***UPDATE: This page has been updated as of 5/18/2021 with new information.
This is where the conclusion should be, but as with many difficult topics, there is no true conclusion to this scenario.
Understandably, texts involving the intersection of childhood, sexuality, and violence are fraught with ethical questions, and many a fandom war has been fought over ships featuring underage characters, with many fallen soldiers on both sides. Fans can face harassment for their ships, or even just for defending the right to ship (Malcolm). Fans who create texts shipping underage characters draw the ire of anti-shippers or purity police, who believe such work is immoral and not allowed. A new era of censorship has evolved as anti-shippers attempt to police works off the Internet via campaigns of harassment, fake take-down notices from Internet platforms, and reporting host platforms to the FBI. The risks are real, and high, with some documentation of the fallout being as hard as attempted suicide (Malcolm). While there are plenty of non-problematic texts featuring minors, written by teenage fans, a deluge of other works exists that feature a variety of problematic angles that have been discussed in this thesis’ earlier sections. The question is: What do we do next?
Prostasia, an anti-child-sexual abuse organization advocates that such fraught works remain online on platforms such as Archive of Our Own where they can be tagged as containing underage shipping or be flagged for having other incendiary content such as rape, graphic violence, or character death. They claim that censoring such material represents a moral panic and is not a legitimate response to preventing pedophilia (Malcolm). They cite some studies to support their argument:
…studies have shown that frequent indulgence in sexual fantasies about children is not significantly related to offending even among minor-attracted persons. It has also been found that access to ‘virtual child pornography’ is not associated with attitudes that sex between adults and real children is acceptable.
Although not directly related to virtual pornography—the study relates to real images—there is even evidence that the availability of such content as a sexual outlet may decrease rates of sexual offending against children.” Importantly, this last study doesn’t just address the impacts of pornography on individual behavior, but rather its impacts on society as a whole. (Malcolm)