I don’t know about anyone else on this site, but I care about being a good person, and it’s not lost on me that a lot of people would think I’ve given up on that by posting here, especially given that my story contains an unapologetically sadistic rape and also touches on a whole bunch more of the darkest taboos out there.
There’s a difference between things that are morally wrong and art depicting things that are morally wrong. No-one thinks Picasso’s Guernica is evil, even though the event it depicts is one of the most infamous in human history. Children’s cartoons routinely portray sectarian violence as a normal and healthy solution to social problems, usually implicitly justifying it by having the ‘bad guys’ force it on the ‘good guys’ as a ‘last resort’. Series like Breaking Bad and Rick and Morty follow morally bankrupt characters and glory in their success. Here, rooting for the bad guy is part of the fun.
But when it comes to sex stories, there’s obviously something different going on and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise (I’m looking at you, Alan Moore). So what’s the difference? Well, one thing is that sex is something very visceral and personal. When our sexual instincts are engaged, we don’t exactly maintain an affect of disinterested aesthetic enjoyment. Clearly there’s a big difference between appreciating a political drama with a complex message and reading something to get horny. Our primitive animal brains are in play here, and they’re not impressed by clever philosophical wordplay.
To discuss this properly, we’re gonna need to do a bunch of ground work, so here’s the plan: first I’ll discuss some of the biggest taboos and give you my take on the moral problems they present in real life. Then I’ll talk about how sex stories and erotica relate to the real world and offer some armchair psychology about the popularity of taboo themes. Last I’ll circle back and try to talk about the ethics of fiction depicting morally wrong sexual acts with pornographic intent. OK? Okay. Let’s do this.
Right, wrong or complicated? One man’s ill-informed opinion
I won’t be trying to cover all of sexual morality here, and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of disagreement, but I can’t really discuss the ethics of art that depicts morally wrong actions without giving an account of my beliefs about what is and isn’t wrong. We’re going to dash through this section using subheadings. It’s like a quickfire round.
I’m putting this up top because it pretty much determines my take on every other category. Unless you are acting to prevent a far greater harm (in which case things get very complicated indeed), it’s wrong to do something to someone that they don’t consent to. If you don’t think that’s true then I can’t help you. Please live a miserable life a long way away from me.
One of the most cut-and-dried forms of non-consent. Rape is always wrong, whether it’s the overtly violent type most people think of in relation to the word, or just someone failing to stop when their drunk girlfriend tells them to. I’d argue the second type is less bad, but it’s still wrong, and in a just world it would have harsh consequences.
Coercion and Blackmail
Blackmail is a form of coercion. Coerced sex is rape. Coerced anything is non-consent.
This is the big one, and I’m going to circle back around to it, but for now let’s be very clear: fucking kids is rape. It’s always rape. Rape is always wrong, and pederasty is one of the worst types. (Using a five dollar word here purely to dodge the censorship algorithm)
Incest abuts a lot of things that are wrong. If an incestuous relationship involves pederasty then it’s wrong because pederasty is wrong. If it involves an uneven power dynamic then it’s pretty dicey for similar reasons. Fucking your daughter doesn’t suddenly become a-ok because it’s her 18th birthday. Arguably it’s wrong to have kids in an incestuous relationship because of the genetic risks you’re taking on behalf of your child, which they cannot consent to.
But I don’t think incest, in and of itself, is wrong. If a brother and sister, as consenting adults, decide they’re into it, that ain’t no-one’s business but theirs. They’re not harming anyone, so it’s fine. Even parental incest has the potential to be OK if the relationship isn’t one of guardianship or otherwise exploitative.
Can animals consent? I mean, have you met dogs? Some of them seem pretty consenting to me, and I didn’t even ask. Some humans are definitely into this too, so what’s the problem?
The only issue I have with bestiality is that animals, being non-verbal, are harder to gain explicit consent from. Anything that harms an animal should be taken to be non-consensual and is thus wrong. If an animal isn’t very obviously up for sexual activity then forcing it to do anything even slightly sexual is raping it.
Watersports and Scatology
Not my bag, but if you like them and you’ve considered the health angles, these kinks are fine.
Humiliation and Cruelty
This is complicated as hell. Some people are into being humiliated. Some people like being subject to cruelty. But these things are, by nature, negative experiences. This is another case of ‘I can write a whole essay here, but it’s not what I’m talking about today’. The short version is that this is why consent is such a useful frame. Some people might want to explore what happens if bad things are done to them. If they consent, then those bad things become OK.
A lot of the other things I’m discussing here might be used as means of humiliating people. In these cases it’s possible to condemn the non-consensual humiliation without condemning the act used to inflict it. Forcing someone to fuck a dog is wrong because it’s non-consensual and calculated to dehumanise them, not because they’re fucking a dog. Still, it can’t be ignored that a lot of things that can be enjoyed consensually can also be used to torture someone, and lines can get blurry when it comes to consent. Where such blurred lines exist, extra safeguards are needed.
This term means different things to different people, but I understand by it to mean that a formal power dynamic is involved. A teacher abusing their students; a drill sergeant forcing soldiers to perform sexual acts; a boss using their position to get away with groping their employees. All of these are ‘authoritarian’ situations in my book.
Authoritarian conditions blur the line when it comes to consent, but not that much. In my view, if someone is using their authority to get sex, they are using social coercion, and coercion is rape. If the issue gets more confusing then the person in authority has a responsibility to clarify things in a way that ensures the agency of the person they have authority over. That means asking questions in a way that feels safe, listening carefully to the answers, and respecting any boundaries their subordinate swets.
BDSM, Sado-masochism, and Domination/Submission
These are all consensual activities where people play, by their own choice, with ideas of power and consent. A lot of what I’ve discussed so far might be safely explored in a BDSM scene. I’m no expert on this culture, so I’m not going to discuss it any further, but by and large my impression is that the BDSM community places a strong value on informed consent, which makes it OK in my book. Just tying someone up isn’t BDSM, because it involves neither consent nor play.
Domination/submission is murkier, but as long as the submission is voluntary it’s fine. The ambiguity here comes from the question of how far a submission may be forced, as conceptually domination is all about forcing your will on someone. How do you consent to non-consent? The rawer you want it, the more difficult this question becomes.
This is sometimes code for ‘maybe a bit younger than we could explicitly mention’ – nudge, nudge, wink, wink. But more than that, the ‘Young’ tag appeals to the idea of a relationship where one of the partners is still physically and emotionally immature, even if they are of legal age. The fact of the matter is that full-on pedos are rare, but adults who find themselves attracted to teenagers are a dime a dozen. Our mainstream culture sexualises the hell out of youth, so it’s really no surprise.
As I’ve already touched upon, the moral problem with age-gap relationships is one of power dynamics. It’s fine to explore these dynamics in consensual roleplay, but it’s a very different thing to start an actual relationship with someone much younger and less emotionally developed. The line between informed consent and exploitation is not one that can be defined by a legal age limit, because a 19-year old fucking a 17-year old is very different to a 60-year old doing it.
The law is inconsistently applied, and with good reason. Teenagers are always going to have sex with each other, and that’s fine. Grown adults having sex with teenagers is potentially harmful, so an age of consent is needed to protect them. By necessity, the age of consent needs to err on the side of caution to protect those whose emotional maturity and agency develops the latest.
Again, this is fine, but has the potential to overlap with things that are not fine. Sex workers voluntarily choosing to use their body to earn a buck: thumbs up. Sex trafficking, coercive pimping, all other forms of monetised sexual exploitation: thumbs down.
Fiction, reality and libido
OK, so having established a picture of what I think’s right, what I think’s wrong, and the reasons why I have those opinions, it’s time to discuss the implications of art depicting those things. The case of violence in mainstream media shows that just depicting an immoral act isn’t generally considered wrong on its own. The difference, I would argue, is the involvement of the ‘animal brain’ I mentioned earlier. Violence is also affected by this of course. People like violent media because it gets their adrenaline pumping and sells them the comforting idea that their problems can be solved through simple physical dominance. However, sex stories are at another level. The question here is this: is it better to supress our darkest impulses, or to explore them in a way that does not cause direct harm?
The rest of this essy is going to be discussing the effects of media on its consumers, so let’s take a moment to address a very common, very bad argument right up front: whenever someone suggests that media might have a negative influence, there’s always someone who’ll mock that idea by equating it with the idea that people will directly copy media. “After playing Minecraft I started punching trees in order to create basic tools lolololol”. This argument is a straw man. Only the silliest people would argue that media creates direct copycats, but that’s not the same as arguing that media has an influence on people. Iterative exposure to media violence might desensitise people to violence, making them more accepting of it and callous towards it. That’s an issue worth taking seriously. When it comes to stories like mine, and the others on this site, things get even thornier.
A helpful question to bear in mind is: “What’s the most effective way to fight cultural norms that lead to sexual violence?” (meaning all forms of non-consensual sex, whether they are brought about by physical force or more complicated forms of coercion). Does suppressing certain media help or hinder the effort? What about condemning it morally? I’m not going to be able to give a definitive answer to these questions here, and I’m not even gonna try, but it’s useful to acknowledge what the stakes are in this discussion.
Like everybody, I like to think I have a pretty well-adjusted moral compass when it comes to real-life right and wrong. I would never force sexual activity on anyone, but it might be that by publishing rapey fuck stories I am nonetheless doing something very wrong. It all depends on the impact the stories have. If someone reads what I write and thinks ‘hell yeah, coercive sex is hot as hell’ then I’m potentially culpable for anything they might do as a result. That’s what I’m grappling with here.
There are two types of fantasy presented in transgressive sex stories. There’s the obvious ‘what if something really fucked up happened’ kind of fantasy, but there’s also a related ‘what if I could live out my kinks and have it be morally OK’ fantasy. My suspicion is that the latter fantasy is the reason we see so many rape stories where the victim comes to enjoy their violation. The idea that a rape victim ‘wants it really’ could be a very comforting one, allowing rape fantasists to have their cake and eat it. It’s a fantasy where a deeply fucked-up thing happens, but ultimately turns out not to be fucked up at all.
This brings the issue at hand into sharp focus. If it were always fully understood that dark fantasies are nothing more than that – if we knew for certain that no-one could be convinced by the idea that non-consent could turn out for the best – then I don’t think there’d be any problem. The worry is that by telling stories where horrible things happen as titillation for the reader, we might create a culture on this site that reinforces damaging and false ideas.
The other moral argument that can be levelled against taboo sex stories boils down to disgust, which derives its force from the same instincts that makes those stories popular, but in the other direction. Disgust is what happens when our animal brains tell us that something is bad. These instincts – in both directions – often try to justify themselves in terms of what’s ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ but this is a terrible way of categorising things, and appealing to it to derive ethical conclusions is a known logical fallacy: the naturalistic fallacy. Anyone who moves from their own disgust, to the idea that something is unnatural, to the conclusion that something is wrong, is committing this fallacy. The same goes for the opposite argument, where behaviours are justified using the claim that they are rooted in instinct. Even where this is true, it’s not enough to make something OK. Something can be instinctual and still be wrong.
A related point is that nature and nurture - inherent behaviour and learnt behaviour – can’t be easily separated from one another. When I say that something deep and instinctual is involved in a feeling, it’s not my intention to reduce my account of that feeling to one of pure instinct. Pure instinct doesn’t exist any more than pure rationality does; everything’s a complicated hodgepodge. Our feelings and behaviours are the result of a messy interaction between our factory firmware and the influence of our experiences. The former makes the latter possible, while the latter rewrites and adds to the former. It’s impossible to come along after the fact and say for certain which is which.
Just to drive home the point, let’s examine the way that the beliefs I express above do not commit the naturalistic fallacy. You might still disagree with them, but they’re not based on a move from facts-in-the-world to moral principles. The reason I think hurting people is wrong springs from empathy. I dislike being hurt myself, and so when other people get hurt I judge that it’s bad based on what I would feel in their shoes. I’m deriving my moral judgement not from my ideas about how things are, but from my experience of how things feel. All well-formed moral judgements ultimately derive from the way thinking beings feel, and feelings don’t care about your facts. That’s why consent is so vital: it lets people tell me what they do and don’t like so that I can act ethically with respect to them.
If we drop the idea that sexuality and disgust are in some way related to what’s natural and unnatural, it’s pretty easy to see how this empathy model of moral feelings can be extended to disgust. Disgust is what happens when we instinctively dislike someone’s actions; we feel gross because of what someone else chooses to do, even though their choice does not directly affect us. Disgust couches itself in the language of morality to justify itself. “Stop that because it’s wrong” is a stronger position than “stop that because I don’t like to think about it”. This psychology has been (and still is) responsible for homophobia, transphobia, and arguments against ‘interracial’ relationships. It’s absolute trash, basically.
Having kicked that shit to the kerb, let’s return to the more serious and troubling problem of the damaging influence fuck stories might have. While feelings of disgust and arousal have a deep-rooted instinctual element, they’re also conditioned by experience. It’s well-established that standards of beauty, and with them our sexual hang-ups, have changed over time. We have to accept that we are, at some level, the products of our society. From an early age we’re taught that certain things are attractive, and it sticks. Whatever hardwired instinct it is that makes us horny gets tangled up in a bunch of other stuff. This is worrying, because if the content of our sexual desires is conditioned by our culture (and it is), then art that eroticises morally wrong actions must have the potential to fuck people up.
Here’s the flipside though: in addition to things that we’re taught are sexy, there’s also what we’re forbidden, which is its own kind of teaching. Everyone knows that the forbidden is exciting, and therefore has a natural synergy with sexual feelings. By making something taboo, we make it something that gets our pulses racing. That means that people can get turned on by morally wrong acts precisely because they are morally wrong. Georges Bataille didn’t write a story about a girl having an eyeball put in her vagina because that was his particular fetish. He did it because it was the sickest shit he could think of. There’s also a grey area between what is considered legitimately erotic and what is considered taboo. When I was a kid, seeking out even the most softcore porn felt like I was doing something wrong, and so even that taught me to associate the erotic with the transgressive. I think it would be safe to bet that a lot of other people have had similar formative experiences, so we can see that condemning pornography isn’t necessarily protecting people from its effects. It might actually be making the problem worse by creating the conditions that lead to people associating what’s wrong with what’s erotic.
So at one level we’re taught by society that a, b and c are sexy, and most of us internalise those lessons. At another level we’re told that x y and z are wrong and bad, and a significant minority of us think ‘that is the hottest thing ever’. In combination, these two factors account for most of the writing that exists on this site. Things are complicated by the fact that a, b and c are not unrelated to x, y and z. They’re just two ends of the same damn alphabet. Stories here exist on the far end of a continuum of media that runs from Hollywood blockbusters and HBO series, through cheesy 70s soft porn and Mills & Boon romances, to throatfucking vids on xnxx. It’s all part of the same thing.
Our media routinely treats young, vulnerable women as the ideal sexual fantasy for men, and to a lesser extent sexualises older, violent men in return. There isn’t symmetry here; both these ideals have their root in a male power fantasy. A male sexual fantasy is presented as a universal human sexual fantasy, and as a result men’s idealised self-image is repackaged as a fantasy for women (and men’s idealised sexual partner is correspondingly repackaged as an idealised self-image for women). Having created this idealised image of female sexuality, media also tells us that, past a certain line, sex with young and vulnerable women is the ultimate taboo. It’s no wonder these things are such common kinks.
Meanwhile, women with the corresponding fantasies are also condemned, although in a different way. Popular discourse around things like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey often has it that women who like fantasies of domineering men are somehow brainwashed or letting feminism down. Women who like the idea of rich older men are ‘gold diggers’. Women who just happen to like sex are ‘sluts’. In general, women who want to take on the roles that are sold to men as fantasies are shamed and demeaned, and it’s no coincidence that those demeaning characterisations get reproduced on this site as kinks. People want women to be brainwashed, easily manipulated and slutty, because of the secondary fantasy I mentioned earlier: that all the fucked up shit we find sexy can ultimately be shown to be morally justifiable. By dehumanising the object of our fantasies, we make it more acceptable for them to be subject to actions that would otherwise be morally condemnable.
*(I’m generalising here about the type of content I consume. I would bet that similar or related dynamics are going on in the sissyboy genre, with gay kinks, and in a bunch of other subgenres I’m not familiar with, but I haven’t looked at that stuff so I can’t comment on it intelligently).
There’s a tension here – a contradiction. Things are sexy because they’re wrong, but when we find something erotic, we immediately start looking for reasons why it’s not wrong after all. Consider incest, the most popular taboo on this site. I’ve already expressed my opinion that there is not actually anything wrong with it, but cultural norms strongly condemn it. That makes it a perfect fantasy. It feels wrong, but it isn’t, making it an ideal subject for transgressive erotica. That’s why so many of the incest plotlines you can read here focus on fathers getting seduced by their daughters, struggling with the knowledge that their desires are wrong, but ultimately succumbing and living happily ever after.
The real moral issue with fuck stories
So now we come to the nub of the matter. In case it’s not yet clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying stories of morally wrong acts, but I do think that there’s a problem with pandering to the fantasy that such acts are not morally wrong after all, because that can contribute to some people convincing themselves of some extremely damaging falsehoods.
There are common myths that a lot of people actually believe to the effect that rape victims will inevitably enjoy their ordeals, and that anyone who is dominated will learn a type of happiness through submission. There are misogynistic tropes about women’s personalities and sexualities, and ideas about rape being a justifiable punishment or revenge. There is misinformation about sexual development at young ages. There’s also a whole bunch of racist shit and other bigotry that I haven’t even touched on.
Most people on this site understand full-well that these ideas are bullshit, but what about those who don’t? Of course everyone knows that the stories here are fictions (included most of the ones that claim to be true), but that doesn’t mean they don’t reinforce damaging ideas. How many people, having read stories about rape victims who find ‘their bodies betraying them’ and cumming despite their lack of prior arousal, come to believe that this is a plausible narrative about something that commonly happens? How many people find comfort in narratives that pander to their hatred of women and minorities? How many people’s real world behaviours are influenced by the ideas they find here?
If you’re looking for answers from me, I’m sorry to disappoint you, I don’t have any. I think this is a problem that it’s good to think about and be worried about, because thinking and worrying will at least help some, even if it won’t make the issue go away. I’d like to acknowledge, however, that the damaging fantasies I’ve identified are pretty much inevitable. I’m certainly not immune to them. My take on Beauty and the Beast on this site, for example, actively romanticises a rapist. I avoided saying that the rape in the story was in any way OK, and I tried my best to make sure there was consent involved in the rest it, even (and especially) when it strayed close to the line, but ultimately it’s still a story that makes a hero of an abuser. That’s my bag and I’m not going to try to deny it. I’m a sicko.
There is an ameliorating point in my analysis, which is to be found in the observation that all culture and media is part of the same thing. The problems I’ve outlined find a particularly obvious expression on sexstories, but it’s not like they’re absent from mainstream culture. Watch literally any film that Harrison Ford is famous for and you’ll find a scene where a sharp-tongued woman melts into the arms of an abusive, rapey prick. Watch what passes for regular porn these days and you’ll see a bunch of actual real-life women being subjected to actual real-life sexual abuse and pretending (because it’s their job) that they’re super into it (hey, it beats working retail, and it probably involves slightly less sexual objectification by creepy old men). At least text on a page isn’t directly perpetrating sexual exploitation, and at least it’s only reaching the people who actively seek it out, rather than being indiscriminately beamed into the brains of entire nations. That doesn’t necessarily make it OK, but it does provide some much-fucking-needed perspective. This site is near the bottom of a rabbit hole that has smooth sides all the way down.
Lastly it’s worth noting that a lot of the writers of the nastier stories here will actively preface their work with a disclaimer to the effect that it’s a fantasy and that carrying it into real life would be fucked up. That’s not a service that the producers of romcoms have ever offered, even though they really, really should. I’d argue that someone who reads stories on this site and understands the moral problems with doing so is probably less of a danger to society than someone who watches The Ugly Truth and thinks of it as harmless escapism.
That’s all from me on this super-fun topic. I hope at least one person reads this and gets something out of it before it gets downvoted into oblivion. I’ll be back soon with my next story, which you can rest assured is shaping up to be super fucked-up. Just incredibly nasty – way nastier than my last one, which was pretty grim. Till then, love to all my fellow deviants.