Minors in Fandom

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See also: Ageism in Fandom, Fandom as a Safe Space, Age Statement, Underage, Lolicon, Shota, Aged Up
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In fandom circa 2000 there was a prevalent trend of minors pretending to be of age and not releasing personal identifying information, such as their real name or appearance. Then circa 2010 there seemed to be a new trend of blogging fannishly while releasing a lot of personal information, particularly with the rise of Tumblr and popularized social media. Some online users would even go so far as to reveal the first and last letters of their names by playing online word games, or may even reveal their entire name. Modernly, it's common practice to list at least a small amount of identifying information on the profiles of one's social media, no matter the age. This usually includes: sexual orientation, race, gender, general location (such as country or continent), and age. This new practice has revealed a large group of fans who were under the age of 18, making minors within fandoms much more apparent.

Naturally, especially in fandoms with a prominent smut output, this led to controversy.

Underage Fans

Harassment & Abuse of Minors

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Minors widely feel targeted or threatened by those who identify as MAPs, Minor-Attracted People. The term is a euphemism for "pedophile."[1] At a time on Twitter these "MAPs" would identify themselves by placing a clown emoji in their profile. Once news got out of this less people were inclined to do it, however not everyone was ashamed and the practice still remains.

Online it is impossible not to come across minors. Tumblr itself was a popular haven for teenagers around 2012, and those who have become adults since then have not left the site. Thus, on Tumblr there is a split between the new, younger audiences and the adult, older audiences who have been there for years. There have been cases on Tumblr of adults telling minors to kill themselves, such as with user stabbity-chain who had been harassed by about three adults, also on Tumblr. The group of adults labeled the minor as a TERF due to the minor's ideologies (which do align with TERF ideologies), and used this to argue with them and harass them.[2] Other users, though they may not have been replying to this specific case of harassment, complain that minors who are 17 shouldn't use their age as an excuse for their beliefs or behavior considering they are one year from being considered an adult.[3]

Another (much older) example of the harassment of minors online comes from the Zoo Tycoon fandom, particularly on the forum Zoo Tycoon Volcano and possibly its affiliates. The atmosphere of this children's game forum was much, much more aggressive and adult, and was generally not a place for minors. Back in the early 2000's (no later than 2008) Zoo Tycoon Volcano, despite being based on a game for small children, purposefully drove out the children from their website. Some users pretended to be animals at a keyboard and in response older forum members harassed them to the point that staff had to intervene. This caused a schism between the staff who believed it was okay for the harassment to occur and the staff who put their foot down on the behavior. Later, some staff members broke away from the rest and called themselves the "Sons of Liberty" and stated that the forum was "imperialistic" for enforcing forum rules that offered some protection minors. The Sons of Liberty continued to harass and stalk these younger members of the forum for some time until pretending to be an animal online fell out of practice. Modernly, the forum's user base accurately describes itself as a mini 4chan and minors no longer frequent it.

A Tumblr blog made for the promotion of up coming and finished zines called zinefeed made a post about how often they get promotion requests for zines based around "nsfw about minors."[4]

A Tumblr blog named Genuflextx who is labeled as 18+ in the sidebar posted a discussion about a "sfw" community called giant/tiny, or g/t. This community surrounds a relationship (friendship or otherwise) dynamic of giant characters with tiny characters. Genuflectx, being a NSFW artist, pointed out the g/t shared a lot of similarities with a fetish called micro macro and questioned whether or not the g/t community was truly meant to be sfw or not. Some replies said no, g/t was clearly on par with other "sfw" fetishish like vore, while others said yes. One reply suggested that tagging a discussion on whether or not g/t was a fetish was inappropriate to place in the g/t tag, and a minor responded that micro macro was simply more well known than g/t. However, Genuflectx replied to these responses saying that even if someone could claim the community was sfw, that didn't stop micro macro fetish artists from simply "slapping a sfw coat of paint" on a fetish in order to put it in front of minors. She also said she went through the tag and insinuated that while some art of g/t seemed innocent, there were many images in the tag that "set off alarm bells for someone like me." Ultimately, Genuflectx appeared to be worried that adult fetish artists were taking advantage of a "sfw" label to secretly abuse and groom children into their kink of micro macro. A final response from the OP said she'd noticed an image featuring size difference that included a "do not interact" signature, which stated "g/t & vore weirdos do not interact," meaning her accusations about g/t being a fetish used on naive minors is not unique.[5] And indeed, outside of Tumblr, such as on Twitter, the tag gianttiny pulls up various NSFW images involving micro macro.

Minors Want A Safe Space

Fans have objected to the behavior of adults fans toward fictional minors. Their opposition is only to explicit content about minors, and this is a view held by both minors who seek to protect themselves and adults. Minors argue that they do not feel safe in fandom spaces when people far older than they are creating sexual content about people their own age. A good example of this is InkBunny, an art website similar to other social art sites like DeviantART and Furaffanity. InkBunny has consistently allowed explicit art of minors, and its current admin WikiNorn/GreenReaper (also WikiFur's creator) has stated that he has no issue with this content being on his website. However, GreenReaper has since deleted the Tweet that stated this so only screenshots are available.[6]

Whenever this one artist got called out for being a pedophile, someone said "oh of course they have an InkBunny"Jesteresque discussing "MAPs" on Twitter[7]

This attitude is prevalent in fandoms around media for which younger people are the intended audience, and which draw a large fan following, such as cartoons. "Bronies" from the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic fandom are a good example of this. Because of the large amount of NSFW content adult fans created of the show's characters, even other cartoon Fandoms abhor them. The Steven Universe fandom of Tumblr, at a time in 2015, became fearful of Brony "infiltration," believing that the pony fans would cause an influx of NSFW material that younger fans would ultimately be flooded with.[8]

I know the internet is a festering cesspool of questionable cartoon-based erotica, but pony porn has become such an unstoppable force of sexual deviancy that not even a simple Google search is safe. I'm serious—Google Image search "Pinkie Pie" with SafeSearch off and see what you get.The Problem with Bronies

These fans may not object to shipping a certain relationship, but are uncomfortable with who is creating and consuming sexual content. They argue that it is wrong for a person to have sexual intention toward a person far younger than them whether or not that person is real or fictional, especially if they are underage.

Response

Adults Should Protect Minors

Some minors view their protection online has being the responsibility of the adults they share it with. This can involve not following minors on social media (something some minors request specifically), not sharing inappropriate art in spaces minors may see (such as certain tags), or making sure that they include content filters/properly tag explicit content. Some view this as being asked to parent children who aren't theirs.

There has been a push specifically from the NSFW communities for minors to continue revealing their ages on their profile. This is because many NSFW artists take it upon themselves to block minors in order to keep them from seeing their explicit content.[9] Some users on Twitter have also adopted the practice of making their NSFW Twitter's locked, and will only allow people to follow them if they have their adult age in their profile. Some adults online still give minors advice to never share their ages online, citing that any identifying information is dangerous and sharing their age could attract predators.[10]

These people seem to have a view that either adults should stop being in fandom or they should structure their fannish activities around what's appropriate for minors to view. Minors may simply want to interact with people they consider their peers, and in removing adults from their spaces come closer to achieving that.

If you’re a grown ass person online, it is YOUR responsibility to maintain proper boundaries with children, teenagers, and young people significantly younger than you. Cut the shit and stop pretending you don’t know what it means. I’m tired of you creepy motherfuckers I swear to GOD.YourFavoritePlanet
okay but like. Abuse victims exist. You can’t really say “parents/guardians should be responsible for what minors consume on the internet” when people like me, whose parents do not give a single fuck and whose guardian figure was actually showing me porn at a young age, exist. In a lot of cases the parents are not, in fact, policing this kind of thing. I /agree with your point/ about the main issue here. Just. Don’t pretend a lot of young fans have better, more present families than they do.Cyrefinns, on why having parents police their children online doesn't work

Minors Should Protect Adults

Some adults, especially in NSFW circles, have made the argument that separating minors from adults online isn't just for the children's protection. Rather, by keeping kids from adult spaces the kids are in actuality protecting the adults, specifically from possible legal and social repercussion. A Twitter thread by user Goryglass discusses this.

If you're a minor and you think you're being oppressed because an adult is telling you you don't belong in adult/nsfw spaces, they're not being a jack ass.

They're protecting themselves and you and you need to get your head out of your ass. Entitled brats.

[snipped]

but you put people in danger by sticking your - head into these spaces and expecting to be accepted. You can get people in trouble with the law, unintentionally or otherwise. You can get people fired. You can get people on record, and you get away scott free.

We're literally doing what we do to protect ourselves.Goryglass, Oct 2, 2019

Some responses to this Twitter thread are below.

Oh my god, I just had this exact discussion with an entitled little shit last night. They accused me of forcing teens to repress their sexuality b/c I said it was a shit idea to talk about kink to adult strangers with no boundaries.Reply by poIyleritae
Ending this with "entitled brats" isn't the best way to get literal children to listen to you. Y'all sound like my parents.Retweet with comment by TheDaedricDoll
Yes!!!! If you are under 18 please do not follow me!!!!!! My account will still be here when you're of age but until then please do not follow!!!!!!!!!Retweet with comment by MLioncat

Minors Should Get Off the Unmoderated Internet

Adults who disagree with going out of their way to make inappropriate content un-viewable to minors believe that it is either the minor's duty to avoid those spaces, or the parents' duty to protect their children from it. For example, an adult who makes subtle fetishistic content of cartoon characters on DeviantART may claim that if children don't want to see that content they should avoid the website/artist/tag/cartoon/internet all together. Some adult fans have even reacted to this by asking minors to tell their parents to install web filtering software, or reporting minors to the ToS of the website for not being old enough to use it.

ding ding ding ding.

Ao3 requires you to police your own consumption of content. Ao3 won’t let you destroy someone’s online presence simply because you don’t like it. Ao3 won’t let you impose your own morality on other without cause.

If you have issues with this, and the fact that Ao3 requires you to have responsibility and agency, then you seriously need to sit down and have a damned good long hard look at yourself.Fluffmugger[11]
If my grown-ass fandom adult story is properly tagged as a grown-ass fandom adult story then sorry, those teenager OPs should have never read it in the first place and no, at that point their consumption of media not intended for their age-range is not my responsibility.

AO3 has an age policy and even puts up a disclaimer for the casual reader every time they open an adult-rated story. Whose responsibility it is if an underage teen lies about their age and then get upset with the content they actively chose to read despite the warnings?

It’s not my job as an author to make you feel safe by censoring my own content. My responsibility ultimately lies in making you able to avoid my stories, by thoroughly and properly tagging them. Period.Julesdrenages

Controversy

Ambiguous Age

Age difference in pairings (sometimes only a year or so) became a hot topic in certain areas of fandom, making the seemingly simple topic of what characters are or aren't minors much more complicated than it was before.

In the Voltron Fandom the characters received canon ages far after the fandom had already created ship dynamics. Before these canon ages were revealed, some fans had perceived certain ships as being between an adult/minor, and subsequently decried them as inappropriate to ship. However, after the ages became canon the fandom was in an uproar. Characters thought to have been 16 were now canonically 18, meaning suddenly the shippers who were seen as shipping pedophilia were now technically no longer doing so. So did the now canon 18 year old count as an adult or a minor? We still don't know.

A similar controversy surrounded the characters of She-Ra when their ages were rather ambiguous. Even after the show ended most characters were only given a vague canon age between 17-18, with the exception of Entrapta who was set to be in her mid 20's to 30's. Being that the characters were either minors at 17 or adults at 18 this one year difference caused confusion and discourse between fans. Some would even interpret Scorpia to be much older than she was due to her emotional maturity and stature, and thus saw shipping her with other characters as iffy. And, before Entrapta was confirmed to be much, much older, many fans were outraged and disgusted at fans shipping her with Hordak, who was an adult.

The Case of the 21 Year Old Minor

As becoming a minor became an unusual kind of shield, people began to call themselves minors at older and older times, or to say things like how they'll delete their blog when they turn 30 years old.

Some of these minors were over eighteen. Some of them were of drinking age in the United States, which is known for drafting people before they're able to legally drink.

Meta/Further Reading

References

  1. MAP Interventions, The Global Prevention project. (Accessed 6/6/2020)
  2. A Friend of Mine was Recently Bullied to the Point..., Tumblr. Sept 4, 2019 (Accessed 6/14/2020)
  3. I Hate the Whole Concept that Teenagers Aren't..., Tumblr. Feb 12. (Accessed 6/14/2020)
  4. Me Everyday Checking the Notifications... Tumblr. Jul 5, 2020 (Accessed 7/21/2020)
  5. I Just Learned a New... Tumblr, Jul 2020 (Accessed 7/26/2020)
  6. Inkbunny Controversy, Archived, Wayback Machine, Twitter. Jan 21, 2020 (Accessed 6/6/2020)
  7. Verbal primary source (6/7/2020)
  8. Whats with this Thing with the Steven Universe Fandom vs the Brony Fandom, MLP Forums. Mar 18, 2015 (Accessed 6/7/2020)
  9. This Blog is 18 Only, Tumblr. Circa 2018 (Accessed 6/7/2020)
  10. Minors of Tumblr, Tumblr. Jan 6, 2019 (Accessed 6/7/2020)
  11. Editor's Note: This quote is technically about the difference in management styles between AO3 and Tumblr. However, it seems relevant to the idea of 'self policing' yourself online. This quote matches the idea that the content you see online is your responsibility, not the website/people making the content.