More on gender, late at night
|Title:||more on gender, late at night|
|Date(s):||June 8, 1993|
|Fandom:||Blake's 7, Pros|
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more on gender, late at night is a 1993 essay by Lynn C.
It was posted to Virgule-L, a private mailing list, and excerpts are included here on Fanlore with permission from the author.
Some Topics Discussed
- portrayals of masculinity in fanworks
- Kerr Avon (Blake's 7), Ray Doyle, William Bodie (The Professionals)
- "I'd prefer to think of slash as gender exploration rather than as a substitute for heterosex stories by repressed women."
- why the lack of f/f fanfic?
I was musing over why it is that Doyle is so often (even in the little I have read in Pros so far) portrayed as feminine, compared to a rather butch Bodie. Lots of stuff about his fey green eyes, his long hair, his slender frame... As Alex pointed out, Shaw and Collins are about the same height, but nevertheless, Doyle is usually somehow made smaller in the stories. Even at a non-physical level, it's usually Bodie who is the protector, the pursuer, the initiator, the "Man," dare I say it in such non-PC terms. (Even *I* knew to cast Doyle as Ingrid Bergman in my recast of Hitchock's Notorious! And Pam Rose made him Brooke Shields in Arabian Nights, right?)
I find this interesting since it frequently seems to me that Doyle is a bigger focus of fan lust in the stories than Bodie is (flinch--go ahead and jump on me, Bodie fans). Sure, Bodie gets his moments of pale fragility, long eyelashes, stormy blue eyes, but mainly he stays strong and butch and lusting after the virginal Doyle (eh, maybe not "virginal"). Alex says that Doyle fans of course must wax poetic about Doyle's cuteness, and even Bodie fans must wax poetic about Doyle since Bodie is lusting after Doyle... I suppose this may be; but what I wonder is, what is it about the portrayal of these men that requires such feminization? Is it a fact about the writing of sex scenes by hetero women, as has been said by many academics--that one character has to stand in for a woman, since this is really heterosex being written about, in clever disguise?
This doesn't seem quite good enough as an answer. What I find compelling is the amount of lust that goes into describing Doyle as fey and fawn-like (and gag) etc. It seems to me that there is something sexy about him even in his portrayal as "feminine." Since I am turned on by androgynous people, I can relate to this twist in the fanfic.
There was a discussion a while ago on the B7 list about Avon as androgynous and his sexiness because of that. Erszebet and [ Morgan Dawn ] and I concluded that he is a pretty butch queen in his leather and his pouts and his bitching. Then there is that fair skin, those long lashes, those X-brown eyes (fill in your favorite brown colored food for X: brownie-brown, [S]. Notice how he is always a bottom in bed with Blake, too...So: perhaps a lot of women are (along with being more open-minded about sexual fantasies than men) attracted by both macho and androgynous men, which gives some interesting leeway in the description of the character relationships and the sex. I'd prefer to think of slash as gender exploration rather than as a substitute for heterosex stories by repressed women, which we all know we are not. (By the way, one of my gay friends, when confronted with the fact that slash was written by hetero women, told me that "some of the best gay porn is written by het women." Made me feel happy.)
Now, why isn't there more f/f slash, given this diagnosis of slash? Well, I think of myself as someone pretty open to f/f slash, but my main criticism of what I have read and of the concept as it stands is that there aren't enough female characters that fit my notion of cool androgynous interesting women, let alone women with interesting relationships with other women in the media. I don't find Cally a turn-on, Jenna is better, Soolin appeals 'cause she is so cold, maybe Dayna (but she's so young)... Oddly enough, I really liked bitchy Tyce with her great mouth and lovely hair. That riding suit she wore was pretty sweet too. (Ahem.) Someone write me a slash story about her and I'll read it. (Incidentally, I liked Kasabi and Servalan in Pressure Point... slash potential at some point in their past?)
Am I alone in liking androgynous men and women? Does this analysis of the appeal of slash hold water for anyone else, or are we just repressed women writing about men behaving like women (yuck)?
I'd prefer to think of slash as gender exploration rather than as a substitute for heterosex stories by repressed women, which we all know we are not.
Generally, I think the stories I like best are the ones in which the characters are emphatically equal--this is one of the fundamental appeals of m/m slash, without a built-in power inequity based on gender--which is why I find it so annoying when Doyle (or Vila, or whomever) is portrayed as embodying the worst of the 'feminine' stereotypes!
Now, why isn't there more f/f slash, given this diagnosis of slash?The old question...why indeed! Perhaps some of the charge of it comes from putting men in relationships where they don't have that automatic power advantage, and watching them deal with it. I'd say that men generally seem more invested in power status than women (or am I deluding myself? But it does seem that women find it easier to work co-operatively, while men are insistent on establishing hierarchies...), and we are more accustomed to women being able to get along together. 
- comment on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (June 8, 1993)