Geek Girls Rule! #233 – The Ethics of Real Person Fic

The Man, we got him as an adult stray in 1999/2000.

Sorry about disappearing again.  We lost both The Man and the hedgepig, Kaylee, in the space of 48 hours.  After two weeks of medication and a continuing decline, we discovered The Man had developed an aggressive, fast-growing cancer and we had to put him to sleep the day we started our vacation.  The hedgepig died the next night after we had gone, from old age.  It was not the best start to a vacation.

Kaylee bug when she was new December 2008.

Then we went down to southern Oregon for a week with the Geek Husband What Rules’s family and intermittent and unreliable internet access.  Which was awesome.  I saw otters in the wild, and herons, egrets, pelicans, curlews, ospreys and owls.  This last week has been spent playing catch up at work, and coming home exhausted.

So, again, I apologize.

Now, on to the topic at hand.

Ok, I like fic.  I read a fair amount, I write even more, and post almost none of it.  And as a rule I don’t do real person fic, because I find it to be ethically uncomfortable for me, sort of a grey area.

I mean, yes, we all fantasize about real people, actors, singers, people we know.  You do it, I do it.  From Tom Hiddleston to that hot* girl on the bus with the rockin’ outfits.  We use pictures of people in our head to get off, or entertain ourselves.  I get that.

Seriously, the man is sex.
photo credit: wenn.com

But I think the line for me happens when you commit these fantasies to a medium where the subject of those fantasies could potentially find them and feel violated by them.  And while I think actors realize they’re putting themselves out there for a certain amount of masturbatory fantasizing, I kind of feel torn because I doubt they want to see it (granted, maybe some of them do, you never know.)

The Geek Husband What Rules often reminds me, “You have no control over who thinks about you while they masturbate,” especially me because I’ve done burlesque and some fetish modeling.  This goes about a million-fold for celebrities.  And while they probably mostly go out of their way to avoid it, everyone has that one asshole friend who would send them the link to them in the leather bondage necro-bestiality fic just because.

And seriously, it was bad enough when I was bartending and regulars would get drunk enough to tell me how much they wanted to come on my tits, or how they imagined their cock would feel sliding between my lips in FAR more graphic terms.  Frequently I would never see said guy again, or he’d come in the next week looking very sheepish and slip a twenty  in my tip jar by way of apology.  I can’t imagine if I opened a link one of MY asshole friends** sent me to see fic of me doing “things” to someone I’d never met or only met in passing, or doing things that I would never, ever do in all actuality***.  And if it turned out to be rape fic, I would probably be ragey as shit.

And part of why this is coming up for me right now is that I’ve found a fic author I like pretty well, her stuff is hot if a little clumsily written, but she focuses primarily on real person fic, so I feel icky sometimes reading it.  Which is maybe kind of dumb, because I DO fantasize about real people, but I think putting those fantasies out there publicly is a bit much.  I mean, I’ve written scenes that started out as fantasies about a real person that I’ve scraped the serial numbers off of and used in other pieces, but I think the scraping off of the serial numbers is important.

It just feels sort of violatey to me, to write sexy scenes about a real actual person and leave them up, potentially to be found by that person.  Real people have real feelings, and may be highly dismayed to find out their fans think they’d do that (for whatever value of “that” you want to insert).  Being famous doesn’t magically grant you the power to not be bothered by people misrepresenting you, and the people writing real person fic for the most part are bound to do that because they don’t actually know the person they’re writing about, no matter how many interviews they’ve read or seen.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Maybe because I know how much sexual fiction can actually harm someone in real life (rumors, etc…) I just can’t really ever be 100% OK with it, even if it IS meant as a “compliment.”  I’ve been harmed by the things people have imagined about my sexuality and then spread around to others, so I just can’t imagine doing that to someone else, even if there’s something like a bazillion to one chance they’d ever find it.

Someone asked why this bothered me and writing fic around characters played by those actors didn’t.  For a start, the actors are not the characters (hence why I differentiate my crushes on Tom Hiddleston and Loki, I like them both for different reasons), and part of the function of fiction is that we all see it differently.  Fanfic is just another expression of that.  I mean, the same work of fiction, we’ll take the Avengers movie, has inspired so many different interpretations of the characters.  If you ask the authors of vastly different fics to point to you where and why they came up with those interpretations, odds are good that when they start pointing to things you’ll go, “Oh yeah, I can see how you’d get that out of this.”  I mean shit, I have written “misunderstood, hurting, and wanting to be rehabilitated Loki” fic, and “unrepentant shithead Loki” fic.  And I can point to places in Thor and Avengers to justify both interpretations.

I mean, I love me some Alan Rickman, but I’ll be honest, I started writing Snape fic long before the first movie came out.  So, when I write Snape, he very rarely actually looks like Rickman, but more like the illustrations in the books.  (Actually, my Snape looks a little more like Adrian Brody.)

Now, whether an actor does feel violated by the smutfic written around a character they identify strongly with, I don’t know.  I think most of them are self-actualized enough (except possibly Robert Downey Jr. *that’s a tumblr joke*) to get that degree of separation.  But I have to say, if an actor contacted me to tell me I’d distressed them with a fic, I’d apologize a thousand times, probably cry (OK, definitely cry), and take it down.

Because as fans, we love the works of fiction, actors who portray them, and the people who create them.  That’s why when certain authors have come forward and said, “Hey, could you not post your fics of my work,” most fic writers oblige.  Most.  Every population has assholes.  Some authors have been nicer and more tactful about it than others, see the previous statement. Does it mean that the fic doesn’t get written?  No, probably not.  But it doesn’t get posted, and a lot of fic forums will not accept fic of works where the author has requested it not be posted.  Because fic is a form of love and admiration, and love and admiration should never hurt the object of that love.  It doesn’t matter what you intended, intent is not magic.  If you hurt someone with something, your intent doesn’t change the fact that they’re hurt.

And I’d really rather err on the side of not dismaying someone I admire.

Disclaimer:  This is a personal viewpoint and I do not think people who do write real person fic are monsters or anything.  I’m just not real comfortable with it personally. 

 

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*Your values of “hot” may vary.

 **I realize I may have just provided the impetus for one of said asshole friends to actually write that fic just to annoy me. 

***Actually in the early days of Livejournal there were a couple of sites that did something similar.  One was a joke site, where if you clicked the link while logged into LJ, it would propagate a bunch of “posts” of people talking shit with your LJ name, all of it vague enough to apply to just about anyone.  The first time someone sent that to me I was wrecked until they copped to it being a joke.  I didn’t find it funny, at all.
The second was LJ Funnies, where you could use people’s LJ names and icons to make 3 or 4 panel comics about them.  Most of us stuck to good-natured ribbing of friends, but some people got just ugly and brutal and the whole thing was eventually taken down, thank the gods. 

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4 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #233 – The Ethics of Real Person Fic

  1. There have been a handful of writers in my fandoms over the years who have sorely tempted my resolve not to read sexualized RPF (I can think of a couple in my current fandom – their character slash is great, and I admit I would be super-interested to see what they’ve written with the actors). But I just can’t bring myself to do it. I feel like I have to have standards or I can’t look myself in the eye, and as a journalist, I’ve always had a problem with writing stories about living people that I know to be blatant lies.

    Now, humor or parody, or political satire that isn’t graphic sex, I can enjoy. I’ve read RPF in the past, but it was of the “what if they switched places with the characters? hijinks ensue!” variety. And while I don’t normally want to read even dead-person RPF, I don’t consider it bad (and yeah, I admit I went to see Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and liked it). A dead person has no more rights, so I can overlook it.

  2. Yeah, the satire-y, non-sexual stuff is ok. Or sometimes the satire-y sexual stuff (a friend wrote Nixon-Spiro Agnew fic on a dare once) CAN be ok if done right.

    But yeah, I just feel a little icky about sexualized stories about real, living people.

  3. No, I totally get what you mean. My fandom uses famous (i.e. historical) people, and it feels odd. I’ve made my peace with it because I’ve tried to do my research on these people, and they aren’t doing anything they wouldn’t normally do in real life. (Running from aliens with guns, aside.) I also keep those fics PG-13 in content and language.

  4. I think it’s different when it’s historical figures, especially when they’re dead and have been for awhile. Very little chance of them finding it. I would probably err on the side of not writing sexy fic about anyone who might have family members alive who actually knew them.

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