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.
but if you’re an adult, say, in your mid to late 20s or older, especially if you’re in a fandom that’s filled mostly with teenagers, you do need to be careful about how you interact with young people in fandom.
you need to be careful about the content you produce or share, and if you do something that people take issue with, you need to be prepared to address that in an honest and meaningful way, instead of blocking the young people who are telling you you’ve done something wrong and going on a rant about how “it’s just fiction” and “ship and let ship” and “do whatever you want” and “i’m too old for this.”
if you’re an adult in fandom, you need to be able to recognize how the content you produce might affect young people, and honestly, you should be able to show maturity when dealing with it, because you are still an adult talking to many people who are literal children.
many of those young people will, by default, view you as a sort of authority figure based on your age alone, as that’s what they’re used to. be careful of the lessons you teach them.
Hm. Okay. Here’s the thing.
We all know who you’re talking about and which situations you’re talking about. What you really have an issue with isn’t anything to do with anyone’s age, it’s about people producing things that other people find hurtful, then not responding the way the hurt people would like them to when called out on it. That can and does happen anywhere, regardless of the ages of the people involved. It’s a separate issue that should be discussed and dealt with.
And yes, in some of those recent situations, the ages of the offenders or the offended were brought into the discussion, by both sides at different times. The age difference does complicate things, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the main issue.
You may be thinking “why do you care if I focus on age, it was a salient part of the argument for me, you’re trying to defend adults who don’t care how their words hurt children!” But here’s the thing.
You may not realize this, but in other fandoms adults have been doxxed, have been threatened, have been outed because they were creating things that someone, somewhere deemed “dangerous for minors.”
Adults who were creating things that were not meant for minors, that were openly and blatantly tagged as being NSFW, explicit, as containing triggering material. I’ve even seen people who weren’t even creating the offending material being harassed, bullied, and threatened, for daring to stand up for the people who were. Not even just online, but in person. I’ve been a victim of it myself, though not to the extent that I’ve seen many others go through.
All because a segment of the fandom decided that because certain content could be dangerous for minors, it should never, ever be posted anywhere a minor might possibly read it. Adults who do post it are responsible for every bad effect it could possibly have on anyone who reads it and are horrible people for not willingly taking on that responsibility.
I know the situations you’re talking about are different. In many of those situations, adults chose to interact with the minors who were complaining about them, and yeah, when you’re choosing to directly interact with a minor you need to tread carefully.
But once you go down the “adults in fandom are responsible for the minors in fandom” road, if lots of people start clinging to that mindset, that is where it can lead. And that is an extremely serious issue. It can literally destroy careers and ruin lives.
I am not in this or any other fandom to produce content for minors. I have asked many times for minors not to follow me; I don’t block them, but I know quite a few people who block any minor who follows them. I produce enough SFW content that I don’t mind minors being able to, say, reblog it from others on their dash, but I do not want them following me and getting explicit content directly from me, full stop. If it becomes an issue, I will start blocking people.
If you’re a minor, I’m old enough to be your mother. But I’ve got my own kid, and I’m not in fandom to babysit anyone else. When I create or reblog content, I do not and will not take the presence of minors into account when doing so. Because that is not my job.
Now, right now I’m choosing to get involved in this discussion, which will involve people much younger than me, including minors. So yeah, I’m being careful about what I say and how I say it. And I agree that any adult who willingly engages in conversation with minors needs to do the same.
But I simply can’t agree with your last two paragraphs. Those “literal children” already have parents. If their own parents aren’t monitoring what media they consume, aren’t having conversations with them about problematic messages in media, it certainly isn’t my job to do so. Period.
This is an excellent time for teens in fandom (and in general) to stop seeing every adult they come in contact with as an “authority figure” and start viewing us as human beings who are living our own lives with our own motivations, problems, desires, and inclinations that have nothing to do with them. That’s something that will serve them well in life.
How people interact with oppressed groups they aren’t a part of who complain about their representation of those oppressed groups is an entirely separate issue that is not about the age of the people on either side. Age can complicate it, especially in that it can be difficult to communicate across a generation gap when people on either side have such enormously different experiences. I think that that has caused some problems.
But any adult who is not willingly choosing to interact with a minor is not responsible for minors who consume their content, and conflating the two issues is downright dangerous.
@porcupine-girl nailed it 100% but this especially bears repeating:
This is an excellent time for teens in fandom (and in general) to stopseeing every adult they come in contact with as an “authority figure” and start viewing us as human beings who are living our own lives with our own motivations, problems, desires, and inclinations that have nothing to do with them. That’s something that will serve them well in life.
Fandom is a good way for teenagers to learn how to interact with people in different age groups as peers. Because that’s what we are, we are fandom peers posting on the same web sites and obsessing over the same shows and no one in fandom has any authority over anyone else (no matter how much some people might try to claim it). I am not your teacher, your parent, your babysitter, or anyone in any position of authority over you or anyone with a responsibility for taking care of you. Nor am I willing to take on that role. The vast majority of the billions of adults in the world fit that description. Only a very few, ones you know in real life, are responsible for you personally – and soon that number will be none as you become an adult yourself.
I block anyone with an age under 18 listed in their profile if they try to follow me – not with any animosity, I’m just not interested in interacting with kids on a fandom level. This is a completely valid option and I think it’s a wise one.
Plus the original post here is predicated on the assumption that fandom belongs to people in their early 20s and younger and the rest of us are just hangers on. Sorry baby, look at the demographics; you’re the minority. We’re not in your house. I, for one, am happy to interact with anyone I have interests in common with and bond over those interests; I think people of all ages have exciting perspectives and interesting minds. But I don’t want to be treated like a second class citizen by anyone, and as said above, I am interested in interacting AS PEERS ONLY. I ain’t your mommy and I have enough people IRL trying to leech emotional labor off me, I got none for strangers on the internet.
I have watched my friends raise their kids in fandom. Literally. Raise. Their. Kids. I’ve watched young things I met carried in arms toddle, walk, run, be 8, 18, 28, marry, come to a convention carrying young things in their arms.
It was assumed that everyone who knew the parent would keep a vague eye on the child because friends don’t let friends’ little ones run into traffic. But at NO POINT was it ever assumed or expressed that the adult fans had to stop being adult fans talking about adult things. If a minor walked into the “How to write explicit bondage” panel, then someone gently suggested that this was not the place for the kid to be. If the kid found the dick pics in the art show, they were told “go ask Mommy what ‘slash’ means.”
I get that the OP wants to protect children, but while it’s my job to make sure someone too little to take care of themselves doesn’t get hurt, it has NEVER, through three generations of fandom, been my job to be anyone’s actual parent or to stop adulting around adults.
Oh, and the line “I’m not saying adults don’t have a place in fandom; they can and they do” – that line? Child, ADULTS BUILT FANDOM. We created the cons and the fanzines and the webrings and the clubs and the fan sites and the VCR tape swaps and the letter writing campaigns and the podcasts. We maintain the fan sites and the fic repositories and the conventions and the rest. Did you think those things just spontaneously evolved? Fuckin’ A we have a place in the culture that we built!
If you’re old enough to be online unsupervised you’re also old enough to police your own fandom experience. Head the tags and warnings, that’s what they are there for.
Also, to be blunt, I am not responsible for anyone’s children. Full stop.
I’ve been in fandom for over 20 years, since I was a teen myself.
At the age of 16, which is the age of majority where I live, I began to consume adult media in fandom. My mother trusted my judgment as an intelligent young woman and, when other adults IRL tried to police me for the content I consumed (even though it was all text, and there’s no way to have known what I was reading unless you were peering over my shoulder), she was quick to defend my choices. Mostly, she was relieved to know my curiosity didn’t result in me going out and doing something I’d regret, but reading about it instead.
My mother came from the generation that brought us the idea of “free love,” hence her more relaxed method of parenting. Not every parent has the same approach to things as my mother did, and that’s fine. But if the parent dislikes their child consuming adult fan works, it is the parent’s job to block those pages. It is not for the adult fans who created their work for other adult fans to censor their own creativity.
People put up trigger warnings and ratings for a reason; if you choose to ignore those, that’s your fault and not the creator’s (they did warn you, after all). There’s also no reason that, as a parent, you can’t block the “#smut“ tag (and other similar adult fandom tags) from your child’s Tumblr account… until the day you feel they’re mature enough to consume such things.
Some of us adult fans may be parents IRL, or even grandparents, but we’re not your parents. Stop seeing us as the authority figures we already need to be in our daily lives, and start seeing us as fans who just want to share in the squee when we’re in fandom spaces.
Grown-ups need to have fun, sometimes, to keep ourselves happy and healthy. After all, we’re human too.