With fans like these…

anniewilkesTed Casablanca of E! reports on just one of what must have surely been dozens of squicky, inappropriate moments at last week’s San Diego Comic-Con, this one during a panel for Twilight fan fiction writers.

So the head of a fanfic site was asked if she was bothered by stories posted that are violent or that border on sexual assault. The answer, offered loudly by a fan in the room?

“If it’s Rob, it’s OK.”

The crowd then erupted with laughter.

Um, that’s so not funny.

Now, the erotic-themed pieces are called deep genre, and one audience member asked about where to draw the line between harmless role playing and scary sexual stuff. One mom-author-fan responded that it’s all kosher when Rob is involved and emphasized that, “Twilight [fanfic] is a place where fans can speak freely.”

Somewhere, my high school creative writing teacher is weeping helplessly into his hands over the fact that people who are committing what only just twenty years ago was called plagiarism are now getting widespread acclaim, even their own panel at a convention where they’re interviewed like any other author.  I’m sorry, Mr. B., I don’t understand it either.  Now, I don’t usually use gossip sites as a source of reliable information, but I judged this story plausible enough to discuss, mainly because there is recorded footage of it available and also because I don’t put anything past Twilight fans.  I haven’t read any of the Twilight books, nor have I seen the first movie.  Romantic vampire sagas are not my cup of blood, and even if I did have some interest in giving the series a try, I wouldn’t now because it’s been tainted for me by its fandom.  You see, Twilight fans are fucking crazy, and the mere mention of them at this point makes me recoil in fear.  Every time I offer proof that its fans are cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, such as physically attacking not only critics of the series but each other over who’s the more devoted fan or, I don’t know, writing stories in which the characters are violently raped, someone pipes up that that’s not representative of typical fan behavior, they merely just draw attention to themselves.  You’ll pardon me if that’s not exactly reassuring.

Robert Pattinson, who of course plays romantic lead Edward Cullen in the movie version of the series, seems to be the unlucky recipient of most of the fan devotion.  Pattinson, who’s often criticized the quality of the books and clearly didn’t know what he was getting into when he signed his contract with Summit Entertainment, now seems alternately baffled, angry and terrified of the attention he gets from fans, even nearly getting hit by a car while trying to run away from a mob of them in New York City last month.  The majority of his more rabid fans, even the forty year-olds who should know better if only they weren’t powered by pure fucking insanity, seem incapable of separating him from his character in the movie, so he’s often approached by grown women asking him to turn them into vampires, stalked in airports and manhandled by those who consider him public domain and don’t know how to keep their hands to themselves.  Then, of course, there’s the fan fiction.

Fan fiction, if you have one of these things called a “life” and don’t spend much time on the internet, is when fans of a certain book series, movie or TV show, usually sci-fi, fantasy or horror, write their own stories involving characters from it.  More often than not the stories are pornographic, sometimes quite hardcore, and don’t always shy away from activities that are currently illegal, such as pedophilia and rape.  I know that fanfic isn’t a new concept; undoubtedly 25 years ago there were thousands of fevered masturbation fantasies starring Princess Leia in her slave costume written on notebook paper and then hidden under a mattress.  Now fanfic is a cottage industry, with many of its writers who don’t recognize the terms “copyright” and “intellectual property” developing fan bases of their own and even taking money for their work.  It’s not clear why fan fiction has been allowed to flourish to the point that some purveyors are profiting from it, my only guesses are that a.) it’s so widespread it’s impossible to monitor it, b.) most of the original creators of the work shrug it off as harmless fun for the fans or c.) when writers do complain about fan fiction they’re often met with a backlash, as though it’s a slap in the face to fans to ask them to stop stealing your shit.

Thanks to the internet, pretty much anything goes when it comes to fanfic, because everything is normal on the internet.  You could write a story about Severus Snape sodomizing Ron Weasley with a spiked dildo the size of a Hickory Farms summer sausage while applying jumper cables to his nipples, and for every person who tells you “Hey, that’s kind of messed up,” there’ll be an equal amount encouraging you to write more.  Such seems to be the case with Twilight fanfic, a disturbingly large amount of which appears to involve not just Edward Cullen, but Robert Pattinson specifically (though as mentioned previously many of his fans believe him to be one and the same) being violently raped.

Now, before I go on, let me say that I’m not judging anyone who’s into rape fantasy.  Whether you fancy yourself the assailant or the victim, as long as you know that it’s not an appropriate urge to act on in real life, that’s your business.  I also don’t believe in thoughtcrime, the notion that writing gruesome stories about violence and rape means that you’re going to act on any of it in real life.  My issue is the hypocrisy.  Let’s put it this way: what if it was a male audience member at the Comic-Con panel who made that “joke” about Kristen Stewart, who plays heroine Bella Swan in the Twilight movies? He would have gotten his ass handed to him, and rightfully so.  Women don’t get a pass on making rape jokes, and they definitely don’t get a pass on claiming that it’s “okay” to write stories involving an actual person being sexually assaulted, just because of who he is and because psycho fans believe they claim some sort of ownership on him.

Undoubtedly, most of the “real person fic” involving the rape of Robert Pattinson, particularly if the assailant is a woman, probably ends with his enjoying it, perhaps even falling for his victimizer, rendering the story not so bad in the eyes of the author.  However, isn’t that the most offensive stereotype of all when it comes to rape and sexual assault, that secretly the victim digs it? It is of course the basis for the relationship of Luke and Laura Spencer from General Hospital, probably the most popular couple in soap opera history, as well as a million trashy romance novels in which a virginal princess is kidnapped by a pirate or a sheik who tames her with his penis.  If it was a man writing this kind of garbage, he’d be labeled a misogynist and told to get his head examined.  Women, on the other hand, get to slide most of the time, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, especially if the rape scenes they envision involve a man being assaulted by a woman.  I can only guess it’s because the majority of society still believes that a man simply cannot be raped by a woman, so it’s less insidious.

I realize I’m making a big deal out of what was basically a joke made in poor taste by a member of a subgroup that probably isn’t nearly as prevalent as the internet makes it seem, but again, it’s the hypocrisy that bothers me.  Let’s be honest enough to admit that, despite the First Amendment allowing them to do so,  there’s something deeply twisted about writing fantasies in which real people are sexually assaulted, and it’s not any less twisted when it’s a woman writing them.  It’s not a fun, entertaining way to show your favorite actor how much you love him.  It’s just messed up, and for Robert Pattinson’s sake I hope he never crosses paths with any of these people.

Check out some other examples of “Rape is OK When It’s a Woman Doing It to a Man,” though be warned that once you enter the rabbit hole of TV Tropes, you may never return.

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One Response to “With fans like these…”

  1. CatalyticDragon Says:

    Part of the whole “men can’t be raped” paradigm is, I think, merely an extension of the belief that no one who looks or acts like Someone In Power can be raped. It’s easier to joke about/fantasize about R Patterson being raped (as himself or as Cullen) because a) he’s a man and b) he’s a vampire. Obviously, powerful people, even when raped – well it’s not *really* that bad b/c they’ve got so much power. After it’s all over, they’ll go back to being powerful and they’ll be fine.

    It’s a very subtle and cutting sexism: 1) women can’t be powerful, so anything that remotely looks like rape is OMG rape, and 2) men can’t be weak, so obviously, they must be in control after all.

    But that’s low-hanging fruit.

    I think this is an example of what happens when women try to assimilate the pervading cultural notion that Women Have Arrived So We Need To Shut Up About Equality Already.

    There are still massive disparities between the genders, but since the backlash there has been less explicit examination of those disparities. As a result, sexism has gone more covert, more underground, more subtle. And that’s where it’s dangerous, because it can’t be explored rationally anymore.

    Instead, those who feel they don’t or can’t have power within the current system find ways to degrade those who they perceive in power – even in fantasy. The fact that it is acceptable to do so – widely accepted, brushed off as humor, left unexamined – regardless of the gender of the objectified fantasy subject, is indicative that such dangerous power dynamics are in play on a cultural level.

    I’m worry I’m not making the most sense with my two cents, but there ya go.

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