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See also: UST, slash, gen, subtext, slashy
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Pre-slash is a label sometimes applied to stories in which there is unresolved sexual tension (UST) between characters of the same sex, but no actual romantic or sexual interest depicted within the story itself. The label implies that the author sees these characters as likely to begin a sexual relationship at some point, and pre-slash stories may have slash sequels. Labeling stories pre-slash early in the series avoids disappointing strictly noromo/gen readers, who otherwise might start reading a series, yet not be able to follow it to its conclusion.

Not all fans use pre-slash as a label; some prefer to label stories with no explicit sexual interest or romantic component as gen. Some stories may be perceived as pre-slash by some fans and gen by others, and fans may debate whether slashy subtext in a story is intentional or not, or if intent matters to the reader.

In songvids, pre-slash is virtually never used; instead vids are called "slashy" if they have a hint of slash, but not enough to be formally called slash vids.

See also Genre Boundaries on the Gen page.


Some fans (both writers and readers) label stories "pre-slash" if the pairing characters have not yet had sex at the end of the story, even when sexual interest is acknowledged in the story. Others see that as privileging porn over characterization.

Some fans feel that the label is used to entice readers of popular slash pairings to read what is really a gen fic.

Some fans refer to pre-slash as "the gen that dare not speak its name," referring to the tendency to label for any slash content when the same amount of het content might be considered an ordinary part of gen fic, especially if the het pairing is a canon pairing. There is a perception by many fans that readers expect fanworks that contain slashy subtext, but no actual slash content to be labeled in a way that similar het content is not. Some fans may label their stories with pre-slash to stave off any complaints from readers who do not wish to see even a hint of slash in the fanfiction they read. (See also Warnings - Controversy for warning for slash.)

Fan Comments


On a related note, there are folks who have their slash-colored glasses so firmly glued to their faces that they can't or won't read gen stories without interpreting them as pre-slash.... And you see it all over the Internet--folks recommending stories with the comment "gen, but can be read as pre-slash." Now *that's* tunnel vision. <g>
I think that "can be read as pre slash" is a ploy to get more readers. I think the writing would be better if folks stopped doing it for the pats on the head.
I don't read everything as slash just because I slash my guys. I just don't buy the "label" of pre-slash. Or maybe it just bugs me that people can't decide. I guess I see that label as a writer unable to make up their mind. When I see the writer put, gen but can be read as pre-slash, it makes me think they're testing to see what kind of a response they get and which way to go rather than write what they feel. But I'm old and cranky.
It was easier than there was either slash or gen. Period. Even het was under "gen" since it wasn't same sex. Now there are all sorts of labels. Funny how zines are rarely labeled and most of us can handle reading them.
Thing is, if you go back to the beginning of slash, when it first began to mean Gay Romance involved, (esp. m/m), then if the story talks about a romantically involved pair of men, it's just plain SLASH. Slash doesn't mean Sex, it means romantic feelings involved, which may or may not be expressed in sex at some point. When doesn't matter. Writing backstory for a slash tale and calling it preslash is, IMO, ridiculous. It may not be explicit slash, lots of early slash wasn't and still isn't, but it's still SLASH, because the relationship is there. Pre-slash doesn't really tell anyone anything, IMO. Is it safe for gen readers who don't want romantic relationships between men? Who knows. The whole point of labeling Slash was that some readers didn't want to read gay relationships, and there's a lot more to a relationship than the sex. So, if sex is their definition of a slash story, and everything else is pre-slash.... I don't see the point.
Maybe in a fandom or two it means "slash backstory before they go to the sex part" but in general, in fandoms like Uncle, and S&H, and Sentinel, for the most part, SLASH has meant "romantic attraction story" and "explicit" was the word used to mean there was naked dangling bits somewhere in the tale. <bg> [1]


The argument made by my counterparts was that the term 'pre-slash' means that slash is all about the sex; any story that doesn't have sex in it tends to get called 'pre-slash'. My own belief is this is a limited definition, and that we're not so in agreement on what slash is that that sort of broad generalization can be made. To me, that it's the term used by the slash community to identify stories where the subtext never makes it to the textual level, and that making the subtext into text is actually a main focus of what slash is about. If the tension is left as subtext, then it's 'smarm' or 'slashy gen' or -- the term preferred within when talking to other members of that community -- 'pre-slash.'


Is "Pre-Slash" an Antiquated Term?

If one insists on slash or gen, why can't pre-slash be a happy medium?

It's like, one day I looked up, and the term "pre-slash" had disappeared from fandom.

I remember a Sentinel fan being adamant that "pre-slash" was a useless category. I just don't remember what their reasoning was.

I always thought "pre-slash" was quite a useful term. It meant the guys were headed toward a sexual relationship, but a consummation wasn't going to take place in the story itself. In other words, don't expect a sex scene.

And if you're a genner who wants to read, say, h/c, but don't want exposure to naughty bits, the "pre-slash" gives the assurance that nothing disturbing is going to take place on the pages...

The pattern used to be that, upon discovering slash and deciding one liked it, most would frantically read all the sex scenes, after first getting a new zine. and then later read all the stories from beginning to end. After one got jaded after a thousand stories or so, then one would often start with reading the stories, but actually skim or even skip over the sex scenes.

So, with the exception of newer fans, I think most slash fans are pretty calm about the degree of sex. I wonder if, in modern times, newer fans are actually calm about it too, since they can easily find stories or photos of male sex from any number of places. Surely, it's not such a novelty as it was in the 80s.

And maybe that's why the term "pre-slash" has gone by way of dinosaur. Readers don't need to be prepped that there won't be sex.[3]


The Pre-Relationship Tag (The tag bundles all variations of pre-slash, pre-het, pre-femslash, etc.) on the AO3 on May 16, 2020 showed the following breakdown by category:

  • M/M (47773)
  • Gen (18711)
  • F/M (11835)
  • F/F (5723)
  • Multi (2974)
  • Other (1228)

Delicious Tag pre-slash on April 29, 2010 returned over 10,000 entries. Delicious Tag pre-het on April 29, 2010 returned 46 entries.


(when you realize you’re low key crushing on one of your best friends), Archived version by CryptidMax, formerly WTFmqkqylqFandom: ITDate: 10 October 2017Length: 2Medium: FanartGenre: Pre-Slash, Richie Tozier Wears Button Ups
untitled, Archived version by LukaLunarFandom: ITDate: 24 December 2017Medium: FanartGenre: Piercings, Pre-Slash
and in that moment, eddie knew- he was fucked (Reddie)
He makes me.. so happy., Archived version by Ask-EdsFandom: ITDate: 20 December 2018Length: 2Medium: FanartGenre: Pre-Slash
FourEyesTozier asked: Have you ever thought about making a move on Richie? The feeling could be mutual, ya never know! (Reddie)
untitled, Archived version by DogNongFandom: ITDate: 08 October 2019Length: 540px × 540pxMedium: FanartGenre: Pre-Slash, Richie Tozier Wears Button Ups
when will my life begin, Archived version by Olive 7/11 aka Edward-TozierFandom: ITDate: 20 October 2019Length: 1:46Medium: Fanart - AnimaticStatus: CompleteGenre: Fusion: Tangled, Pre-Slash
y'all remember when the reddie tangled au was a thing lol - Song - When Will My Life Begin – Reprise 2 by Mandy Moore
Sincerely, Me, Archived version by Kenmii OwO aka Kenmii_DrowzFandom: ITDate: 02 November 2019Length: 3:40Medium: Fanart - AnimaticStatus: CompleteGenre: Fusion: Dear Evan Hansen, Pre-Slash
Yes, another one, it's just that i love this ship too much!!! - Song - Sincerely, Me from Dear Evan Hansen (Reddie)


  1. ^ from a discussion on a mailing list, quoted anonymously (June 2008)
  2. ^ pre-slash, wickedwords (March 3, 2003)
  3. ^ from Whatever Happened to Pre-Slash?, Charlotte Frost, posted March 2012; WebCite