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Many y Mano, Why if Fandom Obsessed with Slash?

Updated on February 2, 2015

If you are a regular participant of fandom culture, or even just someone who selected a random post on Tumblr once to see what all the fuss was about, then chances are you are familiar with slash. Slash in this context being the general belief that if a tv show / film has at least two male characters, then those characters must be...ahem...having relations which go beyond the bonds of friendship. Because LOL, of course they are...and normally to the point of requiring an NC-17 rating! Everywhere. All the time!!!

Indeed, I defy anyone to find a search result page on Fanfiction.net that does not feature at least five slash entries (Getting the algorithm to exclude the word slash is cheating). Even the Supernatural fandom is in on the action. The Winchester brothers may be just that, but that has not stopped "#Wincest" from being a thing.

May God have mercy on our souls.

Slash is now such a big all encompassing world that if you are someone who is "not that in to it" then you may find yourself worried that you are at best "the other" and at worst homophobic. Before we go any further, while homophobia can sometimes be a reason for avoiding slash, it is also perfectly possible to be a supporter of LGBT and "not that into" Slash, I am a living example of that. I don't think that anyone happy to see John Watson settle down with a wife instead of Sherlock Holmes should be ashamed of that or forced to analyse their life choices as a result. Likewise, I have nothing against slash...I've even dabbled in it occasionally. I just find the extreme popularity perplexing.

Yet the power of Slash in many fandoms, to the point that those who do not partake can feel like "the other", could be regarded as something of a phenomenon. Especially when one considers the difficult, hostile and sometimes even fatal world that many members of the LGBT community still find themselves living in today.

While not homosexual myself, I am involved in campaigning for LGBT rights. So I know that in the UK especially there has been a lot of furore recently about gay marriage, with many of the opposition actively comparing gay relationships to such illegal acts as beastality, child abuse and watching "The Only Way is Essex". With such a negative opinion from joe public, it is easy to wonder if perhaps fandom is a doorway to a parallel world that no one has noticed opening.

The reason for this may be simply that the people in charge are middle age +, whereas many partakers of active fandom are in the teenage to young adult bracket. One can hope that the strength and popularity of slash is a view of a world of understanding, acceptance and even admiration going forward, especially from the female community...who 9 times out of 9 are the gender actively involved in the ever popular slash fandom.

But...why is it so popular?

"I don't write fics thinking about how many gay/lesbian relationships can I find. I write thinking 'what characters click?'"

Kate has been actively involved in fandom for well over a decade, writing for the Hellsing and Legacy of Kain fandoms, among others.

"When I write Hellsing I see a relationship between Alucard and Walter. They were both in a situation where everybody else in the building was afraid of them, so it's natural that they would form a close friendship. I also write stories where Alucard and Seras have a close/physical relationship. So I supposed you could say that what draws me to slash is the same thing that draws me to any kind of romantic relationship in books. Realism, friendship, and love. If it is believable, then I am more than happy to give it a go."

There is perhaps no right and wrong answer in this continuing question of why Fandom is having a Gay old time of it, but one reason for which the evidence is rather damming is that, really, what choice do they have? If people want to write about a relationship between two fleshed out characters who are on relatively equal footing in terms of development and importance, with relationships based on realism, friendship and love, then really slash is the only way to go.

In the modern world, the vast majority of popular series fail to pass the Bechdel test. Even if they have more than one female character on the regular roster, chances are the only time they actually talk too each other is when they are discussing the male lead(s) and which one they fancy. Whatever men may think, such depictions of girls are not realistic as far as girls are concerned. In fact, it is a very good way to get a female character hated by...ohh...most of the fandom. Subsequently, no one is all that interested in writing such cut out carboard characters. They want to write the interesting, fleshed out ones.

Fleshed out is probably not the best sentence to use there...

The few fandoms where there is actually a closer to 50/50 split between the slash and the depiction of heterosexual relationships also tend to be the fandoms where there is at least one strong, independent female character whose purpose to the narrative is not just being hero's token love interest, or something for them to rescue. Samantha Carter DID the rescuing!

There is the more primal argument as well, that girls tend be the ones writing it and maybe we are just as turned on by man on man as men are by girl on girl (Oh God my parent's are probably going to read this blog). Another which I have seen put forward before is that when exploring emotions and...ahem...desires, writing and reading about such things between two men is safer. You can't identify with either character from a female standpoint, there is nothing vicarious about the experience as you can not put yourself in either position. It is safe...harmless.

Or maybe Slash is just...Slash. Maybe there is no reason for its popularity besides the fact that, like LolCats and "Let's Play" videos, it is just something fun which has hooked the fanbase, and in which everyone can give their own creative spin to. And if it does help to "normalize" LGBT relationships as ones of "realism, friendship and love", then all the better.

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