Forum: Sexuality in Middle-earth

Discussing: Just what *is* slash?

Just what *is* slash?

Hello!

The Doyen of Definitions has been hearing a variety of explanations as to what is properly labeled "Slash". There are surprisingly few points of agreement on this term. Just to name a few:

"Slash" indicates a story that:

  1. has explicit homosexual sex scene(s) in it of any type.
  2. is nothing but a homosexual sex scene(s).
  3. has allusions to homosexual sexual encounters.
  4. puts two canonically heterosexual characters of the same sex into an initimate emotional and/or physical relationship.
  5. shows physical affection between two same sex characters that could be interpreted as sexual/erotic/romantic.
  6. shows emotional affection between same sex characters that could be interpreted as sexual/erotic/romantic
  7. has any mention or allusion to homosexuality that does not indicate disapproval .


Quite a list, and this is not exhaustive. Everyone has a definition, it appears, and no two are precisely alike. Oh, yes, I do have my definiton:

A story where the focus is an explicitly homosexual romance, whether or not the story has explicit scenes in it.

Why this? First of all, to set some boundaries. A qualifier that it is a romance between characters is going to remove stories where a homosexual encounter is simply a plot device to move action along, and is not the focus of the story. It also demands that there be more than just a sense of affection or of camaraderie between two people of the same sex. Saying you do not need explicit scenes would allow for a story that is a look at emotions or pshychology, and could address unreturned love or non-sexual relations. While there is a qualifier "romance", there is no requirement that is be romantic - the romance could be significantly unpleasant or unsatisfying. Still, the focus of the story would need to be on the relationship between two (or more) same-sex characters and their sexual/erotic/romantic acts and thoughts.

So, there's a few definitions - what do you think? How do you define it? And why? What is at stake in defining this genre?

Ang

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

I know this will sound flippant, but the functional description of slash seems to be any non-cannon pairing you don't like. If you like the story, it's an interesting AU. Is a Boromir/Éowyn explicit sex story slash? If you say no, why not? You are taking two characters and pairing them in a way not in the books. Is it that it is more believable? More conventional? Has a lower squick factor? Would the people who complain about A Faramir/Aragorn sex story be OK with an Arwen/Éowyn story? Or vice versa?

It seems to me that slash is as much a perjorative as it is a description. It almost always means AU pairing I don't like.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Slash labels are a funny thing. I have a few stories out there that may or may not be slash, depending on the definition. Is it slash if the relationship takes place entirely offscreen and is never explicitly mentioned? If there is sexual chemistry between the protagonists but they never define their relationship as sexual? If I switch the gender of one of the protagonists, so that the romance becomes 'heterosexual'?

The definition that I go with is that a story needs a slash label if there is a relationship between two characters of the same gender that at least one defines as romantic and/or sexual, and this relationship is a major point in the story. I think I would shy away from defining slash stories as 'romance' since in many of them the sexual relationship is merely a metaphor for friendship, and that seems to me to be legitimate. I also don't think the focus has to be on the relationship - you can have very good slash stories in which the protagonists are lovers but the story is not primarily about their romance but rather about their adventures together. But there's not really a lot at stake for me in this definition, as I see slash labels as more a matter of marketing than anything else. Slash labels are a way of attracting some readers, and trying to scare away those who are going to send me homophobic flames.

Slash labels become problematic for me when they are a way of putting human emotions into boxes. Some feelings (or relationships) can't be clearly defined as sexual or nonsexual. Or at times the nature of the feelings only becomes clear over the course of the story, and that is part of the suspense. Or sometimes a relationship will have a sexual aspect, but that really isn't what it's about.

(I had most of these problems with 'A Very Fire', so I ended up putting a warning saying 'this may or may not be slash and if either terribly bothers you please leave now.' The result is that I can't post it at places like Nindaiwe which require clear differentiation between slash and nonslash stories.)

There's also the problem that slash warnings do give a certain sanction to homophobia, as if saying that homosexual relationships are uniquely offensive and ought to be warned about. And I don't buy for a moment that slash needs warnings only because it is AU - there's no way Arwen/Legolas is any less AU than Aragorn/Legolas. Or, for my stories, that Celegorm/Aredhel is any less AU than Maedhros/Fingon.

Oddly, in published fantasy there seems to be no equivalent to slash warnings. I was poking around in my local bookstore looking for novels with same-sex romance in them, and I found that I often couldn't identify such books without getting recommendations.

Deborah

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

I think the question is what is the story about. For me that defines the line between porn and romnance, violence and drama/action/adventure stories. If the purpose of the story is to provide a vehicle to deliver explicit sex, nudity or violence, I would categorize the story as porn/violence. If the story is about something and the sex, nudity or violence are a part of the story I categorize the story/movie as romance/action/drama. The same is true of slash. I'm working from memory, which is dangerous in my case, but I think it is Tyrellas who wrote a very heavy Sauron/Celebrimbor romantic intrigue about the making of the Rings of Power which I would not apply the derisive appellation slash to. The reason is, it fits, it makes sense, and the homosexuality and S&M are intregal to understanding the characters and the plot. I guess from my perspective is it isn't whether the sex or violence is explicit, but rather if it's gratuitous. Do you need it to tell the story, or is it the story? The same goes for slash.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

I discovered fan fiction and slash at the same time, this past May. Having seen FoTR and been amazed by it, I was looking for material about the movie and came across several fanfic and slash sites. My impression of the first story I read was that it was a strange anomaly, but confronted with whole archives of the stuff, I got curious. Why would anyone write this stuff? And why was it called slash?

I did what I normally do in such a case- research. I found "In Defense of Slash" by AC, and some articles on the history of slash; and put in context of its origins from Star Trek, began to understand. I assume most fanfic writers know what I found: it started as a way to elucidate emotionally intense relationships between two major characters, given that nearly all major characters were male, and emotion was portrayed only when the characters were infected with some alien virus.

So, by that longwinded introduction, I would say that any story that deals with intense emotional relationships between same sex characters could be defined as slash, whether it is sexual or not. Likewise there can be homoerotic relations that have no emotional content whatsoever, in which case I'd call it PWP.

An interesting sidelight to me is that there are some very well written and powerful slash stories out there. Likewise some excellent heterosexual stories - 'Box of Rain' and 'Closer to Fine' that were discussed in the other sexuality thread come to mind. But I haven't seen many powerful Aragorn/Arwen stories. Maybe I just haven't found them yet.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

But I haven't seen many powerful Aragorn/Arwen stories. Maybe I just haven't found them yet.

There does seem to be a distinct lack, and for likely the same reason that Kirk and Spock ended up together so often in fandom: Arwen=conspicuously absent for almost the entire trilogy. Doubtless this explains also the many A/L, A/B, A/anyone but Arwen or Arwen as third party/voyeur/wronged woman stories.

I've seen maybe *one* Arwen/Aragorn that was sweet, that attempted to write an explicit interlude or two, and which didn't overwhelm my sugar threshold. "Winter to Spring", I think it was called, and it was written "backwards" from Aragorn's death to the day of their marriage (or maybe it was their betrothal? I forget). It was on FF.net last I knew.

I really can't recommend any others in terms of showing them as a partnership, though God knows I live in fear of Kshar's story, which was powerful with only two chapters. Alas, it was also powerfully depressing to me. The rest... wasteland, IMO. I like a nice Aragorn/Arwen sex scene as much as most Aragorn fans do, but there seems to be no happy medium: either the story is chapter after chapter of them having sex with some other odd happenings going on at the edges, or else they aren't really together at all (well, duh, they did spend about 60 years largely apart before marrying), even if Aragorn or Arwen spend time thinking of each other. :-(

Oh right, this is the slash thread. Uh...

Well, given Aragorn's heavily homosocial environment, which bleeds over easily into homoerotic, I'm not surprised there is a lack of Arwen/Aragorn fics, whether explicit or otherwise. I would say he is a very easy character to fit into a one-sided slash relationship--object of desire, object to be seduced. Problem is, that as noted in the Mary Sue thread on Aragorn, there's most likely a relatively narrow window of opportunity for non-Arwen liaisons, and by the time the Fellowship is formed, that window is closed.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

There's also the problem that slash warnings do give a certain sanction to homophobia, as if saying that homosexual relationships are uniquely offensive and ought to be warned about.

Oh, how I applaud this, Deborah. I have said in other forums that I'm not crazy about the label “slash” because it sidesteps and softens what such stories are about: homosexual desires and relationships. It repackages homosexuality for fan consumption and voyeurism. Homosexuality Lite. I don't like this because I think one of the positive things about slash fiction is that it can, in some readers, make them more accepting of gay people. (This is based on these readers’ feedback to me and posts on slash lists.) I do feel stuck using it as a label for my stories with homoerotic content because it communicates to so many readers.

Mike mentioned my series with Sauron and Celebrimbor, “One Ring to Bind Them.” This was very tightly edited. I took two erotic scenes out because I thought they didn’t add to the story. However – hope you don’t think less of me for this, Mike - I did think that I put gratuitous sex scenes in that story!

I include both queer and straight sex scenes in stories for drama,
for emotional relief after stressing characters out, to show
characters' relationship dynamics, and sometimes to write a piece
fandom porn for juicy amusement. Some of my sex scenes do not need to be in the stories – I could tell the story without them, or “around” them. But I put them in anyway. Some of my short pieces are *nothing* but gratuitous sex scenes. I still try to make them well-written and linked to an actual interpretation of the characters.

I notice that queer readers (gay, bi, lesbian, transsexual) have a very different relationship to slash stories than straight readers do. But perhaps that’s getting off topic for this thread.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

But perhaps that’s getting off topic for this thread.

... and I may meander further "off topic", but I think that's natural for this topic.

I tend not to use the word "slash" because I don't like the "target the (presumed) homosexuality" aspect. I more use PWP, gratuitous sex/violence/angst ... if the purpose of the story isn't to say something unique about JRRT's world I'm probably going to react "ho, hum, boring", even if the story is soft-core romance. *shrug* I tend to avoid stories where the author gleefully announces "It's Slash!!!!" in the story summary; but that's just a subset of the importance of a well-written summary. I need some kind of indication from the author that the story is thoughtfully written and I might like it. I'd also be turned off by a "Hot Sex!!!" announcement. For the same reason, an author making a contientious warning about "slash" content isn't going to turn me away -- particularly if it appears almost awkwardly written, the author is somewhat embarrassed, s/he isn't trying to titulate but it's polite to warn people.

Part of the reason why I want well-written non-"standard" relationships is political: I'd like to have some good role models out there amid the prevalance of boy/girl love stories. I got "corrupted" as a teenager by Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, where group marriage was included as "no big deal" -- and why should it be? Isn't who/how many people you love a personal choice?

Anyway, I know het couples, gay couples, poly people (polyamory) -- but I don't know details about there sex life, or even why they fell in love. That's private. I just have this understanding -- "this is a unit".

Back on topic. Why is fiction important, why is it "political"? -- because if you're deep within a piece of fiction it is possible to dwell upon such private matters that would be, out of politeness, not a normal topic of discussion in the Real World. I have been a supporter, in an "what's the problem?" mode, of gay marriage, of marriage reform in general. But having discovered fanfiction, having (primarily in B5 fanfiction) found good, romantic stories about same sex couples -- that's been useful to me. It helps me to empathize even more with those two guys, two girls who want to be married, but the state won't recognize it. Grrr.

In the context of Middle Earth, the states and cultures therein don't, as a rule, recognize non-standard relationships -- or, I feel, that's a defensible default understanding -- so I get a "I don't believe it" reaction as a reader if a gay couple is shown in a supportive social/cultural environment, if the author doesn't take the time to explain how the default assumtions don't apply in this case.

And, back to my PWP & gratutious comments above, I don't think focusing on homoerotic content with a titulation factor, sigh, I don't think that contributes much toward understanding. There may be a double standard here. I wouldn't know because I don't look for it. Is there, numbers-wise, a large body of het hot sex stories/sappy romances? And are the homo shot sex/sappy romances being unfairly singled out?

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Dwim and Lyllyn...you guys are dangerous for me to be around. You know I'm going to have to write an Aragorn/Arwen now with explicit scenes? Darn you, women. I haven't finished writing Marigold Smile yet. And there's than dang Dol Guldur challenge out there waiting to be tackled.

As far as slash...I can't stand the label. It's gotten such a negative rep over the years that I far prefer a textual content warning like "contains homoerotic material." It's similar to the way I feel about the Mary Sue label. Why should an OFC automatically be classified a Sue? Why should a story about a same-sex encounter or relationship automatically be labeled slash?

So I guess my answer to what is slash would be that it's a pejorative label that people tend to slap on anything with homosexual content of any kind. Probably not the answer you were looking for, Ang, but there it is.

peace...adrienne

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Pleased to place plotbunnies under your nose, Adrienne, even if unintentionally.

I found out about slash in the Escaflowne fandom, where I've read a total of... um... lemme see... maybe four full stories and four partials? Of that number, Sarah-nekos lemons were my slash initiation, and they were very well, if very graphically done. Sex with plot, for the most part, though due to technical difficulties, I haven't been able to see if they continued in that vain. My first LOTR story was "Advantages of mortality" and I did the research thing for 'what is slash' as well.

As for what I think slash is... well, I've said it elsewhere that I think it must involve one of two things: either the obvious romance between two same-sex characters, or a setting in which homosexual encounters are built in and explained--contextualization of homosexuality counts as slash to me, and as the more interesting form of it. I think slash is political, even if it does single out homosexuality for discussion, as being different.

Why is this not necessarily a problem for me? Because much as it ought to be otherwise, homosexuality is not widely accepted; it is tolerated, but not accepted as far as I can tell. Maybe others can tell me otherwise, but this has been my observation. So yes, homoerotic content is singled out by that none-too-clearly delineated label 'slash': deal with it. Better yet, use that attention to write something that will seriously squick the reader, not because of the body parts, but because the story isn't able to be easily dismissed as 'nonsense' or just a PWP.

This is not to say that showing sex on screen doesn't do something to help desensitize the reader--that's true of all PWP or explicit/graphic writing, whatever the orientation of the characters. My problem with this is when it is clearly the case that a blatant PWP is using the label slash to justify its existence when in fact it isn't really functioning in what I would call a political way. How many times do we need to see fics that focus solely on the mechanics of homosexual sex? That's such a basic level of writing that it's not really interesting to me as anything but a sexfic--good for thrills, not for much else, and there's such a glut of them that they become dismissible (no offense to any who write 'gratuitous' sex scenes for the fun of it). "Oh slash? Oh that's old hat. Just another sex fic? Bring it on, no problems here. Aren't they cute?" That's not engagment, and its not acceptance of homosexuality, it's hormones.

What's much more interesting to me and which I would call slash, are fics that actually try to interpret a character 'presumed straight' as having homoerotic feelings, and then deal with those feelings in such a way that the reader has to admit that this is at least as plausible as interpreting the character as straight. Slash for me is that odd conjunction of 'knowing' for example, that Bilbo is canonically straight, and then reading Ang's fics and thinking, "You know... I can't contest this interpretation--it stands as an equally plausible interpretation of JRRT's Shire as any 'straight' interpretation." That for me is what I think slash ought to be. Doesn't have to be romantic, but it has to make homosexual encounters or viewpoints fit into JRRT's world as plausible (ideally equally plausible, but in any case justifiably plausible) interpretations of that world and its people.

I can appreciate your positions, Deborah and Tyellas, and also that several other members of HA as well--in one way, moving beyond the label 'slash' is a way of pushing the boundary, and forcing people to question their assumptions. Why is Aragorn/Boromir seen as meriting special labels where Legolas/Arwen isn't? There's no logical reason, clearly. They're both just as AU, and I have to say Legolas/Arwen is actually less interesting to me (which says absolutely nothing, I realize) than Aragorn/Boromir (if only for "Worship" in terms of actual fics out there that feel right to me).

How you deal with that logical inconsistency is a matter of debate and also of personal choice. I have a friend who would like to see a form of pidgin, communal 'world-wide' language English created. Why? Not because English is better, but because it's the reality that English is the international language, that people world wide are forced to learn English, and any international solution to linguistic imperialism cannot be based on some ideal--it has to have its roots in the situation at hand. If English must be the international tongue, then that's the language that needs to be appropriated, owned, and modified by the international community as a whole, out of respect for the difficulty of learning it. I think I take a similar line with the label of slash. I prefer to use the slash label rather than contest it, because in reality, depictions of homosexuality are labeled, they are marginalized, and they are not socially accepted on anything like a wide scale. I also frankly have my doubts about convincing anyone who is deadset against slash to read the fic or think about it carefully in any case. But people who do read slash, whether because they like it or because they're trying to figure out what it's all about, I'd like to get their attention and try to demonstrate that there's more (or there should be more) to that label than just the overwhelming glut of PWPs of varying quality and insipid romances.

So there you go. Dwim's two cents.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Just to throw in my own take on what "slash" (whatever it actually *is*) should be:

A well written slash story should include homoerotic elements to explore the relationship between any two characters where a canon homosexual relationship is not mentioned.

I'd also drop in the following information about explicitness: explicit sex scenes should be treated like a strong spice or flavouring. If you've got a lot of points to think about in the story already, you don't need the explicit sex scenes. If all you're doing is writing the explicit sex scenes and putting a vague plot around it afterwards, don't try to put important plot elements into the whole business. The whole story has to be balanced, after all.

My take on slash is basically influenced by the fact that (particularly in LOTR fandom) slash should be a chance to look at the ways that *masculine* affection can be expressed outside our current Judeo-Christian cultural context. So I tend to be picky about what I'll read, and particularly about what I enjoy. Of course, I'll be honest enough to admit that some of what I read and enjoy is influenced by the sort of heirachical structure that I see (as an outsider) in masculine culture. So two of my favourite slash pieces (Aragorn/Boromir) involve bloodplay and violence, because to me I can't see either of them "submitting" to another man without a fight, at the very least - it would be a psychological need for both of them. So violence becomes a sort of foreplay in that situation.

But I'm rambling. I tend to do that.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

I can't see either of them "submitting" to another man without a fight, at the very least - it would be a psychological need for both of them. So violence becomes a sort of foreplay in that situation.

Hear you, Meg. I’ve been working on and off at a graphic piece involving Aragorn (as Thorongil) and Denethor, set during the reign of Ecthelion II. I confess, it did begin as a curiosity – what pairing hasn’t been done yet? – but once I started actually writing it, I realised just how much more could lie beneath the surface between these two. Denethor’s psyche is a fascinating place to explore – the story predates Finduilas’s death and the palantír, true, but Ecthelion's son was never exactly Mr. Sunshine, was he? How to show the lack of WotR-time bitterness and cynicism without sacrificing the overweening pride that he always possessed? And the dynamic between him and Thorongil, his rival, is great fun to play with, too, since this is another pair that would never “submit” to one another.

Argh, now I’m thinking about this story again…I had hoped that it would sit quietly in a corner until I had got some of the older pieces finished. Bloody temperamental plotbunnies…

Just to add my two cents on the original topic, "slash" for me indicates simply that there is homosexual content in the story - doesn't necessarily have to be graphic, but the relationship does have to have a definitely sexual facet to it. It can be hard, because of the abundance of slash pieces in the fandom, to write a very close relationship between two members of the same sex without having it be labelled as slash, and I had to consciously avoid this while writing Elrohir and Elladan's interaction in "The Twilight". Nothing wrong with E/E, but it's would have automatically drawn the reader's attention (Gasp! Homoerotica! Incest!), and I was afraid that the plot would be lost. So much emphasis is put on the shock value of certain pairings - it almost seems demeaning, IMHO, to gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transsexuals - as if a homosexual relationship is a novelty rather than a valid relationship.

-Aerlinnel

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Ang's original question ("Just what IS slash?") is the very reason I decided to remove the slash warnings from my stories posted at ff.net - the term has become so vague it is meaningless, and I felt that by using it I might actually be misleading readers as much as enlightening them. Readers who eagerly opened my Maedhros/ Fingon "slash" stories expecting graphic homosexual sex would be bitterly disappointed by what they found; worse, I strongly suspected (from several reviews I received) that other readers were avoiding these fics precisely because they equated "slash" with homosexual PWP, and those readers were thus needlessly missing out on stories they might very well enjoy. And what sexuality WAS present on those stories wouldn't have merited any label at all, apart from the movie-style PG-13 or R ratings they already carried, had the relationship between the characters been heterosexual. So by using the term, I felt I was in some sense pandering to homophobes. In the end, I decided to go with no warnings other than the posted ratings at ff.net, and to use the phrasing "adult sexual themes" for any story prominently featuring sexuality (whether homoerotic or heteroerotic) on my website and here at HASA, where movie-style ratings aren't used.

Let the homophobes flame me if they like; I'll just shrug them off, since they're prefectly free to stop reading my stories if what they come across offends them. Since when is anyone guarenteed a non-offensive reading experience anyway? And while I understand that some people appreciate the "slash" label, in my eyes the term's current meaning (apart from its use as a derogatory slur) is too undefined for it too be useful.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Out of curiosity, what do people think of using the "lemon"/"lime" terminology in conjunction with their fics? Usually I see those labels associated with anime slash, but it is one short-cut way to differentiate between fics that are graphic and fics that are not, but which still feature "pairings" (loosely used).

I worry less about people in search of graphic scenes who wander into FtORB and are disappointed. Shame on them for being narrow-minded about the label. Having been brought up in a highly sheltered environment, I am more concerned with not accidentally or carelessly offending someone if it's in my power to avoid it, so that's another reason for me to use the slash label.

However... may I just confess that part of the "fun" of that label is screwing with people's perceptions? I mean, really, unless we're talking very general categories, what label isn't going to be in some sense misleading? I call LDID an AU--it is one, but how many people are going to avoid it like the very plague itself given the number of really awful AUs or just plain insipid ones? AU covers just as many ills of misconceived plots, poor writing, melodrama, and improbably sexual liaisons as slash does. I still use the label because it conveys something useful, namely that this is intentionally taking off from Tolkien's work and unfolding it differently. I just try to do it in such a way that it stands out from the rest of the crowd of fics.

Same idea with slash, for me. The only reason it's a big deal as a label (whereas AU is not, really) is the social context we all live in. Why not use it? Use it as well as you can and get people to think about it. Maybe they will think that you're not writing slash, or that too many fics that call themselves "slash" really only deserve to be called PWPs, but that gets more attention, I would say, than refusing to use the label. Whether they flame or not, homophobes will not think at all about what they're doing; and I've seen reviewers give up on non slash stories that showed the characters being friendly in a platonic environment (Roots got a review like that (no, not after chapter 11, either), and so also did LDID). Those readers, if they come across a "slash" piece that isn't marked as such, are much less likely to then read anything else you've written, because they'll feel tricked.

Maybe it's a question of audience when it comes to preferences in using the label slash. Who are you writing for? The general public? Or just the small cadre of people who will read slash, even if reluctantly or with suspicion? Me, I write for the latter; I do not expect to win converts from the former. If the general public has homophobic issues with my stuff, their loss. If some slash readers want only A boffing B, or L screwing E (whichever E), I'm sorry their tastes are so narrow, though in truth, I haven't ever encountered a reader who complained about this. (Am I just lucky?)

For those who might be missing out because they've been burned too often, well, I'm one of them in terms of A/L and (for the most part) A/B. I don't know that I could appreciate A/L if they walked in the door this instant and announced they were getting married (probably because I've read that and it sucked). So if someone doesn't read FtORB, so what? The point of my packaging it the way I do on general sites is that the reader has to *want* to read the fic, not just casually flip through it. Maybe that's a bit arrogant of me, but that's the reader I'm looking for.

Hm. Maybe we need a new thread: "Do you 'slash'?" I don't know that I've given a single word in this post to what slash is, but how it's perceived. Time to migrate, perhaps?

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Jumping back in and pulling a few quotes from another thread in this discussion:

Meg - I'm actually reluctant to include "From the Other River Bank" as a slash piece - I'd be more willing to consider it as a psychological insight story, using sexuality as a lens through which to view Boromir.

Dwim - LOL! I think Ang has said elsewhere that she'd rather not class "Legacy" and OMY as slash pieces, whereas I'd rather class FtORB as such. Can we trade, Meg?
---------------------------------------------

Yes, I would rather not label "Legacy" or "OMY" as slash, and I see the reason as being both political and practical. It is one of the reasons why I am concerned about definitions - how they are used, twisted, expanded, seized on, valorized, demonized, etc. However, I am almost as strongly tempted to label the work slash, for reasons that closely parallel to my reasons for not doing so.

I like your point, Deborah, that slash is a "marketing" tool in certain ways - a way of condensing and focusing what may not be easy to grasp. It is a good way to grab some readers and ward off others. But, as you go on to say, it becomes problematic when the marketing begins to occlude what lies behind that link, or between the covers of the book.

The political reasons for both wanting and not wanting to put "slash" in my story summary has to do with homophobia and the violence that I see inflicted on people because of others' prejudices. I refuse to label my work 'slash' to give notice that I will not make exceptions of non-het sexuality - I wish to normalize non-het sexuality by treating it as drama (or romance, or action/adventure) just as I would if the sexual-orientation of the actors was het. OTOH, I am sorely tempted to label those stories as such to avoid the perception that I am somehow trying to excuse my work from association with the reviled category.

The practical consideration is why I started this thread - what the hell is "slash"? If someone think slash is explicit homosexual scenes intended to get you hot and bothered, sorry, you're not going to find that in either story. If you are offended (or thrilled) by any positive presentation of homosexuality, then both stories are clearly slash. I sometimes think I need this disclaimer: If you disapprove of works that treat non-heterosexual acts and thoughts as ethical and legitimate modes of expression, stop reading now. If you want to read homosexual scenes, you won't find them here. All others, hope you like the story.

I write very little about sex, but a great deal about sexuality - and, to my mind, to write about sexuality is impossible without addressing the valorized as well as the reviled. Legacy and OMY are very much about the standards of heterosexuality in the Shire - what are proper sexual relations between men and women? They are also about the ways in which neat labels like "het" and "homo" cannot account for the polymorphous quality of desire, particularly when mixed with social ambition and political machinations.

Thus, I decline the label as being inadequate to the stories I am trying to tell. Yet, I do think the label can have an accurate application. This is why I am pondering definitions. Of course, people will make of the term what they wish, but I am trying to establish for myself what I mean when I say "slash".

Ang

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

I would say that any story that deals with intense emotional relationships between same sex characters could be defined as slash, whether it is sexual or not. Likewise there can be homoerotic relations that have no emotional content whatsoever, in which case I'd call it PWP.


I have to say, with all due respect, that this definition is, point blank, utterly worthless as a definition. By this definition, "A Tale of Two Cities," "Little Women," "Crime & Punishment," "Sense & Sensibility," "Fahrenheit 451," as well as the films "Seven Samurai," "Ronin," "Last Unicorn," and "Mononoke Hime," are all "slash". And all the other works by the authors/creators of the same with them.

In fact, I read and watch *nothing but* slash, by this definition, since *every* book I voluntarily read has intense emotional relationships between the characters, regardless of what gender (I read a lot of sf, so *which* is not necessarily accurate either) because I prefer character-driven action to characterless action stories.

Any definition or term which is so loose that it can incorporate things which have so little in common is necessarily useless in philosophical terms -- it's like saying "stuff", or "things," or "bone" for a doctor.

Historically the term comes from the / mark placed between the two characters being non-canonically paired. Originally it didn't even mean same-sex, though since that was the most common implemenation, it became coterminous with same-sex pairings in fanfic. (as in K/S for ST:TOS). It used to, and usually still to an extent, implies some sort of invocation of canon "subtexts" as justification for the plausibility of the pairing -- merely "they look so cute together" not being considered sufficient warrant in pre-ffnet days.

Now, is "slash" necessarily a pejorative term? —Which is a different question from whether or not it is or is not meant as a pejorative term, in any given situation.

I would say *not.* That simply saying that a story contains and focusses on non-canonical pairings, almost certainly same-sex given the way it's used, is not to say, automatically, "Ugh! Bad! Fie!" any more than saying "space opera" is to make such an automatic judgement -- or saying "science fiction." Some people do say "science fiction" in that way, and mean it as an automatic dismissal and sweeping denigration of the genre. So?

"Space opera," to use a (slightly) less loaded set of terms, refers to longish melodramatic stories with larger-than-life characters and grand scenery in a futuristic setting. And Sturgeon's Law holds good for most of it. But it simply describes a type of story which some people like, others don't, the way "horse opera" describes a similar type of story in a Western setting. If you like 2001, you *might not* like any of the Flash Gordon films. If you like True Grit, you might find High Noon unutterably boring. Or perhaps not. But at least one is aware that one is going to be more cerebral than the other if one is described as an "opera" and the other is not. (There are also plenty of people for whom the word "opera" is a pejorative term on its own.)

I think it's a mistake as well to widen the definition of "slash" to mean *any* story with same-sex pairings, but I figure it's going to happen. However, if society someday reaches a point in which the renowned captain of the Federation is regularly hopping into bed with the female underofficers and passengers on her ship, and this *is* therefore canon, will ST:??? fanfic be *automatically* "slash" instead of merely "shippy"--? If this definition broadening is allowed, it will be, causing synapsal failure to authors and category obsessors.

I would argue for leaving "slash" as a strictly fanfic term, that is, the pairing of canon characters in non-canonical or extra-canonical relationships. I would also argue against doing away with the category because "people" (there aren't really any, you know) will/do/might think it automatically means PWP, or h/c, or excessive sap, or any other sub-class of story which can be found in any genre, subgenre or format.

If we're going to go that route, we have to do away with the "fanfic" tag as well, because there are "people" who already say that about fanfiction, too.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Dwim - LOL! I think Ang has said elsewhere that she'd rather not class "Legacy" and OMY as slash pieces, whereas I'd rather class FtORB as such. Can we trade, Meg?
---------------------------------------------

Ang: Yes, I would rather not label "Legacy" or "OMY" as slash, and I see the reason as being both political and practical. It is one of the reasons why I am concerned about definitions - how they are used, twisted, expanded, seized on, valorized, demonized, etc. However, I am almost as strongly tempted to label the work slash, for reasons that closely parallel to my reasons for not doing so.


Meanwhile, I shall just clarify the sense in which I mentioned the stories. I was mentioning them as stories which use the tools of sexuality and sexual relations to reveal more about politics and political relations. I don't know that they are or aren't slash - and I don't feel I have the right to make the judgement on whether or not they are. I can have an *opinion* about whether or not I'd classify them as slash - but opinions are like armpits, most people have one or two, and it's those of other people which stink.

I've just realised that at least part of my own personal definition of "slash" includes a little marker that says "and nothing else serious is going on in the story". Interesting, really.

Meg
--

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Why do we need a special label for fics that contain homoerotic elements anyway? Can we not just apply the same freedom to all fics? After all, writers of het fics do not have to label their works specifically, do they? I think everbody does it or nobody does it.
Since I came over from anime (japanese comics and animated films) to books and movies, I have noticed that the term slash carries a far more negative image than "yaoi" and "shonen ai" (the japanese terms) do. My personal definition of slash is the following: A story that contains homoerotic content of various kinds and does not even try to explain the motivations and backgrounds of the characters involved. The reason for this lies back in the first fics I have read: all of them A/L. They all involved Aragorn who suddenly realizes how much he is in love with the super handsome Prince of Mirkwood and who breaks up with Arwen in order to be with his true love. There are also some examples to be found in A/B, but they are usually approached on more mature terms than A/L. Or maybe I just overlook them, because I am generally more fond of dark, angsty A/B than romantic, easy-going A/L. And another pet peeves among most common Legolas-pairings in slash (A/L, B/L) is that Legolas is no elf any more, just a pretty boy who is good at archery and the common whore of the men in the fellowship. I hate this!! It can be done differently: A good proof for this is AC's "Folly of Starlight"-series that involves very elvish elves and very in-canon relationships. It contains the following het pairings: Elrond/Celebrian and in future also Arwen/Aragorn. The slash pairings are as follows: Elrond/Legolas, Elrohir/Glorfindel, Elrond/Gil-galad. Somehow I feel that the blame for the bad Legolas fic has to be placed on the movie!only Legolas fans, but Orlando's performance was very elvish in my eyes and he seems to have placed lots of thought behind it..
Sorry for the OT-stuff, oh modly ones!
Makamu

 

 

Re: Just what *is* slash?

When I first encountered "slash", it was explained that the term comes from the slash used to separate the names of the characters involved. Now, much slash did indeed involve same-sex partners, but what I can't figure out is when the accepted definition started excluding het slash.

I mean, what would you call a PWP between, say, Eowyn and Grima? There's a plethora of Buffy/Spike slash, and that's definitely a het couple, and a great deal of it isn't romance, or angst, or any other label: it's just sex. So, whaddaya call it?

Why should slash, which is so-called just for a bit of punctuation separating some initials, have to be same-sex? And what do you call slash that's not same-sex?

Puzzled,
-Rachel

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

I live in Japan but don't know anything about anime. What is lemon/lime terminology?

 

 

Re: Just what *is* slash?

katakanadian asked:

What is lemon/lime terminology?

A lemon is a story with graphic sex in it. A lime is a romance where the hot and heavy breathing takes place off-stage, as it were, where no one can see it.

Shadow asked:

Why should slash, which is so-called just for a bit of punctuation separating some initials, have to be same-sex? And what do you call slash that's not same-sex?

I got sucked into fandom waaay too late to have known slash as anything but homoerotic fiction, with varying degrees of emphasis on the "erotic" element. Why it shifted, I have no idea; why do any words gain new definitions or connotations that overshadow the old ones? As for what I call slash that's not same sex, I call it "het fic." Like slash, it can be anything between G and NC-17 in terms of rating.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Just to add my two cents on the original topic, "slash" for me indicates simply that there is homosexual content in the story - doesn't necessarily have to be graphic, but the relationship does have to have a definitely sexual facet to it. It can be hard, because of the abundance of slash pieces in the fandom, to write a very close relationship between two members of the same sex without having it be labelled as slash,

Yup, that's my current conundrum. I'm more used to writing in fandoms where slash stories (defined in this case as homosexual 'adult' stories - though often het adult stories are also published there) are in separate zines/on separate sites so I can happilky write my soppy friendship stories and not have to wonder whether they will be misinterpreted. Here it's harder - but putting a 'This is not slash! - they just like each other' label on the story seems daft ;-) Why do I mind? Should I mind? Difficult to answer but... Well... generally speaking I personally find sex - homosexual, heterosexual or with trees ;-) - the most boring of motivations in narratives and I get frustrated by an increasing tendency (in my perception, at any rate) of the world to deny the existence of deep friendship. I find Han Solo and Chewie, Hamlet and Horatio, Aragorn and Legolas, Spock and Kirk far more interesting as friends than as lovers.

Avon

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

*I find Han Solo and Chewie, Hamlet and Horatio, Aragorn and Legolas, Spock and Kirk far more interesting as friends than as lovers. *

Not to mention that _writing_ two characters as friends rather than lovers is probably far more interesting and challenging.

I've discovered that in my own personal lexicon, slash = PWP. I'm currently writing (a piece that encapsulates everything I really hate about LOTR fanfic) a piece in which Merry and Pippin have an established relationship, Frodo is lusting after Aragorn, and Sam is lusting after Frodo. Shut up. It was a plotbunny. Anyway, there's no sex in it, though it's definitely PG-13. Because there's no sex, I listed it as having "slashy themes" rather than as being "slash"

I'm also writing a piece (somewhat inspired by Anglachel's In the Kitchens of Rivendell) in which Frodo and Sam raid the kitchens in Rivendell. Who says Merry and Pippin have to have all the fun? Anyway, it's totally irrelevant to the plot of the story as to whether the two have a sexual relationship. They touch each other a lot (mostly holding hands), but I happen to think that hobbits are just generally a lot more physically demonstrative with each other than Men are. I have no idea whether to label it as slash or not. I don't think it is, but I know there are some people out there who would.

I think the thing that bothers me most in the world of slash is when I find a story that says something like "warning: het content". Why is this necessary?

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Kate Fairfax said:

Not to mention that _writing_ two characters as friends rather than lovers is probably far more interesting and challenging.

I think the challenge lies in writing interesting and believable relationships, regardless of whether they're sexual/romatic or not. Writing a love relationship (especially one that's explicit) that doesn't devolve into either a caracature of "Romeo and Juliet" or mindless PWP is quite tricky.

I've discovered that in my own personal lexicon, slash = PWP.

That's the problem I have with using the term "slash" as a descriptive label - it means something different to everyone who reads it. In your lexicon, slash = PWP. To other people, what you describe as 'slashy themes' merits the designation of slash. There's no consistency in usage, among either writers or readers, so the slash label isn't particularly helpful.

I think the thing that bothers me most in the world of slash is when I find a story that says something like "warning: het content". Why is this necessary?

I'd assume for the same reason the designation "warning: slash content" is necessary: to alert readers to the presence of material in the story they may not be expecting to find and may prefer to avoid. At a slash-predominant archive, it's the het stories that are unexpected and out of place, after all. And some people don't like reading heteroerotic fiction (just as others don't like reading homoerotic stories), while others don't like reading love/romance stories or sexually explicit material of any kind.

Ithilwen

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Kate wrote:
I have no idea whether to label it as slash or not. I don't think it is, but I know there are some people out there who would.

The most common definition of slash that I have seen is that one or more same sex relationships in the story is sexual in nature or desire. The story itself need not be about sex.

If you as the author do not see the relationship as having a sexual basis then don't label it as slash just because others might read it another way. Lots of people see LotR as slash but Tolkien didn't so that label shouldn't be printed on the book jacket. (Aside: for similar reasons I would hate to see it printed on the jacket that LotR is a children's book. Some people see it that way but I don't think JRRT meant it to be.)

Paradoxically, the label 'het' does seem to be applied more specificly to sexually explicit pieces. Maybe this is just because most of the major characters in LotR are male so there isn't the same established camaraderie to build on or gaps to fill. When you know almost nothing about a character like Estella Bolger or Lothiriel of Dol Amroth one tends to focus on creating the major aspects like romances and marriages. I think it's harder to write a little vignette about them because we don't have all that background from the books.

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Precisely. The problem is, though, that one of the most fascinating things about relationships (in my opinion, anyway) is just how blurry the line between "just friends" and "more" can sometimes be. Even in my life (much duller than any fanfic character's) I've had my share of experiences of weird "inappropriate" and yet wonderful what-if's about friends - not to mention the complex "friends with benefits" relationship in which neither thinks of the other as a romantic partner and yet the list of activities done together includes sexual pastimes, along with road trips and going to the movies (not given much more weight than that). And this is coming from a *female* POV - don't underestimate the ability of males to separate "romance" from sex, or even to perform sexual acts with other men repeatedly while still considering themselves "straight."

What *are* Frodo and Sam, for example, thinking when they hold hands? From a modern, female POV (which is not theirs) it's wide open to interpretation, IMO. Does their definition of "friendship" include touching *here* but not *there*? Do they have a clearcut concept of "platonic" versus "not-platonic" love? If, say, Boromir engaged in a little tension-release with a comrade during a long campaign, would it even *count* as "sex" in his mind? Very possibly not. It would to a modern reader, though - hence the label. I just have a problem with the sexual _basis_ argument, though, because a relationship CAN include sexual acts without having a sexual *basis* if that makes any sense, just as it can have a sexual *basis* (mutual romantic desire) without having sexual *acts.*

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

Do they have a clearcut concept of "platonic" versus "not-platonic" love?
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No, I don't think so. Tolkien may have intended them to have a completely platonic friendship, but it's a platonic friendship with a strong and undeniable element of physical intimacy, even in the text. If anything, what's getting in Sam and Frodo's way is not the fact that they're both male, but that they're from different social classes.

Is there a difference, then, between a _romantic_ physical relationship and a _friendly_ physical relationship, assuming both reach the same levels of physical intimacy? Maybe romance is all flowers and stars and glory and trumpets, while friendly is "thank you for spending three days cleaning my apartment while you're supposed to be on vacation; let me read my favourite book to you while you cook me supper"?

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

First, let me say I'm a big fan of well-written slash fiction. I like it 'cause it subverts the dominant paradigms, and 'cause it can make physical the emotions that are otherwise cerebral, and 'cause some of it really messes with our perceptions of the characters without taking them out of character (except insofar as none of them had sex at all that we know of), and 'cause some of it messes with our perceptions of the characters by taking them out of character but in believable ways, and I like it cause' I think it's hot. Go, slash. Woo-hoo!

Tolkien may have intended them to have a completely platonic friendship, but it's a platonic friendship with a strong and undeniable element of physical intimacy, even in the text.

Which in no way has to even begin to ease even slightly it away from the platonic.

This is something I've given a great deal of thought to since I started studying submission grappling.

No, really - there's a connection here, I swear it. Just bear with me.

Submission grappling, if you're not familiar with it, is a fighting style which focuses on what happens after the fight goes to the ground, and on using chokes and joint-locks to cause your opponent to tap-out (or, in a real-world fight, to cause them to be incapacitated, usually by choking them out, which really isn't as dangerous as it sounds if you do it right). It's extremely physical, and you spend the huge majority of your time in contact with your partner/opponent - and if you're not in contact with him, you're trying to figure out how to get in contact with him such that you can get him down on the ground with you on top. Sparring is called "rolling" because you are in fact rolling around on the ground when you're sparring. A lot of women have a hard time training this style because of just how close and intimate the contact is. You are tight to your opponent/partner nearly the entire time.

So, when I started studying this, I would go home feeling great, but extremely vulnerable to weepiness. Hallmark commercials would dissolve me into a little puddle of tears. My brother-in-law told me it was probably because of the "false intimacy" of the sport - you're in such intimate contact, yet there's no emotional intimacy. He said if I stuck with it, it'd pass.

And it did.

One of the effects, though, has been to create an emotional bond where there wouldn't be one otherwise. I would do just about anything for my instructor, and for the half dozen or so guys who've trained with me this entire year, even though I only know one of them outside of class at all.

So, the next thing that happened was I decided I had a crush on the guys in my class. All of them. And most of all my instructor. But it was a really weird crush, because I didn't actually want to have sex with them. In fact, the idea of consumating this crush with any of them - despite the fact that they are all lovely specimens of manhood (oh my, are they) - left me feeling slightly ill. I craved them, physically (still do, actually), but I didn't want them sexually (still don't).

Well, I finally figured it out. The problem wasn't that I had a crush on them - I didn't, and don't. The problem is that I didn't have language to describe the feelings I was having apart from words we use to describe our feelings for people we're attracted to. I think the reason for this is that our society is so sexualized that we've lost track of the possibility of physical intimacy that isn't sexual.

I would not give up that physical intimacy with these guys. It feels good, it's fun, it's reassuring (believe it or not, it is), it creates an emotional bond, but there is nothing sexual about it.

There's a comfort to non-sexual physical intimacy that can't be beat. There's a wonderful feeling of safety in it, being able to just fold yourself up into another person with whom you have none of the fraughtness of sexuality.

I wish I could have this sense of physical closeness with every one of my friends. I find myself watching a movie with friends and I want nothing more than to just pile up with them like puppies. My pal Catlyn will sometimes crawl into my lap when we're hanging out, and I love that. It's comforting, and close, and lovely, like nothing else.

That's how I see the physical intimacy between Sam and Frodo. I wish I could write that sort of intimacy without worrying that people will see it as slash.

Maybe romance is all flowers and stars and glory and trumpets, while friendly is "thank you for spending three days cleaning my apartment while you're supposed to be on vacation; let me read my favourite book to you while you cook me supper"?

In that case, I wanna marry the friendly one.

Cheers!
-Rachel

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

...you can't, 'cause he's mine (smirks like the cat that got the canary)...

--
snippage
That's how I see the physical intimacy between Sam and Frodo. I wish I could write that sort of intimacy without worrying that people will see it as slash.
--
thanks - you've been able to put that into words much better than I could have. This is, by the way, sort of the way I feel about my female best friend - we'll cuddle on the couch together while we're watching TV, but other people just don't _get_ it, and think it's something other than it is. We were rolling around on the floor together, giggling and tickling each other, and that was all it was, but then we noticed my aforementioned fabulously wonderful fiance watching us, and it was clear that he thought that wasn't all it was...

 

 

Re: Just what *is*

I wish I could write that sort of intimacy without worrying that people will see it as slash.

Thirded ;-)

Avon

 

 

Slash = Any non canon pairing?

It seems to me that slash is as much a perjorative as it is a description. It almost always means AU pairing I don't like.

I've seen that also, Mike. In the context of LOTR fanfiction, slash should mean any pairing that is non canon, including Aragorn/Eowyn, Gimli/Galadriel, AND any canon character/any original character.

For an example of the last: To me, a fic that pairs Boromir with a prositute is slash. I use the Boromir/prostitute example because that is a pairing I don't like; my personal view of Boromir's character is that he would never employ a prostitute.

A "slash" fic of mine was criticized because Faramir could never have a homosexual relationship as he later marries and has children. In reality, of course, gay men and gay women marry "straight" partners and have children all the time, for gay people are just as likely to want a family and children as straight people. The criticism reveals what the critic thinks of homosexuality, just as my dislike for Boromir/prostitute slash [some of which is extremely well written] reveals my personal views on prostitution, which is: I find it degrading to women no matter the circumstances.

What else can I say about slash? Kirby Crow's essay on slash has a nice summary of m/m slash written by heterosexual women:

. . . what turns heterosexual women on in Slash fandom is the intimacy between the male characters, whether that translates into hot sex, kissing and cuddling, friendship, a stellar break-up scene, ropes and whips, or what have you.

I think she is on to something there: emotional intimacy is the appeal of slash to those who like the genre.

Whether someone likes slash, or some slash, or no slash, is entirely subjective as it will be based on their beliefs and values, and there is nothing that can be done about that. I think it is crucial that we recognize how our feelings shape what we think or feel about slash. I try to be accepting of slash that I don't like, for one reason or another, and I have to admit it is difficult.

 

 

Re: Slash = Any non canon pairing?

What else can I say about slash? Kirby Crow's essay on slash has a nice summary of m/m slash written by heterosexual women:

. . . what turns heterosexual women on in Slash fandom is the intimacy between the male characters, whether that translates into hot sex, kissing and cuddling, friendship, a stellar break-up scene, ropes and whips, or what have you.


I haven't read this whole thread but would like to say something on this comment. I think it's true, that this is part of the allure of slash (coincidentally, I don't write much romance at all), but I think slash might also be alluring just because it's so forbidden. I mean, I'd think it would be easier to write a new pairing than an old pairing. By new pairing I mean two characters that get together either recently before or during the events of the story -- the love is so much more "hot". In this regard it's much easier to write Sam/Frodo than Sam/Rosie, because Rosie and Sam have an opportunity to settle down into a daily life. Homosexual pairings, however, are less accepted by society and so there's less of a possibility of a "normal" life, so the relationship will stay in that "new pairing" category much longer, just because it's so forbidden.

That's my (fairly uneducated) opinion, at any rate.

Marta

 

 

Re: Slash = Any non canon pairing?

Maybe I should jump in here and say that for me, slash is importantly an act of Subversion. There's a definite gender-politics and anti-establishment angle to it for me. One reason is the overt tenderness that two males are suddenly enabled to show - against the mores of our society (this was certainly the case in some tough-cop-show contexts). Another reason, as Marta says, is the thrill of the forbidden ... and indeed, maybe non-trammelled relationships (which is why I hate slash-marriages, and mpreg). But I have to say that I like to subvert the original GENRE as much as I do the characters - and yes, this IS a form of hommage! For example, one of my "things" is to pair off the chief villain with the hero. I see it (in one way) as a form of reconciliation and an exploration of how opposites can meet, and maybe (soft old romantic that I am) let Love Redeem All. And that - I hope - may be seen (in the LOTR context) to be true of Tolkien's message - whatever I've run his characters though to get there!
Blessings
Grond

 

 

Re: Slash = Any non canon pairing?

For example, one of mjy "things" is to pair off the chief villain with the hero. I see it (in one way) as a form of reconciliation and an exploration of how opposites can meet, and maybe (soft old romantic that I am) let Love Redeem All.

You did a lovely job of that in Hope for the Uruk.

 

 

Re: Slash = Any non canon pairing?

You did a lovely job of that in Hope for the Uruk.

That is very kind of you. Thank you.
Grond

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

Hi, everybody. HASA's shy lurker here to put in a few words. (And hopefully not offend anyone!) About a year ago there was a disscussion on this thread between some well-known and admired authors about taking the slash labels off their fanfics. I disagree with this notion. Why? Because if you do, then you are admiting that you are ashamed of your genre of writing. Slash has a bad name. So what? Sure, there are some bad fics out there, and some people (such as homophobics) tend to focus on them, but there are also masses of well-written, thoughtful fanfictions about just the same thing. Our case is similar to the OFC debate, in that the praticular name has become a sin, but the writing tends to vary from good to bad. We need to change this. But, our better authors taking off the Slash 'label' from their fanfiction is not helping. I say we change the meaning of the word. Change what people think when they see our reaction. When someone asks you about slash, and if you write it, tell them -Yes. Don't mumble a reply! Say - 'Yes. I write Slash. I'm proud to be a person who is open-minded enough to write/read about people diffferent than me, and still have the talent to relate to them.' Taking a 'misunderstood' label off your fanfiction isn't helping the problem. It's almost as if our authors are bowing their heads in shame. I'm sure everyone here knows about the Holocust. How the Jews were made wear the star of David on all their clothes, and it seemed that wherever they went that star made them 'different' or not 'worth as much' as their christian counterparts. Well, if you choose to see it so, as fans and supporters of slash, we are like the Jews. The other members of our fandom make us wear a label, but to take a page out of herioc girl's book, i'll just point out that even though you're labled that doesn't make you any less of a person than the woman/man next to you, or your story any less worth reading than the next one down. Be proud that you write slash. It sets you apart. It says that you have talent and are not just following the old plot of the next 'in' thing. Be proud of what you write. I never knew an authour who was ashamed because he wrote a good story in a Genre believed bad. -------- If some of you haven't already guessed, I'm fourteen years old. I also want to be a part-time writer when I get older. For the past year all of the quirky, fun-loving, proud authors here have been my heroes. Every one of you writes so well, and I don't know if this means anything to you, but it really hurts to see any of you bow down to the 'Homophobics'. I was taught that you should always be proud of your work, and someone as talented as any of you should never have to be ashamed of a label. But, when I read the post about taking the Slash label off fanfictions, I realised that not only angels, but heros fall. Here's to all the talented people who had me fooled this past year that they, and their storys, were more than that. I really believed in you guys. --------

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

Princess- Thank you for your post. I don't write slash, personally. I'm not offended by it; I've just never been gipped by a story idea that called for it. I usually don't read slash except by recommendation because there is so much bad slash out there. But then, I don't read much slash outside of HASA except by recommendation. And yes, I've read some fabulous slash here. Your comparison with the Star of David is a good one. During the Holocaust Jews were forced to wear it, but now many Jews wear it as a symbol of identity similar to the Christian cross. It's even on the flag of Israel. In short, in a lot of ways it's been "reclaimed" as a positive symbol. Marta

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

The MEFAs just went through this debate, actually, and I will state again: imputing a lack of pride to someone on the basis of their rejection of a highly controversial label, in a situation this complex, is very dangerous because it is not well-supported by evidence. It's not shame that makes people reject the label, but a form of resistance to participating in the idea that homosexuality deserves to be singled out. It's straight out of the liberal philosophy that argues that persons must be treated equally—in this case, fic writers want to be treated equally, and sex in fiction is usually only labeled for graphicness... unless it is slash. This unequal treatment in a situation , which speaks of a more basic mindset badly in need of change, is what many aim to change. They seek change (and enact it) not because they are ashamed of a label, but because the labeling is in fact unjust and cannot be made more just by assuming the label but only by rejecting it. One may perhaps see it this way: while some show solidarity, others see themselves as working to eliminate the need for such displays of solidarity.

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

Thank you, Marta. Your post made me feel quite a bit better, and gave me hope that maybe we can change the meaning of Slash around too.

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

it really hurts to see any of you bow down to the 'Homophobics'.
I have to take exception to the use of the term homophobics. For the majority of people it is not a "fear" of homosexuality, but a sincere conviction that it is immoral. I believe using a term like homophobe is divisive and intolerant. I would respectfully remind members that tolerance is a two way street. I am willing to read any story that is well written - part of which includes having plausable characterizations. Some of those have included slash though it is not a genre I normally seek out. Of course, I don't seek out elf stories either, but if someone recs a good one, I'll give it a look. I've found some excellent stories that way. The bottom line is, write a good story, write it well, and I don't care what you label it. But please don't label people. ~Nessime

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

the majority of people it is not a "fear" of homosexuality, but a sincere conviction that it is immoral. I agree with Nessime here. It's not homophobia that stops people from reading slash. For instance, I quite happily read, and even write it. But the idea of slash in Quantum Leap, between the two main characters completely squicks me. Perhaps because it was something I watched when I was fourteen and more innocent than I am now. I know people who don't read het - using the same logic, would they be heterophobic? Nic

 

 

Re: Slash / tolerance

I would respectfully remind members that tolerance is a two way street. Thank you ~Nessime You see people say they don't read Elf-fic or OFC or Silmfic or Ringwar or AU or whatever; it should be 'ok' to say if you don't care for slash - (for whatever reason, be it religion, lifestyle or (gasp!) simple preference for reading material.) ... and not have it taken as a judgement on the author or the quality of fic. -or have judgement passed back on yourself because of it. I know there are huge emotional issues behind it, but I try to always remember that it takes two to fight, that you can't lean against 'no pressure'. also, it seems to me that the slash-fandom is such a large part of LoTR that it would be more beneficial than otherwise to authors who list it in their summaries

 

 

Re: Slash / tolerance

also, it seems to me that the slash-fandom is such a large part of LoTR that it would be more beneficial than otherwise to authors who list it in their summaries I am always amused when I see slash characterized as a minority view. It is far, far easier to find slash in any given fandom than it is to find gen stories. One of the refreshing things about HASA is that gen writers are not marginalized. Being an old luddite, I submitted a story to a printed-on-paper fanzine that was supposed to be coming out this May for MediaWestCon. The editor did a slash LotR 'zine last year and wanted to do both a slash and a gen one this year. The slash zine had more than enough submissions but the gen 'zine only had three or four stories submitted and is on hold until at least November for Eclecticon. Unless it is well-written and contains lots of plot that is not sex driven - there are lots of those stories and I have enjoyed them - I find most slash to be a 'been there, done that, wore out the t-shirt' (edit: please read the next 21 words as if they were connected by hyphens. Thank you. I have been told this is distorting the formatting, although it looks fine on my Mac. Go figure) nothing new to be said about the first time any two male characters realize they have the hots for each other bore. For many of the standard slash man meets man stories, IMO, you can substitute any two men from the fandom of your choice and with very few changes get an equally valid story. While I remember eagerly devouring the Kirk/Spock justifications in the early 70s, I burned out on PWP slash about the time that Hutch told Starsky he was 'self-lubricating'. (For the children among us, that was not slash from the recent movie, but the TV show back in the late 70s.) I can honestly say I don't usually read slash, and I appreciate the content flags so I know what to avoid without a good recommendation. It just doesn't appeal to me. < shrug > But some of my best friends and favorite family members are gay and I am firmly in the ranks of the marriage is marriage and no one should care about the genders of the couple. I have been a bridesmaid at a gay wedding. My first Gay Pride support button dates from 1972 (fist coming out of a pink butterfly). My friend Mike and I have the same taste in Fossy chorus dancers. I will be damned if I will let anyone equate my personal preference for gen stories with homophobia in any form. I know lots of people who only read slash and would also like a 'gen' label so they know what to avoid. Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: Slash / tolerance

I know lots of people who only read slash and would also like a 'gen' label so they know what to avoid. I know there are some authors who, as a matter of principle, don't want to label either "slash" or "gen". I'll read either type if there's also a plot to go with, either only kisses-and-hugs Romance or more explicit Erotica. But I don't think a warning beyound "Sexual situations" or "Explicit Sex" isn't necessary. (I'd also like warnings for graphic violence and angst.) If I see a "sexual content" label, that (to me) means either same-gender, het, group sex ... vanilla or kinky. If a potential reader really wants to know what flavor of sex it is, they can always email the author and ask. Not that I necessarily think that's a good strategy for getting as many readers as possible. It depends how strongly the author feels about the continuing labelling debate. Julie

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

I'm sure everyone here knows about the Holocust. I wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure you can't compare being Jewish in WWII Germany to writing Slash. But that's just IMO. Anyway - here's my 2 cents, summed up because I'm tired: I don't read slash. Does that make me a homophobe? No. Can slash be well written? Yes. Would that make me read it? No. Should they take the labels off? No. Do I think Slash writers are worth less than me? No. Should someone be ashamed if they wrote a good story that was Slash? No. Could you change my mind and make me read Slash? Probably not. I would not read or write Slash, but I will defend the rights and worth of the slash writers til I'm blue in the face. Maybe it's my cultural upbringing, but I believe in everyone's right to freedom of speech and expression. So just because someone isn't a fan of slash and won't read or write it, doesn't make them a narrow-minded homophobe.

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

Thank you for that comment! Didn't want to be the first one to mention it, but I agree. The pain, humilation, deprivation and death that my relatives endured during the Holocaust hardly compares with the pooh-poohing that slash writers receive. And I wear the Star of David not only out of pride, but as a reminder to us all to see that the Holocaust never happens again. Don't really care one way or the other. I admit that I have read a story or two just to see what the brouhaha was all about. All I've got to say is if you want to write it, that's fine. Just don't expect me to hail it as literature. One thing I think about when this subject comes up, though. Huge amouts of fans, and writers of fanfic, have come to LOTR through the movies and it is those actors images that are eluded to in many stories. Is that fair? Did the LOTR actors sign up for their physical attributes to be described, in great detail, doing things that , as far as I know, they would NEVER engage in? (With the exception of one, and no one ever writes about him). Just because the job that they were hired for, and that is all that an actor is doing is working for a living, put them in the public eye, does that give others the right to use them for their own devices? Would slash written about, say, your plumber, or hairstylist, or, G*d forbid, your teacher, be just as accpetable? What about your father? Some of the actors described in slash stories have children. You can not tell me that this does not get out, or back to those actors and their families. Write slash, no, I should say, just write EXCELLENT stories but always remember that words are powerful things. They can inspire, teach, influence, twist the truth, embarrass and hurt. Just because we as writers CAN, doesn't always mean we SHOULD.

 

 

I'm Sorry

I've obviously been the one to stir up a hornet's nest, and unfortunatly, cannot possibly debate all the different perspectives on this issue. Everyone will have their different views on slash, and the term, or 'label'. I was wrong to assume that my views were right, or that authors taking the Slash labels off the fanfictions could be equated to a lack of pride. I also apologise if I have offended anyone with my hurtful words, and truthfully hope that I may be forgiven on the understanding that I myself was hurting when I typed that post. I thought that many of the authors I admired were finally giving up and declaring their works not worth as much as another fic. I understand if you don't ever wish to forgive me, but I would dearly love to have your (I suppose it could be loosely called) friendship back. Even if you never decide to forgive me though, just know that I have enjoyed the past year at Henneth-Annun, and i'll always admire the encredible talent I saw here. Who knows? Maybe one day a few years from now, I'll be browsing through a book store and I'll find a published book by someone here. It would mean so much to me if I could purchase that book with the knowledge that me and its author parted on good terms.That maybe we even conversed once or twice. It would be heart-breaking for me if I had to turn aside, and dismiss the book and its author as another bad memory from my teenage years. It's your desicion. I will not say I deserve your forgiveness any more than I deserved to be here, among such talent and good cheer, for the past year. All I will say is that it would mean alot to me if I could have your good wishes, and blessing to stay here another year. I thank every one of you for unknowingly coloring my past year at Henneth-Annun with so much happiness and good will. Princess

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

Princess, NEVER be ashamed of starting a debate or discussion. My feeling is that if you get six HASA members in a room and write a subject on a blackboard, you will arrive three hours later to find twelve opinions on the subject at hand. Debate is healthy, and so is disagreement. Questions such as yours force us to define our positions as writers and as people. This is important in writijng and in life. I do not see anyone attacking you for bringing up the subject so PLEASE stick around. You deserve to be here as much as any of us do. Your opinions and beliefs carry equal weight. Never think that they do not. You have said nothing that you need be forgiven for saying. You spoke your mind and that is a thing of courage. I don't think you need a particular blessing from any powers that be to stay either. But that may be the anarchist in me speaking. So, stay, if only just because debate is a good thing.

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

Princess, the reminder, while prompted by your use of that specific term, was a reminder to all members that labeling people wrong, and that we need to treat all members with respect and civility, even if they hold opposing points of view. BTW I think your comment about the Star of David was not wholly wrong in that it exemplified what I am talking about - labeling people. I do agree that it is hardly the same as labeling a story (the degree of harm done to the Jews by such labeling far exceeds that done by the slash label, don't you think?) And there were also Christians, Muslims, homosexuals and gypsies who were targeted by the Nazis simply because they fit a stereotype. You're young, so I did not take your comments as I would if they had been written by someone as old as I (forty-nine and proud of it ). I just hope you will see this as a learning experience and not judge others so quickly in the future. There are a lot of different aspects to the debate about labeling stories, and as you've seen, slash is not the only genre that gets singled out. I write OCs, and I dread every discussion of MarySues/OFCs because some people's posts make me feel as though I have no business writing original characters in M-e (never mind if they are well written or not - to them all OFCs are bad). So selecting the Original Characters from the character list when I create my story summary means that some people will never even look at my stories. But I won't leave it out because I'm proud of my OCs. I think you see the point. So stick around. Please. Dialog is always good when it gets others thinking about these things. Peace, ~Nessime PS - if being "permitted" to be here was predicated on never saying anything that someone else disagreed with, HASA would be a very quiet, very lonely place. You as a member have just as much right as anyone else here to express your opinion. Just be ready for others to join in the discussion - and that isn't a bad thing.

 

 

Re: I'm Sorry

I understand if you don't ever wish to forgive me Forgive you? For what? Speaking your mind? I stand up and applaud you. I may not agree with you, but I certainly respect your right to your opinion. Stating how you feel, especially on a subject as emotional as this one and when you are so much younger than a lot of us, is a very brave and admirable thing to do. All I will say is that it would mean alot to me if I could have your good wishes, and blessing to stay here another year. Well, I have absolutely no authority, but IMO, you are more than welcome, whether we ever agree or not. Don't ever apologize for speaking your mind, as long as you respect the other people who do the same. (Which you so far have done.) -Arandil

 

 

Some thoughts on labels, etc.

I know this is an old thread, but I've just read it, and some of it surprises me, as someone who's new to LoTR fandom, but not fandom in general. I'm surprised to hear that anyone considers "slash" a pejorative label. My experience is that it's not considered such in other fandoms. It was a label created by the people who use it -- it was not, unlike some of the labels its been compared to, created by those who wished to denigrate the genre. I am on mailing lists that call themselves slash, I go to a con every year that calls itself slash (or slash-friendly), I visit web sites by authors that call their stories slash. Really, it's not a pejorative label, anymore than "romance" or "comedy" is pejorative. For definitional purposes, my experience is that "slash" refers to same-sex relationships only. It's not any non-canonical relationship -- if you label an Arwen/Legolas story as "slash" you're likely to get some comments from very confused and surprised readers. In fandom in general, "slash" is usually used to refer to any same-sex relationship, canonical or not (although there's some controversy about this, it's still frequently used that way). Thus, Tara/Willow is reasonably labeled as slash; so is Brian/Justin from Queer as Folk. In the past few years the term "slashy het" has surfaced as a way to describe opposite-sex relationships that have a "slashy feel" canonically -- generally, an opposite-sex relationship that's either frowned upon or outright forbidden in its context. I've seen "slashy het" used to refer to Mulder/Scully, Michael/Nikita, and Buffy/Spike. "Slashy het" is generally used to refer to the canonical relationship rather than fanfic about it -- you would label a story het, not slashy het -- it's a discussion term, not a fanfic label. "Slashy gen" is a term used to refer to fanfic, but usually not by the author herself, but as a way to describe a story to someone else. It's very subjective, obviously, but it refers to a story that isn't explicitly positing a sexual relationship between the characters, but has a strong undercurrent of emotional attachment, which suggests, if you chose to read it that way, that such a relationship exists or could exist in the future. Personally, I love slashy gen, because the emotional punch has to stand on its own -- bad slash uses sex as a substitute for emotional connection, whereas in a gen story, the emotion has to stand on its own. For myself, I label slash stories as such because I don't want anyone who doesn't want to read it stumbling into it for lack of an adequate warning. I don't worry about that much on my own site or in a slash archive, but here, I want to be as clear as possible. (I also wish there was a way to search for slash, because if you do a keyword search on HASA for "slash" about half the hits you get say "not slash" .) Anyway, some thoughts from outside the LoTR bubble. Melina

 

 

Re: Slash- Why is everyone so ashamed of the word 'Slash'?

Didn't want to be the first one to mention it, but I agree. The pain, humilation, deprivation and death that my relatives endured during the Holocaust hardly compares with the pooh-poohing that slash writers receive. And I wear the Star of David not only out of pride, but as a reminder to us all to see that the Holocaust never happens again. Oh, dear. RubyGamgee and everyone else, I hope you didn't think I was implying that the discrimination slash writers put up with even came close to approaching the horrors of the Shoah. Without going into my personal family history (something I don't do in public, but feel free to contact me offsite if you would like to) I also know something about the horrors that the Jews and others endured. By saying the Star of David was a good example, I was merely using it as a symbol that had had a negative connotation but has now become a source of pride. You view it as a source of pride today, if I read your above comments correctly. All I've got to say is if you want to write it, that's fine. Just don't expect me to hail it as literature. I think there are some stories with slash elements that are indeed literature. Anglachel's "Legacy" and "On Merry Yule" jump to mind as stories that look at homosexuality in the Shire very well (though even there, "homosexuality" seems a simplistic term, for several reasons). But I will admit that these stories are exceptions, and in my experience few and far between. In short, a slash piece can be literature, just like a het piece can be -- but that's far from a natural conclusion. (Note: I'm not sure that Ang would describe these stories as out-and-out slash, as the focus is more on how sexuality affects family politics. It's more drama than romance. But it definitely deals with sexuality of all sorts, and has homoerotic elements. At least IMHO.) Huge amouts of fans, and writers of fanfic, have come to LOTR through the movies and it is those actors images that are eluded to in many stories. Is that fair? Did the LOTR actors sign up for their physical attributes to be described, in great detail, doing things that , as far as I know, they would NEVER engage in? (With the exception of one, and no one ever writes about him). Just because the job that they were hired for, and that is all that an actor is doing is working for a living, put them in the public eye, does that give others the right to use them for their own devices? This is a good question, and one not restricted to slash. I don't write much erotica, and the characters I do write (Denethor and Faramir primarily) are so much more attractive in my mind's eye to anything Peter Jackson could ever hope to put on screen, this isn't a concern for me. (This is not a crack against the movies -- that's another discussion -- it's just that I have an imagination and a well-developed image of these characters.) Other characters are portrayed in FPH/FPS as having the characteristics of the actor. But Orlando Bloom has dark hair, not blond, as does Karl Urban. So much of their on-screen physical characteristics are make-up, prosthetics, and wigs. So are we really making Karl Urban or Eomer do things in our stories? I don't know. I do think that, by being an actor, they know this kind of thing is going to happen. It's like running for President of the US: you know if you win, you and your family will be living under the public microscope for the next four years. It's not pretty, it's not fair, but you knew it was going to be like that when you ran for office. Similarly, you know that, if your movie is successful and if you're playing a physically attractive character, you're going to attract this kind of attention. It doesn't make it right or anything; it just means it's not the quite same thing as being a teacher. Marta

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

I agree with Melina - in most other fandoms that I've read at all (X-Files, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sandman), "slash" isn't pejorative at all - it's simply descriptive. Sometimes it's advertising. And yes, it refers only to same-sex pairings, canonical or not. Het pairings are called "het" whether they're canonical or not. And of course every fandom has people who don't care for it, but it is pretty unusual to see its very existence become such an issue as it can over here. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the labels -- I think, just list the pairing (unless that's a spoiler) and people can figure it out for themselves. But that's my perspective: I'm an omnivorous reader and don't really understand how it is that someone can refuse to read half (or more) of the stories in any given fandom based on a (IMO, of course) silly thing like that. Really, to me, there's just writing that engages me and writing that doesn't. Takes a couple of paragraphs usually to sort out what's what. But, to each his/her own, and people will make their own choices of how to spend their time, and that's everyone's prerogative. There are people who will never read slash, just like there are those who will never read horror, or AUs, or OFCs, or stories that aren't about their favorite character/culture, etc.--but really, it's their loss, and who gives a damn what they think? Your audience is, by definition, people who DO read what you write; that's whose opinions matter.

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

I'm just going to make some broad statements here. In my fics, which are almost wholy slash, I do not put a warning. I think the fact that under the pairings header it says "Aragorn/Legolas", should be enough for people to realize "Oh, this is a homosexual relationship." So, I only warn for explicit sex, if it's there. And, to add to that, also point out that I have an OFC/Elrohir relationship, so I feel I do not need a het label. I also do not touch RPFs for one very simple reason: This section has things that are more likely to get you sued. I'd love to meet Orlando Bloom or Viggo Mortensen, but I don't want to meet them because they've hauled me into court. Would I complain about the RPFs about them if they were to acctually get together? No. I figure the LotR fic reading audiance is intelligent enough to know thier own mind and if they don't like what I write, then that's okay. I'm not a fan of Aragorn/Boromir, but I don't think that they shouldn't write or read it. I'd rather not see anything with Sauron, but "One Ring To Bind Them" is a good story. I also would like to point out that Sir Ian McKellen knows about the fic authors. He's aware of at least the A/L writers. Thank you.

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

Ooh! Interesting discussion! Just to make a tangential remark, hopefully to stir up more interesting debate, I've always dissociated slash with real life homosexuality. I've seen a number of comments in this thread talking about homosexuality, homophobia, and intolerance - all in a RL context - and connecting reading/writing slash with these RL concepts. I think it can be argued that slash has very little to do with real homosexuality and the author's views on it - for example, there are a number of stories where, as Ang pointed out in her Green Sun essay, the slash exists in a sort of social vacuum, a contextless void. So, we can say while Frodo and Sam engage in hanky panky, they're not gay - not in a RL way. My supporting evidence comes from a recent scandal on LiveJournal and Fandom Wank, where a proficient author and artist of Dominic Monaghan/Billy Boyd slash revealed that she finds homosexuality immoral and wrong, etc etc. Of course, this provoked an uproar - with many of the comments being, "How can you write/draw slash, and disapprove of it?" To which the author consistently replied that it was "different" in fanfic/fanart, and it was all "fictional". I don't find this situation entirely surprising - mostly because I feel most people, knowingly or not, dissociate slash in fanfic with homosexuality in RL. So you'll find people who, in RL are morally opposed to homosexuality, writing Dom/Billy fics, and you'll find other people, who are very tolerant of homosexuality in RL, disliking slash as a genre. I feel it comes down to willing suspension of disbelief, desires and fantasy - rather than reality. So making comparisons or excuses for non-slash readers - for example, calling them homophobic, or defending them and assuring us their tolerance - is really irrelevant, as I feel there's a very clear distinction between slash fiction and real views on homosexuality. In fact, I'd say slash has very little to do with RL homosexuality - and more to do with the reader's/author's fancying of one character (or both) engaged in a slashy scenario. (There's also the avoidance of a Mary Sue or other female character which renders slash "neutral" for the reader/author, making it completely detached from the reader/author, and thus "safe" to enjoy from a bystander POV... but that's another tangled argument.) And I'd make this argument for most typical fanfic genres - ie, that angst-fans aren't necessarily dark and brooding people (nor would they necessarily be attracted to dark and brooding types in RL), and hurt/comfort fans aren't necessarily caretaker types in RL. Aeneid

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

In fact, I'd say slash has very little to do with RL homosexuality - and more to do with the reader's/author's fancying of one character (or both) engaged in a slashy scenario. On the other hand, there's plenty of evidence that real life views *do* inform how people treat slash in fanfiction, as the thread shows. Personally, I've gotten a couple of fascinating letters from both sides of the divide, where some people find homosexuality absolutely morally repugnant and so find slash to be absolutely morally repugnant and worthy of labeling so no one will accidentally "sully" their eyes who isn't already bound for perdition; then there's the other side that finds well written slash to be a breath of fresh air precisely because it isn't just pornographic titillation that ignores the way gays and lesbians can be and have been exploited and marginalized. So just because most slash isn't a good representation of any modern or historical form of homosexuality doesn't, to me, negate the connection of the fictional and the real world—not necessarily. Hmmmm.... you know what? This sounds like the makings of an interesting poll. What do you think, Aeneid? I mean, granted, the population sample here is not going to be very big, but it could be very interesting nonetheless to see what tends to be more common--total dissociation of slash from RL views on homosexuality or a more integrated approach. In any case, I have to say, based on what you've said of the one rather extreme case cited, that's just disturbing. I realize the claim this person is making is that slash just IS NOT homosexuality represented on a page and so is not at all the same or even a related phenomenon to RL homosexuality and attendent social issues; ergo, she's not contradicting herself. Ok, so that's what she says and believes. But then the reason given for that view—"It's just imagination/fiction"—scares me. To me, that trivializes imagination to a stunning and (to me) terrifying degree.

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

That is a little scary. I try to keep politics out of my stories, even though most people would read some in. For example, when I have Aragorn and Legolas get married, they refer to each other as "husband". Not spouse, not mate. I do like mate, since that seems far more permenent than husband, but I digress. Boromir's not too thrilled at the concept, but that doesn't matter, cause he dies later. I'm not sure yet on Faramir's intial reaction, since I haven't gotten to him yet. Denethor would order them both killed, I'm fairly certain. The hobbits and Gandalf don't seem to mind, they're just happy Leggy and Ari are happy.

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

Hey Dwim, Oh yes, well, there are those people who won't even read slash to begin with because of their RL views on homosexuality - and that's a very clear connection between fanfic interests and RL views. I guess I always assumed people separate the two - at least, on a superficial level. And I'm also assuming they've been exposed to both enough so that they have opinions (since I'm not thinking of those people who dismiss slash a priori). Of course, this is all just me shooting from the hip - it's a gut feeling I had, and a lack of surprise at that Fandom Wank person - but you're probably right in that the surrealism in slash doesn't necessarily mean it's entirely removed from RL homosexuality (and its perceptions). And ooh! A poll! A poll! (A path!) That sounds like a great idea! I'm curious to see how it turns out - and I think there's actually an interesting tangential argument (tangent to the tangent) about how conscious people are of their fanfic/RL integration. Because, for example, I may be much more integrated in my RL and fanfic perceptions than I realize - right now, I feel like they're very distinct in my head, but I may be wrong. Also, I'm curious about your last comment: To me, that trivializes imagination to a stunning and (to me) terrifying degree. What would you see as the dangers in trivializing imagination to be? I'm not trying to be contrary, just curious. Again, musing idly about it, I can't think of any explicitly negative consequences - except maybe the fact that you're disregarding how influential fiction is to RL and vice versa, since they are indeed very interconnected. Or am I missing something else? Aeneid

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

Hi Aeneid, I guess I always assumed people separate the two - at least, on a superficial level. And I'm also assuming they've been exposed to both enough so that they have opinions (since I'm not thinking of those people who dismiss slash a priori). I wonder if part of one's perception of people's perceptions (metaperceptions?) about slash and RL depend on when one got into this fandom, or whether one's been in another fandom before. I have a vague sense that perhaps the earlier you were involved in LOTR, the more likely you may be to have a sense that RL views on homosexuality influence how you view slash, just because you were there when it was a Brand New Thing. But that's another of those vague, gut-feelings. And ooh! A poll! A poll! (A path!) That sounds like a great idea! So what kinds of questions should go on it? I was thinking about this earlier, and it occurs to me it could get pretty complex. But I like polls with many many buttons, heh heh... What would you see as the dangers in trivializing imagination to be? Well, for me, imagination is about half my life, if not more than that. It deeply affects me and my perception of myself as well as of others. I'm not convinced, because of this, that we live by logic much of the time or that we should, but by how we imaginatively interpret our environment and make connections among things. Cutting off the explicitly fantasy-prone part of ourselves and saying "Oh, it's *just* imagination", as if it's "just" the sniffles and has no real significance for one's identity, any more than a rare stuffy nose—that scares me. It cheapens (to me) the entire imaginative dimension of life, which I think extends beyond explicit or perhaps I should say "surreal" fantasy to acts of interpretation, to all the "ah ha!" moments we have. As an active faculty, it isn't just an obstacle or escape, it's a creative, productive faculty we need to respect and develop. If you want an extreme fictional example, I would point to Denethor. There's a man stifling under a bad case of numbing reality, without a sufficiently robust respect for imagination to let him breathe. And so he nearly kills his son, makes a murderer of two men dedicated to his service, may be responsible for more deaths than if Gandalf had been on the battle field instead of saving Faramir, and then kills himself, leaving his people bereft when they most need him. Eesh. I guess, too, there's a sense of futility or else disingenuousness involved in trying to create something, while all the while saying "Oh, it's only imagination. It's not *real*", when you mean "It doesn't mean anything." From where I stand, that makes no sense. Why on earth write or create or do anything at all if you think imagination is "just fiction", ergo meaningless for "real life"? Anyhow, far too long an answer, I'm sure!

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

I try to keep politics out of my stories, even though most people would read some in. Hi Luthien. Given how I understood the position of slash in LOTR fandom, I figured that whether or not I hid my particular political views, it wouldn't matter--writing the story and trying to make it matter was political in and of itself. That said, I don't think I've ever felt the urge to be terribly tricksy about views that would be considered political if I were to talk about them with my socially conservative friends or mother—my slash stories always tend to revolve around something that bugs me, whether in fandom or out of it. For better or worse, I'm usually writing to assuage my irritation! Of course, I can't talk about everything in LOTR fandom, because the characters and situations don't lend themselves to every possible thing that could bug me, and some things that bother me aren't necessarily worth writing about. But that limit in itself hasn't proved troublesome to me yet. Part of the fun, I guess!

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

Hey Dwim, I have a vague sense that perhaps the earlier you were involved in LOTR, the more likely you may be to have a sense that RL views on homosexuality influence how you view slash, just because you were there when it was a Brand New Thing. But that's another of those vague, gut-feelings. You may be right - especially in how people coming into the LOTR or HP fandoms now would immediately find that slash is the norm (albeit still sometimes controversial), and therefore they might associate fanfic and slash very closely and disregard the RL origins of both. I've heard interesting discussions on when people began writing slash, with some having been exposed to it only in the fandom, and some having always done it - almost as an instinct. To take myself as an example, I remember writing silly h/c, angst fics when I was a wee one and didn't know about fanfic - and I imagine a number of fanfic authors had the same experience with slash. So it's an interesting thing to find the origin of - and I agree that, having come into it in a time when it's no longer as provocative and new as it used to be, gives newer fandom people a somewhat blander, "Oh it's just slash" outlook. So what kinds of questions should go on it? I was thinking about this earlier, and it occurs to me it could get pretty complex. But I like polls with many many buttons, heh heh... LOL, I was hoping you'd just go ahead and take charge of the poll. Err, I can think of some interesting questions that might give answers which point in the direction of more or less integrated RL/slash mindsets - though I don't know how helpful explicitly asking it will be, if only because I feel most of us aren't aware of how influenced we are by our RL perceptions (or maybe that's just me, LOL!). A question I'm interested in is how early slash writers started writing it. Like, when did they "discover" it, etc - and it'd be fun to broaden the question and ask about fanfic in general. Why on earth write or create or do anything at all if you think imagination is "just fiction", ergo meaningless for "real life"? Well, you're very right about imagination affecting most, if not all, of our ideas and perceptions - though here I feel like we're broadening the definition of "imagination" to include any sort of mental fantasy - from, for example, getting a certain job, to imagining you and your partner's future together, to what it must be like in Iraq right now. So not necessarily "imagination" in the "narrative prose" sense of the word - not stories about other people, where, even on the imaginative level, it's detached your reality. In the case of the general imagination, then I'd agree that yes, it's a vital and important aspect of our minds - the creative force behind everything - and triviliazing it would be dangerous. However, in the "narrative prose" imagination, the one where you tell stories to yourself of things that you realize you're not a part of (nor could ever be), I'd argue that it's not necessarily destructive or negative to consider these things "just fiction." There's a lot of joy and satisfaction that comes from producing these creative works, even though there's no practical RL application (except maybe better writing skills, or somesuch). Of course, you could argue that the joy and satisfaction is tangible enough, and that's true. I may just be thinking in black and white terms, as it's true that the same part of our minds that tells us about Han and Chewie's Crazy Adventures also tells us about that great job we dream about. Anyhow, far too long an answer, I'm sure! And no way, long answers are great! It's always a pleasure to discuss this stuff, even though I admit that I'm a little intimidated because, IIRC, you've studied philosophy in RL? Eep. Much more qualified than me to talk about this stuff. Aeneid

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

So what kinds of questions should go on it? I was thinking about this earlier, and it occurs to me it could get pretty complex. But I like polls with many many buttons, heh heh... LOL, I was hoping you'd just go ahead and take charge of the poll. Err, I can think of some interesting questions that might give answers which point in the direction of more or less integrated RL/slash mindsets - though I don't know how helpful explicitly asking it will be, if only because I feel most of us aren't aware of how influenced we are by our RL perceptions (or maybe that's just me, LOL!). When you do write the poll questions, please ask the questions on slash and real life separately. There are so many options and shades of gradation that trying to combine attitudes may be futile and you will only annoy people who say 'but I'm none of those combinations.' (says the woman who probably does not fit into any easy category.....) Gwynnyd

 

 

Polling

LOL, I was hoping you'd just go ahead and take charge of the poll. I'll go ahead and put some stuff on paper and try to figure out how best to organize things. And Gwynnyd, I will certainly keep in mind your recommendation--my usual objection to polls is that the answer is only half (if that) of the phenomenon. The other half is why you chose option X, and what objections you have to the box you're being put into!

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

It's always a pleasure to discuss this stuff, even though I admit that I'm a little intimidated because, IIRC, you've studied philosophy in RL? Eep. Much more qualified than me to talk about this stuff. I'm sorry! I don't mean to intimidate, although I can certainly sympathize—I do know my colleagues, after all! ;) If it helps, consider this very important Platonic exchange: Adeimantus: "I don't understand." Socrates: "That's because you think I'm saying something deep." --Plato's Republic (382a-b). In addition to being funny, in a way, it's very true, which is why I try to keep any footnotes to my thoughts out of my postings and go with what seems to be the basic idea or question that grabs me when I read X or Y. Anyhow, off I go to think about polls and lunch...

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

I wonder if part of one's perception of people's perceptions (metaperceptions?) about slash and RL depend on when one got into this fandom, or whether one's been in another fandom before. I have a vague sense that perhaps the earlier you were involved in LOTR, the more likely you may be to have a sense that RL views on homosexuality influence how you view slash, just because you were there when it was a Brand New Thing. But that's another of those vague, gut-feelings. Snip What would you see as the dangers in trivializing imagination to be? Well, for me, imagination is about half my life, if not more than that. It deeply affects me and my perception of myself as well as of others. I'm not convinced, because of this, that we live by logic much of the time or that we should, but by how we imaginatively interpret our environment and make connections among things. Cutting off the explicitly fantasy-prone part of ourselves and saying "Oh, it's *just* imagination", as if it's "just" the sniffles and has no real significance for one's identity, any more than a rare stuffy nose—that scares me. It cheapens (to me) the entire imaginative dimension of life, which I think extends beyond explicit or perhaps I should say "surreal" fantasy to acts of interpretation, to all the "ah ha!" moments we have. As an active faculty, it isn't just an obstacle or escape, it's a creative, productive faculty we need to respect and develop. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by the comparison of trivializing imagination and, if I understand all this correctly, saying that the enjoyment of slash doesn't contradict one's negative feelings towards gay sex. Slash is fiction, gay sex is a RL issue. I'm ambivalent about gay 'issues' in RL. I don't really want to go into it here; as I've always sought more of an escape from RL in fiction/SF/fantasy, not an exact mirror. But I do read and occasionally enjoy Tolkien slash. I have sworn not to write it, not because I think Slash Is Wrong, but because I truly believe that Tolkien himself, who created this world we play in, would have been horrified by slash. I am in no way saying that others should follow the same course, this is a personal decision. (I have very lightly implied slash in a parody story, on the assumption that it is a parody and therefore not meant to be taken seriously) But when I read well-written Tolkien slash, I can overcome certain objections I might have to various RL gay 'issues' precisely because I know I am reading fiction. We do lots of things in fanfiction, or fiction, that we would not do in RL, or would not tolerate. Killing people is a crime in RL; but if one is writing Legolas or Aragorn or Faramir, they can slay all the orcs and Easterlings and Haradrim that you want to have them slay. You can, if you want to, write a rape scene - something that we don't approve of in terms of occurence in RL. One can also write an explicit sex scene; and normally in RL one doesn't broadcast the details of such intimacy to hundreds of people (at least I wouldn't and most people I know). One can write lots of positive and negative things in fiction that you would not, or could not do in RL, or even want to. Same goes for reading. Btw, I don't usually read Slash stories because they're Slash - it's more like an interest in seeing what the writer does with this-or-that pair of characters. Except for two stories - one was Hope For The Uruk - I admit that I was curious as to how the heck the writer could pull it off - answer: very well. The other was a tale on ff.net with Aragorn agreeing to become Sauron's boyfriend in exchange for the lives of Legolas and the twins, and oh yes, Sauron could and did have a handsome corporeal form... SORRY ABOUT THE ALL-ITALIX POST - I closed all the tags, so I can't figure out why it's still in italics. [The tags were not valid, rendering it all in italics. They've been fixed. Ang] RAKSHA THE DEMON

 

 

Re: Some thoughts on labels, etc.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by the comparison of trivializing imagination and, if I understand all this correctly, saying that the enjoyment of slash doesn't contradict one's negative feelings towards gay sex. Slash is fiction, gay sex is a RL issue. My point is that that neat division of fiction and real life is not nearly so neat. No one of course will fail to recognize that slash is a representation of something, not the thing itself; the question is what is the status of the representation with respect to how the maker of the representation views the real object/act. The idea that we should approach the question of what a representation of some personally objectionable moral act means in fiction by saying "It's just fiction" is not a good approach, imo. It implies, firstly, that my real problem is that I haven't figured out that a representation is not the thing itself. If I need reassurance on that basic level, there's definitely something wrong with me. Secondly, that approach assumes imagination is strictly limited to what is unproblematically non-existent, and for that reason alone, able to be discounted, which assumption I'm challenging with the claim that that trivializes imagination. Imagination is more than that; or one could flip it around and say that reality is getting castrated if we cut things that way. I may not be looking for reality in fiction if by that one means fiction should be a simple one-to-one reflection of existing states of affairs; but I am looking for fiction that makes something of what does exist by appealing to what doesn't in such a way that the real is not simply dismissed by the fic. That's why I don't find anything immediately problematic or contradictory with writing about something you morally object to, to take up another of your points. I hadn't addressed that earlier because it wasn't quite what I wanted to talk about—it's sort of... not tangential, but it's not quite a match because the objection assumes my problem is that I don't know the difference between a representation of X and doing X or the existence of X itself. As noted above, that's not the level where the problem resides for me. That leaves out the author/creator's relates to what s/he has represented through or vis-à-vis his/her relation to the real things s/he is trying to represent. And since brute facts never get you anywhere, it takes something else to connect things up. That something else I'd call imagination; it isn't limited to surreal fantasy episodes, but it's an integral part of life, and even the fantasies have their purposes and effects, for all that they're unreal. Therefore trying to hold off criticism of the paradox of writing gay erotica* while thinking gay sex acts and sexuality are immoral in real life by saying what you've written is incomparable with that RL view, perhaps isn't *even* a representation of gay sex acts (to drop the more controversial sexuality aspect) but is something else entirely, just because it is an imaginative episode is to trivialize imagination as a faculty, not just in one instance, imo. I'm not saying the writer must decide, upon pain of contradiction, that since s/he writes slash, s/he should be more accepting in RL of actual gay people; I'm saying the excuse used is both an excuse and a bad excuse because of what I think it entails, given that I understand imagination as a productive, integral part of life, not just a thing confined to some fantasies we can choose to dismiss or not, depending on whim, just because the fantasies having importance would lie only in their having the same kind of reality as my keyboard. Anyhow, once again, too long an answer, but I think that's about the best I can do to try and explain why I get the hebejeebies when I see something like the episode described above. Hopefully it's a clearer explanation. As for the rest, I guess I have less stake in respecting the author's possible feelings about my interpretation of his or her work, so long as I'm not just freewheeling carelessly through it and doing a shoddy job interpreting. Slash is an interpretation, ergo... Dwim *While I don't claim this is what slash should be defined as, I guess about 90% of the slash out there could be made to fit under this category. P.S. I was going to do that poll... er, I'll try to get to it tomorrow! P.P.S. I think it might be good to start a new thread if the discussion keeps going, just to make sure the people with dial-up modems don't go nuts. We're a bit to one side of the original topic anyhow, it seems.

 

 

Further thoughts on what slash represents

Dear Dwim, Your comments about the trivialization of imagination, and treating signifiers as throwaways, disconnected from reality, had me thinking hard (DeSaussure be damned). I know I'm coming to this discussion late, but I will say that I've seen part of this discussion runaround on my livejournal as part of a meta discussion I did on what drew people to read/write slash. http://www.livejournal.com/users/faramir_boromir/84271.html What surprised me (shows how unprepared I was) was the absolute range of responses. ...folks who wrote slash because it was INTENSELY political to them (related to RL issues and their own coming out histories) as opposed to folks who rejected the RL connection and simply saw slash as another flavor of entertaining fiction....lesbians who wrote it because they liked turning on other women, and folks who viewed it as pure escapism without any RL connection--who were seeking actively tosever the connection to RL, in their minds. It reminded me that some people read fiction because it mirrors RL and others read to escape RL (and slash is just more of the same, in that regard)...and that readers and writers vary in pretty much the same ways too. What this made me think about, after the discussion cooled off a little was whether it makes any difference when a writer clearly has a RL agenda/RL preference and whether a reader must match up in precisely the same ways. I don't think it does matter. I think writers can be apolitical, writing escapist slash, and readers will encode the story with RL meaning (or vice versa)....and that landed me in the realm of reader response theory. Yikes! And to go back to what the thread started with, on what is slash: from my perspective, as writer and reader, I don't see a pejorative label. True, I am a relative latecomer to the fandom, and thus, my take on the situation is probably different. I don't feel compelled to put a warning for 'slash' in my headers, as the pairing alone should be enough to any reader seeking it out. I think that equating slash with PWP is pointless, since that denigrates good writers whose work contains erotica. And yes, I distinguish between erotica and porn, though perhaps my readers don't. LOL. faramir_boromir

 

 

Queer Discourse and Gender Politics

This discussion is quite interesting to me as I have found the lack of queer discourse and gender politics in the study of slash fiction quite disturbing. There have been many reasons posited as to the attraction of writing homosexual male relationships to female authors. It has already been noted that this phenomenon does not only occur in fan fic but also in many fantasy books and even novels. There are three predominantly accepted views on why women write male/male romance. Given that we live in a patriarchal society, women may find it more empowering to portray an equal relationship between two characters of the same sex. Patriarchy dictates that many stories focus on the deeds of men and women are necessarily absent from these spaces. Homo-social bonds between men are forged within these spaces and lend themselves to slash interpretation. It has been noted that female slash writers are often heterosexual women who gain sexual pleasure from the objectification of the male body. These viewpoints are all true to varying degrees across a range of slash fic, however it is important to highlight the sociological context in which they occur. I do not believe that slash fic as it is currently understood, is adequately able to undermine or subvert the current patriarchal trends that shape our discourse and our world. We must learn to recognise the limitations of slash fic as a method of subverting heterosexism and seek to gain a wider understanding of how we ourselves are influenced by social constructions of masculinity and femininity which shape our relationship to sex and sexuality. As a female writer I find it difficult to portray heterosexual romance without it being undermined by the dominant sexual power dichotomies within our culture. Women’s primary function in a heterosexual relationship is as an object and possession, their ability to conform to a model of femininity which gains pleasure from disempowerment being the ultimate measure of her worth. Within this context, sexuality for women is still perceived in an emotional or reproductive capacity. The limitations of such a model as a mode of expression for female sexuality has led me to explore the potential of slash. However exploring the nature of female desire in an essentially phallic-centred genre of eroticism is hardly empowering to women. Not when one considers the fact that the phallus is viewed as the embodiment of male power and female sexuality hinges on supporting and maintaining it’s dominance. The supremacy of the phallus relies heavily upon the suppression and control of female sexuality (this concept is undermined by the existence of slash fic but slash fic in itself does not yet challenge it). Power play is an intrinsic part of the sociological construction of sex and gender. The way in which the feminine and the masculine interact in slash fic is highly interesting to me. The majority of fics I have read depict a very hegemonic view of gender. There seems to be a split between the typical idealogical constructions. I have noticed that many writers are unable to escape hetero-normative interactions between their slash characters. Having no other model on which to base their idea of romance they load one character with typically feminine traits and the other with masculine ones. From there the relationship tends to develop like a traditional heterosexual relationship with all the power plays of submission and dominance present either implicitly or explicitly within the text. More disturbing is the easy understanding that the masculine identity is inseparable from violence and that a sexual relationship between ‘men’ (ie. Boromir/Aragorn) can only ever be destructive. In such stories the menfolk are portrayed as being aggressively masculine, fighting it out to see which character can best represent the supremacy of the phallus and ending the scene with a truly dedicated lack of subversion. To be fair, there are some fics I have read that do seriously attempt to depict relationships based on equality and mutual respect but they are few and far between. The absence or unimportance of female characters in many fandom spaces means that there is a copious amount of material for slashers to work with. Essentially it is both a political and subversive act to expose the sexual element of a society which operates along homo-social lines. Problems arise when this same discourse fails to point out what such a society does to the group that is marginalised from power. Many slash authors are quite willing to tear hegemonic masculinity to shreds by attacking its weakest point: presumed and compulsory heterosexuality. But give a female character to a slasher and she’ll more than likely stick her back in the box that the original author created for her and reinforce the boundaries. What I can not understand about this, is that slash fandom is a female dominated space and yet rigid self-policing and a bizarre concept of the original authors’ intention have left it devoid of any semblance of female strength. It is difficult for me as a radical feminist to endure fic after fic where strong women are demonised and ‘good’ women are content within the limited sphere that patriarchy provides them. There are many ways in which slashers undermine female power. In some stories the women are shown as grasping devious hussies, out to trap a man into a marriage he does not want. Or interfering aunts/mothers trying to live vicariously through their nephews/sons. However the sociological context of this phenomenon is not explained. The fact that in a patriarchal society women are forced to scrabble for the tenuous power that is permitted them, destroying the potentially empowering homo-social bonds between women in the process, is one that seems to escape the notice of many slashers. The portrayal of the ‘good’ woman, content in her protected and protective bubble, is one that many writers seem to believe is an image of female strength. Perhaps in a society that viewed child rearing as a fiercely intellectual and glory-filled profession, a society where leaders are chosen by the quality of their needlework rather than the amount of orcs felled by their sword, perhaps in such a society I could believe that such female subjectivity is actually empowering. However, power, as it is translated and transacted in Middle-Earth (and in many other fandoms) relies on a fairly controlled version of masculinity and is negotiated exclusively between men. Within this context, women’s relationship to power can only ever be illusory and confined to the narrow realm of domesticity. The rampant objectification of the male body is one aspect of slash fic that I do believe to be empowering. It tackles hegemonic masculinity on its own ground and completely destroys any notion that female sexuality and desire are less central to female existence than men’s. We must however be cautious of the way in which objectification is used and possibly abused. I shouldn’t need to point out the damaging nature of the male gaze on female perceptions of self and body. Also, given that the majority of slashers identify as heterosexual, we must also be conscious of how our work responds to and shapes the social understanding of queer male identity. As women who identify collectively as intelligent, independent and intellectual beings, who engage with a form of creativity which relies on a great deal of cognizance and mental ability, we should be at the forefront of rewriting sociological perceptions of gender and hetero-normative relationism. I, for one, refuse to identify with Rosie, who is nothing but a baby incubator, or Galadriel, who’s power is much talked about but not shown, or Arwen, who’s story is relegated to the appendix, bar a few objectifying lines in the books. I truly believe that slash, indeed, fan fic in general has the power to transform. We can not only challenge the landscape of sexual politics but rewrite it, destabilising and decentralising patriarchy, phallocentricity and other destructive forces which shape our self perception. I can not change reality but I bloody well can reject the mode of femininity that mainstream books and movies attempt to thrust upon me. At present, I reject it creatively, through slash.

 

 

Re: Just what *is* slash?

Can only speak for hobbits - Frodo and his Sam -

Gee, and here I thought it was about portraying a love that social and religious contraints kept the Professor from writing explictly. It is in the text. Slashers read between the lines and allow that love to be expressed.

 

RubyG

 

 

Re: Just what *is* slash?

In terms of the relationship of Frodo and Sam - I believe the Professor wrote exactly what he wanted to write, and it's slashers who are not reading between the lines, but inventing a subtext that was never there.  I have no objection to that; but I will never agree that Tolkien wanted to convey any love other than platonic between Frodo and Sam.  Tolkien was a devout Catholic.  And in those days, in the culture in which he grew up, men did express affection, particularly when in the stress of war. Tolkien has said that he modelled the relationship of Frodo and Sam on that of officers and their batmen (men who devotedly served them as valets and aides) - he didn't mean them to be homosexuals anymore than he intended Pippin and Faramir to have sex, or Faramir and Aragorn, or Beregond and Faramir,  or Boromir and Faramir, or any male who ever had "love" for Faramir or who Faramir loved. 

Slashers are free to read between the lines of LOTR, or any work, and make their own conclusions as to the nature of the characters' relationships.  I enjoy well-written slash stories.  But I draw the line at saying that Tolkien intended any of his heroes, or heroines to have gay sexual relationships.

 

RAKSHA THE DEMON

 

 

 

 

Re: Just what *is* slash?

oops - accidental double post!

 

RAKSHA

 

 

 

Re: Queer Discourse and Gender Politics

Thanks, Allecto, for bringing up the point of context and social structures. I'm always of two minds about this, partly because when it comes right down to the interface between claims about structure and locating individual events within said structure, things can get very... messy. That said, I do think there's much to be said for the concept of patriarchy, which has the benefit of showing up structural oppression, while positing at least two levels to any claim about gender/sexed relationships: the structural and the psychological. The different levels can allow two apparently quite contradictory claims to be true in different ways at the same time and so gives, I think, a more adequate understanding of reality. So Ruby's claim I would situate as a psychological one–the text tells us Rosie loved Sam (and vice versa); there's no reason to doubt, textually, that the characters are represented as feeling love for each other. Whether the textually marked psychological fact is sufficient to tell us whether a work of fiction or any genre of writing supports or conforms to heteronormativity is a different question, one not as easily answered. I always think of Mark Twain, with his defense of Jewish citizens' patriotism in "Concerning the Jews". Is it obviously incapable of rising above the stereotypes and assumptions of an anti-Semitic context? In hindsight (and doubtless to his more progressive contemporaries), yes. But is Twain himself (or his work) to be counted as a contributor to anti-Semitism because of this? I don't think so, and I think he would rightly take issue with the idea. I have to wonder whether Tolkien might not be another, similar case, although since he is writing fiction, it becomes more difficult to piece together evidence to support that possibility. In terms of fanfiction, I agree with you that slash, among other forms, offers the possibility of rewriting or problematizing the story. What I wonder is what kind of rewriting is possible, since fanfiction is not simply judged purely in relation to its social context, but in its relationship to the text it derives from. There's no question that the societies Tolkien sets up looks like pretty standardly patriarchal societies, with some token exceptions among some Men, and a rather submerged effort to make female Elves and male Elves spiritually and physically equal for a certain period of their (pre-childbearing) lives. Taking that patriarchal structure embedded in the story seriously makes it hard to write slash that can give a positive, open depiction of homosexuality, such as many might like to see, insofar as one wants to acknowledge that like it or not, fanfic is judged by at least two standards that are in tension with each other. Likewise, it is hard to write a powerful female who is powerful in the sense many of us might like her to be, because her context is even more constrained by patriarchal limits than our is from what I can tell. Given that view of things, I find that slash fanfic *does* provide a good opportunity for a negative social critique (while still telling a good story by a dual—not double—standard that will want to judge how well the fanfic fits the original story as well as how it relates to a dominant social context). If it's hard to find space for an open, affirmed homosexual relationship in Middle-earth, it's an excellent opportunity for a fanfic to show why that is and why that's tragic. In terms of female characters, I'm not sure I can do much there as a fanfic writer, save to try to recover some sense of limited agency for them, by exploiting the near total silence on them, save as wives and daughters and the like. With the barely named wives of canonical characters, I tend to think that whatever you get out of them fanfictionally, of necessity it's almost all your own making, not Tolkien's. It's an exercise I find useful, and to the degree that I can write these characers, I think it's important since otherwise, there is, for me, practically *no* connection to them at all, and it makes it harder for me to see anything worthwhile in the women they fictionally represent. I'm sorry my response isn't nearly so coherently put together as yours was, but I think yours certainly deserves what response I can make.

 

 

Re: Further thoughts on what slash represents

Hi F_B, Really have been meaning to get back to you—sorry about the delay. I take your point, that there are clearly many different ways of negotiating the relationship between slash and real life (or real life and slash, whichever order one prefers). However, the point where you and I would part ways would be the point at which it is asserted that it does not matter what position one adopts. That claim doesn't come out of nowhere, anymore than my own position (that there is a connection between slash and RL views on homosexuality) does—clearly you have your own standard and framework from which you're making that judgment, just as I have mine, and that would also be part of the conversation from where I sit. 'With regard to what does it not matter?' is a question still to be asked. As it stands presently, I tend to find your specific response a little too "laissez-faire"-ish for me to adopt without qualms. Among other reasons why, I note the fascinating phrasing in your own posting: folks who viewed it as pure escapism without any RL connection--who were seeking actively tosever the connection to RL, in their minds. I don't get the sense from what you've posted that the "total separation" response is one that just naturally *happens*—it comes after a particular fact, namely, that real life in some respect does not satisfy. Escapism itself is, after all, a reactionary position. Not to say it's totally unhealthy or anything of that sort, but that the very name forces one to the conclusion that it exists in violent opposition to something else, which something else governs it. I should just go read the thread whose link you've provided (thank you), of course, before wandering further out on a factual limb! But as a sketch of my initial position with regard to your post, there you have it.

 

 

Re: Queer Discourse and Gender Politics

In terms of fanfiction, I agree with you that slash, among other forms, offers the possibility of rewriting or problematizing the story. What I wonder is what kind of rewriting is possible, since fanfiction is not simply judged purely in relation to its social context, but in its relationship to the text it derives from. It is interesting what you say about fanfic being judged in terms of the original. Yes, I can see that obviously there's something we must all like about Tolkien or we wouldn't be writing fanfic, but why must we remain rigidly within the bounds he constructed? If you look at the history of the novel, a huge part of it is authors coming along and re-writing or reconsidering what someone has done earlier, showing a different perspective or interpretation or creating a transformation from what was already there. By writing relationships between characters of the same sex, every slash author is already doing this to some extent, and I wonder how and why we draw distinctions between what is and what is not an acceptable departure from or extrapolation of Tolkien's world. Must you write something Tolkien would have found acceptable? Must you remain true to the social fabric of his world? The moral fabric? The technological details? The philosphical concepts? Really I think it impossible for any writer to do all that in every story. What I like to see is intelligent engagement with Tolkien's world, and I think that this can be done regardless of whether the writer is endorsing his vision or challenging it.

 

 

Re: Queer Discourse and Gender Politics

That is why I write AU slash. Not having Arwen makes things much easier, and since it's AU, I can do pretty much anything I please. I honestly don't think Tolkien would have liked any of us, slash writers or het writers, doing some of what we do, particually the PWP. I question how much he would have liked the movies, in fact.

 

 

Re: Queer Discourse and Gender Politics

It is interesting what you say about fanfic being judged in terms of the original. Yes, I can see that obviously there's something we must all like about Tolkien or we wouldn't be writing fanfic, but why must we remain rigidly within the bounds he constructed? I don't say we *must*, it's more a pragmatic point. Whether or not we decide we *want* to be judged by that connection to Tolkien's work, we will be, which tends to hamper any really radical appropriation of the story because the audience towads which it is directed is unlikely to accept it. I wonder how and why we draw distinctions between what is and what is not an acceptable departure from or extrapolation of Tolkien's world. I would say that many writers and readers use the same set of skills they use when they approach a text and want to understand how adequate it is as an interpretation of somebody else's work. If so and so says Y on the basis of "It's not stated anywhere that not-Y, so I can assert it", one immediately goes looking to see if there are other statements that might logically suggest the converse, or that should be taken into account to modify that claim. Fandom tends to look, I think, for coherence with the original text as a more reliable marker of both engagement with the text and also of the quality of the story, the latter on the assumption that writing whatever with Tolkien's names and places slipped in tends to be shoddy work and not much in the story-telling department either. Theoretically, the value of non-coherence has been the going ticket since the middle of last century or so, so theoretically, it should be possible to find value in a work that uses names and perhaps a few ideas from Tolkien but otherwise breaks with him almost completely, but that would go so far against the prevailing fandom hermeneutics, I don't see any easy acceptance of the story as a work of good *Tolkien* fanfiction. Must you write something Tolkien would have found acceptable? Must you remain true to the social fabric of his world? The moral fabric? The technological details? The philosphical concepts? Really I think it impossible for any writer to do all that in every story. That's not a claim I made. Certainly it is impossible to be faithful in every detail, and I freely borrow from whatever philosophy I think gives me a useful angle on some part of Tolkien's story, whether or not I think he would agree with me in that assessment. I also don't know or expect that Tolkien would find slash acceptable, or would find an abusive Denethor acceptable, or that Rangers would have their own "Don't ask, don't tell" policy explicitly in place to cover sexual deviance, and I'm certain he would object to stripping Aragorn of his cardinal virtue, hope. Doesn't mean I don't write any of that or think it shouldn't be written by me or others, but insofar as such stories *do* (I hope!) intelligently engage the story Tolkien wrote, I don't know that such stories have the sort of positive potential an original story would to challenge not just Tolkien, but the broader social context, whichever one it may be. I suppose you could say I prefer a Trojan horse strategy—I tend to prefer stories that force me to say that however much I didn't think I would ever believe Tolkien's characters could be in this situation, the author's done the work to show me you really can argue for the story "fitting" the text(s) it works with while calling certain aspects of Tolkien's story into question. What I like to see is intelligent engagement with Tolkien's world, and I think that this can be done regardless of whether the writer is endorsing his vision or challenging it. I don't disagree at all. I suspect we may be quibbling over words and degrees, here, at least *in principle*. Whether any agreement at this level would mean anything when it comes to application of this rubric is another story--literally!

 

 

Re: Queer Discourse and Gender Politics

I wonder how and why we draw distinctions between what is and what is not an acceptable departure from or extrapolation of Tolkien's world.

This must vary with every author and every reader. However, at some point along the continuum - from strictly surface canonical through subtextual alternate explorations through 'what if this was different' - stories that depart in significant ways from the canon text slip into alternate universes. This is not 'a bad thing'. Fan fiction stories ought to be judged on their own merit as pieces of fiction against what the story was trying to accomplish and not against a "would JRRT have written this" standard. But I think the authors of stories that vary radically from the canon text assumptions should not expend their energy in attempting to convince the people who do not see 'the subtext' the same way that they do, or at all, that their alternate view is 'real' because for some it will never be.

I personally prefer stories that have a 'real world' congruency. That is, I like the stories I read to have actions and characters that function in the same way as I can observe real actions and people. If something happens in a story that strikes me as extremely implausible in a real world situation and is not adequately accounted for by the author - for example, oh, Boromir casually fragging his first patrol captain because he was asked to do routine tasks rather than heroically fight orcs every day, or every one of the Fellowship being homosexual - then alarm bells clang in my head and the story is no longer as enjoyable because it's not 'real' anymore.

I know that in 'the real world' the homosexual population is a minority. This could be deplorable or admirable or neutral, or assigned to many historical or sociological or biological influences that are beyond the scope of this discussion, but it is a fairly well recognized 'fact'. The exact percentage of the population that is 'gay in some form' is open to discussion (see How many are Gay? for links to most of the major surveys.) But even the most generous estimates still put it at under 20% and most surveys put it at under 10%. Given those figures, no more than one of the Fellowship should be gay. And in a truly 'real' situation, the probabilities are that none of them would be. A 'real' exploration of how nine more or less randomly, or deliberately, chosen men on a journey all were gay and their interactions as real people could be a very good story, and could be done in several either funny or serious ways. An author saying "they all just are, it's in the subtext if you read it closely enough, watch me bounce them from bedroll to bedroll" feels inadequate to me as an 'exploration of the vision', although it could make interesting pornography if it had well written sex.

Part of the problem that arises in any discussion of slash, perhaps, is that there is no way to draw a convenient shorthand distinction between stories that are a reasonably mature writer's exploration of the Tolkien canon that assumes that one or more of the principal characters are homosexual and wants to probe into what that means in the context of that universe, and stories that are written because gay sex is a turn on and satisfies in some way. Both kinds of stories can be excellent but in very different manners. Yet they are both called 'slash' undifferentiated, even though they serve far different purposes and should not, in my opinion, be judged by the same criteria.

Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: Queer Discourse and Gender Politics

Given that view of things, I find that slash fanfic *does* provide a good opportunity for a negative social critique (while still telling a good story by a dual—not double—standard that will want to judge how well the fanfic fits the original story as well as how it relates to a dominant social context). If it's hard to find space for an open, affirmed homosexual relationship in Middle-earth, it's an excellent opportunity for a fanfic to show why that is and why that's tragic. I think that this is what I was trying to get at in my original post. I personally believe that Tolkien's social construction of Middle-Earth could only ever have been a destructive one, for men as well as women. Yet many fan fics tend to romanticise his gendered ideals rather than show how damaging they would be. Also, throughout history there has never been a strongly patriarchal society that did not provoke radical female resistance. Even Tolkien had to engage with this fact in his creation (and destruction) of Eowyn. Does this mean that female appropriation of male power is acceptable in Tolkien's world as long as it is ultimately undermined?

 

 

Re: Queer Discourse and Gender Politics

But even the most generous estimates still put it at under 20% and most surveys put it at under 10%. Given those figures, no more than one of the Fellowship should be gay. And in a truly 'real' situation, the probabilities are that none of them would be. Oh dear, please don't get me started on a discussion about 'reality'. Since I could go on for far too long, I'll just make a couple of points. 1) What we consider to be 'real' is always going to be subjective to some extent, defined by what our own experiences of reality have been and what we have been brought up to expect and accept of reality. 2) Our perceptions of reality are usually based on a huge number of submerged ideologies - religious beliefs, philosphical ideas, political agendas, ingrained sociological conditioning. I guess that all I can say in response to your comments is that my perceptions of reality are somewhat different, and that I would ask what or whose reality a figure like 10% is serving rather than accepting it as evidence of what is.

 

 

Re: Queer Discourse and Gender Politics

Hi everyone, I just created a new thread so we can continue talking, but without such a long loading time for slower dial-up/DSL connections. I suggest reposting as needed, and linking to old posts, in order to keep lines of discussion clear. Dwim

 

 

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