A troubling phenomenon I've noticed

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Title: A troubling phenomenon I've noticed
Creator: Laura Shapiro
Date(s): June 8, 1998
Medium: online
Fandom: X-Files
Topic:
External Links: A troubling phenomenon I've noticed; archive link
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A troubling phenomenon I've noticed is a 1998 essay by Laura Shapiro.

Some Topics Discussed in the Essay and Comments

The Essay

Hi there ~ I've noticed a disturbing trend in fanfic lately which I wanted to discuss with any interested parties. Basically, it amounts to a sort of Scully-bashing which I perceive as sexist, and I want to know if anyone else sees this.

To set the record straight: I'm not a flag-waving Scully fan. I have warm oozy feelings for both of the show's main characters, and don't particularly feel the need to place myself in one camp or another.

Also, although my primary interest is MSR, I enjoy reading slash also. The sexism I've seen seems to crop up most often in Mulder/Krycek slash; in some of these stories Krycek and, sometimes, Mulder will, indulge in a kind of macho chick-bashing, painting Scully as a cold, ruthless creature and frequently using loaded phrases which come across, to me at least, as sexist.

Whether this behavior is in character or not (especially for Mulder) is one topic for discussion, but what worries me is that most of these slash stories seem to be written by women.

I don't understand why these women are putting this kind of stuff into their stories. I'm as turned on as the next gal at the thought of these two gorgeous guys together, but I don't know why they need to brand Scully a man-eating bitch before getting it on. Frankly, sexism is a *huge* turnoff for me, so I'm wondering what these writers get out of it.

This is not an attempt to start a big argument. Flame me if you must, but I'm not condemning anybody. Everyone has the right to write, and post, anything they want. Nothing should be censored; anything that can be conceived is fair game for inclusion in a story. I intend to keep reading (and enjoying) all sorts of fanfic written by all sorts of people.

I'm just interested to know whether other people have observed this trend, what they think about it, etc. I'd especially love to hear from slash writers.

Hoping for a civilized discussion, I am ~ Laura

Some Comments

[ Dawson Rambo ]:

No flame, just curiosity. As a reasonably straight (but not narrow) guy, I will say that to ME, most slash is unappealing. And that includes ScullySlash, with the notable exception of "Walking the Line." For some reason, despite the plotline, it doesn't feel slashesque to me.

But I digress -- my question is thusly: Why do straight women get so aroused, turned on, excited, case-of-the-screaming-thigh-sweats about Mulder/Krycek (or Mulder/Skinner, or Skinner/CSM, or WHATEVER m/m combo you like) slash?

What, exactly, is the appeal?

I will at this time categorically state that the idea of finding my SO in bed with another woman in the hopes of getting invited as a third has a) never occurred to me (really!) and b) holds little arousal for me. And I am not sexually repressed in any way.

I think.

Even watching the occasional "adult entertainment extravaganza" porno movie (doing research for Mulder's character...honest, honey, I swear...) that contains 2 wimmin knocking boots holds little interest for me. None, in fact. My finger hits FF and I get to the next scene.

[snipped]

...what's the deal with slash? Why do the slashettes like it so much????

Daws
[ Lee Burwasser ]:

You have there as much of the answer as any non-slasher will get. Some hetero men get turned on by watching or picturing two women getting it on, and some hetero women get turned on by watching or picturing two men getting it on. The latest theory, I believe, is that the important factor is the lack of a rival of one's own sex.

There are other hetero people, of either sex, who aren't turned on by this at all. Like a leather-fetishist trying to jerk off with satin-fetish porn, it just doesn't work -- as porn. If the story is good, it will work *as a story* for anyone literate, whether they have the relevant fetish or not.

I don't care for slash because as a sub-genre it seems to require mis-characterisation. At least, I can't recall a slash story whose characters I'd recognise without nametags. A very few were good stories, but not about the characters they were supposed to be about. If I invented and substituted another pair of characters, I could actually enjoy the story, but no turn-on.

No, a slasher I'm not.
[ CiCi Lean ]:

1. As a writer, writing slash is as interesting a challenge as creating *any* pairing in the canon XF-1013 Universe, where sex seems to be something that is just as abnormal as a liver-eating mutant, and ten times more dangerous.

2. As a longtime XFFanfic reader of both gen & slash, I've noticed that the ratio of good/excellent writing to fair/middling/medicore writing is much higher than in gen (yes, and that is taking into account the higher precentage of stories that are gen or "straight".). Of course, if you've never read slash, that's a rather pointless observation, but as a consumer of both flavors of fanfic, and after four years of daily reading, this is my very humble opinon. (And everyone here knows how humble my opinions are...non? :-)

The sad thing is that many slashers don't post to Gossamer, gen XF lists or atxc out of fear of mockery or the very real threat of serious flames. So, there are TONS of incredible slash stories that are just not available to the "average" XFFanfic reader, who no doubt gets a skewed view of exactly what is out there. But, take it from a rabid consumer, there's gold in dem dere hills. (Try reading "torch" or Ethan Nelson and you'll see...)

3. Tastes in erotica are inexplicable. Slash floats my boat. It sinks yours. Simplistic? Sure, but that's the beauty of fact. Remember, there are some people who's idea of the greatest time in the world is a hot night with jar of Fluff and a pair of Buster Brown clogs. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as the little dog on the Buster Brown logo is consenting. Right?

I personally don't enjoy Mulder/Scully erotica (though there is a lot of "straight" erotica in other fandoms I *do* enjoy... immensely). Does this make me weird by definition or at the very least, odder than those who do? *I* don't think so, and since I'm not alone in that predilication, I feel comfortable in admitting/claiming as much.

Remember, whatever floats your boat.

Live & let live. Etc, etc., yadda, yadda, yadda...

And for God's sake, will someone write some MORE slash for me?

<grin>

CiCi Lean
[JenRose]:

Y'know, I've wondered this too. Here's my wild speculation on the subject. See, I spent a long time involved in the gay community, and am *still* not terribly interested in watching two men having sex. Nor does Scullyslash generally appeal to me.

I'm about as liberal as they get where the issue of sexual orientation is concerned. <resisting the urge to make about 8 bad puns in one sentence> I don't have "issues" with porn or homosexuality. The only reason I've come up with for the fascination with slash is this:

For women who are *really turned on* by masculinity and by the male sex drive, slash is like a "double dose". I like the male sex drive, but if there's gonna be more than one in my fantasy, I'd like to be the focus, thank you very much.

The other thing is that there may be some element of "this is naughty" and therefore more titillating. For me, the concept of two men or two women sleeping together illicits pretty much a "So what?" reaction. Been there. Done that. I have an easier time, at this point in my life, with relating to the male-female interaction, and thus find that more interesting. I can't put myself into male slash, and am not in a point in my life where I'm interested in putting myself into female slash. And the whole reason I read NC 17 is that when it is well written, I feel a charge from it.

I am *not* making value judgments here. As far as I'm concerned, whatever turns you on.... For me, most slash doesn't. More MSRNC17 does. I know that there are an incredibly wide range of sexual preferences, and I'm not just talking about the Kinsey scale, so I think the answer probably is exactly that...

Whatever turns you on.
[Karen Matheson]: Perhaps the writers felt they needed to put distance between M&S in order for the relationship they wanted to explore to work? In other words, perhaps they couldn't find a way to make a Mulder/Krycek romance plausible when WonderfulScully is there mooning over Mulder. So, they make her a dyed-in-the-wool bitch that Mulder would be insane to love, sending him into the cuddly arms (sorry, arm) of Krycek. This also entails coming up with all sorts of rationalizations for why Krycek betrayed Mulder, killed various people, and in general, acted like a bad guy when really he's just 'misunderstood.'
[CiCi Lean]:

Or, perhaps they see very obvious problems in the M&S relationship that others aren't willing to explore?

The road to *love* between "canon-1013" M&S would not be an easy one by any means; there are -lots- of problems that need -serious- addressing in that one, methinks...

CiCi (who would be *sorta* pissed if someone never told me that all my ova was in their home freezer...)
[Lee Burwasser]:

Is it so much sexist as orientationist? There is still a definite stereotype that men who do men hate women. It's way off -- Not that I know a *lot* of out-of-closet gays, but I've never met anything remotely like the woman-hating stereotype -- but there are a lot off stereotypes that are way off the mark that still get served up in fanfic.

[Also], stop being so apologetic. If everyone is entitled to post stupid-ass stories, anyone is entitled to post the opinion that they are stupid-ass stories -- *without* having to grovel all over the place to appease the "never-say-anything-harsh" crowd. The only attempted censorship I've seen on this newsgroup is the effort to keep people like you and me from expressing our honest opinions of the stories posted.

[CkXxSw007]:

I don't read slash (honestly! I'm only 14. Although other 14 year-olds that I know.......never mind). Anyway, this is just a request. I know most of you do this, but for those who don't, PLEASE put a slash warning in the title of the story, because it's quite a shock to get in there and start reading and....well, you know. Anyway, just keep this in mind please. Thanks : )

[L/C/]:

I totally understand the request, but I'd like to take shameless advantage of this opportunity to ask that writers please, please, PLEASE put a "MSR" note. You wouldn't believe how many stories I've opened or wonderful stories I've missed because their titles sounded like an MSR story.
[Kelly Shuford]:

i think the poster who said that it's way to get scully out of the picture as a romantic choice may be right. i also wonder if authors think that scully must have a ton of repressed rage and that some of it, after this season especially, would be towards mulder. perhaps this is a way to express that. if my friend had waited to tell me until we were in front of a judge that my ova had all been taken and were being used in experiments, it would have been the end of the friendship. (i can see him not telling her when she was sick, and i can see mulder putting it off after that. don't agree with it, but i can see him doing it. what i don't understand is waiting to tell her in front of the judge when he knew he was going to mention it since he'd included it in the file he gave the judge.) and before someone just says i'm a scullyist, (i'm neither) i thought she behaved horribly and acted totally unprofessional in FaD. i really haven't liked either of them this season.

even more disturbing to me, (sorry Laura, OT of your question) then the characterazation you mention is the proliferance of scully raped stories. and in most of these stories they start a romantic relationship after the rape, which seems really absurd to me. I can imagine that a rape survivior would want to see the issue explored in fiction, i'm just bothered by the large number of them, and that one of the few [[strong female characters]] on tv is victimized that way in so many stories.

and especially repulsive to me are the ones in which mulder is the rapist. in several stories he isn't drugged or under any outside influence he just gets mad at her and rapes her and she forgives him and they go on being partners. and in most of these become romantically involved after. IMO these last stories are dangerously irresponsible and continue the myth that no means yes. and it's women writing these, which i find especially disturbing and shocking.
[lore]:

We're drifting a bit, and I'm going to drift even farther, because I've noticed the Stone Cold Bitch Scully often lately, only it's been in borderline MSRs.

What I'm noticing is a trend where Scully will deign to have sex with Mulder, but she must be in complete control of the encounters and she makes it clear that they are *just* having sex. And, usually, Mulder will secretly love Scully and taking whatever he can get from her, even if it is "just sex."

Right off the top of my head, I can think of this phenom in the first part of "Iolokus" (which is all I read, good as it was), the recent [[Choirgirl Hotel series]] (ended yesterday?), and some JC Sun vignettes (one posted today, in fact, tho I don't think Mulder loves Scully ;). There are others.

I'm not prepared to criticize this trend, because I think it's a valid area to explore, and there is such a thing as beating PCness to death (not that I'm relinquishing my stance on irresponsible rape/torture stories).

Does Bitch!Scully reflect poorly on women? Probably, but that doesn't mean "she" doesn't exist, just as male equivalents also exist. But why the sudden crop of stories looking into this? Is it Scully's perceived coldness in Season 5? Have writers decided that if she hasn't melted down into lovey goo over Mulder by now that she's not going to? Is it an extension of the idea that Scully values her control over all else?

And what about poor Mulder? ;)

love, lore
[Te]:

I'm going to try to answer this question from a personal standpoint. The first story I wrote that featured M/K (solo that is, Hi Alicia!) also had a relatively large chunk of the Mulder-Scully dynamic, (IMO) and I really don't think I wrote her as a man-eating bitch... not until I messed with her head. I *do* recognize, what you're saying though, Laura. But when I wrote the first parts of Aenima which stipulated a fairly good Mulder-Scully relationship, I had barely seen a half-dozen full episodes of the show, and much of those were from the early seasons.

While it *is* disturbing to have the one recurring female character appear again and again as a stereotype, I can't say that I blame the authors that have done so. In all honesty, after watching "All Souls" and "Folie a Deux" I find my own early work highly implausible. Mind you, this is all a matter of personal perspective, but in my opinion the direction Scully's character has taken hasn't been especially sweet... and neither has Mulder. Their relationship (to me) seems to have a *high* level of dysfunction, and while it's certainly not all Scully's fault she does deserve some of the blame.

Again, I'm speaking from personal experience here, but just how much distance do we, as writers, really *need* to put between Mulder and Scully? They're doing just fine on their own. As for the rest, while it's possible that some writers do use that formula to put the boys together, those of you familiar with my work know that I do make an attempt to take everything, good, bad, or indifferent, into account with everything save my parodies. While Mulder probably loves Scully and vice versa in their own way, the idea of sweet, traditional romance between the two of 'em (or with Mulder and *anybody* else) is, at best, implausible to me.

These people have problems, and while it might be nice to see an exploration of just *why* Scully's been so distasteful lately (SynnerX's "Sundered Monsters" was wonderful for that, btw), writers write what the muse bashes into their frazzled little heads. At the moment, for me, that doesn't include Scully. Apparently, I'm not alone in this. The best we can do is take what the *other* characters tell us about her. And we all know how foolish and simplistic men can be when it comes to women. <g>

First of all, what CiCi said about the challenge and the level of eroticism. I'd also like to overshare a bit. ;-) As I mentioned before, I really wasn't a fan of the X Files in any way before I began writing and reading within the fandom. I'm not a fan of television, period. *One* of the reasons for this is my impossibly egotistical sense of self. I simply have yet to see any representations of women that I can identify with, or even imagine hanging out and partying with in anything like a comfortable fashion. However, there are a handful of male characters that I look at and say: "*There* I am!"

The character that I most identify with, in any fandom, is Krycek. (Stop backing away, I have yet to off anyone's relatives.) The muse has yet to bash me within any other fandoms, and, for the most part, if I get the urge to write original characters I save them for my original work. Fan fiction is all about an obsessive cleaning of the machine for me. I can't seem to get Alex out of my head, and, for reasons that grow more mysterious with each passing day, *he* can't seem to get Mulder out of *his* head. So I write slash. Perhaps one day Scully will come a' knockin' and demand her own opus, but until then if you can't live with the fellas' stubborn refusal to see her as an actual person you should probably look for other sources of entertainment.

JMO, YMMV,

Te
[Marita]: I've most definitely noticed this, and I find it jarring to see these snide remarks about Scully in m/m stories. I can see that casual readers might conclude that this device is some kind of standard slash prerequisite to m/m bonding, but it's really a new development and not at all typical of slash. Most slash writers don't feel any need to tear down Scully, distance Mulder from her, or paint her as unappealling sexually or emotionally, to make M/K or M/Sk "believable" within the context of a story. Writing a good characterization of Scully within a slash story is difficult, but having the male characters say nasty things about her in stories where she doesn't even appear as a character is, at the very least, distracting.
[Dreamerlea]:

Huh. That's a very interesting disturbing trend to be noticing. I don't usually notice stuff like that in *any* slash story. Most of the slash i read is lucky to have Our Heroine in there at all, and they always seem to portray her as she is: Mulder's partner, who she defends, loves, fights the forces of darkness for and with, gets frustrated with, gets angry at, gets worried about... you name it! If you don't believe me, read torch, or JiM, or Dx. Granted, she's a minor character(or dead) in some of those fics, but when it's m/m slash, um, well, it makes sense, doesn't it?

Sometimes I read "straight" fic which turns her into a housewife (hah!), or into a whiny bitch who pulls temper tantrums worthy of a three year old and needs an insane amount of coddling, worthy of Mulder himself! Of course, I also read a great deal of wonderful Scully general fic, where she possesses all of the great qualities i detailed in the previous paragraph with the added bonus of also being the lover/soulmate/what-have-you of Mulder (or Skinner, or any number of goodly people). I love those stories. I *am* after all, a Shipper.

My point being that I don't notice more Scully sexism in slash than in gen, if anything, I notice less. Of course, i may just be picking the good ones...

Also, I don't think that anyone who necessarily writes off Scully (especially the one we've seen lately) as bitchy would be completely off. It all depends what episode you are coming from.... for instance, I could write insane trigger-finger Mulder if I just finished Emily, or a few-sandwiches-short-of-a-picnic-Mulder after Demons, or cold-bastard Mudler after never again, or a you're-the-man Mulder after Our Town...

Sorry for the rambling... as always, JMOHO. ~Dreamer, off to find a Mulder-angsty-and-angry ep so maybe she can finally

*finally* finish Shadow Zone...
[Laura Shapiro (original essayist)]:

Yaay! Someone recognizes what I'm saying!

For myself, I'm still missing big chunks of seasons 3 and 4 (though I've seen nearly all of 5), so I understand how that can affect our perceptions of the characters we see. As Dreamerlea noted, both characters can shift dramatically from episode to episode.

(I'm wondering whether this is a script problem, a directing problem, an acting problem, or no sort of problem at all.)

I'd have to be blind not to notice their dysfunction, or Scully's role in it. I see Season 5 Scully as deeply depressed, still dealing with that truckload of grief (her father, sister, daughter, and the cancer), in denial about a lot of things (as is Mulder). I can see this making her poor company, and even passive-aggressive. But I don't see the manipulating, power-hungry, ball-busting maniac that crops up occasionally in slash fanfic.
[R. Scott Carr]:

>> The treatement of Scully on the X Files has been one of the most deevolutionary treatements of a character that I've ever seen. I highly recommend that everyone go back and watch the first season of the X Files to remember those happy days when Scully actually respected Mulder and wouldn't flat out lie to him to preserve her belief system.>>

I just cannot agree with this. Scully's character in season one, while engaging in some ways, clearly lacked depth. Her backstory was less interesting than Mulder's (a normal, straight-and-narrow life, good schooling, academic and professional achievement, and presumably a normal relationship or two, as opposed to his angst-ridden past), and her role in TXF was, in large measure, to parrot skeptical pseudo-science for Mulder to shoot down. (If you want to talk about poor characterization, how about Scully in season one telling Mulder that "time is a universal constant." And she supposedly has a degree in physics!) This is hardly what I would call a well-developed character. However, Scully was not a bad idea from the outset, and as the series has progressed, she has evolved quite a bit, and become far more interesting in the process. One of the unpleasant realities of story-telling is that good news and happy days make for boring tales -- can we take this as a given? -- and Scully has become deeper through suffering. Tough for her, but interesting for the audience. And now we have a woman who has her own stake in Mulder's (or what was Mulder's) quest, who has returned to her religious faith, to some degree, who still has battles to fight, and who is anything but a "stereotypical" female character, as least as far as I can tell from my somewhat limited TV viewing.

>> Even the writers of the show have always been slight misogynists when it comes to their treatment of Scully. And why shouldn't they be? Our society is perfectly comfortable with the role of women as victims.>>

Another assertion, and a rather silly one in some ways. You say Scully is a victim in TXF and complain that the writers are "misogynist" for writing her as one. Well, what about Mulder? Isn't he a victim as well? After all, he has lost his sister, his quest to find her is stymied at every turn, influential players pull the strings and jerk him in every direction, and whatever he does seems to backfire on him. He and those around him for whom he cares all suffer for his actions. On top of all that, his career is taking off like the Vanguard rocket. Isn't his victimization the heart of the mythology? It was back in Season One, which you evidently liked. Does this make the 1013 writers misanthropist, generally?

[snipped]

I'm not saying there are no double standards in human society -- there are plenty -- and I don't think this is really the correct newsgroup for a general discussion of "feminist issues," if I may use that term, but I would suggest that, to some extent at least, we see what we want to see. If one watches the X-Files looking for misogyny, one will find it. But if one looks for almost anything else, one will probably find that too.
[CiCi Lean]:

>>I just wonder why CastIronBitch!Scully appears in so many slash stories.>>

So *many* slash stories? Honestly, I'm totally curious as to which these are. Because, if she's there at all (which I'll admit, she *does* disappear quite conveniently, usually), she's been totally a supportive, important, and understanding character.

The only story that I've ever seen CastIronBitch!Scully is in a very recent, *extraordinarily* popular gen story (which I had to give up reading because of what I considered totally skewed characterization...)

CiCi
[Te]:

Sigh. I think it would be pleasant if I could get a hold on Scully so I could write her... But, honestly, with me it's like Scully's an acquaintance of a friend (Alex) that's been acting like a right wench lately. Because I'm so "close" to Alex and have yet to hear Scully's side of things I can't help but form my opinions on what TPTB and the fellas give me. I enjoy reading a strong Scully fic (Bliss' "The Real End" was a goodie) but the impression only stays so long as I remain within that author's universe, no matter how good s/he is, no one can lure me too far away from my own head.

And the only one I have any real level of affection for is Alex. Sure, he's not perfect, but he's a survivor. He has faith in himself, but if things go wrong he's practical enough to recognize that My Way doesn't necessarily equal the Right Way. He flows like liquid. He's adaptable. In my own life I've had some less than pleasant times, and have long since decided to use them to make me stronger. Nothing is going to break Alex short of death itself, and he's going to avoid that as long as possible. Mulder and Scully have elements of that to be sure, but they've also proven themselves to be needlessly close-minded, petty, mopey, and downright irritating.

<<But that's just what I don't get! I can understand Krycek refusing to see her as an actual person, but not Mulder. Even if you assume that there's no romantic love between Mulder and Scully, he's given every indication that he *does* see her as an actual person, in many ways the *only* actual person in his life. >>

That "You're my one in five billion thing." Sure, fine, whatever. That look on Scully's face could harden magma. And just how do you think Mulder felt when the drugs wore off and he realized that the only reason he'd been *committed* (Any people out there who've ever wandered through the world as an outsider probably understand just how horrifying that prospect truly is) was because Scully had refused to do the autopsy in what could only be described (IMO) as a fit of *pique*? When I put the Scullysnarks in "Birthdays" it was especially for Viridian, a good friend of mine who's far more upset with 4th and 5th season Scully than I am, but the more I think about it, the more I stand by it. Distasteful, to say the least. Hmm... I think I'm showing my growing character-loathing. Forgive, I'm in the middle of a soul-sucking [[Work In Progress]].

Still just my opinion, and YMMV= Your Mileage May Vary
[Amy]:

>>Or, perhaps they see very obvious problems in the M&S relationship that others aren't willing to explore?<<

Well, for one: if you're writing slash, particularly M/K, obviously the usual roadblocks to romance aren't that important to you.

For another: dealing with the problems in the M&S relationship doesn't involve calling Scully every ugly name in the book. Unless you DO think Scully's a cast-iron so-and-so, and think that's the only problem in the M&S relationship --
[Te]:

<< Well, for one: if you're writing slash, particularly M/K, obviously the usual roadblocks to romance aren't that important to you. <<

<raises an eyebrow> Obviously *you've* been reading the wrong slash, if any at all. As CiCi mentioned in a prior post, part of the appeal of slash is working through the challenges inherent in the m/m dynamic. Specifically one as difficult as M/K. As a reader and a writer of slash it is a constant source of entertainment to see how other authors deal with the difficulties of the pairing. Granted, there are PWPs that blissfully sweep all the ugliness under the rug, but I presume that there are MSR's that do the same thing.

As ancient and noble a sub-genre as the PWP is (and the fact of the matter is that I rarely step beyond it in my own work), my favorite works are always going to be those (of course) angst-o-rific fics that do, in fact explore all the facets of the given characters at length. The example that comes to mind for M/K of this sort is "Ghosts" by torch. A smut-free-safe-for-everyone (IMO) X-File that even features the poor, much-maligned (smirk) Scully as the strong, smart, competent professional that she *should* be.

As I've mentioned before, all of us who write, write what we are given by the muse. It seems to me that all of us have (at least slightly) differing visions of the characters within the XF universe. If it wasn't this way would the fandom be so large and vital? I certainly don't think so. Some of these visions are dark, vicious, and cruel. Does that make them less valid? No. But if you don't swing that way, as it were, you most assuredly *do* have a delete key.
[Youkneek]:

First question posed by Laura was the "recent trend," particularly in slash, to portray Scully as a ball-busting bitch. She asks why?

First off, I'm not sure I've noticed this "trend," myself, certainly not specific to the slash universe. It would be helpful to me, and perhaps to others in this discussion, Laura, if you could provide some story titles or examples, which you feel illustrate this trend.

For myself, I'd have to agree with the various folk who have pointed out that one need look no further than the X-Files writers if you want to find the roots of this Scully as bitch trend, if such a trend does indeed exist. She's been more than a little bitchy in the few shows I've seen from Season 5.

We each bring our own life experiences to our viewing of the show and consequently tend to see different things in the characters. Plenty of viewers and fanfic writers seem to perceive Scully as supportive, strong, attractive, dynamic and badly mistreated by her horrible, abusive, inconsiderate, unappreciative, lunatic, sexist partner. Many viewers see her as "in love" with this same partner. Neither of these are views I personally share but there are probably as many different views of the characters as there are viewers.

Scully as a bitch is one view and no more "disturbing" as I see it than Scully as a saint. I don't see Scully as some sort of poster child for perfect womanhood myself, so it doesn't really bother me if people want to portray her as either a saint or a bitch. I can see both those elements in the Scully character depicted on the screen.

As to slash and its appeal for women, I can only speak for myself. Speak, monkey, speak:)

For starters, as someone else mentioned, the overall quality of the writing in the slash genre tends to be better than in the general mix. I've yet to see a Slash Song Story but maybe I've just been lucky. Uh oh, I may have just given CiCi an idea:)

Secondly, M/K or M/Sk pairings appeal in part for the same reason a battle between two stallions fighting fascinates. All that muscle, all that testosterone (Do horses have testosterone? Hmmm, bald horses...the mind boggles.), adds a whole new element to sexual interaction.

Third, as a woman, I pretty much understand what makes women tick. Men, OTOH, are a constant mystery. It would take more than Viagra for me to experience an erection. I'm missing some basic equipment. I'm not so much mystified by bi-sexual or gay men as I am by why more men don't choose to experiment in those areas. Seems like a hell of a missed opportunity to me but to each his own.

Fourth, for all of CC's talk of reversing gender roles, in lots of ways he hasn't done that at all. The dynamics of a homosexual relationship though, leaves lots of room to explore power dynamics, which is at the root of a lot of role issues. Who's on bottom, who's on top, etc. If they're swapping roles that makes it even more interesting.

As to all the folk who want to discount the slash genre as "out of character" or "beyond canon", in my humble opinion less than 1% of the fic on Gossamer is within canon or, for that matter, within character. Frankly, I'd hesitate to apply the word "canon" to the show, given how it wanders all over the map. But that's just me, I'm sure there are lots of other opinions.
[Alicia]:

Laura Shapiro asked about Scully-bashing in M/K slash, and later queried why "CastIronBitch!Scully appears in so many slash stories." To which I can only say--not in the stories I've been reading. As (I believe) CiCi noted, she is often conveniently absent, but I haven't seen her bashed really at all, or portrayed as uncharacteristically bitchy. Krycek-Scully interactions are sometimes a bit unpleasant, but let's face it, neither of them has reason to be particularly fond of the other in canon.

Daws asked wherein lies the appeal of slash. For me, it's partly two beautiful boys for the price of one, partly the utter hotness possibilities in the M/K relationship, and partly the challenge of making it all make sense.

Jenrose hypothesized that slash readers/writers are either women who are "really turned on by masculinity" or who get off on the "this is naughty" aspect of homoerotica. I can say for myself that I don't feel that way. I certainly don't see anything particularly naughty in homoerotica, and I don't think I'm particularly turned on by excessive masculinity. In my mind, much of Krycek's and Mulder's appeal comes from their sheer beauty--which borders on the feminine in many ways, though clearly neither of them is swishy in the least.

Lee Burwasser said s/he "can't recall a slash story whose characters I'd recognize without name tags." Obviously you're not reading the same slash I am. But I don't expect I'm going to persuade you, so why bother? If you can read torch's "Ghosts" and tell me that's not Mulder and Krycek (and Scully too), then we simply don't speak the same language.

Lee Burwasser also said: "Stop being so apologetic. If everyone is entitled to post stupid-ass stories, anyone is entitled to post the opinion that they are stupid-ass stories -- *without* having to grovel all over the place to appease the "never-say-anything-harsh" crowd. The only attempted censorship I've seen on this newsgroup is the effort to keep people like you and me from expressing our honest opinions of the stories posted."

Well, yes, people do have the right to say they don't like stories. I personally prefer simply to stop reading something if I don't like it, and not bother to tear it down in public. And I hope I don't go around calling entire genres stupid, which it seems to me you're doing here. But perhaps I'm misreading you.

Kelly was concerned about "no means yes" rape stories that end with the rape victim falling in love with her rapist. I don't want to defend this as a concept in real life--it obviously has, and should have, NO basis in reality. And I can't recall reading any M/S fic with this theme, so I can't comment specifically. But I do think there's a place for rape-fantasy stories; especially, for example, ones that explore the erotic kick of being helpless. The operative word is *fantasy,* and I think one of the joys of fiction is the ability to explore concepts that would not work for us in real life. I can also think of a very good story that deals with the emotional consequences of being brutally raped by someone you were previously, and continue to be, attracted to. A more difficult topic to deal with than rape-fantasy, but a valid one to explore IMO.

I disagree vehemently [that roadblocks to romance in M/K slash aren't that important to you]. Part of the challenge of writing M/K is dealing with those roadblocks in a believable way: taking two men who are portrayed in canon as having a passionate, conflicted relationship and resolving enough of the conflicts that the passion can be expressed in a way other than violence. OTOH, I also don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that they could be so attracted to each other they'd boff like crazed weasels despite the roadblocks--though I don't see them picking out china patterns anytime soon in those stories.

Laura wondered why someone would identify with Krycek. Well, I don't know if I identify with him. But I do admire him in many ways. He's one of the strongest characters I can imagine. He does what he has to and never gives up. He's made mistakes and paid a high price for them, and yet he's always back in the game, clawing his way up. I would *like* to identify with Krycek.

Dave said "in my opinion 99% of all slash is a gross violation of the show's canon." All I can say is, you're not watching the same show I am. Well, except inasmuch as fanfic involving *any* sexual relationship for the characters violates canon. But I think M/K strike at least as many sparks onscreen as M/S do. And although I'm not a Skinnerchick, I can see the M/Sk there, too. I admit pairings between characters who never met onscreen (like my beloved K/Pendrell) take a bit of imagination. But there's nothing in canon to say it *couldn't* have happened.

Dave went on to comment on romance novels involving a weak female rescued by a strong man, and novels in which any strong female character is punished. I used to read romance novels; did so for years (until I discovered slash <eg>). Those stereotypes were somewhat true in the 70s, as I recall, but current trends involve smart women who are at least as strong as their male counterpart. Just FYI.
[Amy]:

Don't misunderstand me; easy enough to do, since I misspoke. I quite understand that this is one of the thrills of slash -- the getting together through all the difficulties. But it's also one of the thrills of good MSRs -- any MSR that doesn't acknowledge the problems M&S have, as individuals and as a prospective couple, doesn't really qualify as "good," at least not for me.

This plays back into my original point, which was a rebuttal of someone's suggestion that slash writers liked slash/wrote Scully as a "bitch" because they saw problems in the M&S relationship others didn't see. I mean, EVERY potential pairing on the show, be it friendly or sexual, straight or gay or devoted to Xerox machine fetishism, is going to involve serious difficulty. That's the kind of angsty show it is. That should be the common ground between the two main schools of erotic fanfic, not the dividing line.

Amy, hopefully more clear this time
[ Livengoo ]:

Why slash? What about Scully makes her increasingly unpleasant in a romantic or sexual fantasy? Overall MSR is about two people the fan feels are "meant to be together" overcoming external barriers. Overcoming external barriers is one of the least interesting elements of a relationship story to me, let alone the assumption that anyone in the X-Files at present is "meant" to be with Scully. I understand that the roadblock-style of fiction is appealing for others, but it's the dynamics between two people that make it delicious to me, just like in real life external barriers are relatively rare major issues. Yes indeed, there are wars and the like dividing couples, but usually it's power dynamics that individuals are too scared or not introspective enough to examine.

And that's why I like slash. A lot of slash is about external barriers or barriers of impression. Most MSR is about external barriers or about being socially incompetent, in my experience, and almost none of it is truly about Mulder and Scully growing up, healing and learning to be good lovers. Why? Because very few fanfic writers really do a truly ruthless introspection on their characters. I've tried it and have an incomplete romance built around Scully, but then S.5 happened to the character I was writing and the poor woman mutated into a bitch. BTW - to the original comment about trends, for my purposes the source of the so-called trend of seeing Scully as a bitch is the show. In episodes like Pine Bluff Variant, the bug ep, Emily and the utterly detestable Emily, Scully's become someone I wouldn't want to know, let alone be stuck in an office with, and perish the thought of relying on the self-centered little tin saint. The Scully of the first couple years was a delightful, multi-faceted character I wanted to see and know. The Scully of S.4 and 5 is one I badly wish had died of cancer in Redux. This, for me, is also the biggest reason that MSR doesn't work. External barriers are dull and contrived to me, and eventually those characters have to be face to face. The Mulder I saw and liked so much from Deep Throat, the Pilot, 3, Grotesque, and Mind's Eye is one who has looked at himself and his goals a lot. The abyss of the conspiracy and secrets isn't the only abyss he's faced. But [the] Scully Chris Carter is giving us is getting further and further away from introspecting, learning about herself, and more and more into a solipsistic, selfish orientation that makes her truly unpleasant, let alone appropriate as a partner for anything more than one quick - and not wholly satisfying - bout of animal sex. That's my personal opinion and observation of course, and all of us bring our own experiences and perceptions. I'd be ashamed of myself if I acted like Scully. But a lot of fans like her better now and regard Mulder's behavior not as dedication or self-awareness but as selfish because he's not devoting himself to Scully. I'm a little baffled as to where they're coming from on that, except that yes, everyone does want to be cherished and if one chooses Scully as one's proxy then anything that prevents her from being cherished might be frustrating. So the obvious fact that she's not the alpha and omega of Mulder's life, but that the fans watching need her to be for emotional reasons, means that to be happy watching and having a romantic object to identify with means the fans are going to need to construe external obstacles because it's unthinkable that Scully and Mulder aren't "meant for each other." Ah well. Whatever floats your boat.

But slash? Depends, again, on the characters involved, but it has some interesting elements. Slash removes the inherent power structure that applies to any male/female relationship except, possibly, one between a bureaucrat and a female pro wrestler. In other words, slash removes the presumption of the male as physically powerful and the protector of a female who is his emotional organ, and it removes the female's emotional role versus physical, removes the power base that's the whole substrate of our culture by starting out with two people who are, more or less, equals EXCEPT by dint of personal experience. Or, even more delicious, who assume they're equals because men are accustomed to being presumptively in physical control of their situations even if not emotional. So they're bringing who they are to the table rather than what they are. They MUST introspect to successfully relate to each other because the only way I could see a character like Mulder, Krycek or Skinner in a relationship with any of the other two is for them to have looked long and hard at themselves and overcome latent homophobia and social assumptions. They're truly relating to each other as individual people rather than as boy-girl. That's something rare as hell in most Hollywood stories about men and women, let alone most fanfic. Most male/female fanfic falls back on the presumption that the only happy ending is the boy and girl getting together, and all else is just a roadblock to destiny. My favorite slash isn't about destiny and assumptions. It's about individual characters. And THAT is both sexy and gets to the only reason I really read fanfic, or write it. To learn more about who these characters are.
[bliss]:

<<Slash is an interesting phenomenom and I'm not going to delve into the sociological aspects of it. Instead, I'm going to point out that the UST onscreen between Skinner and Mulder is at least twice as powerful as anything going on between Scully and Mulder lately.>>

I don't argue for the validity of either viewpoint. Scully/Mulder romances and sexfests strike me as wildly out of character for both, particularly with the characterizations as developed during the last two seasons. Frankly, if I were Scully as she is now characterized, there's no way I'd sleep with someone I blamed for the loss of my sister, my ova, and nearly my life. If I were Mulder, I'd worry about vagina dentata. True, slash could be considered wildly out of character, but Mulder's fling with Vampgirl in Season 2 hardly eliminates bisexuality.

Be that as it may, as I said, I'm not arguing the validity or invalidity of either MSR or slash. I'm arguing that if either is well written, it can overcome that particular issue with a well-told story.

Or simply with well-written smut.

Slash is hot for many women because it completely bypasses the standard m/f roles in relationships and allows them to identify with an equal partnership, something many desire, but sadly cannot find in the real world. Even when it appears equal, I'll guarantee ya that one party ends up doing most of the conceding, and in our culture, that's generally women, who have been socialized to make the most compromises in relationships.
[Debra Fran Baker]:

I do think Scully is an integral part of the X-Files, so when I write my stories, all of which are slash to some degree or another, I include her if at all possible. Heck, I even wrote a story with her as the central character, and another that began and ended with Scully's point of view (Mulder didn't have one after a while.)

I don't see her as a bitch and I don't see her as a saint. I see her as a strong, capable, intelligent woman who has problems dealing with emotions and with any weakness she might have - and to some degree with weakness in others. She cares for Mulder, but I happen to see it as more big-sisterly than anything else.

I hope I write her that way.
[Hindy Bradley]:

Man, am I getting tired of all this Scully-bashing. I completely disagree with your assessment to the M/S relationship. Mostly, I am tired of you stating your opinion as if it were fact. We all seem determined to interpret the actualities of the show differently. Fine. Quit pushing your version down our throats as fact.

I am both a slash and an MSR fan. Hell, it's fiction. I can read whatever I want and believe all or none of it, if I choose.

I do agree that there is an ongoing powerful and subtle relationship between Mulder and Skinner. At its best, your writing, Bliss, has given credible depth and insight into the possible permutations of that relationship. But it's still not the only possibility in this fictional realm we all care so much about.

If I were Mulder, I'd worry about vagina dentata.

Are you jumping on a bandwagon here or do you want me to infer that you wrote that misogynist piece of crap posted earlier this morning?

>> Slash is hot for many women because it completely bypasses the standard m/f roles in relationships and allows them to identify with an equal partnership, something many desire, but sadly cannot find in the real world. Even when it appears equal, I'll guarantee ya that one party ends up doing most of the conceding, and in our culture, that's generally women, who have been socialized to make the most compromises in relationships.>>

Several points to be debated here. I, personally, don't think of the words "equal partnership" when I think about making love at all. Politics goes by the wayside when I enter the bedroom. To me, sex is about trust. The level of trust I believe I see in the MSR, as portrayed in the show, if it were carried over into the bedroom would lead to some very beautifully intimate moments. Most writers aren't able to write it or even imagine it. Yes, I believe that type of intimacy is like looking into the sun, but then I'm a diehard romantic. A few writers do come close. (Altogether now - Leyla, Lydia, Karen, Viv Wiley - we all know the list by heart.)

In a way slash is just a metaphor for the MSR. They have Mulder do with his various male partners what convention, yes there are conventions in our community, won't let them write Mulder and Scully doing together. It would be admitting that that's what they, we, want for ourselves. Not many people are going to bare their intimate sexual desires and needs that way to the whole community. Not even under a pseudonym.
[kronos]:

wow - i somehow missed the story that initiated so much excitement, but i must say i have been shocked at the incredibly .... rude? ... obnoxious? ... comments directed to individuals rather than ideas. i am a firm believer in the precept upon which this newsgroup and others have been built i.e. attack ideas not people.

seems to be way too much personalization going on - particularly in attacks on bliss. i know none of these people who are posting these messages but am surprised at the atxf feel that has invaded this ng this morning.

can we go back to the idea that debate and disagreement is a very good idea and that attacking people personally is not - at least not on the ng?

i don't read slash myself, don't understand it. but have been interested in reading the threads that have been focused on the topic over the last few days. i certainly hope those kinds of discussions will continue in the future.
[Nascent]: I'm only entering this argument because I am disturbed by the personal trend it's taken, and I want to make it clear that, even though I disagree with many of the sentiments expressed by Bliss and Goo and others, I, like many of us, don't think the ad hominim responses are at all appropriate. Just because those are the most vocal responses, Bliss, I hope you don't assume that's how everyone (even those who disagree with you most strongly--that would be me <g>) feels.
[Hindy Bradley]:

<<Clarification, please, Hindy. Are you saying that slash writers really want to write MSRs?>>

No, I'm not saying that. I'm expressing my own frustration at the limitations I experience writing MSRs and keeping the characters in, what I perceive as, canon. I would like my Scully to be a little more adventurous in bed, more challenging of her own sexual needs and I'm hoping to attempt a few stories like that this summer. But they will be Scully/other.

I'm fully aware of the many reasons that people read and write slash. I wouldn't presume to speak for anyone else but myself on motivation. But I can't be the only woman who reads/writes/enjoys it for this reason.
[bliss]:

Given, I'll put a little disclaimer at the top of each of my posts: The opinions stated here are just that, if you can't figure that out, don't read it. God, if you don't worship at the character's feet, you aren't bashing her. Point: I don't like thug!Mulder either, does that mean I'm male bashing?

And as for my ill-advised comment about vagina dentata.....I'm certainly sorry I made it, if it led to other things.

As for my comments on the phenom of slash.....they came out of a discussion with a woman who was actually writing a paper on slash fiction and gender roles, a very thought provoking piece that I would loved to have read. I may have misinterpreted her findings, I'm not an academic and I don't have all her research.

Since disagreement or debate is clearly not welcome here, I'll leave you all to your luv fest and wish you the best.