The latest xkcd, and especially the mouseover text, reminds me of my longtime curiosity about the phenomenon of slash fiction. It's male/male erotica, usually taking the form of short stories about characters from sci-fi or fantasy written by heterosexual women. The term 'slash' comes from the punctuation used when categorizing the stories by the protagonists' names -- Kirk/Spock, Angel/Xander, Remus/Sirius, or whatever. I guess you could see the popularity of Brokeback Mountain as springing from the same forces that make slash popular.
What I find interesting about slash is that it's a sort of sexual expression that wasn't promoted by the usual social forces shaping people's sexual desires. Nobody was out there trying to get women interested in gay sex between Kirk and Spock, in the same way that a variety of social forces were telling them to be chaste until they married some tall guy with a steady job, and then bear his two sons and a daughter. And it wasn't that they were just writing fanfic about themselves and Kirk or Spock, which would be a rather straightforward expression of the innate desires you'd expect. The way we usually understand the biological and social forces involved push against this happening, and yet it happens!
Girls are interesting and I want to know more about them.
Your last line is made of win. Thanks.
i am pretty sure there are slash that do not involve m/m or sci-fi. for example, i believe i've seen some gilmore girls slash on rori/lane.
Neil, you're aware of the (large) body of academic work about slashfic, right? Constance Penley is the name that comes to mind.
As my friend and colleague Barry Deutsch noted via Twitter, what's to get? There are plenty of very heterosexual men who are fascinated with lesbianism, or at least a heterosexual-friendly depiction of it. Why wouldn't there be plenty of very heterosexual women turned on by the idea of, say, Lee Adama and Gaius Baltar getting it on? Heck, I'm a straight guy, and I can see the appeal.
Can't agree with mccn: your last line is othering women, and it's not made of win. The implication is that women are some weird, wild, wacky phenomenon that you're not a part of.
It's all just human behavior and sexual attraction. As Jeff pointed out, there are identical phenomenon for other genders, including your own.
It's not mysterious or worth tee-heeing about. And the point of the xkcd cartoon was specifically that for many, many women, their porn is just a shift and a click away from what many, many men like. (And that goes for just about every sexuality, and anyone not on the extreme ends of the gender spectrum, too.)
Snarkout, I've read a bit of Henry Jenkins on this stuff, but not a lot.
That's a good place to start, Jeff. There are a couple divergences between how straight guys like lesbians and how straight women like guys in slash that are interesting, though. For example, I can understand the basic elements of lesbian porn -- female nudity and sexual lust, penetration of various types -- in a way that's continuous with my understanding of things men like in general. I wish I could reduce to some similarly basic elements what women are attracted to in it. I can sort of feel it when I read the fanfic, but I wouldn't know how to put it in precise terms.
I can't understand your complaint, LJ. Everybody else on Earth has different motivations and beliefs than me in some way. Sometimes their behavior is different enough from me that I become curious about how to more precisely characterize their motivational states, and thus understand them. I ask similar questions of friends of mine who make unusual choices all the time. If this is othering, hooray for othering! (The fact that I'm sexually attracted to the other in this case makes it an area that's especially pleasant to discuss.)
Where I write in responding to Jeff, "I wish I could reduce to some similarly basic elements what women are attracted to in it" -- the final 'it' is slash, not ff porn. I edited a sentence out and messed up the anaphora.
Actually, let me say this about the slash / ff porn for guys analogy. These two things look really different, and not just in terms of the genders of the characters. Look at the media used and the kinds of stories involved, or whether there has to be a story at all in the latter case. A good explanation of what the writer was getting off on in a particular work of slash will at minimum explain this stuff.
Othering is when you make some group of people into a mysterious or exotic (and usually homogenous) 'other' without treating them like unique individuals.
The line between useful generalizations and othering usually comes when you stop considering your statements as useful generalizations and as fact.
There is not one way that women relate to slash fiction. This isn't a matter of 'girls are interesting' this is a matter of 'there is this thing called slash fiction, some women are into it, and so are some men'.
When you say 'girls all do this thing that I don't understand', you're effectively saying 'girls are strange, exotic, and weird, and not normal'.
If you'd said 'I have a few friends, and they like slash, and I'm interested in it' that would've been an appropriate sentiment. But that's not what you said, not at all.
"...your statements as useful generalizations and instead think of them as fact."
There's plenty of slashfic involving actual or fan-goggle yuri relationships in manga and anime, eg, Sailor Moon, and not just the Outer Planets who were, of course, actually a couple.
I think its likely that if you run across a particular collection of fanfic, it is likely to be biased toward a particular type of slashfic, since the audience that likes that pushes for more.
LJ, I obviously don't think that all women are into slash. I do think that the greater percentage of women into slash than men into slashy ff stories says something interesting about women in general. So there is some interesting generalization to be explained here. And I want to know what kinds of desires explain it.
To put it another way, I have a pretty good basic picture on what sorts of basic patterns male sexual desire follows. So when I see a guy who's attracted to something I'm not, I can often get some kind of idea what he likes about it by seeing what I like that's similar.
It's harder to know this about women and slash. Looking inward doesn't help, because I don't see what I want that's similar. Everything in lesbian porn, for instance, is so different that I can't see any specific points of comparison.
@LJ - "Other" is not a verb. Thank you.
@LJ and Neil:
Maybe I'm wrong, but I read that last sentence, "Girls are interesting and I want to know more about them", not just as a statement of fact but also just as a somewhat deadpan snippet of subtle self-mockery ...
As in, geek realizes he's making a generalisation about a group of girls - a useful generalisation, in this case, but one nevertheless - and kinda takes the mickey a little bit at himself for it. Which is funny because us geeks, well, you know - we do tend to be somewhat estranged from that much-wondered about "girls' world" - or more correctly, we were, back when we were in high school. And now we're able to add a tongue in cheek when we catch ourselves going there again.
Anyway, that's how I read it, and why I smiled about it, until the hammer of correctitude came down on it in the comments.
Also, I will second John above - "other" is not a verb. Much like "impact" isn't. Whoever thought it would be interesting sounding to start using these words as verbs deserve to spend some time in their afterlives in a very special place reserved exclusively for peverters of language. Alongside the inventors of the words "synergy", "stakeholder", "empowering" and "iterative". Misbegotten language innovations are, in fact, probably the one arena of life where academics and management consultants are truly matched to each other.
Nimh, you've described me perfectly. The second paragraph is great.
I'm generally tolerant of new words as long as they serve a purpose, and I suppose that "other" as a verb may do so. I just don't know why othering is always a problem. I can see how it would be annoying in some cases, and it definitely have deeply pernicious manifestations at its worst. But it encompasses a bunch of innocuous behavior as well.
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