Why I Write Slash (essay by Kass)

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Title: Why I Write Slash
Creator: Kass
Date(s): November 2, 1999
Medium: online
Fandom: mentions The Sentinel
External Links: Why I Write Slash/WebCite
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Why I Write Slash is a 1999 meta essay by Kass.

The topic: slash and fiction writing.

It as part of a series at Fanfic Symposium.

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


One recent evening on IRC I fell into a discussion about slash fiction with two friends: a woman who reads and writes slash, and a man who doesn't. I think he was a little surprised by the whole idea. And maybe confused. So he asked us, "Why?" He wanted to know a)why people read and write slash in general, and b)why the two of us read and write it in particular.

The "in general" question has a lot of possible answers.

One: We're taking the passive medium of television and making it active, making it interactive, transforming it from something one simply sits and watches to something one engages in. (That's an explanation for fanfic in general, not really for slash, but it's a start.)

Two: We're taking the subtext of queer romance and making it text, which neatly subverts the dominant paradigm. Hear ye, pop culture: you may think heterosexuals rule the airwaves, but we're rewriting your narrative to include a spectrum of possibilities. We're living proof of the ascendancy of postmodernism; everything is surface, and we're scripting new worlds in the interplay between episodes.

Three: Most fanfic writers are women, and in writing erotic fanfiction we're taking control of our own sexual and sensual drives. The pen is mightier than the sword, and in our hands the pen is feminine. When you look at the scope of recorded human history, women haven't been writing for very long. So writing is, in some way, a subversive act. When you look at the scope of recorded human sexuality, women haven't been in control of our bodies for very long. So writing about sex is twice as subversive as writing. Writing slash fiction is radical.

What I think confused our friend is that we -- my fellow slash-writer and I -- aren't fitting neatly into any sexual boxes. There isn't a convenient label for a woman who writes about men with other men. Real sexual identities don't fit neatly into categories. That I read and write about a fictional gay male relationship doesn't make me less (or more) of a woman; doesn't mean I wish I were a man, straight or gay; doesn't mean anything except that I like what I'm reading and writing. Sexuality is, as someone famous put it, "polymorphously perverse." This is a perfect example. And rather than come up with increasingly detailed sexual labels, I'd rather let the labels themselves fall by the wayside.

Ultimately, this whole discussion comes down to a matter of taste. I can analyze the post-structural feminist gender implications of fanfiction as a genre until I turn blue, but fundamentally I read and write Sentinel slash fanfic because I like it. I like thinking about Jim and Blair together. It gives me some kind of emotional energy I can't put a finger on. And I find it sexy. I can't explain that any more than I can explain any other sexual kink. Some people like fairy tales, some people like Playboy, some people like m/m slash.