Updated: Jan 1
And we come back to visit again. I hope all is well with you, all is well with me, both in the writing world and in personal life. So far on this blog, we’ve been rather personal. And that’s cool. You know a little more about me and can see why I write what I do.
Today, we’re going to discuss a very serious subject: Adult content and minors.
I was perhaps 15 or 16 when I first began my foray into the world of written eroticism. Should I have been allowed to? Probably not. But I was involved in mail order book sites, and I worked so I had my own money and a checking account. The first thing I encountered (which perhaps explains my later interest in BDSM) was in the Science Fiction Book Club. They offered The Story of O and the Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice. So, being the curious teenager with the mom who let me start reading Stephen King at 12, I ordered them. My mom and stepdad never restricted my access to any media (granted, with the internet not a thing until late teen years it wasn’t like it is now). So, I got these books. And, teenage me was sucked in. They were lewd. They were explicit. They were exciting. Then I don’t even remember how, but I started ordering books from the Erotic Library or something like that. It was a book of the month club sort of thing, and I got some interesting volumes in that, like Victorian era magazines compiled into a large book, The Pearl. It fascinated me. And of course, being that young and inexperienced (I’d never dated, really), it just floored me to see what people did.
I’ll never forget the excitement of getting those unmarked boxes with smutty books contained within. My parents never asked me what they were, and if they had, I would have just said books (my mother wasn’t a reader anymore and didn’t care as long as I was reading).
So, that was me as a teenager. So, I get teens coming into the erotic world and being curious. Teenagers have forever been trying to get into adult situations. Whether it’s trying to read erotic books like I did, or experimenting with sex with their friends, or trying to get fake IDs, we all know teens desire more often than not to be in an adult world. Some are sneaky about it, and like me, when they get online, create “adult” profiles with fake birthdays and the like. I got onto sites in high school, and I had this older persona that let me get into websites I shouldn’t have been. I felt like I was mature enough to handle it (and maybe I was, some teens are more able to handle adult themes than others), but I NEVER complained about what I saw because I wasn’t supposed to be there to start with.
Fandom, and media in general, has a problem with this. Adults can’t create adult content without minors invading adult spaces. Again, I GET it. I was that minor. However, the problem comes in with minors who can’t curate their own experience and get mad at adult spaces for existing when they’re not supposed to be there to start with.
I’ve always written 18 plus works. Ever since I started. Even my fantasy is intended for adults. Have I had the odd minor contact me? Sure, and in some cases, I’ve mentored their writing (not adult writing mind you). I’ve also told them they shouldn’t be reading my work at all, but I appreciated their interest. I’ve helped them by giving them writing advice and telling them where to post and where to gain audience, but not by “pushing” adult content. I have reminded them I think it’s not appropriate to talk about my writing, but I’m willing to listen to them talk about their writing. I do have a few fluff pieces that I’ve done that are teen and up, which I gladly direct them to. This is, of course, assuming they don’t lie to me about their age. Anytime I’m contacted online, there’s really no way to verify a person’s age, because it is so easy to create fake accounts. But at that point, it’s on them, like it was on me at that age. I made the choice to create an adult persona to access adult spaces, and they’ve done the same.
Now, the thing is, some minors have the maturity to handle adult spaces. They know they shouldn’t be there, and they don’t want people to find out that they’re minors. At least, that was how I was. I wasn’t about to reveal that I’d lied to get there. I wanted to access adult content without anyone realizing that I’d done something wrong to do it. I also knew when I ran into stuff I didn’t like, that it was my own fault for being there to begin with.
Therein lies the difficulty. Teens and other minors who AREN’T mature enough to handle adult spaces decide they are going to complain and speak out against adult spaces because they’ve managed to access them when they shouldn’t. They take the attitude that it is everyone else’s responsibility to make sure they don’t see things that offend or bother them. They aren’t mature enough to curate their own experience like adults and mature teens/minors are able to do. Their position is that spaces for adults don’t need to exist because they’ve lied to access them.
Here's the thing: as an internet citizen, it’s not my responsibility to ensure another person is free of discomfort. That’s on them. I write my content. I warn ahead of time what I write, and it’s up to the person reading it if they can handle it. One of the more baffling comments I got recently was on a fic I wrote called Shadow Complex. If you’ve ever seen the Kevin Smith movie Tusks, this fic takes elements from that. And I tag it. And then I have about 500 words explaining the content in the author’s note. There is no way anyone can walk into that fic without being prepared unless they chose to completely ignore tags and warnings I presented. I had someone comment that it was too much for them, and they were out. And I GET that. I do. But you were warned ahead of time. That’s not on me, because I’ve done my job.
And that’s the thing. It is up to each and everyone of us to curate our experiences and ensure our own safety. If you’re in kink, if you’re in any sort of adult orientated space, you know this. Consent is key, and a cornerstone of things like Kink. Is it our job to redirect minors? Yes, of course. But the problem is knowing that information. I have no idea how many readers I’ve had that ARE minors but did what I did as a teenager and lied to get into adult spaces. If you are a minor, it’s time to learn these things, and not take it out on the fact such spaces exist. Your existence doesn’t mean that adult spaces don’t belong, especially when you don’t belong in adult spaces.
Is there an easy answer? Not at all. But adults who complain that adult spaces might be accessed by minors need to understand that it doesn’t matter how many barriers you put in place between minors and adult spaces, there are minors that will get around them. I KNOW this because I was one of those minors. All we can do as adults is steer minors out of spaces when they make themselves known, and help them see that they need to find spaces they belong in. So, just carry on, adults. That’s all we can do. Try to steer minors out of our spaces, but don’t treat them like they’re bad people for what they’re doing. They’re just doing what minors do and getting curious. If they’re trying to get into adult spaces, though, they need to understand that they are NOT made for them and know that they’re going to see stuff that might make them uncomfortable. They’re going to have to learn maturity and be mature enough to curate their own experiences, so that’s what we need to help them understand. So, that’s it for today, have a good one!