Purity Culture in Fandom

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Synonyms: purity, purity culture, Fandom purity wank, anti, Anti-Shipper: Current Use
See also: Fandom Police, Puriteen, Callout Culture, Social Justice, Anti-Shipper, Warnings, Labels
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Needs Citation: This article or section needs more citations. See Fanlore:Citation for more information on why.

Purity culture is an environment that developed mainly on Tumblr [citation needed] that criticized fan's use of certain "problematic" tropes and content in fanworks.

This is similar to or nearly the same as callout culture and cancel culture. However, where purity/cancel culture tends to encompass the movement as a whole, callout culture has a focus on the creation of callout posts.

Purity culture in the context of fandom should not be confused with purity culture in the context of feminism.

Purity culture is also not the same as the attacks on fanworks from outside fandom, such as the Moral Majority, one of the American political organization and movements utilized by the evangelical Christian right wing during the 1980s.


Callout posts, or posts specifically dedicated to "calling out" the perceived moral issue with a person or piece of media, were around even during LiveJournal's popularity. One of the most well-known groups was Warriors for Innocence, the organization that in 2007, was instrumental in igniting Strikethrough.

In the mid-2010s, a number of Tumblr users began arguing that some kinds of fanworks should not be allowed on any platform. These views were labelled "purity culture" by opponents who argue that these views are based in morality arguments- or who is more "pure" than the other. Other terms include "antis" (for anti-shipper) and "performative morality" (public moral judgements only made for internet clout). These fans often use social justice as a framework for their arguments. These somewhat resemble Fandom as a Safe Space discussions.

Some fans, apparently mostly young, [citation needed] are "calling out" fanfiction authors and platforms, sometimes using the term "sin." Their main issue is pedophilia, sometimes using the terms MAP ("Minor-Attracted Person") and CSA ("Child Sexual Abuse"). Some seem to be teens upset that adults were writing porn about teenagers (regardless of age of consent), and some who considered relationships with age gaps to be unhealthy. See Minors in Fandom.

This is particularly complex in comic and cartoon fandoms, such as the sports anime Free!, due to the vaguely young age of many characters. As "antis," it may have arisen in Homestuck[citation needed] and has been an issue in Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, Undertale and Voltron. Anti-Shipper Example Ships provides a list of fandoms where purity culture has called out problems.

Purpose of Purity Culture

Other content issues brought up included rape, non-consensual sex, incest, kinks, pro-Nazi content, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, religious bigotry, misogyny, samboism, discrimination, mammyism, dehumanization, slash fic (considered to be fetishizing gay men), and not presenting abusive or unhealthy relationships in a purely negative light.

While purity culture led to positive calls for better tagging and warnings for fanworks, a number of fans wanted to go further. Suggestions for enforcing or improving fanwork morality have included name calling, smears, comparisons to mainstream porn, organized negative comment storms, reporting the fan creators in hopes of deplatforming them, directly threatening messages, doxxing, reporting the Archive Of Our Own to the US FBI, and calling for curation to remove problematic content. This is discussed in great detail in The Three Laws of Fandom and AO3 is open source.

Other fans have argued that the aim of "socially responsible fandom" and the resulting purity culture has done nothing to stop the prejudices and bigotry in fandom, it's just the same attitudes worn under a different hat. [1] [2]

Purity was Not an Issue "Back in the Day"

Many who have been in fandom a long time, such as Fandom Moms, who are anti-purity culture lament the past of fandom when such issues were perceived as not divisive and people could create content without morality-based criticism. Responses to this view vary.

Back in the Day, Fandom was a Hostile Environment

Many responded that in the past, prejudice, homophobia, racism, etc. were rampant in fandom and made fandom an unsafe space for minorities, and that over time minorities have become more comfortable speaking on the issues. With this viewpoint, fandom's past is considered just as problematic (if not more so) as its modern counterpart, and any who are comfortable with it or wish fandom was similar to the "good ol' days" only believe so due to their privilege and disregard for other's experiences.

Some take this view further and argue that offensive fiction or works have been/are popular because of widespread offensive views. Others respond to this by arguing that a person’s taste in fictional entertainment does not reflect their real-life views.

These Issues have Always Existed

Fandom purity culture has existed forever, some groups have always been repulsed by pornography and sexuality. A good example of this is the backlash against the Black Cover zine in Beauty and the Beast, which featured explicit sexual content and non-traditional pairings that challenged the fandom's vanilla tastes and the Catherine/Vincent pairing. Anime websites also used to brag about being "hentai free" and shamed people who either hosted or created it.

Slash especially used to get flak just for existing, with anti-slash groups feeling that fanfic or art of two men kissing defiled the goodness of a story. Fanfic archives used to rate all slash content with a mature rating, even if all the couple did was hold hands or kiss on the cheek. Warriors for Innocence is a group that took this to extremes, trying to shut down any and all slash communities and being partially responsible for Strikethrough.


Modern fandom went awry when people stopped learning how to avoid content that upsets them and instead starting actively seeking it out.

I mean this in the kindest, most loving way possible, but babes you’ll be so much happy when you stop focusing on what other people are doing and instead focus on what you like.

You’ll never be able to stop people from liking what you hate, and the best way you’ll find any peace of mind is properly utilizing blocking, blacklisting, and muting tools. Take it from someone who used to run a shipping discourse blog, fandom is supposed to be what you enjoy, stop focusing on things that upset you.

#im serious i mean this in the most concerned way i ran a discourse blog as a teen and all it did was drain my mental health kate speaks top post [3]

the way the term "purity culture" has effectively been stolen from survivors of religious abuse by fandom weirdos who think theyre oppressed for shipping incest is truly abysmal

ed-ee-deactivated20210819 Circa 2021[4]

Further Reading