So I posted about this in a reply the other day, but I think it deserves it’s own post too.
You see this reasoning a lot: that huge age gaps in fantasy fiction or historical fiction or whatever were fine because “that’s how things were back then.” But no. It wasn’t.
For the record, it was not common, historically, for people to marry super super young. You really only saw super young marriages among the aristocracy.
While it was legal in the roman empire to marry as early as 12, data suggests that among common people it was most common to get married in their very late teens. What was pretty common was long betrothal periods, lasting from the onset of puberty to about 16 or 17.
We have even more data from medieval Europe where by the 1300s the average marriage age was in the early 20s for common people.
Suggesting that all or most girls were getting married and becoming sexually active at the ages of 11 to 13 is historically unsupported and (often unintentionally) reeks of pedophilia apologia.
Fun facts for you ^
Also, news flash: if you are in a fantasy setting that isn’t on Earth, you have no “historical accuracy” to worry about.
“That’s what they did back then.” Does. Not. Apply.
“Oh, my characters are racist against dark-skinned people in my medieval-style town that also includes magic and elves.”
If you aren’t on Earth, then there’s no history to work with, so your excuses for bigotry are invalid and only supported by whatever canon YOU create.
You’re designing a world, and thus, you decide which institutions discriminate and which ones do not. If a town is racist, if a character is a sexist–those were YOUR choices. YOU are responsible for whatever history or customs you chose.
If your fantasy, non-Earth universe says it was common for 13-year-olds to have children? You need to ask yourself why you chose that. You can’t say it’s historically accurate (as you see above, it’s not accurate), because it’s not Earth.
Does your history include elves, dwarves, magic, wizards, sorceresses, alchemy, or even one country that isn’t on Earth?
Your historical accuracy starts with your own choices. You’re the one choosing to have children giving birth. Stop it.
Okay, so what if it’s on Earth?
“My 1950s-style story about a bowling team doesn’t include women, despite this universe containing worm holes, time travelers, sentient ooze, and talking hats.”
Really? You think sentient ooze and talking hats are more plausible than women being half the people who exist?
Stop making excuses and start remembering that people come in more flavors than just vanilla.
Also, this, for a more succinct version:
Fantasy does NOT have to follow real world rules. Fantasy does NOT have to relate to some real world event, country, concept, law, or history. Fantasy does NOT have to mirror any particular time period or country, even if you’re basing your world on a real world one. There is NO SUCH THING as “historical accuracy” in fantasy as it relates to the real world.
THE ONLY THING Fantasy has to do to be believable is follow the established rules OF ITS OWN WORLD. Fantasy can literally be anything you imagine it to be.
If your fantasy world excludes people of color or those belonging to the LGBT+ community, if it’s grossly misogynistic and white cis-male centric, that’s because YOU made it that way. Stop blaming “historical accuracy” or “believability”. It’s not the genre; it’s YOU.
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