Women Slash Gay Men
January 18, 2015 2:43 PM   Subscribe

On The Fetishisation Of Gay Men By Women In The Slash Community by Kiri Van Santen

I don’t believe that any single fantasy is innately wrong, but my little departure into those boys’ private lives was indicative of a dangerous pattern of thought. To many people, it often seems that women in the slash community have decided that “gay sex” is always sexy, that queer is always cute, and that we can take ownership of the gay male experience by writing about it and reading each other’s writing.
posted by CrystalDave (337 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cecil/Carlos are indeed an adorable couple, probably my favorite romantic subplot in any media.

I wouldn't neccesarily say this sort of thing has to stop. I think people can generally separate fantasy and reality so the potential problems aren't necessarily going to be something that people are going to have to worry about. The issue with that of course is when the implications of the fantasy are not well understood or appreciated, that leads to the type of problems described in the article. So, whatever your fantasies are, don't stop but do think pretty deeply about what they mean in a context outside your head.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:51 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I know absolutely nothing about the slash or fanfic communities and, in general, have never viewed myself as part of any sort of fandom. But would people say this is equivalent to heterosexual males fetishizing lesbian cis femme females? Or is this totally another phenomenon?
posted by waninggibbon at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


OK, bear with me. A short 'google" of "slash community" did not help me understand what it is?
posted by rmhsinc at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2015


rmhysic: http://fanlore.org/wiki/Slash
posted by bigendian at 3:08 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Urban Dictionary:

slash

1. Genre of fanfiction involving pairing two male or female characters together; characters are commonly shown with a slash in between
posted by double block and bleed at 3:08 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's timely. Just this morning, Medium recommended this to me: "Fanfiction Made Me a Better Feminist: I write about gay relationships between fictional characters. Here’s why other women should take that seriously." It references this fairly long piece from last summer: "A guide to fanfiction for people who can't stop getting it wrong," which includes a section called "Myth: Slash fanfic is the equivalent of lesbian porn for straight women."

One of the first readings I was assigned in grad school 22 years ago was Constance Penley's article on K/S fic in Technoculture, so I guess it's a personal failing that I really don't understand the practices/representations/concerns from enough points of view to have an opinion of my own.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:08 PM on January 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


Basically people who write fanfiction featuring same-sex pairings.
posted by Biblio at 3:09 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's traditionally male/male not just "same sex". It started with Kirk/Spock way back when.
posted by Justinian at 3:10 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


As a gay dude I think there are vastly more important things to worry about than slash fic authors "taking ownership of the gay experience". What does that even mean? Sorry but this feels like going out of your way to find oppression where none really exists, which is unhelpful because it distracts from the plenty of terribly horrific actual oppression that is all around us.
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [64 favorites]


would people say this is equivalent to heterosexual males fetishizing lesbian cis femme females

Yes and no.

No, in the sense that I've never met a women who did or said some of the things that have been done or said to me as a queer woman. I often don't tell straight men I'm bi because, every goddamn single time I do, the response is always something gross and sexualizing and male gazey.

But, yes, in the sense that there is definitely a contingent of women who, as the article says, treat gay men like kittens. It's hard to find an equivalent, really, because it's not really sexual in nature -- or sexual conquest oriented, I guess? -- but more exoticizing or objectifying. Or, like, people who will say things like "I'm so fascinated by Jews." We're talking about a group of diverse individuals, here, not cartoon characters.

Of course, that last part is why I actually don't think female slashfic writers are the real problem here, at all. Because it the case of fandom and fic, we ARE talking about characters. I think some of the ways we talk about those characters can potentially be problematic, but honestly it's fine to decide that Kirk and Spock want to fuck each other and then write about that or read about it and get off. Because Kirk and Spock (for example) aren't real people, and it's just fine to think slightly unorthodox and sexy thoughts about fictional characters.

The real problem is when the enjoyment of slashfic is translated to actual people in the outside world. Two men being in love is adorable (because love rules), but it's not more adorable than two women or a man and a woman or any combination of people who might be in love. Gay men aren't paper dolls, you know?

I have much deeper problems with the whole OMG WILL YOU BE MY GAY BEST FRIEND I JUST LOVE GAY GUYS CAN WE GO TO A GAY BAR ARE YOU A DRAG QUEEN type bullshit, which I've seen as much outside the fandom world as within it. (Sex And The City "basic bitch" types are much more prone to it, IMO.)
posted by Sara C. at 3:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [44 favorites]


I've never looked at slash fan fiction the way the author did. I'm not in a fandom but a girl friend of mine asked me to read her work every now and then. She's gay herself, so I don't know where this would leave her in eyes of the author. Yes, it's sometimes fluffy and cute but the ones I've read displayed teenagers and I've always read the "fluffiness"/"cuteness" first and foremost as an (idealized/romanticized) age thing - not a sex thing.
It didn't rub me as all that different from what I'd expect reading the same stories with a straight pairing.

But yes, that's just me and my touristy view from the outskirts.
posted by bigendian at 3:18 PM on January 18, 2015


Kirk/Spock used the 'slash' because if you combined the names you'd get either "Kick" or "Spork".
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [25 favorites]


I'm not in any particular fandom, but I've always thought the prevalence of slash was because (1) fans want to read and write about characters they're already invested in, and fleshed-out characters are disproportionately male, and (2) escapist romantic/erotic fiction by and for [mostly] women is better when you don't have to deal with sexism, and any power imbalance in the relationship can be for reasons that make sense.

On preview,

Kirk/Spock used the 'slash' because if you combined the names you'd get either "Kick" or "Spork".

or "Krock"
posted by zeptoweasel at 3:27 PM on January 18, 2015 [18 favorites]


The combined name convention is much more recent than "slash" as a genre.

Yeah, it was always Kirk/Spock or Harry/Draco or whatever, until things like "Brangelina" came along and now the big ships always have cute "ship names". I personally find it adorable in the fandom sense, mostly because I think it's fun to come up with novel combinations.

Also, FWIW "ship names" a la Cecilos or whatever work for fandom pairings of either sex. Whereas I've only seen the slash convention in, well, slash.

(That said I wasn't all that versed in fanfiction before the "ship name" phenomenon, aside from some detours through some inappropriate-for-a-thirteen-year-old stories about Kira and Odo. And I don't remember whether that was written Kira/Odo or not. There were way more memorable things.)
posted by Sara C. at 3:27 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Most of the fan communities I'm in are overwhelmingly queer women. It's possible that they're alienating to men, queer and otherwise, because they aren't really for men in general; the fics are generally written by and for women and non binary people. I know that there is a certain amount of creepy fetishization that goes on, especially by the younger set of folks learning how to do sexual and romantic expression appropriately, but I do wonder how much male discomfort-- any male discomfort, queer or hetero-- in these spaces is because they just aren't used to not being the gender everyone panders to.
posted by NoraReed at 3:28 PM on January 18, 2015 [52 favorites]


I've never read any fan fiction but the little I knew about it indicated strongly that the best thing about it was the lack of hetero women. Who are a) not the authoress herself and b) ruin stories, everyone knows that.

I don't think of it as pro-gay, but as anti-women. Maybe I'm totally off but that's the strong sense I get as an outsider.
posted by fshgrl at 3:34 PM on January 18, 2015


Yeah, it was always Kirk/Spock or Harry/Draco or whatever

I was waiting for Fred Sanford/Grady myself, but it was not to be.
posted by jonmc at 3:34 PM on January 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


fshgrl, there are plenty of female characters in fanfiction. What an odd thing to say.
posted by Sara C. at 3:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [24 favorites]


Intersectionality. I think there's quite often a lot that's mildly to very problematic in what manifests as various straight women's appropriations of gay male sexuality, but it's difficult to talk about because this exists very much within the context of sexism and the patriarchy and people tend to want to vilify or believe that someone's being vilified.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sara C I'm thinking specifically of the kind of fan fiction described here that is written by women for women with all male characters in relationships with each other and female characters written out.

It came up became kids are turning it in to my friends university writing classes. Which kind of boggles the mind but there you go.
posted by fshgrl at 3:42 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


So are drag performers fetisizing women? Appropriating the female image, culture or experience?
posted by Ideefixe at 3:45 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


cf. Yaoi.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't completely understand the slash thing, and don't get me started on SUPERNATURAL slash (what the fuck?), but I don't recognize what I do know about slash in fshgrl's description of slash as "anti-women" by people who know that women ruin stories. There are undoubtedly problematic aspects to slash but that doesn't seem like one of them.
posted by Justinian at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Whereas I've only seen the slash convention in, well, slash.

The use of a slash to denote a pairing is used across fandoms and applies to slash, femslash, and het pairings, and has been used so for years. Like, in Harry Potter fandom, there was Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, Remus/Sirius, Ginny/Luna etc. You don't only use the slash for same-sex pairings. I know some anime/manga fandoms don't use the slash and use x instead (Gundam Wing had a whole elaborate number-based system that made pairings look like weird algebra equations like 1x2x1). Namesmushes a la Brangelina are a more recent thing, and are more standard now because of Tumblr and the way its tag function doesn't work right with slashes.

Anyway, this whole discussion about whether slash is fetishizing gay men and why don't we write about women characters is one that comes up over and over and over again in fandom. Like, trust me, fandom has discussed this ad nauseam and has come to no particularly firm conclusions, and I tend to find it annoying when people not in fandom try to make sweeping generalizations about it. For one thing, fandom contains multitudes, and there's more than one way to do fandom.
posted by yasaman at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2015 [29 favorites]


fshgrl, there are plenty of female characters in fanfiction. What an odd thing to say.

Every fandom I've ever been in-- and I've been in a LOT-- has tended to have way less fiction about female characters than male ones. Partially it's the popularity of m/m slash, but also most of the things with big fandom followings tend to reflect the overall cultural trend of not having many female characters in general and having those characters be more cliche and less interesting. I see a lot of fandoms I'm not in come up on my tumblr, and this applies to them, but right now I certainly have seen it be the case in Marvel, where a lot of people are basing their fic on the MCU and there just aren't many women around to write about; there are almost always 3 times as many male characters available.

We go out of our way to pay attention to (and support by buying the stuff of) the women that we're actually given, and I try not to follow people who are on the internalized misogyny channel all the time, but a significant portion of the writing that I see about women is genderswap and cisswap where they're turning male characters into female ones because a) it's interesting and b) what the fuck do you expect people to do when they get sick of writing about the tiny handful of women in their favorite fandom but still want to write about awesome women?

So are drag performers fetisizing women? Appropriating the female image, culture or experience?

There's a lot of people who would say yeah, they are, and that their performance of femininity is offensive. I'm still not decided on where I stand on this in general, but I've definitely seen drag performers that are really disrespectful of the costume that they're putting on. I'm hesitant to paint all drag queens by the same brush, though, because a lot of folks who do it really are exploring their gender identity with it and/or are genderqueer, nonbinary, or trans women, and it's often one of the few avenues available to explore that.
posted by NoraReed at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2015 [21 favorites]


I think there's also an audience age factor to this. Night Vale's most vocal, hard-core fans tend to be high school or early college age, and as such may still be coming to terms with sex/sexuality/adult relationships.

At the very least, I'd expect the presence of younger women to create a normalizing effect on these immature approaches to adult relationships between characters. This could be further affected by the anonymity of the internet disguising everyone's age.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 3:52 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


So are drag performers fetisizing women? Appropriating the female image, culture or experience?


If you can get around various academic paywalls, the article "Indexing Polyphonous Identity in the Speech of African American Drag Queens" by Rusty Barrett outlines how this is *not* the case in certain types of drag performances.

Man dressed up like a woman in a sitcom because "lol, women are silly and it's degrading for a man to be a woman"? Yes.

Queer man adopting a female persona to critique and mock gender roles? No.
posted by damayanti at 3:53 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


As a straight man, a rare moment of moral superiority!

We don't fetishize lesbians at all.
posted by officer_fred at 3:53 PM on January 18, 2015 [17 favorites]


female characters written out

This is the part that I think is an odd assessment. One of the original reasons slash started was because there were few if any interesting female characters in the work in question. Usually slash doesn't happen because self-hating women decide to get rid of all the female characters, but because women really like a work that doesn't have strongly characterized women. So the choice in writing fan-fiction is either to insert a female character (whence the "Mary Sue" concept) or to make pre-existing male characters gay.

There's also plenty of femslash, which does the same thing in stories with plenty of interesting female characters female fans want to write about. See also the rush to ship Peggy and Angie in Agent Carter.
posted by Sara C. at 3:54 PM on January 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


It always seemed to me that slash was a way for people (because there ARE male writers in fandom) to explore their sexuality and their gender in a way that feels safe for them. Are gay men objectified and fetishised in fandom? Yes, of course. But I don't feel like you can distil all slash down to that one point. In my personal fandom experience, I saw the former far far more than the latter.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:55 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Recently I saw a call for contributors for an all-female comics anthology. The curators were very strong in their insistence that ONLY women be contributors (though not discriminating with regard to cis/trans). No men co-authors or co-collaborators allowed. Someone complained that this anthology, which was to focus on sex-related comics, would accept submissions of stories about gay men (and gay male sex) written by women, but not gay men themselves. I can't help but agree that there is a degree of appropriation there, albeit tempered by the need for women-only creative collaborations.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 3:58 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Usually slash doesn't happen because self-hating women decide to get rid of all the female characters, but because women really like a work that doesn't have strongly characterized women.

This does still happen, though, and many female characters end up killed off in fanfic so that their canon male love interests can be with whatever man the writer wants them to be with. Awareness of this seems to be on the rise lately and a lot of people are doing it less, because it's really problematic. I know there's no way to see all of fandom and entirely possible to curate your reading so you don't see a lot of this stuff, but seriously, almost anyone who's been in almost any fandom for any length of time has probably seen this stuff, unless they limit themselves to reading very specific types of fic and don't seek out anything outside that.
posted by NoraReed at 4:03 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've been in lots of fandoms and have not seen much of it, though I do in fact limit myself to reading only very specific types of fic.

I'd also say that while I have seen it, I wouldn't call it a major feature of the fanfiction community. It seems an odd takeaway for complete outsiders who've never really encountered fanfic to be especially concerned about.
posted by Sara C. at 4:08 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


In my experience, drag performances run the gamut from super feminist to annoyingly regressive.
posted by eviemath at 4:09 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don’t believe that any single fantasy is innately wrong, but my little departure into those boys’ private lives was indicative of a dangerous pattern of thought.

Actions matter more than words and it's a bit hard to see what the general problem is here. Any sort of intense fetishization seems a bit odd if you're focusing explicitly on it. Lacking any specific examples of specific instances or actions done by these writers in real life, this all seems much ado about nothing.

Let people get their freaky writing jollies on if they want.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:10 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think there's plenty of hetero fanfic out there too but given that most fanfic writers are women, the hetero fic tends to run more Mary Sueish, which sucks. So most of the romantic fic you read is going to be M/M slash because that's what gets kudos, reviews, and recommendations.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:10 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, let it be noted that in recent years, fandom has increasingly decided that the solution to the "what about when I have a female character who's in a canon relationship with the guy I want to slash with the other guy?" problem is THREESOME. In a fandom like White Collar, where main character Peter Burke is very happily married, there's a huge amount of Peter/Neal/Elizabeth. MCU fandom is pretty happy to roll with Tony/Pepper/Bruce, Tony/Pepper/Rhodey, Steve/Bucky/Natasha, Steve/Bucky/Peggy, Steve/Tony/Pepper, etc.
posted by yasaman at 4:11 PM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


Metafilter: a rare moment of moral superiority.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 4:13 PM on January 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


There's this weird self-perpetuating feedback loop of women learning about m/m sex by reading fiction by women who then go on and describe m/m sex in the same (not necessarily accurate) way. A friend of mine who occasionally reads the slush pile for an erotica publisher listed a bunch of tropes about m/m sex that she says she has often seen in fiction by women and never seen in fiction by men.

Several years ago, another friend of mine who wrote a bunch of smutty fanfic made a public service announcement post to one of her fanfic communities talking about how men have all different kind of genitalia and styles of interacting with said bits, which included links to pictures and masturbation videos.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


A friend of mine who occasionally reads the slush pile for an erotica publisher listed a bunch of tropes about m/m sex that she says she has often seen in fiction by women and never seen in fiction by men.

Do you remember what this list was and could you share? Sounds fascinating.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:25 PM on January 18, 2015 [23 favorites]


how men have all different kind of genitalia and styles of interacting with said bits

Personally, I prefer miniature top hats and groucho moustaches.
posted by Justinian at 4:25 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


One of the original reasons slash started was because there were few if any interesting female characters in the work in question.

Showrunners can be assholes this way; I'm reminded of Enterprise, when the plastic Vulcan babe was supposed to be the one the boy viewers got all excited about. The trouble is it was handled in such a hamfisted FHM/Maxim sort of way that it backfired and everybody was into Hoshi instead. So the show had a tantrum and started reducing Hoshi's role and giving her headcolds and puffy eyes and sniffles and stuff because you will like who we tell you to like.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:26 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think this is complex. I've found some fan fiction communities alienating because a female-dominated space that still fails the Bechdel test presents some issues for me as a queer woman, and perhaps especially in fandoms where half or more of the the characters in the canon are women. I've also encountered queer people creating spaces that mainstream media deny us. There are a lot of people writing for a lot of reasons.

I found Boys' Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre useful as an overview of different issues here.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:26 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


10-12 years ago, I want to say? someone showed me "real people" slash, of Depeche Mode, Monty Python, and The Beatles, and I was very uncomfortable with it. I didn't understand the point of it. Why could't the writers make up their own characters? I wondered. I have not seen any slash, fiction or "real people", since.

Though I'm bordering on being an Old and fandom is hardly my day-to-day experience, I'm seeing something of it through a webcomic by some of the team that produced Ménage à 3 called Sticky Dilly Buns, and their latest story line touches on fetishizing gay male sexuality. The main female character is quite young, judgemental, and immature, she rooms with a gay man, reads a lot of yaoi, and has never dated a man, but exclusively gets off on gay male romance. I can't help but feel sorry for the character, so terrified she is of actually experiencing sex and romance with men herself.
posted by droplet at 4:26 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I read a lot of gay fiction, and I write a little of it, too. And I have a fair number of gay friends who do drag (both men and women, cis and trans).

I don't think the writers do the fetishizing as much as I think the readers do. Which can get pretty revolting very quickly indeed.

And, in a lot of the stories, there will be a female character - usually portrayed as socially awkward or overweight or somehow ugly - who takes on the role of the mediator, the one who gets the guys to dress properly, who fixes things, who's seen as the "best pal". This character is either vapidly stupid, or causes problems, or is on the sidelines going "squee!". She's often pushy and rude and dominating, purely there as a plot device to keep the story moving along. I don't know if that's the definition of a Mary Sue but it's really, really dumb writing.

Re: drag performers fetishizing women: I don't see gay men portraying women in drag as "fetishizing" so much as I see them "parodying" feminine roles. I've got a good friend who performs - at almost 70 years old " in a very campy, over the top show about performers he'd seen and known in the 60's and 70's. It's hilarious, because he's not trying to be Marilyn Monroe or Diana Ross. He's sending up the makeup and the wig and the over-the-top sexualization of these performers by being campy and ridiculous about it. He's very fond of these stars and likes to play in their shoes. Is he "appropriating" anything from them? No. There is a very bright line in his show as he talks about their talent and their skills and his admiration for their success, while at the same time it's clear he's enjoying "being them" for twenty minutes or so in front of a usually appreciative audience.

And to be blunt, what's "appropriating" about slash fiction is the writing itself. You've got an author who creates a work. You've got fan writers who then appropriate that work and distort the universe the original author created. I don't read slash mainly because of this. If you don't have the creativity to create your own characters and put them in your own universe, well, maybe you shouldn't put that out there for the world to see.
posted by disclaimer at 4:28 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you don't have the creativity to create your own characters and put them in your own universe, well, maybe you shouldn't put that out there for the world to see

Do you think that about professional artists who write about other people's characters or is your ire reserved for amateurs?
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on January 18, 2015 [17 favorites]


>I don't know if that's the definition of a Mary Sue but it's really, really dumb writing.

No, it's not even similar to a Mary Sue, which is the appearance of a perfect character who often happens to represent the author.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:35 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Slash fic is porn. Porn makes people into objects, same way "real" acting makes actors into characters. Why is any of this even sort of controversial?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Kind-of on topic: Carmilla, Vamp Willow, and Lesbian Vamps
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:40 PM on January 18, 2015


Slash fic is porn. Porn makes people into objects, same way "real" acting makes actors into characters. Why is any of this even sort of controversial?

Because the issue isn't whether it is porn-y, it's whether it is a problematic fetishization of gay men?
posted by Justinian at 4:40 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you don't have the creativity to create your own characters and put them in your own universe, well, maybe you shouldn't put that out there for the world to see

Yeah, like all those uncreative people who have appropriated Lovecraft's universe, like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King.
posted by LindsayIrene at 4:41 PM on January 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


There's this weird self-perpetuating feedback loop of women learning about m/m sex by reading fiction by women who then go on and describe m/m sex in the same (not necessarily accurate) way.

Maybe it's just the women I have dated, but I was under the impression that lots of women watch gay porn (as well as read m/m slash, etc). Not that gay porn is any more "accurate" in terms of real life sex, but at least it is real people with (mostly) real parts.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:42 PM on January 18, 2015


Brandon, I haven't seen that list, but here are a few:

- really big dicks. Everyone is hung like a horse and all the dicks are beeyootiful to look at. Even young Harry Potter has a huge penis.
- huge balls that have a never-exhaustible supply of semen.
- anuses that can be penetrated without the benefit of lube by said big dicks, with zero pain, only instant ecstasy.
- nothing smells bad and assholes are clean as a whistle.
- exceptionally-accommodating throats.
- all kisses are magical, everyone has clean teeth and great breath, and you will fall instantly in love with the very first kiss.
- strong gender roles - there is the "manly man" stud who takes the heart (and painless virginity) of his small, twinkish partner, who loves to cook and clean and do the laundry. And wants a baby. In chapter 2. He will usually announce this to his BFF Madeline as he minces into the fabric store to get new material for placemats.
- someone will be perceived as cheating, but it's all a huge mistake.
- someone will be outed with horrible repercussions and usually a beating.
.... And on and on and on.
posted by disclaimer at 4:44 PM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


Because the issue isn't whether it is porn-y, it's whether it is a problematic fetishization of gay men?

So some women get off on fetishizing gay men? Many men fetishize gay women. Only a tiny percentage believe porn to be real, and they are delusional. Again, why is writing/reading about guys getting it on with each other problematic?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:44 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


And to be blunt, what's "appropriating" about slash fiction is the writing itself. You've got an author who creates a work. You've got fan writers who then appropriate that work and distort the universe the original author created. I don't read slash mainly because of this. If you don't have the creativity to create your own characters and put them in your own universe, well, maybe you shouldn't put that out there for the world to see.

This is always one of the ways fan fiction is derided, and it gets more and more tedious every time. Vast swathes of the Western canon are essentially fan fiction. How many original characters and original universes did Shakespeare use? Virgil? Dante? Homer? These authors, and any number of others, are foundational to the Western canon, and they did not use "original" characters. There are plenty of contemporary professional authors who are writing what amounts to fan fiction as well.

I'm not saying modern fan fiction = Shakespeare. Obviously it's not. But fan fiction is not some new thing, it's not some bizarre perversion of the artistic urge to choose to play around in other creators' sandboxes, it's not inherently lesser. It's part of the way we interact with art, the way we've always interacted with art. To take what's there, and make something new with it.

Also, I mean, it's a hobby. It doesn't have to be capital L Literature, just like Fantasy Football doesn't have to be Pro Football or the guy jamming with his friends in the garage doesn't have to put out an album. Fic authors are doing this for fun, out of love for their source materials, and for the community of fandom itself.
posted by yasaman at 4:46 PM on January 18, 2015 [54 favorites]


There's an interesting argument here--although this essay seems a tad superficial.

Once, I read a really great critique of slash fiction, taking on the problems of sexualizing ALL relationships which very much resonated with me. No idea who wrote it or where I saw it, but it was an interesting read. I find the constant sexualization of characters--and of their stories--very off-putting, personally. People (and their stories, and their emotions, and their ideologies) are endlessly interesting in ways far beyond their sex lives or lustful desires.

Fan fiction, in general, fascinates me as a cultural artifact but I find I don't have patience to read much of it.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:46 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Adding: I get off on male/female sex fantasies. Sometimes F/F sex fantasies. Are the vast majority of these fantasies of mine even kind of realistic? HELL NO. So I'm fetishizing the relationships.

So what?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:47 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, god, it's like anti-fanfiction bingo in here.
posted by suelac at 4:47 PM on January 18, 2015 [35 favorites]


Porn can be problematic when potentially offensive attitudes embraced there bleed into your interactions outside of the fantasy. I agree most people have no issue with confusing fantasy and reality, but it's good to talk directly about the potential issues so people can be sure that is the case for themselves.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:48 PM on January 18, 2015


Slash is not porn: slash is same-sex relationships. Romance. Not porn, necessarily.

Mary Sues are often juvenile and immature and by ranting about how awful they are we are penalizing young writers and scaring them off a creative pursuit. Odd how Marty Stus get so much less grief, isn't it?

Fanfiction is fun, transformative, and creative in ways both similar and dissimilar to original fiction. And it's hardly new.

Some slash writers are weirdly misogynistic and bash female characters who threaten their preferred pairings; but it's not all that common--and it's far less common than it used to be.
posted by suelac at 4:51 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Holy hell, are we going to require trigger warnings at every movie theater? Do we need handout pamphlets to assure us that the behavior of actors in, say Pink Flamingos is not a good way to live, and that the actors are nice folks who don't behave so weirdly?

At some point we become adults. So there's some women jerking off over guy/guy sex and it isn't realistic? NO PORN IS REALISTIC.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:51 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


anuses that can be penetrated without the benefit of lube by said big dicks, with zero pain, only instant ecstasy.

I blame that trope on yaoi, where penises are magically self-lubricating.

strong gender roles

That is a pretty big trope in yaoi, too--the big, masculine dominating man and the small submissive feminine man. And the dominant man may assault (sexually or otherwise) the smaller man.

*sigh* I like the idea of yaoi, but the reality has tended to disappoint me.
posted by LindsayIrene at 4:51 PM on January 18, 2015


By the way, I'm not into slash fic, but think it's entirely cool to be into it, and I'm glad that it makes some people happy.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:52 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't have problems with people reusing plots, and characters and story arcs. I know that every story that's ever been told has been done to death. That's not the issue. The issue is the execution.

I have a problem when they attempt to distort an existing universe and existing characters - even down to the same locations, character names and descriptions. You want to write a Harry/Draco story? Great! Let's name Harry as Lester and Draco as Marvin, and let's set it in Bristol instead of London, and let's set up some new fun things for them to do. If you want to set it in that universe, fine, but there are other characters to create and explore.

There's a writer of gay fiction. He writes good stuff. He wrote a short story set in a fictional town in New York State. Since the story was published on a small website, it's got a close-knit community. Several other writers then took that town, added their own characters and plots to it, and it's taken off as a pretty cool riff on this guy's writing. The characters cross stories, and authors. The locale doesn't change. But the universe is continually expanded and matures as the series continues to grow. It's fun stuff. And no one is appropriating anything, because the original author is right there with them, building it up and keeping all the details straight.

You can participate in another writer's universe, and you can do it without copying it. That's where I'm coming from, here.
posted by disclaimer at 4:57 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Slash is not porn"

Define porn then. People are writing this stuff to get their jollies, which is GREAT. We all need and deserve jollies, no matter what flavor.

Nabokov wrote about Humbert Humbert. This was both repellant and titillating, which was the whole fucking point. Not saying slash fic is the same level of writing, but jesus christ on a bicycle can we stop policing everyone's perceived perceptions of how they perceive the roles of others in this stupid 70+- years we have?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:58 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I blame that trope on yaoi, where penises are magically self-lubricating.

It goes back as far as erotica does -- the boring details and complications always get left out, because lube, pregnancy scares, erection failures, farts, and leg cramps just aren't sexy. Erotica is almost always a variation on the "zipless fuck," where everything works, no one gets an STD, and there's no cleanup after, either.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:59 PM on January 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


Holy hell, are we going to require trigger warnings at every movie theater? Do we need handout pamphlets to assure us that the behavior of actors in, say Pink Flamingos is not a good way to live, and that the actors are nice folks who don't behave so weirdly?

Dude, this is a discussion. You seem super worked up about this for some reason. The author of this article works for the OTW, I hardly think you need to defend fanfic from her.

(And BTW, male fetishization of lesbians is in fact often super gross and problematic.)
posted by kmz at 5:00 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm embarrassed to say that my (then teenage) daughters introduced me to slash and yaoi.

They thought it was hilarious. I suspect they didn't think it was hot, because -- why would you tell your dad about it if it pushed your buttons like that?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:02 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Traditional narratives that deal in hetero relationships are well-trodden at best, and predatory at worst. For women, there's lots of baggage there. Slash pairings sidestep the navigating-the-world-and-relationships-while-female baggage, which can be appealing when you're in the mood for escapist fluff. But, yeah, it can be a frustrating when those women don't acknowledge that navigating-the-world-and-relationships-as-a-gay-man comes with its own set of baggage. It sucks to see your stories stripped of real struggle and authenticity for other people's kicks--women especially should be able to acknowledge that.
posted by almostmanda at 5:04 PM on January 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


Dude, this is a discussion.

Apologies for getting worked up. Discuss away. I think that the Village People movie from the 70s was a grotesque stereotype of gay NYC men of the time, but was also cathartic—and fun!. People (like my mom at the time, for instance) thought they had fun music, were cute and fun to watch and listen to. They were no longer evil scary trolls in some gutter bar doing who knows what and were coming after your kids to drag them to hell.

There doesn't have to be some approved viewpoint for fantasy. Agreed that much F/F porn is problematic when aimed at straight guys, but straight guys have a tsunami avalanche epidemic of porn at our fingertips, so there's always going to be some weird sick shit out there..
posted by jeff-o-matic at 5:06 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have a problem when they attempt to distort an existing universe and existing characters - even down to the same locations, character names and descriptions. You want to write a Harry/Draco story? Great! Let's name Harry as Lester and Draco as Marvin, and let's set it in Bristol instead of London, and let's set up some new fun things for them to do. If you want to set it in that universe, fine, but there are other characters to create and explore.

People have sometimes done that if they want to actually publish their fic but outside of that who cares? Is it copyright you're worried about? Dilution of canon? Sherlock Holmes has been written about by people other than Doyle for decades. Ditto all the James Bond novels post-Fleming.
posted by kmz at 5:09 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


My biggest gripe with all the F/F porn that's aimed at het men is how it makes so so damn hard to find lesbian porn that appeals to, y'know, women who are into women.
posted by LindsayIrene at 5:10 PM on January 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


Define porn then. People are writing this stuff to get their jollies, which is GREAT. We all need and deserve jollies, no matter what flavor.

Pretty sure that in a story where the only thing that happens is that two people's eyes meet, that's not porn. My point is that there's plenty of slash that has no sex in it, or no graphic sex in it. This happens; it's still slash. Slash includes everything from shopping for curtains all the way to explicit sex scenes. The sexual content isn't what makes it slash, it's the relationship.

Not all slash readers are in it to feed sexual fetishes.

You can participate in another writer's universe, and you can do it without copying it. That's where I'm coming from, here.

That's what fic is. What, do you think we sit around transcribing television episodes and call them stories? The point is to tell our own stories, but borrowing characters, setting, concepts or the like.
posted by suelac at 5:11 PM on January 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


And I'm going to ease up here and say that yeah, there is a place for slash, and people should be able to enjoy it. I just hope for a future where the tropes aren't so...trite.
posted by disclaimer at 5:13 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


@suelac

It's still artificial fantasy fulfillment, regardless of penetration/no penetration.

Again, it's all good. So who cares if there's a bunch of straight women frigging themselves over a dramatized fantasy version of M/M sex?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 5:14 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


men have all different kind of genitalia and styles of interacting with said bits

the first thing i thought of was ovipositors and let me tell you i'm not happy about that at all
posted by poffin boffin at 5:14 PM on January 18, 2015 [17 favorites]


Yeah, the whole "why can't fanfic writers just be ORIGINAL" thing is just so shitty and boring. Tons of fanfic acts in a way that corrects bad representation and other issues that you get when media panders to boring young white guys. In just the x-rated stuff alone you can end up with really great and supportive communities of awesome women creating what is basically really specific kinds of erotica distributed through a network created and maintained by likeminded fans for fun and for free. Erotic folk art by and for women, filling in the gaps left because under patriarchy and capitalism the market has failed to produce anything for these people. And they make it and share it because they love it!!

We live in a culture that's been remixing existing fiction for as long as we've had stories, and yet it's the one area that happens to have women doing that in a way that fails to conform to the standard rules about how we are supposed to conduct ourselves sexually that gets constantly shit on. It's easy to see how groups of women writing for other women in ways that often involve sex with no actual men involved can be threatening to the status quo, no? So yeah, a lot of anti-fanfic rhetoric is just sexism, misogyny and patriarchal attempts to maintain control of female sexuality, and all "fanfic is unoriginal, nah!" feeds into that. (It also fails to understand storytelling and what fiction is.)
posted by NoraReed at 5:14 PM on January 18, 2015 [42 favorites]


Slash includes everything from shopping for curtains

aka curtainfic
posted by poffin boffin at 5:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


Interesting discussion in that humans started telling stories to amuse each other, same with music. Now it's expected that you tell a story in the pursuit of money or fame. Slash fix is like telling campfire stories about the "real gods" Zeus and Dionysus over a campfire, just free styling.

Then, 2000 years later someone digs up your clay tablet and it becomes dogma.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 5:19 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


On the one side, there are porn factories pumping out product for men to wank to. On the other side, you have women creating their own erotic fanfic and fan art, for free, or for trade, or on commission. All I learned from the factory-made porn is that it's an immense turn-off when I can tell a woman isn't actually enjoying the sex act that she's participating in. What I learned from erotic fanfic and fanart... oh, lots and lots of things.
posted by LindsayIrene at 5:23 PM on January 18, 2015 [19 favorites]


It's still artificial fantasy fulfillment, regardless of penetration/no penetration.

Here's the thing: it's not up to you to decide why people write slash.

I can guarantee you that it's only sometimes as simple as "artificial fantasy fulfillment", though. Sometimes people write it because they see the potential for the relationship and want to explore it; sometimes because yeah, it's a sexual fantasy; sometimes because it would be a fucked-up relationship and they want to explore that; sometimes because it's the only thing that makes sense of the characterizations on the show; because someone challenged them; because they hate the characters and want to show how unhealthy such a relationship would be; and dozens of other explanations.

If you are so supportive of people writing slash, stop claiming you know why they do it. Because I can guarantee it, you don't. It comes across as horribly condescending.
posted by suelac at 5:23 PM on January 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


Then, 2000 years later someone digs up your clay tablet and it becomes dogma.

*gets to work on a Melinda May/Black Widow and Peggy Carter time traveling story of unrequited love and desire amidst kickass fights.*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:23 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I know this author. Wild that this ended up here.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:25 PM on January 18, 2015


So who cares if there's a bunch of straight women frigging themselves over a dramatized fantasy version of M/M sex?

I was going to say "lol no i don't know any hetero women in fandom" but I think upon further reflection I just don't know any hetero women period. But no, IME the makeup of fandom in general does not tend toward the hetero side of the scale.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:26 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I just hope for a future where the tropes aren't so...trite.

Then maybe take it up with the canon/"original" universe authors to begin with, since they are hardly sinless when t comes to presenting stories without tropes, and they're the ones actually getting paid (and whom we are paying) for it. Harry Potter ain't exactly trite-trope-free, for example.
posted by rtha at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


...I think upon further reflection I just don't know any hetero women period.

It's because you're so awesome that you turn all the hetero women who meet you bi-curious instead.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:29 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


OK:

So the triumph of slash fic is just about to be released in theaters: 50 Shades of Gray.

Slash fic about the Twilight series. Written by a woman. I haven't read it, so I'm not sure what kind of trigger warning is needed.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 5:30 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


But no, IME the makeup of fandom in general does not tend toward the hetero side of the scale.

In my experience, too! Sometimes, I forget that the world offline isn't majority queer/bi/pan/ace/lesbian/gay.
posted by LindsayIrene at 5:30 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


You want to write a Harry/Draco story? Great! Let's name Harry as Lester and Draco as Marvin, and let's set it in Bristol instead of London, and let's set up some new fun things for them to do. If you want to set it in that universe, fine, but there are other characters to create and explore.

But then they're not Harry and Draco...? I'm not sure what you're getting at here, or in what way it's "copying." A person writing a fic about Harry and Draco is not slavishly copying anything. They're using the characters and the setting to tell an entirely new story, a story that might include a romance that was not present in the original. I fail to understand how it's categorically different from the story Euripides told about Pentheus and Dionysus in the Bacchae (which wasn't "his" story), or from the retelling of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC's Sherlock, or from the way comics are constantly transforming and retelling their core stories through different media.

If your point is that it's a sort of unnecessary franchising of content, in that people could or should be writing about, say, a whole new superhero instead of constantly returning to Batman, then I sort of get your point. But, uh, history suggests that's just not gonna happen, and that we manage to get new, more "original" content anyway. Because we've told a fuckton of stories about the Greek gods, and thousands of years on, we're still telling them.
posted by yasaman at 5:33 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


So the triumph of slash fic is just about to be released in theaters: 50 Shades of Gray.


OMG no. 50 Shades of Gray is not slash. It's bad het porn. But it's absolutely not slash.
posted by suelac at 5:34 PM on January 18, 2015 [23 favorites]


So, as a gay man, there's something here that resonates, and it hits home in a way that I am quite sure many women feel familiar with.

I've known several women who fetishize gay-male sex. I mean, okay, whatever gets you off is fine as long as it's not harming anyone involved, so yay!

But I have this vivid memory of being on a dancefloor and making out with my then-boyfriend, and an assigned-female-at-birth-and-lived-female person we knew was just watching, pupils dilated, and said "Anytime you boys want to do that in front of me, GO AHEAD."

It was grotesque and apart from the brief ego boost was an enormous turnoff. I guess what I'm saying is that no matter what your sexual predilictions, unless they are specifically about being performative (we were having a moment that was ours, dammit) they are not about feeding yours. Genders be damned--it's totally okay to see someone or someones doing something you find hot, and enjoy that when you go home and you're being your own best friend. Don't intrude your specific sexual choices on others--it smacks of an entitlement that we are here to fuel your fantasies.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [36 favorites]


I've been the subject of a slash fanfic before (me and former SA moderator McCaine,) I'm just glad it was before the omega people got mainstream.
posted by angerbot at 5:36 PM on January 18, 2015


So the triumph of slash fic is just about to be released in theaters: 50 Shades of Gray.

Slash fic about the Twilight series. Written by a woman. I haven't read it, so I'm not sure what kind of trigger warning is needed.


That's not slash. The original Twilight fic 50 Shades of Grey was het. And Twilight fandom is its own thing that's fairly disconnected from the corner of media fandom that looks to Star Trek zines as its forebear.

Like I said, fandom contains multitudes. Anime/manga fandom is different from TV media fandom is different from books fandom is different from video games fandom is different from comics fandom. All these communities have different norms, different fan fiction styles, and different ways of "doing" fandom. You just can't generalize.
posted by yasaman at 5:38 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would read SA Moderators slash.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:40 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


OMG no. 50 Shades of Gray is not slash. It's bad het porn. But it's absolutely not slash.

50 Shades is badly written fanfic. It's someone's masturbation poured out, badly, onto a page. There is nothing more to it.

I mean sure it's great that those horribly written books have pushed BDSM into the mainstream but holy fuck, it's like reading a Markov generator that used nifty.org as its input source.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:41 PM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


One thing worth noting in this thread, though off-topic concerning the original article, is that TV writers write "fanfic" all the time when a staff writer who didn't create the series in question writes an episode.

Hell, while this trend is ebbing nowadays, it used to be that if you wanted to be a TV writer, your first task was to write a bunch of "spec" episodes of TV shows you didn't work for and had no legitimate creative hand in, to prove that you were capable of writing a TV episode. Which is exactly the same thing as fanfic.

Almost every episode of Star Trek: TNG was fanfic, in a manner of speaking. Ron Moore is the most successful fanfic writer of all time. Unless it was Walt Disney, I'm not exactly keeping score.

And yet, since most TV writers are men, and spec episode scripts are written in service of career and ultimately profit for TV networks and advertisers, therefore that sort of "copying" is good, while fanfic is dumb and wrong and a waste of time people could be spending creating original work.
posted by Sara C. at 5:44 PM on January 18, 2015 [29 favorites]


Seriously, jeff-o-matic, the "I'M SUPPORTIVE OF THIS THING THAT I AM FLAGRANTLY AND REPEATEDLY MISUNDERSTANDING" canard is getting old, please either listen or stop. Most of the people who are interested in this and critical of it are in fandom and we want to try to avoid writing and reading stuff that creates or adds to oppressive and hateful narratives because we care about that stuff. Please stop trying to defend us, you are bad at it.
posted by NoraReed at 5:46 PM on January 18, 2015 [26 favorites]


It's still artificial fantasy fulfillment, regardless of penetration/no penetration.

At this point I think you've basically equated everything fiction including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to porn. I don't know if that's where you intended to go, perhaps you should chill for a little?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:48 PM on January 18, 2015


Considering the very long parade of writers the series has had over the past, what, 25 years now, the Simpsons is arguably one of the longest-running fanfic projects in the known universe.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:48 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


If we're talking about fanworks created without input from the original creator(s), the Simpsons is small beans compared to the Abrahamic religions.
posted by NoraReed at 5:51 PM on January 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm a hetero fanficcer - well, was. It's been ages since I trotted out my boys for playtime, and my two best stories were never ended. I was big into Gundam Wing back in the day (the number system is because the five pilots are literally numbered) which has a history of some pretty heinous misogyny (Relena receives the brunt of it, but in a systemically gender-balanced story like GW it happens a lot) but also large swaths of awesome women writing awesome stories about interesting characters. It's a mixed bag as all things are, but I learned a lot about character and plotting from writing and trying to write something.

I found the Slash/Yaoi end of things fascinating because they were so female dominated, as was a lot of fan-run things; media wise the emphasis is so much on men and what men want, and there's a way in writing Yaoi where you really think about what you, as a woman, want to read and how you want people to be. The way masculinity and femininity played out was also fascinating, because you had people buying into the inaccurate tropes, people who would try to undermine them, and people who would play with expectations.

For example, my favorite pairing is Trowa/Quatre (3x4) from Gundam Wing. It is almost canon for a variety of reasons I won't bore you with. GW is Japanese, and they fall into many of the standard Seme (Top) and Uke (Bottom) tropes: Trowa is the tallest, is dark haired, is stoic; Quatre is the shortest, is blond, is emotional and relational. They also textually subvert those tropes; Trowa is a follower and largely does what he's told, while Quatre is the effective leader of the Pilots when they are working together. I've derived a great deal of joy from playing with those tropes, with ideas of masculine and feminine, etc... all as they expressed themselves in these two individuals - and in reading other women playing with the same tropes.

The story I had the most fun with, though, was a single episode crackfic I wrote for a challenge, though; the theme was school years and I put the entire cast of Gundam Wing into my High School and paired most of them up into threesomes; it was a total blast. Sometimes I think I should dust off those stories and try to finish them; I know roughly where they need to go, it's just the doing.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:52 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


50 Shades is badly written fanfic. It's someone's masturbation poured out, badly, onto a page. There is nothing more to it.

Yeah, 100% agreed that it is sad tripe, but the point being made is that it's not "slash fic". It's Bella and Edward.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:55 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yup, I'm dismissive of people who are not members of the community having the gall to misrepresent, patronize and approve what the community does.
posted by suelac at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


hey it could have been bella's dad, come on.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would read SA Moderators slash.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:40 PM on January 18


It was pretty boring, given McCaine's weird socialist bondage twink thing. More doxxing than docking.
posted by angerbot at 6:00 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


hey it could have been bella's dad, come on.

But make him a 50ish CIA agent. WHO'S BLACK.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:02 PM on January 18, 2015


docking is more difficult than you'd think
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:02 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


docking aka the very best thing to make innocently inquisitive mefites google
posted by poffin boffin at 6:03 PM on January 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


Metafilter: huge balls that have a never-exhaustible supply of semen.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:04 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


docking aka the very best thing to make innocently inquisitive mefites google
posted by poffin boffin


They're in a slash fiction thread, they made their choices.
posted by angerbot at 6:21 PM on January 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


Question: is it still slash if its canon, as Cecil/Carlos are? I always thought that a big part of the appeal of, for example, Kirk/Spock slash was that it was subversive of the canon.

(And FWIW, 40-ish straight male here and Cecil/Carlos got a big "fuck yeah" from me because it's sweet and lovely and most significantly because plays counter to the expected heterosexual norm. Cecil's a blank slate for the viewer, a faceless narrator ion which they can project their own expected image. So he could be straight, he could be queer, he could be whatever. That Nightvale's writers defaulted him to queer instead of straight is fucking cool; that the Nightvale audience embrace and love this is also fucking cool.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:24 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Basic bitch" is a horrible phrase and should die in a fire. Even if you use quotation marks it doesn't make it any less degrading. Let's not contribute to making it a thing, metafilter should be free from that kind of nastiness towards women.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:25 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've always held that slash is when you cross the canon-sexuality, while shipping is just going with canon-relationships/potential relationships.

So (in my schema) Cecil & Carlos is shipping, Will & Grace actually getting it on would be slash -- and you can't slash Captain Jack with anyone, he just ships the universe.

Slash is not porn: slash is same-sex relationships. Romance. Not porn, necessarily.

Not necessarily - and even the heavily erotic fanfic can be a very thoughtful, character driven story in which the sex is important for what it means for character development.

And then you have the "plot? what plot?" tag - or you did in the dark ages of Usenet fanfic. can't remember if it made the transition to more contemporary media like Archive of Our Own.
posted by jb at 6:35 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think it makes a great way to talk about the whole pumpkin spice brunch ugg pinterest engagement ring mani pedi subculture, though. Which typically gets paraded around as "normal" and not a subculture. Before "basic" there was no real way to talk about that type of woman, and thus no way to suggest that not all women are like that.

But this is a massive derail, so whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 6:38 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, this is slightly off-topic because it's not about fan fiction but it is about women writing romantic/erotic fiction about gay men. So, I have been searching for good gay erotic fiction recently and thus reading a lot of lists and reviews on Goodreads. And learning there's lots and lots of gay erotic romance stories and novels written by women. Which feels a little complicated to me, along the lines of cultural appropriation. That feels murky though... And, I mean, I definitely (as a male person who likes dudes) sometimes find the stories written by women to be both believable and hot.

But the real kicker was reading one woman's review which complained about the characters' being "slutty." That felt clearly like the imposition of hetenormative moral standards to marginalized queer lives. And highlighted the way that these stories are being constructed for entertainment... which, on the one hand, duh, entertainment is the point. But there is something about it that makes me squirmy, something about people-with-privilege-on-a-particular-axis creating stories that center around the lives of people-marginalized-on-that-axis and, even more so, stories that focus particularly on an area (romance, sex) directly connected to that marginalization.

I feel a lot more comfortable about queer women and non-binary people writing such fictions... It's interesting to hear that a lot of fandom is made up of queer women.
posted by overglow at 6:47 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yeah I don't mean to derail but it is just a nasty phrase. So what if you like yoga pants, pumpkin spice lattes and urban decay makeup; there is no reason to call someone a bitch for it. #NOTALLWOMEN sure but the entire term is nasty at the end of the day.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:50 PM on January 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yes, slash is often entirely fetishising gay men. Yes, slash is often basically porn, whether literal or emotional. Yes, it should matter if a gay man or men tell you that it's problematic or objectifying or damaging. No, they often don't get listened to when they actually say this, for most of the reasons the article mentioned.

It's a good, relevant article, though it does elide one of the other reasons I dislike slash, in that it is forever degrading the concept of actual friendship between characters into sexual relationships that does a great disservice to the idea that people, and men in particular, can relate to anyone else without a sexual component.

But a lot of slash writers seem to believe that it gives them some real understanding of how gay men and gay male relationships work, and get defensive if you suggest that perhaps they're not as accurate as they think or not being entirely helpful in their portrayals. Presumably they've not learned to listen when a minority voice tells them something.

(And if you write an episode of a TV show that gets filmed and aired, even if you aren't the original creator of the show, you are not writing fanfic, you are contributing to the actual established show. Really, fanfic isn't some disastrous blight, but the lengths some people will go to try and claim it's central to life is just boggling.)
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:54 PM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


Let's stop using "basic bitch" and start using "basic Brittany"? What else could give you the alliteration that is needed?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:57 PM on January 18, 2015


You want to write a Harry/Draco story? Great! Let's name Harry as Lester and Draco as Marvin, and let's set it in Bristol instead of London, and let's set up some new fun things for them to do. If you want to set it in that universe, fine, but there are other characters to create and explore.

And it's all fun and games until someone goes and writes City of Bones
posted by pullayup at 6:59 PM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


And then you have the "plot? what plot?" tag - or you did in the dark ages of Usenet fanfic. can't remember if it made the transition to more contemporary media like Archive of Our Own.

I initially had PWP explained to me as Porn Without Plot but I've heard the other expansion as well. And yes, it's definitely still a thing.

I've always held that slash is when you cross the canon-sexuality, while shipping is just going with canon-relationships/potential relationships.

So (in my schema) Cecil & Carlos is shipping, Will & Grace actually getting it on would be slash -- and you can't slash Captain Jack with anyone, he just ships the universe.


Everybody has their own interpretations but I think that's not quite how most fandom would use those terms. Whether canon m/m or f/f can be called slash is often debated, but ships are pretty much any pairing (or OT3, OT4, etc) canon or not.
posted by kmz at 7:00 PM on January 18, 2015


Typical Tiffany? *

*I apologize if your name is Tiffany
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:00 PM on January 18, 2015


So what if you like yoga pants, pumpkin spice lattes and urban decay makeup

Naming something doesn't mean you're denigrating it. The term is "nasty" if terms like "goth", "punk", "fangirl", "skater", etc. are nasty.
posted by Sara C. at 7:01 PM on January 18, 2015


if you write an episode of a TV show that gets filmed and aired, even if you aren't the original creator of the show, you are not writing fanfic

The line is incredibly hazy. Especially, again, if you know about the existence of "spec" scripts written by amateurs or professionals with little experience trying to pad out their portfolio.

In the world of film and TV, there is really no line at all between "legitimate" and "fanfic", except maybe for the WPA-enforced line between creator and work for hire. Which would make anyone who isn't a series creator ultimately no better than a fanfic writer. Hell, an uncredited "script doctor" is a fanfic writer as far as the WGA is concerned.
posted by Sara C. at 7:06 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


[can we drop the basic b**** derail?]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:07 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


But a lot of slash writers seem to believe that it gives them some real understanding of how gay men and gay male relationships work, and get defensive if you suggest that perhaps they're not as accurate as they think or not being entirely helpful in their portrayals.

YES THIS

Mercedes Lackey I am looking at you here.

Gay male relationships--whether purely sexual, purely romantic, or anywhere on the infinite spectrum between--are no fucking different than heterosexual relationships.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:11 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Well, no, they're not, they're a script doctor. Putting it as only a choice between 'legitimate' and 'fanfic' is a very fannish reduction, as if there's no other categories. Just because fans want to call something fanfic doesn't make it so.

Sure, it's not a hard and fast line - but it's definitely more nuanced than the widespread application of the term fanfic would suggest.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:12 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's also maybe worth mentioning that Welcome to Night Vale specifically seems to be very deliberately playing up the "heeeeeey fangirls look how cuuuuuute Cecil and Carlos are!!" thing right now. At least, that was the impression I've gotten from every one of their live shows that I've listened to, and it's very much the impression I got from the shows they recorded after they started touring, before I lost interest and stopped paying attention.

And I mean, I read slash all the time. I'm also a queer woman, and I definitely second NoraReed and others' point that the circles of fandom I wander around in are full of queer women, nonbinary folk, and maybe the odd queer guy. I was in college a few years ago, and fandom and fanfiction were a very popular topic of discussion among the people at my local LGBTQ group--and not from straight people, either.

But the way that Welcome to Night Vale started playing up the performativity of the Cecil/Carlos relationship--having a pause in the live show so everyone could squee, for example--well, that made me really uncomfortable. The characters stopped feeling human to me and they started feeling more like... bait, I think. And I think similar things about the sort of "will they or won't they" ship teasing that has been happening in some shows with wide slashfic fandoms, like Supernatural and Sherlock--with producers putting in what they think fans will read as a promise the ship will "really happen," without having to actually commit to canonical queer characters. It feels gross and voyeuristic. And I feel like it eggs on the worst in slash fans.

It is also btw worth noting that there are those of us who really are not primarily reading slash fic for reasons of getting off or kink or whatever. There are readers (like me!) who tend to use slash fic as my primary access to stories about queer people--and I also read femslash and "queer gen" with about as much enthusiasm as I do slash fic. I love fic that messes with gender roles and I use fic to interrogate my feelings about closets and being comfortable talking about my actual orientation and I use it to get to remember that hey, people like me exist. This is not to say that my feelings about fic are somehow better than women who are in the community primarily to enjoy the porn, but I do want to go on the record as saying that it is seriously more complicated than that, and that there are women like me for whom fandom is tightly integrated into how they interact with and were introduced to queer culture.
posted by sciatrix at 7:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [25 favorites]


Putting it as only a choice between 'legitimate' and 'fanfic' is a very fannish reduction

1. What the hell is wrong with being "fannish"?

2. Actually, it's not. It's a very "person who works in TV and literally hangs out with TV writers and has worked in a writers' room before" reduction.
posted by Sara C. at 7:19 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Although -- in the live show that Night Vale included in the podcast feed -- the "pause for applause" was not at all limited to the Cecil/Carlos moments; pretty much every guest-star and niche-character appearance also got a "whoooo" moment. I found it an odd experience; the studio shows are very much apart from the fandom, but the live shows seem very much built for fanservice. Listening to the live shows, your own headcanon is intruded upon by everyone elses'.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


So ok people who write professionally define terms differently, as with literally every other profession on the planet. And those professionals understand that the non-professionals use words in a different way. Moving on?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Someone's masturbation poured out, badly, onto a page.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:25 PM on January 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


Most fanfic is much more similar to romance novels than it is similar to porn. The primary focus is on the developing relationship and associated feelings, not on which bits get put in which other bits. While there is some fanfic that is just contextless erotica (the PWP aka Porn Without Plot), that type of fic is in the minority.

One of the key ways that romance novels take you on an emotional journey is by creating an obstacle for the couple to overcome before they can be together. There just aren't that many non-silly obstacles for hetero couples in modern life, so gay romance comes across as inherently more romantic, all else equal, because gay couples face so many obstacles just for being gay.

I think that's another big reason behind the popularity of women reading and writing slashfic -- we've always been the biggest market for romance novels, and slashfic is the internet-age continuation of that genre.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:39 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


...straight women frigging themselves...
Let people get their freaky writing jollies on...
...you're at home and you're being your own best friend...


i just wanna thank this thread for all the masturbation euphemisms it's turning out.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:40 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


So gay men aren't being marginalised or ignored, they're just inherently more romantic than straight couples.

Good to see no fetishization or simplistic reductions being employed there.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:44 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Because OMG it's so cuuute
posted by disclaimer at 7:45 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, disclaimer, that's kind of exactly the problem.

Like straight guys telling their girlfriends "Oh, it's only natural you'd want to kiss your friend while I watch."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:50 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I think I should dust off those stories and try to finish them; I know roughly where they need to go, it's just the doing.

Oh man, I am sorting through my old favorites on FF.N and yes please is all I can say to that (not being a Gundam person but still being a person with eleventy billion unfinished fanfics on my favorites list). Speaking of FF.N, so much love to A03. So much love. Tagging alone...it makes my librarian heart happy to see the tagging on A03.

As for the actual topic of the post, yes this is a strangely uneven thread for as many fanfic folks as there are on MetaFilter. It's also weirdly combative.

I've been reading fanfic since the late '90s (X-Phile 'shipper, tyvm) and feel that it's important to highlight that there is a huge huge subculture there. An entire vocabulary, as some of the people in this thread are learning, exists (slash and Mary Sue but also dub-con and mpreg and PWP and drabble and OTP/3 and so on). And there are these tropes for which the ultimate source is incredibly murky (wingfic, coffee shop AU, A/B/O, goddamn Sentinel AU that is hilarious, etc. etc.) which seem to only exist in fanfic. That's not even getting into Tumblr, DeviantArt, Imgr, whatever. That's just talking about fanfic qua fanfic, without talking about remix culture and art forms and fanvids and podfics.

So it's difficult to take an aspect of the massive fanfic culture and say 'this needs to be worked on, guys.' You'll find a million reactions that consist of 'yeah thanks, we've been working on this for years' crossed with 'oh hey, thanks for the reminder' crossed with 'who are you to talk to our community this way?' and so forth. And those responses will all be true.

There are totally problematic actors in the fanfic community who react poorly to Actual Gay Gays when confronted with them in real life after reading too much slashfic. There are problematic actors in real life who react that way without ever having read fanfic; see the more perjorative uses of Fag Hag for that one. So it's good for writers to have a reminder to listen to the actual people whose lifestyle (not life, because most fanfic is about fictional people) is being depicted and it's also good for fandom to discuss how we can do better at making everyone feel welcome and the gay community not-problematically portrayed. Folks on the outside judging in, admittedly I'm not so sure what to do with.
posted by librarylis at 7:59 PM on January 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


So gay men aren't being marginalised or ignored, they're just inherently more romantic than straight couples.

I think the same thing about lesbian couples too.

Maybe it's just because I've spent so much time over the past couple of years crying tears of joy over couples who were together for decades finally being able to get married after same-sex marriage was legalized in their states, but yeah, I do find it inherently more romantic to be together despite society still being quite unfriendly to your relationship. TRUE LOVE CONQUERS ALL yada yada yada.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:59 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It definitely can have that vibe and it's a problematic aspect, but you have to realize that this is one of the few places many queer women have found where we really run the place and get to talk openly about sexuality and romance on our terms and not the patriarchy's. I think that fetishization of real, ordinary people is something that needs to be discussed, because if we're taking attitudes about fictional and highly romanticized people into our interactions with actual humans, that's a problem. But I think you need to take into consideration that this stuff isn't really written for men and most of the writers are queer.
posted by NoraReed at 8:03 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


...most of the writers are queer.

Maybe for the fanfic you're familiar with, but I think if you were to take an actual census of all fanfic writers that you'd discover that most of the writers are teenaged cis/het girls.

It does seem like a disproportionate number of GOOD fanfic writers are queer, though. Maybe queer authors are more likely to stay with the genre into adulthood because it's one of the only genres with good LGBTQ representation?
posted by Jacqueline at 8:14 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think that fetishization of real, ordinary people is something that needs to be discussed, because if we're taking attitudes about fictional and highly romanticized people into our interactions with actual humans, that's a problem. But I think you need to take into consideration that this stuff isn't really written for men and most of the writers are queer.

Yes, NoraReed, but it's also worth considering that the fetishization and rainbowsparklyunicornization of gay male relationships in fic is really problematic in big ways that are related to weirdness about being gay in the mainstream het-world. This isn't about "oh the poor mens" it's about "hey gay men have relationships that aren't all that different so maybe stop treating us as infantilized pets." Which happens a lot--again I reference Lackey here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


And it's all fun and games until someone goes and writes City of Bones

HA HA NO IT'S SO MUCH WORSE, the books are based on a Weasleycest Ron/Ginny fic.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:17 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Oh! Oh, feckless fecal fear mongering, we cannot possibly!" cried angerbot, his brow wet with sweat. "It's almost brunch! The most important meal of the gay day!"

"I insist," carried on FFFM.

The game of squash carried on for another 20 minutes.
posted by angerbot at 8:19 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


gasp
posted by poffin boffin at 8:21 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I legitimately have not one clue about what you're getting at there, angrybot.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait... I thought that Jace Wayland was Draco Malfoy and Valentine was Lucius Malfoy.
posted by LindsayIrene at 8:23 PM on January 18, 2015


culture is appropriation
posted by Sebmojo at 8:23 PM on January 18, 2015


Squash, dude
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:24 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


So okay, I was having a discussion in chat and thought I might want to mention another tangent that came up there. I identify as asexual; I also happen to date, insofar as I date, only non-dudes. It is also relevant to mention that there is a specific genre of fanfiction often called "acefic," in which one of the things that gets tweaked from canon is that a particular character identifies as asexual or would probably identify as asexual if that were a relevant concept for the setting. 90% of the time, because this is fandom, this gets explored in the context of two dudes in a relationship, and very often in the context of two dudes fucking. There are also fandoms (I am looking at you, BBC Sherlock) where there is a high proportion of non-asexual-identified people writing acefic.

I have mixed feelings about acefic. On the one hand, it's a really important thing for me to get to see stories about people who feel, on this topic, as I do. It is important for me to have access to those stories, and for a very long time fanfiction was pretty much the only game in town. On the other hand, there are a lot of problematic things about the way that the genre often works, and it can be very frustrating to wade through what I would like to be stories-about-people-like-me and get... something that is not that. I have also definitely encountered people I felt were viewing my sexuality as a kink, and that is really fucking uncomfortable. Sometimes I have said something, sometimes I haven't. I have stopped reading acefic in at least one fandom because I felt like it was more likely to be upsetting than enjoyable.

On the gripping hand--it's a mixed bag. That's going to happen with writing of any stripe; after all, 90% of everything is crap, and on the internet there's no real filter. Some of it is crap in the sense of being poorly written, and some of it is crap in the sense of being vaguely offensive, and some of it is outright horrifying. There are genre conventions that bug the everloving fuck out of me (why is so much of the writing about asexuals in fandom specifically about asexuals having sex and liking it because they get to please their partners? write about something complicated please). But then there's the remaining ten percent, and there are stories in there that I cherish and I revisit periodically when I get depressed and tired. And I'm really happy that they exist, but I'm not sure that you get all of them without all the rest of the crap.

I'm pretty sure this is not a perfect parallel to the broader genre of slashfic, but I do think it's an interesting thing to think about.
posted by sciatrix at 8:25 PM on January 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


Actually, there's some evidence that fandom really is pretty queer. I mean, not a peer reviewed study by any means--frankly, after the shitshow that was SurveyFail I don't think that will be happening any time soon--but it's probably fair to say that the composition of fans is a) queerer than a random sampling of the population would be and b) varies pretty dramatically by fandom.
posted by sciatrix at 8:28 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


... I think if you were to take an actual census of all fanfic writers that you'd discover that most of the writers are teenaged cis/het girls.

I mean, the prevalence of self-lubricating buttholes in fanfic is pretty strong evidence that a lot of it is being written by teenage girls with no idea how actual gay men have sex.

Plus the terrible writing quality and general cluelessness about how adult life works demonstrated in the stories' plots and details.

If you think most fanfic isn't written by teenage girls then you just must not be reading all the way down to page 30+ of the sorted-by-kudos links. The last several thousand fics in any given fandom tend to be pretty immature. (And I've wasted so many hours of my life reading them, what is wrong with me, I need an intervention.)
posted by Jacqueline at 8:31 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, and in that sense it's also similar to stuff like h/c fic where one of the non-canonically-disabled characters is given a disability which they bravely soldier on with for the purpose of being healed by magical cock or whatever. It's like, okay, is this fic about a deaf character going to be interesting or appalling? Oh, and if you say something about it then you're a kinkshamer, obvsly.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:31 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


One thing this thread has made clear is that I need to finally actually watch Sherlock.
posted by Sara C. at 8:31 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


no you definitely don't, not while elementary exists.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:33 PM on January 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


"But I think you need to take into consideration that this stuff isn't really written for men and most of the writers are queer."

I think you've made a lot of good points and I've agreed with pretty much everything you've written. But while I take seriously the attestations of experience by you and some others in this thread, I remain far from convinced that the majority of slash writers are queer. And I strongly disagree with your argument that the fact that it's written for women is relevant to the argument about whether an appropriation is acceptable.

I definitely agree with you that a lot of the criticism of fanfic (and romance fiction, for that matter) is motivated as you've asserted (the threat to men that men aren't involved) but I think that gay male complaints are necessarily ambiguous about this. Any one such complaint might be primarily motivated by the threat to male privilege or it might be primarily motivated by a legitimate offense at appropriation (and misrepresentation) of an oppressed identity ... or an equal mixture of both. That we can't know, but that we be sure that some portion of complaints are tainted, is not sufficient reason to dismiss all such complaints out-of-hand. Not that you've done this -- you've repeatedly said that there are some problematic things in this, sometimes. But you've sort of given mixed signals. Which I'm guessing is because you see that there can be problems, but you also don't want to grant legitimacy to the wider sexist argument against fanfiction and slash.

"Yes, NoraReed, but it's also worth considering that the fetishization and rainbowsparklyunicornization of gay male relationships in fic is really problematic in big ways that are related to weirdness about being gay in the mainstream het-world."

This seems to me to be a very important point -- the issue of slash isn't unique and, rather, exists in a context where there's some stuff that's similar and which is much more self-evidently objectionable.

Basically, if there's one group that I'd expect wouldn't appropriate gay male relationships and sex in this objectionable voyeuristic/projection sense, it would be queer women feminists. But all the way across that spectrum on the other end are the kind of straight women who fetishize gay men in the worst possible way. It seems to me that the writer of this article is arguing that you can write (and read) slash fiction in one way that's totally fine, even if you're a woman, even if you're a straight woman, but that you can also really go wrong, too.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:33 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


the prevalence of self-lubricating buttholes in fanfic is pretty strong evidence that a lot of it is being written by teenage girls with no idea how actual gay men have sex.

I don't know, I read plenty of erotica outside a fandom context, and either it's all written by teenagers or this is just a general symptom of how erotica works.

I swear if I see one more description of a woman's really large breasts as "36C", I will die.

Also, yes, nobody wears a condom ever, nobody ever gets sore, nobody ever has morning breath, everyone can fuck into oblivion, etc.

This is all much less disturbing than the fact that people write PWP fic about Arya Stark.
posted by Sara C. at 8:35 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


And I've wasted so many hours of my life reading them, what is wrong with me, I need an intervention

the tragic fate of the rarepair fan
posted by poffin boffin at 8:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Plus the terrible writing quality and general cluelessness about how adult life works demonstrated in the stories' plots and details.

Can we just start calling those stories "Vincent Adultman fic"? Please?
posted by asperity at 8:37 PM on January 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm seeing the argument that fanfic spaces are primarily spaces for women/non-binary people because the whole porn industry is set up for men, but I think that for queer men, that only really holds true if you're white. Especially if you're a queer man of color (this goes for other intersectional experiences too, but I'm using race as a placeholder since racial hierarchies are so stark in gay communities), you won't see yourself represented in mainstream gay porn - and not to mention, it's dead unhealthy to watch that kind of stuff. I speak from experience because I'm still struggling through a lot of body dysmorphia and internalized racism from the body image tropes that you see circulated - not just through porn, but through Pride and advertisements and whatnot.

So cool, the porn industry doesn't really pan out well for queer men of color either. But then we go to fanfiction that purports to be more inclusive and says that they represent people who have been left behind by capitalist/patriarchal tropes, but the fetishization of queer men in those communities is just such an established and normalized thing that it's really tough to find a place in there without feeling degraded and tokenized either. So I think it's important to consider intersectionality here: other than niche spaces, there's no healthy outlet for queer men who aren't represented by the porn industry to really express their sexuality - which is why I think it's important to combat some of the more harmful instances of fetishization of queer men instead of just dismissing it as "poo-poo, men have the porn industry going for them, so this is going to be a women-centered space."
posted by Conspire at 8:40 PM on January 18, 2015 [18 favorites]


the prevalence of self-lubricating buttholes in fanfic is pretty strong evidence that a lot of it is being written by teenage girls with no idea how actual gay men have sex.

I don't know, I read plenty of erotica outside a fandom context, and either it's all written by teenagers or this is just a general symptom of how erotica works.


The cluelessness about hymens in published books written by grown-ass adults should tell us either that there are lots of people who don't know how bodies work, or that they're just willing to ignore what they do know in favor of repeating a sequence of events they've seen written a million times before.
posted by asperity at 8:41 PM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


nothing smells bad and assholes are clean as a whistle.
- exceptionally-accommodating throats.
- all kisses are magical, everyone has clean teeth and great breath,


Have you...seen porn before?
posted by corb at 8:41 PM on January 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


Basically, if there's one group that I'd expect wouldn't appropriate gay male relationships and sex in this objectionable voyeuristic/projection sense, it would be queer women feminists. But all the way across that spectrum on the other end are the kind of straight women who fetishize gay men in the worst possible way.

yes, this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:43 PM on January 18, 2015


Most of the fan communities I'm in are overwhelmingly queer women.

The only people who I know who write fan-fic (all three of them) are queer women. And while I'm not sure how this all fits together, though I think it's connected: Marguerite Yourcenar and Mary Renault have provided the world more wonderful gay male characters than most gay male writers, IMHO.
posted by kanewai at 8:44 PM on January 18, 2015


Has the demo of fanfic writers changed? In the late 90's, in the Buffy fandom at least, the majority of writers seemed to be 20-30 year old straight women.
posted by Windigo at 8:50 PM on January 18, 2015


Here's someone's attempt to study the demographics of FanFiction.net.

Spoiler: It's mostly teenage girls.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:55 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, lots of these questions can be approached with (not necessarily answered by) the results of the A03 Census from 2013. It's probably a more up to date snapshot of fanfiction than what would come from surveying FF.N these days.

Results of the A03 Census show that, among other things: the average age of respondents was 25 years and only 38% of respondents selected Heterosexual as their sexuality. For the purposes of this discussion, it's really interesting that only 25-36% of respondents who liked M/M slash were both heterosexual and female. That's a lot lower than I expected. There's a few other great articles related to this topic and it's definitely worth digging into.
posted by librarylis at 8:58 PM on January 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


The demo hasn't really changed, but because a few people are talking about their queer niches as if that represents the fandoms does kind of skew the numbers.

The only people I know who write slash are women, most of whom are overwhelmingly straight. That matches with the greater trends in authors I've noticed, but is by far not the one demographic to do so.

If you want to, you can find that queer niche and not be exposed to the learning steps of the many, many straight girls stumbling their way through their first attempts at fanfic. That doesn't mean they're truly representative, however.

There's multiple ways to dismiss the complaints of gay men about their depiction in slash. Most of them involve not giving the men the courtesy of having a perspective that is equally as valid if not moreso than the fan writer's, even if they've come to different conclusions. I would hope that this would improve, but, well, defensives gonna defense.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:59 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Most of them involve not giving the men the courtesy of having a perspective that is equally as valid if not moreso than the fan writer's,

Yeah. If you're going to write about me, you have to listen when I say "the way you are writing about me is not okay because XYZ."

And, to be perfectly fucking blunt: not all--in fact a minority--of queer men look like they fell out of an A&F catalogue. Many if not most of us are lumpy and potato shaped, just like hetero men.

If you want to convince me that you're lauding gay relationships maybe start by not fetishizing what so many gay men fetishize.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:04 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Can we just start calling those stories 'Vincent Adultman fic'? Please?"
'Where... where am I?'

Vincent jerked awake with a start when he heard the words being spoken. He stared down at his patient, an immense wave of relief coursing through his body. Mr. Man was alive! And from the looks of things, he was on his way to making a full recovery.

'You are in Stock Market,' Vincent told him. 'I found you last night, lying unconscious and nearly dead on a path coming from the furniture building. I carried you inside, and my work guy tended to your wounds. Please, tell me your name and how you came to be here.'

'My name is BoJack,' said the Mister. 'I come from Hollywood. I was on an errand from Ed, to deliver an important message to President in Office Place. But last night... All I remember is that I was striding in my car when suddenly I was attacked by a group of ninjas. At least six surrounded me. I tried to escape, but there were so many, and I had only my bottle of alcohol stuff for protection. And that is the last thing I remember. I do not know how I came to be here, or why I am not dead.'

Vincent smiled at him. 'The stars must shine on you. To live through such an ordeal... that is more than just luck.' It was more than luck, too, that BoJack had wound up in Stock Market and Vincent had found him. Now that they two were together, it felt almost like fate. BoJack was meant to be here, and Vincent was meant to have found him. Why, Vincent did not know. But it felt so certain.

It also did not hurt that BoJack was one of the most beautiful individuals Vincent had ever seen. His sleek red hair contrasted with large, dark black eyes set in a lovely face. And his sculpted body, half-hidden by the bed linens, was a further attraction. Vincent could hardly suppress his desire to run his hands over that soft hair and perfect body. But he kept his feelings under control. BoJack had just barely survived a nearly fatal encounter. Now was not the time for romance. It was time to do a business.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:05 PM on January 18, 2015 [30 favorites]


Metafilter: Can we drop the basic b**** derail?
posted by hal_c_on at 9:06 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am pretty sure that the entirety of A03 is NOT a "niche fandom" considering there's over 450,000 users and 1.4 million fan works on it.
posted by FritoKAL at 9:13 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: It was time to do a business.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 9:19 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


One problem with the AO3 census results is that people had to deliberately choose to answer that specific survey, whereas the FF.net data was taken from what people put on their profiles when they signed up.

Whenever you have a survey like AO3's that people have to self-select into taking, groups can mobilize to get other members of their group to go take the poll and skew the results in their favor. That's why Libertarians tend to do an order of magnitude better in online polls than we do at the ballot box. So if there was a similar push among LGBTQ people to go take the AO3 survey to ensure LGBTQ representation then those results will be skewed.

Also, FF.net and AO3 draw different crowds, and per Alexa, FanFiction.net is still higher ranked than ArchiveOfOurOwn.org. So yeah, teenage girls are still the largest group of fanfic authors.

I'm totally willing to cede that most of the GOOD fanfic could be written by adult queer women. But most fanfic authors in general? Definitely not -- although I'm very envious of those of you who have been so selective in your browsing that you believe this to be the case!

The vast majority of a more representative sample of fanfic authors are TERRIBLE. Stay in your bubble -- save yourselves -- it's too late for me...! D:
posted by Jacqueline at 9:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lol Corb, yeah. I was being a bit over the top.
posted by disclaimer at 9:24 PM on January 18, 2015


Many if not most of us are lumpy and potato shaped, just like hetero men.

Cool, let's all get baked.
posted by jonmc at 9:35 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I certainly think if you looked at the demographics of the really terrible fanfiction, it would be largely teenage girls. I mean, some of it is shockingly terrible, and like Jacqueline, I'm horrified by some of the stuff that I've managed to read.

I think this also varies a lot between fandoms. I'm pretty sure Harry Potter skews very, very heavily towards teenage girls. I mean, that has to be the reason for the popularity of Harry/Draco (Drarry?) and Draco/Hermione (Dramione?) pairings.

It's possible this has shifted somewhat, because I haven't spent much time reading HP fanfic recently. I'd like to say that the quality is better in my current fandom of choice (BBC SHERLOCK), but it might be that I've just gotten better at screening out the worst of it.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


It doesn't matter who's writing it, it matters what is being written.

And when what is being written is playing upon outsider opinions of the group being written about, that is seriously problematic.

And what's being written about us is either totally random sluttiness (which is true, sometimes) or on the other end 'gay men are magical pixie unicorns who love each other immediately' it's denying our humanity and our real lived experience and that is a serious problem.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:43 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd like to say that the quality is better in my current fandom of choice (BBC SHERLOCK), but it might be that I've just gotten better at screening out the worst of it.

Well, if you're reading the fanfic from a large fandom, then you're less likely to be exposed to the 90+% of it that is crap if you use any sort of selective process in what you read.

For example, there are currently over 37,000 Johnlock fics on AO3. You could sort by Kudos, read 370 stories, and still have only read the top 1%.

...like Jacqueline, I'm horrified by some of the stuff that I've managed to read.

The worst is when you find those fanfics that are over 200,000 terrible, terrible words long. You keep going in the hopes that the author improves over time because it's so very long that you're rooting for it to be good and then it just never gets good and it's 5am again and what are you doing with your life.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:44 PM on January 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


I was big into Gundam Wing back in the day (the number system is because the five pilots are literally numbered) which has a history of some pretty heinous misogyny (Relena receives the brunt of it, but in a systemically gender-balanced story like GW it happens a lot)

Wing fandom got really nasty for a time, especially in it's hatred of the female characters. It was bad enough that a bunch of female Wing Gundam fans harrassed and chased another fan out of a convention for committing the crime of cosplaying as Relena. Because that character was a threat to their boy-boy daydreams, and they couldn't distinguish a character from a real person. I honestly don't think that people who can't recognize a person right in front of them as a real human being, I doubt they're going to do better in depicting gay characters in in their fanfics.
posted by happyroach at 9:48 PM on January 18, 2015


It doesn't matter who's writing it, it matters what is being written.

If you want fandom to do something about it then it does matter who's writing it. Quoted with permission from the parallel discussion in the chat room, from someone who wishes to remain anonymous:
I think one of the problems we have with fanfiction and not being assholes to gay men is basically that there are two groups: fandom, that is older, talks to each other, has a damn clue, etc etc etc, and the army of noobs stumbling in.

I absolutely agree it's a problem; there are horrible examples described in the OP and by various people in comments and other places I've seen.

But I'm not sure what the fuck I can do about getting random teenage girls I've never met to stop being weird fetishizing creeps.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:49 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Terrible by whose rubric, though? The standards for fanfic are so varied and different from that of original published fiction because its purposes are so varied and different. A fic might be terrible for me, a 30 year old queer woman who has been kicking around in fandom spaces for decades, but it might be wildly successful for someone very different, including the writer. Fanfic is best when it is self-serving. What did the writer want to get out of it? Maybe it's a teen girl who is exploring her sexuality in a safe way. Maybe it's a straight guy who is captivated by stories of friendships he never experienced in real life. Maybe it's a couple of friends who are experiencing the difficulties and joys of creative collaboration. Maybe it's someone who has a lot of shit to work through and is doing so creatively?

I see these arguments a lot. But what I almost never see is the fact that people change and stay involved in fandom activities over the the course of time. So fandom changes, and what we make of it changes. For every bad fic out there is a person who engaged with the act of creation and sharing and exploration in a shared language of characters and tropes. That's not terrible at all, and the writer has changed themselves in some way by making it. Teen girls with curiosity become women with knowledge. Judging fanfic by the standards of professional literature just makes no sense. Sure, fics can be as good a reading experience as a novel (or better), but that is mostly not its point, and not the common motivation for its existence.
posted by Mizu at 9:52 PM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


ok so, i have written slash fic.

I'm also asian and read my share of Yaoi.

And I can tell you this: slash fiction and yaoi has more similarity with boy bands than gay people. And it's ... designed that way? M/M fiction came out of a need for women, a lot of them just coming of age, to explore their sexuality in a way that doesn't make them feel threatened - the same reason why pre-teen girls pick an idol and run with it. This is why so many m/m fics are heteronormative. Switch the pairing in a m/m fic or yaoi for a hetero couple and most of the time you can barely see the difference.

If gay people are feeling as though they are being fetishized, i can understand that, as a bi person who has often been fetishized (being asian and relatively pretty doesn't help either) but I also think that young girls need a venue to safely explore their own sexuality, and the lack of such a thing (where they are entirely not exploited by doing so) outside of slash fiction probably leads to the popularity of yaoi and slash fiction.

I don't have a solution to this, unless someone comes up with something better. And unless you can say that you fear these teen girls the way I fear telling any man that I'm bi, i'm not sure it's the same thing.

(and it's not the first time I've read this OP view, and it just stinks of misogyny to me. Women? Reading about and enjoying sex? Using ME for masturbation fodder? How dare they? Flip it around and I must say: well I'm used to that.)
posted by Sallysings at 9:56 PM on January 18, 2015 [17 favorites]


* Not all fanfic is slash
* Not all slashfic is porn
* Not all fanfic and/or slashfic is crap.

The idea that nothing is worth doing if you're not good enough to get published and paid to do it is insulting and stupid, and I really wish otherwise smart people would stop vocally (and tacitly) agreeing to it every time fanfic comes up. It belittles not just every fanfic writer in the world, but also every touch football player, pick-up basketball player, home cook, knitter, church piano player, amateur singer, etc.

Every time fanfic comes up on mefi, I long for a downvote button. Instead, I'm just going to go catch up on the latest chapter of this Sherlock Holmes genderswap WIP I've been watching. You might know it as Elementary...?
posted by kythuen at 9:59 PM on January 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


For me it's about whether something is well-written. Is there a plot? (even if that plot is HEY LET'S GET NAKIE)

Do you understand grammar and punctuation? (You can subvert these things for sure, but you have to know what you are doing)

Is it more than U R CUTE and U R CUTE NAO FUCK?

Self-serving--as in, this is getting me off and/or supporting my exploration of myself--is totally different from being well-written.

And I think it's worth considering that if you are fetishizing The Other in order to explore yourself, maybe that's not okay.

I also think that young girls need a venue to safely explore their own sexuality

yes! they do! perhaps without using other people as something other than cardboard cutouts, maybe?

Women? Reading about and enjoying sex? Using ME for masturbation fodder? How dare they? Flip it around and I must say: well I'm used to that.

yes! they do! perhaps without using other people as something other than cardboard cutouts, maybe?

Men need erotica too. To which I am hoping you can guess my response.

Gay men are not pets, we are not fodder for masturbation in a public sense (again, what you do by yourself is totally your own thing and no fantasy is bad), we would like to be treated as humans.

Publishing fic is a performative thing. Stop using us in your performances, please, unless you have demonstrated even an iota of understanding about what our lives are like.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:06 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


M/M fiction came out of a need for women, a lot of them just coming of age, to explore their sexuality in a way that doesn't make them feel threatened - the same reason why pre-teen girls pick an idol and run with it. This is why so many m/m fics are heteronormative.

I think it's a need for girls/women to explore their relationship with male attention altogether, not just with sexuality.
posted by rue72 at 10:09 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


* Not all fanfic is slash
* Not all slashfic is porn
* Not all fanfic and/or slashfic is crap


kythuen, my AO3 account full of G-rated fics and I would give you more favourites if we could.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:14 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it's a need for girls/women to explore their relationship with male attention altogether, not just with sexuality.
posted by rue72 at 1:09 AM


I just had a thought about why so much of it is about unwanted male attention. Not a good thought. It's an exceedingly popular theme.
posted by Sallysings at 10:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a total outsider, I just want to say that it is amazing that this subculture exists, that it consists of so many participants, and that it's sufficiently developed that the OP link is a meaningful part of its ancillary discourse.

Our species, my, my, my. We are something else indeed.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:20 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


The worst is when you find those fanfics that are over 200,000 terrible, terrible words long.

there is one teen wolf fic that i hate-read for almost a year because it was so terrible that i could not imagine it getting worse AND YET IT DID just over and over and over, the writer was one of those high-strung comment policers who would threaten to stop writing if they got even the slightest hint of criticism, she used such appalling purple prose that she had to include a glossary at the end of each chapter, it was so bad, i ruined so many lives with that fic.

at last count i think it was up to like 250k of heinous drivel

posted by poffin boffin at 10:34 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


I feel like the conventions of slash fanfiction would seem significantly less troubling if it weren't for the fact that it really only reflects a much wider problem that happens out in the real world. I'm a cis/het woman, but I have definitely witnessed some frankly disturbing objectification of gay men by women who I know. I see this especially in the "gay best friend" trope. I mean, you don't usually say my "straight female best friend" do you? Or even my "male best friend"? And it's pretty much always in the context of, "I love having a gay best friend so that we can talk about clothes and boys, etc."

I think maybe some of this has its origins in the TV show Will and Grace, since I feel like that was one of the first really popular mainstream shows to feature gay relationships. (Or maybe not, my timeline and exposure could be wrong, and I'm coming from a US perspective, so there's that as well.) Similarly and more recently, there's the Sassy Gay Friend series of videos.

Now, none of these examples focus on sexual objectification, but it doesn't make it any less problematic. I also have seen some instances where straight women are physically demonstrative in a way that is rather creepy and that they would never do with a platonic hetero male of female friend, yet they seem to think it's totally okay if it's a gay man.

With all that being said, I kind of feel an urge to defend some aspects of fandom. I absolutely don't want to take away from the experience of someone who feels objectified by this kind of writing, and I think this is an important discussion to have, but just in the case of my current fandom, I really feel like there needs to be a place for people to write Johnlock fanfiction. After all, lots of people want to write romance, and who else is Sherlock supposed to end up with? (I'm kidding, but only sort of because, Sherlolly? Really? Of course, there's also the whole asexuality thing, but oh well.) I imagine part of the problem is that there are almost no female characters in the original Arthur Conan Doyle, and even in BBC's Sherlock, it's way more focused on the male characters, and personally, I just find the John/Sherlock relationship so much more compelling, whether it's approached from the friendship or romantic relationship side of things.

I'm not entirely sure if I have a point here other than to say that I'd like to think there's a way for cis het women (or men, for that matter) to write about queer characters in a way that isn't objectifying or demeaning or de-humanizing. Because I love my fandom, even though things can get really, really weird.*

*Omega-verse, I'm looking at you. Any time I see that tag on AO3, I stay far, far away.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:37 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


poffin boffin - your memail is disabled so I just decided I need to tell you that, thanks to you, not only did I become aware of Teen Wolf fandom, but I told my friend (who is like a 55 year old dude) who worked on Teen Wolf about it, and he was entirely nonplussed. So you are responsible for the nonplusment of a middle aged location manager. I hope you're happy.
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I see this especially in the "gay best friend" trope. I mean, you don't usually say my "straight female best friend" do you? Or even my "male best friend"? And it's pretty much always in the context of, "I love having a gay best friend so that we can talk about clothes and boys, etc."

I always thought the "gay best friend" trope was popular because women liked having explicitly non-threatening male friends. The primary appeal is that you don't have to worry about them getting inappropriately attached and fixated, trying to manipulate you into bed, harboring a bunch of friendzone bitterness, etc.
posted by dialetheia at 10:44 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


You keep going in the hopes that the author improves over time because it's so very long that you're rooting for it to be good and then it just never gets good and it's 5am again and what are you doing with your life.

Oh god, so much this. Back in high school when I was first discovering fanfiction, I stayed up until all hours of the night reading stories, and some of it was so bad, but I stuck with it even when the characters were ridiculous and the writing was so over the top. I do draw the line at horrible grammar/spelling, though. It makes the copy editor in me go crazy, and I die a little bit on the inside when I see text speak show up in stories, even if it is "just" fanfiction. And unless you're E.E. Cummings, you better use appropriate capitalization.

That's not to say that I haven't fallen into this trap more recently, because, yep I have. But fortunately I've gotten more into writing Sherlock fanfiction than reading it, so that helps distract me from binge reading terrible stories.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:45 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think this also varies a lot between fandoms. I'm pretty sure Harry Potter skews very, very heavily towards teenage girls. I mean, that has to be the reason for the popularity of Harry/Draco (Drarry?) and Draco/Hermione (Dramione?) pairings.

If there's any fandom you can't make generalizations about, it's HP fandom. HP fandom was (and is) huge. It was a fandom where you could have a very specific, very niche experience based on what pairing or character you were into, and you could go through your entire HP fandom experience without having much to do with fans in other niches. I was in HP fandom for the majority of my teenage years, so I was one of those teenage girls, but as an HP fan, I hewed pretty close to canon in my fic preferences.

But yeah, there were plenty of teenage girls who were into Harry/Draco and Draco/Hermione. There were also a lot like me who were into Ron/Hermione and Harry/Ginny, and there were a lot of women who were 25+ years old who were into Harry's parents' generation and writing Remus/Sirius, and there were some fans who wrote a lot about the Slytherins, and there were the people obsessed with Snape, and there were people writing about the random other students in Hogwarts...HP fandom was like a bunch of fandoms under the umbrella of one bigger fandom, so there were huge swathes of it that were indeed teenage girls as far as the eye could see who were writing about the teenage characters in very teenage ways, and then there were other parts of the fandom that skewed older and were all about the adult characters of the series.

In general, I think it's tough to talk about fic-writing fandom as a whole, because Jacqueline is right that the majority of fic and slash fic is being written by teenage girls for teenage girls, who aren't exactly brimming with the life experience necessary to sensitively or responsibly write about queer relationships in a way that doesn't objectify or appropriate queer experiences. And I'm not sure if there's a lot of value in lecturing them about that, because I feel like growing out of that sort of fic is just....part of the fandom coming of age process. The same teenager who writes One Direction RPS full of weird stereotypes may well write a thoughtful and brilliant Holmes/Watson fic five years later.
posted by yasaman at 10:47 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay, well I guess I should share my experiences with fandom and slash now.

So, a looong time ago, in a galaxy far far away, me and a good friend became (in essence) founding members of a French Revolution RP fandom. The person who popularized my friend's site and my artwork wrote the worst RP fanfic about Robespierre and Saint-Just. It was insulting drivel that objectified gay people; treated them like adorable, sexy dolls you could mentally fantasize about. I brought this to the attention of a friend of mine (an older gay guy) and he told me such stories disgusted him. It really made me think about the ethics of slash. Straight guys fantasized about lesbians in pulp stories for ages; was it really right for cis/het women to do the same thing to gay men?

I read the article the OP linked to, and I wasn't impressed. It seemed pretty superficial. I completely agree with you, feckless, and I've had the same impression that a lot of slash is just... this highly idealized, fantasized projecting by straight (white) women onto gay (white) men, and that has made me uncomfortable for a long time.

Anyway, this isn't to say that all slash or M/M fic is terrible. Last year I read an M/M historical romance that was really good. I'm sure there's some great slash fic out there, it's just not my thing.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 10:51 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I always thought the "gay best friend" trope was popular because women liked having explicitly non-threatening male friends.

Yeah, I definitely agree that the emotional draw likely has some basis in the non-threatening male friend aspect, and I don't feel like it's inherently wrong for women to feel more comfortable with men who they know won't be sexually attracted to them.

What I was getting at with the "gay best friend" thing isn't so much about why it happens, but rather how it's acted out on the cis/het female side of things, and the way in which the "gay best friend" is sometimes approached more like an accessory, which is all kinds of not okay.

This is obviously not something that every cis het female with a male gay friend does, but it is definitely something I've personally seen happen.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:53 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I see this especially in the "gay best friend" trope. I mean, you don't usually say my "straight female best friend" do you? Or even my "male best friend"? And it's pretty much always in the context of, "I love having a gay best friend so that we can talk about clothes and boys, etc

YES THIS

I mean yes I like talking about clothes and boys and whatever but I'd really rather have a pint and talk about why Superman would kick Batman's ass sideways, you know?

I always thought the "gay best friend" trope was popular because women liked having explicitly non-threatening male friends. The primary appeal is that you don't have to worry about them getting inappropriately attached and fixated, trying to manipulate you into bed, harboring a bunch of friendzone bitterness, etc.

Yeah, but like... not all of us like to talk about interior design and fashion and dish all the time, you know? (I mean ok I like two of those things but...) And it's really goddamn frustrating to be shoved into that particular pigeonhole and face the prospect of losing friendships (as I, and many many friends have) when we want to bust out of it. At the end of the day, we're just people who don't want to stick our sticky bits in your sticky bits and that is literally the only difference between us and straight guys. Many straight guys are into fashion! Many gay guys aren't! Many of us are just kind of sick of being Jack, you know? Some of us are Will. Many, many more of us are a combination of Will and Jack (I love bubble baths and criticizing fashion AND I love knives and fire and action movies) and we resent being shoved one way or the other.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:54 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Feckless, I know someone from work who was boasting about her "gay best friend" and how sassy he was and what a good dancer he was and such a good dresser etc etc. And she never referred to him by name, but only as her "gay BFF." It made me a bit sick listening to her going on like that.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 11:00 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


we are not fodder for masturbation in a public sense (again, what you do by yourself is totally your own thing and no fantasy is bad), we would like to be treated as humans.

So say we all, fffm. But that's not what all slashfic is like, any more than nifty.org is representative of all gay erotica. Sturgeon's law applies, of course, but the rest is people of better than average talent trying to do their thing in a way that's both entertaining and respectful, often with better than average results.

Nobody here's waving the flag for fetishizing gay men; I think it's safe to say most of us in this thread are almost entirely against buckets of cum and self-lubricating anuses and cardboard cutout characters. But what most people see when they look at slash fandom from the outside is not what slash fans see when we look at it from the inside.

It's that disconnect that makes this conversation so difficult. Slash fandom has been in business for decades and has only begun to unpack itself; there is literally no way to explain to an outsider what it means to an insider.
posted by kythuen at 11:07 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah but the thing is, what outsiders--that means, ironically, the people being talked about--see is what actually matters.

I'm neither a sex-with-anyone-slut nor an oh-my-prince-monogamy-forever person, so stop fucking expecting us to behave either way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:18 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


CrystalDave, thanks for posting this. I'm another gay man who's tried reading m/m slash several times (specific stories recommended by friends) over the years, and yes, I too found it really uncomfortable.

It's been surprising to me, in this thread, how many of the types of arguments that don't fly in other threads about oppression are showing up here (girls will be girls, but the writers are queer too, you're an outsider--you wouldn't understand), and being used to wave away gay men's concerns.

Anyway, it seems from the responses so far that this is not an issue fandom wants to deal with. That's fine, it's not like it's a threat to my physical well-being. And no, your butt does not look fat in that.
posted by jaut at 11:28 PM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


I really think slash fiction is at its best (and maybe least problematic) when it's written in such a way that the gender and sexual orientation of the characters is an afterthought, and when the characters bear a decent resemblance to the original works, so that the story is more than just flat, lifeless caricatures.

Going back to my fandom of choice, I have definitely seen this go both ways with Johnlock stories. There are some stories where it's like: suddenly Sherlock discovers sex and all he wants to do is have kinky, kinky sex with John all the time and also he's a sex god and oh man they're going to be so dirty, and John is going to go on and on about how hot Sherlock's butt looks in those pants.* And then there are stories that are just about two people in a relationship, and the fact that they are both men is barely relevant.

I'd like to think that the latter case would come off better, but I guess that's hard to determine in the abstract, and as a cis-het female, its not really my call to make anyway.

*Not that there isn't a place for erotica, and I have certainly read and enjoyed this genre, although I generally prefer my fanfic on the less explicit side. Anyway, this type of story seems most likely to veer into "majorly problematic" territory. And it kind of goes without saying that all porn and erotica is exploitative and objectifying to some degree, but that doesn't make any of it okay.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:45 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


* Not all fanfic is slash
* Not all slashfic is porn
* Not all fanfic and/or slashfic is crap.


So, back in November, I sifted through some of the top-rated stuff on AO3 just to try it out, and I wrote up a draft FPP based on that but shelved it, because I wanted to finish reading the texts and because the whole concept needed some thought (as the existence of this thread makes clear). With the caveat that none of those things happened, I'm dumping it here, because some of it was pretty fun and because I think this thread makes for a good intro to appreciating it and/or critiquing it:
Recent Fanfiction Exemplars
At Archive of Our Own, no work has more kudos than "I Am Groot," an "EXTREMELY NSFW fic told from the perspective of Groot." No non-explicit work has more kudos than Nature and Nurture, a short novel in which "The British Government accidentally clones Sherlock Holmes. Which brings a baby to 221B Baker Street." No work has more comments than 1796 Broadway, a humorous epistolary/email/transcript/text-message/etc. novel featuring The Avengers (Captain America/Iron Man in particular; see also its FAQ and the Earth-1796 series). And no work has more hits than Twist and Shout, a Supernatural love story (Dean/Castiel, among others).
I'm not sure those stats are still accurate, and again, part of what kept me from posting it was an unfamiliarity with what people might find problematic. But these are some of the texts I've had in mind while reading this thread, and it's been interesting to consider the ways they do and don't intersect with the topic, even though I still wouldn't be able to articulate that very well. Looking back, there's stuff that feels considerably more awkward to read in view of this thread. There's also stuff where the authors' fairly harmless joy in what they're writing shines through. So it still seems complicated to me and interesting, though of course it's not representative of beginner or even average fanfic.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:52 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Boys will be boys" actually usually does fly when it comes to the reality of pornography that objectifies women. Well, people say that violent pornography is maybe a poor idea, but in general, people are typically pro-erotica, sex positive, &c., and will pooh-pooh mainstream porn without actually saying it shouldn't be made, despite the fact that many straight women are uncomfortable with The State of Porn. (Since there is no human trafficking/consent problem in written erotica, I am specifically not addressing those issues.) No one likes to be told they're either a blushing virgin to be won over by a cock or else a filthy cum slut but apparently that's what gets a lot of people off. I mean, I am "concerned" by the way women are represented in 99% of pornography, and it actually affects my real relationships with real men, but I don't know exactly what to do about it.

I guess when I've read erotica/slash in the past, I didn't really care about the story, though I did care about it being somewhat well-written (if something is embarrassingly badly written it is not very sexy to me). I don't think there is really anything wrong with a story being all about the sex, even if it is a bit goofily so. And I am against bigotry and harmful stereotypes, of course. But I mean, is "blushing 17-year-old girl is a slut who wants cock in the ass" a "stereotype" or just what people want to daydream about?

I guess I just feel like the erotica component is not harmful; seems everyone wants erotica and they will certainly have it. The stereotypes about gay men are of course harmful, but it's possible to have slash without them, just as it's possible for a man to produce a hetero porn film that is not actually sexist and disgusting. It's possible but varying degrees of likely depending on the context.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:53 PM on January 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


And I understand where people are coming from wanting to say "not all slash is porn" and "not all slash" is garbage (and it's true) but also, there is no reason women should feel particularly ashamed to read sometimes-garbage porn? I mean, I do it. I read erotica when I want to feel erotic. Slash and fanfiction are not my "hobby." They are porn to me. (And my consumption of them has dramatically fallen off since I turned about 17 years old, for whatever reason. Now I read them virtually never, haven't for years. It was definitely a teenage/puberty thing for me. And I had gay friends as a teen, and they were the kind of friends who wanted to play D&D and Warhammer, and I was not the kind of girl who wanted to spend a lot of time shopping. Just as... anecdata I guess.)
posted by stoneandstar at 11:57 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


it is possible that ff.n data is skewed by the approximately 10,000 accounts that I opened when I was 11
posted by NoraReed at 12:53 AM on January 19, 2015 [16 favorites]


metafilter: almost entirely against buckets of cum and self-lubricating anuses
posted by thug unicorn at 1:21 AM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh Christ, why did I read this entire thread it feels just like those long and drama-filled livejournal comment threads where everyone goes around and around and around and no one ever actually changes their opinion.

I'm going back to Avatar. Where our main femslash ship was announced as canon and now all the fetishisation of female same-sex relationships is taking forms I haven't seen since Willow/Tara fandom. Mystical pregnancies! Higher forms of being! Twenty-seven different positions for holding hands!
posted by Katemonkey at 1:30 AM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


>I think it's safe to say most of us in this thread are almost entirely against buckets of cum and self-lubricating anuses

Speak for yourself!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:41 AM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


self-lubricating anuses would probably solve many problems for a lot of people, I am totally in favor of them if any of you are biohacking inventors
posted by NoraReed at 1:53 AM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you think most fanfic isn't written by teenage girls then you just must not be reading all the way down to page 30+ of the sorted-by-kudos links

this is also fandom specific.

Most of the fan fiction I've read in the past decade has actually been based on the books of one author (had exhausted her published works, jonesing for more of that universe) - it's a tiny fandom compared to some (a few hundred works on AO3, including all the drabbles, many filling in unseen scenes rather than creating new stories), and skews heavily towards mature writing (as in complex character development, not xxx content).

best one I've read: an entire novella retelling part of one of the novels from a secondary character's perspective, which stands on its own as a fascinating story re loyalty and morality (and no romance). Second best: a YA Bildungsroman about a young woman breaking barriers in a very patriarchal society - written by a man.
posted by jb at 4:24 AM on January 19, 2015


just remembered: the novel series that my favourite fan fiction is based on started as fan fiction (the author totally acknowledges that - and doesn't mind fan fiction, but also doesn't read for legal reasons).

Also: when trying to explain Midrash to people, my SO and I usually call it "Biblical fan fiction".
posted by jb at 5:08 AM on January 19, 2015


Is it wrong of me that I would read bad Robespierre/Saint-Just fan fiction?

Maybe part of the problem is that writers, especially beginning authors, tend to read heavily or exclusively in their preferred genre, so there are a lot of tropes and attitudes (some problematic and some less so) that get incorporated whole into the genre, and once that happens, it takes a very self-aware author to decouple from those aspects of the genre.

I mean, I have no reason to believe George Lucas is particularly racist, but swallowing the Pulp world whole sure gave some of those films astonishingly racist aspects.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:33 AM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's been surprising to me, in this thread, how many of the types of arguments that don't fly in other threads about oppression are showing up here (girls will be girls, but the writers are queer too, you're an outsider--you wouldn't understand), and being used to wave away gay men's concerns.


QF motherfucking T
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:38 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh Christ, why did I read this entire thread it feels just like those long and drama-filled livejournal comment threads where everyone goes around and around and around and no one ever actually changes their opinion.

I have no need or desire to change my opinion about being used as an adorbs sexy doll by people who have no clue about what gay men are actually like.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:15 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


especially beginning authors, tend to read heavily or exclusively in their preferred genre

Oh, definitely. I think the existence of fandom-specific and multi-fandom tropes (alpha/omega) is more prevalent now as well.

Like I mentioned above, I was heavy into Buffy fandom in the days of Livejournal and Yahoo Groups. There were swathes of carefully designed Tripod/Angelfire 'archives' (the fancy people actually created proper paid & hosted sites) for either hosting their own writing or creating collections of the best writing in a genre, pairing, or character. Websites hosted yearly awards for best fiction, as well. I am sure the X-Files, Xena, and the infancy of the Harry Potter fandoms operated the same way.

I don't know that there was better fiction, but I argue that it was easier to find depositories of great stuff easier. As far as I am aware now, being a light consumer of Sherlock fic, you either sort for best-rated fiction on Ao3 (which isn't exactly going to actually show you good writing) or run across tumblr posts where people throw out recommendations of things they like. Running a popular and well-respected archive site was a whole obsession for a lot of people back then, it seemed.

As with the Harry Potter fandom, Buffy was an oddity in that there were SO many characters and such a huge hinted-at universe that the array of fiction to choose from varied wildly. I am sure there was endless bad teenage Buffy/Angel love stories. There was certainly slash (just as much femme as male gay).

It seems that the current crop of really popular shows to write fanfiction for tend to not have as varied a cast of characters. When you have a show which focuses 90% on the two male leads, well, everyone is pretty much writing about those two male leads. And I think it becomes all that much easier to end up with a fandom that's like some sort of ouroboros of bad gay sex cliches and character trait assignations.

One thing that fandom does much better now is the fanart. My god, the amount of insanely talented illustrators spitting out gobsmackingly good art is astounding.
posted by Windigo at 7:18 AM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


oh my god, I just remembered the name of one of the niche archive sites and it's still out there.

FRAMES/NO FRAMES!
posted by Windigo at 7:23 AM on January 19, 2015


I totally understand where someone might find Mercedes Lackey unrealistic (her opposite sex couples are highly so as well), but you can put me down as another queer woman who latched onto her queer content because it was some of the only LGBTQ stuff out there in the SFF world in the 1990s -- along with Marion Zimmer Bradley (arguably far for problematic, personally as well as content-wise). There is a wealth of LGBTQ YA fiction now, but there wasn't then. So I had Magic's Price, Thendara House and E.M. Forster's Maurice to get me by until I discovered the one library downtown with a LGBTQ collection - or "Gay and Lesbian" as it was called then.
posted by jb at 7:49 AM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


In my experience, drag performances run the gamut from super feminist to annoyingly regressive.

Sometimes within the same character or performance, which is unfortunate because good drag is so freaking good.

(and it's not the first time I've read this OP view, and it just stinks of misogyny to me. Women? Reading about and enjoying sex? Using ME for masturbation fodder? How dare they? Flip it around and I must say: well I'm used to that.)

I think this is kind of a misreading. The author of the OP, first of all, is a woman, not a gay man, so while it's possible she is suffering from internalized misogyny, she didn't write this piece because she was personally uncomfortable with being fantasized about. And at least from my own perspective, I have absolutely no problem with people thinking about gay men or even me specifically to get off, no matter how weird their ideas about gay people are, as long as they aren't actually interposing themselves in my life where they haven't been invited.

I do have a problem, though, if, as was mentioned in the FPP: "straight or bisexual women had repeatedly asked overly personal questions about [queer men's] sex lives, treated them like adorable puppies instead of humans, and attempted to co-opt the gay male experience or even elevate allies over actual gay men." I have no issue with "problematic" fantasies, but when people let those fantasies spill over into how they treat other actual people, that's a different ballgame.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:39 AM on January 19, 2015 [14 favorites]


I have no need or desire to change my opinion about being used as an adorbs sexy doll by people who have no clue about what gay men are actually like.

Which is entirely fair. Unfortunately, none of those people are in this thread. If you would like to mount an expedition to the far wilds of Tumblr, where the feral-fan teens roam, I wish you clear skies and safe passage, for you are far braver than I.
posted by nonasuch at 9:41 AM on January 19, 2015 [11 favorites]


nonasuch, your last comment feels dismissive to me.

Here's another angle to consider. As several queer men have mentioned, we also need to find erotica that meets our needs. And, as I mentioned before, women write romantic/erotic fiction about gay men in areas beyond fan fiction. For example, there are tons of ebook publishers of m/m sexy stories and romance novels and, judging from my informal survey, the majority of these seem to be written by women.

So these are professional writers, and at least some of the tropes mentioned in this thread--the oh-my-prince monogamy forever, and the heteronormative gender roles--have been present in the samples of this kind of fiction that I've read. So, in my experience, the proliferation of erotica about gay men written by and for women, has made it harder for me to find erotica that works for me, that feels like it's for me.

Now, I want to be clear--I sometimes enjoy romantic/erotica gay fiction written by women. I'm not advocating for some kind of fortress wall along gender lines. My own gender identity is too slippery for that to feel great to me.

But I do have a big concern about gay men not being able to find each other's stories--the fiction written by us and for us. I hear what people are saying about girls (and women) needing a safe place to explore sexuality, and that makes sense. At the same time, I feel scared about queer men's fantasies becoming invisible, overwhelmed by the floods of stories about us but not really connected to our own lives. There are many, many more girls (and women) than there are queer men in the world.

This is more than an abstract concern. Cleis Press puts out a series of anthologies of gay male erotic fiction, which seem to be intended for gay men. And I find that series to be some of the most well-written and hottest erotica. And recently--in light of all this--I've been checking the author bios to see how many of the writers are women. And it's a lot. Which I find dismaying.

And I feel some discomfort with my discomfort, like I don't want to police borders or whatever. Especially around gender. But there's a yuckiness that I don't want to deny.

It just doesn't feel great, to be a small minority, and to have the majority of representations of you written by outsiders, you know? Or to be searching for stories that reflect you, and your experience, and to find instead stories that caricature you and people like you for someone else's purposes... And as Conspire points out, this is especially a problem for queer men of color and varying additional marginalized identities.

And the frustrating thing is that people--including people in this thread--don't seem to be fully aware of this. Or at least to not be really taking it in. Like, if I felt like more of the women writing these stories--whether fanfic or professionally--were taking these concerns into account and taking steps to address them, I wouldn't feel such a need to anxiously track who is writing what and all that.

Also, in a way, I agree with the point that fantasies are excluded from ethical concerns. I think people can and should fantasize about whatever they want. But once you start sharing those fantasies in a public venue, you're doing something that is social and, therefore, political.
posted by overglow at 11:10 AM on January 19, 2015 [12 favorites]


nonasuch, your last comment feels dismissive to me.

Yes. Extremely.

And the frustrating thing is that people--including people in this thread--don't seem to be fully aware of this. Or at least to not be really taking it in.

It's not even not aware, it's the pretty aggressive dismissal. "Well women need a space so it's okay!"

Nah. It's not. We are not your toys any more than you are the toys for hetero men.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:33 AM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anyway, it seems from the responses so far that this is not an issue fandom wants to deal with.

I wouldn't say that fandom just doesn't want to deal with this issue, it's more that there's no such thing as monolithic "fandom." So you should specify, which fandom? Which fans? Because the corner of media fandom that traces its heritage to Star Trek zines has been dealing with this issue off and on over the years, to varying levels of success. You're always going to have shitty, stereotyped stories, and people are inevitably going to get it wrong because Sturgeon's Law and the fact that new people are coming into fandom all the time. I mean, this is a cyclical conversation for a reason. But in general, I think that corner of media fandom has gotten better about it, and has shifted towards trying to write slash that is more nuanced about queer relationships. Slash fandom's come a long way from the days of "we're not gay we just love each other." The ideal with a slash fic is to write a good, plausible story about a relationship, and that can include sex and identity issues, or not. When you're properly grounding your story in the characters and in the canon, there shouldn't be anything fetishizing about showing a same-sex relationship, beyond whatever inherent fetishizing there is in all erotica.

But that's my corner of fandom I'm talking about. What about the teenagers writing slash about the members of One Direction over on Wattpad? What about the feral-fan teens roaming the wilds of Tumblr nonasuch is talking about? What about the yaoi fangirls in anime and manga fandoms? All these groups of fans don't necessarily talk to each other. They have different fan cultures, and maybe they haven't had a lot of these discussions yet. Are the other fandoms that have had these discussions supposed to send emissaries or something?

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that all fans aren't responsible for each other. Fandom's more decentralized than ever, and sharing a multi-fandom archive like fanfiction.net or the Archive of Our Own does not mean all these separate fandoms have a shared fandom culture. There's tumblr, but that's the goddamn Wild Wild West, fandom-wise. This is part of what I find frustrating about people from outside of fandom commenting on fandom and fanfiction, because all this nuance is lost and suddenly fandom becomes a monolithic entity. There's no fandom Lorax who speaks for the fans, y'know?
posted by yasaman at 11:36 AM on January 19, 2015 [11 favorites]


So, in my experience, the proliferation of erotica about gay men written by and for women, has made it harder for me to find erotica that works for me, that feels like it's for me.

Relevant AskMe of mine from last year: Gay erotica/romances written by actual gay men? (NSFW)
posted by Jacqueline at 11:43 AM on January 19, 2015


And the frustrating thing is that people--including people in this thread--don't seem to be fully aware of this.

I do think there are people who aren't aware of it. But I also think a lot of people in this thread aren't fully aware of what slash fandom is really like, and that's where we start talking at cross purposes.

If you looked at slash fandom as a culture that exists beyond tumblr and ffn, you would see that in actualfax slash fandom, you can't swing a cat without hitting fifteen different discussions of how to make slash fiction more inclusive, more realistic, more representative, and more welcoming to people of any gender, orientation, preference or identification. It's an ongoing, expansive conversation that most of us feel is important and necessary. It's happening every day - on livejournal, on dreamwidth, on anon memes, in comments on stories, in chat rooms, through texts, at conventions, etc. You can't go more than ten feet in fandom without hitting this discussion in one of its many forms.

I think part of what you may be reading as dismissive is people saying you're not seeing the whole picture of slash fandom. And part of the reason you're not is that you can't; this is a subculture that began underground and is still more underground than not -- by habit and laziness now, more than anything else. If you're judging it by what you read in the news and on tumblr, you're only seeing the tiniest bit of what slash fandom actually is.
posted by kythuen at 12:04 PM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


But I do have a big concern about gay men not being able to find each other's stories--the fiction written by us and for us.

If there is a lack of stories written "by us and for us" (i.e., gay men), what's the cause? Is it fanfic writers? Seems kind of misplaced blame to me. Or is it publishers, who seek out, take on, and market what sells based on what their research tells them sells? Is it the general decay and decline of gay-centered bookstores, magazines, publishers -- and gay-centered businesses and gathering places in general, even in cities like San Francisco and New York? Is it gay men, who aren't writing and selling erotica "by us and for us," who aren't patronizing gay bookstores or demanding that gay stories be written, who are (in some cases) moving away from the continued notion that there's a need for a separate queer subculture? Is it that gay stories in general (along with other aspects of gay culture) are being aggressively mainstreamed, co-opted, and absorbed by the Borg of the larger culture?

Feeling scared about queer men's stories becoming invisible, while legitimate, is a fear that has a lot to do with changes that are being wrought society-wide that have very little to do with fanfic or slash, at least not with the weight that some folks in this thread seem to be applying.
posted by blucevalo at 12:09 PM on January 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


If you looked at slash fandom as a culture that exists beyond tumblr and ffn, you would see that in actualfax slash fandom, you can't swing a cat without hitting fifteen different discussions of how to make slash fiction more inclusive, more realistic, more representative, and more welcoming to people of any gender, orientation, preference or identification.

Yeah, that's cool and all, but at the end of the day the majority is still being written by women who have not one clue about how gay men actually interact or interact and we just end up being manic pixie dream fags or bizarre sex machines. And we all look like either A&F models or boybands.

And that's tiresome in the extreme.

Is it the general decay and decline of gay-centered bookstores, magazines, publishers -- and gay-centered businesses and gathering places in general, even in cities like San Francisco and New York? I

That is a HUGE problem and as you allude to, it's bundled with the general mainstreaming of queer life, so not sure how to attack it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:10 PM on January 19, 2015


overglow, I think you make a lot of great and valuable points. I too have dipped my toes into the waters of pro M/M romance/erotica, and found it wanting, to say the least. And I totally get what you mean, because I know I'd feel shitty about the lay of the land if all F/F pro romance/erotica was written by men. (though ahahaha what F/F pro romance/erotica it might as well not exist, and fandom's not doing any better on the femslash score)

I think, though, that the context for how female-dominated M/M erotica is isn't slash fandom per se, it's romance novels. Romance novels have historically been a publishing niche that is entirely dominated by women: written by women, for women, and one of the most most prolific branches of published fiction. Slash fanfiction (and het fanfiction!) is in many ways in conversation with romance novels. They share tropes, they often share writers, and they share literary influences. I know that for me, fanfiction and romance novels are fairly interchangeable in terms of what they do for me as a reader (i.e. escapist fiction that doesn't demand a huge amount of attention, and in the case of fanfiction, that comes with investment already attached), and that I'm not alone in that.

I'm not trying to shift the hot potato of responsibility here or anything! But I think there's a whole other set of issues and reasons for the woman-centric nature of M/M erotica when you bring pro romance into it. Because then you've got to reckon with the whole history of romance as a genre and how men have historically demeaned and rejected it. Media about relationships and about romance are undeniably gendered: chick flicks and romance novels and soap operas and shippy fanfiction etc are all linked to women. There's no real space in culture for romantic and relationship narratives by men for men, whether straight or bi or gay. Or, more accurately, when a man writes about a romance or a relationship for a general audience, it's not immediately ghettoized into the romance genre, it's Art or Literature. (There's Nicholas Sparks, I suppose, but I think even his stuff often gets shelved under General Fiction as opposed to Romance, and even then it's still culturally boxed off as being for women.)

tl;dr the patriarchy hurts us all, basically. What you're seeing as defensiveness and dismissiveness here is, I think, partially a reaction informed by how sidelined by men romance as a genre has always been.
posted by yasaman at 12:10 PM on January 19, 2015 [13 favorites]


I also have seen some instances where straight women are physically demonstrative in a way that is rather creepy and that they would never do with a platonic hetero male of female friend, yet they seem to think it's totally okay if it's a gay man.

Straight women often aren't physically demonstrative with hetero male friends because they are concerned that those "friends" might take it as license to rape them. Women who are physically demonstrative are demonstrative by nature - the absence of it being put on het men is because het men are dangerous, rather than terrible feels about gay men. The one thing women can be pretty sure about all gay men without "stereotyping" is that all gay men are much less likely to rape or sexually assault them.
posted by corb at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


I mean part of it is a numbers game, you know? There are way more straight women than gay men. So if even a small fraction of them like M/M erotica - that's a lot of output, relatively speaking. And I don't know what to do about that to be honest.

I mean clearly, we should do our part try and solve it by writing a lot of porn. But beyond that...
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:19 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that's cool and all, but at the end of the day the majority is still being written by women who have not one clue about how gay men actually interact or interact and we just end up being manic pixie dream fags or bizarre sex machines. And we all look like either A&F models or boybands.

Could you point us to some particular examples of this sort of thing? This doesn't ring true at all with my long experience of fandom and I'm curious about your points of reference. I guess people do tend to write good looking characters but I don't think anyone is under the impression that all gay people are any particular way - they're just writing romance novels, where everyone is beautiful. They do the same thing to straight men, gay women, etc.

Are there particular fandoms that turned you off? Or are you basing all this on the way that the media describes fanfiction?
posted by dialetheia at 12:21 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is way too late in the conservation for me to say a piece about slash, but you guys know that Lightspeed Magazine is doing right now a "Queers destroy Science Fiction" kickstarter?
posted by sukeban at 12:22 PM on January 19, 2015


corb, pretty sure what's being talked about is really not okay physical demonstration like randomly grabbing wangs and whatnot, but "it's okay because he's gay."

The one thing women can be pretty sure about all gay men without "stereotyping" is that all gay men are much less likely to rape or sexually assault them.

Yeah, instead we get sexually assaulted. I used to have female friends who thought nothing of grabbing a handful of package.

Are there particular fandoms that turned you off? Or are you basing all this on the way that the media describes fanfiction?

Basing it on having had internet access since the early 90s and reading way more gay male erotica than anyone probably should, as well as (relatively) mainstream depictions of gay men not written by gay men.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:26 PM on January 19, 2015


...at the end of the day the majority is still being written by women teenage girls who have not one clue about how gay men actually interact...

FTFY. And their cluelessness extends to other aspects of storytelling as well.

I really don't know what you expect fandom in general to do about teenage girls writing drivel?
posted by Jacqueline at 12:27 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


I didn't want to infantilize by using 'girls' over 'women,' fyi.

I dunno, I'd like to not be used as a prop, basically.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:35 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


And I'd really like to not be dismissed with "well, teenage girls, whatcha gonna do?" because "well, teenage boys, whatcha gonna do?" is SO NOT OKAY, and it's a pretty reasonable equivalence to draw in this context.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:40 PM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Jacqueline:
...not add to the drivel pile? Encourage them to consider their perspectives? Engage them in conversations about how not to write stories that make gay men into tropes?

I don't know either, but it sure sounds like there's an in-group and an out-group in fanfic. Maybe people in the in-group could stand up to it just a bit?
posted by disclaimer at 12:43 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


yasaman: In general, I think it's tough to talk about fic-writing fandom as a whole, because Jacqueline is right that the majority of fic and slash fic is being written by teenage girls for teenage girls, who aren't exactly brimming with the life experience necessary to sensitively or responsibly write about queer relationships in a way that doesn't objectify or appropriate queer experiences. And I'm not sure if there's a lot of value in lecturing them about that, because I feel like growing out of that sort of fic is just....part of the fandom coming of age process.

I agree that I think this is part of coming of age for women in a world where we experience our sexuality first as something done to us, instead of our own, but I disagree that we shouldn't talk about the effect (though I think "lecture" is the wrong way around it). Normalizing conversations about how other people experience objectification the way women do - gay men for being gay, women of color for not being white, disabled people for their disabilities, etc... - is valuable, and fandom is an excellent way to convey these messages and humanize people with all sorts of characteristics.

The biggest issue I see is when we as fandom people become defensive around our favorite shows or our fandom, and try to deny that all of the oppressions which exist int he exterior world are both reflected and in some cases magnified within. The only way to counter this is through talking about it and writing stories about it, and we can't do that if we're too busy claiming we aren't prejudiced.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:50 PM on January 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


But I also think a lot of people in this thread aren't fully aware of what slash fandom is really like, and that's where we start talking at cross purposes.

kythuen, I think this is exactly right. I don't know very much about slash fandom and/or fanfiction in general. I'm realizing that what I feel more interested in talking about is the general dynamic of women writing about gay men, which is what I care more about. And, understandably, people in the thread who are part of slash fandom care more about talking about that. Hence, cross purposes.

If there is a lack of stories written "by us and for us" (i.e., gay men), what's the cause?... Is it that gay stories in general (along with other aspects of gay culture) are being aggressively mainstreamed, co-opted, and absorbed by the Borg of the larger culture?

I agree with most of what you're saying here, blucevalo. And thanks for bringing in this important, larger context. I used to really appreciate the erotic stories in Freshman magazine, so the death of print gay porn magazines (which I would attribute to the rise of Internet porn much more than the cultural dynamics that you're describing) is another factor in the loss of space for queer men's stories.

So, yeah, on the one hand, I don't think that slash fanfic is at all the main cause of this. But I would argue that the broader context is a reason for people who write (and read) slash to be more sensitive to the concerns of queer men, not less.

yasaman, thanks for your comment! Your insights about the relationships with romance and patriarchy seem important. And I really appreciate your empathy.

That's what I personally would like to see more of in this thread. Empathy for the concerns of queer men.

Also, I'm willing to believe folks when they say that their experiences of fanfic are that people are aware of these dynamics and trying to address them. I mean, that seems generally true about ally work--some people are more clued in than others and other people are less clued in. I'd ask people to consider that when someone (i.e., the OP who is a straight woman who is heavily involved in fandom) brings up a concern and folks respond by talking about how that concern is already being addressed, focusing on the things that people are "doing right," rather than talking about how it is an ongoing problem, it might feed into invalidating that concern.

Also, I'm sure that part of the dynamic some of the time is that it's written by teenage girls but it seems important to say that the real issue isn't about age but about a heteronormative society that has taught these girls to see queer people in distorted ways.
posted by overglow at 12:58 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


fffm, your feelings are absolutely valid, but I think the disconnect you're seeing with fans is that from our perspective, the younger contingent of fandom is equally clueless and gross about het relationships. Like, the kind of writing you see in slashfic from teenagers is the same kind of writing you see in hetfic from teenagers. There's just as much "uh, sex does not work that way," and "that is not how adult humans do relationships," and "that is a gross relationship dynamic and I don't think you understand why," in the equivalent hetfic. I assure you, the awfulness of teenagers' fanfiction is equal opportunity, and I say this with affection having been one of those teenagers.

Fandom is a little reluctant to criticize teenagers in fandom because we think it's kind of mean-spirited. The venerable Fandom Wank put a blanket ban on any wanks involving minors. A while back, there were a lot of LJ comms and the like that liked to make fun of young fans' Mary Sue fics especially, and it was shitty. It shamed some young fans out of fandom. So fandom's trying to walk the line of being inclusive and welcoming to its young fans, while also making sure those young fans aren't little monsters.

disclaimer, there's absolutely an in-group vs out-group thing happening here, because from the in-group's perspective, the conversations you're talking about are indeed happening. They've been happening. They're not happening in all fandoms all the time, but cross-generational fandom mentoring is happening! But there's only so much we olds in fandom can do. I just saw a post cross my tumblr dash where some younger fan was basically telling 25 year old+ fans to get out of younger fans' spaces because we're too old, seemingly totally unaware that those 25+ year old fans are the ones that built fandom.
posted by yasaman at 12:59 PM on January 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


fffm, your feelings are absolutely valid, but I think the disconnect you're seeing with fans is that from our perspective, the younger contingent of fandom is equally clueless and gross about het relationships.

Sure. But I don't care about that. Not least because it isn't only the teenage girls writing about me and getting it so very wrong.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:06 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I'd like to not be used as a prop, basically.

fffm, a question: do you spend much time criticizing het porn, which objectifies women in ways seriously damaging to stereotypes and often puts them in very real danger? I'm sure many would really welcome your voice in that arena.
posted by corb at 1:15 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Not much, because that's not an arena where I have much skin (ahem) in the game. I'm neither the objectifier nor the objectified there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:17 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


But men do - and as a man, you would have a much louder voice should you choose to exercise it there. Men are primarily the producers of that material, whether or not they are consumers of it.
posted by corb at 1:22 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


fffm, that's totally understandable, and you're not wrong that it's not only teenage girls. But all I can say is, fandom is a work in progress and it's always changing. The changes you're hoping to see are happening. I've gone back and read the kind of slash fic that was being written in the 90s, and hoo boy. We have come a long way. So change is happening! It's not gonna be all at once, and it's not gonna be everybody, because that's not how the internet works, much less fandom. But, y'know, we're getting there.
posted by yasaman at 1:23 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


But men do - and as a man, you would have a much louder voice should you choose to exercise it there.

I dunno; I doubt a gay man would get much traction criticizing heterosexual pornography. He would just get told "you don't understand; it's not for you."

Which is kind of what's happening here to fffm -- he's being a little "take on all comers," but his central point, that gay men are reasonably put off by a lot of what goes on in fanfic, is pretty much being answered the same way: "you don't understand" "it's not for you," "it's a thing teen girls do" and so on. And this, of course, is a dynamic we see a lot on MetaFilter -- people raise significant objections to how they see themselves treated by -- society, another group, whatever -- and the pushback is immediate and follows a standard script. We are seeing it in different clothes in the anti-Semitism MeTa running right now.

So, what can we do?

1) Acknowledge that fanfic has some really problematic aspects for gay men. That does not mean that you are a bad person for enjoying/having enjoyed it or still enjoy it. It's another aspect you should think about as you read it (believe me, as a reader of Lovecraft, I guarantee this is possible). Done right, it should enrich the experience.

2) If you write fanfic, try to do better. If you read fanfic or comment on it, try to address some of these issues when it's safe for you to do so. You don't have to beat a drum about it, if that doesn't suite you, but bring it up when you are able.

3) Watch out for trying to export what you've read into the real world. You can enjoy Felix on Orphan Black, you can write fanfic about him, but expecting a gay friend to be "my gay friend that's Felix to my Sarah" is likely to lose you that friend.

4) Avoid shaming people for their fantasies. Women especially get the short end of the stick on this, so I think we should be a little careful (although firm) in our criticisms -- the problem is not really in a fondness for "sparkly rainbow love dolls" but in thinking that fantasy has any place in the real world.

Does that cover it?
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:52 PM on January 19, 2015 [21 favorites]


My wife is in her fifties and she's been interested in slash since she was in grade school and had strange thoughts about Kirk/Spock. Then I think by college she moved on to Starsky/Hutch. You can imagine how she feasted when LOTR fic hit the Interwebs.

I don't like fanfiction myself. I'm a stickler for canon for one thing and for another, far too much of it really needs a good copy editor. Like every medium, Sturgeon's Law applies. In fact, the percentage of shit to Shinola might even be higher. But I do think that many of the writers are not guilty of culture appropriation. They write because with two guys there is no gender power imbalance, none of the baggage of a male/female relationship but still an exploration of love and romance.

I think everyone that reads a book or watches a TV show has thoughts on how they'd like to see the story end, or senses a relationship unexplored. To a certain extent, we all ship when we watch or read something. My wife and I were watching Wallander last night and a debate started on who Kurt should end up with. It's natural. You get to big fantasy worlds like Rowling or Tolkien's where the possibilities are endless, it gets real tempting to go play in that world. There is nothing wrong with writing or reading this stuff. Although Harry/Snape is just five kinds of wrong...
posted by Ber at 2:54 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry if I came off as dismissive; that certainly wasn't my intention, and I apologize.

I do feel frustrated, as I have for every iteration of this conversation I've participated in. Because every time, people who do not participate in fandom treat fandom as a monolith, fail to acknowledge the extensive and ongoing work and discussion fans have been having amongst themselves on this topic, and fall back on cliches about fans and fanwork that are outdated at best and hurtfully inaccurate at worst.

In my own experience, fanfic that fetishizes queer relationship and experiences is absolutely something that does get written-- most often by fans who are at the start of their fannish careers. Most (though not all) of the time, it is something to be outgrown as fans mature and become better writers. Immature writers, as mentioned upthread, are generally as bad at writing queer relationships as they are at writing het relationships-- as they are, in fact, at writing anything, because no one is a good writer out of the gate, and no one gets better without writing a lot of shit. Additionally, the more time you spend in fandom, the more likely you are to have seen or participated in conversations about how to write better, truer stories that rely less on stereotype.

Our community runs on discourse-- our stories are discourse themselves, in conversation with the source text and with each other's stories. We write our shitty embarrassing tropey idfic, and we get feedback on it, and we read each other's work, and the next story is, hopefully, better.

I realize that it's frustrating to look at such a huge body of work and not see yourself represented-- that's why people started writing fanfic in the first place! The community fanfiction writers have built for themselves exists in large part because women were not welcome in other fannish spaces. Additionally (and this is a community-mores thing that you have no reason to be aware of), the most common response, within fandom, of complaints that a certain type of story is underrepresented is often "Okay. Go write some." The reason we had K/S zines in the first place is that someone in fandom wanted them to exist badly enough to make them. The reason we have the AO3 is that people built it. Fandom is a gift economy, run on unpaid labor. Demanding we make changes we are actually trying to make already, and then complaining we aren't doing it fast enough, feels churlish.

I know it's not the kindest response I could have, but when someone who doesn't read or write fanfiction demands change to what they perceive to be our community mores (which we have been doing our best to implement from within the community for years), I do feel a little defensive. We built this. We earn no profit from it. We're trying to make it better. If you would like to join us in trying to make it better, that would be wonderful. What would a better story look like, to you?
posted by nonasuch at 3:34 PM on January 19, 2015 [21 favorites]


There is nothing wrong with writing or reading this stuff. Although Harry/Snape is just five kinds of wrong...

Snape/Harry is my ship. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by wrabbit at 4:00 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can actually kind of see it, as long as you wait until Harry grows up a bit more.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:12 PM on January 19, 2015


I dunno if this is a helpful example or not, but.. I remember several years ago I found a site for slash fic based on WWE Pro Wrestling characters. Since that was something I watched a bit in those days, I checked it out. And a large amount of what was there was stories written by women where, yes, they had the wrestlers having sex/relationships, but mostly of the lovey-dovey, kissy-kissy variety. I mean, they were taking these hulking, uber-masculine characters from an environment that's all about the braggadocio, the trash-talk, and the proving of dominance and they were writing them like puppy dogs. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple-H cuddling?? (Shudder.)

It's maybe an extreme case, but it's exactly what comes to mind for me whenever I think about this very issue of how much male/male slash out there is being written by women who think being gay turns a man into a gentle romantic pet.
posted by dnash at 4:55 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, but is that really a separate phenomenon from the issue of how much m/f porn out there is being written by men who think that being straight turns a woman into a cock-hungry nymphomaniac?
posted by KathrynT at 5:01 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just to put it out there, slash fiction is hardly this mysterious underground beast that unless we're immersed in it as fully as you are we just can't understand how it works. It is entirely possible to have a strong understanding of the issues surrounding slash from the more extreme to the more mainstream and still feel that there is a great deal of problems in how gay men are treated. So maybe a bit less of the 'you're not part of it, you wouldn't understand'. Note, for example, how little has been made of things like mpreg or real person slash, which have all these added problematic elements on top of the ones the article was about.

But then, we could also do with less of corb's 'If you're protesting about gay male portrayals in slash you're getting visibly angry about how women are portrayed in straight porn, right? RIGHT?' which is a neat turnabout is fair play of an attempt at a derail.

This isn't a world-ending issue. But it would still be nice for the concerns being expressed to not be continually minimised.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:12 PM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


I recently discovered that there is such a thing as NHL slash fiction.

I have no idea why this exists.

Of course I do, but it creeps me out big time just like all real-life slash

So to get meta: have any of the queer men in this thread read How to Repair a Mechanical Heart, a gay romance novel by a woman about two fans and the fan fiction world? At least one man on Goodreads felt it was very relatable; certainly the convention culture rings extremely true.
posted by jb at 5:14 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, but is that really a separate phenomenon from the issue of how much m/f porn out there is being written by men who think that being straight turns a woman into a cock-hungry nymphomaniac?

I think that sexism and homophobia/heterosexism are separate, yes. Definitely interconnected and mutually influencing. But I'm not really sure why the existence of problematic m/f erotica written by men discounts the problems and potential problems with m/m erotica written by women.
posted by overglow at 5:17 PM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's not that it discounts the problems and potential problems -- I agree, those problems are totally there and totally gross. But I find it a bit suspect when people hold porn written by women to a much, much higher standard, both artistically and from a social justice standpoint, than any other kind.
posted by KathrynT at 5:26 PM on January 19, 2015 [16 favorites]


Some of the tropes that have been called out as typical of slash (or other gay erotica written by women): particularly huge cocks and balls all the time, perfectly fit bodies, and endless buckets of semen, and to a lesser extent hypermasculine/femme extreme gender roles, are actually kinks that I associate with gay porn and the erotica written by men (or at least male pen names, as reliable as that is) that I have read and only rarely encounter in my slash fandoms. But there's a fic for everyone.
posted by wrabbit at 6:07 PM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


But I find it a bit suspect when people hold porn written by women to a much, much higher standard, both artistically and from a social justice standpoint, than any other kind.

Well, the thing is, we're in a thread specifically about erotica written by women. I personally hold all the erotica I read to a pretty high standard--there's lots of aspects of a lot of erotica written by queer men that I find problematic. Most importantly, the way that lack of consent is frequently eroticized and the ways that straightness (and a certain kind of masculinity) is held up as an erotic ideal. I've seen both of these dynamics reflected in gay pornographic videos as well.

I would love for more queer men to write erotica that celebrates the sexiness of queerness, that isn't always about hook-ups, that demonstrates subtlety and emotional intelligence, that explores the dynamics of long-term relationships, and that includes a wider range of body types and gender expressions.

I don't have much to say about straight erotica because I don't read it and don't have much interest in reading it.

Wrabbit, I totally agree about most of that--except for the gender roles, I haven't really come across that.
posted by overglow at 6:33 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think you see those tropes in m/m gay fiction everywhere, it's certainly not limited to slash only.

I, too would like to see better writing by queer men. It doesn't even have to be erotica.
posted by disclaimer at 7:01 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's not a much, much higher standard, it's bringing up problematic elements. In a thread specifically about a form of fiction that mostly - estimates usually around 95% - written by women. So to suggest that the criticisms only come from it being written by women comes across as pretty disingenuous.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:10 PM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]




I guess the thing that most bugs me about this thread (and finally got me to de-lurk) is the line from the FPP:

“The worst thing,” one gay friend said, “is that [women in the slash community] aren’t listening to me. You’re not listening when I tell you that you’re being hurtful.”

I'm seeing far too much of that here. I'm seeing gay guys told "well, you didn't write enough good fanfic to counter this", or "well, you didn't do enough criticism of hetero porn", or #notallslashauthors. You know what? It doesn't matter. Problematic thing is problematic. All this stuff I'm seeing in here is just lame attempts at excuses, or worse, "but it's OK when I do it!".

It's not OK. It needs to be confronted and called out and stopped.
posted by hrwj at 4:29 AM on January 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's maybe an extreme case, but it's exactly what comes to mind for me whenever I think about this very issue of how much male/male slash out there is being written by women who think being gay turns a man into a gentle romantic pet.

Okay, I don't want to disagree with you because that's a valid criticism, but I write slash (primarily in Captain America right now) and have written slash in multiple fandoms for the last 15 years or so at varying levels of skill. (Well, I hope I've gotten better at it!) It's not that I think being gay turns a man into said gentle, romantic pet, but that I love subverting the idea that men have only a limited way of showing affection and caring. I love subverting the idea that men can't practice self-care, or that physical comfort is off-limits.

I try really hard to not turn them into just cuddle bunnies -- I mean, I'm effectively writing thousands of words about a war veteran with PTSD and his brainwashed ex-assassin boyfriend, these are people who can do serious damage in the world -- but that range of expression is my goal. (Obviously intent means nothing if I fail to deliver, but I can promise I am trying my best? And that this thread has given me a lot to think about re: what I write AND what I like to read. And will probably change how I write, for the better.)

Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I see a lot of this subversion going on in my (admittedly tiny) corner of the fandom, and the fascination with transgressing ultra-macho gender expressions. So, yeah, some writers do just turn them into delicate flowers, but it's not 100%. Which might be cold comfort, but it's what's there just now.
posted by kalimac at 8:38 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


[A couple comments removed. To be clear: talking about why you think something is problematic and shouldn't be dismissed is fine. Hollering "fuck the fuck off" at people in the process is not so much and is basically a sign that you need to ease up with how you're interacting with the thread/site.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:19 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


"You know what? It doesn't matter. Problematic thing is problematic."

Right.

I didn't see the comments that were deleted but I'd like to point out that I think that the behavior in this thread has been remarkably restrained given that there's been a large amount of derailing/strawmanning/equivocating in response to the essential complaint of the post. This sort of rhetoric in response to this sort of complaint is very much not okay and in other contexts on this very site tends to provoke (justifiably) strong and angry responses.

And it's not that all or most or even very many (or any!) of such comments are badly-intended or assert falsehoods. But they very much are part of the typical pattern of how those who are relatively privileged respond to such complaints. They say the complaints are an overreaction, they say that what's being complained about is not as bad as something else, they set up credibility tests (unless you are also upset about X, I can't take you seriously about this), they talk about themselves and how the complaint makes them feel instead of listening, and all of this collectively works to minimize and divert attention elsewhere. This happens so often and so predictably, that it's like a script that people read from. The amazing and depressing thing is that even when they know this script so well because they've been the targets of it, they'll still end up reading from it themselves when the roles are reversed.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:42 PM on January 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


Slash (yaoi in particular; some 'porn-without-plot'/'plot-what-plot') was a large part of my teenage life growing up and, as a sheltered pansexual transman, influential in introducing me to concepts/media I could more closely relate to (ie: gay/queer stuff) than what was/is generally available out there (stuff for hetero cismen). I was a regular user at FF and a contributing artist at an online gallery that celebrated clean and mature depictions of men. I even ran a few roleplay-based forum games centered around certain anime series such as Gundam Wing*, which became a haven for yaoi rp.

My experience is that much of slash/yaoi is written by teenage girls/young women, and they write it for themselves and one another -- generally without having ever gave much thought to a gay male audience. There are some older, more experienced women producing content (which many gay men seem to enjoy/appreciate), but they were a definite minority when I was active in the community (admittedly, over 15 years ago at this point). At that time the community itself seemed to be composed of fairly sheltered young women exploring their sexuality and trying to understand or relate to the male experience in some way. Perhaps a lack of male experience/exposure is why the men in slash and yaoi tend to be romanticized (and feminized) quite a lot. Perhaps it makes them less intimidating or easier to write about and depict. What's interesting though is that even though slash/yaoi focuses on relationships between two men, there are very strong 'gender' roles. The Seme (top) is almost always taller, more intimidating, more masculine, more aggressive, more sexual, stoic, aloof, and either the one who domineers over his partner, or the one that's to be chased and 'won over' by his partner's annoying antics. He assumes the 'man' role. The Uke (bottom) is almost always shorter, more effeminate (and frequently mistaken for a girl or willingly crossdresses as such), cuter (girlishly pretty), more outgoing/friendly, more excitable/energetic, a virgin, blushes a lot and takes a very passive role if sex occurs. The Uke is always in need of saving or guidance by the Seme (ie: damsel in distress scenario) or is super-confident and relentlessly pursues/annoys the Seme until he uses sex as a way to shut the Uke up. The uke assumes the 'woman' role. Speaking of sex: it's always magical and sparkly. Lots of staring into each others' eyes and kissing. Little or no oral (and little reciprocation). No lube or condoms. Lots of blushing and hesitation. No pre-stretching. No pain. Sometimes virginal bleeding (yes, really).

Girls, in all this, are either absent all together or depicted as an annoyance or the catalyst that pushes the two boys together. Fan-created boy characters were generally fine, but girl characters that were fan-created simply weren't accepted -- everyone resented the girl coming in and trying to ruin the boylove. This really echoed the growing misogynistic 'no girls allowed' sentiments that seemed so prevalent in the community at the time -- at least in the areas I was active in.

That all said, women absolutely need the slash (and yaoi) fandoms, as they are sorely lacking spaces in which to explore their sexuality and gender identities. But just because it's a community primarily composed of women doesn't mean it doesn't suffer from the same problems other fandoms do - ie: objectification of whatever it is they're coming together to be fans of. That men do it to women isn't really a good reason to gloss over the fact that it's happening in the slash and yaoi communities. And it is happening. It happened to every guy (cismen and transmen) I know that participated in the community. Many girls, upon discovering we were real gay men, would suddenly start treating us as though we were their new puppy or child -- where everything we did was 'soooo sweet', 'so cute' and 'awww'. The darker, and more common, side was being treated as though we were porn stars -- demands to know who was Seme/Uke, that we roleplay together while they watch, demands that we make out on webcam so they could see, and extremely invasive questions about our real sex life (and anal sex) were far too common. Many propositioned us (until discovering I was a transguy; then I was shamed for my hesitation over lower surgery) and were quite casual about wanting to help us find out if we weren't really bisexual. It was absolutely objectifying, and having lived in this society as a lesbian for 21 years prior to transitioning -- it was a really gross feeling that I'm all too familiar with.

What was even more strange was that many of these women had romanticized gay relationships to the point where they refused to accept anything that would intrude on that fantasy. I saw this when two of my fandoms (yaoi and furry) collided on a yaoi-only art gallery. The influx of real life gay men who were not shy about their kinks or what gay sex/relationships were all about ripped the site apart. The slash/yaoi crowd (mostly women) resented a bunch of gay cismen coming in and telling them their art was inaccurate (and ruining the 'pretty boy' fantasies with 'gross' kink/fetish), and the furry crowd resented the yaoi crowd for their perceived unoriginality and cluelessness about how real men and gay sex work. The furries were especially resentful of the fact that the men in slash/yaoi always seemed to behave and mostly look like beautiful women (with a lackluster penis) -- so despite it being about gay men there was nothing for them to relate or be attracted to. It created a huge divide that I see echoed in this very thread -- that slash/yaoi is made by women, for women (and so who cares what gay men think/want?) and that slash/yaoi is alarmingly inaccurate about gay sex/relationships and objectifies gay men and their experiences.

That experience -- witnessing that clash between those fandoms and being in the middle of it (as a content provider to both of them), drove me from the slash/yaoi community. And really, the thing I pulled away most from it is that fetishization -- which is what a lot of the slash/yaoi community is doing to gay men -- is not actually acceptance. A lot of these young, inexperienced girls are in love with the concept of gay romance and the unrealistic, idealized versions of gay men that they've then created -- gay men that don't actually exist and that real gay men are expected to be. And yet even in this thread people seem to be dismissive of that fact. Is tit-for-tat really the defense behind what it happening with slash/yaoi and gay objectification? That doesn't seem helpful to anyone.

Of course I'm not really sure what the solution is either given the prevalence of objectification in other fandoms that has yet to be quashed.

* I spent a tremendous amount of time in the Gundam Wing fandom, which, for such a strong yaoi following, contained a strongly misogynistic fanbase. Interestingly enough, my favorite pairing was 1x3 (or 3x1), who were both my favorite characters and often credited as being the more masculine characters in the series. The appeal of the pairing to me was, in part, because the slash/yaoi for them usually offered a more realistic portrayal of navigating sex/relationships as stoic but 'pretty' gay men from military upbringings -- something I could relate to.
posted by stubbehtail at 1:12 PM on January 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


Gundam Wing fandom was awful in my experience, oh my god. I was like, 12, and even though I was unable to fully articulate why, I was put off by...whatever toxic stew of misogyny and stereotyping was happening there. Not a good place for a girl who was into 1xR. I lasted something like two months before I gave it up and fled back to Sailor Moon fandom before HP fandom ate my internet life shortly thereafter.

Anyway, I do want to apologize if anything I've said in this thread has been dismissive of gay men's problems with slash. I was trying to provide a fandom perspective and context, because fandom's kind of an opaque community that can be difficult to parse from the outside. This discussion has been a good reminder to be mindful of people's real experiences and how fandom can do better to respect those experiences.
posted by yasaman at 3:40 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there are a lot of weird narratives happening in fanfic, and carrying those out in the real world is bad, I just think it's notable that fanfic seems to get a lot more criticism about this kind of thing than the many other mediums with similar problems, including erotica, pornography, romance novels, and both big-budget movies and television, especially when one considers that almost all those other things are actually making money off of that exploitation and fanfic is done for fun and for free.

Also, fandom does a lot of this criticism itself, and it does a way better job of it than what we're seeing here, because a lot of those queer writers and artists in fandom want to see both the media that we're consuming and the fanfic we're reading not promote harmful narratives. I can kinda tell that the people in this thread that aren't happy with fanfic aren't actually reading it any of the critical stuff fandom talks about or much of the fanfic, because there are all sorts of other issues fanfic has that no one's bringing up (except for sciatrix' rather complicated but well-thought out comments on acefic). I hardly have a day go by when my tumblr dash isn't talking about, for example, the erasure of women from fandom and/or how to include women in m/m slash in a way that isn't harmful and is true to their canon characters (this is particularly problematic in Teen Wolf fandom and I've found some great fanfic that manages to do this well, generally involving Lydia's friendship with the men in question) or the general tendency of fandom to erase men of color in favor of "your white fave", with a particular emphasis on the Teen Wolf fandom's love of Stiles and his actor in particular even when he says really awful shit, and criticism of the treatment of the men of color on that show, who keep getting killed off and put on a bus. I've also seen a lot of this about the popularity of Steve/Bucky and Steve/Tony as compared to Sam/anyone and have seen a fair few pushes towards "do more with Falcon" in Marvel fandom, both in hopes that Marvel itself will do more with Anthony Mackie and the comics character and trying to get fandom to make and share more Sam-centric fiction.

There's also a lot of support for canon storylines of queercharacters that are generally pretty good and not super fetishistic or weird; there's a lot of fan-love for the 2013 Young Avengers story in which Wiccan and Hulkling actually have a relationship problem and handle it like grown-ass adults, which is more than I can say for most of the actual grown-ass adults in that universe, no matter their sexual orientation. And Tumblr basically lost its collective shit over Prodigy coming out as bi, which was a pretty great move on Marvel's part since he's been acting in a way that is super sympathetic and identifiable.

What I'm saying is that there are huge numbers of people in fandom who are pushing for better queer representation and doing a good job of it, even if there are also a lot of teenage girls in fandom who are just learning to express their sexuality and being creepy fangirls about it, and there's a much greater proportion of fannish discourse that is about social justice topics and being good about it than there are in most other communities. I'm in the queer community too and I see way, way more people actually trying to handle diverse, intersectional issues including race, gender identity and the erasure of bi and asexual folks in fandom than I see in the many queer communities, which are often dominated by white gay men without much interest in intersectionality.

So, yeah, it tends to get my hackles up to see outsiders giving largely uninformed criticism of fandom based on their gayness, because a) it fails to understand the nuances of what is actually worth criticizing and generally hasn't done its homework on what criticism is out there and b) the gay community really needs to clean its own house because as a queer woman I feel way safer in fandom than I do in most gay spaces, and I am relatively privileged, intersectionality-wise-- I imagine that in many of the communities that center white gay men (especially the ones in relatively heteronormative monogamous relationships and/or the ones with money), it is also quite alienating to be in many other marginalized groups, since those communities can also be pretty transphobic, racist and really dickish to fat people, and there's a lot less visible action to make them less shitty, unlike in fandom where it's entirely possible to join subgroups where cleaning up that kind of minority-hostile behavior is a big part of what they're there for and they will advocate both for commercial media that does it well and for fanworks that fill in the gaps left by the mainstream.
posted by NoraReed at 3:44 PM on January 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


“The worst thing,” one gay friend said, “is that [women in the slash community] aren’t listening to me. You’re not listening when I tell you that you’re being hurtful.”
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:58 PM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ah. 'You don't know enough', 'We're already working on it so stop complaining', and 'You're worse than we are, so your concerns aren't as valid'. Gay men, especially white gay men, are in fact the bad actors here. Got it.

Ivan Fyodorovich is right. I wish I was more surprised by the hypocrisy being displayed.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:24 PM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


We are listening to you, though. This thread is full of people listening to you, and responding, and telling you what the community is already doing about these things. A lot of us are also a bit suspicious of the criticism levied at women, especially queer women, who are expressing their sexuality in a way that challenges both capitalism and patriarchy, especially because many of us have had personal experience seeing a "we've got ours" attitude from gay men unwilling to challenge the misogyny, transphobia and racism in their own community, which is something many fandoms and groups within fandoms are actively trying to do. The criticism is heard, believe me. It's also being done within fandom, and the people within fandom are doing a better job of it, and I listen to them more because I think that they both have more experience with the ugly side of fandom (which can have a lot of bullying and infighting and which can do a lot of really bad shit when this stuff is challenged) and how to deal with that, with marginalization and being members of sexual/romantic and gender minorities, and they tend to be better educated about this stuff because they hang out on places like Tumblr, where discussion of social justice issues tends to be nuanced and hashed out in real time.

We're also saying that these dynamics happen in a lot of other places and that they are comparable to other harmful narratives (including those in erotica/pornography and mainstream commercial fiction) and that there's a certain amount of misogyny in getting one's panties in a twist over the place where young women with very little social power happen to be reproducing them and not the way that they're done elsewhere. Young women writing fanfiction have very little reach and power, and there are a lot of really misogynistic ways in which fanfic is maligned, so it isn't unrealistic to assume that there's a sexist bias in how people represent and think about it.

The only thing I can think of to compare it to (just in dynamic, not degree, and I'm not equivocating any of these things) is the way a lot of rap has a reputation for misogyny that would be just as deserved in many other genres of music. It's totally worth looking at and criticizing bad sexist and misogynistic dynamics in rap, but the way our culture looks at it, you'd think that every other genre is squeaky-clean on that count. But the fact that rap is a genre dominated by Black artists and we live in a white supremacist society means that it's easier to call out Black artists and predominantly Black genres than white ones. It doesn't mean every discussion of misogyny in rap is racist, but it does mean that when that discussion comes up it's worth asking what racist tropes we're giving fuel to. It means that voices that are familiar with that genre of music and/or in in the groups that are also affected by that racism should get more credence, because they're better informed and have skin in the game.
posted by NoraReed at 5:45 PM on January 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


also if I was just an evil sympathizer with the terrible fandom homophobes you'd think I'd to less listings of all the other things that are wrong with fandom, jesus
posted by NoraReed at 5:49 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


You... have just told me that a queer man complaining about how we are treated by many women in fandom and slash is being misogynistic.

And I am incredibly surprised at your blind spot here, NoraReed; I am saying the exact same things to you about appropriating queer men--namely, shut up and listen please, and stop handwaving away concerns--that you say to men about feminism.

It fundamentally does not matter whether someone writing problematically has little power or lots. The fact of what they are doing is the problem, and what they are doing is hurtful, and you are doubling down on 'well you're not an insider so you can't criticize' and 'gay men suck anyway so go be better before you're allowed to complain' and I am at a loss for words when it comes to conveying my astonishment at that.

Do gay men need to confront our misogyny and transphobia and racism? Absofuckinglutely, and I say so all the time.

That doesn't give anyone a pass to treat us poorly, and you know it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:57 PM on January 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is the last thing I'm going to say, before I bow out: if people tell you that they don't feel listened to and your response is to insist that they're wrong, that you are listening, you may want to re-evaluate what's happening.

Do folks think that Kiri Van Santen, who is a woman who is heavily involved in fan fic communities, is completely off-base here? That she shouldn't have written this article?

Have people read stubbehtail's comment? Particularly this part:
It happened to every guy (cismen and transmen) I know that participated in the community. Many girls, upon discovering we were real gay men, would suddenly start treating us as though we were their new puppy or child -- where everything we did was 'soooo sweet', 'so cute' and 'awww'. The darker, and more common, side was being treated as though we were porn stars -- demands to know who was Seme/Uke, that we roleplay together while they watch, demands that we make out on webcam so they could see, and extremely invasive questions about our real sex life (and anal sex) were far too common. Many propositioned us (until discovering I was a transguy; then I was shamed for my hesitation over lower surgery) and were quite casual about wanting to help us find out if we weren't really bisexual. It was absolutely objectifying, and having lived in this society as a lesbian for 21 years prior to transitioning -- it was a really gross feeling that I'm all too familiar with.
Maybe that's not happening in your particular corner of the world of fandom (which I'm told is so vast and sprawling that I can never hope to understand it), but it is a thing that's happening. Saying that it's not happening is a form of silencing and derailment. Shifting the focus to what queer men do (and, yes, absolutely, lots of gay men perpetuate all forms of oppression) is also a form of derailment. Even people who are doing oppressive things don't deserve to be oppressed themselves.

And let me be clear. Let's just say, for argument's sake, that you're doing all the right things in terms of your own relationship to slash and your own circles. I don't think that you, as an individual, are responsible for what other fans and slashers are doing--you can't control them, of course. But you are responsible for what you're doing in this thread. It's a classic form of derailment. If you really are doing all the right things, great, this doesn't apply to you. But in criticizing people for bringing up concerns about what's happening--about experiences like stubbehtail's--you are making it easier for people to dismiss, discount and ignore those experiences.
posted by overglow at 6:07 PM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm saying that there are other narratives in that criticism that reflect societal misogyny and that there are a lot of intersectional issues with the trope uses in fanfiction that can be harmful, many of which I think are a lot more important and exacerbate existing societal problems, many of which disproportionately effect people in queer communities. I'm also saying that I have some immediate suspicion of men-- any men, gay, straight or otherwise-- who are eager to shit on hobbies or occupations that are primarily dominated by women and girls (especially teenage girls, since making teenage girls feel like shit seems to be a #1 priority of the patriarchy), and this is just one of the many areas in which that suspicion comes up. (But it comes up around Twilight and 50 Shades a lot, too.)

I just wish we could center the discourse on all this harmful shit in fandom: that a lot of the shitty tropes we do can be harmful to gay men and send bad messages, especially to our younger readers, about what those relationships are really like, that sex isn't always perfect and wonderful, that there are problems that come from bonding over perilous situations that can play out in the long run and that isn't a good role model to follow, that anal sex requires warming up and lube so please do that if you're gonna try it yourself so you don't get hurt, that women can be really great, that friendships are super important, that we're pulling from inherently problematic media and that we can do a lot of great stuff that corrects the issues in it or we can exacerbate them, that not all penises are huge, that racism is a thing that happens in our communities, etc.

It all plays into a lot of harmful narratives in mainstream culture, and yeah, there's a lot of unique stuff that ends up happening when we queer those narratives, which is often what we're doing, and I think we need to approach them with special care. I also think we're already doing that, in part because we're disproportionately queer ourselves, and I think that the queerness of fandom means that we need to pay special attention to the shit queer culture is bad at, like dealing with race and trans issues.
posted by NoraReed at 6:19 PM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm really sick of being told that I'm contributing to misogyny by complaining about how I am treated as a gay man. I'm out.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:22 PM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also if you're interested in the yaoi side of this and you have academic access, check out "Straight" Women, Queer Texts: Boy-Love Manga and the Rise of a Global Counterpublic by Andrea Wood, which does a good job of laying out info on that particular genre and its fans. (I did a big paper in college comparing fandom portrayals of seme/uke relationships to butch/femme lesbian relationships and how they are more similar to one another than the heterosexual relationships that they are usually compared to and that was one of my favorite things that I found, but I can't find a free source so I can't reread it, unfortunately.) There's a lot of well-considered, nuanced academic stuff on fandom that's fascinating from a sociological perspective and generally does a better job giving overviews of it than I can, since it's generally written from an outsider perspective but one with extensive knowledge and experience with fandom. Wood's piece gets cited a lot, and so if you're curious and want to know more, it's a good rabbit hole to jump down.
posted by NoraReed at 7:00 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


NoraReed, it's fine to want to have a conversation about intersectionality and the queer community, and how all these other issues impact slash/fanfic communities.

That's not the conversation that's been taking place, though, and for you to continually try to bring it around to the conversation you want to have seems really hand wavy and dismissive. Could you please take a moment and examine that?

I've spent a good part of the day wandering around AO3 and fan fiction.net, and holy cow, yeah, there is a real concern there about how women writers are portraying gay men. It's pretty infuriating.
posted by disclaimer at 7:05 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


There has been no discussion about terrible fandom homophobes. Just problematic depictions of gay men in slash. To start suggesting that it's misogyny to object to these depictions or that there's other issues that queer culture should focus on ignores, again, that this is specifically a thread about problematic slash.

So you'll understand why it comes across to a number of the participants in this thread that you'd much rather accuse and distract rather than just shut up and listen, no matter what level of authority you feel you bring to the conversation. Because your every acknowledgement of the problem comes with several buts explaining why gay men are wrong to feel the way they do.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:06 PM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think I'm trying to make several points and am conflating them badly. The first is that I think this tends to get a lot of traction as an issue that fandom has and that because of that, we're seeing issues that are also relevant-- possibly more relevant-- shunted to the side. The second is that I am really concerned about how we talk about hobbies that are overwhelmingly done by people who there's no risk in criticizing because they are already on lower privilege rungs. The third is that a lot of fanfic is reflective of a lot of mainstream narratives that are really harmful, and I think that a lot of the bad portrayals of gay men are really just standard bad portrayals of romance and sex in general and that there needs to be a lot more questioning about how we view love, sex and romance as a society as a whole, and that I'm afraid that looking at fandom as a place to fix it is kind of, well, weird, because of the second point.

Sorry for coming across as dismissive-- I'd like to see these tropes gone, too, because I don't want my hobby to support stuff that's harmful, because I think we as queer fandom members should hold ourselves to a higher standard than the media that we're supposed to be filling in the gaps of, and because frankly I'm bored as hell with reading that shit. This is something that's talked about in fandom a lot, at least in the parts I'm in.

But maybe you can see how the parts that feel like they're telling (often queer and/or young) women they're doing erotica wrong can reflect larger sexist cultural trends, especially because it's a lot more socially acceptable to mock women for the erotica they consume than men for their porn, and why that gets some of our hackles up? I'm not saying the issues aren't there, but the disproportionate amount of attention that they get compared to other fandom social justice issues and the attention given to similar shitty, stereotypical portrayals in mainstream media induces a certain amount of suspicion in the same way that people who are mad about 50 Shades but don't say anything about the unrealistic and harmful stuff that goes on in mainstream porn induce suspicion.
posted by NoraReed at 7:26 PM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I can understand why it can get people's hackles up. I sympathise. But it also feels like that because your small area of fandom interaction has dealt with this topic before, taking into account that fandom is not a monolith and, by its nature, you're only ever going to be a small part of it, that it has been getting outsized attention. And in my case, and presumably others in this thread, it's not something that gets brought up without being immediately aggressively defended against and gay men's concerns being brushed under the carpet, in a way that frequently feels like being inconvenient for being a real person.

So we're both products of what we've heard in the past when this has been raised, and react accordingly.

Thank you for that comment, NoraReed. It was very appreciated.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:37 PM on January 20, 2015


As a queer man who did voice my concerns, I'm going to drop a bit of positivity into this thread and say that I actually feel really encouraged by what's going on here. I feel like the lengthy discussions of problematic tropes, sharing of personal stories, and analysis going on has been fantastic - this kind of dialogue is important in complex and nuanced issues like this.
posted by Conspire at 7:46 PM on January 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think that the Teen Wolf fandom is a particularly interesting cross-section to watch, by the way, because a) the canon is aggressively terrible on several SJ axes, b) it is full of people who write really terrible things, partially because of a, and c) it's huge and so has a lot of SJ minded people who filter it and respond to it. So when something big enough and awful enough happens you end up seeing it immediately critiqued instead of just dismissed (assuming you follow the people who are good about doing that). All the standard bullshit is there, of course, but the absolute terribleness of the show from season 3 onward (when the first 2 were already in many ways problematic) makes it a pretty interesting case study, and a lot of the problematic ways in which the fans engage with the actors really mirror the fetishization stuff in ways that might be useful in understanding it, if that's, you know, a thing you want to do.

I think there's probably another really sociologically interesting aspect of the fetishization that you get in the people who write among seme/uke terms, which mirror some really bad dynamics of heternormativity in some ways. I'm not sure how much girls who are used to reading that end up thinking they apply to gay men in the real world and if reality ends up hitting them in the face to say that it's not pretty quickly, but I'd be interested in seeing that compared to the "so... which of you is the girl?" narrative that comes up in dealing with non-fan ignorant heteros.
posted by NoraReed at 7:57 PM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have some immediate suspicion of men-- any men, gay, straight or otherwise-- who are eager to shit on hobbies or occupations that are primarily dominated by women and girls (especially teenage girls, since making teenage girls feel like shit seems to be a #1 priority of the patriarchy), and this is just one of the many areas in which that suspicion comes up.

I just have to say, I'm trying real hard to keep my mind open to what your overall point is, but seriously my brain locked up at this point because the implication of this statement seems to be that no male can ever criticize what a woman does for a hobby, even if that hobby is in some way denigrating to another community.

Is it really so hard to hear gay men suggesting that maybe these women and girls might want to find a hobby that isn't based on distortions of gay men's sexual and emotional lives, and which in many instances leads some women and girls to treat us in disrespectful ways? That maybe feminist issues don't get to trump everything?
posted by dnash at 9:00 PM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


She's engaging in an epic amount of empathy and engagement by describing the criticisms from gay men in this thread as defecation though, so give her a little credit.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:48 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


and which in many instances leads some women and girls to treat us in disrespectful ways

While I'm certain that many women are disrespectful to gay men, within and outside of fandom, I'm not sure that fandom is the cause for this particular behavior. I recognize a lot of the problematic behaviors mentioned in this thread from the way some of my classmates treated my gay friends in high school, and none of us even knew what slash was back then. While the attitudes and tropes that cause these behaviors are certainly present in fandom, and it's absolutely important that we call out that shit when we see it, including within fandom, I don't think it's fair to ascribe causality to slash.

Since we're hopefully into the calmer twilight of this thread, I wanted to try to explain something about the way a lot of women engage with fanfic. This isn't meant to be an excuse for anything at all, just trying to explain a nuance of the motivations since that's mostly been flattened to "porn" in this thread so far. The thing is, fanfic is so personal and so often about working out the writer's own issues that I wouldn't be surprised if many authors didn't even think of themselves as representing gay men at all. I know that sounds bizarre but I'll try to explain.

One of the main reasons women love writing M/M fic is that both main characters get to be "unmarked"; they're the default gender, not the marked-as-different gender. I think that a lot of fanfic is written as if it were about two "default gender" people (not sexless, of course!), rather than two men. I'm just going to quote from this post from Kiss My Wonder Woman because they explain it better than I could:
Working under the assumption that the male gender is neutral, slash becomes not a story about two men, but a story about two generalized people. It's almost like there's no gender involved at all, and the focus of the story becomes the emotions and characters and relationships and whatever other interesting stuff about the two characters - rather than the gender of said characters. You're exploring the people, in absence of the influence of gender. ...

These characters are being explored in a feminine context - characters in slash fiction are often explicitly put in scenarios our culture typically considers to be "female" in nature, such as dealing with the threat of rape or worrying about whether it's too forward to make the first move in a relationship. In this way, women use these male characters to explore their own lives and experiences, without the baggage of our cultural perception of femininity. You don't have to answer the question, "How would a woman react in this situation?" because you are instead considering the question "How would a person react in this situation?" or, even better, "How would this character react in this situation?"
Under this analysis, a lot of fanfic isn't "about" gay men at all, counterintuitively; it's about women writing romances about "unmarked" people that allow them to explore romance and sexuality without the baggage of gender roles. I'm sure this is less true in some fandoms than others (I can't speak for yaoi, in particular) but I think it's generally pretty applicable.

By no means am I suggesting that gay men (or anyone else!) don't have the right to object to the whole thing nonetheless! And I think there's a lot to unpack about whether this is an appropriate way to approach exploring your own sexuality and feelings about gender. But most fanfic writers are not even close to trying to write authentically about the gay male experience; they're trying to work out their own issues and questions (and often their own realization that they're queer - I've seen that a million times in fandom) within a safe framework.

I just think it helps to understand that in practice, most authors don't really think they're representing gay men at all. In their view, they're queering and essentially a-gendering a mainstream story (most of which have male protagonists) to explore their own issues and sexualities.

Whether this is OK or not is an open question. The contentious comments on that post I linked mirror the conversation here and in fandom as a whole; all of this stuff is being talked about in thoughtful corners of fandom, and I think things have improved. You'd be hard-pressed to find a group of people who wanted to avoid being institutionally shitty to others as much as fandom types, so it really does come up a lot and it is taken seriously. I'll try to find a few more thoughtful posts scattered throughout fandom, because I think it might help to see the actual conversation and not just hear "we're working on it".
posted by dialetheia at 9:48 PM on January 20, 2015 [24 favorites]


I think we should also note that usually the characters in question are not usually gay but bi or pansexual, unless the writer specifically says that the character's sexual orientation has changed since any hetero romances in canon, that it's an alternate universe where the hetero romance hasn't happened, or that the character in question was acting under compulsory heterosexuality. (When this is done badly in fanfiction, it often goes hand in hand with erasing a female character and so is gross on multiple exciting levels, but like most bullshit in fandom, it also happens in mainstream media all the time.) Part of calling them "gay" is because we're talking about m/m or f/f relationships and there's not an easy bit of terminology for "same-sex relationship between two people who may not exclusively be attracted to their own gender", but part of it is bi erasure (or, as TVTropes calls it, No Bisexuals).
posted by NoraReed at 10:08 PM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think a lot of women are bristling at the idea of being responsible for making a group of mostly teenagers be more empathetic and less shitty. Yes, this shit is problematic, and yes, it needs to be addressed and called out. But ughhh teenagers are terrible and sometimes developmentally incapable of empathy and we just keep making more of them. It's more work than just awareness-raising.
posted by almostmanda at 6:22 AM on January 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think that the Teen Wolf fandom is a particularly interesting cross-section to watch,

Slight derail for something that utterly fascinated me cause I got to watch it happen : as the show moved from enjoyably terrible to annoyingly terrible, to boring -- a completely separate and staggeringly comprehensive series of fan work-only tropes specific to the show ..almost as if everyone was creating the show they wanted to exist collectively and very quickly stopped paying attention to the actual show which was disappointing them rapidly. (I wanna say the peak of this was between season two and three?)

Anyway it was kind of amazing to watch a completely coherent alternate reality version of the show and characters grow and eventually detach itself far away from actual canon that you could probably write a story set in the fanon, using the never-seen-on-show tropes and conventions, and have a completely different story that bore only a passing resemblance to TW itself.

/derail over.
posted by The Whelk at 7:43 AM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think that the Teen Wolf fandom is a particularly interesting cross-section to watch, by the way, because a) the canon is aggressively terrible on several SJ axes, b) it is full of people who write really terrible things, partially because of a, and c) it's huge and so has a lot of SJ minded people who filter it and respond to it.

The fandom is aggressively terrible on several SJ axes, too. See, for example, the way enormous portions of the fandom shit on the POC lead, ignore actual in-canon queer characters of color, minimize the presence of the interesting white lady characters in the show, and use vicious dog whistles about the non-white lady characters in the show -- all in order to aggressively support slash between two white dudes. Whose interactions onscreen in Teen Wolf were, during the time the ship got massively popular and basically ate fandom, antagonistic in the extreme.

Yeah.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:32 AM on January 21, 2015


Dialetheia said
"I just think it helps to understand that in practice, most authors don't really think they're representing gay men at all. In their view, they're queering and essentially a-gendering a mainstream story (most of which have male protagonists) to explore their own issues and sexualities."

I think it's useful to point out that despite an author's intent, the execution is the problem. If an author is using their interpretation of a "stereotypical" gay couple as has been described above to work out their own gender identity/sexual place in the world, that's fine. Just don't publish it where readers and other writers and fellow writers can interpret those archetype or tropes as "okay". And if they do get put out there in fandom, people should be calling out the problematic nature of what they're doing.

If I, as a gay white man wrote a fanfic using negative stereotypes of women and men and people of color (pick your intersectional axis as you see fit), and explained it away as "working out my sexual identity using not-really-black/women/whatever", how would that go within fanfic communities? How would that go here within the audience of this thread? Would it be "okay" or would people be stepping up to my defense because I'm not talking about "real" people? Or would people be calling me out on my bullshit?

I think it's really dismissive to say "yeah but they're not really gay men, because reasons". I just do not see this as valid, I'm sorry.
posted by disclaimer at 7:37 PM on January 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


And to clarify my main point: I don't care what those authors Dialetheia is referencing think they are doing. I care about what they are doing.
posted by disclaimer at 7:40 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Um, foreword, I notice this thread has slowed and honestly I don't want to "defend" any of my feelings re: this post to the extent that others in the thread have, just not personally great with perceiving tone accurately online in emotional situations, so it's probably for the best that people won't see this? It's all very personal to individual feeling and at the same time something that none of us can individually influence, and given that I don't even write fanfic I'm influencing things less than most (basically page views and kudos?). Sorry about the epic.

I'm glad that so much of this thread has included a lot of really level-headed people with different perspectives being willing to describe how their understanding of this issue has been affected by their experiences, especially the interesting links to articles and the useful statistics. (e.g., I would never have guessed that ff.net was still so active, especially with younger people--I'm only 24 but I don't think I've actively looked for anything on ff.net since back before they cut original fiction from the site, which I guess is about when the move to LJ had begun to happen? end of reminiscing sidebar)

Anyway. The discussion definitely wasn't what had come to my mind following reading the article, which is probably due to my IRL social circle (or the segment of it that I would actually bring up internet-stuff with at all, or talk politics with, or be out to, etc.) being largely people within five-eight years of my age who are familiar with fanfiction either personally or in association with intersectionality-oriented, mainly queer women. As such, what seemed odd to me about her perspective is that missing angle, that she is so focused on the fact that she is straight and her immediate friends are straight women (or gay men outside of fandom) that she doesn't address at all the non-straight voices within fandom. I think this might be related to NoraReed's perspective? I've been involved in fandom for most of my life because I could see what felt like "my stories" there. It honestly hadn't occurred to me that the gay male community (as opposed to the general LGBTQ) would see their experience, e.g. the standard high school coming out narrative, as being so dissimilar to the high school coming out narrative experienced (or imagined by closeted teens) by non-gay-male queer students or genderqueer students.* As has been said above, often the choices of characters whose relationships are explored in fanfic narratives is based on the highly male-biased media, and although gender-swapping is a popular trope it's also one which can make character preservation extremely difficult--the majority female-identifying fanfiction writing community is both extremely familiar with how different a male's experience in a situation can be from a female's and also writing in relation to a media environment in which it's expected that women should be able to understand and appreciate the male perspective more than the inverse. Add to this the fandom convention that most AUs are better the more they isolate specific elements to change and that most non-AU works should be hypothetically consistent with pre-existing canon... Yeah, when it comes down to it I agree (if I understood her correctly) with NoraReed's attitude, that in cases like with the 75% of AO3 which is populated with people other than straight women (re: statistics linked above), a great deal of that work is going to be work by queer women who are taking popular media narratives populated by straight men** and making them queer narratives by removing the assumed heteronormativity without rewriting canon to the extent which might be necessary to turn the narrative into one populated by queer women. Especially, bringing up intersectionality seems relevant to this discussion because, again, it really does feel strange to be told as a queer woman that gay men who are not participating in my community feel I should stop identifying with other queer narratives because I apparently shouldn't feel I have more in common with queer narratives written by other queer women than I do with hetero romance or even worse the often-misogynistic handling of lesbian romance in popular media.

*(I'm sure it also affects my perspective that I am not a traditionally-female-identifying woman; I enjoy enacting femininity sometimes but also have periods where I feel more comfortable presenting in a more dapper-queer style, and this has been consistent since I was younger. Gay or bi male narratives have often been more emotionally true to my actual life than media-friendly femme lesbian narratives, let alone het stories based on a masculine male and femme woman.)

**(yes, many books and shows are about women already, but the number, production quality, and likelihood that they'll be suddenly cancelled all have their part in making things that are popular with everyone (including teenage girls) also be the things popular with queer women)
posted by C. K. Dexter Haven at 12:28 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're presuming an awful lot, from the idea that gay men aren't part of the community they're commenting on to taking that 75% figure on an awful lot of faith to that you're being told to stop identifying with anything.

And, once more, again, some more, telling gay men that somehow their reactions to being fetishized and rendered in problematic fashion in slash is wrong because it makes you feel bad is very good at completely diminishing and dismissing their concerns. Yours is a very 'but the patriarchy treats us worse, so of course it's fine for us to do this!' argument.

Being part of a fan group that contains mostly queer women is not that surprising when you are a queer woman. Doesn't mean that it's at all representational of the greater fanfic or slash community, no matter how often people assert that their personal reality is in fact true for the entire monolithic community.

You may think the thread has gone particularly well. Many of the gay men in this thread I suspect would rather disagree with you.
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:45 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


The other thing I'd hoped to see when I started reading this thread following the article, links to examples of what fanfiction has to offer that might work towards countering the very real issues occurring when heteronormativity and queer fetishization are dragged into fandom:
Existence is the Most Exciting Thing of All is my absolute favorite fanfiction which actively works to counter the fetishistic*/overly-idealistic aspects of the Cecil/Carlos relationship as presented in the WTNV canon. It's extremely long-form and complex, it is definitely not PWP (probably more than 100,000 words before they even get to the canon episode First Date). Technically it's an AU set in the His Dark Materials world but honestly knowledge of neither canon is necessary. The plot is original, complex, fits together canon details like a puzzle (and ties up loose ends), and most of all addresses the issues in the narrative (the recent behind-the-door bizarre representation of a LTR, how the early episodes don't look at Carlos's reaction to being stalked by the town celebrity...).
World Ain't Ready is maybe a good example (unfinished as yet but updating really regularly) of the kind of queer narrative that is seen as both emotionally cathartic (i.e. super fluffy) and intersectional in the fandom circles I frequent? It's AU about Les Amis from Les Mis (which is very much a book-based fandom despite the recent movie) which, as I understand, is being written explicitly in reflection of the author's own experiences as a queer rural high school student in the early '00s, when I was also a queer rural h.s. student. Definitely Les Mis is an especially politically-oriented fandom and very active in presenting progressive narratives, but they might also be an example of one in which fandom standards are about fixing issues within the narrative--e.g., including as major characters very minor female roles from "the Brick" (Floreal, who isn't even named in the text, or background barmaids), going out of their way to explore the class disparities in the text characters, often eliminating the overwhelming whiteness of the text characters.

*sidenote, I'm kind of surprised that none of the earlier discussion covered the extent to which in WTNV in particular the gay male relationship is definitely created largely by men and, well, as was stated re: their live shows allowing dead air for squee-ing and cheering, the way the show presents the relationship does seem to encourage it being viewed as generally adorable, cute, very exciting, etc. I mean, Cecil clearly feels that way and his POV is the only one we've got 90% of the time. The harassment of Jensen Ackles might have been a more straightforward example to bring up of straight female fans being offensively fetishistic, although maybe they've cooled off on that by now?
posted by C. K. Dexter Haven at 12:50 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


You're presuming an awful lot, from the idea that gay men aren't part of the community they're commenting on to taking that 75% figure on an awful lot of faith to that you're being told to stop identifying with anything.

And, once more, again, some more, telling gay men that somehow their reactions to being fetishized and rendered in problematic fashion in slash is wrong because it makes you feel bad is very good at completely diminishing and dismissing their concerns. Yours is a very 'but the patriarchy treats us worse, so of course it's fine for us to do this!' argument.

Being part of a fan group that contains mostly queer women is not that surprising when you are a queer woman. Doesn't mean that it's at all representational of the greater fanfic or slash community, no matter how often people assert that their personal reality is in fact true for the entire monolithic community.

You may think the thread has gone particularly well. Many of the gay men in this thread I suspect would rather disagree with you.


I think most of what I have to say has already been said, but I will make clear some things that obviously were not clear based on my previous comment:

I did not intend to suggest that I don't think gay men are part of the community. I didn't see any gay men earlier in the thread identifying themselves as fandom participants (other than 10 years ago in Gundam Wing), but I didn't go to people's profiles and check everyone's gender and sexuality, so I apologize if I missed you. I believe I spoke only in regards to people I know personally and those earlier in the thread. It's true I don't personally IRL know any gay men who are active in fandom and so I did not speak for them. The 75% figure isn't representative of the entire fandom community, sure--that's why I mentioned only that it seemed representative of the active AO3 community--i.e., the people who took that survey. It's a lot of people in any case, and I'm not claiming that they're powerful or the in-group but just that people who care about avoiding toxic fetishistic fandom environments have a pretty solid chance of being able to, which I mentioned because it affects my perspective and likely that of others in the thread who have discussed the intersectional support of their personal fandom experiences. Obviously I'm not claiming that the communities I experience are representative of the whole. Most of the internet isn't like Metafilter, but it's certainly a place on the internet and you don't necessarily have to leave it to experience "the best of the web."

My comment was based on my personal reactions to the article, which only spoke as to the straight woman writing, her straight friends in fandom, and her gay male friends not in fandom who were speaking specifically to her as a straight woman and about straight women in fandom. Hence, my reaction was to speculate as to how my perspective as a non-straight woman differed from that of hers and to be surprised that she didn't even acknowledge that queer narratives in fandom are not all voyeuristic (except so far as all writing can be seen as voyeuristic by some mefites, apparently)--even if you disagree that non-male people might legitimately feel represented by M/M relationships, F/F does exist, it is slash, and re: that same AO3 survey some large portion of it is produced by queer women. I certainly do not think "gay men's reactions are wrong" and I don't see how you could read that in my comment, but we are all less than perfect at writing exactly what we mean. Obviously this is a very serious situation which is unavoidably related to the extreme levels of heteronormativity we all have to deal with in everyday life (yes, maybe especially teenage girls in their ff.net bubble...) and everyone who has discussed this in the thread is clearly aware of that and interested in doing everything we can. Uh, I think we're all on the LGBTQ side here, I'm not in the habit of trying to dismiss people's concerns at being fetishized.

Good grief, I don't think it's gone well at all. I don't think anyone would say so--I mean, come on, it's a conversation about fandom and heteronormativity on Metafilter. That doesn't mean none of it was interesting or that individual comments haven't been very insightful and reflective. My saying that, given how interested I already was in seeing this topic from a lens outside of fandom, I appreciate those who have discussed such an emotionally-fraught topic calmly and with sympathy doesn't mean that I haven't noticed all the sniping and apparently willful misunderstandings on every side. Which is why I'm going to sleep now.
posted by C. K. Dexter Haven at 1:19 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


So I'm writing this as a more or less straight dude that is deeply uncomfortable with mainstream porn.

But when you get several actually gay guys telling you several reasons that some m/m slash fiction is not cool, and your response is but, but but but, but , but, but, but, but it's mostly teenaged girls, but the patriarchy, but, but, but. It's possibly time to stop making excuses and have an actual look at what it is you're actually doing. I'm not particularly keen to be responsible for the ridiculousness that teenaged male fantasy is either, but I don't really have that choice. Yes young women and basically all people need space to explore their sexuality, but it shouldn't be at the expense of another group of people. I wouldn't have thought that that would be a contentious issue here of all places, but here we are.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:30 PM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


[Folks, if you don't think a discussion is possible here, you don't have to participate in it, but no one gets to dictate when the conversation is over. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:44 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm reminded of a gay bar in my city that announced that straight people were no longer welcome. Why? Because every Friday and Saturday night the place was overrun with large groups of straight women, often for hens nights, who thought it'd be funny to go dance with the 'gays'. This of course led to large numbers of straight guys also going to the gay bar to pick up the interloping women. Unsurprisingly the actual gay people who frequented the place weren't super keen on this development.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:47 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh haaaaahahaaahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahaaaahaaaaaaaaaahahaaaa.

I made a comment about not caring about reasons for doing things, because I--and anyone else concerned with social justice--doesn't care about reasons.

What we care about is what is actually done. And when we say "end of discussion" what we mean is 'there is no argument that can be presented about this that is even remotely valid.'

But, people seem to think what we mean is 'shut up.'

No, by all means, please keep going on about how we shouldn't be upset about what you say. We're going to keep shutting it down. When we say 'end of discussion' what we mean is 'you really don't know what you're talking about and you need to listen more.'
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:58 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


And that's a bit of a harsh deletion RN, particularly when there's many more comments deserving of such an action. Unfortunately a conversation doesn't seem to be possible here, as every time someone raises a problem all we get is but, but, but and special pleading. Maybe do something about that before deleting someone's comment that was pretty clearly based in an incredible sense of frustration of people not only just not getting it, but being willfully determined to not get it.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:00 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hello, I'm David McGahan, from your lips to the mods ears.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:01 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just really don't get how - this is really really deeply offensive to gay people - is completely fine at a website that prides itself on inclusiveness and understanding. What the ever loving hell.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:04 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


[Guys, you can discuss the issue all you want - that's the point - but you need to tone the rhetoric down such that it looks like a conversation, not a bunch of people shouting. Further discussion of this policy needs to go to MetaTalk. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well so the thing is we've been trying to have a conversation. But people aren't listening.

And I've started a MeTa.

But.. nada.

(you're going to delete this too.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:51 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean basically what the mods are saying here is that gay men are only allowed to be upset if we're polite about it.

Consider for a moment what you are saying there, please. I'd say this in MeTa, but despite at least one mod being on duty right now it doesn't seem to have appeared, so..
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:54 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


And I seem to be locked out of my email now, so whatever self-congratulatory nonsense the mods are emailing to me, can't read it. Sorry. Maybe you could be public about what you're saying about silencing gay men.

Yeah, we know that's not going to happen. And my account is closed in 3..2..1...

Silly me for being upset about being dismissed, you know, like pretty much every single other gay man in this thread has said.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:01 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've felt as some of the other fandom types in this thread have, while reading it, ffff. But i'm listening to you.

(Which isn't to suggest they weren't/were - I comment here to just register that you feel you aren't being heard, so I want to publicly tell you that you are being heard by me.)

I recognised my hackle-raising and defensiveness, having being on the other end of this dynamic in a lot of feminism threads and have tried to examine why i'm feeling that way, so have refrained from commenting and tried to listen.

This all sounds very self-congratulatory which is gross - i'm sorry. That's not my intention. I just want you and others to know that I and probably others are listening and trying to understand.
posted by pseudonymph at 7:13 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not gross! "Hey you're saying a thing I've said before and it took me a moment to get that what you are saying is the same thing" is the very definition of what all progressives are aiming for! Your heart grew a couple sizes today and that is a great thing! It's not self-congratulatory at all, it's saying "I learned a thing." Thank you very much for listening :)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:18 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks, gay men of Metafilter. Even if some of your interlocutors here aren't listening, I hope you know that many other readers are.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:26 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't have been aware of the issue, despite linking to at least one m/m story in the past. I'm actually feeling a bit uneasy about it now ...

What I'm taking from these responses is that the use of gay male sexuality at a convenient fictional trope both objectifies them and misappropriates a fundamental element of gay male identity. Does this sound right?
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:28 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes. If you're writing about us in a realistic way, no worries! Have at it and enjoy all the cocks!

If you're using us as props, not so much.

Yet, some people (none of them, in this thread at least, being gay men) seem to think that no matter what it's okay or at least excusable, in a way that I guarantee they wouldn't if one genderswitched to women instead of men.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:30 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Joe in Australia - Yes, I think you've got it there. It's not something that applies to all slash written by women, and there may be differences of opinion about how much, or whether a particular story is guilty of it, but it's definitely a thing.
posted by dnash at 7:35 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Basically to open it up... using any convenient stereotype as a fictional trope is a problem.

According to many in this thread (again, none of them gay men apparently), it's totally okay when it's gay men.

I suggest you listen to the gay men on this point.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:38 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia, that can be part of it, but it's not just using them as a convenient fictional trope, or even the objectification, it's that the depictions are so frequently reductive of gay male humanity, little rainbow-encrusted dolls being smushed together in a very one-dimensional fashion. Which is bad enough, but then that also affects how gay men are perceived and treated by many in the areas of fandom in a demeaning, infantilising, and yes objectifying way.

And then on top of that you have a number of people who on other social justice issues are passionate defenders and allies being confronted with something they like being problematic and immediately getting extremely defensive, trying to find ways to diminish or distract what gay men are saying to them, in ways that they have often just been getting angry about from other people.

It's, frankly, disheartening, and really puts an asterisk next to the behaviour of the numerous people who claim to be supportive of the rights of minorities, because apparently they either don't think gay men are really minorities enough to have their concerns heard, or they can't handle having to be allies when they might actually have to examine their own behaviour around something they like.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:50 PM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


Everything gadge emeritus just said.

I have mozzarella sticks, gonna go watch something.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:12 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm gay and I don't find this problem very problematic. I tend to side with the women who expressed that this has a whiff of misogyny about it, all wrapped up in the bulletproof armor of victimhood. The part of this that feels least gross to me is the part where women are writing about gay male sexuality.
posted by jph at 8:41 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes. If you're writing about us in a realistic way, no worries! Have at it and enjoy all the cocks!

If you're using us as props, not so much.

Yet, some people (none of them, in this thread at least, being gay men) seem to think that no matter what it's okay or at least excusable, in a way that I guarantee they wouldn't if one genderswitched to women instead of men.


Well. I, a queer woman, am actually okay with the popularity of objectifying lesbian erotica produced mostly by and for straight men, for example. It's problematic, but sexuality tends to transcend what I would consider to be reasonable, respectful, enlightened, advisable, realistic or physically possible.

Plenty of women would disagree on this, hence many anti-pornography feminists, but to me there is a big difference between treating groups of people as sex objects in daily life (not okay), and happening to have a boner for unrealistic, objectifying or otherwise problematic erotica (okay). Representing and consuming something problematic is not, in my opinion, problematic as long as consumers are aware of the nature of what they are consuming and manage their relationship to it accordingly. Neither fangirls who are assaulting and squeeing at real gay men in real life or men who treat lesbians similarly are managing themselves appropriately, but I don't think that means that their terribad erotica should be censored. I don't have a problem with problematic erotica in its time and place, only hurtful behavior. In the same way I think people should be free to have sex, but not on Sesame Street, I think people should be able to indulge in their fantasies, even their darkest or most cringe-worthy ones, even ones that offend me, in relatively limited, self-selecting spaces like Tumblr and nifty.com and AO3. If you ask me, carry on long-nailed, huge-busted schoolgirls and other unrealistic caricatures of lesbians, I have no problem with your existence per se, just keep to your internet enclaves.
posted by wrabbit at 8:54 PM on January 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I want to say that I've definitely been listening too and took a good look at my own tastes in and participation in slash fandom thanks to this thread. In general, I feel pretty good about the stuff I read re it not being stereotyping dreck, so it's tough not to get all "not all fic!!!" about things. I've been in fandom for a long ass time, and at this point I've pretty narrowly tailored my participation to the corner of fandom that does its best not to be awful on multiple axes. But, y'know, fandom's huge and contains multitudes.

I guess my question at this point is: how do we make it better, other than discussions like this? Because I see there as already having been a vast improvement from the norms of 90s slash fics, and I'd say that's more or less a result of real world strides in LGBT rights and representation, plus fandom having meta discussions. Obviously, that doesn't mean "our work is done here!" because the work is never done.

Right now, fandom's response to "this is problematic, yo," has been to encourage more participation. Not enough fic about women? Well, let's have a bunch of fic exchanges and challenges for female characters. Not enough fic about characters of color? Let's make sure we listen to our fellow POC fans and also let's have some more fic exchanges and challenges. And maybe let's make some more spaces that are safe for POC fans. More trans representation? FIC CHALLENGE. You see where I'm going here. It's an inherently participatory culture. So how do we get gay and bi men to participate? I'm not saying they have to in order to have an opinion, or that the responsibility's on them, just that this is how fandom works: you want a thing, you make the thing, and you drag a bunch of people in with you to make the thing too or to go ooh and aah at the thing. Without that kind of participation and community engagement, it's just fandom wringing its hands and promising to do better, and we end up with a self-congratulatory circle jerk of navel gazing while nothing changes.

And I mean, I'm hesitant to say "what fandom needs is MORE MEN," because a lot of fans really love that fandom is something of a safe space for women, me included. But obviously, I think we could benefit from having some actual gay and bi men around to enrich fandom's diversity of experience. I'm just wondering how we get there, given how overwhelmingly gendered the culture at large is when it comes to fiction about love and romance (namely that men, straight or otherwise, are perceived as having nothing to do with it and not wanting to have anything to do with it). It's a pretty self-perpetuating cycle we've got going when it comes to romance/erotica and the differing ways men and women respond to it, and that inescapably spills over into fandom.
posted by yasaman at 9:18 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would have thought that the general rule of not being an arsehole might have sufficed. I doubt that anyone here is arguing for women not to have space to work through things that are important to them. But it seems that gay men are the collateral damage, and many here are completely fine with that. Which frankly is chilling.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 1:26 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


What a horrifying place this place actually is, just keep on deleting perspectives that don't fit.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 2:33 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


This thread is completely off the rails. Don't really blame you guys for being upset, but I think you should give R_N a break at this point. She has left up several comments I don't think she normally would after the delete.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:40 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think part of the problem here is the lack of specific examples of which fics gay men find problematic. Based on the discussion thus far, it sounds like the gay men are complaining about the dreck being written by teenaged girls, whereas the adult women responding are thinking about the good stories that we actually read.

If you're looking at the default sort (newest first) on AO3 then yeah, the vast majority of that is going to be terrible one way or another. But if you instead sort by Kudos, which IMO is more representative of what fandom actually likes since it requires that a bunch of people actively clicked a button affirming their enjoyment of a story, you see a much different picture. Below are some lists of the top sorted-by-Kudos fics in my two main fandoms:

John Watson/Sherlock Holmes (aka Johnlock):
Nature and Nurture (mature)
Performance In a Leading Role (explicit)
The Internet Is Not Just For Porn (general)
A Cure For Boredom (explicit)
The Progress of Sherlock Holmes (explicit)
The Real Meaning of Idioms (teen)
and stand there at the edge of my affection (general)
Saving Sherlock Holmes (mature)
What Meets the Eye (mature)
26 Pieces (explicit)

Steve Rogers/Tony Stark (aka Stony):
Toasterverse series (6 stories, teen-mature)
Tales of the Bots series (7 stories, teen-mature)
The Twice-Told Tale (explicit)
(First Impressions Are) A Work in Progress (mature)
Honey, I Can See The Stars (not rated)
Semaphore (explicit)
i stole the keys to this guy (mature)
many names in history, none of them are ours (explicit)
Run Program: DUM-E (mature)
The Last Love Song of Anthony E. Stark (mature)

I think it would be very helpful if some of the gay men in this thread either take a look at those stories or link to the stories you've had in mind during this discussion and then give us specific examples of what you find problematic in the linked stories and why. Because it may turn out that we're all actually in complete agreement but have been talking past each other due to thinking about different sets of stories.

Regarding the dreck being written by teenage girls, what can we do? That's a sincere question, not a rhetorical one. The criticism in this thread and the article in the FPP is directed at adult women, but if it turns out that we're not actually the ones creating or contributing to the problem then how should we go about getting teenage girls we don't currently know or associate with to get them to be less gross? Is there a way we can do this without shaming them into never writing again or running them out of fandom entirely? And will that work any better than our current approach of just waiting for them to grow out the stereotype-filled terrible writing phase that most authors go through? Again, these are genuine questions that I don't currently know the answer to.

Even stubbehtail's much-cited comment says it was "girls" (not women) who were objectifying and harassing gay men in his fandom. What could the adult women in this thread -- who neither know these girls nor are around to witness this behavior -- have done to stop them? For example, in feminism threads, we have specific suggestions of things male allies can do like call out rape jokes and confront sexual harassers man-to-man whenever you see it happening. What do you suggest as equivalent actions that female allies can take to discourage objectification and harassment of gay men in fandom?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:03 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes. If you're writing about us in a realistic way, no worries! Have at it and enjoy all the cocks!

I have written all of ... three slash stories, I think. I hope that I did so in a "realistic way", but what does that mean? (To me it means keeping the characters In Character, consistent with their portrayal in the source text. Even though putting them in a homosexual relationship is generally inconsistent with their portrayal in the source text...)

Or, what Jacqueline said just above: What do you suggest as equivalent actions that female allies can take to discourage objectification and harassment of gay men in fandom?

Because I am more than willing to accept that gross stereotyping is offensive and hurtful to gay men. Hell, I find it offensive, and I'm not a gay man. (I just don't see much of it myself because I back-button out of stories like that.)

But fandom disapprobation, which I gather is being requested, is a blunt tool. I have no idea how to use it in such a way that continues to encourage writers to be creative while redirecting their characterizations and story choices in more productive and less offensive directions.

I also would dispute the oft-repeated claim upthread that these offensive characterizations are purely the work of teenagers. I am absolutely certain that far more of these problematic writers are adult women than you want to believe. Adult women are just as capable of gross stereotyping as teenagers.

OTOH, I know I shouldn't be asking gay men to solve fandom's problems. That's putting the burden on the injured party, where it doesn't belong.

But ideas would be welcome.
posted by suelac at 9:21 AM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not asking them to solve fandom's problems. I'm asking them for suggestions of what we can do as allies, because I'm genuinely at a loss.

I believe gay men when they say that girls (and some women) are doing grossly inappropriate things to sexually harass gay men, even though I've never personally witnessed this behavior. I could speak up if I actually saw it, but since I never see it, what else can I do?

I believe gay men when they say that they are hurt by slashfic stories that stereotype and inaccurately objectify gay men and gay male relationships. I know that these stories exist because I sometimes stumble across them myself. But like suelac, my response to such stories is to stop reading them mid-story to go find something better to read.

I'm certainly not leaving kudos on bad stories to encourage people to read them or encourage the author to write more stories like them. But given how the archives work, those stories are still available even if most of us aren't reading or supporting them and I'm not sure what we can or should do about the long tail of bad stories. That long tail is REALLY long -- for example, there are currently over 37,000 Johnlock stories and over 11,000 Stony stories on AO3. I doubt that most fans have read more than 1% of them.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:40 AM on January 23, 2015


I am more than willing to accept that gross stereotyping is offensive and hurtful to gay men.

I would really like to see, from those who feel offended, some explanation of what specifically they find offensive and gross about fandom slash, that does not also appear in m/m produced porn and erotica by and for men and teenage boys.

Because the voices here aren't saying, "Yeah, there's a problem in m/m fiction" or even "there's a problem with m/m slashfic", they are saying "There's a problem with these women writing m/m slashfic." In fact, one commentator above said that he had read a m/m anthology and thought it was hot until he found out it was written by a woman, at which point it became icky.

And I can't help but feeling that this does go along with a lot of misogyny in the gay male community, where women and things related to them or their genitals are despised as icky and gross, not just "Eh, not for me."
posted by corb at 9:45 AM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh come on. We can treat ourselves however we like. That goes for literally every minority there is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:11 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm neither a sex-with-anyone-slut nor an oh-my-prince-monogamy-forever person, so stop fucking expecting us to behave either way.

corb, fffm did mention the above as a specific criticism, which is a criticism that did stick with me because fandom does tend towards extremes when it comes to sex and romance. I have seen stories that are very all-or-nothing in this way when it comes to gay or bi characters. I think this dichotomy is in part thanks to the way shipping works in fandom (because yeah, you want your pairing to be Together Forever, whether it's het or slash), but that can't be the whole explanation because you don't see the same dynamic in het fic where the woman or man is either waiting for/with their one true love or having a ton of sex with a ton of people, but you do see that in some slash fics. Or there's at least the implication/assumption that gay men are more promiscuous with each other than straight people are.

And I do think there's still a somewhat pernicious thread of We're Not Gay We Just Love Each Other running through fandom, where you have two men in a sexual and/or committed relationship, but oh my god, of course they're not gay or bi, they're beyond labels and they don't have any interaction with queer culture of course...I've always thought that was a shitty trope, outside of a few circumstances where I'd believe it of the specific characters in question. You see it a lot less in modern fandom, but it's still lurking under the surface in a lot of fic that doesn't locate its queer characters in a queer community or context.
posted by yasaman at 10:13 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


you don't see the same dynamic in het fic where the woman or man is either waiting for/with their one true love or having a ton of sex with a ton of people, but you do see that in some slash fics.

As a consumer of a large amount of multiple-variant fanfic and romance/erotica I'm actually not really sure that's accurate. You see that a lot with, for example, Hermione/Draco fic. Hermione as the one who is waiting, Draco as the one who's a big slutty slut. (Or, er, Hermione/Voldemort fic. Yeah, I read it.) Or Belle/Rumple (Once).

The romance novel, as a genre - because that is where many fanfiction conventions were born - has a long history, in all sexualities, of presenting one half of a couple as waiting for their true love, and the other half as a Slut McSlut who is Tamed by the One True Love.

And I really don't think that you can evaluate fan fiction - even the smutty stuff - outside of the context of the romance conventions. Even the smuttiest of the smut generally has at least some story (Yes, even PWP). And that's because it is not, primarily, designed as erotica. Oh, sure, the steamy scenes are written to be steamy, but I would wager actual hard money that a majority of the words written on fanfiction.net or even AO3 are not actual sex scenes. It is born out of romantic yearnings - the desire to give characters a better or more satisfying ending or romance. It's not meant to be, primarily, hardcore porn.
posted by corb at 11:47 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


To address the We're Not Gay We Just Love Each Other - I think honestly that's something that is born in by the need for canon authenticity. Because most of the characters, as written, are not gay - primarily because we have a dearth of gay characters in primetime fiction and even those who are (Jack Harkness) are presented more as pansexual than anything else. And so if you want to have these two characters yearn for each other, there's a lot of rewriting that already needs to be done - to do more risks changing it into something unreadable.

And most fanfiction writers try to at least give some strong nods to canon - outside of whatever changes they have made. And to place, for example, Harry Potter or Snape in the middle of a thriving gay community would be to essentially destroy the characters - both of which are made primarily by their loneliness and isolation from any community.

Harry Potter fic, in particular, needs to deal with this primarily because all of the main characters most often shipped have been shown as vividly heterosexual. (Yes, Dumbledore is gay, but it was offscreen, and he is almost never shipped and usually with McGonagall) Harry has girlfriends and girlfriend yearnings. Ron has girlfriends and girlfriend yearnings. Snape's One True Love for Lily doesn't work if he's secretly been gay all along.

Most importantly, you will not often find this trope popping up with secondary character ships - people who have been off the screen often enough that it's pretty easy to write them a rich gay life. For example - to give tangible examples - you don't see it as often with Remus/Sirius pairings (or the odd Pettigrew ones), because those characters have romantic lives which take place largely off the screen. Remus does marry Tonks, but we see very little of it and it is slapped on towards the end, which is easy to get around by doing fics which diverge earlier.
posted by corb at 11:56 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"For example, in feminism threads, we have specific suggestions of things male allies can do like call out rape jokes and confront sexual harassers man-to-man whenever you see it happening. What do you suggest as equivalent actions that female allies can take to discourage objectification and harassment of gay men in fandom?"

Given that the linked piece is by a woman who writes and reads slash, this places the thread in a particular context. One thing it allows, all things equal, is a "problem solving" discussion because the author herself presented it this way. One thing it disallows is a defensive response that her criticism should be treated suspiciously because it exists within the context of a sexist culture -- that's diversionary.

However, the gay men participating in this thread reverse this to some degree. They're attesting to their own discomfort with slash and it's not their job to explain to anyone how to solve the problem -- asking them to is diversionary. The suspicions about sexist motivations are applicable to these gay male criticisms, but, even so, absent any specific evidence of sexism by one of those present, this defense acts to delegitimatize all such complaints and experiences, and so is still diversionary.

So I think that the worries about sexism, though valid and relevant in a different discussion, are not appropriate here. But I do think that the problem solving discussion can be appropriate, but only if it's approached within the context of the linked piece itself but not as a defensive query aimed at the gay men who are attesting to their own experience. If you're aiming that discussion at those gay men, you shouldn't be. If you're aiming it at the author of the piece and to other women here in this thread who are involved with slash, then that's okay. That distinction matters.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:56 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm asking anyone who has ideas for solutions to share them.

The part I'm asking gay men help with is to tell us what would make them feel like we're taking this seriously and trying to do something about it. Because I'm pretty sure that most (all?) of the women in this thread are already not writing, reading, promoting, or encouraging the type of stories that they object to, so I want to know what else we should be doing?

Just like I think it's reasonable to expect men to help police their own gender with regards to sexual harassment of women, I think it's reasonable to expect women to help police our own gender with regards to the sexual harassment and exploitative portrayals of gay men. I just don't know how to apply that to fixing fandom, given how many vast and unruly separate communities it comprises.

We do have the archives (AO3 & FF.net) as a centralized point of contact across multiple fandoms, so perhaps some sort of education campaign could begin there? I don't think prescreening stories before publication is viable nor do I think people would support having old stories removed from the archives, but maybe there could be a new flagging system where people other than the authors could tag stories with warnings of problematic content so that readers can filter those out?

Even better, maybe those flags could be like Wikipedia article flags in that they link to pages that explain why the stereotype or trope in question is problematic. So it could be used as a way for readers to leave constructive criticism without having to type out long comments on each story. And it could be used for other issues too -- it would be great if we also had flags for various common grammatical errors so that when authors click on the flag it directs them to a lesson on subject-verb agreement or using tenses consistently or whatever. Basically, we'd be appending a crowd-sourced virtual writing workshop onto the existing publication function of the site.

What do all y'all think?
posted by Jacqueline at 1:39 PM on January 23, 2015


"I'm asking anyone who has ideas for solutions to share them."

Sure, that seems fine to me, really. It's just that I've seen lots of examples where the problem-solving thing has been deliberately or effectively a defensive tactic that's diversionary. In a thread about ableism, where I and some other disabled people expressed our frustration about the built environment and related issues, there was a lot of "what solutions do you offer for this particular example?" responses that were clearly challenges -- they were defensive and the effect was to minimize my complaint. It was infuriating.

I've seen a fair amount of that in this thread, and then your comment and some others that are more ambiguous -- they don't have a defensive tone and they're not challenges, but rather have the character of "yeah, there's a problem so let's roll up our sleeves and try to think of things that we can do about it". And I think that's generally pretty great!

I guess the problem is when that sincere and productive intent ends up combining with the defensive and diversionary stuff and ends up sort of providing cover for it, and also it can use up all the oxygen of the discussion, moving it away from what the aggrieved parties have to say and toward all the varied concerns and experiences of the parties who are, in this context, those with the relative privilege. In that ableism discussion, while I absolutely was on-board with actually doing things to make things better, I wouldn't have been very happy if the discussion became one where it was by and for able-bodied folk about the scope of ableism and what they think they can do to oppose it, because the able-bodied setting the terms of and dominating the understanding of disability is fundamentally an aspect of ableism.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:22 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Flagging is a good idea in theory, but I feel like it could be a shitstorm of wank in practice. I think we'd do better to build a healthier culture of constructive criticism or reviewing fic. There's some of that happening already, and fics that are really egregiously awful on some social justice axis are called out, it's just not happening consistently. I'm thinking of something like the kinds of helpful reviews some people write of romance novels where they point out, "so this romance novel is randomly super anti-Semitic!" or "I know it's a Regency, but these are some real regressive gender roles happening." I know I pretty much only read romance novels that have been recommend to me by readers I trust or friends who give me a heads up on problematic content, and it'd be nice to build a similar sort of system for fic beyond the bookmarking and commenting fandom is doing already.
posted by yasaman at 4:55 PM on January 23, 2015


If this is a problem and if it needs to be addressed, it should be done the same way the Marysue is treated. Marysues get pointed out because readers want to encourage writers to improve their craft and be aware of their blind spots. So if they're writing a Two Dimensional Gay Character To Be Used As a Plot Device, then maybe that type of character is actually just a Marysean and could be pointed out the same way a Marysue is with the goal of encouraging the writer to think more broadly about their characters.

I wrote a lot of angry comments and the above was the most productive thing I could come up with because honestly I'm pretty angry at the way this discussion treats women fic writers who I've always seen as major allies for gay men, and I think most would be downright horrified to think that they're doing something harmful to gay men. That's not to say that allies get a pass or that they are immune from being harmful... but I think they do deserve an assumption of good will.
posted by jph at 6:14 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks to folks for listening!

I feel like I didn't do the best job of listening myself--I got partially caught up in Internet Fight mode, Oppression Olympics style. I suspect I'm not the only one, on either side, who could say that...

It's hard and complicated when there's multiple oppressions, multiple wounds and valid needs pulling in different directions.

So, yeah, I just want to say that it totally makes sense that it would be appealing for women (of all orientations) to write and read fiction about male/male romances and sexy times. I can see why that would be relieving and a kind of escape from patriarchy in the imaginal realm, especially for people figuring out their own queerness and gender stuff.

(And I also want to say that this thread puts me in a funny position in terms of my own gender stuff. I don't generally describe myself as a man--boy feels a lot more comfortable, but not totally comfortable. It's messy and complicated. I identify as genderqueer and I think of my gender in sort of spatial terms. Like, yes, a lot of my gender still occupies the boy position I was assigned, and I am--pretty clearly, as this thread indicates--attached to identifying as a faggot, i.e., dude who likes dudes. And also my gender extends beyond that space, in tentacles and flowering vines and intricate, strange curlicues)

I think the benefits of slash for women are real and important and valid.

And I also think that queer men's discomfort, pain, and anger about slash fiction are real, important, and valid. Neither negates the other. Neither is, ultimately, more important than the other.

I totally agree with Ivan Fyodorovich about the diversionary potential of problem solving, and I also want to add another perspective about that, which comes at it from a slightly different angle.

So, I'm white, and I write science fiction and fantasy (a genre with a long and ongoing history of racism) and I once read an article or blogpost arguing essentially that there is no way for white people writing fiction to avoid doing something messed up. In other words, there's no way to escape from the tangled mess of systems of domination, no way to personally become pure. Because if you simply write only white characters, you're contributing to erasure. And if you write about people of color, you're almost certainly going to mess up and reinforce some aspect of racism/white supremacy. And, sure you can (and should!) do research and talk to/get feedback from people of the group you're writing about. But even then, POC aren't monolithic, what one person is cool with, another will find problematic/offensive/oppressive. And even if you somehow manage to write a perfectly anti-oppressive story, there's still the fact that you're a white person telling the story of someone else, profiting from someone else's culture (probably partially because of white privilege).

So, that doesn't exactly map over to this conversation, I realize. The profit factor is gone, for example. And queer women and queer men are in a different relationship than white people and people of color. But I would argue that appropriation is still a potential thing, ala horizontal violence or African-American people appropriating Asian cultures (or vice versa).

But I think the essential insight remains. There's no way to ensure that you're going to get it right, because the problems are beyond the personal. You can't, by yourself, fix the invisibilizing and assimilation of queer men's lives and voices. And because those broad forces exist, some queer men are going to be hurt by hearing stories that are (as people have said above) about us but not for us. And also hurt by claims that those stories are not even actually about us.*

I don't think any of this means that people need to stop writing, or stop trying to make those writings better and less oppressive. I do think that it would be helpful for people to accept that some queer men are going to feel upset, and that those feelings are valid and don't discount their own enjoyment and own feelings/experiences/needs.

Also, Jacqueline, I would happily read some sexy Rory/Doctor Who stories that you think are good ones. Purely to evaluate them in terms of social justice dynamics.

*At the risk of making this conversation into a dissertation, I want to say that it totally makes sense to me that women might experience writing m/m stories as a way of eliding or escaping gender and I don't think that's wrong, but I do think it's incomplete--as others have said, it's crucial to consider not just intention but also impact. Both experiences are real and valid. Irreducibly complex.
posted by overglow at 7:12 PM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also, Jacqueline, I would happily read some sexy Rory/Doctor Who stories that you think are good ones. Purely to evaluate them in terms of social justice dynamics.

I don't watch Doctor Who so I don't read fic in that fandom but maybe someone else can chime in with some recs? You could start by reading the stories on AO3 sorted by Kudos, but it looks like a kinda rare pairing so you might also want to post an AskMe (I got a lot of great recs on my two fanfic AskMes) so that people can refer you to stories posted outside AO3 as well.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:42 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


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