Slash is not gay: Homosexuality, class and fan fiction communities, A historical perspective

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Title: Slash is not gay: Homosexuality, class and fan fiction communities, A historical perspective
Creator: Laura Hale
Date(s): 2006, 2010
Medium: online
Fandom: many
Topic: slash and fanworks
External Links: online here; Webcite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
Slash is not gay: Homosexuality, class and fan fiction communities, A historical perspective is an essay by Laura Hale. It was written in 2006, posted to Fan History Wiki at some point, and posted again on the Fan History blog on January 27, 2010.

Some topics discussed: Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek, Science Fiction, Starsky & Hutch, the zines Code 7 and Spockanalia (among others), the Lucasfilm's crackdown on explicit fanworks, the Gay for You trope, and many other things.

The author commented in 2007: "Some of this, upon further research, is not as accurate as it could be. The essay really needs to be revised." [1]

Excerpts

Given previous situations in fandom, it is bitingly aware that fan fiction communities do not have a universal definition of what it means to be homosexual, gay, lesbian or transgendered, and many people commenting on the issue compound the problem by writing from a straight, white perspective.
Before Star Trek aired in 1967, the Beatles made their American debut and on February 7, 1964, they arrived in New York City for their first American tour. (Whelan) According to Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess, and Gloria Jacobs in their essay “Beatlemania: Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” this marked “the first mass outburst of the sixties to feature women – in this case girls, who would not reach full adulthood until the seventies and the emergence of a genuinely political movement for women’s liberation.” This group was composed of primarily middle class, white teenagers. The Beatles were rejected early by many adults for due to the group member’s long hair and sexually explicit lyrics. African American teenage girls of all classes were not fans of the group on a large scale, preferring music like jazz, the blues and other music coming out of their own communities. (Ehrenreich) This group of fans would, like other groups of fans before them, create their own fan products. This included fanzines. The fannish oral tradition alive today is implicit in their being fictional stories about band members being circulated during the early years of the band’s history. This is substantiated by Ehrenreich, Hess and Jacob’s essay which says such things as “girls exchanged Beatle magazines or cards, and gathered to speculate obsessively on the details and nuances of Beatle life.”
In 1974, Diane Marchant sat down, wrote and published a story featuring two characters, gender some what ambiguous and using highly coded language. (Boyd, Langley) The story was titled “A Fragment Out of Time” and it was not until later discussion that the author made it clear that the story featured the Kirk/Spock pairing. The community, through letterzines, reviewzines and discussion at conventions, discussed this material. There was a degree of hostility towards this material. Some of this hostility stemmed from the fact that ew, homosexual content, ew! This was not something people of their class should be writing. It was not something that was traditionally associated with the science fiction fandom. It happened in the same year that the great Star Trek – science fiction schism started. The science fiction community, overwhelming male, felt that Star Trek fen, overwhelming female, would overshadow and marginalize other science fiction being produced at the time. The science fiction community was further annoyed by what they felt was the consistently inferior product distributed by the Star Trek fan fiction community, a community that just the year before had given name to Mary Sue. Making this infusion of Kirk/Spock fan fiction was the fact that some parts of the community started to actively embrace this material and more of appeared in the ensuing years.
Modern fandom dates back to the 1890s. From the outset, fandom was dominated by members who identified as middle class or upper class. For the most part, this was a community that, once media fan fiction communities became dominant, were heavily female. The only real deviations from this pattern included fan fiction communities based on musical groups during the 1970s and 1980s and literary pastiche communities. The values and morality brought by fen into fan fiction communities helped to shape the nature of fan fiction communities. They are one of the primary reasons that slash cannot be a product that could be considered gay, nor a form of gay literature. Given the historical roots of slash as non-gay, it is unlikely that most slash will be considered gay, nor gay literature any time in the near future.
The Star Wars pornography problem in relation to m/m and f/f comment was probably exacerbated by the working class homosexual community being viewed as one that was, by their nature, promiscuous. The white, female middle class did not associate homosexuality with orientation but rather with sex acts, lots and lots of sex acts. As such anything with m/m or f/f content was not about homosexuality, vis-à-vis orientation, but homosexuality sex acts. It made even fan fiction featuring m/m content and coding sexually suspect because of the relationship that white middle class women came up with that made homosexuality about sex. It was further suspect because of the pains taken by more than a few of these fen to continue to indoctrinate their fellow fen into the idea that the characters, while having gay sex, still had an orientation of heterosexual. The inherent conflict with adult material and homosexual content would not be resolved in the fandom until the early 1990s.

References

  1. Talk: Slash is not gay, comment by Laura, September 12, 2007