Slash Fan Fiction

Outline

I. Introduction :
a. The definition of slash
b. The specific language the genre uses
II. Who writes slash and what they get from it
a. The main group is women
b. The reasons they write it
III. The roles men play in slash
a. The submissive man
b. The dominant male
IV. The growth of the sub-culture and its implications
a. Is it plagiarism? Is it copyright infringement?
b. What is unique about it? And its expansion into mainstream media.

V. Conclusion




I. Introduction
Slash fan fiction is usually defined as two males who engage in a homoerotic relationship. These males are usually characters that are taken from popular media and placed in sexual situations with each other. The word slash is believed to originate from the actual “/” that is placed between two characters names that the fiction is about.
Slash is thought to have been brought to the forefront because of the popularity of Star Trek. Many writers believe there was an unseen relationship between Captain Kirk and Spock. And since it was not overtly seen in the show, they (the writers of slash) took it upon themselves to show what “really happened” when the cameras were not there. These stories were published in “fanzines” which was later shorten into “Zines” which meant fan magazines. They were usually published in small amounts to avoid copyright infringements. [1]
Yet, in order to truly understand slash, one must have a working definition of the lingo that writers use. Camilla Decarnin’s piece in the Encyclopedia or Erotic Literature gives the most comprehensive list of words used in fan fiction and their meaning. Yet, for brevities sake, only the most important ones will be listed:
Canon- the “facts” established by the original TV show, movie, comic book, etc. must be adhered to, unless the story is an “AU” (alternate universe) tale, and clever twisting of cannon to achieve one’s erotic purpose is much admired.

Slash has recognized subgenres, often defined by the way eroticism is used. “First time” stories … lay out ingenious rationales for two canonically heterosexual males to discover mutual attraction and act on it. PWPs (Plot? What plot?) focuses on the sex at itself…. “Established Relationship” stories depict a more intimate couple, with the sex scene, again, requiring little ‘set-up’. (1234)[3]


II. Who writes slash and what they get from it


The predominate writer of slash fan fiction are women. Many women write to escape from their everyday lives. It is usually taken up as a hobby. Kustritz believes, “Fan writers ‘repair the damage’ done to these characters [characters that are portrayed as stoic or antisocial] at the hand of the writers and producers of the source product by making them into real people with personalities, faults, needs, illogical desires, and weaknesses.” (375) [6]. Women write fan fiction to flesh out characters and to give them added life and vitality. Instead of being a one dimensional movie character, slash writers are expanding them and creating 3 dimensional characters Yet, it’s not all flowers and sunshine. Bacon-Smith believes that:
Writing about the gay male means writing about the risk inherent in pursuing an oppressed sexuality. Heterosexual women, like lesbians and gay men, are constrained to silence by Western masculine culture. Interacting with that masculine culture, they find it difficult to publish what they write, difficult to gain an audience when they speak. (247) [3]
Just because women write it, doesn’t make what they are writing any less valid. These women writers are creating a voice not only for themselves, but also for gay issues. There is this common misconception that slash is only about sex. Yet, it’s not. These women are giving a voice to relationships. They write about problems that ring true across all genders, that people want love plain and simple.
Yet, not all slash fan fiction used to give a voice to problems or issues but it is a way to express and explore intimacy. Slash is not just about sex. As Driscoll writes in her article, “One True Pairing”, “Nevertheless, I would argue that while much fan fiction is explicitly romance and/or porn, all fan fiction is implicitly both” (91) [4]. While at times that may be true, that is not always the case. Woledge believes that slash fan fiction’s “central defining feature is the exploration of intimacy” (99) [8]. Slash fan fiction is about exploring intimacy and the one way to explore that is through sexual encounters.
However, while slash is not just about sex. Sex is a major part of slash partnerships. Cicioni believes that:
Sex, is, of course, an integral part of this complete partnership fantasy – and thus an integral component of slash texts – and is usually portrayed in explicit detail. Heterosexual female desire and writers’ and readers’ identification are inscribed as long, detailed descriptions of male bodies as objects of desire and of male arousal and orgasms as sources of joy and gratification of both partners. (167) [2].
It is understandable that sex is an important part of the fan fiction because sex is an important part in any relationship. With sex, intimacy can be fully explored. Many of these writers feel that intimacy or sex can only be explored through men because women feel they are in equal standing and power.


III. The roles men play in slash

The submissive man in fan fiction is a male character who takes on female like qualities. Sometimes they are portrayed with longer hair or with effeminate features. They are sometimes shy and lack the charisma of a dominant/alpha male character.
A highly intriguing feature of the submissive male in slash fan fiction is male pregnancy. It is in essence, the anus functioning as the male vagina. It doesn’t really seem that unusual if one takes in to regard who the writers are. Since women are the predominate writers, many have that maternal instinct and have a desire for children of their own, though that is not always the case. Also, many slash writers have children and want their characters to feel the same sense of satisfaction, intimacy, and validation that parenthood brings. A family may bring a closer together in fan fiction, especially if it is used as a main source of conflict like a troubled pregnancy.
The males may become pregnant in a variety of ways depending on the genre of the fan fiction. In Harry Potter, it could be the result of a potion, spell, or genetics. In X-Files, it could be alien abduction or genetic engineering by the government to stave off extinction of super soldiers. Whatever the cause or reason for these special pregnancies, these women writers create unique reasons for conception to enable the reader to suspend disbelief.
The dominant male is not as interesting of a character. He is usually the typical male with macho tendencies. What is interesting is that many woman writers lean toward have two dominate male characters instead of having a submissive one. It is essentially “love which can exist only between equals; specifically, people who are strong and share adventures as well as emotions.” (169) [2]. While a dominate male, might not be as interesting a character study many women find the dominate male a valuable tool to accomplish their goals.


IV. The growth of the sub-culture and its implications
What is very interesting about slash fan fiction and fan fiction in general is the mixed views that are received. There are many people and writers that feel that these fan fiction writers are stealing their ideas and infringing on copyright laws. In 2000, Anne Rice released this statement concerning fan fiction:
I do not allow fan fiction. The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters. It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes.
Ms. Rice is entitled to her opinion. Yet, it must be said that none of the fan fiction writers were selling this for money and in fact had disclaimers in their fan fiction expressing that the copyright belonged to Rice.
However, not all authors have Rice’s opinion of fan fiction. J.K. Rowling thinks, “I've read some of it... I find it very flattering that people love the characters that much.” Clearly, every published author is going to have a different opinion of their work turned into fan fiction. Yet, not only is slash fan fiction still published in Zines, there are now entire websites devoted to housing these works of fiction. The biggest being fanfiction.net.
The mainstream media has actually, in some ways, accepted parts of slash. An immediate reference that comes to mind is the movie Junior. The movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a pregnant male. He displays submissive qualities all while being in a hulking, built body.
Another example is the Japanese boy’s love movement. In which, female writers and artists create comics portraying men in relationships. [7] This are often called Yaoi novels or Yaoi manga depending on the medium. This phenomenon is very much a part of the mainstream in Japan, and it is now making its way to the States. One can walk into any decent bookstore and purchase these Japanese comics or novels.

V. Conclusion

Slash fan fiction is on the rise! There are more writers in fan fiction that ever before due to the internet. The internet has made slash fan fiction highly available to any one who desires to look. Slash fan fiction is a prime example of women making their voices heard in a non-traditional way.

Source List

1. Bacon-Smith, Camille. Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994.

2. Cicioni, Mirna "Male Pair Bonds and Female Desire in Fan Slash Writing." Theorizing Fandom: Fans, Subculture and Identity. Ed. Cheryl Harris and Alison Alexander. New Jersey: Hampton Press, 1998. 153-177.
3. Decarnin, Camilla. “Slash Fiction.” Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. Ed. Gaëtan Brulotte and John Phillips. New York: Routledge, 2006. 1233-1235.

4. Driscoll, Catherine. “One True Pairing: The Romance of Pornography and the Pornography of Romance.” Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Ed. Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse. Jefferson: McFarland, 2006. 79-98.
5. Kaplan, Deborah. “Construction of Fan Fiction Character Through Narrative.” Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Ed. Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse. Jefferson: McFarland, 2006. 134-152.
6. Kustritz, Anne. “Slashing the Romance Narrative.” The Journal of American Culture 26.3 (2003): 371-384. Research Library. ProQuest. UTSA. 29 March 2009. <http://www.proquest.com.libweb.lib.utsa.edu/>

7. McLelland, Mark. “The World of Yaoi: The Internet, Censorship and the Global ‘Boys’ Love’ Fandom.” Australian Feminist Law Journal. 2005. 30 March 2009. < http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1152&context=artspapers> .
8. Woledge, Elizabeth. “Intimatopia: Genre Intersections Between Slash and the Mainstream.” Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Ed. Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse. Jefferson: McFarland, 2006. 97-115.