Another Addict Raves About K/S
|Title:||Another Addict Raves About K/S|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: TOS|
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She published a modified version of this essay as "Pornography by Women for Women, With Love" in her essay collection "Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts: Feminist Essays."
The essay is about the appeal of K/S and concludes that K/S is a metaphor for heterosexual sex between equals, with Spock as the symbolic female.
One fan writes that despite the huge amount of fiction and art in "Nome" #8, she bought the zine mainly for Russ' article.
K/S provides the female reader with a love affair in which both parties are fully worthy human beings who feel, think, and do sex in ways intelligible to women -- this leaves room for reading K/S as "Lesbian" as well as "heterosexual." .... The one thing K/S is *not* about is male homosexuality.
A Fan Comments on the March 1985 Panel
Regarding your question, "Why K/S?" I don't know if it's been written up anywhere, but at Norwescon 7 (Mar. '84) Joanna Russ gave a one-woman panel on K/S, the first time I'd heard it discussed so publicly. Her theory (as nearly as I can recall it) was that heterosexual relationships for K or S weren't as emotionally satisfying because of all the culturally conditioned emotional baggage we carry about male/female relationships in terms of roles, equality, needs, expectations, etc. And female/female relationships wouldn't satisfy us because our cultural "baggage" wouldn't allow us to accept women as heroes or individuals worthy of our love and admiration. She then tried listing the characteristics that K & S each brought to the relationship. Her conclusion: Spock is a woman! By that she meant that he, as a Vulcan, possesses many of the psychological and physiological traits that are traditionally considered feminine in our culture. Examples: he represses his emotions, particular anger, hostility, agression; he prefers to follow rather than lead, advise rather than direct; he avoids physical violence, preferring intellectual approaches to problem solving; his body movements/posture is reserved, stiff, inhibited; he is a virgin; his sexuality is cyclical; he is driven by biological urges (to have a baby? Biology=Destiny?). She had many more, which I can't remember, but I think you get the idea. Her theory was that these "feminine" traits allowed the female reader to identify with Spock in a relationship based on an equality which would be impossible between a male and female. It's an interesting theory, altho I'm not sure I buy it completely. For one thing I was able to come up with quite a few "masculine" traits for S and "feminine" traits for K as well.And I'm not sure that most female readers necessarily "identify" with S, even though K is the more traditionally masculine character. What do you think? And if anyone has seen this talk written up anywhere, I'd love to see it, since my memory isn't perfect, and I wasn't prepared to take notes. 
Reactions and Reviews
Feminists who are interested in erotica written by women for women should find themselves very able to "stomach" K/S. They should check out the rave review of K/S written by SF feminist author Joanna Russ in a fanzine namec NOME, "Another Addict Raves about K/S." Natrually there is a spectrum of material-from mild to X-rated, from well-written to total trash. This material is widely circulated, but not "Published" in the ordinary, or profit-making sense, and is in fact underground material of great interest to the participants - the writers, readers and editors. Unfortunately, attention paid to K/S for its feminist importance, may be damaging to fandom as a whole, if Paramount gets too interested in it. Starsky/Hutch and Star Wars fandoms were severely restricted by paranoid producers. Joanna has refused to supply the names of K/S editors and writers to the editors of Penthouse FORUM -- but FORUM is interested. As for the writers involved, writing fan material is wonderful fun, and may just provide the impetus for writers to break into publication, as a number of fan writers have. While it is true that REAL SF writers look ascance at Trek as formula fiction, the first item of importance to most aspiring writers is GETTING PUBLISHED. Trek is a "hungry" market.
- Aug 14 1985, 7:09 pm
- Newsgroups: net.startrek
- From: s...@uoregon.UUCP
- Date: Wed, 14-Aug-85 19:09:00 EDT
- Subject: Re: Requested information on K/S
Feminists who are interested in erotica written by women for women should find themselves very able to "stomach" K/S. They should check out the rave review of K/S written by SF feminist author Joanna Russ in a fanzine named NOME, "Another Addict Raves about K/S." Natrually there is a spectrum of material-from mild to X-rated, from well-written to total trash. This material is widely circulated, but not "Published" in the ordinary, or profit-making sense, and is in fact underground material of great interest to the participants-the writers, readers and editors. Unfortunately, attention paid to K/S for its feminist importance, may be damaging to fandom as a whole, if Paramount gets too interested in it. Starsky/Hutch and Star Wars fandoms were severely restricted by paranoid producers. Joanna has refused to supply the names of K/S editors and writers to the editors of Penthouse FORUM--but FORUM is interested. As for the writers involved, writing fan material is wonderful fun, and may just provide the impetus for writers to break into publication, as a number of fan writers have. While it is true that REAL SF writers look ascance at Trek as formula fiction, the first item of importance to most aspiring writers is GETTING PUBLISHED. Trek is a "hungry" market.
Joanna Russ, pro writer, analyses Trek, (from the outside, reminding us firmly of her professional qualifications and also that none of us writes as well as Virginia Woolf. I note from her choice of pronoun, she doesn't include herself.) Her thesis is that K/S is a new type of feminist fiction written by women for women in fulfillment of our specific needs. Sorry, but as a writer, however amateur, I identified with little of it. I do not wish to have my potential readership limited by a theory. I write for anyone who'll read and, as I've said before, lament the absence of male readers and writers. Incidentally, Ms Russ tells us emphatically the absence of male readers and writers in U.S since Kirk and Spock are not gay, they just go to bed together, and they are always shown as so masculine - oh Ms Russ! 
Now look. Much I will take from the woman who gave me the first-ever lesbian Star Trek story, but when you criticize Joanna Russ that's 'Going Too Far. She is my hero, not only as the woman who convinced me (in a depressing period just after I'd read Mary Renault's Those Friendly Young Ladies" - for any Renault fans who haven't read it, don't - it'll give you the most unpleasant insights into that woman's mentality—which ("TFYL") had convinced me that it is impossible for lesbians to write readable stories about lesbians (I'd never read - or heard of - "Rubyfruit Jungle"). Can you wonder that I, an aspiring young lesbian writer, was feeling like the pits?) that a lesbian could write a marvellously crafted, shiningly excellent, science—fiction story about lesbians? The story was, of course, "When It Changed", a tale of Whileaway, the world without men, and I read it in 'Klndred Spirits,' of which, more later. In a sense, therefore, Ms Russ is responsible for my continuing support of "touched" - without which, I say smugly, it would have foundered in the second issue - or more than likely, would never have been launched at all. She's also directly responsible for "Changing" - whether or not she'd like the idea, I don't know.
All right, all right, I admit it - Joanna Russ is not a goddess. (Divine hero, yes, definitely,) She must, therefore, being only human - not even Vulcan - have her faults. But anyone who wrote The Female Man, and who is (to my knowledge) the first sf writer to, come out publicly, in print, as a lesbian...personally, I'm prepared to forgive her anything up to retirement. And I'd like to see the article - I don't suppose it was written specifically for a K/S zine, was it? If it was written for a non-fen feminist audience, that would explain a little crassness in the writing.
Incidentally, on one point I definitely agree with her. While feminism is not directly evident in many K/S stories, K/S and it's sister genres, Avon/Blake, Avon/Vila, Starsky/Hutch, Bodie/Doyle, etc, etc - are a unique phenomenon. While many resemble gay male porn - some at it's worst, some at its best - they are not written for a gay male audience. They are, essentially the first example we have of women's pornography. (Call it erotica if it makes you feel better.) It has long been known that straight men can be excited at the thought of two women making love. With K/S it is acknowledged that women - I include both straight and gay (though I don't pretend to understand the latter, even though it includes myself) - can be excited by two men making love. The difference is, that though to the man it does not seem to matter who the two women are, to the woman it matters very much indeed. The men must not be faceless puppets, they must be recognisable, known - they must be people, not dummies. (It is this, and the fact that any advance in women's knowledge of themselves must be a forward step, that makes me agree with Russ, K/S, A/V, A/B, S/H, B/D - it is a form of feminist literature. Which, like all feminist literature, men are welcome to read, that they may be liberated too.(Phew. Apologies in advance for anything that anyone may take this a personal slur. I didn't realise I felt so strongly about it till I started writing it down!) 
"Another Addict Raves About K/S" by Joanna Russ is an essay by the science fiction writer/professor of literature & her various academically extremely well qualified friends on the meaning of K/S & its significance for its predominately female readers. I have to say at this point that I get a little...excitable when people start analysing me whether it be David Gerrold or Bjo Trimble (against) or Joanna Russ (for); some of it may be true for some, a lot of it probably isn't true for others. (IDIC rules OK even in the battalions of K/S readers & writers.) Suffice to say that I agree with various portions of the essay & disagree vehemently with others. One point that really got under my skin was the assertion 'that these men who love each other aren't gay...somehow they're still very 'masculine'. Surely Ms. Russ doesn't mean to imply that to be homosexual is not to be masculine. And in the 23rd century, which is, after all what we are writing about - or some of us try to, without recourse to our 20th century female sensibilities - there will be no such labels & stereotypes. Partners will be partners & it simply won't matter. Another interesting remark is: 'I have never known in my life...a woman whose body was not, in some sense, a problem to her...women can't imagine persons with their kind of bodies saving the universe once a week.' Thinking back to the two stories reviewed above, I don't know about that; what with Kirk getting an erection when he's trying to persuade Spock his intentions are purely platonic & both of them getting extremely embarrassing erections while watching pornographic holograms, I would say men have their own problems! Anyway, Joanna Russ's essay is sure to prove an excellent launching pad for heated debate.
I very much enjoyed Joanna Russ' article in Nome 8. I think she has an internal contradiction in that Spock can't both be a woman and the relationship show two equal figures because men and women still aren't equal in our society. Personally, I think I'm into KS because I'm looking for "safe" fantasy. I don't want to be tempted into a relationship and I don't enjoy fantasies that I can project myself into. 
Re Joanna Russ's theory — I don't believe Spock's a woman for a minute. I was arguing about this theory in MIXED COMPANY about a year ago. I think that some K/S fans at least have made some progress in overcoming sexism, and Russ's theory gives us no credit for that whatsoever! We're all trapped in our socialization pattern. This analysis is far too simplistic. I am anxious to see her essay on K/S that was published in her latest anthology . (MAGIC MOMMAS, TREMBLING SISTERS, PURITANS AND PERVERTS) The reviews have gotten me curious to say the least. Interest in K/S has increased at warp speed in the feminist community since its publication. Some K/S fans are having fits. 
"Another Addict Raves About K/S" is both interesting and informative. She presents a very thoughtful discussion of one person's discovery of K/S. Although you may not agree with everything she writes - she is very candid with her comments and her own personal views whIch can only make all of us think about our own feelings concerning the many aspects of K/S.
More on Joanna Russ—read the analysis of K/S' appeal in NOME #8 and it sure had some valid points...especially about the 'relationship between equals'. I do, however, think it overlooks some ASPECTS OF THE APPEAL OF K/S...or at least how it appeals to me personally. Don't know about y'all but I find K/S as well as B/D, S/H, H/J, gay male fiction and even some gay 'porn'—both written and visual (completely unlike hetero porn)—can be an incredible sexual turn on for me. If hetero women are 'sexually frustrated' as Joanna points out, I think one of the biggest appeals of gay sex (both male and female) is 'the grass is greener' aspect...not only from the relationship of equals standpoint, but also the suspicion/envy of how much more gratifying sex would be with a same sex partner... without all the incredibly difficult communication and compromise problems of differing sexual needs and expectations we experience. How often do we find words like 'he knew exactly how and where to touch' in '/' fiction? I for one find that aspect incredibly appealing.
Joanna Russ's essay, "Another Addict Raves About K/S," presents a stimulating discussion of one person's discovery of K/S. Not everyone will agree with every thing she has to say, & she's very frank about her own political & aesthetic biases--but this is a probing analysis that can only impel others to reflect on their own understanding of & feelings about innumerable aspects of K/S.
I tend to agree with Judith Gran's contention that the pro pubbed version in MAGICAL MOMMAS et al was better, but I do agree with Joanna's reluctant concession that a major theme in K/S is vulnerability. What interests me in men, whether in literature or real life is vulnerability. This is because this isn't a quality that our culture expects of men. I'm not interested in their strength — unless it is the strength to be vulnerable. I am interested in the strength of women, however — never their vulnerability. I am sick of hearing about women being emotionally dependent and sensitive. We know all that. Women have always had permission to be vulnerable. I'd much rather hear about women being strong and brave. That's why it doesn't work for me to consider either Kirk or Spock as a woman even metaphorically in the context of K/S. That kills the attraction K/S has for me as being about men, who wonder of wonder, are vulnerable instead of being macho unfeeling machines.
It bothered me that [Russ] felt you couldn't write a story about a woman without involving the gender issue, but you could about a man. It also bothered me that she couldn't imagine a woman going out and having adventures 7 days a week...I found my self a little suspicious that being unable/unwilling to identify with a female character should be called feminist. (Though I was interested in the article "Spock Among Women" and thought it was quite possible that the form of K/S and the women's "breaking silence" about their interest in their own type of sexuality was feminist.) 
What [Russ] is maintaining is that K/S isn't feminist. This is of a piece with Russ's essay on woman heroes in Susan Kornillon's anthology THE IMAGE OF WOMEN IN LITERATURE. Russ said there that no one writes about woman heroes because no one can believe that a woman can be a hero. Her essays on K/S are a continuation of that arguement. She is saying that K/S is a result of the patriarchal conditioning that even feminists do have. I agree that it is difficult to overcome patriarchal attitudes and I certainly don't claim to have done so completely, but I disagree with her when she says that this explains K/S. It doesn't explain why I write K/S. I don't believe that only men can be heroes. I've written about Mara on Penthesilia in the NTM universe. I've written a K/S story in which Uhura and a group of woman officers rescue Kirk and Spock. I've written a K/S story that hasn't appeared yet in which Amanda leads a revolution on Vulcan. I am making feminist statements about sex roles through K/S. I'm annoyed that Russ's explanation has been held up as the official one by so many people. t don't think she ever meant it to be the gospel about K/S, but only a beginning of feminist thinking about it. In response to me about gayness in K/S, what K/S is about is a matter of argument. I have read some very gay-identified K/S, though it mostly has appeared in England. K/S can be anything the editors and writers want to make of it. It is not inherently disguised heterosexuality. I certainly don't write K/S that way. Besides, Russ didn't say that Spock was really a woman. She said that he had many traits conventionally ascribed to women, but that in K/S Kirk and Spock have traits conventionally ascribed to both genders making them androgynous. I endorse the word androgyny, by the way. It is the only word we have that mean possessing traits conventionally ascribed to both genders, and therefore it is a word that feminists sorely need. So I'm reclaiming it for feminists -- just as feminists have reclaimed bitch, hag and witch.
Speaking of K/S and its meaning, a fellow K/Ser sent a wondarful articulate article to me by a Joanna Russ called "Another Addict Raves About K/S." Not only did I enjoy it despite my extreme reservations about too much analysis and over explaining, but whan I gave it to my totalty-non-understanding-about-K/S husband and he read it, a big lightbulb want on over his head and he said and I nearly quote "Now I see and l wish I could have someone like a Spock or a Kirk in my life." Is that incredible? So if anyone wants a copy of this, I decided it's got to be shared -- just send me one dollar to cover the postage and I'll send it to you.
Her take on the whole slash phenomenon is that it presents an opportunity for women to fantasize about a sexual relationship between socially-valued equals. Whatever you say about modern society, it's pretty clear that there is a serious power imbalance between men and women (which is why slash fans aren't reading het erotica), and that, of the two, men hold a much higher status socially (which is why slash fans aren't reading about two women together). With slash fandom, these two issues are much less apparent, and power issues become more a matter of personality and situation, than of social inequity.
That being said, her theory about anal intercourse was pretty much what you'd expect; that it allows women to project themselves into the situation, in the sexual role they are most familiar with. (I believe she phrased it as "the anus serving shadowy double-duty as a symbolic vagina" (or something like that, anyway).) In partial support of this theory, she cited the many instances of men gleefully pouncing on each other and performing anal intercourse without any lubrication at all, which, one gathers, is not done in real life unless you are really into pain. I suspect (for no good reason) that this happens more often in K/S than in other fandoms; K/S seems in some ways to be more idealized and divorced from nitty-gritty reality than some other fandoms.
[added two days later]: Bear in mind, too, that Joanna Russ's essay was focusing on K/S; as I recall, she spent quite a bit of time pointing out how her theory applies to Kirk and Spock. It may not hold at all well in different slash fandoms.[added three days later]: Well, I read through the essay last night and discovered that it doesn't summarize worth a damn. As I suspected, it is *very* strongly focussed on K/S, and doesn't make mention of any other fandom. In fact, many of the points Ms. Russ makes are specific to the character of Spock. I also misremembered the bit about women projecting themselves into one character or the other. (*sigh*) 
Ok. I have at least one point I'd like cleared up about this little theory. Ms. Russ, if I've interpreted this correctly, is suggesting that the slash author is projecting herself into her male character--the male character who is, in the case of AI, the one being penetrated. If this were so, we might expect to find evidence of this character being "feminized". Let's take Pros as an example. In Pros, Doyle is the one, in the overwhelming majority of stories, who gets penetrated (at least the first time). (He's also the one who most often does the sucking.) He is frequently described as "slight of build", with those "long curls" and "angelic face". Bodie is often viewed as Doyle's "protector", and Bodie is most often the pursuer/seducer. Thus, we could assume that Doyle is the more "feminized" character, and, according to Ms. Russ's theory, the one whom our gallant authors are projecting themselves into.
Now we get to an observation of mine which I'm afraid will complicate things. So far, all of the Pros fans/writers I've encountered are Doyle fans. They positively lust for him. When asked, "Who are you more attracted to, Bodie or Doyle?", the answer is "Doyle." "Who would you rather be seduced by?" "Doyle." So it would seem that the typical Pros fan/writer wants to both BE Doyle, and be seduced by Doyle. Where exactly does this leave poor Bodie in the Russ psychodrama? I feel sorry for the guy.Anybody have any brilliant insights about this? Or I have twisted Ms. Russ into incomprehensibility? 
Joanna Russ said that Spock was a 'feminine' character? She got that idea from some friends she'd introduced to K/S, and only partially accepted it, saying that one of the most notable aspects of the genre was BOTH characters determined androgynous (or words to that effect). And, by the way, it's possible that Kirk could view Spock (unconsciously) as feminine because Spock is a subordinate and Kirk (let's face it) is a fine old fashioned sexist pig. It's equally possible that Spock could view Kirk (more consciously, surely) as feminine because he is weaker than Spock, more emotional, more impulsive and less logical than Spock and because he's the child of a planet that is Spock's literal mother-world.
I was intrigued [by the] comments about men in K/S [fandom]. This certainly does raise the uncomfortable question of how the idealized, open society celebrated in much of K/S writing relates to the "women-only spaces" you described. The topic is also interesting because, quite by coincidence, I recently came across an essay I had saved from a zine published some years ago. Entitled "Another Addict Raves About K/S" by Joanna Russ, it is a very interesting and even scholarly analysis of how and why the author thinks K/S works.... the entire piece is written from a strongly feminist point of view. It would be impossible to do justice to Ms. Russ's views with only a brief summary of the complex ideas expressed in her essay. However, I think it's safe to say that her central premise is that real equality between men and women does not exist in today's world, that "the K/S writer and reader know that love can exist only between equals, and that "K/S creates the equality it needs by making its lovers of the same sex. She also says: "K/S is the only fiction I've ever seen that is by women and for women without the interposition of commercial norms or political ideology," And: "It is - quite simply - the only fiction I have ever found that is written in Female." ... There is, for example, a lengthy discussion of what it means to be a woman in a man's world and how that reality encodes into the art of women's writing about Kirk and Spock. And how about the following in relation to your "women-only spaces": "In real life there are few places where we [women] can safely let go without being harmed in some way." [And] "K/S is the only literature I know that celebrates female sexuality, and its relation to love and vulnerability. Women have written about love' for a long time, but women's vision of erotic excitement exists nowhere else but in K/S. 
- Joan Verba writes in Boldly Writing
- K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #16 (October 1985)
- a post to net.startrek from August 1985
- posted to net.startrek on Aug 14 1985, 7:09 pm as a reply to a fan asking for information on K/S
- comment by Eva Stuart in "touched" #6, part of a longer review, see that page (October 1985)
- by Jane Carnall in "touched" #6 (October 1985)
- from Not Tonight Spock! #11 (November 1985)
- from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #16 (October 1985)
- from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #16 (October 1985)
- from Datazine #41 (1986)
- from Not Tonight Spock! #12 (January 1986)
- from Not Tonight Spock! #12 (January 1986)
- from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #19 (1986)
- from Sociotrek #3 (1987)
- from Sociotrek #5 (1987)
- from The LOC Connection #57 (September 1993)
- comments from a fan on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (February 2, 1993)
- comments from a fan on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously with permission (February 4, 1993)
- from Rallying Call #17 (April 1996)
- from The K/S Press #22 (June 1998)