Warning: This post is mostly a rant and talks about the prevalence of rape in fandom works and canon pieces, along with some disturbing trends that I have noticed over the years. If such discussions are not for you for whatever reason, you should not read this post. Thank you.
There are many fandom-related things that can easily drive me into a rage: people telling other people to kill themselves for their opinions, art thieves, people who post spoilers without warnings… But in the world of fan work creation, one thing reigns supreme in my kingdom of rage. This thing is a tag, a tag that needs to rot in the deepest pits of Hell. This tag is called Non-Con.
If you have read my Fandom Glossary, you know what Non-Con is. Non-Con, short for non-consensual sex, a pretty way of saying “Rape” without actually saying it. It’s a category of smut that, more often than not, involves forceful, non-consensual sex that eventually turns romantic and/or pleasurable, or a non-consensual sex scene that is much more sexualized than it should be.
Know what I like to call that? RAPE! That’s what I like to call that!
This is part of a very disturbing trend I’ve seen in the realm of fiction, a trend that romanticizes characters who force themselves on others, making them seem “tortured” or “dangerous” in a way that is oh-so-sexy. Worse still, the act itself is romanticized and shown as an ultimately pleasurable experience for the victims.
I first discovered this in my high school years, when I was just learning that gay pairings actually existed in the world of fiction. I was a huge anime fan at the time, so I naturally started seeking out Yaoi anime. I checked out some of the big names in the Yaoi-verse, such as Junjou Romantica and Kirepapa. The more I watched, the more disturbed I got.
You see, there was a common trend in these series. The “seme” or more dominant partner in any of these situations had a tendency to force himself on the submissive “uke” character. Sometimes, this meant major coercion. Other times, it meant statements like “If you don’t say anything, I’m gonna take you.” Other times, it was a full-blown assault while the uke vocally protested the entire time. All of these times were wrong and horrible!
I looked up common trends of Yaoi, and found out that rape is a common staple of many Yaoi works. The act of forcing his partner into having sex is meant to show the “uncontrollable passion and love” that the seme has.
Here’s a thought: If you love someone that much, why not try respecting them and waiting until they’re totally ready to have sex? How about that?!
As I grew older, I continued seeing this trend popping up, especially in supposedly-romantic settings. Remember how popular Fifty Shades of Grey was when it first came out? I know people who have said that Christian Grey, a person who raped his partner, emotionally abused her, and put a tracker on her freaking phone, is the ideal man for them.
We’re already familiar with the trope of the romantic, tortured bad boy. It seems that this obsession is taking a much darker and dangerous turn, one where even rape itself is being redefined.
Back to the Non-Con tag. The very fact that this tag exists infuriates me. It implies that what is happening in the story or art piece in question is somehow different from rape, when it isn’t. It tries to soften and sugarcoat a word that is too ugly for the erotic scenario the author is trying to create.
The scary thing is that it’s working! Most works tagged as Rape pieces, actually depict rape as what it is: horrifying, traumatic, and scarring for the victim. Meanwhile, Non-Con works show an eroticized rape scene, followed by some angst, then usually a romantic or sexual conclusion.
Now, I know that rape fantasy is a thing. Some people do get off reading smut of that nature. I get that, but couldn’t we perhaps make a Rape Fantasy tag instead? At least then, it’s being honest about what it is rather than restating a horrible term in a less horrible way.
What really gets me are people who tag their works as Non-Con pieces, and don’t add trigger warnings concerning rape. Anyone not familiar with what Non-Con means is certainly in for a nasty surprise. I may or may not be speaking from experience here.
Bottom line: Non-Con is a tag that needs to die. Also, what we see as rape and how rape is depicted in fiction, particularly romantic fiction, needs to be heavily looked at. Remember, there are people out there who have been convinced that Christian Grey is the ideal man. There are people who think that acts of forced sex are actually physical declarations of uncontrollable love. Worst of all, there are people who either won’t ask for help or won’t think they need to help someone because of this growing mindset. Think about that the next time you’re browsing the M-rated section of AO3.
This has been a full-blown fandom rant from Solora Goldsun. Thank you for listening.