Whose "Safe Space" is Fandom Anyway

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Title: Whose "Safe Space" is Fandom Anyway
Creator: Cameo Amalthea
Date(s): about April 2018
Medium: Tumblr
External Links: Fandom and Feeling: Whose "Safe Space" is Fandom Anyway, Archived version
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Whose "Safe Space" is Fandom Anyway is a 2018 essay by Cameo Amalthea.

The topics are triggers, antis, and safe spaces and fandom.

"I believe that all adults should have a right to control their bodies and lives and make choices. Again, the hard part is when someone else’s choices effect you. If someone does something that does not involve you, but still upsets you, even hurts you (because emotional pain still hurts) do your boundaries, your right to say ‘no’ give you the right to tell them they’re not allowed to do that. The long answer is you have to learn to accept you can’t control other people."


I’ve noticed the conflict between anti-shipping factions and anti-censorship factions (also called anti-anti) boils down to the idea that Fandom should be a safe space.

Antis believe that means Fandom should be a space where only content appropriate for everyone is allowed. That means nothing inappropriate for minors and nothing that could potentially trigger anyone should be posted. (Some antis believe the act of enjoying fiction about bad things mean you approve of doing bad things in real life, but if we boil down the arguments to harm done, the most compelling argument is people may be hurt by seeing certain content). That everyone has a right to feel comfortable in fandom, and that means if you post content which could make another person uncomfortable, you should stop or post privately.

Anti-censorship/anti-antis believe that means Fandom should be a space where everyone is freely to express themselves artistically however they choose. That Fandom is one of the few spaces (is not the only space) where women and queer people make up a majority of creative expression. That this space creates a place where marginalized sexualities (people shamed for their sexuality or sexual expression which includes queer people and all women) can express their sexual desires within fantasy and fiction, outside the bounds of heteronormativity or the male gaze. Women can share their desires without fear of being shamed or being sexually harassed by straight men. Where they can instead cater to themselves and other women, alongside queer creators.

In fan works sometimes themes explored in fiction are dark or taboo. Sometimes they are a response to oppression (women live at risk of sexual assault, many are survivors or know someone who is a survivor, it’s no wonder themes of rape fantasy are common among women as a power fantasy to take control, although shame women experience for consenting to sex (slut shaming) may also be a factor, easy to imagine sex without the guilt of consent). Sometimes they explore in the safety of fiction what writers couldn’t explore in real life, like teenage sexual awakening. Sometimes these works play with the forbidden or reimagine relationships. It’s a space where creators have control to shape reality as they see fit. The conflict comes between those who think these themes ought not to be published where they could harm a viewer and those who think themes out to be published where they can help a viewer as much as they helped the writer.

Whether harm means make someone feel uncomfortable, triggering someone, leading a vulnerable person, like a minor, to have an unhealthy or unrealistic view of relationships or leading an abuser to think victims want to be abused since people like reading about it, antis are concerned people might hurt by harmful ideas in fiction.

Whether these works helped the writer in exploring their own sexuality or in coping with trauma or in finding happiness and something that was for them in a world where most media isn’t made for them. (it’s made by and for white cis het men who make up the majority of writers/producers/directors/publishers), anti-censorship/anti-antis are concerned that many are helped by the ability to explore things, even harmful idea, in fiction.

The points have been argued, and I’m not interested in debating to what extent fiction is harmful and censorship (self censorship is still censorship) is needed. I’m interested in how we, as a fandom, can balance these interest and create a safe space for everyone.

Everyone has a right to consent and to set boundaries. To say no to things they don’t want and to say yes to thing they do. In a four part essay, I’ll take a look at how we can balance boundaries so that fandom can be a space for all.