Being My Own Hero: an essay on the Why and Wherefore of slash

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Title: Being My Own Hero: an essay on the Why and Wherefore of slash (on the essay), Being My Own Hero (on the index)
Creator: Maygra de Rhema
Date(s): February 1999
Medium: online
External Links: Wordsmiths - on line publishing: List of Essays, Archived version; Being My Own Hero, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Being My Own Hero: an essay on the Why and Wherefore of slash is an essay by Maygra de Rhema.

For additional context, see Timeline of Slash Meta and Slash Meta.

Fan Reaction


With a bow to the Feminine/Feminists Apologists, I really don't have a problem with being a girl. I like girl as opposed to woman (although I am that too) because there is a certain innocence and fun-being-the-point-of-it-all to girls. Innocence and slash? Pshaw.

But it is. Innocence being that which is without knowledge of good or evil. Innocence being wide-eyed with wonder that such marvelous things of which the world is made exist in all shades of dark and light.

I can't be a guy. I can't be a hero. Not in my own head, in my own life, anyway. I am way too occupied with all the other stuff that my life is about. I like my heroes to be guys. I like women to be heroes too. I have lots of women heroes, including Eng and MacGeorge who rank right up there with Mother Theresa and Joan of Arc and Bernadette and Hilary Clinton and my mother. But they don't think they are heroes either. They are also out there trying to make their lives work. Inspiring other people is not something they see themselves doing very often.

Silly girls.

Okay, so we get the guy as heroes thing, you say. But slash and heroes?

Exactly. Heroes are those ordinary mortals (or Immortals) who rise above the stuff that make up their day to day lives and struggle for something more. Fight for something better, for something they can't define, they only know they have to strive for. And they don't know why, they just do. They just are.

Viscerally, there is the appeal of two beautiful male bodies, entwined in an embrace that makes my breath catch whether I am reading it being described or looking at an image. Symmetry and grace, strength and form. (Still bowing to the Apologists, I get the same kind of reaction in a different part of my brain when I see a picture of a mother embracing her daughter, or women embracing each other. Non-sexual Symmetry and continuance.)

Intellectually, I don't see myself in those two men, but I see myself *there*. Not as voyeur but as an emotional reaction to something that makes my heart ache to be what they feel. Even if I am writing what they feel. There is a connection between two men that I believe a man and woman can never reach. A connection between two women as friends or lovers that men will never understand and a man and a woman can never share.
However, I can understand those connections between a man and a woman and a woman and a woman. I can never know what, precisely, two men can feel for each other.

But I can damn well try. I can sink myself into what I do know, and what I feel and what I think and wrench it out of myself and give it voice via the written word. I can, in slash, come as close to knowing what the meeting of two strengths, of two wills, of two identities that are tied up in their own gender that isn't my own, feels like.

Mystery and adventure, heroic and romantic love, being outside myself and that part of me that that wants to be something more or different but isn't. It eases the frustration between who I am and who I would like to be without battering at my self esteem. It lets me explore those parts of myself that could be more sensual, could be more stubborn, could be more heroic....more in love, more loved, more, not human but humane, more archetype than real.

I no longer have to be a woman living in a man's world, or a girl who wants to be a boy because they have the burden of asking me to dance first. I can reach past my upbringing and prejudices and morals and prudery and be that heroic character for a little while.

And sometimes, most times, I get to bring a little bit back with me. Even if I do still blush at frank sexual talk, or get all tongue-tied in front of a beautiful man or a woman who inspires me. I still can mind my manners and be petty and human.

I get all that and love and sex and romance and adventure, and lovely visual images of passion and patience.

It still sounds like I am putting myself into one or the other roles of a slash pairing, but I'm not. I am in both...not like mental masturbation, more like being the Matchmaker that gets her pleasure from seeing two wonderful people who deserve all the good things, to be happy and loved, put together. Duncan is my hero. Methos is my hero. They each deserve the best partner I can think of. Who better than another of my heroes?

If I could have a wish would I wish I were a man for a day? Yup, but with a codicil -- I want to be, for a brief time, a man who is in love. And then maybe I wouldn't need or have the desire to write slash. Because then I would know.. Writing a woman and a man in love is fun and lovely but I can know half the equation -- I know what it feels like to love a man as a woman. I want to know what a man feels like when he is loved. And I can't get there from here.

So I keep going *there*.

Because the heroes are there. It's where the boys are. It's where I can visit and still come home to Seinfield and vacuuming. It's where I can be innocent of not knowing...and heroic in giving.