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07 December 2011 @ 06:57 pm
More on fandom and slash, this time with STATS and numbers.  
Over the weekend, someone was arguing with me over how slash is really a small subsection of fandom and isn't really the new fandom majority. I know from experience that that's not true, but could not find any stats. But then it occured to me that a good way to break down the numbers would be to search for these cateories on AO3 and analyzing the numbers that get returned.

I think AO3 is a good archive for this sort of research because FFN has been around for a very long time, but slash proliferation has mostly occursed in the last ten years or so. So AO3 is a good reflection of current trends.

Here are the numbers, mostly so I can link people to this when this happens again.

Femslash: 1930 fics. (14.8%)
Het: 2167 fics. (16.6%)
Slash: 8924 fics. (68.5%)

So slash amounts to more than twice the amont of femslash AND het put together, as indicated by the authors in their fics' keywords, which ends up being nearly 70% of the relationship-tagged fic. Those percentages don't exactly add up to 100% because I rounded to the nearest single digit after the decimal, so there's about a 0.01% discrepency there.

I am also interested in how femslash and het amounts to roughly the sameish percent. I don't want to draw conclusions here, but in my experience, women-positive readers are equally open to het and femslash? But I also wonder if the results are not entirely accurate because I...would've expected het to have been significantly more prominent than femslash.

Then I did a search for terms m/m, f/m, and f/f, and results are a bit better, but still show slash outnumbering both by a good margin. Percentages rounded to the nearest second digit after the decimal because I apparently have no respect for consistency:

M/M: 165554 fics. (58.97%)
F/F: 62341 fics. (22.20%)
M/F: 52832 fics. (18.82%)

And here femslash outnumbers het, so I really am wondering about these numbers and would love some insight. Of course, this does not include gen fic, and it probably includes fic that has both or has one or the other as a secondary ship, but unfortunately, there's no way to filter for that that I know of. But this still presents a rough estimate, I suppose.

Are there other archives/communities where I can do this sort of data collection, friendslist? Feel free to post numbers from ficathons and archives you're familiar with in the comments. I would love some more data on this.

ALSO! These numbers make me want to have a "Raise the Percentage" femslash ficathon. Because, you know, it'd be awesome if we could.

In other news, I see that my last post has gotten linked on tumblr and is being taken out of context and apparently, I was complaining about m/m relationships in fiction (I was not.)  When it was mostly about how the only role women seem to have in most popular narratives is to be the romantic interests. I think it's a good thing that fandom, in general, has gotten less homophobic, but it would be lovely if we could see some of that come out without an exclusive preference for white male characters and if some of that led to femslash.

Dear fandom, reading/writing fanfiction that turns white, heterosexual men into gay men while ignoring and writing out women and people of color is, in fact, not primarily about gay rights or feminism, no matter what you tell yourself. We can talk about intersectionality of slash fiction when, you know, slash starts being about people other than pretty, white heterosexual men with positions of power and agency within their own narratives. Or, you know, when femslash isn't something you actively have to hunt down. Meanwhile, I'll continue to see the proliferation of slash (and not slash as a genre itself) as a manifestation of how patriarchal narratives train women (and men!) to mostly care about and identify with (white!) male characters while writing women and people of color out.

Honestly, other than the actual sex, it's not very different from early American fiction? Which, in fact, was interpreted as subtextually homoerotic for its deep bonds between men and no presence of women by Leslie Fiedler, who was then happily shunned from the literary society of his day. So the only thing that's changed is that fandom isn't afraid of sex or homoeroticism, while the rest of the society (and most notably Hollywood) hasn't progressed much beyond early American fiction where women still continue to be marginalized in almost all but the romance-centric narratives. Which pretty much means that the ONLY thing a lot of fiction needs women for is, well, sex. /bitter
lilacsigil: 12 Apostleslilacsigil on December 8th, 2011 01:20 am (UTC)
In my experience, lots of slashers and femslashers post to AO3, lots of het writers post to forums and fandom-specific archives *because* there's so many of them and they're very comfortable there. I see more slashers on multi-fandom archives because there's a lot of cross-fandom continuance (e.g. lots of Inception slashers moved to XMFC and Avengers), femslashers because there's few fandom-specific femslash archives since the days of Xena.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to see the proliferation of slash (and not slash as a genre itself) as a manifestation of how patriarchal narratives train women (and men!) to mostly care about and identify with (white!) male characters while writing women and people of color out.

Yes, and I appreciate that you're phrasing this as the prevalence of slash rather than any particular writer (personally I write gen, femslash, slash and het) because talking about YOU OVER THERE doing it wrong is unhelpful, but talking about why this is a trend and how it fits into historical writing trends is useful and interesting.

Then again, there were a huge number of women writers around in the 19th century (not to mention letter-writing, which reminds me a lot of LJ), just not as respected or re-published!
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Big Love:  Sister-wivesprozacpark on December 8th, 2011 02:01 am (UTC)
You're right, and I hadn't considered het-only communities, especially when the het ship is vaguely canon. Good point, as much as it fraustrates me that I cannot get ACCURATE stats. ;) I know there was an LJ user who used to do stats on Yuletide requests and fic turn-out, specifically in terms of looking at femslash vs. slash. I may have to hunt down those entries.

Yeah, when people take you out of context, it's possible that they're being willfully ignorant, but it's also totally possible that you didn't clarify enough. So I wanted to make sure that I got it across that I don't have a problem with slash as a genre, and actually, I had quite a history of slashing before the proliferation of men in fanfiction made it so I mostly only care about female-centered narratives these days, which sort of limits me to het, femslash, and gen. But the trend is interesting (and the proliferation problematic) and worth looking at in terms of how/why women consume fiction.

Of course, women's literature is never considered WORTHY until men start participating in it in some form. When the novel emerged as a popular fictional form in the 19th century, 'true literary artists' turned their noses at it, but I suspect it was largely because it was mainly being written and consummed by women. And once men started writing novels, they somehow became elevated to the level of timeless and epic literature.

And I have no idea if this is still around in slash circles, but when I participated in those, there definitely was a feel of how slash was TRENDIER than het or femslash with WOMEN. But now I feel that we still have this attitude about slash somehow being BETTER (Lyssie's comment below about how 'good' fic writer somehow gets equated with slashers, which I have also seen a good deal of), but can we still call it edgy when it's a majority in a large number of fandoms?

lilacsigil: 12 Apostleslilacsigil on December 8th, 2011 02:50 am (UTC)
I think in the case of AO3, there's a perception that the originators were recruiting the "better" writers when in fact they were recruiting their friends, many of whom were primarily slash writers. There's obviously a knock-on effect there, where people see their friends and people in their communities posting to AO3 and follow them there. I do agree that slash is considered trendy, but I haven't seen it called edgy in about 6-7 years (slash been a big thing in X-Men fandom for about 15 years now).

Yeah, I used to write a lot of slash and when I do now, such as in the XMM ficathon this year, it still tends to be in a woman-centred story. In my case (and I'm DEFINITELY not speaking for anyone else here) I used to be the kind of baby feminist who thinks that being feminist is all about claiming male privilege and saying pink/girls/feminine things are icky and boy stuff is cool: therefore writing the "main" heroes is feminist (though at least this included Scully!). When I got to know more geeky women, I realised that I was being an idiot and what I liked was geeky stuff and while that may be gendered in popular media, I could choose how I participated. And then I started to read and write more about female characters.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Buffy:  frenemies <3prozacpark on December 9th, 2011 03:23 am (UTC)
Yeah, 6-7 years would be right around when I stopped slashing for the most part, which is around the time I discovered comicbooks and X-men and the draught of femslash made me focus only on that because how is it even possible that Rachel/Kitty isn't an EPIC fandom OTP? Sigh, I'll never understand this.

Culturally, we get trained to think feminine things are inferior, so that's a step a lot of feminists go through? And unfortunately, a lot of feminists never get beyond that. Which is part of why the whole "strong women" thing in fandom sometimes makes me worry because fandom has a very specific idea of STRONG, whereas, I tend to like characters for their weaknesses and flaws, so I half want to add "weak female characters" as an LJ interest. ;) Because I enjoy all women in fiction, and we need variety to fight the streotypes. And what you said about reclaiming your geeky narratives makes a lot of sense to me. I admit that when I am consuming a new media, I often anticipate getting through it really fast so I can get to all the fanfic about all the WOMEN in the text. Few texts have women as the main protagonist (and I admit that even when they do, I often end up falling for the women in the background since I do tend to lean towards anti-heroines), but that's a gap fanfic fills for me by telling me stories about the women canon didn't care for, which is part of why I get so fraustrated when I see women slowly disappearing from fanfiction.
entertaining in a disturbing way: Chiana and Jool yaylyssie on December 8th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
Er, I think using AO3 numbers might skew it towards boyslash, as the people running it are big in the boyslash community, iirc? Or at least were, at one time or another.

Also, a lot of people don't have any interest in AO3, and their.... advertising? idek, but I've gotten the impression they're mostly interested in luring in the 'good' fic authors, so of course there's lots of boyslash.

But I do agree that it's a vast majority over het and f/f in many many places.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Farscape:  Aeryn & Sikozuprozacpark on December 8th, 2011 02:10 am (UTC)
Firstly, I feel like you're engaging in a shipper war with me through your icon. ;)

Secondly, hmm, I hadn't heard of that, but given what I know about Yuletide mods (and I believe they're involved with AO3), the thing about boyslash is true. AO3 is also sort of seen and promoted as the new, edgy thing? Which is also the perception of slash, or was initially when it was growing? I haven't been in slash circles in...a very long time, so I honestly don't know how they're labeling themselves these days, but yeah, from what I know of, that would fit.

I wonder what other archive might I hunt for better numbers! Really, even fandom specific ones. Like, I know the Stargate ones i hunted for Sam and Vala fic tended to have a significant amount of slash and I was always slightly surprised that there was so much more of it than vaguely canon het, but I do not remember the numbers. I also know that the recent X-men First Class ficathon had only a handful of requests that weren't Charles/Erik, etc.

And there's definitely a perception in fandom about slash writers being 'good' writers, and have you seen the amount of feedback they get on their het and femslash? Even if a lot of it is "I don't usually like Said Female Character, but you made me read icky femslash/het." I wonder if slashers would retain their fans if they switched exclusively to femslash or het, but that would be interesting to see.

entertaining in a disturbing way: Kitty Pryde and Pete Wisdom know adorabllyssie on December 8th, 2011 02:47 am (UTC)
LOL. It wasn't intentional, that's the first femslashy icon on the alphabetical listing.

I think it's going to be hard to get numbers, as most archives aren't... tagged so that you can sort by that sort of preference?

I tried a search on ff'net, though, which turned up:
slash: 106,428
m/m 101,636

femslash: 7855
fslash: 13
femmeslash: 1988
f/f 7143

het: 4574
m/f: 1240
f/m (returns same results as m/f): 1240

(by using the search, and searching through fic summaries).

Off the top of my head, I don't think ANY of my fic is tagged as 'het'. The femslash that's on ff'net is noted as such, though.

ARGH. I didn't mean to start on that perception, but I was distracted. *goes back to trying to get the bead out of her keyboard*
a few prawns short of a galaxyglitterberrys on December 8th, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
Dunno, I consider myself woman-positive but I love m/m fic.

Also, it seems that specific m/m pairings just generate a FUCKTON of fic. I blame Supernatural for 20% of the fic that exists in the world :P
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: X-men:  Rachel/Kitty - gravityprozacpark on December 8th, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)
Women-positive people are allowed to write/read/like slash. I only worry about people who read/write/like slash EXCLUSIVELY or have a strong preference for it to a degree that they find most female characters boring/annoying. There tend to be female characters that these slashers sometimes adopt and like, but the trend of being bored by/actively hating most other women stands.

And yeah, m/m pairings do generate a lot of fic, and I am interested in the dynamics that made het fall out of favor and made slash the new fandom trend.

Thinking of Supernatural fic always reminds me of that horribly racist slash novel fanfic that someone wrote for Supernatural big bang. So I sort of fear all fanfic in that fandom, I admit! ;)
a few prawns short of a galaxyglitterberrys on December 8th, 2011 02:37 am (UTC)
I don't actually know anything about Supernatural - I tried to get into it when it first started and just hated it - but I do know that EVERY DAMN TIME i got looking for fic, I hve to wade through a million spn fics.
Bears and Butterfliesgoldjadeocean on December 8th, 2011 02:45 am (UTC)
A great Supernatural fic that also shows the fandom (and is wonderfully meta about fandom and what we do) is The Chuck Writes Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography.
lm = panavatarlm on December 9th, 2011 01:50 am (UTC)
As someone who will equally go for het, femslash or slash, I write and read fic based on which characters I like. Fanfic is inherently dependent on the source material. And keeping that in mind...IMHO there seem to be, in general, more unlikable female characters than male characters, and more appealing relationships between men that could be interpreted as slash, than similar relationships between women. This has been my experience EVEN THOUGH I tend to gravitate toward stories with strong female characters. So I think the resulting fic is bound to reflect this to one degree or another, and that is definitely going to show up in the statistics.

I also might add that, on the smut front...people are going to write smut about what actually turns them on. Fanfic is female-dominated. In my experience, it's pretty common for straight women to fantasize about two men fucking in the same way that it's pretty common for straight men to fantasize about two women fucking. So if we assume that the majority of female fanfic authors are hetero (I seem to have always existed in a bubble where the vast majority of the fic authors I knew were queer, yet have ALWAYS been told that most fic writers are hetero women--so I don't know whether it's true or not) then it would stand to reason that a big fat chunk 'o' the smut out there would be menslash.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Vampire Diariesprozacpark on December 10th, 2011 12:57 pm (UTC)
I can't comment on the first half, because I generally find the male characters (with their unchecked privilege issues) a lot more unlikable than female characters (where even if they're acting in questionable ways, the narratives tend to leave their motivations vague, leaving me to make up awesome ones. ;) However, I can understand why the lack of authorial intent in the case of most female characters can make them seem less...well-defined. And there's definitely a lack of f/f friendships, yes, and it doesn't help that even when they *are* there, they get pushed to the background. I only needed to watch one episode of "Secret Circle" to see how all the epic Diana/Cassie interaction had been replaced by Cassie/Adam now because apparently, that's the interesting and original relationship to explore? Sigh.

So I agree that all of those things (including the smut bit) play a role in this, but there's still the general disregard for female characters in certain slash circles. Even in fandoms with multiple and epic women who are being written well. My preference for fictional women aside, I am generally good at telling whether a female character is being written well as a person of her own or being written horrible and/or in relation to a man's story, but this makes no difference in terms of which women fandom decides to dislike or dismiss or how much fandom slashes.
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Bears and Butterfliesgoldjadeocean on December 8th, 2011 02:42 am (UTC)
I'm so happy with this post for articulating something I've thought for a long time. I think there's this giant, culture-wide conviction that women do not star in interesting stories. I think this especially comes out when the woman is seen as more feminine--I can't COUNT the number of people who saw the third Pirates of the Carribean movie and said, "So at the end, Elizabeth spends ten years doing NOTHING?" when it was really a blank slate--she was left with a lot of resources, motivations, and responsibilities, but people just assumed she wasn't doing anything interesting. So if a woman isn't in a relationship, she wants one; and once she's in one, she's weak and powerless and uninteresting.


(I myself am interested in always/already genderswap--Antonia Stark, Danika Jackson, etc. etc.--because so often, the female counterpart who has done all the same things as the original male character is still portrayed as more dysfunctional, less socially connected, more addicted, and less altruistic than him. I think it says something.)

Edited at 2011-12-08 02:44 am (UTC)
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Bollywood:  Devdas femslash OTPprozacpark on December 10th, 2011 01:53 pm (UTC)
My feminist lit theory professor drilled the "Gender is Genre" into us over and over, and was big on comparing similar patterns of stories starring men and women and how they were culturally recieved. It was one of the most interesting and enlightening classes I have ever taken, which is to say YES, there is definitely a perception that women's stories are not INTERESTING stories because they don't do epic things. And when they do do epic things, they're generally disliked for abandon more traditionally 'feminine' pursuits. This is another reason I see slash as problematic, because it really is a product of a culture that continually writes women out of narratives so men can bond over more important things, even in a platonic context. And that really can't just be a coincidence.

"So if a woman isn't in a relationship, she wants one; and once she's in one, she's weak and powerless and uninteresting."

THIS, yes. I need to do meta on women and how the only happy endings they're given are romantic ones and the fandom/narrative fail that leads to. Meanwhile: I think that's a huge part of it? Because an insanely large proportion of our narratives can ONLY give women happy endings in the form of romantic fulfilment, I think people tend to see women in happy relationships as boring because the only story to be told with them has already been told. And they really can't figure out what else she could be doing. Men go out and have adventures, form epic bonds with other men, have epic destinies, etc, but women mostly just exist of star in some man's story and once she's done that, her story somehow ends. This perceptions, that's been conditioned into most people through our metanarratives, is deeply problematic, of course.

AND YES! Same goes for Starbuck on BSG, with the gender reversed. Where's the Male!Starbuck's hard-drinking, risk-taking, and all the sexing were part of his personality, but the Female!Starbuck's drinking, risk-taking, and sexing were a part of her 'issues' and heavily implied to be self-destructive behavior stemming out of her childhood abuse. There's very much a perception of these things being 'unnatural' for women and needing to be explained while with men it's hand-waved with a "boys will be boys" mentality.

Edited at 2011-12-10 01:58 pm (UTC)
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hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: TSCC:  Jessie and Rileyprozacpark on December 10th, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)

(Or maybe I'm just not understanding this labeling system...Or maybe slash is more likely to be explicitly claimed and tagged as such, while het fic that's often vaguely canon isn't necessarily as consistently labeled?)

Hmm. I didn't really compare the two sets of numbers to each other, but you're right. That does seem very low, and at first, I thought that AO3 just wasn't very large? But comparing them to the second set of numbers does show a huge discrepency. So probably, the tagging system of f/f, m/m, and f/m is the more popular choice. Which would give us almost 53,000 het fics.

major "historical" boyslash fandoms, which may skew numbers somewhat.

THIS. And I admit that I tend to get a lot more bitter about this around Yuletide time when I want fanfic in small, possibly literature-based fandoms and they've been disqualified because of how much m/m slash there is, but the female characters still haven't been written about much or at all. Thus more skewing of numbers, sigh.

And yeah, I tend to think that slash communities are self-sustaining, too, and most fandoms tend to have a m/m OTP along with the canon het OTP these days.

And I do think there's a constant tendency to think that slash of any kind, either m/m or f/f is "better" than het, which is boring and canon, which may lead those ship communities to be a little more set apart and self-sustaining?

This is true, and this is been my experience, too, in the fanfic and meta sides of fandom. But, of course, given the tragic lack of f/f, this does end up being very much "M/M slash is better than het," and given the general metanarrative idea that stories about men are superior to stories about women, it's sort of hard for me to not think that the slash love is at least a little related to that cultural conditioning? Like, love stories with women are still largely classified as 'romance,' but fiction with m/m bonding/relationships has this whole air of transcendence, where it surpasses romance. Which goes as far back as Plato, and I think that once the Greeks went out of fashion, literature mostly took a platonic take on it, but now it's coming back around to its more slashy roots almost.

But also, doesn't it say something if the "Archive of Our Own," created "by fans, for fans" for fans to own the servers, and all that, is such a major hub of m/m slash and not nearly as much a center for anything else? Which I suppose is a different point than the purely statistical one you're going for here.

I am always more interested in what the numbers MEAN than just the actual numbers, so it's totally in line with my interests. ;) I mean, there was a Supernatural meta I came across recently which was basically arguing "Look! Men and women die in EQUAL numbers! And numbers don't lie, therefore, there is NO sexism on this show." With no accounting for the fact that there are a lot more men or how much screen time each gender got, or how the narrative treated/killed them, ETC. *headdesks* But, YES, I don't think that AO3 numbers, however skewed, are insignificant because that's still a large portion of fandom, and possibly a trend-setting one?
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Twin Peaks:  Audrey and Donnaprozacpark on December 10th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC)
You seem to always induce (more) wordiness in me. ;) But continued:

"And, well, I've been thinking lately about how I see more white m/m couples on television (not a lot, of course, and not nearly enough, but still, canon m/m relationships) who have no fandom of any size. "

That's a good point, and one of the things I was initially going to ask in the post itself and then forgot about was just that: do fandoms with canon gay m/m couples get nearly as much fic? I have no idea, so I don't want to draw conclusions, but I wouldn't be surprised if the fandom thrives on subtext? (And I can't blame them for that, I probably ship Patty/Ellen harder than I do most canon ships my shows throw at me, so.) But it does sort of seem like most of them are more interested in pretending straight men are gay and not so much in shipping actual gay men, who would, I assume, have underprivileged positions in the narrative, limiting their visibility and possibly appeal. So, yes, I also feel that the "intersectionality" argument coming from most people is somewhat of a derailment technique.

And on your last point about generalizing, I have read some good meta by slashers that's made some very excellent points about treatment of women in fiction? So I do think that slashers, as fans, are slightly more likely to see problems with the portrayal of women in fiction than most other fans? But whereas my reaction to seeing these problems is to drop that canon and find something with better portrayals of women, slashers tend to...shift the focus on men, while holding on that narrative. So their response to seeing the problems is exactly the opposite of what I tend to do, which I don't exactly know how to analyze? I mean, it's good that they're seeing issues with the way women are portrayed, but I also feel that this subset of slashers is SETTLING? IDK, sigh.
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hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Bollywood:  Devdas femslash OTPprozacpark on December 10th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
Yes, that. At the very least, I would say that het didn't start getting labeled as such until after slash started emerging as a significant subgenre.

And yes, more femslash would definitely make me happier, too. I mean, I like het and femslash equally depending on who I am shipping at the moment? But femslash tends to be a lot more trigger-free for me, while het tends to set off my issues with romance narratives in general.

Also, the world could use more female-centric gen fic!
M: Merlin - Gwen/Morganamfirefly10 on December 8th, 2011 07:23 am (UTC)
As someone who visits AO3 on a semi-regular basis (mostly because I like to back-up my favorite fics by saving them as bookmarks/favorites on as many sites as possible) I'm pretty certain that femslash is in no way more prevalent than het. At least not in any fandoms that don't already skew more toward femslash (LotS, for example). Like on any other site, I've had to really hunt for f/f on AO3, whereas het was much easier to just stumble across, though m/m slash still appears to far outweigh het, femslash + gen.

I think it's a good thing that fandom, in general, has gotten less homophobic, but it would be lovely if we could see some of that come out without an exclusive preference for male characters and if some of that led to femslash.

Ugh, that would be nice, wouldn't it?!
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Vampire Diaries:  Caroline/Bonnieprozacpark on December 10th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I do think that a lot of het, especially canon het, is likely getting labeled as gen fic or not labeled at all because fandom never seems to agree on exactly what gen fic is.

Really, just searching the archives based on the name of a female character (which is what I usually do, since I tend to more obsess over a single character and ship her with everyone than ship based on actual shipping), and just based on those searches, I tend to notice two things: Not a lot of fic turns up unless it's a female protagonist of the given fandom, and barely any femslash.
Mmfirefly10 on December 11th, 2011 12:48 am (UTC)
I just took a quick peak at my 'history' (fics I've bookmarked to read/have read recently) and not one of them was labeled as het/femslash/slash/etc. The only ones that were labeled were the poly-fics and even they were only listed as 'threesome' fic, two of which didn't even specify if it was f/m/m or f/f/m or all m/all f. Hmm.
jessicajones_1: jessica jones sadjessicajones_1 on December 9th, 2011 01:36 am (UTC)
Hasn't slash always been an integral part of fan fiction, though? It's as old as Kirk/Spock after all.

Read something kind of interesting today, if you haven't seen this:

You might like this comment by Excession77 (I'll quote relevant bits):

"fanfiction is still seen as geekier than geeky, the pursuit only of the friendless, usually female internet nerd, creating panting fantasies, riven with author insertions"

Somewhat unfortunate sentence but lets unpack.

What most internet surfers of old think of when someone mentions fanfic is 'slash' fanfic (canonically, sex scenes involving Kirk and Spock, ...the 'insertions' come thick and fast to a degree that some Queer theorists find deeply offensive). Interestingly this literature is created and consumed almost exclusively by women...

Another interesting trope... is of course 'Mary Sue', the perfect, mysterious and all-attracting authorial representative in fiction.

It seems to me both slash and 'Mary Sue' are interesting phenomena in their own right. One feminist account of slash has been that it reflects frustrations with the failure to include strong female characters in older 'fandom' shows, certainly slash seems phenomenally different from gay fanfic (as it were) in much the same way 'lesbian' pornography for a male audience is different from lesbian erotica proper. Mary Sue is perhaps a similar response to the same problem given that she is added into the continuity (e.g., Mary Sue rocks up on Starship Enterprise and instantly has most of the crew trying to woo her but perhaps only after she has saved the mission by being better than everyone else at their respective jobs). Having said that, as TV has changed it seems neither Slash or Mary Sue are going anywhere; Buffy has no shortage of strong female characters, but Buffy fanfic has no shortage of Spike/Angel shenanigans either.

I'm not sure where that feminist account of slash comes from, but it's an interesting idea.
lilacsigil: destiny mystiquelilacsigil on December 9th, 2011 02:47 am (UTC)
Slash has been around since at least the 60s, but it was usually somewhat separate from other fic (e.g. there'd be mailing lists for the fandom and separate slash mailing lists) until about 1996.

Oh, Guardian article! Of course, no women who write slash would be queer, or Queer, or queer theorists... That's just silly! And of course Joss Whedon wouldn't have confirmed Spike/Angel, that's just silly too!
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: DAII:  Isabela/Swords OTPprozacpark on December 10th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
I have seen that argument before. However...when I am exposed to fiction that doesn't have interesting women in it, I tend to get bored and move on. So it seems a bit odd to me that a feminist's response to seeing a lack of strong female characters would be to say, "Hmm, okay, fine, I'll just focus on the men." I mean, it's entirely *okay* to like slash fic because you think you people are hot. I mean, I don't have much canon basis for shipping Morrigan and Alistair except that I enjoy the antagonism, and they're hot together. So I get that. But I will not claim that I am shipping Morrigan and Alistair in the name of social justice because that's kind of problematic. So slash is not problematic in itself, but claiming that one is shipping hot straight men for gay rights or women's rights (which happens all the time) gets into all kinds of issues.

Then there's the fact that slash is prevelant even in fandoms with multiple and awesome female characters. The Dragon Age Kink Meme stats tell me that there are 1800 slash fics to 1000 het, and while I realize that 1800 includes femslash as well, I know how little femslash fanfic there is because I have been going through all of it slowly, and saving all the femslash, and I have maybe about 20 links so far. So it's a fandom wide trend, and it doesn't help that people who slash also tend to be people going on about how Isabela is a slut or Anora is an evil bitch. So even when there *are* interesting women in canon, a lot of slashers dismiss them so they can continue to focus on the men. Which just leads me to...draw conclusions.

I also wonder how true that whole "slash is as old as fanfic" thing is or how they're defining fanfic? Because from what I understand, Jane Austen fanfic existed well before Star Trek, but we also have a history of cultural narratives like Greek Mythology and Arthurian Legends, where poets and writers would take characters like Lancelot and Guinevere, who were not romantically involved in earlier traditions, and wrote them into an epic romance, or how a french poet in the 12th century took the totally unconnected characters of Troilus and Cressida from Trojan War mythology and wrote a romance about them, which both Shakespeare and Chaucer later picked up and popularized in their works. So while they didn't have the internet to make their shipping more prominent, they were totally shipping and possibly inventing fanfic. ;)
(Anonymous) on December 10th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
True. I know Sherlock Holmes has had fanfic since it's creation. I wonder if it was ever Holmes/Watson slashy? It def is now.

And you're right... I've always contended that Greek myth is basically fan fic - Hercules is a total Gary Stu ;)

The Dragon Age fandom is interesting. I don't know how long you've been in it, but when I started it was one of the least slashy fandoms I'd ever seen. Most of the protagonists were a female Warden, and I'd guess 70% of the fics were f!Cousland/Alistair. And then DA2 came out and it took a sharp turn. I'm not sure why, exactly... but Fenders is much more popular than Alistair/Zev ever was, for example, and I see way more m!Hawke than I ever saw m!Warden. Maybe because they are canon bisexual? Maybe because we all hate women? ;) I'm not sure.
Syl's DarkPlacesylsdarkplace on December 15th, 2012 12:50 am (UTC)
"So slash is not problematic in itself, but claiming that one is shipping hot straight men for gay rights or women's rights (which happens all the time) gets into all kinds of issues."

I read and write boyslash, and while I'm a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights in RL, I've never considered my writing to be part of that. None of the writers or readers I know on LJ do either. Admittedly, I've only been a part of one fandom. (Although I've been writing boyslash in my head since I started having sexual fantasies and wrote my first original in high school, which was pre-internet btw).

The only time I've heard that attitude expressed has been among shippers on Tumblr. They use it to try to justify making a particular ship canon on the series. Their argument being that making an M/M ship canon would be good for LGBTQ rights. They are not taken seriously by most members of the fandom.
Running on Coffee and Schadenfreudearcadiasilver on December 12th, 2012 05:07 am (UTC)
So what you're saying is, is that Dan Savage writes most of the fic on AO3?

Okay okay that was a cheap shot, but still...

Others have waxed far more lyrical than I can in regards to ingrained misogyny that leads to readers rejecting, judging, or just ignoring female characters for their perceived lack of heroism or relatability. Its a pretty glaring example of internalized misogyny that women fans reel away from the experiences of female characters and honing in on male characters.

But what gets me just as concerned is the...well, air of moral superiority that some slash fans carry around. And I don't mean in the snobbish, trendy hipster way of "oh aren't we cool for ~going against the mainstream~" but of "our gay buttsex fic makes us total advocates of gay rights and your het is so oppressive". Disregarding the fact that there are slash fans who openly oppose marriage equality in real life because some real life gay men are not the hunky, sexy dreamboats who love to shop and scrapbook and drink "sissy" cocktails at clubs. Its literally a genderflipped version of "lesbians are cool, so long as they're hot and they'll make out in front of me". And there is this sense of fetishizing gay men and their sexuality that comes with some slash. Its not about exploring a different kind of relationship that is supposedly free of heterosexual gender roles (god, the seme/uke thing bothers me), its smut thats written with the express purpose of getting the (presumed) heterosexual woman reader all hot and bothered.

And there's nothing wrong with that! Just don't act like writing hilariously inaccurate anal sex makes you some advocate for equality. Own up that its written for your personal enjoyment.

And thank you for pointing out how racist slash tends to be. You'd figure that, in the fandom sandbox of fanfic, PoC characters would be more prominent, more written about. But they're all but invisible. Canonically gay black men are absent. Black men who have prominent relationships with the white male protagonists are gone from slash fic, despite being the ideal fodder. (A great example I was shown was the Marvel Movie Universe: look at the two black male characters, Rhodes and Nick Fury. Steve/Tony is one of, if not the most written about pairing, followed by Bruce/Tony, and even Loki/Tony. But Rhodes, his vitriolic best bud who he has a conflicted relationship with, lots of emotional drama, lots of angst, is never paired with him despite all of this. Nick Fury, who has a wide variety of relationships with all the characters remains essentially asexual in the fandom mind. Go ahead, try and find a fic where these two are a part of the main romantic tension. Good luck.)I actually think that femslash leads the way on both slash and het in this regard. At least more fandoms are open to exploring the queer sexualities of WoC, but that's also probably related to how WoC are fetishized in main stream culture.

(I mean, we call it "femslash" too. The feminized version of male "slash". Even in this case, female experiences and sexualities and queer experiences are othered. Blegh.)

Also, don't forget that Female Success Means Family. Doesn't matter how dedicated to a cause, their career, or even their voiced desires to not have children, the Ultimate Reward for females is always babies. Even if they don't give birth to them, they'll always end up with a child.(Side eyes Aliens) And once they've completed their Life's Task of giving their heroic male lead progeny, they will never have adventures again, unless its one of those Swiss Family Robertson deals.

And lets not even touch the fact that if the protagonist wants you? He'll have you. You will eventually fall in love with him and submit to his advances, despite your earlier vocal protests to the contrary.
(Anonymous) on December 12th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
Stats can be misleading
I don't see how there being less porn of women in a women-dominated community as a problem. Most women are straight, statistically. And most fanfic writers are women. Many straight women don't have much as much of an interest in reading about lesbian relationships. When you only include fanfiction that is het, fem slash or male slash, you're mostly including pornographic fanfiction. The media as a whole mostly sexualizes women. I think it's more interesting, and possibly even encouraging, that women are inverting this trend in sexual fiction they are creating themselves. It's been my experience that fans of male/male media are sick of the trite and sexist elements of heterosexual relationships in the media and thus don't write about it.

What about fanfiction as a whole? It would probably be harder to calculate if there are more male characters than women (maybe even impossible to calculate). My point is that it's unfair to assume that just because a small subset of women prefer male/male sexuality to female/female or female/male that they do not read or write about strong female characters in other contexts.
Helluin: Rikku/Luluauronlu on February 13th, 2014 12:42 am (UTC)
I wonder if there is any correlation between fic length and gender of main pairing.

This is a bizarre thing to wonder, except:

in my own particular corner of fandom, there have been a few different f/f drabble comms. And then we all archive our drabbles on AO3 (not ff.net, so much, just because of when these comms were active...largely after the LJ-to-DW diaspora, which meant fandom as a whole became more fragmented, which meant the rise of AO3 as a place to stash stuff. And ff.net is officially not going to host pr0n, although actually it does, with erratic purges).

Anyway. The result of those f/f drabble comms, in the Final Fantasy chunk of fandom, is that AO3 has a lot of f/f drabbles, but they're short, somewhat easier to write and digest than 1200-5000 word pr0n or shipfics with story arcs. Which means that f/f outnumbering het in some subsections may be an artifact of drabbles outnumbering longfic in some subsections.

Are there het drabble comms? I haven't seen any other drabble comms since the early 2000s, and they were kinda gen.
Are there active slash drabble comms?
It's always so hard to tell whether one's own experience is subjective, selective, nonrepresentative.

At any rate, speaking as a bi woman who writes female-centric fic: THIS. The lack of female-centric writing by a largely female writing community baffles me. Why are more women not writing from women's POV, regardless of what gender you prefer for the partner?

Edited at 2014-02-13 12:47 am (UTC)
startrekwriter: TPringstartrekwriter on February 13th, 2014 01:44 am (UTC)
One reason I think slash dominates in fanfic is because there are pretty rosey opportunities for het writers who choose to go pro.

I wrote fanfic for 3 years, and then at my husband's nagging started to self-publish. I think within the next 3 years I won't need a day job anymore.

It's a great feeling--and I can write romances between men and women the way I want to write them! I actually like writing female characters who by certain definitions might appear "weak", but who are actually strong minded and willing to fight and die for what they believe is right.
dreamingjewel on March 24th, 2014 12:23 pm (UTC)
I saw part of your post on tumblr. I think the issues you have raised are valid and very telling.
I think on the issue of race and fan fiction,of any stripe, there is a clear lack. Heterosexual romance is only for young, conventionally attractive white women, because they are the only ones that "deserve" romance with the conventionally attractive or wounded soul white man. Femslash is pretty white from what I have seen, and slash follows in the same vein.
There seems to be a deep denial, in some quarters, about the fact fanfic reflects the dominant culture, which is racist and sexist. Homosexuality is fetisized , bisexuality erased from the equation and gender in performed in very
limited fashion. Whenever a major character of color arrives on the scene, both het and slash fans typically do the same thing try to ignore, sideline or try the " there is no evidence, they're just friends or I don't see it" arguments. The only way for this to change is fans on the margins creating spaces for writing and developing fanfic for themselves. I see this to a degree in Sleepy Hollow, Scandal and Almost Human fandoms. The problem is there is much more image sharing than stories being written, but hopefully this will rectify itself.