What do we lose if we lose chan?
This isn't a rhetorical question, given the current upheaval between LJ and fandom. But -- despite reading everything I can find in the current discussions -- I haven't seen anyone really answer that question. Please link if I've missed something!
I'm looking for an affirmative articulation of the case for chan. What I've seen instead -- and I've found many of these arguments persuasive -- are a variety of defenses: the characters in the artworks in question aren't actually or necessarily underage, "underage" is an arbitrary social construction, freedom of expression, censorship is wrong, they're targeting slash & it's homophobic and/or sexist, even if you don't like chan how do you know they won't come after you next, etc.
I have yet to see a "Why I Love Chan And I'm Not Afraid to Say It" post. And I can't help but wonder if that's at all related to what penknife discusses in a recent post entitled On friends-locking, risk reduction, and shame.
The closest I've seen to a pro-chan argument is this post back in June from cesperanza, where she writes:
"The reason I've got this on the brain is because of the incest thing: a number of people have pointed out that when it comes to some of the more superficially problematic sexual kinks--underaged fic, rapefic, incest fic--many writers are identifying not with the adult, but with the child; not with the rapist, but the rape victim; not the stronger person, but the weaker. I feel like I heard a lot of people saying, oh, they're fantasizing about raping children or whatever, but FWIW, in fannish cases I think it might be the opposite; the fantasy is of being the more powerless person."
This is a really compelling argument, though she allows for the possibility of fic where the writer/reader does identify with the stronger person, and I'm tempted to think that some of the pleasures of fic come from the reader's oscillation between different points of view as well as taking on an outsider/voyeuristic perspective. Yes, for the Freudians in the house, I'm applying "A Child Is Being Beaten" to fanfic....
But even if all writers and readers of this kind of fic only identified with the more powerless person, that doesn't explain why that might be a good thing. For example, I can imagine (if not endorse) a counterclaim that this reflects internalized, even eroticized, oppression. And while I'm sympathetic to the line of thought that kinks are beyond good and evil and should be exempt from moral judgment and not mapped on to actual behaviors or real-life desires, I think that argument has some serious pitfalls (rhetorically/analytically/politically) when we move beyond fandom.
I haven't yet reread the comments to cesperanza's post, which may address these questions, but I want to go beyond the adult/minor instance. LJ would apparently construe sexually explicit art depicting two underaged characters as potentially obscene, regardless of whether they reflect any power imbalances.
So I'm trying to work out how to make the affirmative case (that "this is a good thing", rather than "not a bad thing" or "neutral/harmless") for chan. I'm using chan here to denote any sexually explicit fic or art involving "minors", though I've seen it limited to only works involving sex between an adult and a "minor". Though I've read it, chan is borderline-squick to me, and so I'm not a good position to articulate its appeal and value.
I'm new to fandom, so I'm guessing that people have indeed made the affirmative case for chan in past intra-fandom debates that I've missed. I posted a couple of comments this week about where I see the problem for myself:
"I'm just not at all sure how to mount a viable defense in the current political climate for adults channeling sexual fantasies through the imaginary bodies of underage fictional characters. Perhaps the challenge lies in preventing the issue from getting framed that way in the first place -- though that feels like a losing strategy, and even somewhat disingenuous."
"So I came to fanfic with a certain investment in -- well, let's call it something like empowerment and self-determination for adolescents viz. sexuality, paired with a desire to resist the normalization of adult (male) consumption of sexualized images of (female) teenagers. And in fanfic, I found a certain normalization of adult (female) consumption of sexualized images of (male) teenagers. And I wasn't sure what to do with that. I can recognize the various ways where these phenomena aren't exactly parallel or analogous, but I'm still troubled by the residual intersections."
I'd also point people to this thoughtful post by kaethe for another take on these issues.
Bottom line -- if fandom can't make an affirmative case for chan to people outside of fandom, we're always going to be on the defensive. If fandom can't make an affirmative case for chan to LJ, we can expect more suspensions/deletions.