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"I WANT TO CUDDLE HIM UNTIL HE SUFFOCATES"
October 6, 2012 6:32 AM   Subscribe

The Killer Crush: The Horror Of Teen Girls, From Columbiners To Beliebers
posted by Kitty Stardust (96 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lo lo Bacchus y'all.
posted by The Whelk at 6:51 AM on October 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


"The feels are sexual, but not merely or exclusively so. They are distinct from pre-internet emotions in that they are more like feelings for feelings' sake. The internet, with its wealth of intangible content, is the feels' native land; an internet crush is the feels personified. You can't do anything about the feels except feel them, then maybe go look at some more pictures online. They are an appetite that does not expect to be sated, an intensity without any perceivable end."

Whether there are emotions that are distinct from pre-internet emotions is an interesting question. I am not convinced that this is really one such.
posted by escabeche at 7:03 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting take on fangirlism. The only part that confused me was the implication that the Columbiners and Holmies are taking part in a social revolution on par with Beatlemania. I'm really not seeing that, at all, but even so, the same internal mechanics are in place for these different crushes. As she said, it's less about the object of the crush than it is about the person who develops it. I think crushing is a development process; it's a means to exercise the feeling of desire (not necessarily sexual, and never attainable - which is important) to ecstatic levels.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:05 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The second paragraph reminded me of a friend in high school, who know everything—everything—that it is possible to know about Brent Spiner without having met him. My high school friends were pretty okay.
posted by valrus at 7:05 AM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


The interesting thing for me is how Not New the phenomenon is. mass Media might have been able to pole vault Beatlemania way beyond previous models but the description always remind me of descriptions of religious catharsis/ecstasy.
posted by The Whelk at 7:10 AM on October 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


Sexual arousal for violent crime and murder? Overwhelming incomparable emotions? Lust leading to shrieking groups of nubile women shrieking as they threaten the life of the object of their desire?

I want to read the article Georges Bataille would have written about teenage Internet fangirlism.
posted by idiopath at 7:15 AM on October 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


The (7- and 8-year-old) girls in my class are obsessed with Justin Bieber.

In one of our stories, Henry and Mudge and the Starry Night, the dad pulls out a guitar and sings Love Me Tender. One of my girls thought it was the absolute height of hilarity that there was a song called Love Me Tender, and she spent the rest of the day singing a song that she made up that only included the words 'love me tender'.

The next day I pulled up Elvis singing it on the Ed Sullivan show and played it for them, and the very first thing they said was that Elvis looked like Justin Bieber, which is also the first thing I thought when the video came up (only the other way around, of course.)

They also noticed that the girls in the audience were reacting vocally, not screaming, but still.

One girl's comment: "Yeah, he looks like JB, but he's not quite as (pause) attractive."
Other girl: "Yeah, he doesn't really bring the spice."

Which made me laugh for a while.
posted by Huck500 at 7:18 AM on October 6, 2012 [59 favorites]


The interesting thing for me is how Not New the phenomenon is.

I've always been fascinated with the fan reaction to Liszt
posted by deliquescent at 7:29 AM on October 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


One girl's comment: "Yeah, he looks like JB, but he's not quite as (pause) attractive."
Other girl: "Yeah, he doesn't really bring the spice."


Eight-year-olds, Dude.
posted by aaronetc at 7:39 AM on October 6, 2012 [26 favorites]


This is why I only let my daughter listen to Primus.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:42 AM on October 6, 2012 [33 favorites]


The interesting thing for me is how Not New the phenomenon is.

Ayn Rand was obsessed with a serial killer who dismembered little girls.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:46 AM on October 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


The article seems to be saying that having a crush on dead murderers is just like Beatlemania because they share a few motivational attributes. Nothing to see here.

But how and why are they different? It is a giant leap to equate the two and the article doesn't bridge it all. Having some similarities doesn't make them the same and doesn't answer the question of whether those parents should be concerned about their daughters being massacre groupies.

I started the article with high hopes I'd get an explanation for all the One Direction posters around my house. All I left with is some confusion and a bit of relief the posters aren't of Charles Manson.
posted by stp123 at 7:48 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eight-year-olds, Dude.

Yeah, they say funny stuff naturally, but eight-year-old girls with teenage sisters, holy crap.
posted by Huck500 at 7:49 AM on October 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Something I've processed quite recently is that in the gulf between growing up female and growing up male, how we're shaped either growing up as the object or growing up as the selector; every girl is an object, and every boy is a potential selector. A girl needs to learn how to perform "what boys like" in order to attract and keep boys' attention, and boys take it for granted girls will be doing this, that girls exist as objects for their attention to pick and choose from (this is why many guys, especially young ones, feel perfectly at home evaluating women, any woman at all, with "I'd hit it" or not - we are surprised at their presumption, but from their POV that is their role as selector). Boys and girls (and men and women) will "punish" girls who aren't trying to fulfill their given role.

It can be super-disorienting to begin to grasp that you, as a girl, are supposed to fit into this role as you become a teenager, especially if you were not really "practicing" your inevitable object-ness as a child. I think crushes (unconsciously) result as you push all these feelings of selection and pursual that you're not supposed to (or really you're not allowed to) act on into focusing on someone who is safe - a person who is famous (who will never know you), or who is older and out-of-reach, who will never select YOU, you get to select THEM... perhaps to cope with not having that choice IRL. I'm not surprised at the danger focus either (serial killers) between the narrative of "the true love of a girl can fix a bad boy into a good man" and the sheer hormonal dark nature of repressing your sexuality to service what society requires of you.

As well it's reinforced by the peer group - I remember when I was in middle school you were "weird" if you DIDN'T have a favorite New Kid on the Block - it becomes a peer-bonding thing (and maybe this is why the author is perceiving the effect to be enhanced by the Internet - you have more peers to identify and bond with over a particular fangirl object). So even though I wasn't really interested in them at all I felt like I had to pick one and then I had to be able to talk about him and "defend him" as being the best one, etc. - I got the definite impression I was supposed to because I was a girl and if I didn't then I wasn't "being a girl" right.

When I actually progressed to having a crush on an older classmate, it was bizarre, since I wasn't actually into him all that much; it was more playacting and imagining if he magically one day selected ME and how that would be and what I would do and so on. It was a performance - I was performing what I thought I was supposed to perform, as a girl. I see, looking back, how very hard I was trying to absorb and adapt to the narrative I was being fed, but it's immature when you're full of emotions you don't understand and surrounded by expectations you don't have the experience to understand.
posted by flex at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2012 [133 favorites]


This was a very well-written article.

I'd think that a lot of this has something to do with society's love for Bad Boy archetypes. Also maybe nascent flowerings of kink. Most of my crushes have tended to be on fictional boys, but they're also usually pretty wild creatures (or, alternatively, total woobies). You know, David Tennant as ten-the-genocidal-maniac, or whatever. For me a lot of it is about the cultural myth of a woman--one special woman's--ability to reform that man. Not the best cultural myth, mind you, but for whatever reason it's always given me the feels.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:56 AM on October 6, 2012


Because remember young girls, You Can Change Him.
posted by The Whelk at 8:02 AM on October 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


I liked this piece -- I enjoyed the respect the writer gave to girls' crushes -- something that's so often written off as "cute" by society. No, it's intense and passionate. It is sexual, although not entirely. It's a way to explore who you want to be and what you want.

I especially like the final paragraph. I do agree that fixating on the Columbine shooters is sort of a part of rebellion -- picking a crush that is somehow dangerous and dark (and really, if you're a teenager now, you probably don't have much memory of the actual Columbine shootings, if you do at all. It's not a real thing. Crushing on James Holmes feels a bit more problematic for me). But I do think it's about being able to explore those darker emotions in a safe way.

So much of young women's lives ends up being internal, even if you're sharing it with a group online. Obsessions are a good bonding point, especially at an age when you're too young to know who you really are or how to relate to people.
posted by darksong at 8:03 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Y'all, hormones are scary when they're first hitting you. Sexual urges, when you first get them and you're not used to getting them, can freak you right the fuck out especially when you think about what it is you actually would have to DO when you're having sex and you've never done it before and it's really really weird but GOD you kinda still want to do it and you don't understand why and you get all these conflicting messages about what you are and aren't supposed to do, what you should and shouldn't do, and some days you agree with one and somedays you agree with another idea, and you also haven't learned to control these new emotions yet because they're so new and these hormones are in wacko overdrive and that just amps up the urges all the more, and...

....and I think that's why a lot of girls go for celebrities, book characters, or the dead or people in prisons. Because you KNOW, really, deep down, that there is no way in hell Justin Bieber/Jordan Knight/Johnny Depp/Gavin Rossdale/Sting/Paul McCartney/etc. is actually really and for truly going to ever ask you out. So they are a safe target for your scary new sexual desire - you can express that desire, without ever having to follow through. So....it's safe. And because it's safe, you can crank it up to eleven -- which is the only way you know how to do it because you don't yet know how to keep control of this scary new force inside you.

When you're a little older and have had more experience dealing with actual boys, then you learn to prefer that to the fantasies (or the fantasies get moved into a proper time and place). But....for teens, they're like...training wheels.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on October 6, 2012 [24 favorites]


Another angle to consider as well - I had a sort of revelation not too long ago - that I always talk about my husband in the sense of, you know, both of us got around a lot before we met each other but I've never had a problem with his range of experience because he picked ME in the end - he could've had any woman but he picked me. I asked him, do you frame meeting me the same way? I got around, I could've had any other guy with my range of experience, but I picked you? He said no - he said "I wanted you, so I pursued you." I said, I always say I am lucky that you chose me. Do you say you are lucky that I chose you? He thought about it and said no. He said "I'm lucky that I found you."

Think about a guy who is dating a supermodel, right? It's not framed as out of all the men out there, she picked HIM. It's framed as "all the men want her, but I'm the one who landed her, I'm the one who made that happen". (He has the agency, not her.)

That's the narrative, so that's what the crushes operate under. A girl is given the opportunity to select (for once) and then use that selection to project the narrative she has to work under - that out of all the girls out there in the world, the crush object will select HER, and she will be so lucky he chose her, and he will feel so lucky he found her out of the crowd. It's a more intense version of the narrative she has to fulfill, but in this one instance, she gets to be in control of the narrative, which she won't be, IRL.
posted by flex at 8:10 AM on October 6, 2012 [79 favorites]


Thanks, flex. Interesting analysis.
posted by stp123 at 8:13 AM on October 6, 2012


I think once again Dory Previn wins the 500 meter gender-based hypocrisy pointing-out round.

"why is it?
when a man wants a woman he's called a hunter
but when a woman wants a men she's called
a predator
"
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


pre-internet emotions

Sorry for the derail but this desperately needs to be turned into a song by Frank Ocean.
posted by Fizz at 8:20 AM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Beatlemania was revolutionary, as Barbara Ehrenreich and her co-authors Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs pointed out in this 1992 article, because it inspired an active, public assertion of sexual desire at a time when young girls were supposed to be chipper, pony-tailed, and pure at heart..

Oh FFS. That's what they said about Franz Liszt.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


So....it's safe. And because it's safe, you can crank it up to eleven -- which is the only way you know how to do it because you don't yet know how to keep control of this scary new force inside you.

Yes! This is the first thought I had after reading the article. Well, that and "why isn't she talking about Star Trek fandom?"
posted by greenland at 8:26 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Phony beatlemania has bitten the dust.
posted by werkzeuger at 8:30 AM on October 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


(this is why many guys, especially young ones, feel perfectly at home evaluating women, any woman at all, with "I'd hit it" or not - we are surprised at their presumption, but from their POV that is their role as selector)

Oh, baloney.

As well it's reinforced by the peer group - I remember when I was in middle school you were "weird" if you DIDN'T have a favorite New Kid on the Block - it becomes a peer-bonding thing


See? That's exactly the same thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:33 AM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


The interesting thing for me is how Not New the phenomenon is.

"It looks like someone has thrown a pair of bloomers into the machine."
posted by elizardbits at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


"This is why I only let my daughter listen to Primus."

You just want her to be bullied don't you? She'll be the only girl at school mooning over a picture of Les Claypool while softly singing "John the Fisherman". Stop the madness!!
posted by MikeMc at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


elizardbits: TESLA!

Sys Rq: Sure, it's a male peer-bonding thing, with the same function as the female peer-bonding - training to perform your role; and you don't fit in if you don't do it, so there is pressure to do it.
posted by flex at 8:41 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Exactly. But my point there was also that your example females are doing every bit as much selecting and objectifying as your example males.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:44 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


And my point is that they are doing it in the way they are allowed to - on a crush, which is not a relationship - because they cannot do it in relationships.
posted by flex at 8:45 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometime in the 2020s I will be the parent of teen girls. Just think of the horrors they will have invented by then.

Still, they'll have missed out on fucking Bieber and Twilight.
posted by Artw at 8:54 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Man I wanna scrub his enviroport implant if you know what I mean."

"I wanna have his clones."
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


The question that I find most interesting is how these obsessions play out with regard to adult relationships. I appreciate that there is healthy compartmentalization between fantasy and real life, but I also find it hard to believe that hours and hours and years and years spent training one's self into certain mental states doesn't leak out in strange and unpredictable ways. Same goes for boys who are exposed to, and obsess with, unrealistic sexual situations through porn. I don't suppose anybody ever funded a longitudinal study with regards to Beatlemania?
posted by Skwirl at 9:00 AM on October 6, 2012


Sometime in the 2020s I will be the parent of teen girls. Just think of the horrors they will have invented by then.

There are many things I want in life, but being the parent of a tween/teen girl is not one of them. I'd start sounding like Kurtz, "The horror! The horror!"
posted by Forktine at 9:16 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me now that what you're getting at, flex, is that traditionally, girls and women only have the power to accept or reject advances -- a power which is dependent on there being advances in the first place, let alone advances from anyone they'd have selected. Female selection is passive; male selection is active. That is a good point.

But.

And my point is that they are doing it in the way they are allowed to - on a crush, which is not a relationship - because they cannot do it in relationships.

This suggests that any boy can just select any girl he desires and have a relationship. It just doesn't work that way.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:25 AM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Other girl: "Yeah, he doesn't really bring the spice."

He who brings the spice, controls the universe!

Or, at least, gets the tweens and near-tweens to bug their parents into letting him control the universe, at least until curfew.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:31 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


This suggests that any boy can just select any girl he desires and have a relationship. It just doesn't work that way.

I agree it doesn't work that way, which is why I did not say that and would never say that. Female crushes do not equate to male IRL relationship selection - I would posit the male equivalent of "crushes" is probably porn. Well, maybe not equivalent, but similar enough.
posted by flex at 9:37 AM on October 6, 2012


I would posit the male equivalent of "crushes" is probably porn. Well, maybe not equivalent, but similar enough.

I would strongly disagree. Porn is usually undifferentiated and overtly about achieving the "endgame" as it were. Crushes are sexual only in part, involve a specific focus on an unattainable person, and work the crusher into a near-ecstatic frenzy the likes of which even Jenna Haze or Sasha Gray is unlikely to inspire.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:43 AM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


One of my girls thought it was the absolute height of hilarity that there was a song called Love Me Tender

That will be because in 2012 language it's "Fuck me 'til I'm raw".
posted by Grangousier at 9:45 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


And maybe I'm an outlier, but I've had crushes as described in the article as a teenage boy, so I'm acutely aware of the difference between the returns of porn and the crush. There is nothing quite like the crazy, free-falling, all-encompassing liberating-but-helpless rush of having a crush. It expands into areas of the brain porn doesn't even approach.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:47 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


pre-internet emotions

im dying
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:47 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's the narrative, so that's what the crushes operate under.

Like Sys Rq, I am not sure I buy this. In my experience, the narrative was rather reversed -- the boys/young men were expected to go out and perform and the girls/young women were selecting. Now, part of that performance was "pursuit" -- the boy was expected to approach the girl and hope for acceptance, so the girl could only chose from who approached her, which has its own messed-up quality, but it's not quite the narrative you describe. The crush, in this context, is more the girl reacting to her inability to choose by imagining being perused by someone that she does, indeed, chose (or imagines that she chooses).

On the other hand, I don't mean to invalidate your experience; perhaps this just plays out differently in different parts of the country/world, at different times (and obviously by gender).

I would posit the male equivalent of "crushes" is probably porn. Well, maybe not equivalent, but similar enough.

Wow, I would disagree with this strongly. Boys have crushes, too, although the dynamic is different because they have to decide to ask (and get chosen or not) or decide that the crush is "out of their league" and give up on it. Although boys are expected to indulge in, say, posters of the "sexy woman of the day" (Farrah Fawcett was a scandal when I was a boy) as a kind of "marker of crush" I suppose, which, if one is throwing the term "porn" around broadly enough could qualify, but then so could the New Kids homework folders, too....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:49 AM on October 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


> Something I've processed quite recently is that in the gulf between growing up female and growing up male,
> how we're shaped either growing up as the object or growing up as the selector; every girl is an object,
> and every boy is a potential selector.

And vice versa, please. OMG the amount of stuff I did as a kid specifically in hopes of attracting the attention of and impressing and pleasing girls. Most of it lunatic and counterproductive, of course--that part doesn't really get better for guys until they grow up and develop maybe a grain of reflectiveness and some big-person skillz.

But even so, I hope we don't have to minimize or just pass silently over the other half of kid experience. I truly wish there had been some media-enforced standards about how to be What Girls Want, for the vast majority of us for whom being Elvis or Paulie or JB isn't much of an option.

Thread-related, re. internet crushes: I have had exactly one, which I have not forgotten lo these decades later. It was in a fidonet echomail group for writers and writer-wannabes (fidonet was of course text only so hot pix and physical attractiveness don't enter into this.) Another participant, an editor at a suburban weekly (and alas married) mentioned in passing that when she was a girl she liked to mix up all the different food colors and make the mayonnaise for her sandwiches black. OH MELT!!! fuller remains melted right now today.
posted by jfuller at 9:51 AM on October 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


MSTPT: I am incredibly reluctant to get into a porn debate with you (or anyone) in this thread which is why I qualified with "I would posit" and "similar enough". My equivalency was made in that it is a way of fantasy-training for your societal role, and not in the way that you're taking it. I don't feel this is a discussion that can possibly be productive between us or that it belongs in this thread. On preview, GenjiandProust, same thing.
posted by flex at 9:52 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


the crazy, free-falling, all-encompassing liberating-but-helpless rush of having a crush

Yep. That swept-away helplessness is part of the point with crushes; the person with the crush is being overwhelmed by intense emotion, and it feels like an outside force rather than something we're creating ourselves through repetitive, intrusive thoughts. As for porn, very little emotion is involved. I suspect that male fantasies about female adult entertainment stars are far less about the romantic dinner and the walk along the beach or the stolen kisses under the stars than about actual sexual acts.

Crushes are about the pursuit and the desire to be the other's chosen one, even if the crusher understands completely the unlikelihood of that. I have found that to be true in my own life whether the person I was crushing on was that senior who said hi to me once in the library (OMG, he knows who I am!), Humphrey Bogart (what? I wanted to be Lauren Bacall - still do, actually), or Dream of the Endless (yeah, I got nothin'.)
posted by catlet at 9:59 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Clarifying my comment above: in my own experience with visual porn, there is little emotional involvement. Not trying to speak for others.
posted by catlet at 10:01 AM on October 6, 2012


My equivalency was made in that it is a way of fantasy-training for your societal role, and not in the way that you're taking it. I don't feel this is a discussion that can possibly be productive between us or that it belongs in this thread.

Alright? I don't know what indicated to you that nothing could possibly be gained by talking about this. Shame you feel that way, because I think it's a worthwhile discussion. I wasn't taking offence or anything - I just think that porn and the crush operate under two different sets of psycho-biological mechanics. Porn certainly can shape the expectations young boys could grow to have about women, but the motivation in the tweens to early teens for porn is about the release. For the crush, the surrender to getting lost in a specific and unattainable famous person creates a feedback loop that's kind of an end in itself, developing a fantasy reality of what a romantic ideal could or ought to be.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:02 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw.Sometime in the 2020s I will be the parent of teen girls. Just think of the horrors they will have invented by then.

Still, they'll have missed out on fucking Bieber and Twilight.


Me too. But whatever the hot-new-thing is in 2020, it won't be better than Bieber or Twilight. It will be worse because it will have grown out of these things. We'll wish they were into oldies music and classic literature.
posted by hot_monster at 10:03 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


They are distinct from pre-internet emotions

Oh, Lord help us.
posted by bongo_x at 10:04 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Go easy, folks. The author indicates that she is in her mid-twenties; She has never been emotionally mature in a world without the Internet.

Other than that overreach on her part I found it to be a thoughtful and well-written article. Thanks for posting it, K.S.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:21 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah I really enjoyed this article, very much. I think it was long overdue to have examined what I think is a pretty crucial and complex stage of development.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:39 AM on October 6, 2012


They are distinct from pre-internet emotions

Oh, Lord help us.


Pre-Internet FEELS.
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


-flex-

As a man, I’ve never thought of "choosing" and "being chosen" in the way you describe, or anything like it. My wife didn’t really get it either and we are pretty conventional. Teenage boys have intense crushes that have nothing to do with porn. They also spend a lot of time thinking "I wish she would pick me".

Men and women are not totally different in ways the other can never hope to understand. They are not exactly the same except for genitals. All women are not the same. All men are not the same. Any narrative about gender roles that says "boys are like this, girls are like that" is on shaky ground. What you describe is a stereotype, and I think there is often some truth in stereotypes, but you can’t go too far with it. You have to be careful of thinking your experience is universal.
posted by bongo_x at 10:42 AM on October 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


pre-internet emotions

Sorry for the derail but this desperately needs to be turned into a song by Frank Ocean.


"What's love got to do with it?" Tina Turner sings about second hand emotions, which is what these are all about.
posted by infini at 10:42 AM on October 6, 2012


Eventually they will grow up and marry, and place bookmarks in Architectural Digest, with the same likelihood of real-world consummation.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:46 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a related link at the bottom of that article to an article called Look Back in Eyeliner: Three Girls at a Duran Duran Sleepover in 1984.

Yet there's something to be said for how hard we had to work to be fans: Combing record stores in faraway cities, looking for rare imported 12”s; watching and waiting all day to see videos on MTV; devouring any tidbit of info in magazines; having a friend record them (on cassette!) at Live Aid, because you were going to be at Girl Scout camp that day. And Carrie and I would walk to Mike’s Towne and Country [nearest grocery store] every Tuesday to check out the new magazines.

This, to me, describes the pre-internet part of the feelings. It was a much slower burn; you had to repeatedly consume the little bits and pieces you collected rather than just open up to the gravity bong of tumblr. It was an intense amount of work for tiny bits of payoff. Not better or worse, just the quality of the feels was different because of it. There's also an entirely different sense of community - that 6-girl sleepover in 1984 is very different than hundreds of active users on your community niche of choice.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


How peculiar that there seems to be a subtext in this discussion about males not getting crushes. Of course they do, at all ages, in any number of ways, some of them as seemingly intense as the ones females have. I think it's that our culture programs us for and channels such things into different outward expression which makes us think that males don't and females do.
posted by hippybear at 10:56 AM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Pre-internet fandom was like an infection, it had to work slowly, you had to actively ignore the symptoms or/and feed into them. It required leg work and actually finding and meeting someone else with the same scary interests you have was a

Now it's more like ebola,and it burns fast and hot, exploding out of nowhere and then vanishing, killing too many people for the infection to spread.

also Pre-internet FEELS:

"Act 1 has already slain my heart! I fear mightily and tremble to think of that fate of dearest Romeo, the poor lamb surrounded by lions!"

"Indeed dearest sister, how has he twisted himself into unnatural agony and his one most steadfast love sits away, his light under a bushel. It wounds me so!"

"Pray tell whom is more destined for Romeo than fair Juliet?"

"The steadfast and fiery Mecurito of course, his fine womanly countenance masks a fierce and animal heart. "

"Dearest sister, if you where upon Grandmother's rocker I would say now you are most definitely off it."
posted by The Whelk at 11:01 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


"-was a scary rare and momentous thing." wow can I have an edit feature for my brain?
posted by The Whelk at 11:10 AM on October 6, 2012


I always thought that the crushing on Beiber was the same as why Orlando Bloom was crush worthy for tweens: they both look feminine and could be perceived as more gentle and romantic and harmless while still having a male identification. I think there's sexual anxiety there.
posted by discopolo at 11:11 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, weren't "the feels" derived from the "that feel when" meme, e.g., "that feel when Gavin Rossdale smiles at Gwen Stefani" or "why can't I hold all these feels"?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:15 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also I was reading some of the endnotes and more academic stuff about fan culture from this post and wow boy howdy do at lot of these 50s fan magazines sound like they're having modern conversations in the "letters to the editor" page, albeit longer and with better grammar.
posted by The Whelk at 11:16 AM on October 6, 2012


An aspect of crushes that the article doesn't address is that crushes are one of the few areas where same-sex attraction is allowed (or has been until fairly recently). The crushes in the article are very heteronormitive, although it is certainly possible for kids to develop strong admiration/hero-worship feelings that shade into the erotic (and firmly into the erotic for young people who are just becoming aware of same-sex attraction). Additionally, boys and girls also develop close same-sex friendships with peers that are often as great sources of confusion and jealousy as more heteronorminative crushes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:21 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


WARNING: ANECDATA AHEAD

When I was a tween I wrote music reviews and interviewed local bands for a youth newspaper. At the time I thought I was better than most of my peers because I'd rejected New Kids on the Block for, say, the Del Fuegos. I developed a huge crush on the singer for one of the bands I interviewed, and we'd stayed in touch here and there. My mom frequently went to see them play a bar up the street from where we lived at the time.

Let me tell you, there are few things more confusing than being able to talk to your rock star crush object, especially when it's not in some prefabricated meet and greet context. I think I actually attempted to flirt with him once or twice, and he had enough sense to ignore what I thought of as very sophisticated advances indeed. (His then-fiancee saw me do this at least once and thought it was the funniest thing ever...a fact I learned later.) It's tough, because in this case he existed as both (for want of a better term) a model for male interactions and also as a real person. I did have these kinds of emotions towards him, but I also knew that there was a really clear line in what I could say to him that wouldn't embarrass me or him too much, and there were times I came up against it and had just enough self-awareness to back off.

Even though I rejected the New Kids, and even though I was proud that the bands I loved wrote their own songs, played their own instruments, and had a greater sense of agency than did the marionette-like boy bands my peers liked, that dynamic was still there. If anything, my close proximity to the bands I adored made me even more confused and subject to embarrassment than the New Kids Army...
posted by pxe2000 at 12:09 PM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


I remember when I was in middle school you were "weird" if you DIDN'T have a favorite New Kid on the Block - it becomes a peer-bonding thing (and maybe this is why the author is perceiving the effect to be enhanced by the Internet - you have more peers to identify and bond with over a particular fangirl object). So even though I wasn't really interested in them at all I felt like I had to pick one and then I had to be able to talk about him and "defend him" as being the best one, etc. - I got the definite impression I was supposed to because I was a girl and if I didn't then I wasn't "being a girl" right.

Oh god, yes, I remember this. I've never liked boy bands, but you HAD to fixate on one anyway or else you were socially wrong. I ended up picking Jon (later known as the gay one--kinda not surprised) because he seemed okay and less obnoxious, comparatively speaking. I even got forced to PLAY ONE OF THEM IN A SKIT (all girl skit, no less). I think it was Danny, but fuck if I know, I couldn't play a dude, much less a New Kid, for anything.

The cultural myth of "I am so special that I'll turn a bad boy good" is soooo bad. In real life, boy, does that not exist. I've even been told, much like in As Good As It Gets, that I made a dude want to be a better man. But the thing is, he has to want to be a better man with or without you. If he doesn't want to on his own, and is just doing it to get in your pants or whatever, it won't last. And also, the bad boy who treats everyone but YOU like shit doesn't make you special--it just means that once the New Cow wears off you, you'll get treated like shit too. The nice thing about the fantasy guys is that a girl doesn't have to deal with being disillusioned with their shit IRL. There's plusses.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:26 PM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


In another thread I mentioned my 14 year old self writing NKOTB slash fic. Reader, I searched high and low for it, but alas, it was not to be found.

(That whole thread is very much related to the topic at hand.)
posted by desjardins at 12:31 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


why isn't she talking about Star Trek fandom?

*cough* Kirk/Spock *cough* slash
posted by localroger at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2012


Further derail-y anecdata: I almost got to interview Mark Sandman in 1990-91 (pre-Morphine), but this interview was kiboshed due to some inter-band issue. (They were either about to sign to Rounder or about to break up, judging by the Treat Her Right timeline.) Given my previous interactions with local rock stars, I'm pretty sure I'd either be in over my head with Sandman, or I would have developed a massive, embarrassing crush on him and would have been really devastated when he died.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:42 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


“I love you beyond infinince”? Good grief. What manner of cognitive flatulence could produce such a turn of phrase?
posted by acb at 12:52 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's a mass murderer, not a poet.
posted by desjardins at 1:03 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, from the point of view of cognitive and neurobiological and evolutionary science, "emotions" don't shift dramatically in structure (arguably not in expression either) in the course of a couple of decades. I also think whatever *cultural* shifts in the ways we experience and express our primal feelings are important to consider here (and I think there are many, though none would be uncontroversial), that the shifts in question have more to do with mediation in general -- the rise of representational technologies offer huge expansions of scope for imagining and fulfilling desires of all sorts. I think photography and recording still have more durable effects than we have yet seen from "the internet" as such.

flex, that was an awesome comment by the way.
posted by spitbull at 1:04 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would posit the male equivalent of "crushes" is probably porn. Well, maybe not equivalent, but similar enough.

Are you saying (heterosexual) males don't have crushes?
posted by acb at 1:14 PM on October 6, 2012


That will be because in 2012 language it's "Fuck me 'til I'm raw".

Love gonna stop, Imma gonna rock your body hard—like damn!
posted by acb at 1:19 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pornophilia is not the same as a crush. While there are porn fans with favorite actors/actresses, they don't generally go to the lengths of collecting every available scrap of information about the targets of their desire. They don't get the "feels." They blow off their sexual tension and move on until it returns.

One interesting exception -- and it is interesting because it is an exception -- is the community that formed around Insex, which in addition to doing radically extreme S&M porn also created all kinds of mechanisms for the fans to interact directly with the content. You still run into people online whose first reaction at the mention of Insex will be something like "God I miss them." (And no, I'm not one of them, I found out Insex existed just weeks before it went offline. I find the fact that they ever existed fascinating though.)

I think there is a lot of crossover between generic crushes, serial killer crushes, normal fandom, slashfic fandom, and a few other things of similar nature. Even among mostly normal readers Hannibal Lecter can be understood as a godlike and heroic figure. With death and sex being rather critical things to our survival, it would be surprising indeed if we didn't find the intersection of life, death, and sex in the form of violence fascinating.

That which we find fascinating many of us will eroticize or fetishize. Particularly when we are young and being experimental. What is interesting here is that on several occasions this tendency, which is not the new thing, has caused new shifts in cultural paradigms which are new things.
posted by localroger at 2:15 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


As per the "pre-internet emotions" thing, I'll give her one (highly uneducated on the subject) justification for that, which is that mass-hysteria is a part of this phenomenon.

(also, pardon for the use of the term "hysteria" and all of the connotations that brings along with it, but as I'll describe, I won't be only talking about girls here. "Mass-hysteria" is just a kind-of understood term.)

Basically, as we see with Beatlemania, and Lisztomania, and now these things, the "feels" are easily amplified in a group setting. I remember walking past Madison Square Garden a few years back when the Jonas Brothers were about to throw a concert there, and the girls outside were losing their collective shit in a manner I'd never before seen in person. But here's the thing: I don't imagine that any single one of them would have been acting so out-of-her-mind if not for the rest of the crowd feeding into it.

Liszt had a bunch of people in a large hall together, the Beatles had a shitload of people waiting for them at JFK, and so it's easy to picture these things happening in that setting. What the internet does is allow for much more obscure crushes to get their own concert halls for feedbacks-loops of obsession. In a gender-neutral variation, I'd posit something like the A.V. CLub article about the possibility of Community being cancelled, the comment-thread for which ran into the tens of thousands - like minded people with a crush on a tv show losing their collective shit in an echo-chamber.

Or another gender-neutral example - speaking tongues, which I'll get back to in a moment.

The point being that prior to the internet as we know it now, people did harbor crushes on serial killers and the like, but did not have the ability to enter into a virtual concert-hall in which to amplify and indulge in the "feels" about them.

Now, a couple of weeks ago, my gf and I were in the car when "Step By Step" came on the radio, and I joked about how she surely totally had a crush on Jordan Knight when she was a kid. Her response was that she would have, but her older sister had dibs on him, so she had to settle for one of the other ones instead (and couldn't remember which one.)

Bringing up this thread with her today, she called bullshit on a lot of the theories brought up about this phenomenon. There was no fear with her or anything - her sister had simply chosen Jordan so she had to choose Danny or Jon or whoever as the one she was going to marry. I realized that this isn't universal, and she didn't really go through it.

I can relate. When I was a teenager I was on a mission trip to Mexico with my youth group, building houses. On a stop on the way back (I think) we were all hanging out in the chapel of whatever church at around midnight and something happened. People started to collapse into laughing fits all around me. I played along, because I did. The youth minister came and pulled me aside and gefntly told me that I was faking it, which I totally was. Still, if it's "weird" to not have a favorite New Kid, how off-putting is it to be the kid God didn't choose to go into ecstatic hysterics with everyone else?

Now, there's this video (I know there was a MeFi thread but for the life of me I can't find it.) of a group of pre-teen girls freaking out over their American Idol favorite losing in the final round. It's made the rounds, you've probably seen it. Anyway, the most fascinating thing about it, to me, is the girl in the back who is clearly not taken in, but feels like she should be, who goes back and forth between acting out what she thinks is apparently the appropriate response here, and standing back and watching her friends, bemused. I bet there are a few people around here who can remember moments like that.

Finally, I'm not going to comment on the porn derail, because this doesn't seem like the place for men to discuss how they consume porn, but I totally had crushes as a young straight male. Some celebrities, yes (Alicia Silverstone, then Drew Barrymore, if you at all care for any reason) but mostly the "life-threatening" type on girls from my classes. All-consuming. But just to add a data-point to the idea of "choosers-vs. chosen," I never thought much about actually asking these girls out, unless I was pushed into it. Because I knew that they weren't going to come to me, it was likewise "safe" for me to obsess, because nothing would come out of it. The difference being I think that boys are then told to "man up" and do something about it, and get stuck between wanting to just figure out their sexuality and what they are into and all of that and being pushed to try to make that a reality, even if they aren't ready for that.

Basically, to bring it back to Community, you can't disappoint a picture. Girls growing up have a much tougher time of navigating their sexual development then boys, I'm absolutely certain. This is just one obstacle that I feel is more unique to boys.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:49 PM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Girls growing up have a much tougher time of navigating their sexual development then boys, I'm absolutely certain.

This is, I think true. Part of the reason is that there really is no script for girls' sexual development. It's like boys get childhood --> puberty --> sex --> marriage --> fatherhood and girls get childhood --> puberty --> ??? --> marriage --> motherhood. Which makes things really confusing for everyone, as we all seem to know.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:56 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like that ??? Step results in lots of Wario mpreg fanart
posted by The Whelk at 5:02 PM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not entirely sure there is a script for anyone.
posted by Artw at 5:03 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. I've heard for years now that women have it easier than men navigating their sexual development because there's an actual moment when they transition from girl to woman (the onset of menses), which isn't part of male development. This gives them a definite beginning moment and removes the question of "when am I grown-up" from their development, as opposed to men who can linger in a state of mental questioning about this for years if not decades.

Maybe the truth is that both sexes have a difficult time of it in their own individual ways and it's difficult to say that one or the other is tougher because there is nobody knows what the other side is like.
posted by hippybear at 5:04 PM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting discussion here, re: tween girl crushes on Bieber, etc.

But what's up with the Columbiners and shit? That's gotta be a whole other kettle of crazy fish, no?

Anyone care to defend/explain that particular phenomenon? Certainly it's a far cry from simple "bad boy" attraction...
posted by ShutterBun at 5:10 PM on October 6, 2012


mostly the "life-threatening" type on girls from my classes. All-consuming.

Isn't it a classic trope in Archie-type comics that boys get these crushes all the time? Or all the references to boys "mooning" over girls?

Heck, even in my mid-40s I can get crushes. The difference is that I can tell when they're beginning and decide if I'm going to encourage them or not. (Little shaven-headed goatee young man with the tattoos and brighten-the-world smile who rides the bus with me sometimes in the morning, I'm looking at you...)
posted by hippybear at 5:11 PM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh FFS. That's what they said about Franz Liszt.

And Valentino.

Maybe the truth is that both sexes have a difficult time of it in their own individual ways and it's difficult to say that one or the other is tougher because there is nobody knows what the other side is like.

I would say that girls have it objectively tougher because we have to navigate being objects in a way that boys don't. Flex's comment was dead on in that regard; the creative contortions involved in situating oneself in a culture which is actively hostile to female sexuality can be debilitating. Relatedly, I've long thought that slash fiction--written porn running -- is unique in that it erases the female body from sex; the fantasies aren't about the writer having hot sex with the members of One Direction, it's about them having hot sex with each other. I'm sure I don't have to try to convince anyone here about just how much writing of this sort is on the internet; it's vast (and very different from the way men typically use porn). But it is most certainly not just written by teenage girls, and it is not by any means only teenage girls who become wrapped up in the psycho-sexual dynamic related to these unattainable figures of desire. A large number of slash and fanfic writers are middle-aged women, and they're spurred on to this creative expression through what would be called, reductively, a crush of this sort. It's something far more complicated, to do with fixating on men who are themselves involved in artistic production or who are figures in artistic productions (for the sake of argument, Twilight is included as "artistic" here) or who are fantasy objects of any other compelling sort. Its engine is sex, but at heart there may be some kind of unhealable wound and grief over the way things are. Why women people their interior lives with such relationships is a bigger question than can be addressed in a Mefi comment, so I'll leave it there.
posted by jokeefe at 5:40 PM on October 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


Jokeefe, what a beautifully written comment. And I have often wondered this myself! I wonder if there's anyone willing to answer this question...? Because I have no idea.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 5:49 PM on October 6, 2012


suburbanbeatnik, thank you. I don't know what the nonsequitur is doing there ("written porn running"-- what?) for which there is no excuse now that we have the edit window. Stupid edit window.
posted by jokeefe at 6:08 PM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Huh. I've heard for years now that women have it easier than men navigating their sexual development because there's an actual moment when they transition from girl to woman (the onset of menses), which isn't part of male development. This gives them a definite beginning moment and removes the question of "when am I grown-up" from their development, as opposed to men who can linger in a state of mental questioning about this for years if not decades. - hippybear

That's a totally romanticised notion, and as much of a group delusion as Beatlemania; it's just on a much larger scale.

My onset of menses was when I was 10. There was no 'I'm grown up' about it, I was still a child and the societal script around that was damaging beyond belief. It effectively forced sexuality onto a child, one who had the intellectual maturity to reject it but not the emotional maturity to deal with it. And my experience is not uncommon, or unknown. As more and more girls get their periods the concept that menses = sexual maturity/adulthood will get more and more damaging, more and more awful.

Our local girl group was totally affected by the fact that I had started menstruating so early, and was so vehemently and vocally against it as a signifier of adulthood that internally, in our girl culture, it stopped having such importance attached to it. And we could vocalise how it was an externally imposed ideal, even as for some it came in their midteens. It was the clearest example for me (from the "you're a woman now" feminist hippy stuff to the "old enough to bleed, old enough to breed" rapey stuff) that culture and society did not give a fuck about me, or any other woman, beyond sex and reproduction. It was jarring.

And, to bring it back to crushes, from then on I crushed in this peculiar way where the stars/musicians/men I crushed on would recognise my brilliance, or some innate talent, and help me escape my fate. I saw they had independence, money, education, skills, talents, whatever and I wanted it so desperately for myself and that came through in the way I crushed on them. My crushes on women (celebrity, fictional, real) were quite different and vast amounts more sexual.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:36 PM on October 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


My onset of menses was when I was 10. There was no 'I'm grown up' about it, I was still a child and the societal script around that was damaging beyond belief. It effectively forced sexuality onto a child, one who had the intellectual maturity to reject it but not the emotional maturity to deal with it.

I remember it much the same way even though I got it at the more "normal" age of twelve.

Yeah, there are some girls who treat it as a whole "yay I'm grown up more" thing, but it's far from universal - more often it's really freaky because suddenly all those thoughts you've just barely started to play with that deal with boys and stuff have to now go from being theoretical to being actual; it's more of a "wait, this shit just got real" moment.

Or maybe there is an element of "I'm grown up" about it - but it's a terribly conflicting moment for some of us; rather than just "I'm grown up" it's more, "my body's grown up but I don't think I want to be grown up yet, help".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:46 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Parents simply must archive their children's tween internet streams. There is a huge load of future embarrassment to be cultivated now and deployed later when you wish to attempt to control their adolescent and young adult choices!
posted by srboisvert at 8:25 PM on October 6, 2012


Yeah, my menses started at 11 and I most certainly was NOT a woman then!

I was active in slash fiction/yaoi for a long time (writers of Gundam Wing REPRESENT!) and I found distinct differences between then 20s-40s age range of writers I was attracted too, and the teens-to-twenties population I brushed up against. I think the thing which shocked me the most about yaoi was how misogynistic it was.

One of the things I loved about Gundam Wing was it had gender parity - each of the female characters had a male counterpart, by and large, and the women were powerful; they fought, and ruled the world, and struggled and so on. They were also all very distinct - the ten main characters were all very different and had a fascinating inter-weaving of relationships that built up over time. I tended to write toward that, aided by my deep and abiding love of Heero and Relena (If there is a central character, it could be argued Heero is that; Relena is his counterpart).

In fandom as a whole, though, Relena was reviled based on her behavior in the first five episodes (she engages in something very similar to the "crush" or "stalking" phenomena we're talking about above; she becomes obsessed with Heero and follows him to a couple of schools, then tries to emulate him, then ends up finding her own path) and is characterized as a homophobic, manipulative, evil person - an astonishing characterization given the show as a whole, where she ends up being critical to a lot of things working out the way they did. Similar things happened to a lot of the other female characters, though in one case it's almost canon (one of the female main five characters is, for lack of better terms, "evil" for most of the show, but she isn't really feminine per se).

Interestingly, the people who tended to write Relena as the most horrible misogynistic caricature also would feminize two of the main male characters to a powerful extent - infantalizing their behavior, thoughts, and language (this is so hard to do when I know most people don't know the show; I'm used to saying, "Gods, I hate what they do to Duo and Quatre" and getting a bunch of nods all around!). It was impossible to be unaware of the characterizations, and I actually occasionally mocked them in my own writing. One of the most common features was having Duo, a male teenager, call Heero, his male peer, "He-chan". For people unacquainted with Japanese honorifics, -chan is most commonly used toward those who are younger, or toward and between girls. An extreme shortening of the name is another feminine, familiar act in naming, the only more familiar thing being using the name without an honorific. Having a teenage boy use this language toward another teenage boy is very, very strange, but it was common in the English-language side of the Gundam Wing fandom.

On a different show/manga, where there was a reveal halfway through the series that the main villain was female, not male, it was really fascinating to watch how the fans reacted to the change (the show actually ended before that could happen, likely because it happened). A large chunk switched - either now liking or hating her because she was female. I remember being bemused at the time because I was roleplaying her, and it took about a week to adjust, despite me being Queen of Gender Parity (ya, right!). Meanwhile, all over the English fandom at least, people were loosing their shit about it! It opened my eyes to how much presumed gender plays into how people view characters and what we like or dislike about them.

I think fandom is often where women play out what we like and don't like about the world, in a context where we have all the power. I would posit that crushes are similar; it's a place where it is safe to experience the whole range of emotions because the person reflected back at you is just YOU, not some other person who might turn out to think differently than you do.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:26 PM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Its engine is sex, but at heart there may be some kind of unhealable wound and grief over the way things are.

I enjoyed your thoughtful comment, jokeefe, thank you, but I have to disagree with this. It reminds me of the discussion on the blue a few months ago about yaoi comics, where there were long comments positing why a woman might find the idea of two men together attractive, and the opposite -- why a man might find the idea of two women together attractive -- was explained in three words: "Dude, it's hot." There's a not-small amount of academic writing about fanfiction and slash, and it's such a vast subject that it feels hard to comment about in anything more than general terms, but I do feel that slash discussions often start in the wrong place by asking why women are into it. Why are we into anything? And why does it have to say something hugely important about our interior lives when we are? I rarely see assumptions made about the interior lives of men because they have certain hobbies, but it seems to happen all the time with women. When a women is into slash, there must be a Very Deep Reason.

Dude, it's hot.

That's not the only reason, but it is a part of it. I also think slash is much more about a kind of emotional hotness than porn is. A lot of porn strikes me as interchangeable, in that it's less about who's doing it than what's being done, but slash is very specifically about those two characters. Slashers don't want to read stories about Generic Guy A and Generic Guy B getting together. They want to read stories about Stiles and Derek (Teen Wolf) or Dean and Castiel (Supernatural) or those moppets from One Direction. It's about taking specific characters with specific personality traits and experiences and seeing how they would navigate a relationship.

(And of course something worth noting is that all slash is no longer What If? territory. Some of the most popular slash couples are gay and together in the source material, like Kurt and Blaine from Glee. Is there really any difference between writing a fanfic about Rachel and Finn, a het couple on that show, and Kurt and Blaine? I can't see one.)

Another thing worth noting about slash and sexuality is that a lot of slashers aren't crushing in the traditional sense of the word. They don't necessarily want to have sex with the men involved. A not-insignificant portion of writers who write gay male slash are lesbians, too -- I would estimate at least 25%, perhaps more.

Also: fandom is fun! No matter what you're into, talking with a group of like-minded individuals about it is enjoyable. I'm only casually involved in fandom these days, but when I was into it, it was this shared space and experiences that made it awesome. And having gotten in NBA basketball earlier this year, what struck me is that slash fandom and sports fandom are far more alike than different. The average basketball fan isn't imagining LeBron James making out with his teammates, but the collective experiences, the passion, the way the modern sports fan can become obsessed with a team or players, the way there's always some new piece of minutiae to read about and analyse and absorb -- those things are the same in both fandoms.

There's so much more I could discuss here, but this is getting long. So let me finish by saying that I believe that fanfiction/slash is a hobby that some women (and the occasional man) are into, and that's about it. I don't think you can make any assumptions about the internal life of the average slash fan any more than you can make assumptions about the internal life of any other fan, be they into sports or music or movies. And I think we do women a huge disservice by buying into the idea that any non-mainstream expression of sexuality means there's something missing in their lives.
posted by Georgina at 9:23 PM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think one of the more interesting things to happen to fandom recently has been Elementary. I haven't watched it yet but the screaming misogyny from Sherlock fans when the 'Lucy Liu is Joan Watson' came out was fascinating and horrifying. The continuing BS has been incredibly intricate as well - there is a lot of use of the language around heterosexism, queer theory and sex positivity. All used to explain why Elementary crossed a line in the representation of Watson where Sherlock hasn't and somehow none of their 'reasons' are sexist or racist. When in fact almost all of them are rooted in deep-seated tensions around the portrayal/lived experiences of women, and particularly women of colour. It really hammered home to me that there are huge segments of fandom that are actively reinforcing their own deep-seated sexism, under the guise of being accepting of gay men.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:56 PM on October 6, 2012


Thanks for the real life anecdotes about the onset of menses thing. People who think about these things on a much more professional level than I do are the ones who have put that forward as a thing, and I certainly don't have any firsthand experience with it, so it was interesting to read your responses.

I'm still not sure I buy the whole "girls have this harder than boys" thing. Puberty is a horrible time for everyone, and the ways in which it's difficult probably are a huge overlay and melange of individual experience and cultural pressures which create a storm of difficulty for each and every individual, aside from rare outlier cases where people don't have problems with it at all.
posted by hippybear at 12:13 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Its engine is sex, but at heart there may be some kind of unhealable wound and grief over the way things are.

I enjoyed your thoughtful comment, jokeefe, thank you, but I have to disagree with this. It reminds me of the discussion on the blue a few months ago about yaoi comics, where there were long comments positing why a woman might find the idea of two men together attractive, and the opposite -- why a man might find the idea of two women together attractive -- was explained in three words: "Dude, it's hot."


Just to quickly note that I wasn't talking here about slash or fanfiction, but fandom itself. I can't help but feel that some manifestations of fandom are substitutes for doing; less entertainment than a way of reconciling with a hostile world.

I also think slash is much more about a kind of emotional hotness than porn is.

Oh, I completely agree. I've read a fair amount of it, and the deferral of consummation and angsty separations seem to make up at least half of the stuff I've come across.
posted by jokeefe at 1:28 AM on October 7, 2012


Something about the fairly wide-spread interest by heterosexuals in depictions of same-sex "opposite sex" sexual pairings ("girl-girl porn" for men, much of slash for women) is that it increases the number of "desirable partners" while decreasing one's own, undesired, gender participants. A related phenomenon can be seen in pornographic comics, where it is not uncommon (or, at least, wasn't in the 90s, when I sold them) to draw panels to minimize the make presence -- the theme of invisibility was reasonably common, not only to work the "peeping" trope but also to literally remove the undesired male body from the scene. You get what you want -- a desiring person (or people) of your preference without having to imagine how they would desire the "you" that is absent from the scene.

To bring this back to crushes, I wonder how much the female public adulation of male figures is also informed by a desire to identify with a powerful figure that you can "own." Girls don't have many examples of powerful female figures (and they had less in the 60s) to aspire to, so perhaps "crushing" on a male figure is a way of displacing the desire to be that man as much as marry him or take him to the prom or whatever. Boys, I think, are encouraged to enjoy spectator sports as an outlet for this urge, but, of course, those athletes are all men.

On the other hand, if this was true, I would expect crushing to be less common today, as there are more powerful public female figures for girls to emulate, but maybe they aren't the right kind/quantity to make an impact? (On the other other hand, I could just be wrong.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:41 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't watched it yet but the screaming misogyny from Sherlock fans when the 'Lucy Liu is Joan Watson' came out was fascinating and horrifying.

I might be alone in this opinion, but I think Elementary is a better show than the BBC Sherlock. It's much more realistic and human, which the BBC show seems to be avoiding like the plague.

I wasn't aware of a backlash against Liu (although sadly I can't say I'm surprised), but I like her in the role, and without giving anything away I like that she's more than just a sidekick. She hasn't been given much to do, yet, but the role definitely has potential.
posted by Huck500 at 7:57 AM on October 7, 2012


One girl's comment: "Yeah, he looks like JB, but he's not quite as (pause) attractive."
Other girl: "Yeah, he doesn't really bring the spice."

At first glance I thought they were comparing Elvis to James Brown and that made me laugh. You know, the JBs, I feel fine - sugar and spice. But yeah, Bieber.
posted by ersatz at 10:17 AM on October 7, 2012


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