I could spend a whole year talking about the fetishizing of men in fandom because it is widespread and it leads to some truly ugly behavior on the parts of fans. It breeds contempt for show creators and sometimes obsessions with actors that can and have gotten dangerously out of hand. Actors sometimes get melded with the characters they play in a fan’s mind, and that can lead to the fan believing they know them in very intimate ways when it simply isn’t true.
One of the most distressing things I see in fandom is the objectification of the real people who play the characters we love. I can’t really do anything about the problem but I notice it, and it’s often utterly appalling. I want to just lose my shit sometimes and point out—hey, that’s a fucking human being you’re talking about there. He’s not some puppet you can play around with like a goddamned toy.
You probably think it doesn’t matter what you think in your head or what you put on Tumblr regarding an actor or actress. You think it’s perfectly okay to write a fic about Joe Flanigan and David Hewlett cheating on their wives/girlfriends/families because you’re just writing fiction. It’s not hurting anything. Except they both have children and one day one of those kids might stumble across your fucked up little short story about their dad cheating on their mom, and of course, because you’re an asshole you’ve made sure to insult and degrade their mother as much as possible to justify the cheating. I’m sure that’s going to be a fun conversation for everyone involved.
Explicit sex in fanfiction plays a role in objectification, and I acknowledge this. I’ve always known that there is a subset of people who only read my work for the sex. They make it clear in their comments and in specifically in the parts of my stories they remember. I once saw a “find a fic” request on an LJ community that outlined five sex scenes and not a single plot point. All they remembered was the sex. It wasn’t my story they were looking for, but more than one person suggested that I might be the author of this missing fic. I’m glad I wasn’t. I felt let down and terrible for the author it was though because one person after another on that thread would comment about having read the fic. Not a single one of them mentioned a plot point or a bit of characterization that wasn’t sex.
I knew the story they were looking for—it was a beautiful piece of work with excellent characterization and an engrossing plot that was utterly breathtaking. I never commented on that thread with the answer because I wanted no part of the conversation. I think it took six or seven weeks for someone to provide a link. I don’t want to discuss the title or author here because it’s not fair to her or her work. That thread on that fic finders community wasn’t fair to her work either. But it did highlight something I’d noticed about a few readers on my site. The sex stood out for them. Specifically, gay sex stood out for them, and nothing else was really important.
Early on, I had to figure out where my hard line was regarding objectification in my fandom work. I decided that I would write about characters, not actors. I don’t read or write “real person fiction” as a result. For example, John Sheppard is a character—a fictional person who exists in the Stargate fandom that I know well. Joe Flanigan is a real person—he has a family and a personal life that is none of my business. I don’t know him at all, and honestly, I have no interest in knowing him. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I’m not here for Joe Flanigan. I’m in the Stargate fandom for John Sheppard.