Conduit: or, Sedgwick Revisited

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Title: Conduit: or, Sedgwick Revisited
Creator: Kristina
Date(s): June 12, 2004
Medium: online
Topic: Fanfiction, Smallville, Conduit Fic, Threesomes
External Links: Conduit: or, Sedgwick Revisited, Archived version
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Conduit: or, Sedgwick Revisited is an essay by Kristina.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.


I have a particular fascination with a type of story that--following Rhiannonhero's Smallville story Cherry Blossom Conduit -- I want to call conduit fic. [1] Conduit fic in its classical form is an M-F-M dynamic in which the female functions as the conduit, usually using the threesome to allow the guys the intimacy they otherwise cannot allow themselves (yet) In fact, the sex may even be purely het with the simple knowledge of the girl as stand-in or go-between (for example, one of the guys looks at the other while having sex or the woman may have sex with one and then the other, effectively being a substitute in both cases).

In these stories I gladly go het, because the serious emotional investment and attachment, all the tension, remains purely between the guys. There are quite a few first-time stories in various fandoms, where the boys slowly get comfortable with one another over or via the body of the girl (though the same dynamic actually holds true with a male as conduit as well; there the issue often is less the moving from het to gay sex as it is the emotional component).

In a way, these stories literalize Eve Sedgwick’s triangulated desire where the emotional investment is between the two men even though the apparent romantic involvements are between each of them and the women between. Unlike many of the texts Sedgwick studies, however, the conduit is not written out of the text. Often it is from her point of view, so that the obvious object (to be used in a power exchange, an extended flirtation, between the guys) suddenly becomes the central focus point for the reader. That not only allows her to become a subject, to gain agency that she seemingly loses as the go-between, it also allows us the perspective that we as slash writers and readers, of course, hold: we are both voyeurs of the dynamic between the guys as well as often wishful participants who wouldn't mind being part of this.

In other words, we are the conduit, in the sense that we, the slashers, make it happen. After all, we see the subtext, the sexual tension, and bring the guys together, just like the conduit in the story is the means to allow them to touch one another, to kiss each other. At times, the conduit may be aware of the sexual tension long before the guys themselves are. We tend to be physically absent from most of slashdom, but in these stories we write ourselves back into the picture with a vengeance: as an object of lust for both boys, as a voyeur to their intimacy and physical union, as an observer to their developing lust and love, as a confidante to their new and often unsettling feelings.