An Open Discussion on Fan-Fiction
Part Two: The Darkest Corners of the Internet
By Carly Twehous
If we’re going to have an open and frank discussion on fan-fiction, I believe it is important to first get the facts straight.
Of the main platforms of fan-fiction distribution—Archive of Our Own (AO3), Tumblr, Fanfiction.net, and LiveJournal—only AO3 has a sufficient enough tagging and rating system to allow for conclusive, third party content analysis. In other words, due to lack of research on the topic, the only available data is from Archive of Our Own. Although this does not offer a complete view of statistics, because of the popularity of this particular fan-fiction site, the data that could be collected is still very telling as to the state of popular culture.
In 2015, ten separate fan-bases produced over 10,000 fan-fiction works each on Archive of Our Own. Supernatural took the most popular slot on the website with nearly 40,000 new works published in 2015, leaving the total of Supernatural works on the website pushing 165,000.
Now, not every fan-fiction work on AO3 or any of the other websites is explicitly pornographic. Most sites have some form of rating system (i.e., General Audience, Teen, Mature, and Explicit) to aid readers in finding stories that fit their fancy. In fact, it’s fair to say that a majority of works on these websites are not explicit and are completely kosher, if not for the potentially poor quality of writing.
That being said, there is certainly a prevalence of erotic fan-fiction both on these websites and seeping through cultural seams. To illustrate, the Supernatural fan-base is one of the most popular categories on any fan-fiction website and has two of the most popular romantic pairings of characters one can find on the internet. Out of the 165,000 Supernatural works on AO3, close to 60,000 of those are rated either mature or explicit. That comes out at a solid 37% of explicit works and that number holds, plus or minus a standard deviation, across most fan-bases.
(See, Mom? I told you those Calculus classes wouldn’t go to waste at a film school.)
Out of every 100 fan-fiction works on the Internet, 37 of them are explicitly pornographic. Though not a solid majority, that number is still rather alarming. Especially considering that when one searches these explicit works by word count, one has to sort through over 500 works in order to drop below the standard minimum novel length of 100,000 words. Dare I say, that’s certainly enough to fill a decent book store with these novel-length, edited and revised and well-written explicit works… And it’s only in one fan-base. Multiply that number of novel-length works times the number of other fan-bases that have a significant amount of works, plus the multitude of other fan-fiction websites out there that don’t give accurate counts…
That particular calculation surpasses my mathematical expertise. Needless to say, the numbers on explicit fan-fiction lurking in the darkest corners of the Internet are staggering.
Numbers aside, it’s the content of these countless erotic works that takes the cake. Archive of Our Own, a website that diligently categorizes tags, has a page that lists the most popular searches for fan-fiction content: anything from “Domestic Fluff” to a number of very specific and graphic sexual acts that will not be repeated in this article. To give an idea of how quickly the tags become graphic and disturbing, works tagged with “incest” number nearly 35,000. “Rape”, close to 50,000, and those tagged with a general “pornography” warning, nearly 90,000.
Again, this data is from only one website.
Further, across fan-bases, the ratio of homosexual romantic pairings to heterosexual romantic pairings is simply astronomical. On average, there are four male/male explicit fan-works to every one explicit male/female works. According to certain corners of the Internet, this is specifically because Hollywood operates under a “hetero-normal” standard when it comes to writing romantic sub-plots, thus leaving it up to fans of a certain cultural mind and political ideation to write the homosexual encounters that supposedly occur in-between takes and pages.
If asked, most people who reside in a culture that procures and produces fan-fiction will say that they bring subtext to life, that they read between the lines of their favorite novels and comic books, and that it is their right as fans to take inspiration from their favorite stories in order to create whatever they wish. More often than not, these works become novel-length erotica available for free on the Internet, and, if the author has a good publicist, eventually become 50 Shades of Gray and Gabriel’s Inferno.
Comments on the quality of literature aside, fan-fiction, good or bad, has a significant impact on Millennial culture. For one, there are a number of Tumblr posts that openly acknowledge that fan-fiction is, at best, free literature of copy-written material and, at worst, extremely graphic pornography.
To demonstrate…. A canon fix-it:
Disturbing, unnatural, and bizarre content, discovered at a young age:
No-shame acknowledgment of pornography, with Snow White gif for emphasis:
And the “fact” that there’s “better, free porn on the Internet” than 50 Shades of Gray:
Fact is, this is where Millennial culture is at. More importantly, this is the type of erotic storytelling that permeates every thought of future novel-writers and professional daydreamers. This is what keeps them up at night and inspires them to create their own content. Fan-fiction is everywhere. For a Millennial, who spends any time on the Internet, it’s nearly unavoidable and is just as damaging and prevalent as visual pornography.
There is something fundamentally wrong with normalizing and perpetuating fan-fiction, if only for the integrity of the story itself.
If we’re going to be anti-porn, erotic fan-fiction needs to be part of the discussion.
Click here to read the Part One of ‘An Open Discussion on Fan-Fiction.’