Shipping is the most toxic part of fandom…
Honestly, that depends on the fandom, some smaller fandoms such as the Gotham fandom actually have a really calm, supportive and positive shipping community. It really does come down to the kinds of people in the fandom.
If you ship toxic pairings, you support abusive relationships in real life…
No, it does not mean that. Offline I am an avid fighter for the rights of all those harmed by abusive relationships whether they be adults of any gender, children or animals.
If you ship underage characters or an underage character with an adult you are a pedophile.
What the hell? No no no it does not mean that! Fiction is a safe place to explore these kinds of taboo relationships without harming anyone.
I have had these comments that have turned into all-out arguments throughout the years online. Over the years I have learned to ignore comments like these mostly to avoid being dragged into these arguments that just seem to rise again and again each time growing more toxic and hateful.
Love it or hate it shipping has become a prominent part of every fandom, and I do mean every fandom. If there is a fandom for something, I guarantee you someone ships at least two characters in it together, or even a character with themselves, this can be called ‘Selfcest’and I do plan to give this its own whole post some time in the future.
Through my many years of fandom and shipping within fandom, one big thing I have noticed is the toxicity around shipping within fandom will depend not only on what the fandom is but its size and the type of fans found within. Bigger more mainstream fandoms tend to have more toxicity aimed at or within the shipping community, though this will depend on the fandom. A big fandom with a positive shipping community for example would be the Star Trek fandom which I mentioned in my post A Brief History of Fanfiction, whereas a large mainstream fandom with a toxic shipping community would be something like Dreamworks Voltron, Hetalia or the most toxic I personally have come into contact with the Hannibal fandom.
I would also like to say however though that just because there is toxicity within a shipping community or towards it within said fandom this does in no way mean all those within said fandom is toxic or the shippers. Like any social group, you will find good and bad within, it is just unfortunate for many fandoms that the toxic side tends to yell the loudest and likes to turn said fandom into an echo chamber that drives new fans away.
But why do we ship?
This is not the easiest of questions to ask because it can be different for so many people. Some like myself do it for the simple fact that we find it fun and like the explore the kind of chemistry we might see between characters or add chemistry just because we may think oh this could be cute. We might ship characters that don’t get along because there may be similarities between characters that are not explored within the media the characters are in.
An example of this can be found with one of my first ships. That of Seto Kaiba and Joey Wheeler (yes I am using the English dub names because I grew up watching the 4Kids dub). There is a very obvious hatred between the two characters in the show, with Seto Kaiba being the teenage millionaire owner of a tech company and Joey being the best friend of Yugi the main character of the show. Joey starts the show as a beginner duelist not very good at the game whereas Seto is considered one of the best in the world because he can have many rare and expensive cards and though many within the show duel for fun Seto has an arrogance about him that drives Joey mad. There is one big similarity the two characters have though. Both are caring older brothers to a younger sibling they would do anything for and I must admit I kind of wished when watching the series that there would be a story where the both of them would have to work together to save both siblings.
If you want to hear more discussion about why people ship for fun I highly recommend listening to the season 3 Episode 5 Pro Ship vs Anti Ship of The Yaoi Shelf podcast where the lovely hosts along with a special guest talk about their own love of shipping, the fun and the drama caused by not only shippers but the haters who go out of their way to cause drama within shipping communities. You can watch it here on Youtube or listen on Spotify. Also, don’t worry you do not have to have listened to any of their previous episodes to listen to this episode of the podcast, but I do recommend listening to all their episodes because they have some really awesome discussions about all things yaoi.
For some in fandom though, shipping is not just done for fun and because I am not an expert when it comes to gay representation over the years in media I want to recommend a video from one of my all-time favourite video essay channels on Youtube James Somerton titled Why We Ship. I know this is a long youtube video for some with a run time of just over an hour but he does such a wonderful job in explaining the importance of shipping to the queer community and how for so many years for some it was the only way they could find representation within the media they loved.
Also asking for representation in media is not the same as demanding a show, game or book you like making your ship canon. That is very toxic behaviour that I wish I would see less of within fandom but just seems to get the worse the more the internet grows.
With social media platforms as well as Youtube it is so much easier for creators to interact with their fans. This is a double edge sword because it means toxic fans can become more demanding. This is a problem not only within the shipping community but fandom as a whole.
So is shipping the most toxic part of a fandom? As I stated at the beginning of this post this really comes down to the fandom you are a part of. Whether you love it or hate shipping is here to stay, but at the end of the day I will ask this; is it really worth arguing and doxxing others over which canon or non-canon fictional couple you hate or love?