How slash saved me

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Title: How slash saved me
Creator: Audrey Lemon
Date(s): Winter 2002
Medium: Good Girl (a Canadian zine)
External Links: How slash saved me (now sadly offline)
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How slash saved me is an article in a zine called "Good Girl" by Audrey Lemon. It is cited in Kirk, Honey. It's Me, Spock!.

It is a fan's introduction and foray into slash. She attempts to understand why slash appeals to her, talks about geek culture, discusses hurt/comfort, and explores the uncomfortable role of females in slash fiction.

She condenses all the current theories of why slash is popular and admits there is an essence of truth to all of them but "...the fascination of slash is not a cerebral one. Its appeal lies much further south of the cranium, and it taps into things that are deeper, more visceral, and sometimes more disturbing than any of these theories touch on."

She ends the article by writing: "It made me feel like I was entided to my fantasies. Entided to my desires, not trespassing on ground reserved for the thin, the hip, the beautiful. And finally, when I met another slasher who was interested not only in my stories but in the troubled body I had excluded from them, I made an important discovery. By writing my body out of my stories I had, somehow, written myself back into my body. It was as though, having come back to it from an unexpected angle, I found it wasn't so dangerous and uncomfortable a place after all. And suddenly it seemed like it might all be worth it after all - like I could move beyond the realm offantasy and embrace the reality. For now that my body felt like somewhere I could inhabit without fear, I felt I could, for perhaps the first time, truly share it."

This article was reprinted in full in DIAL #24.


When I was five, I had a near-religious devotion to the TV show Emergency! I was fascinated by the paramedics Johnny and Roy, who spent an hour each afternoon rescuing various attractive women and children from disaster before returning to the jolly fire-station bunkhouse together, their matching uniforms barely wrinkled. At night as I fell asleep I used to tell myself stories in which their adventures continued, onlynow it was each other they had to rescue, braving burning buildings and collapsing bridges to emerge safely reunited at the end.

And I have to admit, these stories [hurt/comfort] get to me. Bring me guilty pleasure, make me weak in the knees. I can't explain just what the appeal is, and I'm troubled by it. These stories start to feel like dangerous ground, the kind of thing that people use to argue that women are inherently masochistic. Or maybe the expression of a fierce, deeply held hostility against men, that these charaaers we claim to adore should be made to suffer so terribly to earn their happy endings. It made me start to wonder just what hurt, what wounding this is that we all seem to be struggling to write out.

Another troubling thing is the peculiar way that women themselves are depicted in slash. Some people do write guy/guy/girl slash, but they're in the minority. Far more often, women play strange, peripheral, circumscribed roles. Sometimes they are obstacles, or even villains, threatening our heroes' tender love. Sometimes they are safely asexual, their sole purpose apparently to take the two men aside, make them tea, and point out that they are clearly in love. In other slash universes, women are simply absent, to the extreme, in one long-running X-Files serial, of having magically vanished from the earth, leaving men to take over the task of child-bearing through the development o f strange hermaphrodite navel-vaginas. It begs the question, what does it mean that all of these female-authored stories - which, I'd wager, constitute one of the largest existing bodies of erotica written by women, for women - should hardly feature women's bodies at all?

...geek culture that makes people roll their eyes and mutter "get a life". A lot of geek culture is devoted to the construction of fantasy lives of one son or another, fantasies that often bear little resemblance to our 'real lives'. However, to simply dismiss this, the way so many seem to do, as useless or pathetic does geek culture an injustice. Fantasy is more than simple escapism. Geekdom often attracts people who, for one reason or another, find the culture we live in alienating or unsatisfying. Fantasy, at its best, can be a way o f envisioning how the world could be different, and I think that some of these exercises o f the imagination can contain the seeds of real change.

I don't think I'm entirely alone in having ambivalent feelings around sex. I think our culture can be tremendously sexually wounding, particularly to women. Not only are we surrounded by the existence of various kinds of sexual violence, but we are also confronted with unrealistic ideals of beauty and a cultural fixation on image that lead to self-hatred in many women. I would also argue that encoded within those ideals and images is another, more subtle attitude, an attitude that desire is seemly only in the beautiful, and is laughable, pathetic, or offensive in anyone else. And as for desire itself, we're given highly mixed messages about what it means for our bodies to want, and for us to seek for those wants to be fulfilled. These are intense pressures, and for some of us, all o f this conflict and ambivalence comes to focus on and to inhabit our individual bodies, until they become locations not o f pleasure, but of discomfort, dissonance, even fear, leaving us deeply estranged from our own sexual natures. And what I think slash allows us is a safe place to explore some o f this for ourselves. We can distance ourselves just enough from the dangerous territory of our own bodies to explore the things that push our buttons, without the discomfort becoming overwhelming, without our own inner voices making the fantasy fizzle. Through Kirk and Spock or Mulder and Krycek we can start to write it all out - all our own feelings o f woundedness and desire for comfort, our own anger and dreams of vengeance, our own struggles with passion and desire, shame and power.

... we don't have to do this alone. For this is one more important thing about slash: it is shared - disseminated and discussed through a peculiar network of zines, email listservs, websites and even conventions, a half-seaet community that has grown up around it over the years. It is this, I think, that helps build slash into more than simple escapism. It is a powerful and changing experience to put this material out there, the feelings, struggles and preoccupations that make up your fantasies, and have other people not only accept them, but respond to them, praise them, and beg you for more. Powerful to have other women share their fantasies in turn, and to discover that they are not so different from your own. I have found it very moving to get to know other women through slash, to meet the female minds and bodies that were behind the stories, and see how these women were coded into them in so many ways. I've met women ofall ages, shapes, and sizes, who accepted, without shock or censure, that the imperfect body they saw before them was the home of the fantasies we had shared, and who talked about their own without embarrassment or shame.