Fandom is NOT mostly slash

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Title: Fandom is NOT mostly slash
Creator: olderthannetfic
Date(s): December 21, 2016
Medium: online
External Links: Fandom is NOT mostly slash; archive link
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Fandom is NOT mostly slash is a 2016 tumblr post by olderthannetfic.

As of February 7, 2017, it had 1,952 notes.

Some Topics Discussed

  • the assumption that fanfic is predominantly slash
  • Kismet, the first published femslash fic, a Uhura/Chapel story
  • getting statistics from low-hanging fruit as an erroneous way to make assumptions

The Post

A sentiment I’ve seen going around a lot lately is that fanfic is predominantly slash. You see it in every “Why so much m/m?” rant and in most meta about AO3. I’ve heard versions of it on Fansplaining and much more blatantly and egregiously on One True Podcast.

But if you bother to look at FFN where shipping statistics are harder to generate, you see that het still outnumbers slash in most fandoms, and even the big slash fandoms often have more het than they do on AO3. If you look at Wattpad, Mary Sue/1D guys vastly outnumbers 1D slash. Twilight is a het juggernaut fandom, and it’s far from alone. It’s just AO3 where slash is king. That’s because AO3 was founded as a reaction to slash being less welcome elsewhere. AO3′s ship-centric structure that makes it so easy to get statistics you guys use to shit on slash was created because it was hard to search for slash on previous websites. Those sites were run by people who didn’t think it was important because they assumed most stories were the default, “normal” type: het. (Or, in many cases, “gen” with canon-ish plots with canon-level het content.) Complaining about AO3 being slash-heavy is tantamount to saying that people with similar tastes aren’t allowed to group themselves by those tastes. It’s saying that it’s not okay for there to be even one place where slash outnumbers other things.

It makes me angry that many of the big purveyors of meta in this day and age are so ignorant of recent fandom history that their arguments start from the blatant falsehood that most fic is slash. If most fic around you is slash, it’s because you’ve chosen to surround yourself with like-minded fans. Love AO3. Hate AO3. It’s up to you whether you use it at all. But don’t use it as a weapon just because you’re insecure about your own tastes or angry that nobody is spoon-feeding you longfic of your favorite ship.

This thought brought to you by marathoning a lot of old One True Podcast episodes while driving home for the holidays. (Seriously, guys, way to disrespect other fans.)

Next time you see someone’s meta starting from this assumption, call them on it.

Some Comments

[lizardlicks]: I mean seriously, I remember a time when finding an M/M pairing was rare as fuck and the author felt compelled to put a whole bunch of warnings on it just to make sure people went into it knowing full and well that two guys were gonna kiss and might actually have sex, lest they be yelled at for inadvertently tainting the reader with gay cooties forever.
[solluxisms]: “this is a LEMON fic w/ 2 guys, don’t like don’t read!!!”
[roachpatrol]: yeah this is like ‘within living memory’ kind of stuff for people who aren’t even 30 yet. like even ten years ago it was still an issue. when FFN decided explicit smut was against their rules, you can fucking bet the people who were getting their smut reported and deleted were first and foremost the slashers. when livejournal was wholesale purging ‘pedophiles’, they started with queer communities and gay ship communities. hence: AO3, which protects users from harassment, targeting, or unfair deletion. and which has a whole lot of slash, not at all coincidentally.
[kitsuneheart]: I run an entire panel on this! Specifically, I run a panel called “Don’t Like, Don’t Read: A Queer History of Fandom.” I’ve run it once, so far, but I’m doing it again at Sacanime Winter 07 (just a few weeks away), and I’m hoping to get in at YaoiCon and Fanime. If anyone is interested, here’s links to my slideshow and my speech itself. Sorry that the speech is a bit poorly edited. [1]
[cosmic-llin]: This is a really interesting talk, thank you for sharing it! I’m not going to opine on this whole discussion because it’s a little big for me to get into right now, but I just wanted to share a different perspective on Kismet, the earliest extant femslash fic with a known date (1977). The speech says that it doesn’t pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test because it’s “about lovers Uhura and Chapel speculating about their suspicions of a Kirk/Spock relationship”, and further suggests that it is “not a great example of femslash”.

First of all, for a piece of storytelling to pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test, it doesn’t have to exclude women talking about men, it just has to include women talking about something other than men. In this fic, Chapel and Uhura talk about drinks, dressing, their evening plans and the difficulties of being queer, and exchange expressions of affection, not to mention the non-verbal communication of their several-paragraphs-long sex scene.

As for Kirk and Spock, they are mentioned in two ways. First of all, Uhura and Chapel talk about using the suggestion of Chapel’s attraction to Spock as a smokescreen to hide their own relationship. Secondly, this transitions into them discussing (and being amused by) a rumour that Kirk and Spock, like the two of them, are secretly together.

I know I’ve seen the occasional fic that used a femslash pairing as little more than a prop for a dudeslash pairing, but I don’t think this story is an example of that. Kismet, as well as being a hot and sweet femslash fic, is a story about people failing to pay attention to things that are right under their noses. The crew of the Enterprise are so distracted by the mystery of whether Kirk and Spock are an item that they don’t even stop to consider that Chapel and Uhura might be. On another level, Kismet is a commentary on and a challenge to the fandom of the time - it’s encouraging fanzine writers to look beyond the established pairing of Kirk/Spock and open their minds to other possibilities. For me, the mention of Kirk/Spock in no way lessens the genuine connection between Chapel and Uhura in this wry and thoughtfully executed story.
[demideerling]: I agree with this, I’d just like to add another thing bc- while we talk about slash as being gay pairings in general, it’s mostly m/m stuff. Therefore you CAN make a complaint about the lack of f/f in most fandoms. Like unless the series’ characters are predominantly female, f/f stuff tends to be below most other ships. Sometimes even under gen fics. And this isn’t to criticize any fanfiction website itself. But like it is a problem in fandoms in general
[olderthannetfic]: [replying to bitternest] #fandom #history #ao3 #ffn #and yet somehow fandom still manages to throw f/f under the bus

Well, yeah, @bitternest, but I suppose that’s the subtext of this post: bitter femslashers (or, I suspect more often, bitter people who think they ought to be femslashers out of duty) often complain about the lack of femslash by blaming the presence of m/m slash.

It’s fair to say that there’s much less f/f. It’s fair to ask why. But it is objectively not true that fandom is all m/m or that fandom hates writing about female characters: het is very popular! So I want us to move on from blaming m/m in discussions of f/f to starting from a more realistic view of what fandom actually looks like.


  1. See the slideshow (on Dropbox); the speech (on Google Drive)