Straight (White) Women Writing About Men Bonking?

Complicating our understanding of gender and sexuality in fandom

Authored by: Mel Stanfill

The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Communication

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138329188
eBook ISBN: 9780429448317
Adobe ISBN:


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One of the key findings in the first wave of fan studies research was both the existence of slash fan fiction that romantically pairs men who are not gay in the source texts and the fact that these stories were written by heterosexual women. This was seen as a way for people ill-served by media to rework media texts to meet their needs, as well as for people who were discouraged from sexual agency to claim such agency and explore desire, and therefore interpreted as progressive. Each of the components of this narrative have been complicated by subsequent research. Fans are not necessarily heterosexual, either because they hold an identity as lesbian, bisexual, or queer or because writing fan fiction is a practice of eroticism between women. Fan fiction is also not exclusively written about pairs of men, as research into femslash has shown. Fans are not all women, which has been explored by studies of the role of masculinity in fandom. Research has also complicated the ways that the formulation “straight women” in early fan studies had an implicit modifier of “white,” with scholars both interrogating the role of unexamined whiteness in fandom and pushing to explore the particular experiences of fans of color. Finally, research is beginning to unravel the ways that fandom is not necessarily progressive, including the role of whiteness as politically regressive, the ways slash fiction and its writers can be homophobic, and the role of homonormativity in producing fan desires for domesticity, childbearing, and property ownership as the goal of fan fiction and media representation alike.

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