I have a few male friends with whom I have a close, intense relationship.

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Title: the essay does not have an official title, and the one used here on Fanlore is a sentence near the beginning of the essay
Creator: Iain
Date(s): December 23, 1997
Medium: online
Fandom: Blake's 7
Topic:
External Links:
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I have a few male friends with whom I have a close, intense relationship. is a 1997 essay by a fan named Iain.

The topic is slash fanworks, with a focus on Blake's 7.

The essay was a post to a discussion about slash on Lysator, a publicly archived mailing list

Some Topics Discussed

  • what men are like
  • why slash doesn't appeal to men
  • Roj Blake and Kerr Avon and their relationship
  • people writing about fictional characters has an impact on real people
  • the author states that slash written as porn is fine, but don't let it become a serious statement on deeper relationships

From the Essay

I have a few male friends with whom I have a close, intense relationship. These relationships are in no way sexual.

I find it very difficult to write about this, because I don't think the vocabulary exists yet. The Iron John drumming-in-the-woods stuff is maybe an attempt to find such a vocabulary, but it doesn't quite come off.

Avon and Blake obviously, so obviously don't have a sexual relationship because they so obviously have a strong, close bond between them that is of a completely different character.

Now I'm straight, but I can imagine what it would be like to think of men the way I think of women. I can imagine being sexually attracted to men: in fact, I can think of a few men who I would almost certainly fancy if I were gay. I can imagine falling in love with a man.

Close friendship is just as deep, just as intense, just as important. But it is fundamentally different, not just sexual-love-without-sex.

I can believe Blake is gay. I can believe Avon is bi. But I cannot believe they have sex with each other because I _know_ the kind of relationship they have, I've _been_ there and it just wasn't like that. Bloodless revolutions and other silly plots not only aren't in the same league of wrongness, they're in a completely different sport. Blake being naïve violates his character, the good guys winning without cost violates the tone of the series, but Blake and Avon shagging violates everything I know about relationships between two men.

I have a background in cosmology, which means I'm comfortable with making sweeping statements based on small-number statistics, knowing that I could be making a total arse of myself. There seems to be a definite gender division on this point. I think women generally just don't grasp this kind of relationship. I think that's why slash seems to be written largely by and for women.

I was reluctant to enter this discussion, because it's the sort of subject where people can seriously offend each other without meaning to. If I've done so, I'm sincerely sorry.

I've spent much longer on this one message than I intended, partly because it's stuff I find difficult to articulate, partly because I'm uncomfortable about opening up on this subject. I just realised, much to my surprise, that it's something I feel strongly about.

I'm an atheist, anti-censorship and entirely unconcerned with other peoples' sexuality (hey, I do amateur theatre). I would never wish to stop anyone reading and writing what they damn well choose. I just feel that a kind of relationship I value greatly is being devalued or ignored. I'm sure this is being done quite innocently and without malice, and I can't think of any reason why I shouldn't just shrug it off.

Funnily enough, slash as simple porno titillation doesn't bother me at all. It's slash as an exploration of the Blake-Avon relationship that I have a problem with. I find that whole idea wrong, annoying, and hurtful. I'm amazed at myself, that I can feel that someone else's ideas about two fictional characters is hurting me by sneering at my deeply held friendships with real men, but there you go. I never was as rational as I like to think I am.

Right, It's Hogmanay. I'm away to drink beer and shout with my friends. We don't have a jungle to drum in, but the East End of Glasgow is just as good.

Fan Comments

Note: several fans reference an essay by Neil Faulkner that had been published on the list a few days earlier, see Slash - for and against.

As I understand it, Neil's main objection is that in order to accommodate the tropes of a slash story the characters have to be distorted beyond recognition. Broadly I tend to agree. [1]

HOORAY! YAY! Aboso-fraggin-loutely!

I agree 110% (and I'm one of these female persons whom Iain thought wouldn't agree!) One of the things that distresses me about m/m and f/f stories is the devaluation and dismissal of the validity of strong, same-gender relationships that are completely platonic. And I'm not just talking about fannish slash here, actually. One of the first encounters I had with it was in one of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels, where the heroine has (off-stage) sex with a female friend, and the implication (actually, it may have been explicitly stated) was that sex was the ultimate expression of their deep affection, and *not* to have sex meant that their relationship wasn't really that deep after all.

(picture of Kathryn tearing her hair)

Iain put his finger on it exactly. Deep platonic relationships are intense in another dimension, and to drag sex into it is not only completely unnecessary, but it takes a chainsaw to what the actual relationship *is*. It is a different *kind* of violation of cannonicity: a violation of the nature of relationships; to do a story where they stage a bloodless revolution of niceness is merely a violation of plot.

Thanks, Iain, for putting into words one of the things that's been bugging me.

Again, standard disclaimers; obviously people who write slash don't see it that way at all, and probably think we're talking through a brown paper bag. If I have given offence, please explain to me kindly, so that I won't do it again. [2]

… just a general comment on slash and gayness. For some slash fans, slash is about gay sex and they want to depict the reality of gay men and gay sex. For others, it isn't. We all have own particular interests, preferences, and kinks. My favorite slash

has about the same relation to real gayness as the f/f scenes in straight porn have to lesbians: none at all. The scenes aren't done for women; slash isn't written for gay men. [3]
I think the key phrase in Neil's article was his musing on men being emotionally 'mis-humanised' in slash in a similar way that women are physically and mentally dehumanised in male-written porn. It might be less offensive to the men being distorted, but it still makes me raise an eyebrow in the same way I do when someone writes about a 40lb broadsword. [4]

I'm starting to get really annoyed with this thread. Fanfic *is* male written. Men read it and they write it.

The idea that men should not write fanfic is repugnant to me. We've always been writing it, I remember my classmates writing slash back in the 9th grade.

Knock off the sexist crap. I can't help what gender I was born into. You can't tell the difference.

Get used to it. [5]

While there's been an underlying assumption that slash is written by women (which the majority is, so far as I can tell), I don't think anybody has yet suggested that men shouldn't write it. (And I should hope not - I've enjoyed most of the male written stuff I've seen, even that which does not appeal to me sexually).

Actually, sometimes you can.

!Generalisation alert! Women write emotions, men don't.

Not always true of course, probably not even mostly although I don't have a large enough sample size where I *know* the gender of the author, but I have read a few stories where I was not surprised to see a male name under the story title. [6]
I have not entered into this debate at all. But without over analysing the issue I would have thought that the quality of the story and the way the characters are depicted would rest more with the authors talent or flair for writing , rather than with what gender the author happens to be. I have read some very good slash ( m/m ) fan fiction and I was totally blown away to find that it had been written by a male ( a straight male ) [7]

I have to agree that most male writers don't allow characters to emote. For many slash readers, the whole point of the genre is the emotional relationship. Men tend to get caught up in the action, not the motivation.

I tend to find this true in commercial fiction as well. Men tend to write more exciting action plots, but I seldom care whether the characters survive or not. Women tend to write characters I care about, but the excitement often isn't there. A few great writers can handle both: JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings, Barbara Hambly (most all her fantasy books), Mary Stuart (the Merlin Trilogy).

And thanks Sarah for the fine statistics on how many men write fanfic - slash or gen. About what I would have guessed. Tho I've never quite understood why. The series fans write about are all action-based plots. [8]

References

  1. ^ comment by Ross, at Lysator
  2. ^ comment by Kathryn, at Lysator
  3. ^ comment by Sue C, at Lysator
  4. ^ comment by Ross, at Lysator
  5. ^ comment by Ross (?) at Lysator
  6. ^ comment by Julia J at Lysator
  7. ^ comment by Carol at Lysator
  8. ^ comment by Pat P at Lysator