Slash Summary

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Title: Slash Summary
Creator: Kathryn Andersen
Date(s): February 1997 (slightly revised January 2001) (revised April 2001) (revised September 2005), last edited January 2013
Medium: online
Fandom: general, but it has a Blake's 7 slant
Topic: slash
External Links: Slash Summary; Archive
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Slash Summary is an essay by Kathryn Andersen.

It was created in response to The Generic Slash Defense Letter. The author writes: "This started life as a summary of one side of the debate about slash, with a matching summary of the other side written by someone else elsewhere, written for the Blake's 7 mailing list, intended to provide a clear "we've already been over these ones enough times to make everyone on the list very, very bored with the argument, please find new material if you want to restart the debate". A list of dead horses, so to speak, done in a non-inflamatory manner."

The "Slash Summary" author's personal opinion: "My own thoughts... I loathe slash, I don't want to read it, and I don't want anyone to read it by accident. If you want to read it, that's your business. I get sick and tired of how people immediately start saying that I want to stop people writing slash when they find out I hate slash. That I think that "slash should not be permitted". Sure, in places where it is my responsibility for the content of something, such as a fanzine or a website, then I'm jolly well going to put there things that I want to put there. My sandbox, my rules. Where it isn't my responsibility, it isn't my business either. I'm also very much for proper labeling. If something's slash, it should be labelled as such. It's common courtesy to do so."

Sections

  • What is Slash?
  • The Purpose of this Document
  • Opinion
  • General Arguments against homosexual/homoerotic fiction. "I'll try here to lay out the various reasons I think people would object and have objected to homosexual fiction. There's a spectrum of views..."
1.Those who object to homosexuality, full stop.
2.Those who object to the explicit portrayal of homosexual acts.
3.Those who object to the particular characters engaging in homosexual acts.
4.Those who feel that slash devalues platonic friendship.
5.Those who object to the unrealistic portrayal of homosexual characters.
6.Those who wish to support the author's right to say "no".
7.Objections to illustrations rather than stories.

Counter-Arguments

  • "Nobody forces anyone to read slash"
  • "Yeah, well I wish people would label Mary-Sues and bad writing..." "...and they won't. Why should you expect people to label slash?"
  • "Het fic sexualizes platonic friendships just as much as slash does!" ... Why are you picking on slash?"
  • "Stop shoving your morals down our throats!"
  • "I can do what I like, it's a free country!"
  • "How dare you try to stop people writing slash!"
  • "Anti-slash people have been really nasty to me"

Some Excerpts

Reason #1: Homosexuality Itself: (the "religious" reason) Homosexuality is wrong, it is unnatural and perverted, therefore homoerotic fiction is wrong. Here, it is not a matter of taste, it is a matter of morals. The motivation here is to if possible prevent the corruption of other people's morals, and indeed, the duty to point out where people are going astray, like a watchman on a city who warns of enemy approach: to remain silent is to fall down in one's duty. This, however, is the weakest reason for purposes of persuasion, because there is no common ground for discussion, and persons of religious persuasion are treated like madmen: they get humoured, and everything they say is ignored. Or else they are accused of being arrogant bigots (even when they're not). Or else they do behave like arrogant bigots. Either way, this is terribly unproductive.
Reason #3: Particular Characters: This is the character reason; that you consider it an unacceptable distortion of the characters for them to engage in homosexual intercourse. Of course, people who hold reason #1 would probably hold reasons #2 and #3 as well.

For people who don't worry about homosexuality per se, they might find it still unacceptable, from the context of a series, to make a particular character homosexual, because there is no evidence to support it. Mind you, with BBC shows there's no evidence to support anything except celibacy, so arguing from the show is usually fruitless, because those who want sex say "well, its the BBC, of course there wasn't any sex, but if it had been realistic, there would have been." It's not the sort of logic you can really argue with. It's like trying to prove a negative.

However, if a person only holds reason #3, then there could exist homosexual fiction that they wouldn't object to, simply because it was so well and persuasively written that the (change in the) character was believable. This reason falls into a matter of taste, rather than morals, I think.
Reason #4: Devaluing Platonic Friendship: This reason is related a little to reason #3, but in a more general way. The objectors here feel that, by taking something which is an intense, deep platonic friendship, and over and over again, story after story, turning it into an intense, deep, erotic relationship, the message that is sent is that "it isn't possible to have a deep relationship without having sex". Or, to put it another way, "If you really loved me, you'd sleep with me." This reason probably doesn't apply so much to Blake's 7 slash, which, unlike most other slash, is frequently about power rather than friendship, but in most other fandoms, the majority of slash writing is like a Mills & Boon novel only the romance is between two guys. By not allowing such friendships to be platonic, it says that platonic friendships are worth nothing. This one is a hard reason to convey, and some people consider it silly, because they say, hey, I can write what I like, go off and read some gen if it upsets you. But considering that there are folks out there who think, due to reading Professionals fanfic (most of which is slash) that The Professionals is a show about two gay guys, played by two gay actors... the influence of slash on people's opinions cannot be denied. But it probably depends on the particular fandom.
Reason #6: Author's rights: This is a sub-category or corollary of reason #3. That a character could not be homosexual because the author says so. This generates a heated debate about the nature of fanfic: some say, well, the author has no rights, I can interpret it however I like, and anyway, we have the implicit approval of the author because nobody's been sued yet. And the counterargument is that if an author says it ain't so, then it ain't so.

This can get quite tricky because (a) with a TV show such as Blake's 7, there is no one author, unlike with a book. One could consider at least two primary sets of authors: the script-writers, who wrote the words, and the actors, who "became" the characters. (b) taking the implications far enough it could be argued that all fanfic is wrong, and many people disagree with that: even the ones who don't like homosexual fiction usually like fanfic.

Strangely enough, this one again is a moral issue (thus generating yet more heated debate). The moral question is: does an author have a moral right to have a say in what happens to their creation, or do they have no rights to even cursory consideration, because the "text" is created in the minds of the readers, thus they are the ones who really "own" the creation?...

Another thing is, that one cannot assume that just because an "author" is aware of and doesn't mind fan fiction in general, that they therefore must be happy with slash also, even if they are theoretically aware of the existance of slash. Even if you've got an actor to sign your slash zine, even if you've given them one, doesn't mean that they therefore must be aware of how popular or extensive slash is. Maybe they accepted the zine because they're polite. They probably wouldn't have time to read it, and even if they did, they could easily assume that slash is a rare aberration and therefore not worth worrying about. Then you can have the situation (as happened with one actor) of them going on for years in blissful ignorance, and then being made aware of the true extent of slash, and becoming "suddenly" unhappy about it. So unless someone has explicitly said that they don't mind slash, it probably isn't a good idea to assume what their opinion about slash is.
(1) "Nobody forces anyone to read slash"

It is impossible to force anyone to read anything, so of course no one can be forced to read homosexual fiction.

There are, however, such things as peer pressure and misinformation.

Peer Pressure: this isn't conscious at all, it's just that if one's peers consider homosexual fiction to be the thing that all tolerant and fun-loving people ought to be reading, it will be hard for some people to say no. It is only fair to give people an alternative view.

Misinformation: it is easy to mail-order (or buy in an auction) a homosexual (or adult) fiction zine without having the faintest idea that it is erotica, until you start reading the first story in the zine. (This has happened more than once to friends of mine.) Likewise, one could stumble across a slash story on the net (especially with a search engine), and if it isn't labeled, then you can't know what it is until you start reading it.

Even for people who do know what the label of "slash" means, it doesn't help if there is no warning about it. (I'm not talking about the zines/sites that do have warnings, they aren't the problem. It's the ones that don't that are the problem.) By that time, it is too late: my right not to read homosexual fiction has been violated; my brain has been polluted with images I would rather not have been there. It is like going into a movie that one thought was rated 'G' only to find it is an 'NC-17' rated movie.

It's called "informed consent".

Another difficulty to keep in mind is that there are minors wandering around the internet, and it is very easy it is for them to stumble over something inappropriate. That's why it's courteous to give ratings on stories which aren't suitable for children (in general, for things like sex and violence etc). Even with G- and PG-rated slash, some more conservative parents would probably rather not have to explain 'homosexuality' before they've had to explain 'sex'.
(2) "Yeah, well I wish people would label Mary-Sues and bad writing..."

"...and they won't. Why should you expect people to label slash?"

Because slash isn't a matter of quality, it's a matter of content. I'm sure that there are many excellent slash writers. (Actually, I know there are, because some of my favourite gen stories have been written by people who also write slash). People aren't going to label Mary-Sues because, for one thing, most of the time the authors don't even know they're writing Mary-Sues, because they're just incompetent authors. But you could hardly say that a slash author doesn't know that they're writing slash.

Here's another analogy: suppose I'm thirsty and go to the refridgerator for some ice water. I see a glass bottle without a label, containing a clear liquid. I assume it's water, because water bottles often don't have labels. I pour myself a glass, and take a gulp, and discover to my surprise that I'd just taken a gulp of vodka. (For the sake of argument, let's assume I had a cold so I couldn't smell the liquid either). I didn't know it was vodka until I'd already drunk it. Just as I can't know the content of an unlabelled story until I've read it.
(5) "I can do what I like, it's a free country!" Yes, you can. But when things (like explicit illustrations) are actually harmful to others, then you should stop. Especially when they've done you no harm. Of course, if you hate the actor's guts then you're probably going to do what you like anyway, but that then shows a lack of consideration for everyone else, who actually like the actors and don't want them to get pissed off at the fandom. Consider it enlightened self-interest.