My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is an animated television show targeted at preteen girls, but unexpectedly has gained a following of primarily male adults, who refer to themselves as Bronies. The pressing issue that involves both Bronies and non-Bronies are Cloppers. Cloppers are people who are sexually attracted to the characters in the show, and create, or just enjoy, sexually explicit fan art. This type of fan-art falls under the idea of Rule 34, which is a social construct that if something exists there with always be a porn version if it. It can include, but is not restricted to, images, animation, fan fiction, and even songs. There are several arguments against the distribution and consumption of Rule 34; however, I will be focusing on specific material related to My Little Pony. This paper will reflect my personal beliefs for allowing Cloppers to do, create, and share what they want, but only if proper precautions are taken to prevent it from it being seen by children. While children should not be exposed to adult content, this material is not morally wrong for adults.
The loudest argument against Cloppers promoting what they do, or even existing, is that children will stumble upon the fan-created work and be exposed to the perversion of characters of a television show targeted at their age group. Amy O’Learly, a writer for the New York Times, shares the experience of one mother and daughter who had the misfortune of finding something that was made for adults. The six-year-old was “watch[ing] ‘My Little Pony’ videos on the iPhone’s YouTube app… [and] found a graphic video…by clicking on the related links to the right of the video player” (O’Learly). This story seems to be a common among Anti-Cloppers, whether they are in the fandom or not. A male Brony, and Anti-Clopping Phenomenon activist, whose username is aNIGHTLYpony says, “when you search ‘my little pony’ on google, even with the safe-search option there are explicit pony images (stopp.clopping.deviantart.com).” He is twenty three years old and runs a deviantART anti-clopping group. Will Clark, a sociology major and founder of a Brony club at the University of South Florida, says “My Little Pony porn exists. But so does Transformers porn, Batman porn, Kim Possible porn, and even Gilligan’s Island porn…” (Stockfisch). Will Clark is a prominent advocate against all Bronies being stereotyped as Cloppers.
What aNIGHTLYpony and Will Clark both fail to mention and recognize, however, is that the Brony community works to prevent adult content from being viewed by minors. A bi-monthly event called “Safe Search Wrap Up” asks Bronies to “help make the SafeSearch features on image-search engines such as GoogleImages, Bing, or Youtube be free of NSFW content” (Bronies Against BullShit). NSFW, standing for Not Safe For Work, usually means that the media contains nudity, cursing, or something else that would not be appropriate in the workplace environment. This event is not just limited to My Little Pony images, although created by Bronies, but is open to every fandom where children might see inappropriate media.
As a result of the before mentioned six-year-old girl, her parents set up her own account on the computer with preapproved sites she could go on, but Youtube was not included. During an interview, Jonathan Agnew, the business leader in the Everfree NW Convention, thought that “the people who are into the darker parts… do a really good job of making it so that a kid might not accidentally stumble across that kind of thing. And they do kind of self-regulate themselves into their own small communities” (Otay). The Everfree NW Convention is another My Little Pony convention. Ash – a college student and Brony with no kids – runs a site called “Ponies for Parents,” which operates “to empower and educate parents on how they can protect their children from stumbling on imagery that they would not approve of” (poniesforparents.com). The “Safe Search Wrap Up” event inspired Ash to create the site and follows the core belief that the content should not be deleted, just hidden from people not searching for it. Derpibooru.org is a site where Bronies “can browse, discuss and share images, hold discussions in…forums, and watch live streams from artists.” There are over 120,000 registered users and over 10,000,000 images, including adult content; however, “80% of all… [the material] is safe and suitable for all ages” (Derpibooru.org). Ash suggests parents block it. However, even registered users do not automatically see the adult, or simply possibly suggestive, images. They have to change their settings to see the tags, which is an extra step to protect children from seeing images that Cloppers enjoy.
Amanda Marcotte, a writer for Slate Magazine, agrees with “mad moms,” believing that the Equestria Girls movies, as well as its spin-off, were created because, “Bronies have expressed a strong interest in seeing the Ponies in sexy, humanized forms—if you doubt this, I dare you to search for ‘my little pony porn’ on Google—and…Hasbro has given them exactly what they want” (Marcotte). However, Bronies do not hold an interest in seeing the ponies in that manner. Certain Cloppers do, but not to the point where it would be financially feasible to create an entire new world and storyline in Equestria Girls. Bronies and Cloppers were not the target audience of the movie, and many Bronies felt that it was a bad idea (herdcensus). Many felt as though the movie was to detour adult fans before it came out and were apprehensive to watch it. Although there were many Easter eggs hidden in the show to appease the adult fans, such as a scene from Arrested Development acted out with the girls, dance moves similar to PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” and a fan-favorite character Derpy Hooves dancing with a muffin.
Clopper critics righteously argue that the fans’ sexual interests are morally wrong. Such critics include: aNIGHTLYpony, Chris Roper, a columnist for the Mail & Guardian, and Howard Stern. aNIGHTLYpony writes to Cloppers, saying, “Imagine if a family member or friend catches you… clopping? Most people…are ashamed, but not while sharing clop-fics …with other cloppers… deep down inside we know and we SHOULD know it is shameful to masturbate to…ponies…where is your self-respect?” (stopp.clopping.deviantart.com). A large amount of people are ashamed or embarrassed when caught masturbating – to anything, by anyone. Self-respect is not dependent on what sexual acts society deems appropriate. It is a personal assessment if moral beliefs and the alignment of one’s actions. The Internet “is good for… bringing together like-minded people” (Bell, 9), and sharing clop-fics, which are pornographic texts, or other clop materials, with other people who would enjoy it is just using the internet as a tool to connect with likeminded people. Will Clark, when talking about all Bronies and not solely Cloppers, believes that people are “so focused on what is normal, what is the right thing to do, how we fit in, when really…[people] are so different…[and] tend to gloss over what’s special about” them (Stockfisch). And part of what makes people special is what they enjoy sexually. “Bronies…[have] been presented by some parties as at best silly and perhaps even facetious, and at worst pathological,” (Robertson, 27) and an example of the latter is Chris Roper wondering if he is “the only one to get a whiff of pedophilia here? …We are talking about My Little Pony here, not my Mature Horse.” Chris Roper is not the only person who associates Cloppers, or even just Bronies, with pedophilia. In fact, the most “common stereotype is that Bronies are child predators… [which] is actually damaging to the community” (Otay). Will Clark mentions that in his research people think all Bronies spend time “looking at dirty pictures of ponies,” and think of them as “perverts [and] creeps.” People even associate Bronies with being “pedophile[s and] homosexual[s]” (Stockfisch). Howard Stern and Robin Ophelia Quivers attempted to humiliate Bronies and Cloppers in a segment on Howard Stern’s show. They confused all Bronies with Cloppers, and thought that BronyCon was a sex convention for losers. Tara Strong, a voice actor for the show and self-proclaimed “Queen of The Bronies,” called Howard Stern out and offered to give an interview for a different perspective (http://3.bp.blogspot.com). However, there has been no contact. She also posted a photo of people cosplaying as characters of the show and told Howard Stern to “Clop to this!” (photobucket.com). Lofotenburg believes that Howard Stern was attempting to produce a “moral panic” (lofotenburg.wordpress.com), and overemphasize the sexual nature of the Brony community.
Continuing to explore moral criticism, there are claims that the Brony community is filled with misogynists. During Bronycon2014, there was an event called the Baltimore BronyBar Trot, where bars have My Little Pony themed drinks and five hundred or so Bronies and Cloppers “trot” the streets together. I felt safe enough in this event to have a couple of drinks. I must mention that I did not know anyone and was in a strange city, and was unsure of how I was going back to my hotel. I can say I would not feel comfortable drinking in Buffalo or Rochester without it being a Brony Meetup. And within the online community, depending on what site or fan-page, immature or misogynistic people are usually grouped together and not the majority. Also, during Bronycon, if someone said that something made them feel uncomfortable, or if someone said not to touch cosplayers, people instantly stopped and apologized. Reported incidences occurred approximately twice during the four day convention, according to a male security member, who was also crossplaying as Princess Luna.
One of the strongest claims of the Anti-Cloppers, but strangely one of the least discussed, is that Hasbro profits from Clopper artists and that voice actors are supportive of Cloppers. Mike Vogel, Hasbro Studios Vice President of Development, posted on Twitter that he was looking at the fan work being taken down, and would attempt to work with the legal department of Hasbro to issue cease-and-desist orders against fan work (Sethisto). By being employed by Hasbro, Tara Strong’s actions and comments are reprehensive of the company. As mentioned before Tara Strong takes an active role in defending and amusing the Brony Community. She posts provocative, yet innocent, photos of the characters she voice acts. Examples of the character she voices from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic include, but are not limited to: Twilight Sparkle looking into the screen asking if she was bae, a picture of Twilight Sparkle wearing a Santa hat with the caption “#MerryChristmas here’s your present fans…a pic of me wearin’ nuthin but a Santa hat,” and a fan created image of Twilight posing wearing glasses and a bikini with the caption “I know I’m not supposed to post more pics, but I really do look so cute in my bikini!!” She warned Cloppers not to talk on the Jerry Springer show when they asked for Bronies with disapproving partners or to Howard Stern because of the previously mentioned prejudice. Tara Strong also was a judge in a WeLoveFine contest, where the winner received $500, and their design would be added to the WeLoveFine collection. WeLoveFine is a “sub-licensing of the My Little Pony franchise … [allowing] …WeLoveFine and Hasbro profit off the work of fanartists… [and the] artists themselves are offered legal compensation for their work” (ComradeCosmobot).The winner of that particular contest is a well known Clop artist. It was not the first time that Hasbro and WeLoveFine has paid Clop artists for their designs. An example of a clop artist being promoted can be found at the website, WeLoveFine contest winner Atryl and their personal website, which has filters on it. Atryl won a contest with a non-provocative image, just Twilight Sparkle reading a book with her cutie mark on it and a background with symbols on it; however, there are other images on that site that are not appropriate for children, such as references to Breaking Bad. Finally, two background ponies, or extra characters, Lyra and BonBon are often paired together or shipped by the fandom for being in a lesbian relationship. In Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks, the pair are a musical act who sit close together, cheek to cheek, and look romantically at each other. It is an obvious nod to the adult fandom.
The final and weakest argument against Cloppers is that they are not real Bronies. As previously mentioned, a Brony is a fan of the show, and even though Cloppers find sexual enjoyment in it, that does not detract from their overall enjoyment. Tasha Pony Tales, which is based off of My Little Pony, is mainstream porn. It has the storyline of six women being transported to a magical land, where they have pony ears and manes, and are considered princesses. Centaur Unicorn King satirically complains that the women “are slowly destroying everything… [they] love about Magic Pony Land.”The people who I think are real Bronies are those who take the lessons at the end of each episode to heart and let it impact their life. Be understanding, caring, tolerant, and above all try to recognize the power of friendship.
The easiest way to react to this scenario is to throw up your hands and say gross, which is what I did when I was first introduced to the dark side of the fandom. However, I misjudged the consumers of that material as lonely people who cannot relate to humans. They can relate to people, which is why they are attracted to sentient beings. This fetish does not hurt anyone, and does not deserve the reputation it gets. It important to remember that “In a land where friendship is magic, everyone is welcome – even those who aren’t “supposed” to belong” (Bell, 19) – be that anybody, or any pony, with different sexual tastes.
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Alexandra Agostinelli is currently an undergraduate student at SUNY Buffalo State College. She is studying Political Science and Sociology, and enjoys combining the two subjects to help understand the world. Her project about the My Little Pony franchise and political antagonist attitudes is the result of these combining interests and will continue to be worked upon and studied. Her educational past includes an Associate of Arts degree from Monroe Community College.