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"Slight dub-con but they both wanted it hardcore": Erotic fanfiction as a form of cultural activism around sexual consent

Popova, Milena


Milena Popova


In this thesis I argue that the treatment of issues of sexual consent in erotic fanfiction can be viewed as a form of cultural activism.

Using a combination of traditional, digital and autoethnography, as well as discourse analysis, I trace engagements with sexual consent among readers and writers of erotic fanfiction both in their creative output published on sites such as the Archive of Our Own and in their conversations and day-to-day interactions with each other as well as beyond the fandom community.

The original contribution of this work is two-fold. Firstly, it maps in detail some of the ways in which sexual consent, particularly in the presence of power differentials, is treated in erotic fanfiction. I argue that through the use of techniques particular to fanfiction, readers and writers within this community are able to issue powerful challenges to dominant discourses about gender, romance, sexuality, and consent. Secondly, I argue that these engagements can be viewed as a distinct form of cultural activism. While cultural activism is traditionally seen as directed outwards to the general public, the production, circulation, and discussion of fanfiction allows the community to form powerful alternative imaginaries of sexuality and consent, make prefigurative gestures, and establish a praxis of consent within the community itself. The knowledges generated in these ways are then applied to community members' own day-to-day lives and engagements with sexuality, consent, and rape culture. This points to the fanfiction community as a source of a powerful discursive resistance on issues of rape and consent, and supports an expansion of the definition of cultural activism to cover activities directed at challenging internalised dominant discourses within the boundaries of a community.


Popova, M. "Slight dub-con but they both wanted it hardcore": Erotic fanfiction as a form of cultural activism around sexual consent. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Keywords fan fiction, sexual consent, cultural activism, discourse analysis, digital ethnography, autoethnography
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