether some people are fuming quietly but not prepared to speak, which also occurs to me as a possibility.

I notice, though, that many (all?) of the fic archives where Harry appears in stories as a participant, are very quick to note in their intro the age of consent in the UK, though usually they just say it's 16 which as noted above is slightly inaccurate. This is interesting, or maybe only I find it so. It looks to me as if they don't want to be considered to be peddling paedophilia, which would be an accusation the newspapers (for instance) might make.

Accusation How justified would such an accusation be? Well, I don't know. Harry Potter is an invented creation, and as such he cannot be hurt. A relationship with a teacher could damage a real boy, but Harry Potter isn't a real boy. He's a character from a book. Any damage done to him is temporary, over when you've stopped reading.

Is anyone likely to become a pederast through reading HP slash fic? It seems unlikely, since nearly all slashers, readers and writers, are women. There may be women who prey on children but it seems uncommon to say the least.

Are young people likely to get "ideas" by reading Harry Potter slash fic? Do young people need HP slash to give them these ideas? Won't they find sex anyway? I did. Most people do.

Agreed, in the books Harry's not obsessed with sex. But this is probably because they are intended for the children's book market, and therefore the publishers have to be careful not of the children but of the parents. But Harry's certainly noticed girls. By book 4, he's really noticed*girls. He'd be a very odd teenager indeed if sex didn't cross his mind. Once or twice. An hour.
Where does that leave slash, then?

There's a slash plot all right... several of them. For one, how does Harry cope, what does he do about it, how does Snape cope and what does he do. Do they 'do it' and what happens afterwards...oh, and there's Voldemort of course. Mustn't forget the all-pervading evil while we're delving into the characters' sex lives.

Then there's the issue of the abuse of a position of authority. I mean the issue of who exactly is being abused here - need it always be the student? And what happens next?

I'm unwilling, for a lot of reasons only some of which have to do with freedom of speech, to say that a story like that can't be told because one of the participants hasn't yet reached what is in essence an arbitrary age. How do we know this is an arbitrary age? The age of consent has been changed in the UK very recently, it isn't the same in Northern Ireland (are boys in NI less grown up than English, Scottish or Welsh boys? I somehow doubt that they would think so) and in some countries (Italy?) is as low as 14 and without the 'position of authority' problems.

The age of consent is the least of Snape and Harry's problems, really, when you think about it. Far worse are the difficulties of a person having a real relationship with someone in authority, a teacher having a real relationship with a student. Whichever way you take it, there's a story or two (or ten, or a hundred) worth telling, whether it all ends in Wildean destruction or with roses (runes?) round the cottage door.