Fan-fiction dynamics (Bully to lover VS Enemies to lovers)

Fan-fiction is a form of [typically] online fiction of fictional characters/ media (usually romance). Fan-fictions exist on many sites such as Tumblr, AO3, Wattpad,, and probably even here on Spacehey! Fan-fictions as we know it have existed since the internet was created, but the first piece of Fan-fiction to become popular was actually made in 1967 by a Star Trek (1966) fan. 

Fan-Fictions, whether you love them or hate them, heavily impact fan culture. And a lot of popularized tropes have come out from that. The most prominent being "Enemies to Lovers", but I'll call it E.L for short. It's beloved by most readers for its romantic tension, but a lot of critics argue the trope is abusive and promotes toxic relationships. I heavily disagree and firmly believe a lot of people get EL and BTL (bully to lover) confused. Some argue that they are interchangeable, but I'm here to tell you why that is completely false. 

For starters, BTL has an unfair power dynamic. One character is the aggressor, who takes their frustration out on the victim in either verbal or physical torment. The bully typically admits that the reason they torture the victim is because they actually have a crush on them. As the audience, we are meant to find this endearing. However, it is greatly disturbing and promotes the age old ideology of "He just picks on you because he has a crush on you!". This mindset is what leads to people getting stuck in abusive relationships. Combining genuine violence/agression with romance  is incredibly dangerous for obvious reasons. 

But EL doesn't feature this sort of dynamic. Rather, it is an equal playing ground. A mutual resentment between two people. Typically this rivalry stems from being on opposing sides (ie- two characters are both running for class president or are from rival families and were raised to hate each other). And usually the resentment isn't initially coming from a place of romance. But when the two characters are put in a situation in which they need to work together, they slowly begin to gain an understanding of each other and see them as more than just a competing rival. It's a slow development and the tension as the anger turns to love. 

Obviously, not every single EL story follows this format. In fact, EL can be toxic if done incorrectly (and often times ELs are actually BTLs). However, this logic could be applied to every single romance trope. 

But BTLs cannot be anything besides toxic. You cannot harass someone to the point of severe depression and then join a romantic relationship with them. No, the bully doesn't magically change. It is possible to change through years of therapy and hard emotional work. But oftentimes, this isn't how this is presented. It's a bully who admits to falling in love and then seemingly overnight they become loving and passionate. This is actually common with abusers. Often called the "honey-moon phase" because the relationship will be peaceful and the abuser would often do big gestures and love-bomb. But then it's back to the abuse until the next honey-moon period. 

BTL is an abuse trope. It cannot be compared to EL. EL is a romance trope that takes time to develop and blossom. It is a mutual pining of two people who were competing because of an idea of the other person before discovering that they are so much more than how they present. BTL is a victim being repeatedly degraded without having any means of defending themselves, often to the point of depression and even suicidal thoughts. The bullying comes from a place of weakening the victim's self esteem and controlling their relationships (both with possible partners and who hangs around them). 

Defenders of BTL would often bring up BDSM as a justification for this trope. I consider this a huge insult for the BDSM community. Because a bully picking on a poor kid at school is not the same as two consenting adults role-playing. Comparing an abusive relationship to BDSM is simply ignorant. BDSM should have clear boundaries and CONSENT for two or more sexual partners. Verbally or physically harassing a random classmate is not nearly the same thing. Not even close. And anyone who believes this, is genuinely frightening.  

So yeah, sorry for this not being very eloquent or whatever but I just get so heated whenever someone dares to use the two terms interchangeably. But anyway um sorry for this lol

And if you think you (or someone you know) might be in an abusive relationship please call 


What do you think? Do you agree? What should I talk about next?

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Epic_Gamer_Pokémon_Ranger's profile picture

This is a very good point that I never really thought of. The power imbalance is what makes the situation good or bad. Well put.

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