not a tame lion: a boy's adventure in narnia

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Title: not a tame lion: a boy's adventure in narnia
Creator: ravurian
Date(s): March 29, 2007
Medium: online
Fandom:
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External Links: original post is here; archive; webcite
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not a tame lion: a boy's adventure in narnia is a LiveJournal post by ravurian.

It has 123 comments.

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

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

Although I've never been monofannish, my first true online fandom was the X-Files, and my first online home the TeR/Ma list. I don't remember that my gender and sexuality was much of an issue, except insofar as the occasional off-list email saying 'You're a boy who likes other boys. How does this work?' (to which, quite frequently, my reply was 'Pretty much virgin; no idea; I'm learning a lot from you guys and is that really possible?') Still, my point was that although there was some existential discussion of the variety that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years 'what does it mean that we, a community mostly composed of women, write slash?' the reply generally was 'who cares? It's fun'. My impression was that my gender and sexuality, and that of the many, many friends I made before I foot-stamped my way into a flamewar (mea culpa; I was a complete dick) was secondary and subordinate to our mutual enjoyment of the same source material and our delight in good stories, well told, that quite frequently involved sex. That the majority of list-members were women was a fact, but I always felt that we were fans, writers, friends and rivals and sometimes enemies (in a familial sort of way) first. Because we were disembodied online, I don't suppose I gave our bodies very much thought at all; we weren't online in the way we are now. If you were fannish, you were welcomed. If you could write, you were welcomed. If you could read, you were welcomed. If you were prepared to squee – hell, even if you didn’t! – you were welcomed. You were adopted into a family of sorts, with 'listsibs' and 'listmothers' and 'listfathers' or somesuch – the moderators, anyway – and you were, I don't know, raised into the culture, traditions and morays of online fandom in a way that no longer exists.
Chief of the things I hadn’t counted on was that in the intervening period between Escapade 2000 and Escapade 2007, 'by women, for women' had stopped being a generalised observation of a prevailing trend and became the motto of the ruling caste, retconned into law. I hadn't entirely registered that slash had split into 'slash' and 'femmeslash', or that 'slash' was now completely distinguishable from 'gay', or that the term 'slash' had become a synonym for porn. I had missed that dialogues regarding the paucity of well-written female characters – who in any case were largely marginalised in m/m slash for obvious reasons – seemed to have evolved into disinterest, hostility and contempt for them: women as obstacles, as irrelevant, uninteresting, unimportant, unworthy; female characters as TPTB's pathetic attempts to suppress fannish women; female characters talked about in the same misogynist terms I'd heard from my dad's ignorant, illiterate mates down the pub as a kid. You can bet your arse I didn't miss it when I found those same terms, that same language of dismissal, trivialisation and contempt, applied to the male characters in slash (which I found especially curious). I did wonder if I was imagining it until several other friends asked me whether I’d noticed. I assure you, I did. As one of perhaps three men at Escapade this year, and the only unknown quantity – minotaurs, bless him, is a tame lion (no offence; I think you know what I mean); and Mr Ken, likewise – I think I felt it more acutely. 'Who cares about motivation? They're only men! They just want to stick their dick in something warm'/'Doesn't even have to be warm, harharhar'/'Who cares as long as they're pretty'/'And have big dicks'/'Yeah, men don't talk/think/feel'/'Men are good for one thing and once you’ve spent it they’re good for nothing'.
I wondered at Escapade 2007 whether my observations as an outsider – Brit amongst Americans; boy in a girl-space; queer in a (largely) straight space; lapsed fan in a fannish space – might have coloured my observations unduly. I wondered if the very fact of my otherness positioned me to notice these things more, or made me more inclined to take them to heart. That seemed somewhat disingenuous since I was not the only Brit, not the only boy, not the only queer (of either gender), and definitely not the only lapsed fan wandering back into fold, but they say it always hits you close to home, don't they? All of these things are close to where I live, thanks. Misogyny, misandry and chauvinism were the very last things I expected to encounter. And there was also the distancing of slash from homosexuality, which I don’t really want to touch because I can’t decide whether it’s simply fact or in some way homophobic; I’m not going to go there. I get it and I don’t. Where I will go is towards cimmerians, who said that she found a curious undercurrent of homophobia present this year from female fans towards female fans. I mean, really, guys. What’s going on?
As buddleia says in the comments below, part of this is because fandom itself is now a world, rather than a collection of hamlets and villages. It has countries and continents of its own, and it is experiencing a population boom. There is no longer a fannish lineage as such, either, nor the internal peer regulations that list-based fandom possessed. Perhaps that's why I'm noticing all these things suddenly, because, y'know, people don't get raised right no more, LOL. In recent weeks we have seen numerous LJ posts where people have attempted to address the lack of courtesy and respect in fandom these days, and suggested rules or codes of conduct or similar. It is worth noting that the Lists always had such things; everybody knew what to expect in advance. If we weren't all self-governing, self-regulating city states and alliances, that might work, but we have no means of regulating each other. I'm not sure that I would want that responsibility, anyway.

Comments to This Post

This post generated 123 comments, only a small fraction are excerpted below. To read the whole conversation, see the original post.

[buddleia]:
Ha, cathexys was talking about that recently. More about the ways in which it doesn't have to be pernicious and homophobic, though acknowledging that, as it stands, it needs defence. I wonder how much of what you're seeing is due to a fannish environment which has expanded exponentially since HP hit the fan and is also, on average, considerably younger. It becomes less possible to maintain a single culture and suddenly the world and its prejudices seem to have broken in. Of course they were there all along, but they were, y'know, manageable.
[gramarye1971]:
his is something that's not restricted solely to HP and related fandoms. Anime fandom's been seeing this for the last few years as more and more series are becoming commercially available -- the average age of fans is dropping fast, and the attitudes towards fandom behaviour are seeing something akin to a demographic shift. And it's something I've noticed creeping upwards into the older fans as well....
[buddleia]:
Ah, I was unclear. I think what I meant was that since HP blew up, all of slash fandom - the concept of slash - has drawn greater attention and therefore numbers. And, I guess, from Kirk/Spock onwards, every new fandom is 'the BIG THING that draws all the kids', or at least I've heard old school slashers say that ironically quite a few times!
[temaris]:
I really, really think I need to work out what I want to say about this and post it. Because I'm seeing some of the same things -- and I don't think it's just about misandry, or misogyny, or equal opportunities homophobia, though those are emerging features of the whole thing.
[ravurian]:
Is it just that in becoming the establishment, one adopts the language and culture of the establishment? Can it really be something that simple?
[parthenia14]:
The reaction of bare-tolerance towards men in slash fandom is something that I do see on LJ quite a lot, and I completely fail to understand. The argument seems to go that because men are OMG oppressors in everyday life, and there are very few male readers of m/m slash, the ones that do exist should not talk about their reactions because a) it's not representative of slash fans and b) these men might be seeking to dominate the, er, slash agenda because let's face it men do dominate very naturally without even meaning to.

While I can slightly understand the anxiety about the response of straight men to m/m slash (because yes that can be fearful and homophobic), the response to men who like reading slash (and who are probably gay, bi, whatever) confuses me completely. I originally had slash down this hidden little world as one where we squeed together about the stories and the pairings, and your interest was what bound you together rather than simply your gender or your sexuality.

I've basically seen posts from women saying that men and transgender people can play as long as they behave; and I've seen men elsewhere say that they'd love to comment on the latest meta, but they simply can't get into it because their response would be dismissed or seen as an effort to dominate. While men are in a tiny minority like that, they simply can't win. I don't see this as a recent-fan thing either: I see it coming from the grand old ladies, who have decided that slash is mostly by women for women. The very young fans and also many of the HP fans seem to my mind more - I dunno, sexless about the whole thing? They slash because they can, and the concept of real living, breathing gay people remains somewhat hazy.
[cathexys];
All executrix was saying was that she likes her treehouse (which she built with the leftover of what her dad bought for her brother :) as is, and that's she perfectly happy to hang out with anyone of any gender who wants to come in and continue what the clubhouse has been doing, but that it's just not fair to come into her treehouse (when you have a bigger and better one next door) and tell her to do the same thing the big treehouse is doing...
[ravurian]:
I think possibly it's the assumption that slash is her treehouse, actually. It's a thoroughly inadequate metaphor, which a) assumes ownership of a literary subgenre, b) assumes that someone's contribution to an ongoing conversation is invalid because of their gender, and c) claims a gender privilege which is precisely what everyone's railing against. If the dialogue is about oppression (which I'm not sure it is), is using the language of your oppression to exclude others really the way forward, or is it merely passing it on?
[cathexys]:
But how is it an inadequate metaphor? Slash is a genre that historically was created by and for women. How is it false to claim ownership of it (esp. when the only people that are not happily let into the tree house are people who want to call something altogether different slash...)

Noone's claiming that the contribution is invalid b/c of gender (well, I'm not claiming it and neither was anytone inthe linked thread). But if someone wants to redefine slash and hang out in my treehouse and change the curtains, then I'd asked them to play in their own treehouse that already has the nicer curtains that they like rather than change my space...

Where is te gender privilge? Again, the only reason it's called female is plain observation on the one hand (i.e., even with the increase in non-females, they're still largely the majority) and thus historically a certain embracing of what one might call "female" values (as defined historically against what was available at the time in sf fandom and decidely "male")
[alixtii]:
We live in a sexist society, and gender issues intersect with everything, including the way that a traditionally female body of people have reacted, as a resistant gesture, to a body of texts produced usually by men and always by a patriarchal establishment. Ignoring gender just isn't ever an option, IMHO.
[alixtii]:
I think there is a legitimate fear of the transformation and co-optation (a hostile takeover, so to speak) of the female space with its "female values" which can manifest itself in the type of language you cite.
[ravurian]:
At the risk of settling simply for repetition in lieu of continuing debate, BWFW - which you accepted as historical fact and the defining genre characteristic at your point of entry - was simply an observation of a prevailing trend when I first started reading and writing fanfic. Because I've been on the inside all this while, it took encountering it in the flesh - where my licence to participate in a community of which I have been an equal member for nearly a decade was suddenly called into question because I have a penis - to see that it's become something different. This is probably why I find it hugely disconcerting, and you, my young padawan (LOL), just see it as something that is.
[cathexys]:
And I wonder (and this is utter conjecture!) whether your initial experience was simply a function of you being so unusual that it didn't register as threatening, i.e., you were you more than you were a representative male? And in the intervening years there's been so much borderwars and definitional debates that suddenly there's an awareness that wasn't there not b/c slash fandom was not female before but because it was unquestioningly so???
[samdonne]:
It's the very concept of ownership that's problematic. If I want to write slash, does it mean I have to pay rent? And to whom? Who is writing and signing this contract? Oddly capitalistic concepts, for a space that has claimed revolutionary properties.
[parthenia14 ]:
Every time I read that thread, which is superficially very welcoming to people who might wish to build treehouses, I focus on the comment made by alchemia about half-way down: 'What if a boy turns up and wants to talk about shoes?' It makes me sad every time, actually.

To me slash is a genre, a set of texts and conventions and tropes, that attracts a set of people who want to read stuff written in that way, in the same way that historical romance or hard-boiled detective novels have conventions and have stereotypical audiences. I don't define it by the audience, but by the text.

I struggle to think of a helpful parallel but I guess in my mind, I don't expect to be excluded from a Raymond Chandler convention (or a Kurt Vonnegut convention) simply because the majority of the audience is male.

Why should slash be different? Is it because this stuff typically deals with sexuality, so the parallel is more me turning up at an Attitude editorial meeting to demand hairier models? I hope not: slash has always seemed to be as much about the story and the romance as the sex; and in any case, even if female-dominated, there are plenty of gay and bi and somewhat undecided women in there already.
[alchemia]:
I think we come at defining slash in a similar way, which is not how ome other people come at defining it and some of this disagreement stems from. I believe that fandom, and especially slash, is providing for a persons desire that the mainstream is not supplying, and as a result of this POV, anyone who is here, for a genuine interest in kind of material created and shared here, is by default, not a member of the catered-to/privledged group in regard at least to this particular aspect of their lives (what they get from the meanstream media as a consumer). Its strange to me when peopel use the privledged hetero white male argument in these exchanges, because I doubt that most of the men who are involved here are. Just a much as by women for women assumes all slashers are women (an usually hetero), so do these arguments assume any males that show up are straight, biological males (as opposed to trans, or male identified intersexed), that they are all white, and that theyare not in any other way discriminated against or othered (such as by disability). where is a guy supposed to talk about "shoes"- about pretty boys in skirts, emotional male characters having sex with eachother, let alone actually being emotional or wearing a skirt if so one desired? B/C if they bring that up, alot of people are suddenly going to see them as gay (even though being expressive or wearing a skirt does not make a man homosxual or bisexual), which will usually result in some form discrimination, from awkwardness and alienation to outright violence.
[ravurian]:
As for the 'slash is not gay' thing, I think that perhaps we've all been talking at cross-purposes, or perhaps conflating issues, since slash is a literary subgenre and gay is a sexual orientation. As I was saying to maygra, if all that's being said is that slash is different from LGBT fiction, then dude of course it is, LOL; and slash is quite frequently better. But if what's being said is that characters in same gender romantic or sexual relationships are not homosexual, then I get confused because surely that's the dictionary definition? LOL.
[elynross]:
I do think it's sad if it's often more old-time fans that are having the difficulty, but many, if not most, people seem to resist change, and in the past few years things are changing a *lot*, but it always seems to catch some by surprise. I think we'll find more and more males participating, and things are definitely becoming more mainstream.ish. (at least in terms of awareness, if not acceptance), and young -- like other groups that are of a certain age, we're into multigenerations, now, and that generation gap can cause confusion and misunderstanding and ill feelings, as well as delight. You mix up teen and twenty-somethings with forty- fifty- sixty-somethings, there are going to be very disparate reactions.
[alchemia]:
Fandom i thought was about fannishness- about our being fans of something and interacting over that; The frustration with "BW,FW" is not to say the demographics should be ignored, but that some people use it as a means to exclude participants; its distracting from or negating the common fannish intersts and involvement that got all of us here in the first place, with arguments such as that a fic is not REAL slash if the writer isn't a woman, even if the writing is true to the familiar slash tropes.
[maygra]:
And part of that is because as much as I love my slash (And I *do*!) I do not find the same emotional aesthetic, or emotional resonance in mainstream or even amateur homosexual or even homoerotic texts as I do in slash. I have the same difficulty in reading mainstream het romances. Whatever it is in slash that hits my buttons, pings my radar, makes me churn out page after page of plotty, emotional, drivel, I'm not finding in other venues (or not very often.) Which in my own backward assessment, means that Slash is actually presenting me something very different from those other texts. It may well be that the level of fantasy or suspension of disbelief can be brought about by smishing gay themes together with traditional het romance themes. There's a distancing and fantasy about that mix that works for me, that I don't find in mainstream (or gay stream) lines of text. (I had great hopes for the Romentics line, which does offer more relationship than porn, but still, I fear its sparse narrative style doesn't appeal either.)

It's not that I think one or the other is better or worse, only that one set of emotional aesthetics works for me better than another and I honestly don't know for sure if it's because the *majority* of slash is written by women and primarily (in my mind anyway) written with the expectation of a female audience.

And equally as oddly, I find femmeslash to be as ill-fitting as I do gay/lesbian ficiton. "The L Word", which is arguably done very well and wittily, appeals not at all because I'm not those women and I don't know those women, and my preference in women tends to lean well, rather towards women of substance.
[ruric]:
Uh - see I thought we were also addressing the fact that some of us do feel there is a trend in fandom to active seeking to exclude men - all men - simply by the fact that they are male.

ravurian and I were both pointing out how things seem to have changed for us between Escapade 2000 and 2007. On the whole he has been much more circumspect that I - in that he sought to make his post more about generalisations and didn't want to make it personal.

But I assure you I witnessed in the flesh the whole Frown, Blink, Erase experience he talked about above. And it was certainly exclusionary.

It wasn't at all about 'catering to experience' but about 'totally dismissing'.
[azewewish]:
I dunno, I feel like I'm the last person who should be commenting on this post, because I never did understand the entire 'queer' agenda behind slash. I read & write it because the idea of two hot guys flirting/fooling around/fucking turns me on. *shrugs* I don't feel like I need a sociological reasoning for that, or that I should do it to take the power back or for any other reason than, hey, hot. It makes me wonder if there are people out there questioning why men like to see two women getting it on.

But, anyway, my point is, that I think a lot of people have maybe missed the 'fan' part of the fanfic route. And that's what slash is - a form of fanfiction. It's subtext, extrapolation, taking these characters/actors to a play they wouldn't normally go. But we're doing it as fans because we love the source material, we love the characters/actors & we love delving deeper into that universe. I'm not entirely sure why that needs to be regulated to one sex or why it needs to be 'about' anything other than having a good time & telling good stories that we wouldn't necessarily seen on the screen or in the books or whatnot.

And I will never, ever, if I live to be a thousand, get bashing female characters or marginalizing them in order to get the men together. But that's another rant for another time. ;)
[norah]:
I think you could probably very reasonably say that fanfiction exists in a primarily female community that considers its default audience to be female. That takes a long time, so people shorthand "by women for women" even though there are many authors who will tell you they don't write for "women" and many men and transfolk in the community as well. This is one of the problems with meta in general - when we try to apply academic thought with its focus on trends and patterns to fandom, we inevitably end up excluding the experience of someone. And that can feel incredibly marginalizing, even though God knows I am a sociologist at heart and statistical trends are deeply important to me. I said to someone today that fandom is a Great Venn Diagram, and no matter how many circles you don't belong to, you are always part of someone's Us somewhere. It's when fandom starts to play "my Us is good/real, your Us is wrong/Other" that that can start being really painful, even if it's not meant to be - and I think that in the grand tradition of feminine discourse, heavy disclaimers are necessary on all our meta to ensure that we are not narrowing our wonderful world even as we enjoy it. [snipped] Fandom doesn't happen in a vaccum, and so sometimes I think it's important to use your Venn to say, "okay, I'm part of something people are angry about, and I can't help that, and I'm upset by it, but I'm also part of things people are really happy about - porn! show discussion! queer community! writing! feedback! plushy culture! whatever! - and I am going to focus on the things I love and do the things I love. Because the anger is not about me, even though I find it hurtful."