Slash Tropes

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Not surprisingly, slash fiction has its own historical forms and conventions, most of which have had their periods of popularity, defenders and detractors, and historical origins.

Idealized Bodies

While the actors who portray characters run the gamut of physical fitness, characters involved in smut in fanfiction and fanart are often portrayed as exceptionally fit and hard-bodied, even when the canon would tend to suggest otherwise.

Defenders of this trend point out that they are writing porn to their own taste, and might as well make the participants in the sex scene attractive. This can lead into discussions of what constitutes "attractive" and standards of beauty in Western culture.

Binary OTP

A tendency, somewhat on the wane, to characterize any slash pairing of consisting of a larger, more "butch" partner, and a smaller partner, described as 'slender,' 'delicate', or 'willowy.' (Or all of these.) Compare and contrast with the Yaoi tropes of seme and uke; see also the Height Rule and Portrayals of Masculinity in Fanworks.[1]

The 'larger' character is generally portrayed as dominating, and either protective, or abusive, and the 'smaller' character may be portrayed as more emotionally and physically fragile.

This characterization has been criticized as ignoring the actual physical features of the actors who portray the characters, as well as echoing patriarchal ideas of heterosexual relationships. See Big Guy, Little Guy and Blond Shall Not Touch Blond, Nor Curly Touch Curly.


See Portrayals of Masculinity in Fanworks

In Yaoi , this might happen to the uke. The submissive one in the relationship becomes really submissive, and more like a female, although it's still very far from a heterosexual pair. Similar tropes include woobie , feminization and infantilization. The feminized character might: - wear dresses - be very shy - have long hair or dreadlocks - blush and/or stutter a lot


Faced with writing sex scenes involving two male characters, both of whom have to be referred to as "he," some writers resort to generous use of epithets to make it clear which character is doing what without constantly repeating names. This may reinforce the binary roles referred to above, as "the smaller man" and "the larger man" often signal which character the author perceives as more masculine or dominant. It may simply make the prose somewhat purple. Or, conversely, it may be to the reader's taste.

Conventions About Sex

Much of the sex in slash is penetrative anal sex, and this is sometimes portrayed as the endpoint of any sexual encounter. In some cases, it's also portrayed as the point when the relationship is finally established, other forms of sex being 'less serious.'

See also Prostate Introduction.


A tendency to have one character's penis longer, and the other character's penis thicker. Usually written in one character's point of view, so we 'see' the character realize that the other guy's apparatus might be better in one way, but his is better in another. This is so commonly done that it has shown up in multiple parodies. See the mid-2000s essay: Ever so slightly longer but not quite as thick.

We're Not Gay, We Just Love Each Other

A trope very common in early slash, and certainly still seen today, in which the characters identify as straight and perceive their relationship with each other as irrelevant to their sexual orientation.

"I Want to See Your Face"

Two male characters are about to have penetrative anal sex for the first time. The assumed position is front to back, or from behind. One of the two men tells the other he'd rather have them do it while facing each other, saying "I want to see your face/your eyes."

The phrase may reflect a desire for intimacy and the fact that a lot of m/m slash is written by females, and is a trope of slash rather than mainstream gay erotica.

Meta Conversation About Tropes

Fans have been pointing these tropes out as long as they've been writing them. Early letterzines are full of conversations about use, overuse and misuse of these tropes and others. When fandom moved to the web, the conversations continued, along with websites of helpful reminders of story types to watch out for. Websites like the Big List of Fanfic Peeves and The Big List of Small Dogs have basic punctuation and writing advice, but the heart of their efforts were educating newer fans about tropes such as these.

Some tropes are so overused in certain fandoms that they become cliches. Inevitably, some fans will see the humorous side to this, as in Jungle Kitty's Big List of K/S Cliches.


  1. ^ Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath even managed to do this with James Kirk and Spock in their writings by focusing on Spock's (canon) superior Vulcan strength and portraying Kirk as overwhelmed by and submissive to it. They even managed to feminize him further by having his exact double, created by a villain, rehomed on a Romulan colony world where men were considered the weaker sex.