Men On Men: Why Do Women Enjoy Slash?

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Title: Men On Men: Why Do Women Enjoy Slash?
Creator: rotpunkt
Date(s): 2005
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External Links: Men On Men: Why Do Women Enjoy Slash? ; archive link page 1; archive link page 2
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Men On Men: Why Do Women Enjoy Slash? is a 2005 essay by rotpunkt.

It is a bit like a primer and has a focus of Lord of the Rings and Tolkien.

It has 114 comments.

For additional context, see Timeline of Slash Meta and Slash Meta.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts from the Essay

In many cultures that devalue or suppress female sexuality – even in the more ‘enlightened’ Westernized societies – slash fiction is a contribution to the sexual emancipation of women.

Perhaps not the most important contribution, maybe even a small one - but for many women slash is one of the few “cruising areas” where women can feel comfortable vicariously embracing the multifaceted world of human sexuality.

After all, even the smallest rock can shatter glass.

The essence of slash, some of the typical mechanisms that are at work, will be explained referring to the example of VigBean-slash here.

Lord of the Rings is one of many popular fandoms that inspire slash writing. LotR-slash (both FPS – Fictional Person Slash and RPS – Real Person Slash) has existed since the release of Fellowship of the Ring over five years ago.

Interestingly enough, neither the novels nor the films offer any possibilities for female readers/filmgoers to identify with strong, active or sexual women.

So here is the stereotyped dilemma of women - they can either stay at home and wait for their men, fight for emancipation and remain alone, or be an untouchable goddess-like figure.

Not a very encouraging, forward-looking, future-promising concept at all. However one must keep in mind that J.R.R. Tolkien, the creator of Middle Earth, wasn’t writing a feminist treatise, but a series of tales based upon Old English and Norwegian sagas, which doesn’t mean that the film, adapted to “modern tastes” in many ways, couldn’t have come up with a more updated concept of female characters.

But in a dialectical way, the films themselves incite rebellious ideas in women.

Women often have the stronger imagination, which has allowed them as readers to identify with male characters as easily as they do with female characters without fear of negative societal connotations.

Yes, we’re talking serious gender-role fucking here.

Was Freud correct about women having penis-envy when it comes to slash? Not in the least. Basically slash women just want to know how the other half lives (and fucks). Slash women are very happy to be female – we just want to read/write guilt-free about sex acts that we may never do or see and not have to worry about being politically correct (though anatomically correct is a must).

Even when there are strong elements of BDSM in a story, BDSM is mostly understood as an exploration into the depths of passion and devotion, rather than the cruel desire to dominate through the use of pain and/or humiliation. It is written as a lovestyle, rather than a lifestyle.

We know that not all VigBean fans (and slash fans in general) share this point of view, but to us it seems a contradiction in itself to reject BDSM elements in VigBean slash overall because the violent aspects of both men are quite tangible (not that BDSM itself is always about violence, mind you). Think of all the violent characters they’ve portrayed – from Sean’s psychopathic Jason (Essex Boys) to Viggo’s obsessed David (A Perfect Murder) - they are perfect for these roles because somewhere inside of them is this capacity for darkness.

Of course, Viggo’s sincere desire for peace, his respect and tolerance for other cultures, is one the many qualities we admire most about him (a nice butt is another). However, this is no contradiction to his ability to reach inside and bring to the fore his more primal instincts. His courage to openly stand up for his convictions, though it might not always be useful for his career, shows an inner strength, a resolve to fight when it’s necessary.

And Sean – the man whom as an enraged child smashed a glass door, embedding a long shard of glass in his leg, which he jokingly refers to as his ’shark-tale’ scar. Sean as a young man, the leader of a local street gang called The Union...

What is supposed to happen when two men like that meet – two alpha-males?

There’s no way this is gonna be all nice and fluffy

Slash is much more than porn.

Slash actually treads in territory even mainstream porn can’t or won’t follow. Non-consensual sex, interspecies sex (elves and men, dwarves and hobbits, etc.), male pregnancy (yes, that’s right) and incest are just some of the themes slash writers and readers immerse themselves in – safe in the knowledge that they are experiencing such taboo topics in the comfort and privacy of their bedrooms.

But well written slash covers more than aspects of sexuality. Philosophical and psychological issues are analysed, the connection of sexuality with other problems and fields of life is seen very clearly and without shame. The characters are complex, the development of the plot is profound. The stories reveal not only a female point of view concerning sexuality, but concerning life.

The writing and reading process of slash is just as interesting and special. The internet has been a tremendous boom to this genre, which began its life between the pages of manually typed and copied ‘zines, traded and shared within the small science-fiction and fantasy communities. Throughout the World Wide Web, there are hundreds of LotR slash communities, easily accessible – many with their own set of rules, which has often sparked lively debates ranging from canon versus fanon (canon refers to stories that strictly follow the timeline and action from the novels, in contrast to fanon which unapologetically takes liberties with both the books and the films), the use of non-consensual sex as a plot device (some readers aren’t very comfortable with even written descriptions of brutality), and even whether RPS (real person slash) is a valid form of slash or potential libel. Some readers and writers debate the merits of certain pairings in contrast to others, and in certain instances have led to some rather heated exchanges on all sides.

Slash is still mostly ignored by the media – and depending on one’s point of view, that could be a blessing or a curse. The few articles dealing with slash that can be found in Germany mention the trend but are unable to come up with any explanations of possible reasons for the attraction of women to slash.

Slash is a gay-lesbian-hetero playground of the mind (and if written well, of the body): it deals with gay relationships, is written by mostly straight women to celebrate the beauty of the male body and sexuality, and the woman who writes/reads slash satisfies/enjoys the sexual fantasies and needs of other women.

It’s about women pleasing each other.

Women in the slash genre take the products of mass media, like the LotR books and films and use the material to satisfy their own needs and curiosities.

Seems only fair to us, considering the inescapable fact that the media and the culture in many ways still ignores and even fears the sexual needs of women.

Though this essay points out some serious background motives for the interest of women in slash, we shouldn’t forget we write and read it for fun.

Which is why it can be rather disheartening to see slashy women “flame” one another because they are divided into separate cliques with different but sometimes rigid paradigms.

It makes no sense to replace the narrow-minded system of rules that society tries to use to restrain and contain creative thoughts and ideas – those rules which we happily left behind us when entering the slash-universe – only to find ourselves blocked by another canon of intolerant restrictions.

The bottom line - for us, slash writing is about freedom – freedom of fantasy, freedom to express ourselves, the freedom to discuss and to share.

It’s our sandbox…wanna play in it?

Excerpts from the Comments

brigantine: I found slash quite by accident. I wanted a screencap of that most romantic of kisses, googled 'Aragorn Boromir kiss' and found a collection of stories by Cruisedirector, read them, and exploded in orgasmic delight. I read the entire collection of A/B stories in the Library of Moria and branched out into other pairings that didn't squick.

Like many fledgling authors, though, I couldn't find the story I wanted to read, so I wrote it. To my utter astonishment I got email from people saying they liked it! Feedback, I learned, is one hell of an addicting drug. *g*

I crossed over into RPS after being nudged in the direction of Rugbytackle, a place where all my cravings for VigBean were, and are, satisfied on a regular basis. What I love is how each writer brings something different to the relationship. Liar's Dance does a masterful job of putting Viggo and Sean in different roles (the Professor series) and different eras. Helens is phenomenal at writing kink. And the sex is hot.

The VigBean who live in my head stand on equal footing. Deciding who tops and who bottoms is a spur of the moment decision. The stresses of juggling two careers and four children are part and parcel of their (fictional) lives. They are free to indulge in both their masculine and feminine sides. For me, exploring a relationship free of gender roles (and the VigBean who live in my head refuse to be pigeonholed) allows me to play with the dynamics of that relationship. What happens when their 'odd couple' tendencies get out of control (Sean's neat to the point of freakishness; Vig's a slob)? How do they manage a relationship that has more days apart than together? How do they fight? How do they make up?

Why VigBean in particular? Because they're (gorgeous, beautiful, sexy) men who have reached a point in their (fictional) lives where they're old enough to know what they want and courageous enough to reach out and take hold of it.
mcirish454: Brilliant, brilliant thoughts and arguments and very true. I read/write myself(more reading than writing at times) and the freedom and enjoyment I feel in either are beyond gratifying and beyond fun. I only came across slash early this year, and initially thought it odd, then had to step back, and ask myself, if I considered myself an enlightened person, let alone woman, how could I judge, without seeing what it was? I found it to be stimulating and exciting, without the stereotyping and political correct-ness that todays world seems doomed to be confined to. Everyone who reads and writes to any type of fanfic community should read this, I know you have expressed the way I, myself feel and may not have been able to properly convey if I had to put it into words. You should be very gratified at not only your writing ability and creative thought, but also the fact that there might be many others that feel the same way and you have brought their thoughts and feelings to the forefront in a way they may not have been able to.
wyldestarr: The first thing that struck me is not at all slashy - "The kissing scenes (loves scenes – heaven forbid!) between her and Aragorn were incredibly tame and one got the feeling that Arwen had no sex life until Aragorn." Now I'm not a Tolkien purist by any means, but I know that if elves had sex, they were effectively married. She would NOT have had any sex life until they were finally and officially married, though for elves, the act of sex itself was the binding act. There was no hanky-panky and no free love in that culture. And rape could kill an elf. */end geek mode*

Beyond that, I think it's a really good introspective look at the slash fandom. I think we must read different slash because most VigBeans I read have them fairly even in alpha status and Sean is not the submissive one. I agree that they will often swap roles within the same story, letting another be 'more' alpha for an interlude. It all depends on how you prefer to see your pairing. I like a strong and alpha Sean - he can be quiet, shy, quirky, loving, silly...and quite often in complete denial of his slashy needs, but he still has to BE how I think of Sean. If I'm reading a story and he doesn't feel like Sean to me, I stop reading. It doesn't ring true. To me, I would say Viggo is more the submissive, yet, as a true submissive, has more power if he chooses to use it. In many stories, Vig is often found to be the one to slyly get Sean to realize he has these feelings and get him to open up and accept them. So rather than submissive, Viggo plays the more feminine role and given his personality, I think this fits. Viggo is the artistic and eccentric one, the poet and artist, and this is stereotypically viewed as less masculine. Sean is often seen as the strong silent man's man (or a bloke's bloke if you prefer). This is not saying either of them aren't masculine or male or anything, cause lord knows they ARE in spades. They just have different personas, different quirks.

And I highly doubt it's penis-envy. ;) Or what would guys have who love watching femme slash? *grins* Quite frankly, it's HOT, as in OMGHAWT! But I think the majority of us love our slash for our characters and their stories. The slash is great, but I like a lil story with my smut. It means more. We like to see people overcoming obstacles in the way of love, regardless of gender, and we want our boys happy, regardless of with whom they find it. Of course, some of us think we know better than they do. If we can just lock them in a room together for long enough, all the good slashy magic will just float down around em and bliss will be had...and so will they. ;)
strangekitties: *applauds* Telling it like it is, dear. One of the most thought through and well formulated essasys on the art of slash I've ever had the pleasure to read. :) Job well done.
christian howe: Your essay shed light to a few dark corners in my mind. I've been thinking slash for many years - and I hid it well, never able to share fantasies and desires. (Don't know why it took so long to discover slash on the web, but the day I did it rattled my life. And I'm happy to say that your stories made a very nice and significant contribution!!!)

There's one thing in particular I like in your essay. I've always been uneasy about hurting our adored one's feelings. Looks like you relieved me from my bad conscience. After all, it's their job to play roles written by other people.

I'm grateful for your 'enlightenment'. I'd like to friend you if you don't mind?
Red Minerva 17: Very interesting discussion (and essay). I've been a slash fan since the 70s -- yes, from the very first K/S stories (that's Kirk/Spock). For a number of years I even illustrated slash stories and poetry -- though back then, while slash was always controversial, RPS was rare, and thought, at the very least, to be disrespectful. (It could also have had something to do with not really wanting to imagine Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner getting it on....) Someone here made an excellent point about the LOTR actors and their easy-going attitudes, specific or otherwise, making these stories less of a guilty pleasure. 'Tis true.

I have a question for all of you -- how public are you about this passion in your life? Do your friends and family know of your fascination? Do you "recruit" friends to develop an interest?

In my case, some of my family know a little, but have never pursued the subject; they already think I am crazy at my age for being passionate about "an actor" (Viggo). I have found a number of friends through LOTR sites and have slowly introduced them to several favorite stories, which they've enjoyed -- but they haven't rushed out to link to a dozen slash sites, either. (At least I don't think so.) Other than these people, I would probably die before revealing my addiction (might as well be truthful!) to anyone else.

While here, I would like to recommend a book relating closely to the topic of the essay. It is called "Warrior Lovers -- Erotic Fiction, Evolution and Female Sexuality" by Catherine Salmon and Donald Symons, published by Yale University Press in 2003, and in Great Britain by Weidenfeld & Nicholson in 2001. It's a small book, 98 pages and the dimensions of a typical paperback. I found it some time ago on a website, which I don't recall, but it is an excellent treatment of this subject. The last third of the book is about slash. Another source that details the early history of slash and slash fandom is "Enterprising Women -- Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth" by Camille Bacon-Smith, University of Pennsylvania Press, copyright 1992. It's a surreal experience for me to read it, as much of it is about our group of writers, artists, and editors all those years ago. I don't know if either of these is in print, but both are worthwhile, particularly Warrior Lovers.

It's great that there's a place to post such a thought-provoking piece and encourage this type of discussion -- thanks!
rotpunkt: Wow, I´m in awe! - and a little bit envious, too, that you discoverd slash so early and I had "slash" on my mind for more than 20 years until I came across it in the net, which was like an enlightenment and "coming out". I know that slash will be a life-long obsession and I´ll still love it (and probably Viggo, too) when I´m very old, and it´s encouraging again to see "examples" and to know I´m not the only one feeling this way.

Concerning your question: my family and friends know I´m into slash. My husband is very tolerant (you can see him on my LJ a few entries before...), and he knew about my complicated sexual inclinations before, because we openly talked about it since we fell in love (20 years ago). He is completely different from me, very "simple" and "normal", and he often makes fun of my slash-obsession (all the walls in my room covered with VigBean-manips etc), but I know he accepts it (what may have to do with the fact that it inspires and heats on my sexual energy, and why should he object to that...?).

My children (nearly adult) think it´s funny but are not interested, so that´s no problem.

My two brothers just shrugged and shook their heads, knowing their "crazy" sister; the don´t really understand why I like it and commented that the stories I showed them don´t portray male sexuality correctly - "men wouldn´t think or feel like that." I answered that slash is more about what we (women) think how we would feel with a male body. Most male friends are not very interested, but also not taken aback.

There are more strong and contradictory reactions of women - either they find it really disgusting or they are attracted to it (and some of them were grateful I introduced slash to them). They seldom react indifferently towards it, like most men. The female friends that didn´t like it at all mostly said they feel uncomfortable with the thought of anal sex or with BDSM.

I would love to read the books you recommend but don´t think they are available in Germany - would you have an advice how I could get them? And could you please tell me what´s your favourite story of the stories you wrote (or several stories). I´d love to read something of you and want to start with a story you like best!

I couldn´t keep slash secret in my life, would be far to great an effort, I want these pictures at my desk, I want to read and write stories when I like to.
Red Minerva 17: Until recently, I had only Library of Moria for a source for RPS, then stumbled upon Mirrormere and Live Journal. I am a real novice at LJ, finding it extremely frustrating to navigate at the best of times. I have a link to RedMinerva's friends, which used to show up all the time with lovely entries from several sites, but now routinely disappears for days on end and I have no idea why. (If anyone can tell me what I'm doing wrong, I would appreciate it!!) I'm just the wrong generation, I guess.

Anyway, yes, I've often heard that slash fics don't portray male sexuality correctly, and I think that is very true. It fills a need for us the way it is, but I am also curious as to what men think would make it more realistic. I've been meaning to ask one of my gay friends, but haven't found the right time to broach the subject. He's pretty open, so I think he wouldn't mind, but I do worry that he will wonder from that point on whether I draw mental pictures of him having sex (I don't; I'm way too fond of Viggo to want to think of someone else....).

I have been wondering, do most slash readers think of these stories as "porn"? That always seems like such a nasty word, while I think some of these stories are quite lovely (yes, some of them definitely are porn, too). However, most seem no worse than the het romance novels millions of women read every day; however, I am not one of them (with the exception of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, which I love -- but that's a huge cut above most). If I have to call these stories anything, somehow "smut" (said lovingly and with a smile) seems a bit less objectionable. When I think of "porn," I think of greasy little men sneaking into dark shops, as well as some of the newspaper articles with horrific details of real-life atrocities that cause nightmares.... The slash stories are nothing like that in my mind.

The slash "legit" fiction I have read (and highly recommend) includes Patricia Nell Warren (The Frontrunner and others), Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Catchtrap and some of her wonderful Darkover novels, and, of course, Mary Renault (Fire from Heaven, etc.). These are not as explicit as what we are used to, but they are wonderful nonetheless, and imagination is an extraordinary thing! I wonder if anyone has other favorites to recommend?
ana lib elf: Wonderful discussions here, thank you to all -- and RedMinerva, delightful to hear from another long time (ahem) slash fan! Thank you for the book refs, esp to discussions of Trek slash --- I *must* check that out! I have been out of the loop for many moons and just wandered into the net scene this year --- Wow, do you remember "Spock Underground?" (60's hard copy circulation of erotic stories none of the zines would touch, both het and K/S premise) I must get out to the garage and see if I still have ancient copies of "Spockanalia" --- did you illo under another name? Would love to find your work --- Anywho, sorry for the babbling --- just thanks again for sharing and yes, I still like pointy-eared dudes and rather enjoy the elf thing. The King and friends are also wonderful reading. Cheers. ANA
Red Minerva 17: I think "Spock Underground" predates my involvement by a few years. I went to my first con in Philadelphia in maybe 1975 or so. It was there I first saw Spockanalia, though I never had the pleasure to work for Devra Langsam, I still treasure my copies of that old classic (besides, Devra never approved of the softer side of Trek fics, i.e., hurt/comfort and slash, where I later hung out). At that convention I also discovered Warped Space, and started working for Lori Chapek(-Carleton) some time later, first by writing "filthy" limericks, then doing some illustrating. Was friends with Paula Smith, did a cover of Menagerie at one point (Kor) [1], but then moved more into the "other" area of fandom. Had some work (I think) in Warped Space XX, also The Sensuous Vulcan -- one of the first (partial) slash zines that wasn't underground. Trying to remember others... IDIC and Nome... There were bunches of others, and I'm not recalling their names at the moment. If I have some time, I should dig through files and refresh my aging memory. It was so long ago!

I did mostly pen and ink portraits, most commonly in a stippling technique that literally took days but worked well for me. My preferred medium was pencil, but half-tones were beyond the budget of most fanzine editors, and I saved those pieces mostly for the art auctions. I worked under my own name in those days, my first name being Nan, if that helps.

Those were great times for awhile, especially the fan-run cons in Baltimore and East Lansing, plus a few private cons (most notably the K/S Cons, pronounced "kiss" cons, which you can only imagine!). However, by the time of the interviews for Enterprising Women, I had more or less left fandom due to the tiresome infighting and the disintegration of the quality of the stories; I also had begun a new position at work that required extreme overtime, and the stress of artwork deadlines was too much. In addition, the trend was running to more and more explicit artwork (do you remember Gayle F?), which made me uncomfortable since it involved the likenesses of real people who might well have minded (all of this was far more controversial back then than it is now...). Anyway, I knew a number of the women mentioned in the book quite well; my closest friend among them was Toni Cardinal-Price, whose tragic death and its impact on certain elements of fandom was discussed in one of the chapters -- quite unnerving to read about that in a public book.... I didn't read the book cover to cover, just reminsced through some of the chapters, and shuddered through one or two others. Very interesting to see that time chronicled, and think about how it laid the groundwork for what is still going on today.
ana lib elf: First, thank you for the wonderful reminisces! You remember many fascinating aspects of your --- 8 year trek. Sad to hear that the "Enterprising" book evoked painful memories of a good friend, :-( Hope there has been some peaceful thoughts since then. Some of the Trek names you mentioned are familiar --- Paula Smith, Warped Space, IDIC etc --- have to re-boot some old associations here --- Wish I had been able to stay active longer, and envy your continued activities --- Hmmm, if there was *ever* a way to gather a few of us vintage femfans in one place real time, it would be vastly entertaining to compare notes! (perhaps at some future SF/LOTR related event??)

*On* the topic of very early slash writing --- "Spock Underground" --- was a writer's group that circulated 1960's fictions "too hot to handle" for regular fanzines. The "head editor" would ask for a written age statement and leave it at that for membership. The process for these early K/S, or S/BEM, (hehe, that's old SF for "Bug Eyed Monster") fictions was to circulate them in the U.S. "real snail mail" with a "diary" of comments by all members. Each member would read, comment, and pass on and the stories would eventually find their way back to the author with a booklet of reviews. Simply a "hard copy" version of today's on line postings.

The generous exchange in this association was remarkable, and many comments would be as detailed as a college essay, citing line and verse to either praise, or give positive criticism. Not much out-and-out nastiness in hard copy. Some of the authors who participated in those days include some present-day *non-slash* pro-SF female writers --- so I feel a bit unsure about mentioning specifics, except to say that they learned from their first efforts and their passion matured into real professional ability. Hats off to you, ladies.

In terms of how this relates to present day fan fiction --- I believe that the creative nurturing of non-professional writers *by their own community* is the same now as it was then and is a unique and continuing phenomenon in the annals of the "enthusiast press" field. The net has facilitated an inter-connectedness and immediate feedback response that speeds up the whole learning experience. To paraphrase something Ray Bradbury once said, "Every writer has a million words of crap to get out before the real process begins." *Rings true* I do think some million words are better than others, but the concept of a peer group both writing *and giving feedback* is an ideal training ground.

I applaud those who write and those who comment, sharing time, energy and therapeutic emotions. I would love to see some scholarly "fan fiction" analysis tracing patterns and waves of interest --- more female participants than male --- age and populations trends etc. Anyone know if this *is* happening anywhere?? *clouds in my coffee*
ana lib elf: Regarding memories of the "Spockanalia" fanzine folks ---

Devra Langsam! Yes! and her friends Maureen (last name?) and Alicia Austin! 3 Canadian buddies (if I remember the origins correctly) came out to So. Calif. In the 60's for a major convention and hung with Bjo Trimble ("Save Star Trek" campaign) here in LA (Bjo is still around, silver haired and still helping SF costumers explore the Los Angeles fabric district! LOL) I don't know where Maureen is, but Alicia has continued to do some fabulous professional book cover art etc. (and various private commissions) and is now living with her "life companion" --- a lady manager/art agent, here in the So Calif. area. (*grin* my Middle Eastern dance troupe had her do a lovely b&w logo for our business cards --- if I can get the scanner to work, perhaps I can share a link to a jpg image --- just cause it's a pretty one!) Try here for a look: http://i9.photobucket.com/albums/a91/Li​bElf/PerfumesLogo-sm.jpg

I could on for *far* too long about the 1969 World SF convention at which all of the above ladies (plus myself and another fanatic friend) pulled off a surprise party for Gene Roddenberry called: GRAS "Gene Roddenberry Appreciation Society" where he was *completely* flummoxed by a room party presentation of an honor scroll, art gifts and other cool acknowledgements. Ancient history but very sweet memories --- somewhere I know I have some "instamatic" (remember those little plastic cameras?) pictures! *guh* takes me back ---

Oh my, I think I do remember "Nan" illustrations! (did you use those nifty ink pens "Rapidographs" sp? that worked so well for "pointillism" or stippling) --- I did a few illos under the sig "MAC" and another woman who still lives nearby did some under the name "Bush" RL did take me out of the convention circuit after about 1975 *sniff* so you have more recent (relatively!) connections to the evolution --- I read about the K/S cons and later complications. I *know* SF fans are by definition somewhat oddballs, and amongst that sub group we have a unique few that challenge the tolerance of many. (is that carefully worded or what?) Changes are inevitable, but there are still wonderful folks to be found --- and old friends to be treasured.
baby sheigh: Some extremely valid points in this. However, something you have not addressed that I saw in some of the comments: many readers and/or writers of slash tend to think they are the "only one". While it is a way to break down boundaries, work out issues and face taboos, admission to being female and liking/enjoying slash is still very much in the closet. I see women who find slash communities on the 'net for the first time constantly going "I'm so happy it's not just me" or "I thought I was the only one who looked at (insert couple) that way". In that regard, we do not seem to be making much headway in "coming out".

I have been playing with RPS since I was a teen. Within my "clique" we slashed any number of the wonderful hair-metal guys of the '80's (can you blame us?). Needless to say, it was only spoken of among ourselves as we knew it was taboo. While the community and culture of slash are larger today (thank you WWW), it still reflects as taboo and only to be spoken of in public in hushed whispers. Unless you're at a Con, then all bets are off, as historically this is how our "kink" was spread. Even so, most mainstream convention panels (DragonCon, WorldCon, etc) regarding slash tend to be at non-peak hours, and those of us interested know to go looking for them. (I haven't been to a Con in a few years, but I do check any schedules available. If I am incorrect, please just let me know)

Regarding the equality between two (or more) partners in a relationship in slash, many argue slash allows females to project their thought/feelings/beliefs through or onto a male persona. Allowing this to be somewhat true, it boils down to the simple adage "women are from venus, men are from mars". Each gender is fundamentally different, and I don't mean just physically. Society will never be genderless, in my opinion. As such, we are raised and have expectations made of us based upon our gender. While those lines continue to blur, I do not see where they will ever be completely eradicated. Maybe if science ever decides men do need to carry and birth babies :shrug: Can't see that happening as men just don't have that kind of pain tolerance, or ability to deal with a hormonal shift (which is why we have MPREG, because it's entertaining).
rotpunkt: Some nice supplements to our essay. I wonder why slash still is so "tabooed" - nearly nobody knows about it in Germany. When I offered this essay to one of the biggest gay magazines here they hadn´t ever heard of slash and seriously didn´t believe me such a thing exists... And slash can be really called a mass phenomenon in the net by now... You are certainly right there are and always will be gender differences - but you can´t find out the real and basic differences as long as society forces so many false and unfair pseudo-differences on us (such as: women are more passive etc.) Playing around with gender roles helps to find out how we really are and want to be.
thevixenne: Female sexuality itself is a taboo topic. Very few women know what they want, what an orgasm is or even how to achieve one. Sexphobic societies, even societies that consider themselves 'open' are uncomfortable with idea of women being sexually independent of men. If you look at magazines geared towards women, most of them talk about sexuality in what would be considered frank - but they also do so in terms of what men 'want' rather than what women need and desire. Even outside of the slash realm, ask most women if they masturbate or play with toys and you'll get either a fervent denial or embarrassed silence (from me you'll get a hearty 'Hell Yeah' and even my boyfriend likes to play with my toys too). Though I wasn't slashing the hot metal boys in writing, one of my hottest sexual fantasies was with Geoff Tate and Chris De Garmo of Queensryche - for some reason, they just looked as if they would have been the hottest thing together. I've always known that sexuality between men was a turn-on for me, but who could I share that kind of eroticism with? Most straight women will never admit they find even men kissing to be hot, much less full-on sex.

Also, the whole masculine/feminine dichotomy - it's old and tired and needs to be seriously looked at. A sensitive artistic man isn't necessarily a wuss, nor is an active and tough female necessarily a butch. Men and women may be physically different, but inside of them there are pretty much the same feelings and passions and needs. It's the socialization process that gets in the way and makes certain actions 'things that guys do/things that girls do'. When I write VigBean slash, I am very much aware of that, which is why I can have both men switch roles, or show their strength in much more subtle ways rather than just beating the living crap out of each other. And because I've been a part of the BDSM community for a while, what is strong to me may not seem that way to someone completely unfamiliar with that dynamic.

Thanks so much for the incredible response. We're both really thrilled that so many people are into what we were saying.
lasi: It’s interesting that you say that you would like to fuck SB yourself, but don’t have the necessary equipment. Does that mean that you find that the female genitalia an inherently less aggressive instrument of sexuality? Or do you mean that you desire to be literally inside of him in the way a man can be inside of another person?

Here’s something else: “Even though much progress has been made, there is little to no room for women’s sexual desires in the official mainstream culture. Most women-oriented magazines may speak frankly about sexuality, but more often that not, in terms of what a man wants – rather than what women themselves need and what turns them on.”

On this matter I agree with you wholly. I find that what is purported to address female sexuality in the mainstream, are really just thinly veiled attempts to sell something to men. I would really like to be the first to explain to the world advertising community that women do NOT achieve orgasm while shampooing their hair, eating yogurt or waxing the floor. We just don’t. Sorry, but it’s a little far from the action. Don’t ya think?

However, I wonder if simply giving up on using a real woman in your own fantasies really addresses the issue either. Instead of creating a woman who is sexually aggressive and confident enough to fuck SB, own him and be owned—unabashedly, you’ve simply inserted a man who, in your view, lives as the only gender that can put across (no pun intended;) your true desires. Haven’t you put the cat back in the bag, so to speak? If what you’re after is the true liberation and emancipation of strong female sexuality, why not use a woman to illustrate it? If you want to demonstrate authentic, feminine, sexual power is it really possible to do so when there aren’t any women in the room? Once more, please don’t be put off if my questions are direct. I’m really trying to understand, and it’s kind of important that I do. You see, I’m a bit of a writer, and I’m toying with a story whose main character is a woman who writes slash fanfic and I figure I’d better understand her motives pretty well. Therefore, I have to ask questions that others will ask her so I’ll know how she’s going to answer!
amaic: What a wonderful essay! What a lot of food for thought you have given me. I only discovered slash in the early months of this year and, having been a voracious reader all my life, am in heaven with so much to read. I have no idea why I find this stuff so erotic so I am still looking for an explanation and every article/essay I read on it definitely helps. One thing I do know: it's the m/m slash that turns me on not the het and not the female slash. There is a very valid point made here about women who **like** men. I love men and their bodies and slash certainly worships that ideal. But it is also the complexity of the relationships that draw me to a story. When I find a good writer I read anything they write (except for Harry Potter slash which I hate!). Anyway guys, thanks very much for this very enlightening article.

References

  1. Menagerie #14