GhostyGoo-Girl

'Rick and Morty' Incest Porn Is Tearing the Show's Fans Apart

RickMorty shippers are testing the boundaries of the First Amendment.

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Apr 26 2018, 3:24pm

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In a dark corner of the internet, Rick and Morty isn’t just an irreverent animated send-up of Back to the Future. Here, in Twitter threads and Tumblr posts, the cartoon that over the past four years has inspired novelty fast-food sauce revivals and rabid devotion from fans also serves as a backdrop for thousands of pieces of incestuous art and prose. Known in its community as “C-137cest,” the art depicts Rick and Morty’s titular grandfather and grandson as they engage in all manner of forbidden love, from blowjobs to anal sex to leather and cum play.

The Adult Swim series, which follows aging scientist Rick Sanchez from Earth dimension C-137 in adventures across infinite universes, is more sexually charged than your average cartoon. In the very first episode, Morty daydreams about getting to second base with his crush in a surreal, math-filled void. By episode two, Morty and Rick are trapped in a fantasy BDSM sex dungeon ruled by a pro-incest version of Morty’s sister. A few episodes later, Morty buys a generously endowed sex robot and fucks it so much he fathers a child. Later, in season two, Rick reveals he’s as gifted sexually as he is intellectually when he out-fucks an entire planet of aliens who have assimilated into a Borg-like hive mind. By the end of the third season, there’s a club full of Morty strippers and a student version of Morty who wishes out loud that “incest porn had a more mainstream appeal... for a friend.”

Erotic fan fiction and shipping—the practice of supporting a relationship between fictional characters—are an inevitable byproduct of pop-culture franchises beloved by the internet. But the passion behind “RickMorty,” the name bestowed on this taboo couple, is different because kinks are consistently validated by the show itself.

To understand why people love to imagine Rick and Morty fucking, it’s important to understand their relationship on the show. Rick is an all-powerful, misanthropic asshole who is often overbearing toward Morty, his sensitive and naïve sidekick. But there are moments where their relationship dynamic is reversed. Rick nearly sacrifices himself to save Morty in the season two premiere, “A Rickle in Time,” and he relies on Morty’s musical skills to save the planet from a deathly round of intergalactic American Idol in “Get Schwifty.” The power interplay between these two characters fits into a sub/dom archetype that C-137cest fans told me is crucial to comprehending their incestuous creations.

Futagogo*, who says they are twin sisters who write C-137cest fan fiction under the same online identity, wrote in an email that, “For all their contrasting qualities, the writers of the show [included] this undeniable link between them: Despite Rick’s seeming self-sufficiency/genius, Rick still needs Morty. This is, in part, explained in "Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind" with a ‘brainwave cloaking’ element between Ricks and Mortys. It automatically makes a seasoned, fiercely independent genius like Rick at the absolute mercy of the powerless Morty. That power dynamic is very appealing for fan creators to explore and take to the next level.”

Rick and Morty’s most unique quality in comparison to other shows with big fan art communities is that there isn’t just one set of Rick and Morty. The show transverses multiple dimensions, each with its own dynamic duo, most of whom meet up in a spacebound metropolis called the Citadel of Ricks. Because there are infinite universes with infinite versions of Rick and Morty, there are possibly Ricks and Mortys out there who fuck even harder and weirder than the Rick and Morty we’re familiar with.

“The infinite universes are absolutely key to the RickMorty fandom,” Futagogo said. “Unlimited possible versions of these beloved characters conceivably exist, so this gives fan creators an endless sandbox in which to craft their own characters. [These fan-made Ricks and Mortys] can feel more valid than the average fan fiction since they could very well exist in the official Rick and Morty universe.”

Futagogo’s way of thinking is fueled in part by co-creator Justin Roiland, the 38-year-old who voices both Rick and Morty. He endorsed C-137cest’s reveries in a 2015 tweet. “In many realities, Morty and Rick ARE in a passionate healthy romantic relationship,” he suggested. “Maybe we'll do an episode about it.”

Co-creator Dan Harmon also made his feelings on C-137cest known during a 2017 interview with VICE. “I could never ever, as a bona fide, card-carrying nerd, pervert, and fantasy advocate want to see an internet where written words entertaining even the darkest of fantasies are somehow not allowed…” he said. “Why go down the path of making anybody so ashamed of their thoughts that they don’t express them?”

Composite by Lia Kantrowitz; art by r1ckcrte and Specs


With a storyline that lends itself particularly well to erotic fan art and acknowledgement from both co-creators, C-137cest artists have created a veritable Kama Sutra of graphic incestuous arrangements.

In one artwork (warning: links are NSFW), Morty tenderly gives Grandpa Rick some over-the-pants action, only to tie him up and drown him in cum in the next scene. In another work, Rick fucks and is fucked by versions of himself, his daughter, and his grandchildren from other dimensions in a mind-bending interdimensional orgy. Rick frequently gives into the temptation of Morticia, a version of Morty from the official Pocket Mortys video game who identifies as female. Another artist drew Morty punishing Pickle Rick by forcing him to deepthroat a penis the size of his entire vegetable body. Yet another drew them as characters from Blade Runner 2049, and another as Pennywise from IT. For their part, Futagogo wrote a novel-length fan fiction about the depraved sexual exploits of the rich and powerful Ricks and Mortys of the Citadel of Ricks. It’s one of the most extensive entries into RickMorty lore, and has inspired a subgenre of art depicting its characters. These tidbits are just a brief overview of the shameless creativity that thrives in C-137cest. Some accounts that share C-137cest have thousands of followers.

As popular as it is, there is a contingent of Tumblr and Twitter users who hate C-137cest and attack it at every opportunity. “Antis” barrage anyone who supports the ship with posts, comments, and direct messages deriding Rick and Morty incest porn as offensive. A relatively tame anti post will read something like, “Still shipping incest and pedophilic ships in 2018? God, you’re pathetic.” Multiple shippers I spoke to reported they or their friends received death threats and calls for them to kill themselves or be raped.

An anti named Sarah* said in an email that the crusade against C-137cest could be described as a “war.”

“The antis believe that it's disgusting for one to pour such heart and soul into anything so morally wrong,” said Sarah, who claims she put her Rick and Morty fan blog on hiatus due to exhaustion from incest-related skirmishes. “Even if the relationship is fictional, it is a big cesspool of incest and pedophilia. Which is why it brings up so much conflict. It's a morality thing.”

Antis can be as active in Tumblr’s Rick and Morty incest porn tags as the people who love and make the content. They argue that C-137cest isn’t just in bad taste, but normalizes child abuse.

"To kids, the message of RickMorty is that topics such as pedophilia are just for fun, and are perfectly acceptable to talk about with adults over the internet," adds Z*, who has posted about the danger of problematic ships, but doesn't necessarily identify as an anti. They point to sexual abuse in the science fiction fandom community, dating back to writer Walter H. Breen's conviction for child molestation in 1954, as an insidious precedent for the danger of erotic fan art. The RickMorty shippers I spoke to denied seeing evidence of grooming or the presence of actual pedophiles. "For me, and for most others, it's the framing that's troubling," Z adds. "These relationships are portrayed as sexy and star-crossed. I'm not against these ships because they're vulgar. I'm against them because they romanticize something that happens in real life far too often."

Others argue that C-137cest is triggering to survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). In response, numerous RickMorty shippers claim in blog posts and their Tumblr bios to be CSA survivors themselves. I spoke to one who goes by the name Havok. “There is no use explaining to antis why you ship something they deem problematic or wrong,” she said in an email. “They will hunt you down in packs and harass you to the point that you are forced to deactivate your account.”

Havok told VICE that she and her sister were sexually abused for more than a year when she was nine. Her friends who share a passion for C-137cest have created a space where she feels safe talking about her history. “We're all very welcoming and protective of each other,” she said. “We respect each other and are like a family, sharing jokes, cares, worries, and pain. I couldn't ask for a better community to be a part of.”

Composite by Lia Kantrowitz; art by GhostyGoo-Girl, Wubba Lubba Weirdness, and Specs

Kat, a 22-year-old artist from the Midwest, told VICE she also uses incestual ships like C-137cest to heal from sexual abuse she suffered as a child. “For me personally, Morty is a character I heavily project myself onto,” she said in a phone call. She’s been interested in problematic ships since the age of 12, starting with the brothers from Naruto, Sasuke and Itachi. “My first reaction was, ‘Oh my God! They are brothers.’ I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she said. Soon she began to think of it as just a cartoon, separate from the morality by which she judged behavior in everyday life.

Her new online friends helped her to accept herself. “I knew soon after what happened to me that it was not OK—it was disgusting, and if anybody knew about it, I would be considered the most disgusting creature on the planet,” Kat said. “I remember feeling so alone, and not knowing where to turn. But when I saw that people were out there shipping cartoon characters that would otherwise be considered disgusting relationships, I realized not everybody was going to hate me. It felt really good knowing that I could put myself in the shoes of these cartoon characters and there would be somebody out there giving me a thumbs up! It felt good to know I wasn’t a monster.” Kat told me that she has been in a healthy relationship for four years, and she credits the support she received from Tumblr communities like C-137cest.

But despite the therapeutic claims of C-137cest users like Kat and Havok, professionals caution CSA survivors who create or engage with this type of content. Dr. Kathleen M. Chard, PhD, the Director of the Trauma Recovery Center at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati, told me, “It’s common for individuals who have gone through a traumatic event to try to make sense of it, and art would certainly be a way to make sense of it.” She said in that way, communities like C-137cest “can be somewhat healing. But the best-case scenario is for survivors to use this as a way to develop a strength and a coping skill so that they could do the next step in therapy that would allow them to have a healthy relationship.”

Z added, "I really do get the desire to find relief wherever possible. That doesn't make any of it less harmful, though! There are better coping mechanisms that won't place minors at risk, and won't endanger other survivors in fandom spaces."

Antis also argue that Rick and Morty incest porn is illegal. It's a complicated question; American lawmakers have been arguing about whether virtual or simulated child pornography is protected by the First Amendment for the past 20 years. According to criminal defense lawyer and chairman of porn lobby The Free Speech Coalition Jeffrey Douglas, C-137cest is regulated as virtual or simulated child porn, which he had firsthand experience debating as a respondent in the landmark case Ashcroft vs Free Speech Coalition, which walked back over-vague language in The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996.

In Douglas’s eyes, the law is clear: C-137cest porn is legal.

“If no human minor was recorded in the course of the creation, it is outside the scope of the child pornography laws,” Douglas said over the phone.

However, virtual child porn can still be prosecuted under obscenity law, according to Patrick A. Trueman, the CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). Under George H.W. Bush, Trueman was also the chief of the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. He told VICE over the phone that obscenity cases have been rare since Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder shut down a George W. Bush-era Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. "It's not that these cases can't be won," Trueman said, pointing to USA vs Ira Isaacson, the sole obscenity trial to end in a conviction under Holder. "The Obama administration refused to initiate any obscenity prosecutions."

Since the law has left artwork like C-137cest alone in recent history, their biggest roadblocks come from the platforms they use to share their work. Tumblr, which hosts thousands of RickMorty shippers, has been permanently banning a portion of the blogs that share C-137cest. Even if the content is legal, Tumblr reserves the right to ban it on its own platform. A slew of sites were deactivated at the tail end of 2017, including Futagogo’s.

The twins first clashed with Tumblr back in September 2017. They said six of their websites, one of which contained no C-137cest, were removed in the span of two weeks. Five of the sites were dedicated to romantic illustrations and text depicting Rick and Morty doing everything from spooning to sucking each other off. The sixth was a safe-for-work site designed to let their friends know how to stay in touch. (We reached out to confirm this with Tumblr, and will update if we hear back.)

After several attempts to appeal the decision online, one of the sisters said she visited the physical location of a Tumblr help center in Virginia, not far from where she lives. She quickly learned that the centers aren’t equipped to deal with in-person complaints. She went there twice and was turned away both times. Eventually, a representative of Oath Security, which enforces community guidelines for Tumblr’s parent company, responded to explain their policy.

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Futagogo recorded a 25-minute phone call in which the representative said, "You can't come back to Tumblr under any name." In Tumblr’s eyes, Futagogo’s blogs violated their policy against posting “anything relating to minors that is sexually suggestive or violent.” He compared the termination of their accounts to a convenience store banning a shoplifter.

I reached out to Tumblr to clarify its position. A spokeswoman told me, “We have a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate content involving minors, which is clearly outlined in our Community Guidelines and applicable to both human depiction and animation.”

Futagogo’s erotic content was always labeled with a disclaimer stating that its version of Morty was over the age of consent. The spokeswoman said this sort of disclaimer cannot override Tumblr’s broader policy. “We have a skilled trust and safety team of human moderators that review each case, and the notification sent to users explains that terminated accounts are not eligible for an appeal,” she said.

C-137cest shippers frequently use disclaimers on their work signaling that their version of the characters are over 18. Futagogo was surprised by Tumblr’s conservative interpretation of the rules that negated this fact. “This stance really brings into question what art is, who judges what it is, and what an artist's intention is when drawing something,” they said in an email. “To deny that an artist can age up and down, switch genders, and add new physical traits to an existing character is to deny the very purpose of fanart. It denies the artist a right to their own creative license.”

While the landscape for niche kinks like C-137cest appears to be shrinking, Douglas thinks users like Futagogo will remain safe from legal action for the foreseeable future. “I don’t think the law will change,” he said. “There could be litigation out there, but it hasn’t gotten up to a level that there’s an opportunity for fundamental change.”

However, a shift in the US government's approach could be on the horizon. President Trump pledged to clamp down on obscenity during his campaign, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly declared he would be willing to prosecute porn last year. Utah, Florida, and Kansas have declared pornography the cause of a "public health crisis," a decision activists like social psychologist Justin Lehmiller, PhD have criticized. Trueman is lobbying Sessions directly to bring obscenity prosecution to the federal level.

"I assembled a meeting last August with the Attorney General to talk about the need to prosecute obscenity, enforce the laws, because I believe that the nation is now undergoing a public health crisis caused by the widespread consumption of pornography," Trueman told VICE. "Now I've asked for a second meeting, and I'm bringing a team in to meet with him again."

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With vitriol from antis, deplatforming from online institutions, and the legal status of C-137cest subject to change at a moment's notice, people who love Rick and Morty incest porn are retreating into darkness. Since they were perma-banned from Tumblr, the Futagogo sisters created a private chat community for like-minded shippers on Discord, and devoted their creative juices to publishing a zine with original work from C-137cest artists. Many of the artists who appear in the zine have also been banned from Tumblr. By forcing RickMorty shippers into a secluded bubble, the internet is becoming exactly the kind of place Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon fears.

“I don’t want to live in a universe where slash fiction of any kind is illegal,” Harmon elaborated on his thoughts about C-137cest. “I think it’s really important that people who have taboo thoughts are able to express them in a way that doesn’t hurt anybody else. But I think it’s equally important that people who are disgusted by those thoughts can say that they’re disgusting. I hope that nobody ever gains so much more power over the other that taboo thoughts are forced upon people or that they’re policed by roving drones that zap you for thinking a certain thought... Anything close to kink-shaming, no matter how taboo, I can’t abide.”

Update 4/30/18: Links to artists' websites went dead after this article was published. Some report their sites were taken down against their will and without warning.

*EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the incendiary nature of C-137cest, RickMorty shippers fear reprisal for their kink. Because of this, we're using their usernames or aliases.

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