Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I learned about sex through fanfiction, and it’s a bit questionable

I love fanfiction. I think there’s something about it that you can’t find in published novels or tv shows, it’s unique and hard to explain. And while it might sound odd, there’s a lot you can learn from fanfics.

Most people don’t realize what’s out in the vast web to be discovered. For example, you might be scrolling through the works of your new favorite tv show and finally decide to brave the uncharted territories of mature-rated fanfics. You’ll click on one with a funny summary and then fall down the fascinating rabbit hole to continue reading more. And in doing so, you might actually learn about sex through fanfics.

That’s what happened to me anyway. You see, I never really had the opportunity to learn about sex in my family. My culture treats sex as taboo and then expects girls to grow up wanting to have babies and get married into a life of pleasing their husband. And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

I went through the basic sex ed in school, but that didn’t explain a lot. Most of what I remember was the teacher telling us to use birth control if it came down to it, but we should abstain from sex. Senior year Biology was where I learned about my body properly; I was finally told about the many changes that the body goes through due to our hormones. But most importantly, I learned about male anatomy. At no point before this had anyone explained what sex is. I knew it was performed between males and females, but not how. Before that class, I thought it was code for lying in a bed with a member of the opposite sex. 

And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

And while that class helped clear up some of my more significant questions, it wasn’t enough. But I had nowhere to turn to for learning more. My parents weren’t an option, and asking someone seemed awkward. So I turned to the internet. For the first time in nearly four years of exploring fanfiction online, I dove into what I thought was the dark side and looked at the selection of M-rated fics. 

Thinking back on it, they weren’t even particularly spicy fics that I stumbled across. I was jumping back into the PJO (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan) fandom for like the third time, and I had exhausted my supply of tried and true teen and lower fics. These fanfics primarily served as a way for me to learn specifically about sex and what it was, how it worked, in a setting that wasn’t overly scientific. It was all very vanilla, but that was fine back then.

Then I jumped into some Yu-Gi-Oh fandoms and looked around at the selection there as well. And that was the first time I learned about sex being possible between same-sex couples. Then I switched from my usual fanfic website to a more known and better one, Archive Of Our Own. And this was where things got interesting because there were tags for everything. If I wanted to explore a specific kink, I could check the tag for it and look at all the options in every fandom. 

And I did exactly that; I jumped through different fandoms and checked out every type of M or E rated fic that was unique and then added the new knowledge to the ever-growing list of things I knew about sex. I explored lots of different kinks. When Fifty Shades of Grey was coming out, and everyone was complaining that it didn’t show BSDM accurately, I went to fanfics to learn what they were all talking about. I’ve read many an ABO fic and several femdom stories. And I thought by reading all these fics; I suddenly knew everything there was to know about sex.

Then one day, an online friend talked about a time that she was sexually harassed and how some of these fanfictions we read lead her to think that it was normal. And I started to rethink the fics I was reading. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading wasn’t always safe or consensual. These were works of fiction, and therefore not always meant to be an accurate reflection of reality, but I had spent years normalizing the lack of consent that came with some of these stories. I didn’t even realize until a month ago that it isn’t normal for someone to cry during sex or for most people to get off to that. Many of the kinky fics I read also never really detailed much about the relationship outside of the sex, which made for a very twisted view on things. 

None of this means that I plan to stop reading smut fics. I’ve come to recognize that most of what is in these stories is simple fantasy. I should have never expected it could replace the learning that comes from talking to people about their experiences or having sex myself. 

But if anyone else out there is like me, then now is as good a time as any to look a bit more critically at the fics you read and made the conscious distinction between them and reality. I know it’s awkward to talk to others about sex, and let’s not lie on the internet, it can be dangerous

I don’t claim to know all the answers, and there’s no right way to learn about sex. But at the very least, I think it’s better not to put all the eggs in one basket. When you want to learn about something you should look at several different places. I’ve begun taking a more thorough route to my own learning, one which involved properly researching whatever sexual topic comes to mind in fanfics but outside as well with the help of google or asking some very close friends who I can trust.

This new system has been working so far, and I find myself enjoying some of the conversations I can have with people about these topics as well.

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Standoms Music Pop Culture

It’s been a full decade and One Direction still gives me butterflies in my stomach

Somehow, someway, One Direction turned ten this week.

Yes, ten. And, at 21 years old myself, I’m not quite sure when time managed to escape mebecause in my head I am still 13 writing fanfiction in my room, hanging up posters from Rolling Stone of the band on a beach, and having my heart literally melt because of the way that Harry Styles shakes his hair out of his eyesbut it is right now, in this moment, that I feel as if I’ve crashed headfirst into unwarranted adulthood. As if the rug has been pulled out from underneath me. Damn.

Ten years is a very, very long time. A lot can happen within a single decadein fact, a lot did happen. We’ll get to more on that later, but it is important to say first that I am starkly nostalgic of those times, which now seem to be reminiscent of the most incredible joy and comfort. It seemed as if the mind, body, and spirit of every single Directioner somehow operated on the same wavelength—and heartbeat. I always loved the idea that we all, as a collective, validated one another’s thoughts or commentary and found community in adoration. Looking back, being part of a fandom like this one was surely a bit of necessary respite in a time of awkwardness, petty teenage relationships, and deceit. 

Of course, there are other things too. For starters, it is common practice to associate things like personal style, music, cinema, and clothing to be both obvious and meaningful stakeholders of culture—which certainly helps in the case of any band or musician. Think of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk or Elton John’s sunglasses. Those are things you will never forget, or that you will even cherish. The kind of things that you can point out from a mile away. The kind of things that seem to transcend time and place—that sort through all of the randomness and bring you back to that one perfect moment or feeling. For One Direction, at least to me, it’s their silhouettes and boyish laughs. But also, it’s their evolution from shaggy hair, varsity jackets, khaki pants, suspenders, and striped T-shirts to slick black suits, skinny jeans, assortments of tattoos, and wide brim fedoras all the while maintaining a charming sense of self. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking—she’s obsessed! And, while that is a true statement, I am not just saying these things as a fangirl. Trust me, I’ve fallen in ‘love’ with my fair share of boy bands (insert the Jonas Brothers, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Big Time Rush here) but nobody, and I mean nobody, compares to One Direction. So, although this might seem like a stretch for most people, One Direction defined a generation. And, they defined it in a way that moved way beyond the capabilities and limitations of music.

There is no denying the enormity of the impact and that One Direction had, whether you are a fan or not. It is clear as day. 

However, it is quite important to note that their career as a band was not always a linear feat. As most people know, they weren’t always a band. Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson each started off as solo artists, all under 25 years old, on the X-Factor UK. On July 23, 2010 Simon Cowell, the notorious judge of the talent competition, pulled the 5 boys together and gave them the chance of a lifetime. By the time they rounded out the competition, One Direction wound up in third place and backed by Cowell’s record label, Syco. Right off the bat their first singles as a band toppled charts across every single continent. Quite literally, their Na na na‘s could be heard world-wide, which is nothing short of a testament to the stardom that they soon would face. Not to mention the frenzy of fans, media, and paparazzi that quickly surrounded the boys which in hindsight seems like an all-encompassing storm. It was a non-stop cycle of album making, global touring, countless 24-hour long live-streams and video diaries commemorating their relationship with fans, along with goofy realness that made them immensely crush-worthy. 

Fast-forwarding a bit, One Direction managed to accomplish a ton while in the limelight. In 2011, the band’s debut album Up All Night shot to #1 overnight and stayed there, making them the first UK group to peak at #1 in the US with a debut album. In addition, they were the first group to debut at #1 with their first four albums in the US: Up all Night, Take Me Home, Midnight Memories, and Four. In 2012, the band performed at the Olympics closing ceremony in London. By 2013, the group produced and released two concert documentaries titled One Direction: This Is Us and One Direction: Where We Are. In 2014, Billboard announced One Direction Artist of the Year. Altogether, the band has sold more than 70 million records worldwide. In addition, they’ve taken home 16 MTV awards, 154 awards in other isolated categories, and have been nominated for 317 awards in total. Plus, they have sold over 8,287,195 tickets on their tours.

On March 25, 2015 Zayn Malik, 22 years old at the time, left the band during the One The Road Again tour citing a need for normalcy and some time out of the spotlight. Speculations have risen since then about the real reason behind his leaving the band, including episodes of discrimination based on his religion and music style. The other boys continued on and produced the Made in the A.M. album that same year. The band never toured with this album and announced that they too would be going on a hiatus in January of 2016. All 5 members have gone on to maintain remarkable solo careers while holding on tight to their roots in One Direction. The most successful being Harry Styles, an undeniable international heartthrob and sensation.

So far, there has been no serious mention of a reunion in the near future, but hey, miracles do happen! Based on their social media presence on the day of their 10 year anniversary, the boys seem as amicable, genuine, and grateful as they were a decade ago.

Within their record-breaking career before entering a hiatus, the quintet managed to reaffirm what a boy band means all the while establishing their unique and notable brand. These are heavy, even monumental, footsteps to fill.

So, no, One Direction is not just a measly boy band. At incredibly young ages, they were thrust into a world of not so subtle adoration and managed to produce worthwhile music for a loyal, dedicated, fanbase. They changed my life in the best way. Let’s give credit where credit is due and grant them the celebration that they so desperately deserve.

Happy 10 Years of One Direction! 


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Book Reviews Books BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Here’s every emotion I felt while reading the “After” series

Ever since I can remember, books have been the biggest part of my life. And for me, a good book is simply one that shakes me to my core and keeps me reading. But only a few books have been capable of pulling me into a deep, pure, ecstatic need for words.

A few weeks ago, I watched the movie After. It’s based on Anna Todd’s After series which is supposed to be Harry Styles fanfiction though I really didn’t see the similarity. While the plot of the movie intrigued me, it wasn’t enough. I felt like the film skipped over scenes. So, last week, the reader in me went in search of the first book.

One week later – I’ve read all five novels in the series and my emotions are all over the place. 

The five books – After, After We Collided, After We Fell, After Ever Happy, and Before revolve around the story of two characters, Tessa Young and Hardin Scott.

Tessa is the girl next door – pure, innocent, focused but also flawed in her own ways. Hardin is an encapsulation of the bad boy trope, except for one thing – his love of literature, a side of him which really struck me. He quotes Austen and Fitzgerald, has facial piercings, and is covered in tattoos. 

The characters meet through Tessa’s roommate Steph, one of Hardin’s friends. A pre-planned game of truth or dare pushes them closer together under false pretenses, the details of which we don’t find out about until the end of the first book.

The After series encompasses the devastatingly beautiful yet incredibly toxic and emotionally abusive relationship between the two characters; the way Hardin constantly shows up when Tessa doesn’t want him to, the way he acts around her co-worker Trevor, and his intense anger that blows out of proportion and ends in violence almost every time things don’t go his way.

And Tessa has her fair share of moments; when she kisses another boy in front of Hardin just to prove her point, and how she keeps running to Zed Evans (Hardin’s friend) when she has a fight with Hardin. All these factors contributed to making their relationship increasingly flammable and yet, they still somehow always worked it out.

Reading about how toxic the relationship was was incredibly uncomfortable. Typically, when I read or watch something with such a messed up relationship premise, I call them out on it.

However, something about these books pulled me into them.

Maybe it was the burning chemistry between the two characters, maybe it was the way literature was a constant theme in the story, or maybe it was because I was waiting for the characters to finally be together – without all the bullshit. I also kept reading to see the bad boy turn good.

Because isn’t that one of the reasons we turn to fiction? To make us believe in things we wouldn’t otherwise think possible.

While the After series is not inspiring or life-changing, the books are quick, easy reads that I lost myself in. And now here I am, struggling to get this story out of my head. 

Moments like Tessa and Hardin’s heated discussion over Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Tessa bringing Hardin closer to his estranged father, Hardin taking Tessa to his favorite spot – these are the moments that pulled me through the suffocating thread of their relationship.

And Hardin. He struggles with connecting with the people in his life (until he meets Tessa) and that in itself is the biggest challenge of all. There’s a line in the third book that reads:

“It’s ironic really, that the man who hates the world is most loved by it.”

It was tragic to see that Hardin had trouble seeing that. His character is emotionally damaged and he carries his childhood trauma right up until the fourth book which I found so appealing because for me, as a reader, and as a person, seeing someone face their trauma, accept it, and move on – that’s a story that needs to be heard.

The chemistry between the characters in the After series is undoubtedly palpable. They’re constantly pulled towards each other, mistake after mistake, and although Hardin does some terrible things, Tessa is not the innocent character she started off as.

The book is peppered with hot and heavy scenes, but above that, it has well-rounded primary as well as secondary characters, and a story that will make your heart hurt just a little.

The inherent problem within these books, though, is the fact that Tessa keeps going back to Hardin time and time again. He messes up, lies, destroys everything in his path, and yet she still goes back to him. Although I can’t seem to understand it, I still somehow root for it.

Plot twist after plot twist kept me tethered. Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but the arc of this story keeps rising and falling, keeping you engaged with its tumultuous movement.

I don’t think the books support toxic relationships, but they somehow portray this frightening reality that many people can relate to. So if you’re looking for a quick read, an emotional rollercoaster, and a story that drags you into its depths, this one’s for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Internet Standoms BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Toxic fans are ruining it for the rest of us

Engaging with strangers online over shared interests is a part of being in the pop culture world. If you follow a particular aspect of entertainment – a musician, TV show, movie or book – you are in a fandom.

And while not every decision made by our fictional and real-life heroes is liked, respecting other people’s opinions keeps the fandom universe happy and healthy. It should be a big, happy family but, unfortunately, every family has members who ruin everything for others.

Those people are toxic fans. While they are small in numbers, they hijack and take over their fandoms with their incoherent babbling that ranges from racism to death threats because someone either disagreed with them or things didn’t go their way.

Being a toxic fan, then, is nothing to be proud of nor is it an accomplishment or proof of love for a series.

This entitlement is rife among toxic fans. These fans believe that creators owe their success to them so everything should go their way. In fact, toxic fans wrongly believe that they possess the content and that it was created just for them. If anyone, including the creators, ruins their gradient, they will attack and defend their territory.

This is common when looking at romantic pairings, most commonly known as ‘ships‘. If creators do not pair up the desired ships, all hell will break loose. Hateful messages and death threats begin, directed at those who work behind-the-scenes and the leading stars.

Don’t even think about agreeing with the creators on the pairing or you will become the next target.

There is a very clear sense of superiority among toxic fans. Normal fans will see them as people who just have an opposing opinion so they ignore and allow it, but toxic fans believe that if someone is not as obsessed or intense as them, that person is not a “real fan” in their eyes and must be ostracized. Toxic fans will then create an environment of ‘us’ and ‘them’. The ‘them’ are then slapped with derogatory terms such as ‘casual’, ‘normies’ or ‘Muggles’ as a means of exclusion.

So how does this even happen?

Toxic fans will only look up what is relevant to them. They ignore and block out everything else and focus on only what they want to see, creating an echo chamber, and refusing to acknowledge any opinion that diverges from their own.

Think of it as radicalization – if someone is seeing and made to believe one thing, everything else is wrong in their eyes. They will fight for what they believe is the truth, regardless of the abuse and harassment they have to throw out.

So what happens when toxic fans run rampant?

The voice actors of the popular TV reboot, Voltron: Legendary Defender, no longer interact with their fans (which limited the number of conventions they attended) as much as they initially did at the start of the show run in 2016. This is because they were harassed and abused online and received countless death threats just for having their own opinions on their own characters’ journeys, personalities, and development.

Another example? The latest trilogy of Star Wars movies saw two of the female leads (Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran) being chased off of social media by women and men alike.

So should the fun be ruined for the masses because of a minority?

While Ridley’s character Rey was subjected to sexist abuse since her debut in the series, she herself was also shredded by “fans” when she stated she was incredibly moved by a tribute to victims of gun violence at an award show. She was then told to “stay in her lane” and not to get “political” or “liberal”.

Screenshot of Facebook comment by Vince Oliverio: "Sorry, I didn't see you using a blaster in Star Wars Episode VII? Get outta here, you're no better than Matt Damon. I might have to unfollow your page. / via Facebook
Screenshot of Facebook comment by Vince Oliverio: “Sorry, I didn’t see you using a blaster in Star Wars Episode VII? Get outta here, you’re no better than Matt Damon. I might have to unfollow your page. / via Facebook
Screenshot of Facebook comment by Joshua Howley: "Well Dasiy, you have just lost a fan. With the utter lack of research, and an obvious zero knowledge on the subject, this is probably something you should not be talking about." / via Facebook
Screenshot of Facebook comment by Joshua Howley: “Well Dasiy, you have just lost a fan. With the utter lack of research, and an obvious zero knowledge on the subject, this is probably something you should not be talking about.” / via Facebook

Tran’s character Rose (who was the first woman of color to have a lead role in the Star Wars movies) was also subjected to racist and sexist comments from men. Both women played characters who were not the damsels-in-distress that were seen in previous versions of Star Wars and this was obviously too much for these male fans to handle.

These fans believe that creators owe their success to them so everything should go their way.

Being a toxic fan, then, is nothing to be proud of nor is it an accomplishment or proof of love for a series.

In fact, being part of a fandom should instill a sense of belonging, respect, and camaraderie with others who share your interests. It’s great fun to interact with the creators and artists that bring your imagination to life and to bond and discuss with complete strangers.

So should the fun be ruined for the masses because of a minority? We might never be able to understand toxic fans but we can do more to tackle them by simply ignoring them and defending the creators and artists from their vitriol.

I hope that casual and real fans can claim back the territory from these toxic fans and make fandoms fun again – for everyone.

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Pop Culture

21 things you feel on a spiritual level if you love fanfiction

Between an increase in published examples, especially insanely popular ones like 50 Shades of Grey, and writers like George R.R. Martin opposing it, fanfiction has recently become a rather polarizing concept. But to those who love it, it’s just what we’ve been reading for years, probably since we were 11 and really wanted to see more going on between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.

If you love fanfiction as much as I do, here’s some things you might be familiar with:

1. It’s kind of embarrassing/confusing to tell other people

People tend to either not know what it is or they assume it’s something weird, when it’s basically individual artists showing off their art!

2. But at the same time, you don’t get what the big deal is

It’s just stories? You have no idea why fanfiction gets so much mockery and is presumed to be bad writing when most people agree that reading is great.

3. There’s no accounting for all the great content you read

You read all the time but does your Goodreads account reflect that? Nope.

4. It’s a procrastinator’s worst nightmare

What do you mean I shouldn’t start a 120k word fic the day before an exam? I can start and finish it.

5. There is no escaping truly bizarre kinks

Sometimes, you’re pretty sure all the strange fetishist, incest lovers and straight-up weirdos of the internet congregate as fanfic writers because some fandoms have straight-up strange things happening in their fic.

6. Often, the examples published are a pretty poor representation

The Mortal Instruments series? 50 Shades of Grey? Um, why? Fanfiction writers have done so, so much better.

7. There’s a good chance you’ve written some yourself

Chances are, in some dark forgotten corner of the internet, some (possibly really questionable) fanfiction penned by a pre-feminist awakening 11-year old you still exists. It’s not pretty, and you kind of forget it even exists most of the time.

8. There is no better bonding activity

I have no shame in admitting that I’ve found most of my closest friends through fandom, okay. My eighth grade best friend and I still talk every once in a while about the fic we’ve read.

9. Some fics are iconic jewels that may never die

Meet anybody who ships Rose Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy and there’s a 98% chance they’ve read Delicate. All Jily fans know of TLAT and Commentarius. It’s just a rite of passage in most fandoms.

10. Getting your fanfic fix for pretty much any pairing becomes totally normal

Often, when you finish a really good book or movie or TV series and are left feeling vaguely bereft because you don’t know what to do with your life once you’re done. Luckily, if you’re into fanfiction, the fandom usually has your back and has continued the story.

11. In fact, sometimes they even make the original better

The Harry Potter series, for example, sometimes leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to how the female characters are represented, but fanfic writers can totally make it better. Some, like this incredible series, are completely canon-compliant yet manage to improve the canon.

12. It’s where you can find your people

Do you really think you’re alone in guiltily shipping Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe just a little bit, in all their literary sassy glory? Think again, my friend.

13. Two words: fandom hate

There are way too many people who hate my precious mess of a son Ron Weasley and feel the need to write fanfiction about it, and that’s gross. Surely, they have better things to do with their time?

14. A lot of people shame the smut, but it’s actually pretty good

Not all of it, of course, but a lot of fanfiction tends to be written by younger, more progressive women than the ones writing actual romance novels. As a result, the smut in well-written fanfiction tends to be much better than the published writing

15. It’s the ultimate love letter to fandom, and you love it for that

The act of writing (or even reading) hundreds and thousands of words with no return and no motivator apart from sheer love of a story and desire to see it continue is pretty much the ultimate act of love for a fan.

16. There is no way to miss the Real People Fiction, to be very frank

One of the best fanfics I ever read was a One Direction fanfic called These Inconvenient Fireworks – just because somebody described it as “more quotable than Mean Girls” – but there is something undeniably creepy about real person fiction. And yet, there are apparently 192,396 fics about RPF on AO3 alone.

17. The most visited website on your mobile browser is definitely or

It’s just so easy to read fanfiction on the go. In queues, while waiting for people, on your commute… you name it, and fanfic is basically the best way to spend time.

18. It’s low pressure reading

Especially if you’re a student who spends most of your time reading convoluted thoughts and pretentious academic writing, fanfiction is just the most relaxing thing to read.

19. There is no escaping the bitterness that comes with bad writing…

The terrible affliction that is interesting plot suffering from grammar or writing that makes your eye twitch is the worst, because you know the writer put in a lot of effort but you just can’t read it.

20. …but you know being one of the entitled jerks is not an option either

No writer owes you anything, and you can appreciate that and be thankful for it. Even when they don’t update for 2.6 years.

21. Eventually, reach that point where the associated shame is obliterated

The shaming associated with fanfiction is inescapable. It’s like pumpkin spice lattes, selfies, and scented candles—basic just by association with teenage girls. And some people think it’s pretty damn misogynistic, but you’re over the whole shaming thing, honestly.

Love Life Stories

Writing fanfiction pushed me to pursue my dreams, even though I was completely terrified

Although I was interested in many things growing up, I don’t think I ever would have described myself as a “fangirl.”

Fanfiction to me seemed like an obsessive world for teenage girls – yes, I was very ignorant. I read and watched a lot, but never to the extent where I wanted to get more involved. Then, I got extremely hooked on the CW’s The 100. It was dark, violent, made me question how much life was worth and it had some badass women. Obviously, I adored every twisted little thing about it.  I was heavily invested in the characters and in my search for spoilers I came across some fanfiction.

It was like entering a whole new universe full of other people just like me. I love to read and I already knew I loved the characters. It took a while to adjust, but once I got into it there was no going back. It fascinated me how people could put their take on something and change it entirely, but keep the essence of the characters the same. Within a week I had read all of The 100 fanfiction in existence. I just couldn’t get enough. While I waited for new fanfic to be uploaded, I re-read my favorite stories multiple times.

I was pretty much living in my imagination.I had about a dozen fictional stories playing out in my head and I kept wondering whether any of the stories I’d thought up would make an appearance. As much as I adored what I was reading, nothing was hitting the spot. I know this sounds weird, but it wasn’t as dark as I wanted. 

When my patience wore out I had a weird thought; what if I wrote the ongoing stories in my mind? Writing was not something I’d considered before, but I was bursting with narratives that I wanted to be written down. So, I decided to make an account anonymously, try my hand at it, and if I was awful no-one would ever know.

It took me some time to get my first fanfic done. The last time I had done any creative writing was during my school exams. I hadn’t appreciated how much work went into writing a story. Although I thought the story in my head was great, putting it down on paper was a struggle. So I googled writing techniques, I made a Tumblr account and I wrote what I could.

I don’t know what was scarier; the thought that no-one would read it or that someone might actually read it.

What I ended up with was overwhelming. People commented and liked my piece. People on Tumblr messaged me to offer their help. I had people who read and edited my work for me. Others gave me some helpful tips and links. I built up the courage to message a few people whose work I had really enjoyed and was surprised by how happy they were to give feedback. So many people took a lot of time to help me get the flow of writing and some people genuinely liked my work.

I wasn’t instantly famous and offered a book deal as I may have dreamed, but it turned out I could write well.

The good response encouraged me to explore different types of narratives and I tried as many different writing styles as I could. Before I published each fanfic, I would still have that anxiety and think about quitting it all. Putting your own work out there is one of the toughest things to do. But the kind comments left on my work kept me going, some people were eager to read my next addition. It was addictive.

I had seen a few fanfic poetry contests and decided to give it a try. I fell in love with poetry and began producing my own pieces. By this point, I had some friends on tumblr from the fandom who were supportive and assured me that I wasn’t a complete failure.

As much as I enjoy fanfiction, I can admit that my obsession got slightly out of control. I’ve now moved away from fanfiction and I am excited to see what else I can achieve. In addition to poetry, I am attempting to write my own novel and to create characters that inspire others. But I’ll always be grateful to the great people of the fandom who taught me how to believe in myself.

Had I never discovered fanfiction and the beautiful people within it, I would have never believed that I could actually write. More than that I never would have considered trying writing. The support, the advice, and the love received helped me become more confident in myself and my abilities. I owe a lot to the kindness of strangers.

I know people tell you that binge-watching is unhealthy, but hey, I found my passion through it.

Editor's Picks Love + Sex Love Books

My local library taught me about everything that goes on in bed. My parents never knew.

The library was a sanctuary for me. A quiet place where my thoughts weren’t being drowned out by a football game or fighting; a place I didn’t have to keep thinking “ugh, what’s going to happen next?” I was Matilda-esque in my book obsession, and there was nothing I wouldn’t read. Dickens, Dahl, and Dr. Seuss were all fair game, and I appreciated their simplicities and complexities equally.

It wasn’t until one particular author that my reading motivation became singular in nature. VC Andrews showed me a side of literature I had no idea existed – she showed me girls talk about having sex. And they liked it.

I was obsessed.

My parents were ecstatic that I loved to read, and that the library was my go-to place for a good time. Little did they know that it wasn’t my intellect that was growing as I read those books in my room, it was my erotic fantasies.

This was before the internet brought readily available porn to my bedroom, so books were my only gateway into sexual fantasies. I devoured any book I could find that even hinted at a sexual experience or desire, and I read those pages over and over, so grateful someone was able to put words to the mess of hormonal emotions I was feeling. Andrews’ stories were all about angsty girls discovering their bodies and what they wanted in a partner, and I clung to every word. After all, I was angsty too! And while I was years away from having a partner, I was slowly discovering my body, one page at a time.

I’m not unaware that “Flowers in the Attic,” a dark story of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse is easily her most popular work. In fact, it’s this story in particular that has gotten me more than a few raised eyebrows when I go on one of my many “VC Andrews is the best!” tirades. And while I love that book, it’s the series that got me hooked are ones like “The Runaways,” which puts troubled girls together in a group therapy and forces them to recount how they got there, or “The Orphans” which focuses on similarly troubled girls being placed in foster care. “The Shooting Stars” is a favorite too – it’s about immensely talented girls trying to keep their dreams alive amidst terrible circumstances. They may all sound like Lifetime movies in the making (and if that happens, I am so in), but at the time, they were unlike anything I’d ever seen.

Reading about these girls with terrible childhoods was the only escape I had from my own. Following them as they made all their mistakes – running away from home, having sexual encounters, drinking and doing drugs – their experiences were so tantalizing, I couldn’t put the books down. And I dreamed of the day I could leave home and have my own similar adventures. I couldn’t wait to discover what sex was like and what experiences the world had in store for me.

Is there anything better than that feeling of teenage hormonal willingness, to fall in love, passionately and recklessly? VC Andrews curated that feeling in a way I’ve never been able to fulfill.

When I became a teenager, and sex seemed on the horizon, I started to portray the girls I’d read about. I quickly became disappointed in the normality of it all. There was no cute boy on a motorcycle picking me up for my date. And we didn’t break into a store and steal wine on that date. We went to dinner, then the movies, then back to our respective homes. It was so mundane. I wanted the adventure and spontaneity VC Andrews had promised me. And for better or worse, I still do.

As a repressed and socially awkward teen growing up in a tense southern household, I could have turned to drugs, alcohol, or even sex as an outlet. But instead I magically found a woman, who was just as repressed, awkward, and southern as I was, telling stories I wanted to read. Before VC Andrews it was Judy Blume, but now I think it’s us. All of us.

Anyone who can tell a story on the Internet that can show a young girl that she isn’t weird or perverted is helping. Any essay that explains why she’s feeling what she’s feeling and that, contrary to how it feels, she’s not the only one, is needed. If I’d had the vast, and albeit sometimes scary, world of the internet to turn to when I was processing these feelings, I may not have spent so long ashamed and scared of what they meant. 

But now I’m not ashamed, and I’m not scared of wanting what I want or feeling what I feel.