8 Hypotheses for why f/f stories are more conservative than other types of fanfic

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Title: 8 Hypotheses for why f/f stories are more conservative than other types of fanfic
Creator: dagas_isa
Date(s): Apr. 27th, 2011
Medium: online
Topic: Femslash
External Links: 8 Hypotheses for why f/f stories are more conservative than other types of fanfic; archive link
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8 Hypotheses for why f/f stories are more conservative than other types of fanfic is a post by dagas_isa


Please note that these are hypotheses, not definitive statements. And that even if all these reasons are all totally true and applicable everywhere (which they aren’t), none of them are inherently bad or good things.


I’m using ‘more conservative’ for more fic that focuses on realism or a fairly narrow set of realistic tropes, and ‘out there’ for tropes that are more geared towards idfic or common fanfic fantasy set-ups.

1. For people who write for feedback, being conservative is a better strategy.

Writing for smaller fandoms is different from writing for larger fandoms in that the maximum audience size is a lot different. In smaller fandoms, getting the largest audience really does depend on avoiding people’s squicks, whereas larger fandoms can afford squicking out a few people in order to really hit the kinks of relatively small proportion. Also larger fandoms tend to fill up on vanilla first time/cute romancey stories pretty quickly, while smaller fandoms take much longer to hit that threshold, if they ever do.

F/F, in general, has a much smaller base audience than m/f or m/m, so writers need to aim wider in their appeal, rather than cultivate a niche following, so even in relatively large fandoms the instinct is to go broad rather than deep.

2. Taste-makers in f/f are more conservative (?)

People don’t write in a vacuum. So if the early writers in fandoms where f/f is popular write more conservative fics, and the archives and contests are run by people who have more conservative tastes, and more people leave feedback for stories that are more familiar, then chances are new writers who enter the fandom are going to be influenced by what already exists.

3. Newbies/Dabblers tend to be more conservative in their early/occasional f/f stories than they would be if they wrote it more often.

People writing any kind of fic for the first time are already pretty nervous about stepping outside their comfort zone, so a first time f/f writer will stick with their comfort zone when trying a new pairing, and someone trying a new trope will stay with their familiar pairs. Also, outside of some very isolated pockets, there are fewer people who write f/f mostly or exclusively and opposed to people who write f/f in addition to m/f and/or m/m. And if the m/m or m/f audience is larger, then the more out there tropes are going to probably be written with those categories in mind.

4. Previous fannish history doesn't support more out-there tropes.

People who come in a new fandom from older fandoms where it’s totally normal that people write fics about Alice being a paper clip and Beatrice being a staple remover are more likely to bring that attitude into their new fandom. On the other hand, if say, if the characters as inanimate objects trope doesn’t already exist in someone’s fannish experience, it’s harder to create that from scratch.

5. The types of fandoms that lend themselves easily to f/f pairings are harder to work different tropes into.

Some fandoms lend themselves easily to hand-wavey justifications for why someone should suddenly sprout wings. Other fandoms are fairly gritty cop shows with no supernatural elements or movies about working for a high-end fashion magazine with no supernatural elements or slice-of-life series about high-school girls with no supernatural elements. The major f/f fandoms seem to fall into the latter category.

6. There are unfortunate implications for the f/f iteration of some tropes that are popular in m/f or m/m pairings.

A few examples: I’d love for there to be more f-preg and babyfic about my favorite couples, but truthfully there’s a fear of drawing on the pregnant lesbian trope, which isn’t something that exists so much in m/m or m/f pairings. There’s also a fear of drawing a skeezy male gaze contingent (or being accused of being a skeezy male) if writing f/f with dubcon or noncon aspects, which doesn’t exist so much with m/m fic (obviously m/f is different here).

7. Stories featuring f/f relationships are expected to be more realistic.

Assuming that most f/f that isn’t made for male fans of girl-on-girl relationships are written by queer women or their allies to be about queer female experience in one way or another, there’s more pressure to represent f/f relationships realistically rather than tell more over-the-top melodrama or really hot fantasy fanservice stories.

8. Rare pairs are already hard enough set up, why add to the challenge?

This doesn’t apply to couples that are canon or practically canon, but for ships that already take a lot of set up such as two women who’ve never met or spoken to each other in canon or even crossover ships, then creating a regency AU around them takes enough work that it might as well be an original story.

[Null-hypothesis] More out there stories do actually exist in fairly decent numbers; they just don't have many readers. And more people would write these stories if they knew that readers existed for them.

I’m of the belief that everything people want to see either already exists, or would happily exist if some writer knew there was an audience for it. However, as it stands, what’s out there might not be by the best or most popular writers or in the largest or most popular fandoms, or feature a favorite pairing, or do the trope exactly the way people want it, or even be terribly easy to find. And so the people who would read it, don’t because they believe it doesn’t exist, and the people who would write it don’t because they believe there’s no audience.

In short, the people who would read more trope-based f/f and the people who would write it keep missing each other.

Comments on Post


I'm not so sure that we can say that femslash as a genre is more conservative--the f/f pr0n in kinkmemes that I've been reading seems to suggest otherwise. If you're talking about stories with plot, then I can see where you're going. Peer pressure seems to be a factor, too. Eg: snuffnyc's latest Rizzoli & Isles story "Interference" was heading to a really interesting (and might I say more "dangerous") place in terms of relationship interaction when suddenly the mood of the fanfic changed altogether. I'm guessing the writing was affected by a deluge of comments from more conservative-minded users. The writing never seemed to pick up momentum after that.


I think (5), (6), and (7) are respectively the canon, audience, and author aspects of the same problem. Namely, that "lesbian fantasy" much more often refers to "porn made for straight guys" than "lesbians in Middle Earth". So everyone avoiding the first veers also from the second.

But I really want to drop a comment on (8), because shipping "two women who’ve never met or spoken to each other" is very, very often one of the only options an f/f writer has. With option B being "incest". If you're lucky there will be a possible villain/hero pairing, which most often veers into dub or noncon, but that dubious option C only exists if the female villain and the female hero ever met.

And they probably didn't, because still now here in 2011 an embarassingly large fraction of fandom doesn't pass the Bechdel Test.


You make some really interesting points! I think, for me, it's very much that I miss the people who would love some crack. I do two types of writing, fic that demands to be written to make a point or otherwise fix something I feel needs to be fixed, and prompt based fic. I would love to write some out there femslash, if someone would make a prompt that I liked.

So, for me, and perhaps for some other people, fic memes are the place to find such prompts, and as we are all aware, those tend to be more focused on guyslash, with the few femslash prompts more aimed towards realistic stuff because there isn't any written. Which ties in to your point number one, because I think, as you say, that there needs to be a number of "vanilla" fics written first, before we start in on the crack and more out there things.