Writing 'Slash' Fan Fiction: Power, Desire and Eye-Candy in a Never Ending Romance

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Title: Writing ‘Slash’ Fan Fiction: Power, Desire and Eye-Candy in a Never Ending Romance
Creator: Bardess
Date(s): 2002
Medium: online
Fandom: slash
Topic:
External Links: archived copy
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Writing ‘Slash’ Fan Fiction: Power, Desire and Eye-Candy in a Never Ending Romance is a 2002 essay by bardess on why fans write slash fan fiction.

It was cited in Jae's essay Young, Female, Single…? A Study of Demographics and Writing-/Reading-Habits of Fanfiction Writers and Readers.

Summary

Summary

If female-written Slash was mostly meaningless sex with graphic descriptions of penetration and token bitches trying to keep the guys apart, I’d concede the possibility of female driven misogyny, but it’s not. It all seem to come down to a desire for a politically uncontaminated, never-ending ROMANCE. Perhaps male/male Slash is a blip on the female sexual scope. I’ll re-examine it again when the U.S. president is a black woman, who can have uninhibited sex with interns of either gender, and the American media/society is more concerned with U.S. Foreign policy.

By writing male-pair bond slash, a woman is completely free of her usual ingrained inhibitions and can push the boundaries of her sexual imagination, both voyueristically and vicariously through characters she finds attractive and interesting. ‘Pure romance’ while exerting total power is compelling, especially since in Slash there are NO boundaries.

It is the safest of sexual exploration - a cyber environment shared with a few others who enjoy the same tastes. Add the power for the writer to play ‘God’ and ‘direct’ her favorites to do anything she desire, well ... no wonder it’s addictive.

Excerpts

Most of the women who write Slash fic are well educated and evenly split between hetro/bi and homosexual orientation. So why are they writing male/male pairings at all? Why not just ‘male/female’ or if bi/lesbian then ‘female/female’? What’s the attraction of the male/male situation that is not offered by the others?

I have tried in my own work to understand WHY I wrote WHAT I wrote. I have written many stories, and perceived common themes and techniques. My first male/male slash was written on a dare. At the time, I didn’t like reading most Fanfic. I found especially found slash stories to be very badly written and not true to the particular characters involved. My first exposure to slash were X-files Mulder/Skinner stories. I could easily write Skinner/Scully stories, but found the very idea Mulder/Skinner stories abhorrent, due to the fact IT WAS OUT OF CHARACTER for them to even consider getting sexually involved at all. When I read a few, it wasn’t the homosexual sex that bothered me, it was the cheesy sexual dialogue and badly plotted (if plotted at all) stories that made me retch.

A Slash addicted friend dared me to write a Mulder/Skinner fic to my own standards and what started as a whim became a interesting M/Sk character study for me. I couldn’t just write a story where Mulder and Skinner just suddenly have decide to have sex out of the blue. They needed motive. More importantly, they needed to REMAIN in character for it to work for me. Otherwise is was just a trashy, sexual fantasy.

The angst, the doubts, the fear of discovery, the plot (I had to have a plot) as well as the UST (Unresolved Sexual Tension) were the main elements of the story. The issue of trust was at the heart of the entire exchange (as it is in most traditional romance novels). The characters’ fear to become intimately involved in my story was due the fact they’d had assassination attempts on their lives. But close calls with death often have the effect of promiscuity. Once that criteria was established, then the male characters acting on their illicit desires with each other became acceptable to me. I also, unexpectedly, found the compelling drama of male/male first time/seduction very erotic.

The Slash Debate:

Do women write Slash because it’s a way to express their ‘sexuality tempered by emotion’ (Ruth Sadelle Alderson) or is it as Eugenia Chua believes, a backlash against ‘traditional views of masculinity’? Is it as Mia theorizes; the forbidden aspect, the sexual exploration of both feminist and possible bi/homosexual leanings?

Or it is all much simpler than that?

Female Anomaly? Male Pair Bond (Slash) Writing/Art

Slash fiction is fascinating from a sexual orientation POV. Despite the fact that the vast majority of writers in Slash are female, the stories are very often exclusively Male/Male pairings. Most efforts are angst filled ‘hurt/comfort’ and/or ‘first time’ fantasies with/without a lot of graphic sex. Other slash are very submissive/dominant-BDSM oriented and, again the acts are either implied or incredibly explicit depending on the author’s taste. Sites on the web post these stories free of charge (unlike many porn sites), along with artistic, erotic illustrations of the characters in passionate embraces. The characters are most often posed in suggestive, (rather than full frontal) illustrations. Explicit depiction of genitalia in fan art seems uncommon. Perhaps due to possible law suits, but I believe this is due to a distaste for “spoiling the romance”.

Most of the Fan Art that accompanies Slash is far more ‘romantic’ than ‘pornographic’ in nature. Loving looks, gentle kisses, and no naughty bits showing This is also true of much of the Slash itself.

In FanFic and SlashFic, it appears that the character interaction, not the sex acts (if present) described, are what is truly desired by the reader/writer. The object of the story is not focused on ‘getting to the sex” as it is to eavesdrop on the angst-ridden situation(s) of the male characters who have discovered that they desire each other.

Romance ‘n the Bone

Since the most popular male-oriented erotic magazines are the likes of Penthouse & Playboy, and the most popular genre for women is Romance Novels (50% of ALL soft cover book sales are Romance or some type) then the female dominance of Slash is not surprising.

Popular male-targeted erotica (porn) usually has no interest in romance, strife, character angst or dialogue. Porn movies/sites/magazines get right to it. The woman are pretty much nameless and interchangeable. ‘Nubile College chicks want YOU’ the banners scream and then go straight to surgically enhanced breasts and ‘come hither’ looks. In short, men want dirty pictures and will download them off the internet en mass. Women, on the other hand, want romantic stories and will read/write slash to fill their unique erotic ROMANTIC tastes.

‘Romance’ however, seems to be a DIRTY word. In the many essays I’ve read on the subject of SLASH the word “Romance” NEVER came up yet to read these stories and especially the dialogue, it is obviously far more about romance than it is sex. Why the avoidance of such an innocuous idea. Is it just that ‘writing erotica’ or “slash’ is cool and writing romance (even in slash form) is just too damn girly?

Why are WOMEN writing MALE/MALE homo-erotic slash fiction?

One thought is that in ‘Traditional’ romance, the Female/Male story ends with a marriage. The “happy ending” in a typical Male/Female romance is the wedding. However, once wed, the traditional Romance is over . Mutual desire has been established, all conflict resolved, the ring is on the finger, then what happens next? Boom! house-kids-bills and hey!!!.... no romance.

So what if the traditional goal (Marriage + the romance is over, + it’s your turn to change the baby”) is removed? Well, if the girl just wants to have fun, then there’s a problem. She’s considered a “slut’. Yeah-yeah it’s the new millennium but some things never change. Okay....so how do you remove the politics of having to be a ‘good girl’? Well... if you are a female, you can’t. Society’s double standard still applies even in the deepest darkest fantasies generated by a woman’s libido. Even fantasizing about a female in a fantasy realm carries a lot of psychological baggage. Solution? The writer’s desires can be easily grafted onto her favorite male character. After all, boys are expected to ‘sow wild oats’. ‘Boys will be boys’. ‘Rules are not the same for guys’. So, the writer lives out her illicit sexual desires as a man and can play all she wants without being branded a ‘bad girl’, which is still a problem for women in a hetro/lesbian female/female slash scenario.

Patience is a Virgin Dept.

Since Slash involving a woman entails this traditional ‘Happy Ending’ bullshit, the slash author writes/reads/fantasizes about two (or more) men since they can do whatever the hell they want and male/male Slash is the sexual playground of equals - biologically, emotionally and socially. One may be older, more experienced, more powerful, but the two males are on sexual level playing field. If one chooses to submit to the other it is because he truly wants to, not because he is expected to. If a woman becomes involved it throws everything off kilter.

Women are sometimes depicted as the “interference” element in slash. She may be ‘demonised’ by the female writer, but what is taken for misogyny may merely be the author’s reaction to the general rules society applies to women . In other words, even in her secret fantasy universe, a woman must be ‘good’, and therefore monogamous, and therefore can’t have any fun. If she isn’t ‘good’ then even the male characters will have a problem with that, and then the writer will have to deal with her surrogate being branded a slut in her fantasy world too.

A female in a male/male story implies the female has to make a choice between the two men or that the guys traditionally should be fighting over her. In that situation the writer is back to a traditional romance situation that is expected to ‘end happily with marriage’.

If a woman is present and the guys ‘reject’ her in these stories, it’s not because they “hate women”, but because, to the author, it puts at risk the pure never-ending romantic element of the strictly male/male pairing. It’s mismatch, not misogyny.

In writing male/male slash the authors are expressing their desire for pure romance without sexual politics or traditional gender expectations. Even the most vile and twisted pairings are redeemed by the purity of the love expressed.

The Never ending Romance

In real life, women are often their own worst critics. (Just listen to women diss other women and you know that the two worst things to accuse another female of are 1. Being a ‘slut’ and/or 2. Being a “bad” mother.) It isn’t that women are misogynist for writing women characters as ‘bad’ for ‘wanting to break up the boys’. It’s just the only way around having to ‘end’ the romance. Thought, it can happen in female/male stories

Two of the few male/female stories that hit this zenith of romance without marriage ‘spoiling it’ are the Jack/Rose story of the movie Titanic (not the success of THAT film/song) and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Note, however, that in each story one of the main characters had to die. Jack sacrifices himself for Rose and poor Tess is hung by the neck until dead after ‘proving’ her love by murdering the man who ‘spoiled her’.

The romantic sacrifice/death brings the story to an appropriate “never ending” conclusion. In Titanic, Rose meets Jack in the afterlife to continue their love affair, but their relationship wouldn’t have had the same romantic impact if Rose had simply taken Jack aside and said, “Look, I’ll just marry the rich guy for his money and then we’ll secretly screw each other on the side. Okay?”

Male/male slash is the embodiment of the Never Ending Romance. No marriage, no kids, nothing, except maybe ANOTHER man, can really get in the way of their love. Some slash stories just carry on and on - ten, fifteen, twenty chapters! The males passionate desires for each other are described in PAINSTAKING detail.

For myself, a long anticipation before ‘consummation’ is paramount to a good slash story. In one rather longish Forever Knight Slash I wrote, the sex was implied but not graphically detailed. The ‘act’ was not really that important to me. Emotional situations, trust building, ascension to a higher trust/love/romance was what I was writing.

Hurt, Comfort and the Vunerabilty [sic] Wedge

One common technique for trust/erotic tension is the Hurt/comfort scenario. Hurt/comfort situations provides a ‘vulnerability factor’ without destabilizing the level sexual playing field. Normally, a strong hetro male isn’t going to do the wild thing with another guy, but if one is weakened by an injury, stress or whatever, and requires help, then the other male can provide assistance, forming an emotional bond. It is the thin edge of the wedge to explore other emotional desires and ‘weaknesses’ aka lust of one man for another man. (This can also explain the ‘kink’ of the ‘anorexic character’ that is found in some Slash. The guy who is painfully thin is still erotic because it is a non-political weakness. It feminizes the male character but keeps him sexually equal.)

Innuendo-laden dialogue, mind games, moral debate, self-control conflicts and overriding passion, the building of trust and first-time seduction between the characters are the common elements of Slash stories. It isn’t about ‘penetration’. It is strictly romance without society’s parameters, prejudices or expectations....except one.

But what I really wanna do is Direct...

However, make no mistake, there is power being exerted here. In Slash, the writer can make these guys do and (more importantly) feel ANYTHING she wants. She can make them love each other because she writes what is in their hearts. Consummation is not always necessary or even desired. The acknowledgment of mutual passion and how these characters deal with their emotions is the primary reward of this endless romantic encounter.

The other compelling appeal of Slash is the ‘Direct the Eye candy’ aspect. Slash writers tend to chose two or more characters they personally find attractive. For example, in LOTR Slash - Aragorn/Boromir pairings are the most popular. Both characters are extremely attractive men. To explore a romantic aspect between two such characters is a powerful exercise in both voyeurism and ‘character assumption’. The writer is seducing/deflowering one of the characters (most likely the one she fancies more) vicariously through the other male character.

Here the seduction is of a ‘purer’ nature, since it is between two equals, and thus more fraught with sexual tension since male/male liaisons are not really a given in the universe they inhabit. (Even on the Fox network). The bonus is that the female writer gets to ‘direct’ her two favorite characters discovering each other: she can writhe in delight at their guilt, the angst, the fear and know that this romance can go on for an unlimited time in this new twist on medieval ‘courtly love’.

Whip me, beat me, teach me love...

This romantic element is still very evident in the BDSM stories where again: power and control in the sexual arena is perceived very differently between two men rather than between a man and a woman.

Women, physically, are not as strong as men so two males vying for power/control over each other is more dramatic, and even more forbidden than a male/female BDSM story. It’s a mental/emotional power struggle rather than a physical one. The perception is the man is there because he ‘wants’ to be there. The playing field is still level so the submissive male isn’t a ‘victim’ to the writer.

In Slash, a willing male submissive is ‘okay’ because it’s HIS choice, yet a willing female submissive is made to feel she needs therapy to understand why she feels compelled to let men use her like the slut she probably is in this brave new Feminist world.

So again, the traditional psychological baggage just gets in the way and the writer needs two men to live vicariously through to get a bit of guilt free rough. Even in the a Fanfic world, one cannot prevent Freudian ‘Penis Envy’ Bilge or Jungian ‘Animas’ crap from spoiling one’s fun.