The world of explicit slash and fan fiction
Some people turn off their televisions after a show or video game and just post a status about how good it was. Some people finish a book and decide to give it a review to let other readers know what they are getting into.
Others take the characters introduced to them through these media and write them having raunchy, kinky sex all the way through the night.
The internet has bred unknown numbers of sites dedicated to the writing of fan fiction, and as time goes on, this phenomenon has become more and more well known. Obviously, the writing of explicit fan fiction is bound to be the most shocking of all, especially since a large percentage of this fan fiction falls under a subcategory known as “slash.” Slash fiction is a term particular to the writing of characters in a homosexual relationship that are otherwise portrayed as heterosexual in the original source material. So why do people write it? And, is it really all that new?
The simple answer to the latter is no.
In the days before the internet, fan culture and fandom as we define it today was spread through fanzines — fan magazines. By putting yourself on the mailing list, you would essentially subscribe to these snail mail magazines that would oftentimes include fan fiction. A particularly popular example is in the case of Star Trek, where the slash pairing of James Kirk/Spock would be commonly written in an explicit way. But still, why?
Oftentimes, writers of explicit fan fiction are looking for a sense of completion and depth in the lives of the characters they see. Sex is an activity that many people engage in, and for most of the world’s population, sex is an important part of their lives. However, many barriers prevent it from being present in the media we consume. Perhaps the television show is on a network that does not allow nudity. Maybe the publishing company of the book wants to make it marketable to younger audiences. In this case, consumers who have accepted and are knowledgeable about sex may feel frustrated that these acts, which are a natural part of their lives, are not present in their media.
Tumblr user kansaskissedlips, who goes by the penname Kansas, has a blog dedicated almost purely to writing male slash for the CW show Supernatural. She takes requests from other Tumblr users who will ask her for a specific pairing or scenario for the characters to be placed in. Often times she will also write up something in response to the week’s episode when the show is active.
“Explicit fan fiction in which two characters whom I love (from, for example, a television show) find themselves in increasingly sexual situations,” Kansas said. “These sexual situations, for me, act as a catalyst for resolving emotional tension between the involved characters. When the characters are satisfied, I am satisfied. One of the reasons why people write fan fiction is to ‘fix’ unresolved tension — especially emotionally draining sequences which do not end in favor of the audience.”
As a consumer of the highly intense and dramatic television show Supernatural, which is famous for its “boy melodrama” and high-stakes interactions, these sorts of emotional sequences are common. For Kansas, writing out sexual interactions with the characters is a way to feel like she has resolved some of the issues the characters deal with — but it is not just about the sexual contact.
“…It would be meaningless if there were not a vast range of emotions involved,” Kansas said. “Are the characters scared? Sad? Happy? In love? Why are they engaging in sex acts? These emotions must be conveyed, in my opinion, to really grab a reader — so that is what I try to do when I write, and that is most certainly what I look for when I am on the other side of things — when I am reading fan fiction.”
The content of the fan fiction, therefore, becomes much more about the characters’ emotions and feelings as opposed to the sexual acts being described. It acts as a deeper exploration of the psychology of the characters.
Slash fiction, however, is almost overwhelmingly filled with male homosexual pairings. Ithaca College writing professor Jaime Warburton has been studying fandom and the culture surrounding it and teaches a freshman seminar on the topic. She has taken notice of how slash fiction is mostly composed of male pairings.
“Generally, because over 90 percent of [fan fiction] is written by people who identify as female, and the majority of them are straight,” Warburton said. “The same way it’s known that hetero men tend to find girl/girl sex erotic, many straight women either find [male/male] interaction erotic (especially when it involves the emotional component created by canonical friendships) and also enjoy writing or reading scenes with the men they love being sexual with ‘another woman’ as the object of their affections.”
According to Warburton, most of the female/female slash fiction written comes from female authors who are queer, which makes up a smaller portion of the fan fiction writing community.
With boundless imaginations and a desire to see more than just what’s constantly shown in entertainment media, it seems safe to assume that the slash fiction trend will not die out any time soon.
Jackie Kazim is a freshman film, photography and visual arts major who spends her free time mashing action figures’ faces together. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.