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23 June 2003 @ 07:52 pm
mad, long babble  
I was thinking more over lunch about fandom and slash and dysfunction, and--in the spirit of WWBKD?--I decided that I'd attempt to probe further in the hope of finding new levels of brutal, unappealing honesty. Go, me.

I'm very conscious of the format of my thoughts being small isolates--random ideas that may or may not follow each other associatively--and may contradict each other.



So, I resist a general, dysfunctional model of fandom or of slash, even when I may propagate it. (Er. Oops.) Mostly because I have an ingrained reflex: I don't like being told that the things I enjoy, and the way I enjoy things, are wrong and need to be fixed.

I can call myself dysfunctional, though. Sometimes it's the double standard of "member language." A dyke can call herself a dyke, but non-dykes can't use the word: they're not members of the group. I can call myself dysfunctional, but if someone else calls me that, I'm going to be pissed.

But also too, when people consider themselves sick and group me in by extension, I will probably not like that.

More than anything else, I think I believe in ambivalence as the defining element of human nature. So that even when we enjoy our lives, we can turn around on a dime, turn ourselves inside out, and decide we're dissatisfied. We like calm, but then we're bored. We're ambitious, then we're lazy. We like hanging with our friends, then all of a sudden they're driving us mad and we can't stand the sight of them. There are a lot of things we can love and hate at the same time.

I often get off on things in fiction that I'd hate in real life. Like rape.

Sometimes I believe something one day, and stop believing it the next, once I've put it into words. Or the words aren't good enough. I'm not very logical; my thoughts are fuzzy and tangled like yarn.

Fantasy is escapism. The heroes in our head are action figures, toys. We may use them to imagine things that we think we want, but don't pursue in real life. Or we may imagine them because we don't *want* them in real life: we only want them when they're compartmentalized, kept in our mental toy-box. Some things are just better left imaginary. I like to imagine I could be a solider, engaged in life-risking, heroic rescues, but in reality, I default to a peaceful, low-risk existence.

Fiction isn't about pursuing a specific meaning, though. At least, mine isn't. Imagination isn't an effortful, deliberate act, like formulating a grant proposal. I write to write, and stuff comes out because it's fun to smoosh paint words around with my fingers, not because I've got an agenda, or want to put puppets up on the stage to dance out things that my own life lacks. Writing exercises the unconscious through the appearance of structure.

Reading is just a vicarious pleasure, often of things that aren't pleasurable at all.

I'd like to be a better person than I am, but I don't make the effort. I sometimes dramatize my desires with mental toys though.

I have a lot of self-loathing, but it usually feels like a human thing rather than a gendered thing. It also feels very visceral or existential. Cellular. I'm kind of attached to it, unfortunately. It's like my skin. I don't know how to skin myself. That's kind of a gross thought. I do try to shed myself of self-loathing, but it's a very slow and flaky process.

I'm not comfortable drawing a causal relationship between self-hatred and the pleasures of slash, but there might be something there. There are times when the pleasure I take in pretty men mingles with disgust at myself, and I have to work harder to erase myself from the picture.

Disassociation is very much a part of my lifestyle. A principle, even. Every time I go online I disassociate.

I've had a slash orientation since I was 13. By orientation I mean, it's part of my basic, natural erotic make-up. It's what turns me on. I've had explicit fantasies since around that time. I never include myself in fantasies. There was at least one period in my life when I felt upset by my inclinations--they felt like a pathology, addiction, a wrongness. I categorized them that way. It didn't seem normal to be excited by slash, to fantasize about two men in a way that didn't include me. You could call it an open question whether or not that's true. I tend to think that acceptance of what I like has been a positive thing.

On the other hand, my life is pretty fucked up. My self-image is fucked, I don't get laid, I don't pursue romantic relationships. I'm depressed a lot, I'm an alcoholic, I could probably benefit from therapy.

But all my deepest, most honest, most pleasurable friendships have been found through fandom. People I've met at school, through various jobs, as neighbors, and through superficial socializing--those normal people bore me to tears and make me uncomfortable. I can't talk to them. They don't get weirdness. They don't appreciate who I am. I can't be who I really am with them.

Fandom is a place where fucked-up people flourish. That's part of its charm.

I'm disposed to find dysfunction appealing. I think that there exists an aesthetic of dysfunction. It's like geek charm. Nerd appeal. At one extreme, that's a problem that probably fosters alcoholism, in that I have this mental association between writers and the glamour of drinking, and stuff like that. But it's not all bad. I happen to think that all humans are basically fucked in the head regardless of things like hobbies and relationships, and I gravitate toward the people who admit their issues and can wear their neuroses appealingly. Who are fashionable about them.

That doesn't mean I'm attracted to an extremist lifestyle of heavy drugs and drinking and knock-down, drag-out fights. I shy away from conflict and radical forms of self-abuse. I dislike confrontational personalities. People who revel in that stuff hold no interest for me. People who seem consistently blind to their own black-holed, sucking negativity freak me out too. I try not to be that person.

I think my own dysfunction leads me to theorize reasons for slash that seem very fucked-up, and that might not be shared by everyone. But I think they're shared by many, if not most slash fans. I think many women dislike their big, soft bodies and would love to be hardbodied gay men, if given a choice, because hardbodied gay men are hot. They're a Calvin Klein underwear ad, they're a cultural ideal, they're Greek statues, they're an aesthetic.

But maybe I should just speak for myself. I mostly dislike my big, soft body--a body that doesn't get any appreciative looks, because it isn't attractive to people, except maybe to some small percentage of men and women who never cross my path. I'd love to be a hardbodied gay man. Except then again, it's just a fantasy. And I'm not even in it. I mean: I don't imagine myself to be a man. I imagine other men.

And, on a day to day basis, I'm more or less comfortable with who I am. At least in that I've acclimatized to a sedate and solitary life and haven't cut off my tits with a razor.

Back to Calvin Klein models, et al: I think cultural ideals or aesthetics bundle up a lot of associations that may not be true, and that we may not even care about the truth of. There's a whole art/truth question there. I tend to like realism in art but that's not necessarily truth. Realism is just a style, a form of representation that can trick us into believing ridiculous things are probable. Like that men are sensitive, friendly woodland creatures, gentle fawns with hearts women can understand.

I like trickery and lies in my fiction. I enjoy slash as a genre created by women, even if it's a total falsehood when it comes to how real men, and gay men, live their lives. And even though I might now and then turn lamely analytical or introspective about why I like slash, I don't really care why, in practice. It's just a flavor. It tastes good.

I like fandom. You could call it an addiction; you could call it a community. Or both, depending on the day, the time of month. I think it's a better addiction for me than any intoxicating substance. And if it's an addiction, it's one that lets me be creative, allows me to explore questions like I'm doing right now as a substitute for therapy I can't afford, lets me meet cool people.

It's a natural inclination to find justifications for your own habits and tastes, to defend yourself and create meaning from your own deep incoherent randomness. I'm always going to do that. Because deceit helps me survive, because self-defense is a reflex, because maybe I'm not ready to dismantle the entire precarious architecture of my thirtysomething-year old twisted personality, yadda yadda.

I know women who like slash who are very sexually and emotionally healthy, who are in relationships, who get laid regularly, who work hard at a positive self-image even when their bodies aren't tiny, hard little Barbie toys, who are politically and socially conscious.

I am not one of those women, and I often find it hard to talk objectively about the subjects of slash and fandom. I'm not sure that talking objectively is even a desirable goal, though, so maybe that all works itself out. But what I really mean is...if I were a perfect spokesmodel, a healthy specimen, I feel as if I could talk about fandom in a way that presented it more favorably, and I fear that because of who I am, what I say about fandom is colored by my dysfunction, so that people can't help but make the association of fannishness and dysfunction. *I* can't help but do that.

Okay, I've talked myself into a circle there, and my own discursiveness is starting to annoy and confuse me.

But anyway, I think it's possible for one to have twisted psychological roots for liking something, and yet at the same time have an "above-ground" personality that is strong, upright, sturdy, straight. Straight in the sense of being well-formed, not heterosexual.

I think that a lot of what I said yesterday was off-the-cuff babble, maybe even bullshit, but then again, if people identify with it, what does that mean?

And in closing, I love Brian Kinney!

Ahem.
 
 
 
Janean or just "luvs"luvs_phoenix on June 23rd, 2003 08:08 pm (UTC)
Holy shit are you this fucking brilliant all the time? Damn. I don't even know where to start as I'd be quoting the entire post (and yesterdays also.... of which, BTW, I've linked and sent to many slash friends who feel the same way).

I didn't even know the world of slash really existed until this year. Two men, together, never interest me. Wasn't in my fantasies. Why I've been drawn into this world is a bit of a mystery to me (though, perhaps your reasoning mirrors mine so now I know?) but I have learned, over the years, to accept certain parts of myself that, at times, in the past, I have loathed. My bulletproof kink leans towards the sub/dom world and just what the hell does that say about me?

Sometimes...best not to think about these things too much...and never in a negative way. We are what we are. I'm 5'2" and won't grow taller. I read the words "mine or strip" and my mind goes "Gah". It's life.

I love Brian also.... you though I adore.
lovessonglovessong on June 23rd, 2003 08:33 pm (UTC)
Wow. I don't think everything you say (in terms of why you read/write slash and what it does for you) is true for me, but a lot of it is, and the rest is really interesting and makes me think, and just . . . wow. (And yeah, your remarks were indeed a bit disjointed, but I think slash lends itself to being discussed in a convoluted and disjointed fashion.)

"...if I were a perfect spokesmodel, a healthy specimen, I feel as if I could talk about fandom in a way that presented it more favorably, and I fear that because of who I am, what I say about fandom is colored by my dysfunction, so that people can't help but make the association of fannishness and dysfunction. *I* can't help but do that."

If you were a perfect spokesmodel (and I don't know that such a thing exists, anyway), you'd be much less interesting. And I'm inclined to say I wouldn't like your stories as much. Your comment that you find dysfunction appealing struck a chord with me. My friends are all people who are fucked up and admit it. I've made friends with people through comparing/sharing dysfunctions.

It's interesting, though, because neither in my online friendships and interests nor in my real life relationships am I interested in either a support-group or a dysfunction-apology type of relationship. What I see -- and what I think is maybe the (heh) healthiest approach to dysfunction is a kind of measured acceptance. (I am completely failing to express the thought that's perfectly formed and lovely in my head right now. Oh well.)
witlingwitling on June 23rd, 2003 09:05 pm (UTC)
But anyway, I think it's possible for one to have twisted psychological roots for liking something, and yet at the same time have an "above-ground" personality that is strong, upright, sturdy, straight.

Hm. Yeah. I think about this sometimes too. Objectively speaking, I'm what I'd call "high-functioning." But then I think that's probably only because I have to earn a living, and if I were independently wealthy I'd be holed up in a windowless room with a T3 connection, writing sloppy slash 24/7 and wearing Kleenex boxes on my feet.
Herself_nycherself_nyc on June 23rd, 2003 09:17 pm (UTC)
You should both hunt out Eleanor Arnason's short story "The Warlord of Saturn's Moons" about a single middle-aged woman who owns a lot of cats, smokes cigars, and writes an endless space opera about a swashbuckling redheaded starship pilot and the taciturn morally ambiguous space pirate she secretly loves. This is a story about us, except it's not actually about a slasher.
laurashapiro on June 23rd, 2003 09:31 pm (UTC)
I like this. I like you. And FWIW, I like your big, soft body, too.
Anna S.eliade on June 23rd, 2003 10:26 pm (UTC)
You make me all pink. In the facial region. :)

::kisses::
sisabet: dancekisssisabet on June 23rd, 2003 09:46 pm (UTC)
I think that a lot of what I said yesterday was off-the-cuff babble, maybe even bullshit, but then again, if people identify with it, what does that mean?

I loved what you said yesterday - you gave voice to something that I felt has been on the tip of my tongue for weeks - I just couldn't spit it out. Except it wasn't - not like you said it. I knew there was a strong Angel - BK connection for me but I hadn't puzzled out what it meant and then I read what you wrote and it fell naturally into place and I see. So if it was bullshit - it was bullshit that I buy. Also, it helps me with vid direction so that is also of the good (cause it is all about me).

I like fandom. You could call it an addiction; you could call it a community. Or both, depending on the day, the time of month. I think it's a better addiction for me than any intoxicating substance. And if it's an addiction, it's one that lets me be creative, allows me to explore questions like I'm doing right now as a substitute for therapy I can't afford, lets me meet cool people.

I would still be curled up on/under the couch if it wasn't for fandom. If I didn't have an artistic outlet I would go nuts - or at least pull out my hair and I find that my most fulfilling social interations occur online amongst people I actually share if not a common view with, then people that understand my various neurosis and fucking get my jokes. I am either increasingly isolationistic because of fandom or fandom is helping me deal with this tendency to cut myself off from the world outside that would have occurred regardless of my computer. Since I come from a family of cerified hermits - the question is debatable.


Anna S.eliade on June 23rd, 2003 10:15 pm (UTC)
On the subject of "bullshit" I don't mean to turn around and invalidate where I validated yesterday. ;) But I was speaking pretty broadly on subjects I don't know a lot about--I mean, for instance, what do I know about how married women might feel as a basis for slash attraction? Financial interdependencies, marital contract, childrearing, blah blah blah--I just pulled that out my ass, speculatively, and as a shoehorn to get myself into this topic so that I could think about these things.

But if it makes sense for people, if it helps explain things, that's cool. Bullshit is also fertilizer, right?

Um...yeah. (See, I can justify *anything*.)
dani: scruffy wesllaras on June 23rd, 2003 09:58 pm (UTC)
I was actually discussing this very topic with a friend the other night and came to a realization of why I've always been drawn to slash. It's the same reason I liked gay clubs and bars more than "straight" ones. I didn't like the attention. I don't especially care for the male-female vibe.

Of course, most of this stems from stuff in my past. Stuff I should probably work through. But I'm happy with my life. I work and have friends. And I read lots and lots of gay vampire porn. It doesn't just read itself you know.
thesaucyonethesaucyone on June 23rd, 2003 10:13 pm (UTC)
You are a fascinating woman. I really appreciate hearing these kind of things because sometimes I really feel isolated in what I find sexually stimulating. I, too, have fantasized about m/m, ahem, interaction since a young age. I always felt like I was "sick". Fandom for me has been a revelation. I had no idea others felt the same way; that it was normal. Thanks for keeping these journal entries open. I really appreciate it.
Anna S.eliade on June 23rd, 2003 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading and enjoying and saying so. And for using that icon, because it makes me giggle.

"Earlobe."

It is of the cute. ;>D
rubywisprubywisp on June 23rd, 2003 10:34 pm (UTC)
And once again I am reminded that I love the way your brain works. ::smooches::

(heh. the cable company forgot to turn off my internet access. they better not forget to turn it on at the other apt. tomorrow, that's all i'm saying.)
namastenancynamastenancy on June 23rd, 2003 10:35 pm (UTC)
Slash, fandom, outsiders r'us..
I can't say that I've always been a slash fan and I am still not somebody that sees "slash" in every male interaction on TV. I'm pretty picky about who I slash (or don't). But Anna - you make me believe in Xander and Spike so you are obviously somebody who I fall down and worship. But seriously - what I do remember is when I started into puberty, I wanted to be a guy. In fact, in a lot of the very difficult parts of my life, I've wanted to be a man. I don't think that necessarily makes me a slasher but it does make me envy men for their power and their freedom (at least, power and freedom relative to women). I too hate my fat soft body; even when I starved myself to be thinner, I never was thin enough. So maybe I envy men that as well - that they can work out and not have these big breasts and bottoms. That's part of what I love about slash - two men who are equals, equally handsome but also, equal in strength. One may be a top and the other a bottom or the relationship may be severely unequal but not in the way that men and women are unequal.
But I think that a lot of us have found our communities through fandom; I know that I have. I have always seen myself as an outsider and that has never bothered me. I've always known that I didn't want the house, the car, the two kids and the husband who wants to be waited on hand and foot. I cherish my solitude and my independence and have come to value that more as I get older.
But I don't really think fandom (or the fans that I know) are particulary fucked up. Fucked up in relationship to what? Anna, you are probably one of the most honest people that I know in exposing your flaws and yet, you don't excuse yourself, hide your problems under a veneer of hypocrisy or use them as an excuse to bash other people. Most of the fans that I know are very tolerant people - frankly I think that this is a hell of a lot better behavior that that of "Middle America" with it's racism, sexism, violence against women and bigotry.

OK - enough with the big words. Your post just struck a nerve with me as so many of your insights do. I wish I could articulate my feelings as well as you do. I wish that you didn't dislike yourself; from where I stand (or sit), there's a lot to like. Humor, creativity, insight, brutal honesty and generous sharing.

namaste nancy
kjdraft on June 23rd, 2003 10:53 pm (UTC)
And even though I might now and then turn lamely analytical or introspective about why I like slash, I don't really care why, in practice. It's just a flavor. It tastes good.

I totally hear that and it makes perfect sense to me. I didn't mean to jump on you in your earlier post; and I didn't mean for it to get personal, as I don't even know you, and would never assume things about your lifestyle or POV -- I was just fascinated by the suggestions you posed as a possible 'reasoning' behind slash, and when people reacted positively to it figured there where large groups who felt the same way. I was a bit baffled by this phenomena and decided to offer utterly different theories from someone who has read slash but doesn't usually care for it.

Perhaps some of my analysis was also based on my observations about the women who write it (based on their LJs, etc.) and the similarities they seem to have (in my humble and admittedly not always wide open eyes.) Also, as I'm sure has by now become obvious, I've clutched a long lasting confusion with male slash, and I'm generally curious about its appeal, particulary in the Buffy fandom.

We all certainly have our own weird penchants for fic that squicks other people completely (or even ourselves! I am drawn to and simultaneously repulsed by Giles/Buffy for one, and while I could certainly analyze this factor as it relates to me, somebody else might also entertain an opposing but still viable theory on why they do or don't enjoy it, etc...)

Either way, we like what we like and I'm not saying anyone's right or wrong. I like to randomly analyze, saw an opportunity to do so, but I apologize if what I said was irritating or out of line.

I think this sums it up well:

I tend to think that acceptance of what I like has been a positive thing.

I do, too.



Anna S.eliade on June 23rd, 2003 10:56 pm (UTC)
Either way, we like what we like and I'm not saying anyone's right or wrong. I like to randomly analyze, saw an opportunity to do so, but I apologize if what I said was irritating or out of line.

No, it wasn't, not at all! I thought I'd irritated *you*. ;) It was your post that got me thinking even further about these topics, so that was very useful.
Manna: Me Cartoonmanna on June 24th, 2003 03:32 am (UTC)

Thank you for the very interesting essay.

Offering a different perspective...

I'm not one of those people who spontaneously discovered slash for myself. I found it a few years ago while reading fanfiction, and had a slash revelation moment of "Oh, boy(s), where have *you* been all my life?"

At that point, I'd already been married for several years. I've been *incredibly* lucky in that my husband is very supportive of my new reading and writing hobby, and isn't threatened by either the subject or the amount of my time it takes up. I don't like to think that would have happened if that hadn't been the case. I spent a year in agony, trying to make myself dare to show him my writing, but once that was over and he'd read it and *enjoyed* it, it was an incredible relief.

As for me, while in some ways I suppose I'm quite masculine -- or rather, not stereotypically feminine -- as far as I can recall, I've never wanted to be a man. I've always been resonably satisfied with my big, soft body. (The icon isn't a bad, except that I don't have that well-defined a waist :-) Actually, one of the things I've found nicest about interacting in RL with slash fans is that they aren't as appearance-fixated as a lot of other female-dominated groups. And, this and that aside, fandom's not a tremendously competitive place either.

I've done some other things since getting into slash fandom that I maybe wouldn't have done before: started to *believe* that I don't care about most of the world's opinion of me, got my tongue pierced, remembered that the reason* I spent my teenaged years dressed mostly in black was that it suits me, realised that the fact I've always liked looking at women's bodies possibly means more that I'd previously considered it might. But maybe some or even most of that is due simply to getting older. I'm happier in my thirties than I was in my twenties, but there's a pretty much 1:1 match between hitting 30 and getting into slash so it's hard to pick the effects appart.

Overall, I think slash fandom has been good for me. Without it I might never have started writing, and certainly never started writing homoerotic SF. I'd also say it has, improbably, had a positive impact on my relationship with my husband. It's given us new things to talk about, and he's also met new people and made new friends -- he says he doesn't especially like any fandom, but he does like fans.

And so do I. :-)
Explicit Adult Content? You're soaking in it!yin_again on June 24th, 2003 04:12 am (UTC)
Marry me, Anna - you're my dream girl. (Except that I'm straight. And married. But, those two things aside, you're my girl.)

I'm going to go read your essay about a hundred more times now, because I love it.

kassrachel on June 24th, 2003 04:54 am (UTC)
One of my favorite things about the blogosphere is the periodic chance to (see? taste? hear?) experience little slices of your brain. Because there are places where I go, "Yeah, yeah, that's it exactly, I feel that," and there are places where I go, "Wow, that is so not me," and both of those things are really cool.

Also your style is impeccable. No one else strings words together like you. I think I could do a taste-test of unlabelled prose and recognize yours instantly.

And I could argue with you on the people not-liking your soft femme body, but I don't want to look all stalkery. I have the haunting suspicion I've said that very phrase in your lj comments before, which makes me wonder why I seem to have a recurring fear that you'll think I'm stalking you. From, you know, my secure position on the opposite coast. *g*
flaming june: StoryvillePearls_flaming_june_ on June 24th, 2003 08:47 am (UTC)
I loved reading this. You are insanely smart and endlessly interesting. I have nothing left to add but...

::lick::

;)
Cirocco Jonesciroccoj on February 8th, 2004 05:01 pm (UTC)
tobiascharity pointed to this in her lj. Would you mind if I pointed to it to in my own lj? It's just so much of what I'd like to say, but said much better than I ever could ;)
Anna S.eliade on February 11th, 2004 02:46 pm (UTC)
Re:
Sure, you can link to it. :>)
daddy's not done talkingros_fod on August 24th, 2004 03:24 pm (UTC)
I'm having one of those down-fandom moments and instead of reading my flist and becoming irrationally upset at things that have nothing to do with me, I'm...secretly stalking people's memories. And I ran across this. And it's helped me. Immensely.