nerakrose: drawing of balfour from havemercy (Default)
[personal profile] nerakrose
There's been some posts going around about how to properly use the relationship tags on tumblr (specifically how to tag for background ships so they don't clog up searches) which has led me to start editing the tags on my ao3 fics (not done). I get annoyed searching for ships and finding only 300 fics where they're a background couple, so fixing my own complicity in the problem is a start. but, I've also been thinking about tagging in general, and...tagging in specific:

How do you tag for things that aren't explicit in the fic? Do you tag for it? What is the expectation when you see (certain?) tags on fics?

In no longer easy on the eyes, I wrote Sirius as asexual but never tagged for it because it never came up in conversation within the fic. I'd say it's obvious though - or at least to me he reads as a very obviously asexual person, and even if I never used the word in-fic, the essence of it is understood (Remus says at one point that he didn't think Sirius was interested in relationships at all because he never dated). when that fic ended up on this pride themed reclist*, I was surprised that it was listed under bisexual and not asexual - I never tagged Remus as bisexual nor did I state that within the fic, although he is as obviously bisexual as Sirius is asexual.

So now I wonder, do I tag Sirius as asexual in order to make my intent explicit, or would that potentially be a cop-out? The whole Dumbledore Is Gay discourse all over again, essentially?

Another fic of mine, an old Albus/Scorpius fic (wherein Scorpius ascertains his sexuality) is tagged asexual spectrum, demisexuality, sexual identity, and sexual confusion (in addition to other things) and - spoiler - after cycling through a number of labels Scorpius ends up labelling himself as a late bloomer. I have gotten a LOT of negative comments on this one (not only on ao3) from people who felt cheated because "it gives the impression of featuring an asexual character when it doesn't".

And so I wonder, should I remove the asexual spectrum tag despite the fact Scorpius labels himself as asexual at one stage in the fic? Is the way I've tagged the fic signalling something other than I think it is? Do people expect asexual endgame when in reality it's more accurately demisexuality? (and also, this fic is old and doesn't handle the topic nearly as well as it could've - I'd do things differently today - but on the other hand it does reflect my personal experience with going through labels so it's not like it's unrealistic. I have been thinking about taking it down because I'm so tired of the negative comments, but I also don't want to do that because, you know what, fics don't and shouldn't adhere to an unwritten sjw approved checklist. Ever so rarely I do get a comment from somebody who saw themselves in it. Is that not worth the hassle?)

I'm currently writing an Emil/Michele (yoi) fic, in which Michele is asexual. I didn't plan it, it just happened that way, but like with no longer easy on the eyes, it never gets explicitly stated. Michele never says the words "I'm asexual", he just behaves in a way that very clearly (to me at least) signals lack of sexual attraction. (Emil is the opposite, he's very clearly attracted.)

Do I tag that? If I post that fic with the tag asexual Michele crispino, will readers expect the word within the fic? Will they get disappointed and accuse me of acebaiting if I do?
And the other side of the coin: if I don't tag it, will people miss it? Will no one notice that he's asexual? Does not tagging asexuality when it's on the page, even if not explicitly stated to be there, contribute to the lack of asexual visibility?

I'm honestly not sure what to do. On one hand I can completely understand the need for visibility and representation and by extension the need to have things stated clearly - the whole Let Characters Say Bisexual On TV discourse (not to mention the appalling lack of ace rep) - but on the other hand I don't always feel like it needs to be said. I'm not bringing it up in the Emil/Michele fic because it would create this weird pause in the flow of the fic. It's not a relevant topic of conversation for them. It doesn't suit Michele's characterisation to a) bring it up b) to think of it in the first place. If I did, it would feel like I'm just crossing off a checklist.

asexuality mentioned in-text, woke points achieved

And yet, if I don't tag for it, it seems it will go absolutely unnoticed? I'd like to trust people to have critical reading skills, but the truth is that even when they do, when it comes to asexuality in particular many people lack the knowledge necessary to decode a character as asexual. We have shorthands and codes for gay and lesbian readings (even if that's also not a given, even when it's explicit; see: Harold They Are Lesbians) but we don't have a backlog of literature and media with ace rep on which to base a pattern recognition programme to help recognise What's Obvious To The Rest Of Us.

So I'm back to square one. How do I best tag (or not tag) my fics? How do I decode what's the general expectation for a given tag, such as asexuality ? How do I avoid the worst pitfalls of ao3 tagging ?


* for clarity's sake, this is absolutely not a complaint about the reclist! I'm always stoked when my stuff gets recced.

Date: 2017-06-26 04:43 am (UTC)
momo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] momo
The tags are as much there to "warn" readers of what's coming, as well as to tell them what to expect. If someone is looking for ace!Sirius fic and uses the tags to find them, they won't find your story even though Sirius is asexual and biromantic in it.

/I/ wouldn't expect Scorpius to firmly land on asexual as his identity from these tags, but I'm also not ace and not going out of my way to look for ace fics. But you did tag for demisexuality and confusion so I don't see why people criticise you so much for this.

Same for your YoI fic as for Sirius. The characters might never explicitly say it, but the readers who want to read those kinds of fics won't find your story if you don't tag it.

It's not about representation and visibility, in my opinion, because when I read fic I already expect it to be more diverse and sensitive than commercial media. It's about accessibility. If your stories aren't tagged then a lot of people will not find them. Readers might very well come to the conclusion that your character is ace by themselves without the tag, but without the tag, readers who're specifically looking for this kind of fic have no real way of finding it. (which is now the third time I've said this in a different way XD) What it boils down to is: There's not nearly as much ace fic as there's allo fic which means that unless a reader knows what to expect from you (either because they know you or they've been pointed in your direction by someone else who knows you) they might not automatically assume that a character is ace. Tagging it helps them to figure out that yes, this is the content they're interested in.

Date: 2017-06-26 12:59 pm (UTC)
themightyflynn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] themightyflynn
I agree with momo that if it isn't tagged, then the target audience is missing it. By tagging things that are meant to be asexual with "asexual", you will reach the audience that actually wants to read it. By not tagging it, anyone who wants to see the character as being gay or straight or bi or whatever will see them as that.

I'm going to preface this next part by stating clearly that yes, I am on the asexual spectrum, so yes, I do know what I'm talking about (sad that I feel the need to clarify, but I've been attacked by SJW's before telling me off for speaking my mind.)
With the Scorpius fic, if it's tagged as "asexual spectrum", then I wouldn't expect him to end up on ace. There is a lot of stuff under the umbrella term of "asexual", including, as you said, demisexuality. I'll have to read it to see whether what he goes through applied to me personally, but I figure anyone who knows what they're talking about (which I assume you do) will be able to write an ace character. But that will have to wait until tomorrow morning, because it's 11 at night here. :)

TL;DR: if you want to reach your target audience, I'd tag the ace stuff. :)

Date: 2017-06-26 04:12 pm (UTC)
ruinsplume: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ruinsplume
Edit: I posted this before reading the other comments, so some of this could be just boiled down to *what they said ^ ^*

How about this as a possible criterion for tagging: imagine a potential reader who is a fan with an identity that is not often represented in fandom. Help that fan out by tagging for that thing, even if it's not explicit within the fic. As you know, asexual and bi invisibility--um no, let's make that ERASURE--continue to be real problems, so from that vantage point as well it makes sense to err on the side of over-tagging. It does bring up a literary problem--shouldn't the work speak for itself? Isn't showing the complexity of the identity in a way that transcends the one-dimensionality of a label the point? Yes, but they have to be able to find it in the first place. You could always put "background ace identity" or something, as a tag, if you feel that's more accurate. I believe that as soon as three different authors use a "new" tag on AO3, it will start popping up in the tag suggestions, and become an "official" tag, as it were, though sometimes slight differences in tag lingo get bundled into an existing tag. The point being, the tags are only as good, and as accurate, as we make them.

As your point about negative comments: they sting so much. Especially when they're just flaming as opposed to trying to have an actual conversation, like, one that involves listening to each other. But that one comment from the reader who says, OMG This. Is. Me. is priceless.
Edited Date: 2017-06-26 04:14 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-06-26 07:43 pm (UTC)
liljajune: (yoi: guang-hong)
From: [personal profile] liljajune
i know what you mean... it's similar to when i'm writing a pairing involving two guys but i actually headcanon them as bisexual. do i bring it up and tag it? or is it just my background info as the author? who knows...

Date: 2017-06-28 07:48 am (UTC)
epithalamium: (Default)
From: [personal profile] epithalamium
Ah the problems of asexual coding tbh; the amount of discourse I've seen (i.e. on how Jughead Jones from the Archie comics has always been 'gay coded' and how the new comics have explicitly stated that he is acearo, but people are calling this out for stealing from the gay narrative for some reason when Archie has never been something that had a canon timeline to begin with) kinda pushes it in one direction or another. I think it has to do with how asexuality as it is recognised now is a fairly recent concept and the lot of literature that do have asexual characters have never explicitly stated this was a thing.

I don't think it needs to be explicitly stated. People can infer whatever they want from any story and also in Michele's case I'm not sure he'd even really know what asexuality is. :p He can go google that later.

On that note, I'm all for tagging because this is defo some useful information that people looking for fics will check out. (And receipt for when someone comes back to say 'Hey I expected some boning???' which is. I love people reading my stuff but some of these comments are just wild.)
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