Exploring Explicit Fanfiction as a Vehicle for Sex Education among Adolescents and Young Adults
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Degree Granting Department
Nancy Romero-Daza, Ph.D.
Cheryl Vamos, Ph.D.
Tara Deubel, Ph.D.
Applied Anthropology, Fanfiction, Internet Communities, Sexual Health
Fanfiction consists of works written by amateurs using pre-existing characters and plots, often shared online for free. Although fanfiction began long before the advent of the internet, the worldwide web has created a platform wherein fanfiction is allowed and encouraged to spread almost unconditionally, reaching new populations and rising slowly but surely into the public eye. As the internet has made fanfiction more accessible and public, it has also increased the number of children and young adults involved in the process. And in the unsupervised wilderness of the internet, sexual content is a common feature of fanfiction, with a varying degree of accuracy in said sexual content.
As the influence of fanfiction spreads, academic research into fanfiction has also spread. The purpose of this project is to better understand how fanfiction can impact what adolescents and young adults know about sex and how that information shapes their sexual attitudes. A secondary goal is to question fanfiction authors and readers about whether they are interested in the presentation of accurate sexual information in fanfiction. In order to answer these questions, this project included a review of several works of fanfiction, as well as a survey of 25 fanfiction readers and writers, and interviews with seven of the survey participants.
In general, the answer to whether fanfiction has impacted users has been a resounding yes. Prosumers (those who may produce and/or consumer fanfiction) reached through the survey and the interviews largely identified fanfiction as an important resource in their sexual education, with a mostly positive influence. Prosumers cited fanfiction as a source that broadened their knowledge of the intricacies and variations of sex, as well as something that made them more understanding of their own desires and the desires of others. On the other hand, fanfiction prosumers did not necessarily cite fanfiction as being technically accurate. Instead, they valued fanfiction for the variety of viewpoints fanfiction brought them, and the chances it gave them to portray their own lives and issues through their favorite pieces of pop culture.
Because the information gathered through this project identifies fanfiction as a source of information about sex for prosumers, and the Archive of Our Own platform specifically, as a reasonable and useful place to embed health-based sex ed interventions. However, fanfiction prosumers mostly seem to know the limits of their creations already, and already have some types of intervention in place, such as the tradition of informational author notes. If future interventions were to be enacted, it would have to be carefully planned with the prosumers, and would likely be most efficacious if it were to utilize those existing prosumer interventions.
Scholar Commons Citation
Barth, Donna Jeanne, "Exploring Explicit Fanfiction as a Vehicle for Sex Education among Adolescents and Young Adults" (2018). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.