Het

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it is woefully inadequate

Trope · Genre
Synonyms: M/F, Hetfic
Related: adult, slash, gen
See Also: UST, pairing
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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Het (heterosexual) is a subgenre of romantic or erotic fanfiction. It can also be used to describe other types of fanworks. The label het generally indicates that a fanwork is focused on a heterosexual relationship or male/female encounter.

The relationship may be stated explicitly or merely hinted at. In terms of ratings, het fanworks can range from hand-holding to graphic sex. If a story is labeled "het," the het pairing contained within may or may not be canon.

Like other such labels, there's a certain amount of subjectivity involved: a story might be labeled gen by one fan and het by another.

History

The earliest romantic fan fiction -- what would today be called "het" -- were sometimes called "lay" stories (lay-Spock, lay-Kirk, and so forth, also "get 'em laid"). "Lay-Spock" is also found in a transcript of a Star Trek convention panel interview with Devra and Debra Langsam, Joyce Yasner and Sherna Burley, reprinted in the Langsams' Masiform D 3, September 1973. This is possibly the earliest published usage of the term. Camille Bacon-Smith also uses "lay-" in her discussions on romantic fan fiction in her book Enterprising Women.[1]

In zines, the term 'Adult' has often been used for more explicit het content, with non-explicit m/f relationships falling under 'gen'. At times, MPAA film ratings are used, as in the years prior to the age statement and labeling.

Labeling fiction with "het" appears to have begun around 1999. Some fan comments from that time:

I've been in fandom and writing fanfic since 1978 and I have never heard this term before. Of course I've been active in zine fandom and I write buddy stories. I don't really care for romance in any form be it slash or het (if I'm using the term right). So that may be why. I always thought people who liked het romance were called 'shippers. [2]

The term is relatively new, but the category isn't . . . calling the category "adult" just doesn't work anymore, though, now that everyone's on the NC-17-label bandwagon and a lot of stories are labeled NC-17 (i.e., adult) for reasons other than het sex. Besides, there's a lot of 'shipper stories that aren't adult in content, and a lot of het stories that aren't 'shipper stories. It may depend on the fandom. Shipper works fine for X-Files, but I'd never heard that term before XF, and I've read oodles of non-canon het Blakes Seven smut that can't truthfully be labeled (relation)shipper stories.

Also, when I got my fanfic primarily from zines, the difference between slash, gen, and adult/het was never a problem; the zines I read were either gen (really gen), slash, or adult mixed, and they were all clearly labeled as such in the ads. In the mixed zines, the table of contents would either have each individual story labeled with pairing headers, or all the slash stories would be marked and -- since it was an adult zine in the first place -- I could safely assume all the non-marked stories were adult het. In the last few years though, at least online, the adult(het) category has tended to get absorbed within the gen category, when it really doesn't belong there: hence, we have this false polarity between genfic and slashfic, the notion that they're opposites rather than options, that people are either "gen fans" or "slash fans", lists and stories are either gen or slash, etc., etc. . . . all these false polarities that drive me batty, because the true polar opposite of slashfic isn't genfic, it's hetfic (by whatever name).

I don't think I'm trying to create a new category here -- just resurrect an old category, with a more precise name. [3]

Meta/Further Reading

References

  1. Discussion of early Hurt/Comfort in LJ, and its relationship to "het."
  2. comment by Sheila Paulson at Labeling, the good old days <G> (December 21, 1999)
  3. comment by Bagheera at Labeling, the good old days <G> (December 21, 1999)