Not All Media Is for All Audiences

Mpepper/ September 7, 2023/ Think Pieces

This feels like a basic concept, but based on continuing social media arguments, it seems to bear repeating. Creators—writers, artists, etc.—are told many times over to “consider their audience” when creating a work. “Who is this for?” is the standing question. Sometimes, it’s just for the creator. In any case, it should always be for the creator… and then, ideally, also for others who have similar tastes or interests as said creator. Though, in my case, I seem to be a sui generis.

In its most fundamental form, this idea has given rise to genres. You know, categories of things that one can group together so that, if you like that kind of thing, it’s easy to find more of it. For example, you can go to a bookstore and find the science fiction all in one place. Or museums might have things grouped by time period, or by types of items, i.e., “This room is full of swords from Bronze Age through to the 1500s.” Or something. If you like swords, you’d probably make a beeline for that wing.

Fine, so where’s the problem? Well, there shouldn’t be one. Except, apparently we’ve come to the part of civilization in which we don’t simply enjoy the things we enjoy. We instead insist others should enjoy what we enjoy, and furthermore, should not enjoy what we do not enjoy or approve of.


There are some recurrent debates that surface. Ones like, “We need less smut in books.” This is a blanket statement that seems to assume there is a widespread level of smut in all books. Which, there isn’t. But what is really being protested here is that there is a market for books with smut in them, and that market has become increasingly visible online, and the people who don’t like smut don’t like… that it exists where they can see it?

Because the truth is that there are plenty of books and movies without any smut at all. So it’s not that there is no media for people who don’t like smut. That’s not the problem.

You see a similar thing with angry men who have been forced to realize that not every movie or video game is designed solely for them. That there is, in fact, scads of media targeted at women, people of color, and the like. These men profess to be fighting “wokeness” and “forced inclusivity,” but they’re really just mad that, after centuries of having everything made for them, stuff is now being made for others. (In part because corporations have discovered there’s a lot of money in supplying media to broader audiences. Who knew?)

And stuff was always made for others, but for many centuries those media were “underground.” They were easy for these men to ignore, so the world looked to them as if it had been made solely for their pleasures and interests. Now, though, social media and the online world has sort of been in-your-face about the fact that, no, not everything actually is made for them. And that (wow!) their opinions on media not aimed at them… don’t really matter.

The same is true of the smut book argument. Erotica used to be pretty well hidden from the mainstream. It lived somewhere between porn and the slightly more “respectable” romance books women might seek out. “Guilty pleasures,” we sometimes still call them, but that is changing. And that’s where friction occurs. Because people are at the point where they refuse to feel guilty about what they like, or what they create. And those who either don’t like or approve of those things, and/or think creators and consumers should feel guilty about them… are all kinds of mad about it.

But here’s the thing: that media isn’t for them. It’s for other people who like that kind of thing. And I say this as someone who does not read or write smut or erotica, but I defend others’ rights to create and enjoy it. Makes no difference to me because there are plenty of other media out there to serve my needs and interests.

See how easy that is?

And those trying to turn it into a moral argument refuse to recognize that morality, barring anything criminal, is personal. What you consider “immoral,” another may not. And you don’t get to impose your morals on others.

So. Write and draw and read and consume the things you want (short of, as I said, anything criminal). And if you come across something you don’t love—because it’s smuttier than you like, because it has a strong female protagonist, because it has gay representation—pass on by. It’s not for you, and that’s okay. There’s plenty more content out there, and you’re sure to find something that is for you. Go find it.

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