“hateful” “it’s just a cartoon” it’s fiction” “you’re overreacting” “you’re overreacting” “YOU’RE OVERREACTING”
My name is Sonny. When I was sixteen, I entered a romantic and eventually sexual relationship with a 25 year old that lasted three years. Three years full of manipulation, emotional abuse, and sexual assault.
The ugly truth is that if someone in their mid-twenties seeks out relationships with minors, they have some darker motive, whether they themselves are conscious about it or not. For my ex, what drove her to engage romantically with me was the need for control. And I was 16, I was easy to control. No matter how “mature” a 15-17 year old claims to be, there’s still vulnerability there.
My relationship with that person was the direct cause of four of my suicide attempts. I suffer with debilitating PTSD and have issues performing daily tasks such as grocery shopping because I’m afraid I’ll see this person. I‘m turning 22 next week, so it’s been six years.
Why didn’t I do something? Why didn’t I realise that our relationship was wrong? Why didn’t I leave when she refused to take no for an answer and forced herself on me?
Because I was just a kid. Looking back at it now hurts so much y’know? Seeing pictures of myself from those days hurts. I didn’t know better. She said so many nice things, told me I was amazing and beautiful, she even bought me flowers - of course 16 year old me fell for that, and clung on to it.
Even as the abuse just grew more and more violent, I stayed because she managed to convince me that no one else would ever love me. I still struggle with that. I live with the constant fear that my family and friends secretly hate me.
I’m only one of hundreds of thousands of victims. Most people don’t speak up because we get blamed. Somehow, it’s our fault that adults found us sexually attractive. It’s our fault because we were old enough to know better. “Did you say no?” “Did you try telling your parents?”
So you stay silent because if that’s all you’re gonna get for speaking up, then what’s the point?
Meanwhile, we have countless popular films, songs, and other forms of media that directly romanticise relationships between teenagers and matured adults. We have fandom, a place where content romanticising those age gaps gets produced at record-speed and published on public websites frequented by minors in their most susceptible stages of life.
(You could say “it’s just fiction” but that’s not how the world works. All media we consume has a subconscious effect on us, even more so when we’re teenagers. This is why representation of POC and LGBT+ people and disabled people etc. matter in media; because well-rounded positive representation can change peoples minds for the better.)
Shalad/in ships embody the relationship I had with my abuser. That’s why I dislike them. That’s why people get upset when they’re used as jokes. Those jokes manage to trivialize the abuse of thousands of victims. The ships themselves romanticise an age gap that I’m sure most parents wouldn’t want for their children, an age-gap akin to that of a high-school student and their teacher - should that be normalized?
I’ve been mean to people, I’ve called people names, I’m not going to shy away from that. I’m tired, because no matter how many of these lengthy explanatory posts I make, my experience will still be trivialized and my PTSD symptoms will be trivialized. So yes, sometimes I give up and lash out.
I am angry. I am angry at every single adult who thinks condoning relationships between minors and fully grown adults is okay. I am angry at the people who call this a ship war, when what it really is is people fighting back against the normalization of toxic relationship dynamics in fandom, in media, and in society as a whole.
And so many of us are victims. But no one ever listens to us, no one ever has, unless our message is written on our graves.
So perhaps, instead of just seeing how “antis” yell, try looking deeper into what we’re yelling about.