Some Thoughts on Femslash

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Title: Some Thoughts on Femslash
Creator: Kadorienne
Date(s): January 25, 2003
Medium: online
Topic: Fanfiction, Femslash
External Links: Some Thoughts on Femslash, Archived version
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Some Thoughts on Femslash is an essay by Kadorienne.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

For additional context, see Timeline of Slash Meta and Slash Meta.


Why in the heck isn't there more f/f fanfic out there?

And why isn't there some discussion of it here at the Symposium?

I'm not casting stones here. My own fanfic stats go roughly: 18 m/m fics, 6 m/f fics, and a mere 4 f/f fics. And I'm a Lesbian. But my very first slash story was m/m. So was my second, third, fourth, etc. For the first few years that I was writing fanfic, in fact, I wrote only m/f and m/m.

People asked me occasionally, "Why don't you write f/f? I mean… that's your area, after all." And I was in fact pretty frustrated with my own dearth of f/f, but still it took me a few years to produce any.

I had my reasons. Some are purely personal and subjective, such as that most of the fictional characters with whom I strongly identify have been male. This says more about the quality of female characters in professional fiction than it does about me. Another is that identifying with a character who is different from me in an important way, such as that of gender, gives me a certain detachment. I tend to prefer movies and novels set somewhere otherworldly, whether it's outer space or a fantasy universe or some historical period. I prefer for fiction to be a good metaphor for my own experience, not a faithful mirror of my own experience. Writing and reading about men helps keep that distance between me and the characters.
I don't watch TV at home, but when I visited a friend last year, I consented to sit through The X-Files with him. I hadn't seen it in a few years, so I was blown away by Scully: beautiful, smart, capable, assertive. I immediately thought, "I gotta slash her!"

But with whom? She doesn't have an attractive sidekick or an archvillainess in canon. An original character would be suspected of being a Mary Sue, and probably with some justice, because I do want Scully for myself. (No, Spooky can't have her. She's mine.) I stewed for a long time, and finally ended up writing crossovers, slashing her with Emma J. Russell from the movie The Saint and with Detective Diana Bennett from Beauty and the Beast, the latter despite the attendant difficulties of pairing a redhead named Dana with a redhead named Diana.

So that's the big problem: finding a fandom that has not only one, but two interesting, complex female characters. In most fandoms, we're lucky to get just one.

But then, even the fandoms that do give us a good f/f pair usually inspire mostly m/m. Again, Buffy and Xena are the significant exceptions here, and I'm very glad we have them. But let me point out a trend I've noticed: in many fandoms with a great deal of femslash potential, there is almost no femslash but a great deal of m/m. Why?
The majority of slashers are straight women. (I've been scolded more than once for saying this, but I stand by my statement. There are a tiny handful of gay men in slash. There seems to be a sizeable minority of Lesbians and women who identify as bisexual; there's no telling how many are in slash, but I personally know several of both. The fact remains: straight girls outnumber us, and I get the impression that they do so by a hefty margin. This has an impact on the genre.)

There are many different things slashers look for in fic. For many, sexual titillation is at least one of those things, and a straight woman is more likely to be interested in hearing about guys having sex than about girls having sex. For me, the primary thing I look for is a reflection of the gay experience that I can identify with, and those issues are pretty much the same for gay men as they are for Lesbians, especially boiled down to their essentials. (For example, most homosexuals of either sex question their own gender identity. Whether characters decide that their natural inclination is to follow tradition – i.e., be a feminine woman or a masculine man – or that the opposite sex's traditional identity works best for them or that they're somewhere in between, doesn't matter to me. What matters is, I asked these questions of myself and learned what worked for me as an individual, and I sympathize with this journey regardless of where it leads for the individual in question.) So either kind of slash works for me. But for many, "watching" gorgeous guys have sex is a high priority, though not the only one. This is one reason that femslash is in the minority.

I'm not going to dwell on the next reason, because it's not pleasant. I think it applies only to a significant minority. I hope it's not the majority. I do know that some other slashers are concerned about this, because I've seen rants about it before.