She's gotta have it

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News Media Commentary
Title: She's gotta have it
Commentator: Jessica Berens
Date(s): 10 September 2000
Venue: "The Guardian"/"The Observer"
Fandom: multifandom, slash
External Links: She's gotta have it; archive link
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She's gotta have it is a 2000 article about women, erotica, and slash. The pro book series, "Black Lace," is highlighted and fan, Kitty Fisher, is interviewed.

This article was reprinted in full in DIAL #15.


Last year, Sharp edited Wicked Words, a collection of erotic short stories that became the first British book to introduce slash lit to mainstream publishing. Slash lit was born at Star Trek conventions and then spread on the net in the Dark Ages when the web was first colonised by Trekkies and pornographers. Female dissidents met in a variety of virtual forums and posted short stories which appropriated mainstream sci-fi characters (in particular Captain Kirk and Spock) and placed them in a homoerotic context. Now a global phenomenon with an infrastructure of hundreds of sites and zines, slash sexualises everyone from Starsky and Hutch to Buffy and Xena. It is a world where a Dalek can date Captain Mainwaring and anything goes.
...the first four books, one of which, Cassandra's Conflict, ignited a furore that ensured the success of the Black Lace series. The tale featured a sadomasochistic relationship, a dark master, a new nanny and an atmosphere of non-consensuality at a time when it was not clearly understood that the rape fantasy was about being overcome by a man of the mind's choice, rather than an actual desire to be maimed by some thug out of a drain in Hackney. 'There was a lot of humiliation and violation in it,' says Sharp. 'And everyone went mad, saying, "How dare you imply that women want to be hurt during sex" and so on. The Daily Mail accused me of "corrupting the morals of the nation's women and betraying civilised values". The result was that they all sold out within a week.'
The characteristics of slash fall in line with those demanded by any effective subversive activity. It is a means of expression for the individual (particularly those who feel marginalised); it is a way of undermining the hegemony of corporate concept; it is a completely new and innovative form of literature within the structure of an omnipotent technology; it operates, by and large, outside the demands of profit, which gives it freedom; it is egalitarian - anyone can post their work.
Slash lit is the insubordinate's latest chapter to a history that not only relates an intimate relationship between erotica and subversion, but has also proved its political efficacy. The basic nature of slash fiction is illegal (no corporate publisher is going to print rude stories about another corporation's properties) and it is thus confined, but its links to erotic fiction are strong and represented by writers such as Kitty Fisher. Her short story 'Shadowlight' was modified for Black Lace, but reflects the traits of slash in that it is a sci-fi narrative about an affair between two men.
One of the characteristics of slash, which has yet to be adequately explained, is the fact that it is same-sex fiction (men with men, women with women) written by women for women. The anomalies of this are not simple: it is not just about lesbianism - heterosexual women are also involved. Why, then, are they both inspired and aroused by homo-erotica? This, of course, intrigues culture-studies types, who write long essays about complex pathologies, the creative implications of sexual guilt and the lack of female characters in popular culture. 'I don't think any of the theories are quite right,' says Fisher. 'But I do think that women are only beginning to explore their sexuality.'