Minors in Fandom
|Related terms:||Underage, Age Statement|
|See also:||Ageism in Fandom, Fandom as a Safe Space, Lolicon, Shota, Aged Up, Purity Culture in Fandom|
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Fandom trends and practice requiring the revealing of age online has changed throughout the history of the internet. During the early internet (circa 2000s) particularly with the rise of chatrooms and forums, offering personal details about one's real identity such as age, name, or appearance was uncommon and considered dangerous. As social media like Facebook and blogging platforms such as Blogspot, Livejournal, and Tumblr became more popular (circa 2010s) releasing personal identifying information about one's demographics became more common.
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. As of the 2020s 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. With this practice, minors in fandom and internet spaces became more visible. In fandoms with a prominent smut output or canon adult content, this led to controversy; for example, South Park in the 2010s and Helluva Boss in the 2020s, both which have attracted minors as fans.
Harassment & Abuse of Minors
Many minors feel targeted or threatened online, especially in adult or mixed-age spaces, for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are listed and discussed below.
- Minor-Attracted People (MAPs, not to be confused with a MAP, Multi-Animator Project) became a euphemism for "pedophile." While "The Global Prevention Project" describes MAPs as being a broader spectrum of attraction towards children and minors and not an "attempt to rebrand pedophilia," it's not uncommon for MAPs to simply be called pedophiles on social media. MAP as a term was likely coined in the late 2010s, and the earliest usage of it on Urban Dictionary is from 2017. MAPs and online grooming are a common worry for minors online, with "grooming" cited as the reason for some callout posts. For a time on Twitter, MAPs would identify themselves by placing a clown emoji in their profile, but the commonality of this practice in the 2020s and beyond is unclear.
- Aggression, violence, and threats towards minors in online and fandom spaces; for example, 17 year old stabbity-chain on Tumblr claiming harassment by three adults on Tumblr due to TERF ideologies.  However, others believe 17 year old minors should not use their age as an excuse for their beliefs or behavior, given they are one year away from 18. Other examples are aggression and expletives used towards minors while requesting that they do not view an artist's NSFW content (see Minors Should Protect Adults), which may feel belittling, dehumanizing, or patronizing to minors.
- Mixed-age spaces being hostile towards minors, even when the canon content is for children. For example, the harassment of minors in the Zoo Tycoon fandom, particularly from 2000s era Zoo Tycoon Volcano. Though Zoo Tycoon is aimed at children, its fanbase online was noticeably adult outside of the official Microsoft forums. Additionally, a staff schism between moderators on Zoo Tycoon Volcano fought over whether or not moderators, admins, and members should be allowed to make fun of or harass their members as they see fit, including minors (See Internal Conflicts). Modernly, the forum's user base describes itself as a mini 4chan and minors no longer frequent it.
- The sexualization or perceived sexualization of canonically underaged characters, which can make some minors uncomfortable online. For example, Tumblr blog zinefeed (a blog for promoting zines) made a post about how often they get promotion requests for zines based around "nsfw about minors."
- Fetish spaces being made "safe for work" in a way which some minors may become exposed to "safe" fetish artwork, which could be considered grooming. One example is "the "giant/tiny" community, particularly on Tumblr, which focuses on relationships between very large and very tiny characters, and attracts both adult and underage artists. It is disagreed upon whether giant/tiny is the same as the micro/macro fetish. NSFW artists question whether a fetish can be "SFW" at all. While some artists see "SFW" fetish communities as on part with other fetish content like vore, others see NSFW discussion within communities like giant/tiny to be inappropriate. For some, giant/tiny may be considered to be a totally separate thing from micro/macro, while others see it as micro/macro under a different coat of paint. However, on Twitter the tag "gianttiny" pulls up various NSFW images involving micro/macro.
Minors Want A Safe Space
Sexual conduct towards fictional underage characters makes some minors feel unsafe or uncomfortable in fandom spaces, especially fandom spaces for canon content aimed at minors. They may find the behavior of adult fans towards fictional underage characters to be inappropriate, immortal, or abhorrent, usually in reference to sexual explicit content about minors. Some fans may not always object to chaste shipping a certain relationship, but are uncomfortable with who is creating and consuming sexual content.
A good example of social media which allows NSFW art of underaged characters 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 admin WikiNorn/GreenReaper 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.
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
Being unable to view fandom content of shows that are meant for their own demographic without heavy filtering, or being accidentally exposed to porn if a filter does not catch everything, has made minors feel unsafe and uncomfortable in their own fandom spaces. "Bronies" from the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic fandom is a good example of media for children that gained a large adult fan following in the 2010s, and became known for explicit fanart online. Because of the large amount of NSFW content adult fans created of the show's characters, some fans from other fandoms dislike them. The Steven Universe fandom of Tumblr, in 2015, became fearful of Brony "infiltration," believing that the pony fans would cause a larger influx of NSFW material to the Steven Universe fandom that younger fans would ultimately be exposed to.
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.
Adults Should Protect Minors
Some minors view their protection online has being the responsibility of the adults they share it with. This can involve asking adults to not follow minors on social media, asking adults to not share inappropriate art in spaces minors may see (such as the main tags for a fandom), or making sure that adults include content filters/properly tag explicit content. By removing adults from spaces meant for minors, minors are able to interact exclusively with their peers.
In the NSFW art community some adults request that minors continue to reveal their age on their profiles. This is because many NSFW artists take it upon themselves to block minors in order to keep them from seeing their explicit content. This means that artists utilizing this technique also block profiles that do not list their age, even if they are adults in real life.
Some users on Twitter have also adopted the practice of making their NSFW Twitters locked and will only allow people to follow them if they have their adult age in their profile. Alternatively, some adults give minors advice to never share their ages online, citing that any identifying information is dangerous and sharing their age could attract predators.
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.
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.
However, some adults view being asked to alter their behavior online for the comfort of minors as being asked to "parent children who aren't theirs." See: Minors Should Get Off the Unmoderated Internet.
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 can also potentially protect 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.
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.
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
Alternative to both previous opinions, some adults in fandom spaces believe that it is either the minor's duty to avoid sexual, inappropriate, or uncomfortable spaces, or that it is the parents' duty to protect their children from them. For example, an adult who makes fetish content of cartoon characters on DeviantART may claim that if children don't want to be exposed to fetish content they should avoid the website/artist/tag/cartoon/internet all together. A related argument is that minors should tell their parents to install web filtering software, or to have adults report 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.
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.
Ambiguous Ages of Canon Characters
Age difference in pairings, including age gaps one year apart, became a hot topic in certain areas of fandom, making the topic of what characters are or aren't considered minors much more complicated than it was before.
In the Voltron Fandom the characters received canon ages far after the fandom had already created their common 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 even more divisive in opinion. Characters thought to have been 16 were now canonically 18, meaning suddenly the shippers who were perceived as shipping underaged characters with adults were now technically no longer doing so.
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 officially set to be in her mid twenties to thirties. 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 potentially 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 is an adult.
"Minors" Over the Age of 18
Some 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 18. Some of them were of drinking age in the United States (21).
Ethics of Creating Callout Posts on Minors
Some users online may find it inappropriate or distasteful to include minors as the subject of a callout post. For example, many callout posts include Discord or private message screenshots, so some may see the sharing of a minor's comments made in confidence as being unethical. This may be double so if the screenshots showcase private comments on the minor's mental health or personal life.
- Love Knows No Gender: Minors and Slash by kkscatnip (April 2001)
- Depicting Minors in Sexual Acts in Fiction! (2001)
- If A Minor Reads My NC-17 Fic, Will I Go To Jail? (2001)
- About Minors Using This Site..., Archived version by Drift at Pillowfort (January 2019)
- Y’know, for all the flaws in the 90s..., Archived version
- Like, i’m not saying that adults don’t have a place in fandom. they can and they do, and many are perfectly great people.
- K-pop Fanfiction: The Disturbing Truth
- MAP Interventions, The Global Prevention project. (Accessed 6/6/2020) (Archived 8/18/2020)
- A Friend of Mine was Recently Bullied to the Point..., Tumblr. Sept 4, 2019 (Accessed 6/14/2020) (Archived 8/18/2020)
- I Hate the Whole Concept that Teenagers Aren't..., Tumblr. Feb 12. (Accessed 6/14/2020) (Archived 8/18/2020)
- Editor's Note: Personal experience, antidotal accounts, and anonymous information provided on its modern user base. - Patchlamb 7/20/2023)
- Me Everyday Checking the Notifications... Tumblr. Jul 5, 2020 (Accessed 7/21/2020) (Archived 8/18/2020)
- I Just Learned a New... Tumblr, Jul 2020 (Accessed 7/26/2020) (Archived 8/18/2020)
- Inkbunny Controversy, Archived, Wayback Machine, Twitter. Jan 21, 2020 (Accessed 6/6/2020)
- Verbal primary source (6/7/2020)
- Whats with this Thing with the Steven Universe Fandom vs the Brony Fandom, MLP Forums. Mar 18, 2015 (Accessed 6/7/2020) (Archived 8/18/2020)
- This Blog is 18 Only, Tumblr. Circa 2018 (Accessed 6/7/2020) (Archived 8/18/2020)
- Minors of Tumblr, Tumblr. Jan 6, 2019 (Accessed 6/7/2020) (Archived 8/18/2020)
- Editor's Note: Cyrefinns either changed their username, deleted their blog, or deleted this post. Unfortunetly it cannot be archived. (Patchlamb 8/18/2020)
- 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.