Why do fangirls always make them gay?

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Title: Why do fangirls always make them gay?
Creator: euclase with additional follow-on
Date(s): July 6, 2014 (or earlier)
Medium: tumblr
Fandom: Meta
Topic: slash, Slash vs. Gay
External Links: original post (now offline); reblogged on July 6, 2014
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Why do fangirls always make them gay? is a tumblr essay by euclase in response to readers wondering why fans write slash. It garnered a series of reblogs with some posts adding additional commentary. Excerpts are included below. By July 8, 2014 the post has gathered over 8,155 notes (meaning people have either liked or reblogged the post, often with their own comments). One track of the discussion, as of that date, can be found here.[1]

The Essay

"Imagine being in a relationship in which you are treated like an equal, consciously and unconsciously, sexually, emotionally, socially, romantically, without being bound by gender expectations, without risk of pregnancy (or having your reproductive rights taken away from you), without feelings of inferiority, without being mistreated or neglected because men don’t understand your body and can’t be bothered to learn how to give you pleasure (or that you even deserve pleasure). Imagine having a reciprocating relationship with someone who knows how to touch you and how to talk to you, who will never abuse you or take away your consent. Imaging feeling powerful, safe, like the default rather than the specific or second-class. Imagine not requiring special handling by awkward, inconsiderate men who were never taught any better. Imagine being allowed to touch and enjoy and indulge without apprehension. Imagine being able to trust your partner. Imagine knowledge and understanding, someone who sees your depths and treats you the way you’d treat yourself if you hadn’t been told from birth that you weren’t worth it.

Girls aren’t “making them gay.”

Girls are fantasizing about being equal."

Responses/Reactions

amberfeather writes:

"I have wondering about this in fandom for many years and reading this just made me tear up. I figured this was a big reason, but breaking it down to this extent made me so extremely sad. I realized a long time ago that even if I met the nicest guy in the world, I still have to battle all those things mentioned above. Just being friends is hard..... See women are expected to give all those things listed above and settle for not getting them in return. I believe it’s a rare thing if you have it returned.....The idea of being equal is one of our greatest fantasies. It’s sad that it has to be a fantasy.[2]

euclase responds:

"It’s totally sad.

But on the other hand, slash writers are some of the most empathetic people I know. And they’re great educators, too, probably in ways they might not expect. A good slash fanfiction writer can help women understand their desires and overcome some of those feelings of shame and worthlessness.

Think about how many girls have learned how to masturbate thanks to slash fanfiction.

Sometimes just knowing that we’re all reading and enjoying the stories is an immense comfort. People will tell you that slash is trash, that fangirls are desperate and pathetic, but ladies telling ladies that they’re allowed is a powerful thing."[3]

teland continues:

"I will never forget — and I wish so *badly* I still had a copy — the essay one of my exes wrote before she gafiated, in which she talked about how the act of writing slash and being part of the slash community in general had allowed her to “write herself back into her body”. [Note: this may be the essay].

To, essentially, take off some of the blinders and filters western culture had put on her, all the things that had convinced her that, as an “overtall, fat, awkward, anxious, and altogether unattractive” person (she did have some anxiety issues, but none of the rest was true by any measure but all the lies we’ve ALL been told), she deserved neither happiness, nor romance, nor anything resembling sexual parity or satisfaction.....

Slash wrote *me* back into my body, too — several times, in several ways. Slash connected me to genders I never could’ve imagined, or could’ve imagined being *worth* connecting to in the days before I really understood the possibilities inherent to taking the media I had been given and *transforming* it.

We are *here*, and our pleasure is worth it — our pleasures, plural, are part and parcel of our identities.

And, you know, some of us, after we’ve been writing slash for a good, long while?

Find new ways to express those pleasures when women are there, new ways to understand those aspects of our sexualities — our *identities* — which include *hetero*sexuality.

It’s a journey. A process. A continuum. A spectrum. A *multiverse*.

Of *pleasure*.

And it’s all allowed.

Because we made it that way.

Because we *make* it that way.

Every day."[4]

schreberpants agrees:

"Oh it’s so true. Slash has long been a safe space for women to explore sensuality. I feel like writing slash as made me far more confident and comfortable as a person."[5]

meridiangrimm finds her voice:

"I understood this on some level as I dove deeper into fanfiction, but this conversation really put words to the ideas in a way I was not yet ready to do. I realize that no relationship (no matter what your sexuality) is without major flaws, but I am very aware that women are not considered as equal to men as we’d like to believe."[6]

Tumblr writer deepfriedsjw, who has since disappeared, argues that slash is the same as men fantasizing about 2 women having sex:

"Girls aren’t “making them gay.” Girls are fantasizing about being equal."

This isn’t even remotely true in the least bit. Girls fantasize about two guys together for the same reason guys like to think about two girls: it’s a fantasy they wouldn’t mind being in the middle of. Not to mention using a female in fanfiction or fanart gets fangirls buttmad because ‘she’s interfering with mah SHIP!1!!!1’. I’ve never seen such deluded and inaccurate reading of body language to justify people being together, let alone guys, than I’ve seen on tumblr. It’s truly entertaining and sad.

You can try to put whatever feminist, SJW spin you want on it to make yourself feel better, at the end of the day, you just wanna see boys kiss."[7]

twodefenestrate responds to deepfriedsjw's argument. An excerpt is below, read the much longer essay here:

".....really its actually that women like to fantasize about 2 men having sex just as much as men like to fantasize about 2 women having sex, its not any more complicated than that…"

Actually, it really is more complicated, because scenes between two women played out for the male gaze is very different than what happens in slash fan fiction. Female writers fully empathise with the male characters they write and expound in thousands upon thousands of words about all of the things aside from sex going on between the two parties of a slash pairing.

When was the last time you ever heard a man complain that the dialogue in the lesbian pornography they watched was too stilted and the plot too cliche for him to really bother with more than one video from the series?

The sex is incidental, compared to everything else female slash writers write all about.

What does the fact men don’t engage in those similar explorations tell you?......"[8]

A few fans began to draw parallels to yaoi. my-mind-rebels-at-stagnation writes:

"This is very well-written and accurate, which makes me so happy. There have been studies about this in Japan regarding the boy-love genre that is generally written by women and for women. Slash gets a little more complicated than this, though, partly because not all slash is written by “fangirls” or women. Some are written by “fanboys” or men, for whom (in the case of gay male slash writers) it can also stem from a desire to see something that reflects themselves and their sexualities. Like gender equality, gay sexuality that is not used as comedic relief is also unfortunately rare in popular media."[9]

See Slash vs. Gay#Yaoi vs. Gay for more on the Japanese depiction of gay boys and men in shojo manga -- written by women for a predominantly female audience.

vesryn writes:

"On a related topic- we discussed yaoi comics in one of my Japanese culture classes and a big part of the reason why rape, dubcon and imbalanced relationships are so common in them is because the characters, the “uke” especially are standing in for girls and their sexual experiences."[10][11]

Some comments were critical of the original essay. Here, lifeofjardini wonders:

"this is a good post, aside from the cissexism and heteronormativity. edit: also, does this fetishize rainbow people? [12] hmmm. maybe. that is a thought for another day."[13]

In this exchange sethshead and hairspring debate the role of slash vs. gay-male culture:

"So gay men are denied their own autonomy so they can passively fulfill a function in the narratives of young women retreating into fantasy, who - shrinking violets, they - lack the assertiveness to stand up for themselves and contend with straight male peers?

This despite the reality of rampant misogyny and entitlement to women’s bodies and unsolicited intimate physical contact (“Of course I can touch your boobs - I’m gay!”) in gay male culture.

We gain nothing encouraging a reductive, dehumanizing and exploitative idealization of others."[14]

and in response hairspring writes:

" Firstly it doesn’t matter how much someone stands up to their peers. Women are still in the minority when it comes to power. A woman can stand up to a man all she likes, society still has the mans back and not hers. The assumption here that any woman who enjoys or produces slash works must be a “shrinking violet” is insulting. Not only because it’s wrong but also because it implies that there is something wrong with being unassertive. It implies that to fantasize about a reality you don’t have is weak. That wanting something is escaping reality in a way that is negative.

Slash stuff has nothing to do with “gay male culture” to begin with so why even bring it up? Yes, men are often misogynistic and entitled, what else is new. Slash doesn’t perpetuate that. You can definitely make an argument that some of the trends in slash fiction are misogynistic. Such as how female characters are often treated. But that has nothing in common with what you have said and there’s been a turn for the better in recent years as more girls learn that they don’t have to hate a female character in order to seem cool.

As for dehumanizing, most slash fics tend to have a heavy emphasis on people having an emotional connection and finding comfort in one another. Even fics that are almost entirely porn tend to focus on the characters enjoying themselves and having some sort of connection and understanding. Even non con tends to have a certain strong focus on the feelings of the characters and their motivations."[15]

voroxpete writes about the difficulties of finding a respectful relationship, no matter the orientation:

"On the one hand, the original post is a fantastic and thought provoking explanation that definitely feels like it strikes right to the heart of this particular phenomenon. On the other hand, the tragic part is that whilst I’m sure all of that is true for how many fanfiction authors perceive homosexual relationships, none of it actually holds true for every homosexual relationship out there. Failing to be considerate to your partner’s physical, sexual, social, or emotional needs has never been exclusive to straight relationships, and fetishising this idea that a homosexual relationship could never be neglectful, hurtful, inconsiderate or abusive only serves to erase the real hardships facing those people who find themselves in such relationships. This is one of the problems that I see homosexual people struggle with the most; imagine all the difficulties of finding a relationship that is respectful and emotionally honest, built on trust, with a partner who cares about you and your needs, and now try finding that same relationship in a dating pool one tenth the size."[16]

Which echoes workfornow earlier post:

"Read, because there’s emotional truth here, but watch the assumptions we all can make. The assumption is made that equivalent gender precludes abusiveness. And that is just not so. "[17]

Others, like defenestration-and-more worry that slash contains the seeds of internalized misogyny:

"It’s also, to an extent, symptomatic of the sickness inherent in a patriarchal society, that women and girls have to put their imagined selves into the shoes of the opposite gender in order to feel equal to men, closer to being unthreatened by men, unthreatened by competition with other women for the attention and approval of men, and allowed to explore pleasure and desire and the interconnections between the sexual aspects of a romantic relationship and all of the rest of it outside the bedroom as well, and how they are related.

It’s empowering that we are allowed our own pleasure and allowed to explore it on our own, as girls. It’s empowering that fandoms and fans of slash and slashfic are so incredibly supportive and open to discussions and meta and debate about characters and their motivations, in ways that allow women to also learn more about themselves, their own desires, and all.

That said, it’s still problematic that many women who enjoy slash fiction are also feeding, to an extent, their own internalised misogyny, here. We shouldn’t need to cast ourselves, in imagination or otherwise, as either a male partner in a slash pairing, or as a voyeur to a pair of lovers who are both men, in order to feel that sort of security. For those who have had life experiences which make them uncomfortable with a female in the spotlight being sexual (be it years of seeing glimpses of pornography and feeling ill at how objectified and gross it can seem to young girls only just figuring out their sexuality, years of advertisements featuring photoshopped female bodies which inspire only intimidation and feelings of inadequacy in so many women, or just the constant comparison/competition encouraged between women by media and culture to rank themselves against supermodels and their peers alike so that any female body in range becomes “competition”) it’s good that we have places we can explore sexual and romantic themes for our own pleasure alone, both parties of a slash ship being very attractive and enticing and, them being focused on one another, not having any expectations or pressures to exert upon the invisible voyeur that the reader becomes in such fiction. But… well…" [Note: this is only an excerpt from a very long and detailed essay. To read the entire work go here. [18]
lokeanrampant writes that slash offers her a different kind of liberation:
"This is amazing and worth sprawling all over my blog (long post is loooonnnnngggg, but worth it), but it doesn’t quite fit why I enjoy slash. I can’t normally read het romances, a little dabbled into a greater plot is fine, but a pure romance is a hell no. I can’t watch rom-coms or romantic movies that way and for the same reason:

I will never have what those women have. I cannot be that woman. Comparatively, I will always be lesser, have been told I will always be lesser, and these things make me acutely aware that I don’t measure up. So it hurts. It hurts to be reminded of all my failings and the fact that no one will ever see me as a romantic lead or even potential romance in someone’s life.

With slash, I don’t have to worry about it. I can enjoy the romance, the relationship, the banter, the squabbles, the LIFE, without putting myself in a position to constantly compare myself to the leads and finding myself coming up short every time. I’m not a man. I have no desire to be one (though if you do, go for it and I’ll support you every step of the way). I literally cannot be that character, so it’s free of that burden and I can simply enjoy two people finding each other and finding something I never will."[19][20]
roseapprentice talks about how slash has reshaped her understanding of romance fiction:
"This is such a great post. I was just having a conversation with my family today about the how the slash fandom introduced me to the notion that porn could be intense without having undertones of stalking or rape or female powerlessness. And I was generally thinking about how much slash has taught me about writing romance on equal terms where everyone is first and foremost a human being. I think there are other reasons why slash is fun, and other social issues that drive it, but this one is just so important. Kudos to all the fine insights in this post."[21]
sarahtonin42 points to the dearth of female characters in fiction and media:
"There’s also the fact that there are just fewer female characters to choose from. Especially female characters who are explored in depth and have good chemistry with other characters. Simply from a mathematical point of view, there are more male/male relationships possible for something like the Avengers (or most anything else) than male/female or female/female."[22]
kherron20 summarizes her perspective of why she likes slash more simply:
"I like this and I sort of get this but is it shallow of me to say that I make them gay because…well I want em to be gay. To turn it around as well, if women are writing slash in an effort to feel like they are equal what does that say about men who write fem-slash? I’m not disputing that some feel this way but I don’t think everyone is the same. Some of us just think it’s hot. :)"[23]

References

  1. Note: tumblr discussions are difficult to track and summarize because each comment creates its own seperate sets of comments which often do not intersect. Because of this in some cases, additional text may be quoted in order to help frame the debate and give the comments more context.
  2. amberfeather's tumblr post dated July 6, 2014; WayBack machine link.
  3. euclase's tumblr post (offline).
  4. teland's tumblr post dated July 6, 2014; WebCite reference link.
  5. schreberpants tumblr post dated July 8, 2014; WebCite reference link.
  6. meridiangrimm tumblr post dated July 8, 2014; WayBack Machine link.
  7. deepfriedsjw's tumblr post dated July 7, 2014; WayBack Machine link.
  8. twodefenestrate tumblr post dated July 8, 2014; Webcite reference link.
  9. my-mind-rebels-at-stagnation tumblr post dated July 2014; WayBack machine link.
  10. vesryn's tumblr post dated July 8, 2014; WayBack machine link.
  11. For a raunchy, satirical take on what happens when the perceived feminization of male characters goes too far, see fanwriter Irk's The Top Ten Things I Love About Yaoi MST.
  12. This is obviously not a reference to the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a loosely organized modern hippie group that meets in various state and national parks to pray for world peace. Perhaps it's an insiders' way of referring to LGBT people.
  13. lifeofjardini's tumblr post dated July 8, 2014; WebCite reference link.
  14. sethshead's tumblr post dated July 8, 2014; WayBack machine link.
  15. hairspring's tumblr post dated July 2014; link.
  16. voroxpete's tumblr post dated July 9, 2014; link.
  17. workfornow's tumblr post dated July 7, 2014; WayBack Machine link.
  18. defenestration-and-more's tumblr post dated July 7, 2014; WebCite reference link.
  19. lokeanrampant's tumblr post dated July 9, 2014; WebCite reference link.
  20. See also fan critic porluciernagas, Why Is There So Much Slash? in Ladygeekgirl, November 12, 2013.
  21. roseapprentice's tumblr post dated July 7, 2014; WayBack Machine link.
  22. sarahtonin42's tumblr post dated July 7, 2014; Webcite reference link.
  23. kherron20's tumblr post dated July 7, 2014; WayBack machine link.