Homosexuality has as much to do with Slash as Civil War history did with Gone With the Wind.

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Title: Homosexuality has as much to do with Slash as Civil War history did with Gone With the Wind.
Creator: Leslie S
Date(s): May 13, 1994
Medium: print, online
Fandom: mentions much Professionals, but about slash in general
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Homosexuality has as much to do with Slash as Civil War history did with Gone With the Wind. is a 1994 essay by Leslie S.

It was printed in Strange Bedfellows #5 very shortly before being posted to Virgule-L.

The essay was quoted extensively in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins.

For more context and related essays, see Timeline of Slash Meta.

Some Topics Discussed

From the Essay

Homosexuality has as much to do with Slash as Civil War history did with Gone With the Wind. Burning Atlanta gave Scarlet something to deal with, and homosexuality has given Bodie and Doyle something to deal with -- sodomy. But GWTW wasn't about the causes of the Civil War, the plantation economy, battle strategy, and slavery. Just as slash isn't about gay rights, creating positive gay identities for Bodie and Doyle, and the exploring the gay male sex scene.

Two *heterosexual* males becoming involved in a sexual relationship is my standard definition of slash. Why specify "heterosexual" males? Because I view slash as a product of female sexuality, and I'll be frank here *but not Frank* slash is an intricate part of MY sexuality, and (surprise surprise), a sexual outlet.

Some of you are saying 'but they are having homosexual sex! Give an early slash story to a gay man and ask HIM if it is homosexual sex. Yes, Bodie and Doyle are both men, so homosexual is technically accurate, but hardcore porn is technically heterosexual but I don't see my sexuality in that, either. What I want as a woman, how I view sex and intimacy is not reflected in male homosexuality.

My attraction to a fandom starts with the televised character. If I am attracted physically to at least one guy and the character lends itself to being slashed (this isn't a given with me), then I'm hooked. I am not physically attracted to homosexual men. Portraying Bodie and Doyle is a "realistic" gay milieu is taking them from the realm of my sexuality.

Two heterosexual males *becoming involved* in a sexual relationship. Ten years ago I could have told you what tense that verb is. Suffice to say that to me slash is the process of getting these characters into bed. I referred to this as Process X on the list. Or, the characterizations from the television show plus Process X (whatever process the writer uses to bring the characters together) equals slash. Process X can be Pon Farr, a knock on the head, the gradual dawning of whatever lust/love, the point is that beginning with the aired characterizations gives us a common starting point. And like the Math test where the teacher wants to "see the work" seeing the author's process X let's us recognize the guys who end up snogging in bed together.

Two heterosexual males becoming involved in a *sexual relationship*. To say that there is no relationship between homosexuality and slash is absurd. To say that slash is just another name for homosexuality is equally absurd. We have appropriated men's bodies and sexual activities for our own gratification. Sounds a lot like the complaints about male porn made by women, doesn't it? I'm waiting the a demonstration by gay men where they carry placards complaining that we are using them as "relationship objects".

The relationship between homosexual men and slash has seemed kind of voyeuristic to me. In the early days when writers began running sex scenes by a gay friend to catch the "mistakes" (lubrication? no multiple orgasms? really???) I felt it was kind of parasitic. Most of my male friends are gay, but until recently I've never felt comfortable discussing the topic. Then I was introduced to a gay male Highlander fan and we started discussing putting Duncan and Richie together. Now I know why I didn't discuss it. His idea (they meet in this secret sex club where Richie was "trained") was NOTHING like the first time I envisioned. In a way I feel like Frank-N-Furter when he asks Janet what she thinks of Rocky and she replies that she doesn't like that many muscles. Frank replies, "I didn't make him for YOU". Neither was slash made for gay men.

Three years ago I wouldn't have made a distinction between sexual and homosexual. Since the beginning, slash writers have appropriated what we want from the physical side, adapted it to fit female hot buttons, and pretty much kept the relationship female oriented in terms of "true love", virginity, h/c, monogamy, etc. Now the situation has changed.

Somewhere along the line, our appropriation of the physical act of homosexual sodomy (why do we forget that there is such a thing as het sodomy?) has been coupled with the obligation to portray these acts realistically and to also give the characters the emotional make-up of homosexual men. The failure to do this is taken as evidence of the writers 1) naiveté; 2) homophobia; 3) social irresponsibility 4) all of the above.

My question, selfish and self-serving, is where do I fit into this? Something that was an extension of my sexuality is now being reality checked to fit the sexuality of a group of people who don't even READ slash because

Why is it our duty to accurately reflect the gay male experience? Is it the duty of gay male writers to accurately portray the lives of spinster librarians? How they interpret my life will be done through the filter of their own sexuality.

What is the difference between the slash and gay characters? "Slash" characters excite be being extensions of female sexuality while the "gay" characters excite by being a window into an alien sexuality, that of homosexual men. It is internal vs. external in a way. The writers who prefer their characters gay can find more conformity because they are reworking a culture that actually exists -- that of homosexual men. There is no island of slash men with sociological texts detailing their behavior. To find where slash comes from we must look inside ourselves.
Just as human sexual behaviour falls on a continuum between totally straight and totally gay with most people somewhere in between, "realism" within slash is likewise distributed between completely female oriented fantasy to extremely accurate depictions of gay culture. I personally see the gay material as homosexual porn using media characters. It hardly bumps my slash meter (though I can appreciate a well-done story and steal like hell from it). Fans of this end of the spectrum probably look down their noses at some of the goopy unrealistic stuff I like, but that's life.
If you want to support homosexual rights and gay males, then give to ACT-UP, the Gay Republicans (yes, they do exist), march in parades, vote the gay slate, but let's not give away the differentation between slash and homosexual pornography. More important let's recognize that slash is an extension of the author's sexuality. Women are always being asked or expected to sacrifice what they want for the good of men. Just because it is supposedly for the good of gay men doesn't make it any less of a sacrifice.

Author's Addition

By keeping slash defined as female centered rather than being about gay men, we are keeping it MORE inclusive. Anything that hits the buttons for a woman using media characters is slash. By not limiting it to "homosexual" relationships you INCLUDE everyone from the SWEET SAVAGE LOVE bodice rippers to the Bodie and Doyle Meet Mr. Benson crowd.

If you define slash as being about homosexual men/relationships, then you are excluding a large segment of fandom who are either not sexually stimulated by looking through the window into that lifestyle or are more interested in the fantasy element.

By stating that slash is not about homosexuality, then the term homophobe] loses credibility in terms of who can or can't participate. If you'll remember, the item that prompted my posting the essay was the last line in the panel description from Mediawest "is there a place in fandom for homophobia" or some such thing. That is being exclusionary.

If I was a new fan sitting at the above Media panel and I was about to write my very first story and it resembled a harlequin romance with penises, and I hadn't really read any gay porn nor been unduly curious about my gay cousin's sex life, I'd be pretty reluctant to write that story once the term homophobe had been bandied about. Again, why should female voices and sexuality be stifled for not furthering or realistically portraying the sexuality of gay men?

Along with a diversity of story types and styles, we need to remember that slash is a common interest in a diverse community of women. Unless we want to start sending out questionnaires with zines, then we should stay away from politicizing the stories... no...write what you want, but instead we should stay away from politicizing people's motives or assigning motives to fellow fen based on our own political beliefs. I will never read another Bodie and Doyle AIDS story, but I'd contribute my last quarter to defend someone else's right to.

I'd also like to be the beneficiary of that person's last quarter to defend choice not to "accept" the "fact" that Bodie and Doyle are gay. Again, all this can be avoided by keeping slash rooted in its femaleness rather than transferring it to the realm of homosexual males.

Fan Comments

wonderful essay: You ever see t-shirts where people have the entire text of the constitution or the declaration of independence, or whatnot? I think much of this essay would make a great manifesto (even where I disagree), but you'd get major tired of standing in one place long enough for people to read it.

Maybe just the short version:

*S*L*A*S*H* *I*S*:

Two **heterosexual** males becoming involved in a sexual relationship
Two heterosexual males **becoming involved** in a sexual relationship.
Two heterosexual males becoming involved in a **sexual relationship** [1]

Unless we all undergo sex change operations and brain transplants, our "femaleness" is a given. You, me, and Voltaire, we all agree that each of us has the right to express ourselves as we choose. The presence of stories depicting Bodie and Doyle (or whoever) as gay-from-the-womb, is not going to prevent me from perceiving/writing them as heterosexuals discovering a new attraction for one another. I don't think it's going to stop you either. I firmly believe that "realism" can be very well represented (or not represented at all) under BOTH scenarios.

What I sense in your comments is a concern that somehow we are beginning to censor ourselves and establish standards of acceptability for stories, i.e. if they're not gay, the story is "wrong". I think there are fans who may feel this way and perhaps their voices are more strident and, as a result, more influential these days. (I'd be very curious to hear if others on the list see it that way.) However, I believe the vast majority of fans just want something good to read, and that *good* is determined by those many emotional/erotic hot buttons that we all seem to share. As you point out, that is the crux of slash and I don't see it changing.

The growing diversity in fandom should, by its very nature, insure and enhance our tolerance, not undermine it. If we all thought exactly alike, tolerance would be superfluous. Life would be much simpler, and a lot more boring, too. Maybe we just need to remind ourselves of that fact if and when we're tempted to espouse one particular approach as the *only* approach. [2]


  1. ^ Sandy Hereld's comments at Virgule-L, quoted with permission (May 13, 1994)
  2. ^ comment on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (May 18, 1994)