f/f, antidrug
I Blame the Dutch mpoetess
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*cough*
I sort of wrote a slash essay too, though it's 10 times as scattered, completely personal instead of fandom-oriented, and nowhere near as cogent as thebratqueen's. It wasn't intended to be an essay, just an answer to two questions from ginmar, but because I am the longwindedest bastardess on the face of the planet, it turned into one. Cleaned up somewhat from its original format as responses in gehayi's journal, it lies within.

A little on slash vs. friendship, and a lot on why I slash

ginmar asked "I have to say, one thing that just doesn't get mentioned about slash is what it does to male friendship. Is such a thing possible in a slashy universe? I mean, slash definitely adds sex to the story, but how many slash stories just deal with friendship?"

I think that there isn't a slash story that just deals with friendship because the very meaning of the label "slash" is "stories of a sexual or romantic nature between characters of the same gender." However the main idea of your question, I think, is a good one -- does an interest in slash de-value the idea of same-sex friendship. If you see every tender moment between two men or women in a show or book as a sexual or romantic one, you're probably ignoring or dismissing a lot of interesting and valuable facets of the way people communicate and connect to each other.

I don't think all slash fans (and this could mean people who just enjoy pointing perceived subtext out or interpreting it in the canon, or people who enjoy writing slash fanfiction) feel this way, but I agree that some may, and probably it can seem like a lot more given how loudly we squee when anything remotely tender or respectful, out of the ordinary, occurs between two men.

I think exploration of friendship between characters -- same-sex or not -- is a valuable thing, and should exist in more stories, slash and het alike. I think exploration of friendship between men, specifically, because it's such a hard, strange thing in this culture, is a very good thing.

On the other hand, when I read and write fanfiction, I'm mostly interested in love stories. A lot of people are; it's just what appeals most to us. And the love stories that appeal most to me are same-sex ones: m/m most of all, though I do like the occasional f/f too. I don't hate het or gen fic, or even dislike it, but I'm mostly uninterested in reading or writing it unless it has a very striking plot (I'm horrible with creating plot myself, so that would be for reading), it focuses on one or two characters I really care about, or it was written by a friend. So, I love seeing friendship, between all sorts of characters, explored in stories, but alongside the love/romance/sex, because that's my primary interest in fiction.

ginmar also asked, "The other thing I wondered is, How come so many pretty normal white women1 write gay sex? Obviously, I can understand why gay people do it---duh, it's why I write het. I'm actually afraid to ask that question, though."

I think it's a good question, when it's asked in a way that doesn't imply "because ewwwwwww" or "because it makes me think you're disturbed." Which I don't think she did here. (I assume "white women" was just a nod to the fact that there aren't that many women of color writing slash (or at all, in this fandom), a fact that Te, among other black fanwriters, has pointed out too. The biggest demographic group is white women. Though I would say that there's a lot more bi women writing m/m slash, as opposed to the usual perception that it's all straight women, than most people expect.) So, legit subject of interest.

Unfortunately I don't have an answer, despite it being a good question.

I can't answer as a straight woman, to why straight women write gay sex, because I'm bi. I can guess at their reasons, assuming they're similar to mine, and I might be right, or not. Still, that doesn't really explain why a woman who's attracted to both men and women for herself would get pleasure (emotional, sexual, any kind) from writing about men being attracted to each other, either. I don't know if I have a real answer to why it appeals to me, let alone any three slashers who probably couldn't agree on their reasons either.

I can do my best to give it a brief shot though:

______

1 Later Ginmar clarified that a more accurate phrasing of what she meant would be "suburban or middle class women."


ilovedoyle

2003-11-19 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

as a straight female slash-writer myself, i agree with what you've said here.
the hotness is a factor in2 my reading and writing m/m slash (ie, that 2 dollar theory - lol btw)
however, there r also points in programmes were the subtext is actually really blatant - noted by many spike/xander fans in an ep. of series 7, when a guest charcter asks if there was ne 2 ppl in the scoobys who HADN'T slept 2gether - note the LOOK between s/x, which could have easily been lift out.
this is also a regular occurance in my latest obsession smallvile (altho less so season2) between clark and lex.
i think that another reason many straight females write m/m slashfic is that they r a group likely 2 become fanatics of a particular programme (more so than men, i believe), and there4 more likely 2 notice the almost-text level subtext between 2 charcters.
in general, i think u answer the questions put forward well, and i enjoyed reading your thoughts.

mpoetess

2003-11-20 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think there's a lot of places where subtext is really blatant but deliberately has more than one interpretation too -- which probably is a cause of some confusion when people who don't go in for slash see Spike and Xander looking at each other in embarrassment in that scene -- like "Well, we haven't, which, ugggh. Eww." While slashfans see them thinking "La la la la no that night in the basement never happened" if they're wearing really thick slash goggles, or the middle ground, which is where I fall on that scene, of one or both guys thinking "La la la la no I never thought about it ever, la la la"

I don't know if women are more likely to become fanatic-fans of any program, or maybe just certain programs. It's something I hadn't thought about much, beyond "I hate action shows!"

(no subject) - ilovedoyle, 2003-11-22 07:01 am (UTC) (Expand)

thebratqueen

2003-11-19 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Who said my tongue was in my cheek? 8)

mpoetess

2003-11-19 05:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Who said I said your tongue was in your cheek?

zortified

2003-11-19 03:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'd just like to say that, as a straight man, I enjoy slash because it bends boundaries, and says 'fsck you' to the society that says everyone ought be straight. I also think that many of these characters really are gay, and that slash is often just a "missing scene" type of fanfic, filling in the gaps the TV won't show.

mpoetess

2003-11-19 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

UR a dOrK. AnD UR hAir goes str8 up!

ginmar

2003-11-19 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

I wonder if you didn't hit it on the head when you commented on sexualizing non-sexual friendships. I think in some cases, those lines are pretty clearly drawn, and in other situations, they aren't. Either way, I do think it's a bit of a loss to sexualize just about everything. I don't think this is limited to fanfic, either---there's a big grand huge social significance to this. Ahem. Just kidding.

Fanfic in general is very sexualized, and the Buffy fandom is very female. Is this true of all fandoms? If not, are other fandoms so heavily into the sexual fanfic?

And, yeah, the female character of the fandom, and the fact that so many fans of Buffy are the classic suburbanite, middle-class whatever woman does tend to bring up some interesting questions not just about slash but about sexuality in general.

I'm really interested in talking about intimacy versus sex in stories, because in a way, it's stereotyping men----you know, as horndogs who have sex with everything, everyone, at any time. I remember reading The Celluloid Closet and being struck by the way the writer talked about how misogyny and homophobia are linked, the way the heroine was around usually just to assure the audience that the two guys were het. The unintended insult to women, because they were so bland and boring no guy would want them.

I'm just rambling now, but I think it's an interesting topic.

mpoetess

2003-11-20 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

I wonder if you didn't hit it on the head when you commented on sexualizing non-sexual friendships. I think in some cases, those lines are pretty clearly drawn, and in other situations, they aren't. Either way, I do think it's a bit of a loss to sexualize just about everything. I don't think this is limited to fanfic, either---there's a big grand huge social significance to this. Ahem. Just kidding.


There might well be a big grand social significance. :)

On one hand, I agree with you that sexualising things that aren't, or aren't clearly, can make it harder to see the value, the admirability, of friendship that's based on other emotional connections.

On the other hand, as a few people in this thread have talked about, sometimes it's not a bad thing for lines to be blurred, for friendship to move towards romantic love, yet still be friendship.

I keep saying romantic love even though the word is making me cringe, because I feel like I need to differentiate between .. platonic love, and love that's about being *in* love with someone, and sex -- because a lot of slash is about the middle one as much or more as it is about the sex.

At least, a lot of my interest in slash is about the being in love with someone parts, more than it is about there being porn involved. Don't get me wrong, I like the smut -- but it's really not my primary turn-on in reading and writing slash. The ... somebody called it emo-porn, when referring to a story of wiseacress' -- the thrill some slashers get at a hug or a tender sweeping of a lover's hair off his forehead, a hand on a shoulder, between two guys who might have no problems shagging all night but would usually still snark at each other in the morning.

Fanfic in general is very sexualized, and the Buffy fandom is very female. Is this true of all fandoms? If not, are other fandoms so heavily into the sexual fanfic?

Media fandom (books, tv, films) in general is very female, with the possible exceptions of comics fandom (male-heavy) and Japanese anime fandom (maybe close to even?) So I don't know that we can guess much about Buffy fandom being different from others based on its femaleness. Is fanfic in general very sexualised, or do both of us just read a lot of fanfic that's about romantic relationships, and includes sex? I can only speak for myself in answering that I do, it's my primary interest, so I can't say how much non-relationship fic there really is. It kind of feels like trying to speculate on the contents of the mystery section at Borders when I mostly stay in the Fantasy and SF section -- I could say it seems to have the same number of shelves, but I couldn't tell you much about what's in them. With fandom beng so specialised, it's even easier to not see the stuff you're not interested in -- I know who the slash writers are, I know where the slash archives are, so a lot of the general, non-ship fic passes me right by.

Are other fandoms as sexualised? I don't know -- I've only had a few others, and they were kind of strange examples.

I started in Dr. Who fandom which is very low-sex-content when it comes to fanfic, because the original show is very low sex content -- the main character has never even been seen in a romantic relationship despite the show running for 26 years, and the very few ones that we have seen onscreen have been the kind where a cast member falling in love results in them leaving the cast. There is romance and smut fic, both het and slash, but it's not prevalent. It's a very adventure-heavy fandom. (Whereas Buffy fandom does have relationships as a big part of its canon, so I can see why they're a big part of the fanfic.)

Blake's 7 fandom, on the other hand, had not much sex onscreen, but so much implied offscreen stuff and twisted relationships, tension between almost every pair of characters... and resulted in a fandom that's heavily polarised between slash and non-slash fans -- it seems like the gen fans and the het fans often disliked slash more than they cared about being identified as separate from each other.

(more)

(no subject) - mpoetess, 2003-11-20 02:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2003-11-20 03:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)

kindkit

2003-11-19 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Friendship in slash is a really interesting question. One way of thinking about it might be: why do we assume that there are absolute barriers between friendship, love, and desire? My own sense is that those boundaries can be extremely permeable. But (apologies to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose ideas I'm borrowing) we live in a world where the homosexual/heterosexual binary has a powerful structuring force. We understand our own feelings and desires through that binary. (Well, many of us do--bisexuality obviously complicates it.)

Permeable boundaries, same-sex friendships that can slide into love or eroticism or both, call that binary into question.

The idea that "friendship" as a category excludes "love" is, historically, a relatively new one. Shakespeare's sonnets, for example, occur within a culture that defines friendship differently. In the Renaissance, it was assumed that a man's love for another man could be as powerful as (and was in many ways superior to) a man's love for a woman, without being in any way related to the "unmentionable sin of sodomy." In practice, that seems to have meant that a man could love another man, share a bed with him, and quite possibly do sexual things with him without it being seen as terribly unusual within the norms of male friendship. (The same seems to have been true for female/female friendship, but there's less information available about it--surprise, surprise.)

Um, sorry. Came over all academic there for a minute. What I'm getting at, I guess, is that there is (or should be) room for friendship in slash, but it won't necessarily fit the norms of "platonic," utterly uneroticized friendship. Because the norms themselves are problematic.

How come so many pretty normal white women write gay sex?

I can only answer for myself, and although I'm white, I don't know that I'd fit the definition of "pretty normal." Not suburban, for one thing, and although I'm middle class now, I grew up in a working-class family (and have been interested in male homoeroticism since I was quite young). It probably is true that slash writers tend to be relatively well-educated and to have the leisure and resources to write and post things to the internet--but that's because anyone who writes and posts stories would fit those characteristics. It's not peculiar to slash.

Slash speaks to my sexuality in very particular ways. I'm attracted to men, but, if I had a choice, I would also prefer to be one. So slash for me is about identity play, about having sexual opportunities and relationships that I can't have in my real, female body.

I don't think this is the case for most female slashers, though.

In a way, it's interesting that we even have to ask the question. No one finds it remarkable that straight men are turned on by two women having sex. It's so unremarkable that it's in every straight porn film. (And yes, I know that there are important critiques to be made of pseudo-lesbianism for male consumption. But that's not my point here, and I also am not convinced that those critiques apply in the same way to slash.) Two attractive men in bed together = double the fun (thebratqueen's two dollar theory, as mentioned already).

Plus, there's the joy of taboo-breaking, as in any other kink. Slash breaks taboos in its content (men having "forbidden love" for one another) and also in its conditions of production and reception. Women aren't supposed to be interested in this kind of thing. We're not supposed to be turned on by men fucking men, we're not supposed to like porn, we're not supposed to have kinks and obsessions and weird desires. Hence, I think, the obsession-producing nature of slash for some people. Slash is freeing.


robintcj

2003-11-19 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Slash speaks to my sexuality in very particular ways. I'm attracted to men, but, if I had a choice, I would also prefer to be one. So slash for me is about identity play, about having sexual opportunities and relationships that I can't have in my real, female body.


Yup. That's me in a nutshell, too. Don't get me wrong, I love being a girl, too, but...I really would rather be a gay man, oppression and stereotypes aside.

It helps that that would REALLY piss off my mom, too. ;)

(no subject) - lumenara, 2003-11-19 06:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - robintcj, 2003-11-19 06:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lumenara, 2003-11-19 08:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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anenko

2003-11-19 06:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Have you seen this thread? http://www.livejournal.com/users/dsudis/66748.html?thread=340668--it discusses slash, sex and friendship and why we so often find/add a sexual element to canonically close same-sex relationships.

mpoetess

2003-11-20 12:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

It's fascinating -- it does feel like they're right on for at least one set of reasons behind friendship only vs friendship+slash. Not necessarily for me -- I never had any close friends period until I hit college, and, heh, I'm still living with my best friend from college, and was interested in slash before I met her. But then, their theory was primarily centered around buddy/best-friend slash, and my favorite slash pairings tend to be reluctant-allies/odd-couple slash (Giles/Spike, Xander/Spike, Blake/Avon) or Our History Has History slash (Angel/Spike, Nick/LeCroix).

(no subject) - anenko, 2003-11-22 05:17 am (UTC) (Expand)

lumenara

2003-11-19 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

With regards to male friendship-- I used to read a lot of Garak/Bashir (till I ran out, anyway) in Deep Space Nine fandom, and the friendship between Bashir and Miles O'Brien was frequently explored in fics.

In the case of the Buffyverse, where I'm a big ho for Spike/Xander, the fact that Xander doesn't really seem to *have* any male friends is often remarked upon. So if a ralationship with Spike develops (or a friendship develops and then becomes sexual), there aren't a lot of guys available for Xander to be "just friends" with, unless you're going all OC (which is fine, and another issue all together).

mpoetess

2003-11-20 12:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yeah, and as a Xander/Spike person it's hard for me to find places for friendship in X/S stories too -- because they're really, really not buddies. Most of the time I can only see them becoming friends *after* they fall in love or start a sexual relationship. I love when people can pull it off, but it's damn hard because to me, the things that make it unlikely for them to have a romantic relationship, make it *twice* as unlikely for them to be just friends.

A lot of (rather clumsy I suspect) S/X fic tends to introduce Oz back into the mix to be a friend for Xander or sometimes for both of them. I think Oz works as a friend for Xander, personality-wise and canonically, but it's almost never done well in terms of reasons for Oz to be around when the setting is post S4, or his characterisation. It's as if the author really likes him, but a) doesn't know him all that well, and b) doesn't know what to do with him, beyond giving Xander a buddy. I think apetslife's Education series, while a tiny bit of a kinkfic in places, in terms of Devon + Oz + Spike + Xander + big pile = The Pretteh, rises above that tendency, and gives good Oz and good friendship.

(no subject) - lumenara, 2003-11-20 12:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Re: Would the token minority please stand up?

mpoetess

2003-11-20 01:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think the data might end up screwy because of the non-net slash population though -- they do exist, though most of them are over 30, I'd guess, so there's another swing of the demographics...

I thought of doing a poll on sexualities, too -- asking any slash writer/reader who wanted to say, to check off "I read/write m/m f/f slash, and...." "I'm female/I'm male/I don't wish to state my gender/I consider myself __________" and "I'm exclusively straight, I'm exclusively gay, I consider myself bisexual, I consider myself mostly straight in practice, but...." etc.

Not quite Kinsey but enough choices so that the range of differences shows -- because my hypothesis is that there's a lot more women writing slash who are some form of bi, than people expect, because they either don't talk about it, or they're in a straight relationship so it doesn't come up, etc. I think the perception of "M/M slash is mostly written and read by straight women" may be not completely wrong, but not as right as people expect. (Just as the perception that f/f/ slash is mostly written by men is, I think, way off.)

slash dykes - Anonymous, 2004-10-17 04:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: slash dykes - mpoetess, 2004-10-17 11:40 am (UTC) (Expand)

Modern Men and Intimacy

skipthedemon

2003-11-19 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Huh. Thinking back over my reactions to longer slash fics, that I over all enjoyed - Lazuli's _Repossession_ and Sajinn's _Soft Insanity of Time_ spring to mind as the longest - I find that I actually get impatient with the sex scenes that happen repetitively. Eventually, I think to myself, "I get the point already, now let's back to the conversation." Which I guess shows that while porn can be pretty, the part I really enjoy about slash is the emotional intimacy. And in fact, pre-slash in one of my favorite genres, because then emotion is at a peak.

Hmmm...maybe ginmar is right. Maybe it's just my bias. But, think, how many of you in at a slumber party or staying with relatives slept in the same bed as best friends, sister, or cousins, even as teenagers to save space. Yet I can't think of an instance where teenage *boys* did the same, personally. (Once again, maybe just me.) My two younger brothers would snuggle when they were little, but eventually the older one got uncomfortable with it. Are we as a culture more accepting of gay men being touchy-feely, then straight men? Do we still except macho-ness of our men, if they are not part of Special Sub-class:Gay (TM)? Ugh. What a horrible thing to teach our children. I hope I'm wrong, or perhaps blinded with a bias that have yet to correct.

Now I have to ponder male friendship fic, dang it. And the modern image of men.


Re: Modern Men and Intimacy

mpoetess

2003-11-20 01:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

I haven't read that particular story of Sajinn's, but yes, that's one of the things about Repo that I initially loved -- the angst-sex-angst -- and then it started being the same thing, over and over. Not particularly that the mechanics of the sex scenes were repetitive or boring, but that the dynamics of them, the reasoning behind them, weren't changing or rearranging, beyond the issue of who's being comforted or going off the deep end this time.

I love first time fics both for the coming to terms and awkwardness moments, and for the intimacy kick you're talking about. That emotional peak that's so hard to recreate in longer stories (guilty of it myself too, I suspect) or find new ways of showing.

(I also love established relationship fics that *do* find new ways of showing intimacy and friendship mixed with romantic love. And the ongoing things that happen in a real relationship that lasts a long time. I think where good ones work and unsuccessful ones don't, may be the difference between finding ways to show those emotional connections that really reflect a long-term relationship, vs. having those same first passionate connections over and over again, and having to stretch to make the plot spur those on.)

My two shiny pieces of copper

idyll

2003-11-19 09:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Before I drop my pennies in the bucket, just want to say that I saw you over at the debate at gehayi's journal, and something occurred to me...

You're responsible for my Spike/Xander lurve. Because--Chocolately Goodness? First S/X I read. Got me seeing, believing, and requiring more. So, thanks for turning me on to them, and you pretty much rock.

One Cent...Why I, a white, middle class, bi woman, read The Slash: It's amazing to see an author find what meshes between the characters, and then bring them together in a way that has me going, "well, duh, why the hell wouldn't they be together, then?"

Two Cent..Why I, a white, middle class, bi woman, read slash PWPs: I have the man-woman sex, I have the woman-woman sex. What I can never have is man-man sex. It's unattainable, and that's part of the allure. Also, the way two men have sex is not how a man and woman have sex, or how two women have sex. There are different dynamics that come into play, different types of touching--all of which I find appealing and sexy and erotic.

Re: My two shiny pieces of copper

mpoetess

2003-11-20 01:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

You're responsible for my Spike/Xander lurve.

Thank you! Glad I could corrupt entertain you!

It's amazing to see an author find what meshes between the characters, and then bring them together in a way that has me going, "well, duh, why the hell wouldn't they be together, then?"


I agree -- especially for S/X, which even though it's my favorite, I'm perfectly willing to admit is nowhere near as canonically plausible -- as easy to sell to people who aren't already turned on to it -- as a pairing like Spike/Angel, or Buffy/Faith. Where the tension is there, the history is there and you just have to choose to see or develop it in a romantic direction instead of (or in addition to) another interpretation. With Spike/Xander, you can find tension or at least chemistry if you want to see it (especially from Xander's POV), but it almost always takes the author's skill in making the characters interact with each other, making their personalities bounce off each other and feel like they're really what the other needs... to make a harder pairing work. It's not always plot, for me, not the specific situation they get thrown into, but can the writer make the characters *see* each other, make the back and forth snap and pop.

Two articles

Anonymous

2003-12-23 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

I just read something on that topic and thought I could quote something out of it for it has not jet been mentioned so far:
Talking about the 'historical' beginning of slash with Spock/Kirk the author writes about the motives: "Spock, by virtue of his vulcan side, is coded female; both characters are coded androgynously; the characters have the 'marker' of maleness, the penis, but they are performing a feminine sex act. Writers and readers enjoy identifiying with one male character while desiring the other; or they identify with and desire both". - Plus: I can't find the exact quote at the moment, but later on the author suggests that writing male/male might be so popular because there you don't have to deal with clichees of male vs. female behaviour / stereotypes but have a more equal relationship-modell.
I suck royally at summaries, so I won't try to give one for the whole article, just the title "Staking a claim: The series and it's slash fanfiction" by Ester Saxey in: Kaveney: Reading the vampire slayer. In "Fighting the forces" (ed. by Wilcox / Lavery) is another one, that might be interesting for this subject: "Crossing the final taboo: family, sexuality and incest in Buffyverse fanfiction" by Kristina Busse. Maybe it's of interest to someone here :-).
- Caro

Two articles

Anonymous

2003-12-23 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

I just read something on that topic and thought I could quote something out of it for it has not jet been mentioned so far:
Talking about the 'historical' beginning of slash with Spock/Kirk the author writes about the motives: "Spock, by virtue of his vulcan side, is coded female; both characters are coded androgynously; the characters have the 'marker' of maleness, the penis, but they are performing a feminine sex act. Writers and readers enjoy identifiying with one male character while desiring the other; or they identify with and desire both". - Plus: I can't find the exact quote at the moment, but later on the author suggests that writing male/male might be so popular because there you don't have to deal with clichees of male vs. female behaviour / stereotypes but have a more equal relationship-modell.
I suck royally at summaries, so I won't try to give one for the whole article, just the title "Staking a claim: The series and it's slash fanfiction" by Ester Saxey in: Kaveney: Reading the vampire slayer. In "Fighting the forces" (ed. by Wilcox / Lavery) is another one, that might be interesting for this subject: "Crossing the final taboo: family, sexuality and incest in Buffyverse fanfiction" by Kristina Busse. Maybe it's of interest to someone here :-).
- Caro