Editor’s note: This article was reposted from an external site with permission from the author.
(Content warning for sexual harassment, abuse, and child sexual assault)
The MeToo movement is a social movement about empowering victims of sexual harassment and assault. It was started as survivors of these crimes spoke up about their experiences and named the perpetrators of the abuse. It kickstarted a global discussion surrounding sexual abuse and the power dynamics at play over it.
It was crucial to understanding the abuse I suffered as a minor.
Growing up, my understanding of consent was extremely limited. I was told by my parents that I shouldn’t let anyone touch my underwear area because “it was bad”. Why was it bad? Who knows, I was never told. School wasn’t much better. While they did teach us about sexual protection, there was no mention of consent in our sex education and it focused on the importance of “abstinence”. No mention of how a healthy sexual relationship should work. They just told us we shouldn’t have it.
The issue is that I wanted it. I wanted to kiss people. I wanted to have sex with them. I constantly looked at boys in my class and thought about romantic and sexual things we could do together. I fantasized about what it’d be like to be out as a queer person and have intimate connections with my classmates.
This left me a prime target to be abused by someone almost twice my age. I was never taught what warning signs I should be worried about. I had no idea what grooming was or how it worked. I knew I wanted romance and sex, but I didn’t understand how those feelings could be exploited and make me into a target. For well over a year, I was emotionally and sexually manipulated by an adult I trusted in my life. By the end of it, I was waking up every day trying to figure out how to get out of this relationship, but whenever I tried, the adult would threaten to harm themself.
The fucked up part is that this adult didn’t understand that they were harming me. The grooming wasn’t an act of malicious intent. They had just known as much about consent as I did. Add in the fact that they were too immature and mentally unstable to handle people their own age and you get a recipe for disaster. To them, the only thing they were doing wrong was breaking the law. But they didn’t understand why that law was there to begin with. They didn’t understand that minors aren’t capable of consent with adults.
Admitting all this isn’t meant to defend their actions though. To this day, the actions of this person has messed with my relationship to intimacy and has permanently ingrained certain triggers in my mind. But the fact that I was even put in this position to begin with is a failing of society.
The MeToo movement finally shed some light on how lacking our understanding of consent truly was. However, some people didn’t take this lesson from the MeToo movement. What they had learned was that sexual abuse is the result of bad actors who have malicious intent or “bad” ideas that corrupt good people. To them, if we could just find the bad actors or bad thoughts before bad things happen, we could save everyone. This line of thinking wouldn’t have stopped my abuse. Nor would it have stopped many other people’s abuse either.
Online spaces have seen a rise in anti-sex and anti-kink rhetoric. They believe that sexual or kink content leads to a rise in “degeneracy” and people who consume that content are predators. The “bad” ideas are sex, and the bad actors are people who like it. Essentially, they believe the “bad people” have been corrupted by the “bad ideas”.
In the BDSM community, there’s strict ideals surrounding consent and care. BDSM is a type of roleplay where its participants partake in bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadomasochism. It’s fictional play exploring these concepts. Before starting, people work out safe words and work out what they want to get out of their roleplay. It’s a kink built on trust and communication. I bring this up because in online spaces, BDSM has started to be blamed for “romanticizing abuse”. People blame BDSM, a kink with heavy roots in consent, for “glorifying sexual assault”.
This rhetoric has been used to attack other communities as well. In anime communities, people have been attacked for creating romantic pairings (aka “ships”) that are used to explore different relationship dynamics. Some of these dynamics would be unhealthy in real life, but are used in a purely fictional setting as part of a similar type of roleplay as BDSM. Drawings, stories, and other assorted media are then tagged to make sure to respect the consent of the viewer. Viewers are warned before viewing the content to make sure they consent to what they see.
People who are part of these communities tend to have a strong understanding of consent. However, when their roleplay or art is taken out of its context, it’s used as a weapon to prove that these are “bad people”. People attempt to blame these communities for “bad ideas” spreading and causing “bad people”. Instead of pointing out their great use of consent that acts as the foundation for these communities, they’re persecuted for their enjoyment of fiction. Their use of consent and understanding of fiction is glossed over in an attempt to prove they’re “bad people”.
Part of the fear is that less educated people will look at this content and decide that it represents healthy relationships. But that would only be true of people who have absolutely no understanding of consent. Even without proper consent education, I knew not to hit or tie a person up like they do in BDSM. I knew not to force myself onto someone like some drawings of anime characters show.
However, even if we did assume that these communities could influence less educated people, wouldn’t the solution to counteract it be to educate about consent? Teach people what to look for in a healthy relationship and teach them how to ask for and give consent.
At the end of the day though, sexual abuse has been an issue with humanity since the dawn of time. It didn’t start with these communities and attempting to censor them clearly won’t stop abuse. It’s laughable that these communities are being attacked as if BDSM, a term coined in the 1990s, caused sexual assault cases in 200 BCE. Society just hasn’t done a good enough job teaching about consent, and I think that needs to change.
My favorite types of stories are ones about kids getting to enjoy themselves and living their lives to the fullest. Sometimes that even includes romance and sexuality. Being able to revisit my romantic and sexual feelings from when I was a queer kid are so important to me. Both as someone who couldn’t be publicly out as queer, and as a victim of CSA who didn’t get to experience sexuality on my own terms. I like revisiting those feelings as if my sexuality wasn’t twisted against my will. I like imagining a world where I was in control of my own romantic feelings and my own sexuality.
These attacks on kink communities affect me both as a CSA victim, and as a participant in fiction and kink cultures.
The adult who groomed me wasn’t into BDSM. They weren’t into problematic anime fiction. They didn’t care about stories or art starring kids. They weren’t even a pedophile; they were attracted to the pubescent features on me. There was nothing “off” about them.
I was just simply an easy target for them. If we followed the logic of people attempting to police kink communities, their solutions would have done nothing to prevent what happened to me. It’s a witch hunt. They’re going after people that have nothing to do with the abuse I suffered and it’s frustrating to see it happen.
It’s also frustrating to be told that I’m just like my abuser because I enjoy fictional themes of coming of age. I’m part of communities where we explore those topics and create characters that we can live through. Characters that get to experience their life on their terms. For me, that’s creating a fun little naked wolf character with his best friend who go and explore nature together. Or creating a silly naked fan character who explores his sexuality and finds love on his terms.
For the crime of enjoying and writing fiction, I’ve been labeled a predator. Or, even more erroneously, a “pedo”. Nevermind that my enjoyment has nothing to do with attraction to cartoon characters (let alone real children). It’s about recapturing my feelings as a minor and taking ownership of them in a way that gives me power over my abuse.
I know how consent works in real life. I know how to get and give consent. I know that children can’t consent because they haven’t matured enough to be able to do so (nor do I have any sexual attraction to minors). I just wish other people understood that too and I’d stop having to take the blame for my own abuse as well as everyone else’s.
If you or someone you know is a survivor of child sexual abuse, you can find resources and support here.