Ever so slightly longer but not quite as thick

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Title: Ever so slightly longer but not quite as thick: Toward a quantitative literary sexology of Harry Potter fanfiction
Creator: blythely, Circe_Tigana
Date(s): Some time before 2006-02-26[1]
Medium: online
Fandom: Harry Potter, all fanworks
Topic: fanon, penis size
External Links: Ever so slightly longer but not quite as thick
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Ever so slightly longer but not quite as thick is Harry Potter meta in the form of a research paper analyzing the effect of fanon on characters reported penis size.

It has the subtitle: "Toward a quantitative literary sexology of Harry Potter fanfiction."

This is not the usual kind of meta essay, it is a semi-serious research paper including a survey of 100 Harry/Draco stories for mention of genitals and comparative descriptions thereof, including tables, charts and the AO3 commenter favorite, a Chi-square measurement[2] The effect is crackfic for grad students.

It was written some time before February 26, 2006 on a now-purged livejournal account. A version was added to AO3 on approx. May 21, 2013.

Notes

About the authors: Professor Blythe Lee (PhD, FRS) is Chair of Magi-Political Studies at the University of London, London, UK.

HRM Circe Tigana is Pirate Queen-in-Residence at the Royal Veela Institute, London, UK.

Article

Abstract and notes from the article itself:

Discussion regarding fanfiction tropes produced the observation that in one subset of Harry Potter fanfiction, "Harry/Draco slash" [HDS], Harry has a short, thick dick, while Draco's penis is long and thin. We tested the hypothesis that there was a consistent difference in how these two characters' genitalia were described.

Additionally, we tested the hypothesis that slash fiction authors in this subset of fandom did not place equal emphasis on the description of testicles as compared with penii. We surveyed 100 HDS stories in online fanfiction archives and collected data on sexual description and content. Here we present the first quantitative test of fanon stereotypes and show that these explicitly sexual stories contain low levels of visual/sensory genital descriptions. Qualitative comparisons demonstrate trends in support of both hypotheses, although sample sizes prevent statistical significance. We use these findings to discuss how fanonmay develop despite the incorrect assumption of perceived ubiquity.

Comments at Archive of Our Own

2013

[Dying]: I read this while avoiding writing up my final year research article. I laughed. Hard. Full hysterics for about 10 minutes. I think my housemates think I'm broken. Seriously, love it.
[birdsofshore]: Hee, I've seen this referred to in the past but never been able to find it anywhere online! Bloody brilliant - fascinating, funny, and strangely hot as well...
[JenniferEsther]:

Great fun to read. Of course like any good study leads to more questions. The most interesting and impossible one would be actual ages and genders of authors, yeah internet! het vs. slash would be interesting to see if there is a variation in number of descriptors.

I felt just like a grown-up reading something with graphs and numeric analysis at lunch though I did not let any co-workers get close enough to see titles of the graphs.
msilverstar:

ohboy now I'm going to be tallying penis descriptions for every story...

I think there's an attempt at fairness in "slightly longer but not as thick", and not nearly enough small penis fic.
[Caltha]:

I cracked up so hard at this that my housemate, watching me askance, muttered, "I think you're being too entertained by this and should stop reading." Instead I kept quoting him sections and turning my screen around to show him the graphs. And laughing until I cried.

THIS IS AMAZING. Oh my god, this is the best thing to read after finals. Like, on the one hand, SO ABSURD AND FANTASTIC. And then also, SO CAREFULLY MADE! And it's such a great question and investigation, re: completely fanon tropes (obviously canon provides no direct input on Harry vs Draco's respective penis sizes), and how fandom comes to an implicit consensus on things like dick descriptions without actually overtly including them in a majority of fic.

I'm super interested in the follow-up questions, and now I'm mentally mapping them out onto other fandoms. (Teen Wolf seemed particularly quick as a fandom to come to group near-consensus on matters of cock size, respective sexual identities, etc.)

One of the more important variables for cock vernacular and presumption of circumcision in HP probably is the geographical location of the writer, though god that info would be painful/impossible to find for every author in a sample. Anecdotally, I've noticed that Americans sometimes forget that not every country circumcises the majority of boys by default, and certain terms tend to stick to one side of the Atlantic. ('Prick' and 'bollocks' being more often used by Brit-English speakers, or writers who've taken care to sound English.) Oh, and because Harry Potter is set time-shifted a few years back from when the books were published, there's a hinky blurring of generational language and safer sex habits in a lot of fannish conceptions of the characters. Harry was born in 1980, putting the Hogwarts crew on the tail end of Gen X; in book-time, he turned 17 in 1997 during Deathly Hallows, but in real-time DH was published in 2007. A kid growing up in Muggle England in the 90's would have found/been given different sex info than one growing up in the 00's, leaving aside the question of the writer's own age and exposure and the lack of canon info about what kids in Wizarding England would have been taught.

Anyway! God, this is just fantastic. I really appreciate the detail and care taken with this, and the references back to related academic work. I spent the entire time reading it making high-pitched noises of absolute delight when I had breath to spare from dorky, doubled-over laughing. Thank you for posting it!
[NearlyNina]:

Interesting study, however I did note several things which were not mentioned and which most likely could be of significance.

1. There was no mention of the physical descriptions of characters included within the actual Harry Potter books. Draco is described as being tall in the Epilogue for example.

2. There was no mention of the fact that the books are about school children and I saw no reference made to any attempt to control any variances that may have occurred either within the specific variables you were looking at or how that may differ from other fandoms and their slash. For example, did you only look at post-hogwarts and thus adult-aged fanfic or was it a mixture? And might that have had an effect on the way in which description was used?

3. You mention at one point that there is less overtly sexual (as opposed to romantic) action and description than you might expect in Harry/Draco slash fiction or than as is present in mainstream gay erotica and offer the hypothesis that this is likely due to the fact that slash fanfic is largely created and consumed by a female fan-base. You then suggested further study to compare the two different markets. While I think the female emphasis in author and readership is likely one reason for this, the fact that there was no mention of the school-aged canon basis (and the resulting uproar and backlash that occurred against readers and writers (Rules on fanfiction.net for example and a similar situation in Digimon fanfic)) for fanfic stories I feel leaves out a significant reason for why there might be less of an emphasis on more sexual descriptive or explicit material (The average age of both the readers and writers could also be of key importance here). Many other slash fandoms which do not have a school-aged canon are far more sexually explicit and/or have memes specifically organized for fulfilling sexual prompts (The Supernatural fandom being the epitome of that example and having a far older fan base).

[Lobelia321]: I am now digging up a dog-eared and never-read second-hand paperback on statistics we have flying round the house because I LOVE chi-squares (and have no idea what they mean) and I LOVE this and want to read more, more, more. If only all of the Journal of Transformative Works (or whatever it's called) were like this... I am so completely enthralled by the mix of hilarity and science here, both producing thrilling insights into this madness of fandom. You are both teh awe.

2014

[lucereshine]: I'm crying. AHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA I love fandom.
[alasweneverdo]: The words "implausible placement of the anus" just made my day.
[TheEvilOverlady]:

This is amazing!! I've recently submitted my biochemistry dissertation and had threatened to burn the next academic journal article I came across but this is just fantastic!! I'm supposed to be revising for my last exam of my university career (in less than 2 days) but I discovered this... I don't even feel a little guilty.

I am so glad my housemates are away this week; I've been full on cackling for the past 15 minutes. It hurts to breathe now... The phrase "implausible placement of the anus" had me actually crying.

Aaah. I love fandom! It's like the best of humanity squished onto the internet to control the lives of 'fictional characters' less fortunate than ourselves. Everyone knows they all actually exist in parallel universes. *Nods sagely*

*Runs away before looking like a complete basket case*
[luvtheheaven]:

I saw this linked on metanews and I couldn't resist checking it out. :D

I've never read a HP slash fanfic in my life, except for when asked to be a beta for 2 non-sexual chapters of something (the first chapter of one Harry/Draco m!preg fic and the first chapter of an Albus/Scorpio fic (so slashing of Harry's & Draco's sons instead). In general, I've avoided NC-17 fics as much as possible within the past 5 yrs that I've been reading fanfiction, and while I have ended up reading probably a total of 10 fics with sexual content (I'd guess 5 of which were slash in the Glee or Teen Wolf fandoms), I have on the large avoided it. Still, I found this to be such a fascinating read and analysis. I think anything/everything that we can try to study about fanfiction we should.

Fanon is always such a fascinating concept - people don't realize that in the books, in canon, Sirius/Remus/James/Peter never were "The Marauders", for instance. They created the "Marauder's" map (note the placement of the apostrophe) and later, after fanfiction had gone wild, JK Rowling confirmed in an interview that them being referred to collectively (or them referring to themselves collectively) would be fine as "The Marauders".

Other fanon things I'm most familiar with are like on Glee, every single fic I've ever read that brings up Finn's mother/Kurt's step-mother Carole includes the fact that Carole works as a nurse. In the actual show Glee, Carole's job is never mentioned in passing, and we have no reason to suspect she is a nurse any more than a number of other potential jobs a single mother might have. It's somehow become ingrained in all of our minds that the kind, wonderful mother that was a struggling single parent at the start of the show would be a nurse, though. Plus, it's fun to deal with the possibility of people growing hurt/injured and her being able to be there to help.

A few things struck me as I read this analysis of yours on explicit Draco/Harry writers' descriptions of their cocks. You mentioned you found the "first 20 stories" on each archive, but I assume you don't mean the OLDEST first. You weren't clear about what "first" meant, as it could've meant - first, in terms of the first 20 you'll scroll by/see when you log in, and that could vary depending on what the site is - the most recently added/updated ones, or potentially some other factor could be at play (randomization, popularity, etc.). I would think for the development of a fanon trend such as this one, it would be very useful to consider older fics. In a fandom as huge as Harry Potter, maybe not the first 100 fics about Draco/Harry and sex, but maybe the first 100 written after book six first came out when some HP characters first became more sexual in canon, or some other determining factor. Maybe if one could track when the popularity of Harry/Draco slash began to skyrocket, whatever fics were at the very height of this. And one relevant point I'd like to mention is that keeping it to only 1-per-author might not actually be the best way to control the study. Because certain popular, talented authors might have created the fanon all on their own by writing the cocks the same way in all 3 of their 20,000 word Harry/Draco fics, and then readers who proceeded to become writers themselves might've internalized (well, not just 1 but 3 fics have described them this way, so this must be how it is) without realizing that was merely 1 writer's interpretation/imagination.

I noticed on the "fanon" TV tropes page that people think in Puck/Quinn (Glee) fics, Puck's unnamed-on-the-show younger sister is named Sarah as a typical fanon thing. The Glee wiki mentions this too, and then both sites proceed to say "if she's not Sarah, then she's always Hannah". I think this is a false guess at fanon based largely on the fact that there are very few Puck/Quinn fics in existence, and there is one writer who tends to include Sarah and write a LOT of the fics that you can find about this ship, and 1 other writer who writes quite a few Puck/Quinn fics as well including Hannah. I feel like people have forgotten how overwhelming just 1 author can be as an example if a ship isn't written about enough. So it's a complex question.

2015

[dragonstag]: This is absolutely hilarious and wonderful. Best meta article I've ever read. Can't believe I only found this now, I must've missed so much! I'm definitely going to refer back to your research techniques when I'm struggling with my Humanities research report, minus the cocks of course. *cackles uncontrollably at article*

2016

[kissmewithfire]: Oh my god i'm dying. Having literally just finished doing my research proposal for my dissertation I needed this so much. You have no idea how happy this makes me, thank you for taking the time and doing this. A work of art.
[Shannon]: Having recently presented a psychology study I did at a poster session, I was very amused and intrigued by this study. Very well done and thorough, should get it published sometime hehe

2017

[Alex_Storm]: "[3] The "other" in question was a snake." This was the part that did me in, I was howling. This is truly a work of scientific fan awesomeness. Thank you for sharing your work!
[ruby]: The internet was created specifically to publish this steaming horseshit. I love it

References

  1. msilverstar's personal email archives
  2. Ever so slightly longer but not quite as thick: Toward a quantitative literary sexology of Harry Potter fanfiction with comments enabled