Have you ever imagined what it’d be like if Kirk and Spock were lovers? No? Well, my friend, you don’t have to imagine because people have imagined for you and have written about their non-existent gay romance for over 40 years. Star Trek birthed the genre called “slash” fiction (for example, Kirk/Spock–the slash indicates a relationship of some sort between the two characters). From the ’70s to the late ’80s, people wrote about Kirk and Spock getting it on in fanzines. With the advent and rising popularity of the internet in the ’90s, fanfiction was able to spread like wildfire and is as active as ever today. If you don’t believe me, there was an “Ultimate Slash Tournament,” hosted by AfterElton.org, where over 500,000 people voted for their favorite slash pairing
You may find it surprising that it’s not predominantly gay men but women (of all sexualities, yes, even gay women) who write male slash fiction. Women writing slash fanfiction are not only subverting the media, but they are playing the roles of “prosumers,” are bringing their own sexual fantasies to the forefront in a society that is somewhat scandalized by female masturbation and general female sexual desires. They are also opening an important discussion of “gender, queerness and feminism,”Noy Thrupkaew writes in an excellent feminist analysis of this subject. She further states,
One critic may posit that slash is a space where female writers can create the “ideal” human in a misogynistic world: male body, male power, female ways of relating. Another will argue that slash provides a space for women to work out their gender issues, a place where they can dump the unwanted restrictions of “femininity.” Slash is gay. Slash isn’t gay. Slash is neither, or a little of both. Slash lets women assert power over men the way the patriarchy asserts power over women. Slash lets women humanize and redraft masculinity. Slash is about nooky. Slash isn’t about sex at all. Slash allows women ways of writing (collaborative, participatory) that subvert male ways of writing (copyrighted, absolute, and closed).
I remember reading about a study where women were proved to react more positively to written erotica (let’s forget Fifty Shades of Grey ever happened) as opposed to visual pornography, while men felt the opposite (one knows this is not representative of every woman, of course). Psychology Today talks about a “pornotopia” and a “romantopia.” In the pornotopia, “sex is all about lust and physical gratification, totally lacking in courtship, commitment, durable relationships, or mating effort.” In the “romantopia,” there is plot, character development, and sensual sex. Slash would fit under the dome of the “romantopia.”
I know I’ve only scratched the surface here. There are more questions that are being asked (and answered and promptly debated). Is slash appropriating gay men? Why are most slash couples mainly two white dudes? What are the demographics of the women writing this slash fiction? Why is slash fiction a taboo but lesbian porn completely accepted?
Think about it. I will too and perhaps some of my answers will merit future blog posts.