The Over-Saturation of Romantic Self Insert From an Aromantic's PrespectiveSelf insert is the act of creating a character version of yourself for being placed in a fictional work, sometimes original and sometimes preexisting. This essay is about how this practice has become extremely focused on romantic self insert to the point of drowning out other forms, why this is a problem, and how to fix it. This is not to argue that self shipping is bad, but to call to attention how romance-normalized this is and why it might be alienating to aromantics, romantic repulsed individuals, and anyone who wants to self insert for non-romantic reasons.
To highlight this I did an experiment. On Tumblr I went to the self insert tag, sorting results by most recent and then most popular. How many posts do you think it will take for a self insert post that isn't romantic in nature (including not being tagged as f/o, self shipping, or similar)?
By recent: It took 11 posts.
By popular: It took 17 posts.
This is a lot to sift through. In the self insert tag, which is not inherently romantic, most of the popular posts are romantic in nature.
For another example of how much romance there currently is with self insert, there is a self insert webring. This under "shipping" on the website it's on, and of the 50 members currently listed every one is in relation to soem character and 42 of the members listed have it being explicitly romantic with the remaining only a few being explicitly platonic and the others being more vague. This is not to hate on this webring in anyway, but again to highlight how romance-focused this is.
There's also how much terminology meant for shipping or romance is used. The term "F/O" was created to mean fictional other, like signifigant other, but is also used to describe family relationships including with child characters. The same can be said for shipping with people saying they "ship" themselves with characters when they mean they're friends, see them as their family, or see them as their child. While some alternative terms seemed to have been coined, but they aren't widely used and looking into the tags for them a lot of the some are still romance-focused.
So why does all of this matter? There are a lot of scenarios for who this can be alienating, but first I would like to say that self inserting in general can be extremely benefitial and a great coping mechanism or way to sort out identity such as gender, sexuality, otherkinity, or plurality. Writing yourself in a fictional setting can be a way to process things such as trauma, phobias, intrusive thoughts, paranoia or unsettling situations in a safe and controlled setting. Making your self insert an aspect about yourself that you're questioning can be very good to determine if that label or experience is for you. For those with MaDD this may also be a method of writing your daydreams and getting to a point of recovery with them.
Writing relationships with fictional characters doesn't have to be exclusively romantic. It can be very comforting to do especailly if you have been through bad relationships irl, and it's even a known phenominon with age regression for some regressors to imagine characters as being their parent or caretaker. If done correctly it can also be used to take some pressure or fear out of making friends and talking to people in reality by exploring it first in fiction.
This is all very helpful to a wide variety of people, but the current state of the community alienates many people. Such as:
- People who are romance-repulsed. I am so sorry if it's a trigger for you because from experience as someone only squicked there's no real way to filter romance results in a search through tags which aren't inherently romantic. Being romance-repulsed isn't uncommon and can occur with people who are aromantic, have trauma related to romance, or overally just don't want to do romance.
- Self inserts which in no ways should be taken as romantic. People who have age-regression related self inserts, people who have fictional family or fictional children, or other scenarios where it being seen as romantic can be in poor taste. The over-saturation of romance can make it feel awkward posting in tags where everything is romance focused, and it's hard to avoid when even neutral tags become romance-focused.
- People who non-romanticly self insert in general. People can self insert for coping reasons or to sort out their identy as previously mentioned, or just don't think self shippng is for them.
It isn't good how little recognition these self insert experiences are given and how hard it can be to even find content or ideas if you're a non-romantic self inserter. Self insert is a great medium and has the potential to be a fantastic community, but as it stands there are groups of people it makes it hard to express.
What can be done? There's a few simple solutions that anyone can do.
- Boost up non-romantic self inserts, and recognize that self inserts aren't inherently romantic. Don't make self insert groups exclusively romance focused, anddon't be afraid to share, reblog, whatever general self insert posts.
- Make self insert content. Even if you are a self shipper, you can still make prompts which are platonic (and not shipping platonic) or self-insert focused, and I'd say it could be great to normalize reader insert fics that aren't x readers. There's a lot of mundane or intense scenarios which can be written for that don't require romance, or even focus on other relationships such as those that are family focused.
- Properly tag your romantic posts. Yes self shipping is a type of self insert, but it's a good idea to still tag it as self ship so that people can blacklist it.