When I stumbled across trobadora's The Internet is for Porn? I was initially uncomfortable with the discussion. The frank discussion of fannish sexuality is not something I am used to seeing in writing... but it is all too familiar a topic around the table over the weekends and at the cons.
I am not sure why I was so uncomfortable with the subject. It is not like I have not mentioned in on the show or in conversations with others, but this direct approach, insightful comments, and probing questions made me squirm a little in my seat.
In our fannish circles, porn is very much ... normalised, for lack of a better word. It's part of the everyday landscape, and writing it or posting it is not in any way, shape or form remarkable. (Except for the "oooh, shiny!" factor, of course.) It's even an ordinary social gesture – the "bake you cookies and write you porn" aspect (The Internet is for Porn?).
That is the moment that I started squirming. Why is it normal to talk about slash without a thought about what it is we are really talking about? It is not uncommon for the conversation to get started and in the right fan circles, the participants are open about their favorites. Is this because our fan culture is more coarse, crass, or jaded than the mainstream culture?
I don't think so. While I have been accused of having an overly bright view of the fan culture, I think it is a result of the very nature of Speculative Fiction Fandom.
- Fans are generally liberal. It is easier to look forward when you are not tied to the past
- Fans truly love. They do not simply like the characters, settings, and series, they have a deep love for them.
- Fans are dreamers. We are not satisfied with merely watching or reading, we dream up other stories. We are constantly asking, "What if?"
- Fans share. We are not content with these ideas living in our head, we share them with each other
As a result of these things, it is not surprising that we ask ourselves what it would be like if two of our favorite characters hooked up, we write the story and share it with the community.
Why are we not ashamed of the sometime sexually explicit stories we tell? I am not sure. For me, it is probably because I am gay. I am used to people looking down on me for who I love. Why would I care if they found about anything else? They already think I am a pervert. I have no where else to go from there.
Now, many of you are probably going to say, "I don't even know what your talking about."
Say you're participating in one of those other fannish spaces as well, and you're (for whatever reason) writing porn in that fandom. What do you do with it? What would you feel comfortable with?
Would you feel comfortable posting it in its own fandom, even though it would not be a normal fannish activity there?
First of all I would say there is a difference between porn and erotica. I am not parsing words, there is a very real difference. I apologize for the crass language here, but it is better to be blunt than verbose:
- Porn is fiction that contains a lot of sex for the sake of getting you off.
- Erotica is fiction that contains a lot of sex but the story and characterizations "cannot be summed up in diagrams" to quote Stephen Moffat.
Most of the fanfiction I am talking about is erotic because it does the latter and not the former. On that note, to answer the question, I am not sure what fan communities are being discussed where the conversation of slash does not pop up from time to time.
The only time I would not feel comfortable is if there were minors in the conversation. It is not my place to introduce these kids to a discussion of sexuality they may or may not be ready for. Other than that, I am not sure what would prevent me.
What if that fandom were mostly populated by fanboys?
Well, I find popular heterosexual male sexuality to be abrasive and overly crude. It is something that should be discussed. The flirtation present in the stories is something I think most heterosexual males would be bored by. I hope I am wrong.
The types of fanfic we are talking about are:
- slash: male/male erotic fanfic
- femslash: female/female erotic fanfic
- hetslash: male/female erotic fanfic
- PWP: porn without plot
Does it really matter who you're writing for? How much, how does it matter?
I think it does. I know I am not the only one who has wondered about the relationship between Ivanova and Talia or Sirius and Lupin. These questions are unanswered in the canon, so we are left to fill in the blanks with fanfiction.
The audience matters because well written fanfic is about the characters. Whether it is slash or not, if the story is bad, then why would I take time to read it? There are some audiences that just want PWP, and I am not in that crowd.
How much of a difference would it make whether it was an explicit sex scene in a longer fic or an all-out PWP?
Just as the audience matters, so does the content. If the story is good, and the sex is integral to the plot, the better the story will be.
Would it bother you more if the porn in question were slash or het?
A lot of the slash and het I have seen is more of an odd fantasy of the writer than a story worth spending any time with.
What if it were, say, het with a dominant male character?
This is where the problem comes in. A lot of the male dominant fiction, fanfic or not, is little more than a dose of male bravado with a side order of nudity. I prefer stories about equals.
What makes Smut
I read a lot of Speculative fiction, and sex is not absent from the "mainstream" fiction. It is hard to miss it in Anne Rice, Christopher Golden, Clive Barker, Anne McCaffrey... most SF not written or inspired by Tolkien.
I think we work ourselves into fits because, as with everything, there are some people who take it too far. Nothing can be down about these people except to ignore them.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about when we are talking about sexuality or erotica. Honestly, I think this has more to do with our popular culture and its perception of us.
In Pop Culture, sex is inherently smutty. It is a tool used to sell a product. Many movie trailers have become little more than "Watch this film and see these people naked." Under those conditions, we tend to allow ourselves to see all sex as smutty. What we have to do is establish certain personal rules:
- Sex is natural.
- Sex is not a game or a contest. It is not about collecting trophies.
- Respect is a prerequisite. If we do not respect ourselves or our characters, it shows and it degrades everyone.
- Sexually explicit stories or scenes without a grounding in character and plot are porn.
Did I make you uncomfortable? I hope not. I think it is time for some frank conversation. Now let's all sing Slash Wallow.