Hard soap

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Press Commentary
Title: Hard soap
Commentator: Anita Chaudhuri
Date(s): 26 September 2000
Venue: The Guardian (The Observer), online
Fandom: multifandom
External Links: Hard soap
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Hard soap is an article about the rise of slash fiction. The article's topic line says: "It started in obscure Star Trek fanzines and now slash fiction is big on the net. But what exactly is it? Think Starsky loves Hutch."

The article says that thanks to the internet, "women's wildest fantasies are being catered for in an entirely different way, with the booming online literary phenomenon, slash fiction." It then gives its own definition of slash:

The term refers to the use of a stroke or "slash" to signify a homoerotic relationship between two characters from a cult TV show or film. It could be any two personalities such as the hugely popular Star Trek pairing Kirk/Spock or Mulder/Krycek from The X-Files. The only restriction is that the characters should not have a sexual relationship in the "real" series.

The article gives an excerpt from a Starsky & Hutch slash story which is supposed to be "from the LadySlash web-ring", although that isn't very likely as the LadySlash ring was for f/f and not m/m.

Some fans are asked to answer the Why Slash question and Kitty Fisher (who "has been writing slash for eight years"), Elanor Summerton ("who runs the Britslash website"), R Olivia Brown ("who runs the RedRoses fanzine"), and Joram (who uses a pseudonym because of her job) all give it their best shot. With the regard to the why slash question the article also contains a quote from Camille Bacon-Smith's book Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth.

This article was reprinted in its entirety in DIAL #16.


On the face of it, this looks like just another geeky outpouring from the net's lunatic fringe. Certainly there is no obvious connection between this level of fan writing and women's erotic empowerment. Yet surf through a few typical sites and something unexpected emerges: almost all the stories are written by heterosexual women. Some offer truly bizarre pairings - Joey and Chandler from Friends, Ashley and Nicky Piatt from Coronation Street, bluff TV detectives Dalziel and Pascoe. The story content ranges from the sadistic (Mulder tying Krycek in knots) to the sensitive, with macho characters showing a level of vulnerability never allowed on screen. It is no coincidence that the vast majority of character pairings come from shows with a tough guy element. If there's a common thread running through much of slash fiction, it's that women appear to find erotic appeal in emasculating TV hard men."
... slash is probably an attempt by women to take control of their sexuality but many writers may not be conscious they are addressing this. "The real appeal is that it allows us to explore a romantic relationship in which normal ideas about power and gender have no place because both characters are the same gender."
Another writer, who because of her job in the civil service will be identified only as Joram, takes this argument a stage further. "As a reader, slash for me is ideal fiction because I dislike female characters. They make me feel demeaned and ashamed because most tend to be two-dimensional. I focus on male characters because I like to lust over them."So why not write heterosexual scenes? "There are a lot of strong male characters on TV that women would like to see show a vulnerable side," Joram explains. "What better way of doing that than by putting two guys in a romantic situation? Then we can make them vulnerable and hurt them emotionally to our heart's content, and there's no need to put a woman in there at all.
Another reason why manywomen are turning to the format is that the slash community encourages new writers. "It's very welcoming and supportive," explains R Olivia Brown who runs the RedRoses fanzine. "Discussion between writers abounds and it's not restricted by what's acceptable outside in the 'real' world. Here you can discuss grammar and penis size, often in the same email.
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