Why? -- A Not-Remotely-Complete Investigation of the "Why Slash/Why Het/Why Femslash" Debate

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Title: Why? -- A Not-Remotely-Complete Investigation of the "Why Slash/Why Het/Why Femslash" Debate
Creator: Merlin Missy, Firefox News
Date(s): 14 February 2008
Medium: online
Fandom: multifandom
External Links: Why? -- A Not-Remotely-Complete Investigation of the "Why Slash/Why Het/Why Femslash" Debate/WebCite
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Why? -- A Not-Remotely-Complete Investigation of the "Why Slash/Why Het/Why Femslash" Debate is a meta essay by Merlin Missy.

In it, she addresses the topic of the title and quotes a number of fans, including Tara O'Shea, Celli Lane (Fanfic 101), Lies, Allaine, Yahtzee, Raynos Kai, A.j., Christine Morgan, Sandra Faith, Lyssie, and Aris.

Some topics: rare pairings and audience, characters of color, heteronormative assumptions...

Some Excerpts

What is slash? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Old-school fans will happily give you the summary of Slash As We Know It, starting with roots in Biblical times (David/Jonathan, and later Jesus/John, with some Satan/God and Jesus/Judas hatesex thrown in) and moving quickly onto Sherlock Holmes, Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Star Trek. Slash is named for the wee little slashmark between the two names of the pairing, coined in Trek fandom back in the days of Kirk/Spock, and originally, it encompassed any pairing that wasn't in canon. Fandom being fandom, the non-canonical pairings that got the lion's share of the fanfic were male/male, and the term "slash" has since morphed into meaning "male/male relationship fanfic." Canon rarely provided actual male/male sexual relationships, though now that Torchwood is front and center to so many fannish pursuits, with canon Jack/Ianto (okay, also canon Jack/anything with a pulse and at least two robots), the old-timers are amused but accepting of the name
No one asks "Why Het?" If you cruise on by Metafandom, as a rule you'll find plenty of dissertation-length discussions as to why women turn out in droves to write about two men getting it on, and you'll even find the occasional essay about why they do the same for two women. Het isn't invisible so much as it's omnipresent in so many situations that the word heteronormative is used as a derogatory term in some fannish circles. Yet, women flock just as happily to tales of heterosexual couples doing the deed.
Yahtzee said, "I don't know that the things I enjoy about writing het are any different than the things I enjoy about writing gen or slash, which I also do. Really, for me, I *don't* see a big difference between the two. If you're writing about two people in love (or in lust), the plumbing is really just a detail, isn't it? The bigger leap is between writing canonical relationships versus noncanonical ones (which most slash is). If I feel like I'm getting at something vital within each character and in their relationship to each other, I'm happy."
One slash fan, who asked not to be named, said that "reading smut involving gorgeous women with taut stomachs and pert breasts and perfect little butts makes my brain bleed. I kind of don't need to be reminded that 99.9% off the women on this planet (and apparently 100% of the women on all the other planets) are better looking than me. So, if I feel the urge to read erotica I prefer it to be completely absent of women who are five thousand times better looking than I am. Chances are I'm interested in reading fic because I'm in a bad mood to begin with and don't want to read something that will just make me more depressed."
Aris had a different take on hard-to-find pairings. "I really dislike the trend of slashing the pretty white guys just because they're pretty white guys. I mean, there's statistically less slash out there that involves characters of color, even if the relationship is there and interesting, because fandom is composed of people who have problems talking about race. I also hate the reflexive dismissal of a lot of female characters in slash. And I think it comes from a similar place--we write slash, or I write slash, mainly because the writers of these mainstream television shows and movies are so interested in their handsome white male leads, and thus those relationships are deeper and more convincing than any relationships they have with the characters who are in the minority; the characters of color or women in the ensemble, which is usually where they're relegated to.