… phew. this ask almost passes as a legit question, but the ‘xoxo’ at the end is a little much. still, what a great opportunity to talk about this ongoing problem of people ignoring warnings that a work contains content that upsets them, then complaining that they were upset when they viewed it.
(first, a side note: don’t censor the word ‘pedophilia’. It’s not a slur - it’s a content warning. If you censor it, the blacklists of people who don’t want to see posts that mention pedophilia won’t catch it and they could be harmed. Just use the word.)
anti-shippers who look at a fic or fanwork’s tags and say ‘this has problematic content! I better go tell the author how problematic their content is!’, I have news for you:
warnings on fanworks indicate that the person creating the work knows the content is ‘problematic’, not for all audiences, and may hurt people if they view it unsuspectingly. stop taking fanwork warnings and tags in bad faith and using them as an excuse to harass and harm creators.
warnings aren’t ‘disclaimers’ (and aren’t used as such). they’re the CONTAINS NAPROXIN. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN sticker on painkillers. The content is good, even helpful, for some people, but for others who don’t need it or are too young to understand what they’re consuming could be harmed. take the warnings seriously and if you don’t like what they say the fic contains, you really are better off not reading/viewing it!
‘they’re not warnings, they’re advertisements!’ they can function as both! people who want to read that content can find it and people who don’t want to read that content can avoid it. everyone is happier, except anti-shippers who are mad that people are enjoying content they don’t personally approve of.
‘If the creator knows their content is problematic, then they shouldn’t have created it in the first place! Or if they did, they shouldn’t have put it on the internet for people to see!’ well that’s a very different conversation. What you’re saying is that you advocate for censorship, and in that case ‘don’t like don’t read’ would be worthless: only things you like would be allowed to exist in the first place.
But let’s talk about how ‘they shouldn’t have put it on the internet for people to see.’ the basis for this is, I know, that it could corrupt the unsuspecting youth who read the bad content. But isn’t this a bit contradictory? if a fanwork is tagged with a warning that it contains abuse, everyone who looks at the fanwork is going to know that 1) the author believes that abuse is bad and needs to be warned for, and 2) the work contains abuse. Taking these points together, no matter how positively the abuse is depicted, a viewer has foreknowledge that it’s abusive and the creator thinks abuse is bad. It’s simply insulting to imply that viewers will look at the abuse in the fanwork so uncritically as to not think it’s horrible after receiving such a warning.
In fact, I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that people who have been raped or abused (or still being abused) or undergone other harm have read fics with these warnings and because of the warnings, realized what had happened to themselves was not okay. If anti-shippers had their way, those fics wouldn’t even exist, much less be warned for.
I’m about to say something radical, so brace yourself:
because tagging warnings is the accepted way to warn people about dangerous content in fandom, the things more likely to cause confusion and harm in fanworks are the things that aren’t warned for.
Even the most positive depiction of abuse would be spoiled by a warning. Can you imagine if the beginning of every copy of Nabokov’s Lolita started with ‘Warning: this work contains depictions of csa, abuse, and child grooming.’ It would force readers who are blind to the hints that the narrator is unreliable to read the work with a very different eye, and I doubt most people would read it and conclude it’s a love story the way many people do today.
Now Lolita was intended to be a kind of monster story from the point of view of the monster - it was never meant to be a positive depiction at all. Nabokov’s work was too subtle for most people, but he was a master storyteller. I think if he could, he’d go back and add a warning so people would stop getting the wrong idea.
In fandom, where we have a widely-accepted tagging system, potentially harmful content that the creator adds deliberately will be warned for. But the potentially harmful content that the creator doesn’t know about won’t be - and that’s the stuff that tends to be a lot more sneaky and insidious.
Let’s take your example:
“i can be as racist as i want and you have to deal with it because i used a disclaimer".
Racism does crop up a lot in fanworks, but not in the way this implies. There’s a huge difference between a creator recognizing racism exists and utilizing it as an aspect of a setting or acknowledging it in a respectful, truthful way and a creator who does not recognize their own racist blind spots and therefore ends up perpetuating harmful stereotypes or providing racist narration without realizing it.
The former tends to be warned for; the latter never is because the creator doesn’t even know they’re being racist. The former may be painful, because racism is shitty and harmful and real, but a person can steer clear if they want to avoid it and the warning shows the content is known to be bad. The latter is more painful because it’s not just depicting racism: it is in fact perpetuating racism.
So which is actually worse: the fic that has a warning for racism or the fic that doesn’t?
And this can be applied to anything. A fic that depicts a character being abused but doesn’t warn for abuse tells me that the author doesn’t know the work contains abuse (which is worrying for the safety of the author). A fic that contains dubious consent but the author doesn’t warn for noncon/dubcon/rape tells me that the author has a poor understanding of consent. These are the fics that are more likely to be dangerous. Fics without content warnings are also the ones most likely to unironically and uncritically depict the bad behavior in a positive light - because the authors have been taught by the rest of society outside fandom that what they’ve depicted is normal/not harmful. They are victims, and they need help, not people yelling at them about how problematic they are.
Two last notes, which I’ll try to keep short:
If a fanwork depicts a relationship that’s canonically unhealthy in a world where it’s fluffy and healthy, they are not responsible for putting warnings on their fic that pertain to the canon version of the ship. For instance: Kylo and Rey are enemies in current Star Wars continuity and Kylo tried to torture Rey for information. But if a fic is set in a future where Kylo is well-adjusted and happy and dating Rey in a non-abusive relationship, the fic does not need to warn for ‘abuse’. the fic doesn’t contain abuse. Let it go.
No creator is beholden to using anti definitions of words like ‘pedophilia’, ‘abuse’, and ‘incest’ for their warnings. The definition of what antis call ‘pedophilia’, ‘incest’, and ‘abuse’ varies from fandom to fandom - sometimes from pairing to pairing. While tags will always be somewhat subjective, the wide variety of definitions these words have in anti-shipper parlance makes them all but meaningless, so use them when you see fit, not when antis demand it. If antis have a problem with it, they’ll just have to start treating ship tags as warnings* and avoid all depictions of ships they don’t like. (which is what we all wish they’d do anyway.)
And now for the final irony: every time anti-shippers use warnings as a reason to go yell at people about how their fanworks are bad, antis give creators less incentive to tag warnings. People might start to hope that if they just don’t warn up front for the potentially dangerous content people will stop yelling at them without even looking at the work itself. Or if the work is borderline (’maybe this is abusive but maybe it’s not’), they may opt to go without the warnings so they can avoid the extra trouble. this is already happening with dubious consent depictions. If a noncon warning gets you yelled at, then fics where the consent isn’t completely denied will just not get warned for at all, and that’s fucked up. And when the warnings aren’t there, people are way more likely to stumble on something of a nature that upsets them!
So as usual, in their crusade to eradicate all content that isn’t unquestionably wholesome and pure antis make everything a little less safe for everyone. Thanks, guys. (please stop.)
and creators: please, depict terrible things in your fanworks in whatever light you choose - and warn for them. you might accidentally help save someone from a real situation that’s terrible.
*ship tags also work as both warnings and advertisements, as it happens. Funny, isn’t it?