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.