Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney
rozk

In the aftermath of kerfuffle

I have been engaged in a long and hard examination of my conscience and my feelings in the aftermath of the whole Strikethrough mess, and reading a lot of the resulting posts, and having a number of friendly disagreements with people, notably jennyo.

I have something of a record as a free speech advocate. I am prepared to defend even things I find hateful and contemptible simply because I do not believe that anyone is good enough or wise enough to be the last word on what is out there. My experience is that almost as soon as people agree on how to censor bad stuff while leaving good stuff alone, quite a lot of good stuff gets suppressed and people start talking about collateral damage.

Generally speaking, I favour counterspeech as the answer to bad speech. When I found the idea of people valorizing ships like Snape/Harry repellent, I wrote Five Disillusions as what I hoped was a tactful counterblast.

If you want a measure of how seriously I am taking some of these issues, I would add that at various points in the last couple of weeks I have seriously considered taking off every site I know about what I consider one of my best stories, simply because its representation of abuse through implication might be considered problematic. That is even before we get onto fanfiction like Faith by Night which is, after all, me as a fifty-something transwoman writing mild erotica about women in their late teens, or the two Girl stories which are about lack of consent darkly eroticized.

In each of those cases, I reread what I had written and decided that it was not only as artistically valid as fanfiction ever is, but something I would be prepared to defend in a witness box, or in a dock. I don't have a problem with any of that fic being out there, because I am prepared to stand up for it.

What worries me about some of the posts I have seen in the aftermath of Strikethrough is that people want to be defended, but won't subject themselves to much in the way of self-criticism. It would worry me if people could read anything I have written as in any way valorizing the fairly restricted areas of sexual expression which I deplore.

I take all the points people have to offer about rapefic and kidfidfic as ways of coping with the experience of abuse and what I have to say is this. Given your experiences, how would you feel if an abuser felt valorized by what you have written? It is perfectly legitimate to say that some people will feel absolved by anything, and that we should not, for example, do without clothing catalogues for the under-tens because someone gets off on them. The further question I want to ask is this, can you put your hand on your heart and say that an abuser would not be entitled to get aid and comfort from what you have written?

This is in no way telling anyone not to write what they love or what they believe in. I am just saying that there is a case for making sure that it cannot be misused.

We know that there are other bad people out there, Christianists who want to smear all queer sex as abusive or potentially abusive. This after all is what Strikethrough was all about. It makes no sense to leave anything you have written that might be dodgy available to those people to smear all of us.

A few years ago, I was involved in a defense campaign for a group of gay men prosecuted for having SM sex. I would do it again, of course I would. However, one of the things people did learn from that is that sending videos of moderately extreme acts through the post is not the most sensible thing to do. Because someone was careless, a bunch of people did actual serious jail time.

Apart from the ethics of Snape/Harry fic, or come to that Bruce/Tim, there are the simple questions of 1) on which particular front do we choose to fight for freedom of expression? and 2) how easy do we want to make things for our enemies?

Let's not act like Paris Hilton and think we are immune from consequences.
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