Why Do Adult Women Love One Direction Slash Fanfiction?

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News Media Commentary
Title: Why Do Adult Women Love One Direction Slash Fanfiction?
Commentator: Miranda Popkey
Date(s): August 26, 2015
Venue: online
Fandom: One Direction
External Links: Why Do Adult Women Love One Direction Slash Fanfiction?, Archived version
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Why Do Adult Women Love One Direction Slash Fanfiction? is a 2015 online article by Miranda Popkey.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

Discussions of fanfiction are often thwarted by the abundance of material available for investigation, and by its sprawl. New archives spring up as others are taken down; some venues where fic is hosted — Tumblr; LiveJournal — are difficult to search. Reliable numbers, in other words, are hard to come by. Still, attempts are made: in March of this year, New York Magazine estimated that 30 million fanfiction uploads have been shared on Wattpad; over 1.5 million of those fics are about One Direction. A search for "Harry Styles/Louis Tomlinson" on Archive of Our Own (AO3), a nonprofit that hosts fanfiction on its own servers, returns 31,420 results. An analysis of that archive by destinationtoast in 2013 found that 45.5% of stories posted were tagged M/M, meaning they involved at least one slash relationship. Further breakdowns of the survey results by centrumlumina, indicated that the majority of the AO3's slash readers and writers identified as solely or partially female (within this group, a majority of respondents identified as queer).
I've read Jack McQueen, personal consultant (read: escort); in which Harry is a talking frog. I've read Larry fics with more angst than sex and Larry fics with more sex than plot. The world of Larry slash is too multifarious—and I am too recent a convert—to attempt any broad definitive claims. There are a few constants: an obsession with Harry's hands (large); an emphasis on Louis's height (he's just 5'8") and butt (beautiful); and poor Liam (that's Liam Payne, another band-mate) seems to be cast as an assistant in alternate universe fics more often than not. I have a narrower goal, a question, really. I'm a straight, cisgendered woman rapidly leaving her twenties who reads about male pop stars in their early twenties having sex with each other: why?
Perhaps, in fact, the question can be narrowed to just two words. Dicks: why? This is the fundamental question that slash provokes: Why would a straight woman (presumably most interested in heterosexual erotica) or a queer woman (presumably not that interested in dicks at all) want to read or write about two canonically straight men fucking? There are, of course, as many responses to that question as there are straight and queer women consuming and producing slash, but one obvious truth is that personal erotic tastes do not necessarily govern the imagination. Something that must also be said: while not all the sex in fanfiction is probable, I have cringed far less reading slash than I have sex scenes in literary novels.
There's also this: when a woman, in a field dominated by other women, deliberately queers the straightest, most traditionally masculine figures — Captain America; Captain Kirk; Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers; even Sherlock Holmes[1] — there's an added, electric frisson. Women — straight or queer or not so easily defined by either term — have not yet succeeded in seizing the means of production; they are, however, definitely, literally, fucking with its products.

My own interest in slash is inextricable from my soft spot for dicks, in both senses of the word (one is never more aware of how many insults repurpose names for male genitalia than when one is writing about dude-on-dude erotica). It may have, in fact, evolved from it. Slate critic Laura Miller told me that, in a slash relationship, "male characters" are "really emotional and really talky about their emotion... If you have two men," she explained, "then you're guaranteed that at least one of them is going to be honest about his feelings."

This is, for me, the main draw—perhaps because men in my own life have trouble expressing their emotions, or perhaps, more simply, because men aren't "supposed" to express their emotions. When they do, it's unexpectedly and unfairly devastating. My best friend put it more simply: "DUMB MISERABLE BOYS DESPERATELY TRYING TO UNDERSTAND A FEELING," she wrote in a recent email, "my true passion, my only subject, my art, my soul." To which I can only say: Co-sign.
Author Zan Romanoff—who identifies as a straight, cisgendered woman—sees slash as "the most widespread body of literature that exists about what it's like to be attracted to men." Pop culture largely treats female desire, even "in its most straight cis vanilla hetero 'normal' form" as something "forbidden and unspeakable." Slash, on the other hand, "exists in order to speak about" at least an aspect of this desire—and from, in most cases, a female (writer's) perspective. "I think it's actually kind of fucking radical that teenage girls on the internet are writing custom porn for each other for free," she told me in an email. "Like, hello, every dude who thinks women are undersexed as a gender: check and mate, motherfucker."

The appeal of One Direction homoeroticism also seems related to how physically comfortable and genuinely playful the boys are with each other: in interviews, in behind-the-scenes clips from their tours, in X-Factor video diaries.[2] They touch one another a lot. It seems related to the fact that they are boys who sing songs about feelings and look like they mean it. It seems, unfortunately, related to Louis's irreverent-shading-into-dickish personality, which fans—along the lines of our eighteenth century friend "Belfour" — wish to understand and explain away. Perhaps most significantly, it seems related to taboo and tragedy: how impossible to fall in love with your best friend, while the whole world watches, and also how beautiful.

Certainly, it seems related to Harry Styles's individual charisma. He comes across as exceptionally comfortable with his sexuality, even when it is perceived as ambiguous. (In an interview [3], Harry and his bandmate Liam were asked to name the four traits they look for "in a lady." Liam: "Female. That's a good trait." Harry, shrugging: "Not that important.") "Imagine if Mick Jagger had the warm and benign heart of Paul McCartney, cast under a magic spell by Stevie Nicks, and you're about halfway there," wrote Rob Sheffield, in a review of One Direction's current tour for Rolling Stone. "Watching Harry spit water and touch his hair makes me want to be a better person."

References

  1. ^ I'd argue that, in original canon, Sherlock Holmes is not one of "the straightest, most traditionally masculine figures..." ~ MPH
  2. ^ Youtube link
  3. ^ [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSavUIRoIyI Interview on You Tube]