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Is M/M Slash Like Pseudo-Lesbian Porn Produced for Straight Men? - Is M/M Slash Like Pseudo-Lesbian Porn Produced for Straight Men? - Mo's Journal Page 2 — LiveJournal
January 22nd, 2009
02:22 pm


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Is M/M Slash Like Pseudo-Lesbian Porn Produced for Straight Men?
When I first heard of slash (approximately 4 weeks before I started writing the stuff) it seemed very strange to me. The idea of stories about sexual and/or romantic connections between putatively heterosexual male characters from movies, comic books, tv shows, books was not something I'd ever contemplated before. "Who reads this?" I wondered and was surprised to find that mostly women do, mostly women living heterosexual lives, and that many find slash sexually arousing.

Now, straight men being interested in sex between women is nothing surprising or new and a large subset of commercial porn output consists of pseudo-lesbian scenes (complete with long nails and not-particularly-realistic sex acts) aimed at the heterosexual market. So, is slash just the female equivalent of that?

I don't think it is, although both have in common the idea that if you're into men or women, two might be twice as nice as one. But I don't think that's all there is to either phenomenon.
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So, dear f-list, what do you think? Do you find my generalizations true generally :-)? Are they true for you as individuals? Are some of them so off-base that I should strike them? Can you think of others that should be added?

(116 comments | Leave a comment)

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[User Picture]
Date:January 30th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
While I’ve been ruminating on some of these questions for quite awhile (and come from it from a very different direction – being a queer man interested in slash rather than traditional gay male porn) …

One of the things that I think is critically important and is often overlooked about ‘why men watch/buy/whatever’ the porn they are supposed to be interested in is that men are sold this by somebody with a marketing goal. You brushed this when you mentioned that (traditionally) most men are consumers, not producers of the porn they view.

Just as the portrayals of women in advertising and media are less than accurate and are often aimed at controlling purchasing habits (in a variety of ways, from inducing anxiety about the body, to defining what makes a woman a ‘woman’), to reinforcing existing social and cultural norms. Men are not immune to this pressure from marketing; they are being sold something and the people who make the goods are trying to create messages that make them buy their stuff. I firmly believe that one of the things that marketing and market produced work does is reinforce existing social norms and standardizing them to make selling goods (which is the basic goal of commercially produced porn) easier. I think this is at least partially intentional (ie: markeing folks saying this is a good way to sell stuff ) and accidental (ie: everyone knows straight men like blonde bimbos with inflated breasts and three inch long nails!).

I think this is important in that what ‘men want’ is at leas partially ‘what somebody who made a product to sell’ thinks/tells men they want.

The other issue is, since it is commercially produced porn – I’m not sure comparing it to consumer produced porn is accurate.

There is consumer produced gay porn – text based, not visual (though there is that as well) on the net and its general slant is more towards the body fluids/10 inch dicks sort of porn, it is by no means the only sort out there. I’m sure there’s consumer produced straight porn for men but I’d have to do a look-about that I can’t do here.

FYI - One of the first gay porn books I read was identical to traditional slash – complete with extensive character description/moderately complicated plot etc (and explicit sex). I’m at work, so I can’t produce the specific work but I have one of the books at home and I’ll do so when I get home. Since I read the eight or nine books this guy wrote all through my teens, this may be a big reason why I like slash style porn instead of more traditional gay man style porn.

PS - I haven't had a chance to read the comments (they are long and I am doing several things at once here) so I may be duplicating someone else's stuff. My apologies.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 03:24 am (UTC)
I realized in writing this that I was kind of leaving gay male slashers out of the equation and I thank you for weighing in. I will say that I sort of left myself out, as well. I've expounded elsewhere on why I like slash and I think as a lesbian producer and consumer of slash, some of my reasons are less common in a field where most of the producers and consumers are women living heterosexual lives (which I say, as opposed to "heterosexual women" because a large number of them seem to identify as bisexual but relate sexually only to men). In any event, I'm glad you commented. You say a lot of thought-provoking and worthwhile stuff, as always.

Market is definitely an issue - to what extent does it reflect taste, to what extent does it shape taste. With easier and cheaper production of porn, are the offerings more varied to reflect variety of taste? Or do the more varied offerings help to develop a market? In a fandom I'm peripherally involved with, there's a lot of slash stories with alien monsters with tentacles and the tentacles get used sexually. Now this seems to me a most peculiar idea (of course, everyone else's kinks always seem peculiar :-)) but it is a very popular one, and I find it's not limited to one fandom. So were there lots of people out there whose sexual buttons got pushed by the idea of tentacle sex, only they didn't know it until they got exposed to it? Or did someone write a really hot tentacle sex story and that got a bunch of women interested in tentacle sex and writing it? I don't know.

One thing a few people have said is that they like slash because in the fanfic they've read, the slash is better. That suggests that their tastes have been influenced by the quality of the material they read, or at least they think that is what's happening.

The other issue is, since it is commercially produced porn – I’m not sure comparing it to consumer produced porn is accurate.

I don't know that I'm looking for "accuracy" in this comparison, btw. All I'm saying is that I was familiar with the concept of pseudo-lesbian porn produced for straight men and wondered, when slash was still *unfamiliar* to me, what it might have in common with that and in what ways it might be different. And I've thought about that question from time to time, so I'm trying to lay out some of the similarities and differences, not suggesting that they are analogs. In fact, I think they serve some really different purposes, and I tried to delineate some of them.

Thanks for weighing in!
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 12:28 am (UTC)
One major difference is at the production level: pseudo-lesbian porn produced for straight men very often puts real women in sexual situations during the making of films and pictures. Slash, while usually based on existing media works that were made with real people, does not actually put the real men, whose characters are being slashed, in sexual situations themselves.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 03:26 am (UTC)
Yes, and that is an important difference in a lot of ways. I have ethical quandaries over porn. I worry about exploitation of the actors in the films and pictures. I worry about coercion, about physical and emotional safety.

I have none of those concerns about text-based erotic material. It feels much more morally pure to me.

Thanks for dropping in! I love your icon, btw.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
Those are all interesting ideas. Another thing about women as consumers and producers is that there seems to be an at least semi-sexual pleasure that the women producing slash get from providing sexual pleasure to other women. After all, what is it we as slashers are doing, on a sexual level? We're turning other women on. As a lesbian, I like that :-). It feels to me like the ultimate in safe sex when I get fan letters that say things like "Nobody gets me as hot as you do" or "Give me more sex like that and I'm yours."

But I think you don't have to be a lesbian to enjoy that aspect and that lots of women in slash live heterosexual lives (as I say above) but don't necessarily identify as heterosexual - they consider themselves bi or queer. And what they do with that identity - how they live out their queer selves - is at least in part through engaging sexually with other women through slash.

I can't quite picture straight men writing the equivalent of those fan letters I get to male producers of porn...
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
hang around slash circles and you are likely to hear from women who don't want to see women having sex (either in pictures or word pictures). Some report that they find the idea of women sexually aroused and engaged "disgusting" and "gross." I think both of these are minority reactions (i.e. I don't think most straight men are threatened by porn with men in it or that most straight female slashers find stories that include women gross) but I do think these are not uncommon reactions

Personally (at the risk of entering TMI territory), I mostly read for the emotional gratification, as the steriotypical girl who prefers to read about everyone's feelings instead of just the mechanics of sex, and on that score (emotional gratification) het, slash, and femslash are about even, with slashing coming slightly ahead at the moment because my current major OTP is slash - but I often find het and femslash sex scenes hotter than m/m slash on a pure "appreciation of the story for it's porn content" level. I think it's because it's easier to grok the porn when at least one of the participants' bodyparts match up with mine. If something's functioning purely as sexual fantasy rather than story, it works better for me if there's a girl with girlparts in it for me to associate with.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 03:34 am (UTC)
That's an interesting POV. I get that m/m feels a little removed from our own sexual experiences. For me that's a feature, not a bug. I want that level of distance when I'm writing often.

Who is your OTP now?
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 02:17 am (UTC)
One thing that appeals to me very much in same-sex smut is the equality of the partners, and by that I mean there are no male/female issues, no "men who have sex with women are fortunate but women who have sex with men are stupid and are being taken advantage of by the men." I can't escape that baggage; it's been drilled into me from single-digit age. When a man is with a man, though, his eagerness to flirt or fuck is amusing, delightful, sexy, a natural reaction to a partner who likes just what he likes. A woman with a woman is not at risk for pregnancy, is not at risk for having a man decide she's a slut and should be dumped as soon as he's got what he wants. Same-gender romance spares me all of that baggage, even if I attribute female qualities upon one of the males, even if I write unrealistic tender stories about male/male romance, even if for some loopy reason I prefer my female/female stories to be rape stories. While those issues may remain, I've still escaped the male/female dynamics that override so much potential for pleasure.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 03:37 am (UTC)
I've still escaped the male/female dynamics that override so much potential for pleasure.

That's kind of my motto in life :-). I'm only half kidding. I've always felt that one of the big advantages of being a lesbian is that we don't have established gender roles in relationships, so we can craft them for ourselves without having to think about whether we are enacting society's expectations of our gender or rebelling against them. It's kind of starting from scratch. So things that have gendered meaning in m/f relationships don't need to in m/m and f/f ones. Although of course we have our own gender baggage as well, and sometimes it impedes.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
This has all been said before and most of it is not based in any kind of hard evidence. It's also really a false dichotomy - the accurate thing to compare it to would be femmeslash/hentai/doujins produced by men.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
Some interesting questions, and I'm going to throw my two pennies in. Well more like two thousand pennies, since this is long. And for the record, I'm a straight man. And here via metafandom.

[*] Male-oriented media's fetishisation of lesbians has always been rather puzzling even to me. Don't get me wrong, I don't deny that if one attractive woman doing sexy things is interesting, two doing sexy things together is going to be no less interesting... but the idea seems to be promoted all through our culture and popular media that I'm supposed to find it much, much more interesting... and I just don't get it. Maybe I should stop using Jeff and Steve from 'Coupling' (British version) as role models. Of course, you never see a woman on a TV show shouting "Wahay! Gay men!".. or at least not yet.

[*] On pictures versus text - here , however, my own experience certainly supports your generalisation. I can find both arousing, but visual imagery generally has a much more immediate and strong effect. Whether that's innate or down to social conditioning is a much more complicated question, of course.

[*] On the consumer/producer divide, I think this stems directly from the pictures versus text question. Men can write their own porn, but they can't normally go out and photograph people having sex (without being arrested). So if they prefer visual imagery, as I think most do, they have to turn to commercial producers. Or drawing and painting, of course, but that requires artistic ability which is fairly rare. There is a spectrum of commercialisation and interaction - women running their own porn websites, sites with forums where the models can interact with the customers and so forth are on one end of it. It still doesn't have the equality and free interchange that characterises the fic community, of course. Although at least in theory this could be different with porn produced by and aimed at gay men - I don't have the necessary knowledge there to say.

[*] An equivalent of romantic relationship building fic for straight men? I'm not really aware of anything... I'd say action adventure or world-building stories take its place, in our culture at least.

[*] Regarding story, I think this is linked to the pictures versus text thing again. When simply the shape of a female body can get a heterosexual man aroused, there's no real need for the producers to waste their money on providing a story as well. :-) Which is not to say that men are never interested in such things; just that they're less necessary.

[*] The image of the "pseudo-lesbian" with long nails, blonde perm and fake boobs is, I think, a creation of the American porn industry which is often derided elsewhere. I'd agree, though, that I can't see many straight men being interested in masculinising one half of an all-woman couple.

[*] Again, I suspect the whole idea of "the man comes into the scene and joins the women" is a creation of the porn industry rather than necessarily being a common male fantasy. Given how visual men are, in fact, I've a feeling we're less likely to want to insert ourselves into the scene at all; it's more a matter of just watching with higher brain functions disengaged.

[*] I read a fascinating article earlier this week posted by one of my flist talking about research done on male and female sexual response when presented with a series of potentially-arousing images. Straight men were turned on by pictures of women - women by themselves or women with someone else, it didn't matter. Gay men were likewise turned on by images of men. The women, on the other hand - both straight and lesbian - were most turned on by images of couples having sex, whether those couples were m/f, m/m or f/f. Even more interesting, when asked which images they found arousing, a lot of the women only pointed out the sexual image appropriate to their orientation (m/f for heterosexual women, f/f for gay women) even though the sensors had shown they were turned on by the others as well. Whether that was due to embarrassment, denial, or some other reason wasn't really conclusive from the article... nor did it say if they included any slash fans in the sample tested. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 03:44 am (UTC)
Lots of interesting points - thanks for weighing in. A few comments on comments:

Men can write their own porn, but they can't normally go out and photograph people having sex (without being arrested).
You know, I think that's changing with the youtube type porn sites. And they do seem to have much more male content than female content. Not just gay male content, but men by themselves. Of course that's just who's in it, but I think generally the people in the pictures are the producers as well. Anyway, if I'm right (and I might not be) it would substantiate your point.

The image of the "pseudo-lesbian" with long nails, blonde perm and fake boobs is, I think, a creation of the American porn industry which is often derided elsewhere. I'd agree, though, that I can't see many straight men being interested in masculinising one half of an all-woman couple.

Are you saying that you think porn produced elsewhere doesn't have those characteristics, in female/female scenes? How are they different?

I think the article you mention at the end is the one from last week's NY Times Magazine, which is getting lots of interesting comment.

Thanks for stopping by. I was surprised to see you say you were here from metafandom. I had thought they decided not to link this essay...

[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 03:44 am (UTC)
I think what you're saying is largely factually correct, but it seems to me to point out the similarities, rather than the differences. About the only real difference seems to be that lesbian porn is readily commercially available, whereas slash aimed at female writers needs to be created by those who have an interest in it, simply because no-one else is bothering to sell it.

Personally, I'll never understand the appeal of either and both, to me, objectify either lesbians or gay men (or bisexuals of either sex) and hijack their sexuality for entertainment or arousal.

Like you, I'm disturbed by those who find seeing their own gender represented disgusting. Unlike you, I don't see them as coming from completely different feelings. With both, there is clearly a degree of insecurity about their sexuality or perceived sexuality and, with both, I believe, a discomfort with members of their own gender. Both men and women say at times that they feel threatened by members of their own gender who are better endowed or more attractive or simply better at sex.

One interesting difference I have noticed is that men tend to be more open about both their use of lesbian porn and the reasons for it, whereas women tend to be worried about people finding out that they read or write slash and tend to want to rationalise it a lot more. This probably goes along with women's attitude to porn in general.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)
Personally, I'll never understand the appeal of either and both, to me, objectify either lesbians or gay men (or bisexuals of either sex) and hijack their sexuality for entertainment or arousal.

I disagree with this statement because it seems to me to deny the validity of sexual fantasy/expression/exploration.

Okay, let’s start with this—do you think that stories about heterosexual romances exploit heterosexual people in the same way stories about gay, lesbian, and bisexual romances exploit gays, lesbians, and bisexuals? Can a straight person only write about straight people having sex, or is that debasing to the characters too?

Or let’s look at it this way:

I am a 17 year old bisexual girl writing a story about Draco Malfoy fucking Harry Potter in a magical castle in England. Am I morally repugnant for manipulating these fictional characters in a way that titillates me?

I am a 13 year old straight boy jerking off to the picture of Miss December from the Playboy I found hidden under my brother’s bed. Am I exploiting her?

I am a 32 year old lesbian watching Luke and Noah kiss on As The World Turns. Am I wrong for liking that? Are the writers wrong for writing it? Are the actors wrong for acting it out?

What I’m getting at is this: fantasy is good. It’s healthy. It’s safe. Fantasy lets people explore who they are and what they like and dislike in an environment that cannot hurt or judge them. We all do it, and that's okay.

men tend to be more open about both their use of lesbian porn and the reasons for it, whereas women tend to be worried about people finding out that they read or write slash and tend to want to rationalise it a lot more. This probably goes along with women's attitude to porn in general.

Men are more open about liking lesbian porn than women are about liking slash because it’s more socially acceptable for a man to express sexual want than it is for a woman.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 05:39 am (UTC)
I don't know if there are any equivalents to this in Western mainstream popular culture, but I think that some seinen (adult male targeted) anime and manga includes f/f sexual or romantic themes but no explicit sex (and there's some stuff that does have sex scenes, but also includes plot, characterization, and drama that isn't just there to facilitate the porn). Most seinen lesbian stuff that I'm acquainted with (although I'm not super-familiar with the genre) seems to be femme-on-femme, although this isn't universal.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 06:27 am (UTC)
Here from metafandom.

I'm a straight woman and I don't actively dislike het, but usually find it simply boring. I think part of it is that het romances and het porn are so full of traditional and cultural conventions that can be found everywhere from soap operas to well, my own life that there is rarely anything new.

Another aspect is that while het porn is nominally about a man and a woman the focus is usually on the woman. Since women do nothing for me sexually I don't want closeups of her or loving descriptions about her silky hair and ample bosom. I want the focus to be on the guy.

There are exceptions. MMF threesomes, a bi guy having sex with a woman for the first time or an older woman with a considerably younger guy. But all those are deviations from the norm. The traditional girl meets boy, girl falls in love with the boy, blah blah blah. Boring.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
The traditional girl meets boy, girl falls in love with the boy, blah blah blah. Boring.

I totally agree with you. BUT. A LOT of slash is written very much to this same pattern. In fact, some of the most recc'ed stories in fandom are fics that follow this same pattern, very often with, as mofic said above, one of the men "feminized" into the role of passive or pining woman.

In all the fandoms I've been in, romantic first-time fic is very very popular, and the story arc of this kind of fic is usually, as you say, girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy (or realizes suddenly that she is in love with boy, or falls in love with boy over long period over time, etc.). Except instead of "girl meets boy" it's "boy meets boy."

Do you find these stories boring, too? I know I do.
Date:January 31st, 2009 07:57 am (UTC)
Here via metafandom:

Women tend to insert themselves in the scene by imagining themselves as one or the other of the men (one reader said to me "I can be Logan fucking Scott or Scott being fucked by Logan and I can switch back and forth whenever I want to" - I think that's a common sentiment) or by imagining themselves as acknowledged observers (i.e. the men are letting the woman watch them). My impression is that men tend to insert themselves into the scene by imagining themselves joining the two women, or the women *stopping* and one of them having sex with the man.

I quite often see this claim being made by female slashers who are trying to distinguish themselves from men who are aroused by female/female sex (Declaration, I am one) and I don't know where it comes from, since it's totally alien to my feelings on the issue. A few years ago, it made me write a post trying to explore what I felt myself or other explanations I thought would be plausible (one of which you already came up with).
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 10:00 am (UTC)
(Here via metafandom, btw)

IMO, the differences between slash and lesbian porn (as articulated in your post, some of the responses to it, and my own personal understanding of things), are as follows (note that I’m making huge generalizations in the interest of simplicity, otherwise I’d have to spend ages hashing out the specifics):

Female-generated/consumed gay fantasy
Oriented in a community (interactive)
Produced for pleasure
Audience feels an emotional connection with the characters
Explores the characters as individuals (humanizes)
Not necessarily sexual
Two specific people together
Characters interact in our minds

Male-generated/consumed lesbian fantasy
Oriented in the individual (solitary)
Produced for profit
Audience feels emotionally detached from the characters
Ignores the characters as individuals (dehumanizes)
Two non-specific bodies together
Characters interact on film

So far several people in the comments have questioned the validity of comparing consumer-made erotica (slash) with commercially-made erotica (lesbian porn), but I think such a comparison is valid for the following reasons:

The pornography industry is made by men and for men. Lesbian pornos are mainstream and easily available. Therefore a man seeking lesbian erotica must buy his fantasy.

However, a female seeking erotica must generally choose from these options:
A) consume the commercial erotica by and for men (porn films)
B) consume the commercial erotica by and for women (heterosexual romance novels)
C) create and/or consume the consumer erotica by and for women (fanfic and fanart)

Options A and B are undesirable for a woman seeking a story with an emotional and sexual connection between two men. Option A provides a sexual connection between two men, but no emotional connection. Option B provides a sexual and emotional connection, but not between two men. Therefore a woman seeking homosexual erotica must build her fantasy by choosing option C.

My point is this: a lot of people like watching people of the opposite gender having sex together. The difference is that men can fully satisfy this want with mainstream commercial pornography and women cannot. Women have developed their own consumer pornography (slash) in response. This post was meant to compare and contrast the two, and I think it did a good job of that.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your thoughts. That's a good bulleted summary and interesting thoughts on how production and availability of material play into the decision.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
When I was in college I discovered gay erotica as a junior (this was early 2001). I thought I was the only woman to read such stuff, but somehow it came up in conversation and my wonderful female friends told me that there were millions of women who preferred to read about gay male sex instead of straight sex. I felt vindicated and like I wasn't alone in the world.

This was before I knew anything about fandom and was instead trolling websites like www.nifty.org, which has as much horrible writing on it as FF.net does for fandom!
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC)
I think you brought up a lot of interesting points. Whenever I've told anyone about the existence of slash or if someone mentions it and is confused by it, I have said "well, a lot of men like watching women together, so what's the difference if women want to watch or read about men together?"

When I said this at a table including my dad, step-mom and some of her female friends, they were like "no, ew" but people in a group will often react differently than how they really feel. I've told people that I think I'm a gay man in a bisexual woman's body, lol. I think my ideal partner in life would be a bisexual man because we could oggle the cute gay boys together.

As for slash not always being sexual, you are so right. I'm on a medication that has taken away a large portion of my sex drive. While I do still read PWP from time to time, these days I focus on long plotty fic. I've even been known to scroll PAST the sex scenes to get back to the plot! I love reading about two men in love. I really couldn't tell you what the difference is between reading slash plot and het plot, but it just seems like if I want to read about het plot, I'll go to the local book store and pick up one of the millions of M/F books with a romantic thread in it. Finding the equivalent with two male characters is damn hard to do. So far I've read four books of that nature, and three of them were a trilogy!
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
What books have you read? Certainly gay lit is a big category. Of course similarities and differences between slash fiction and mainstream published fiction is yet another fertile area for discussion.
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)
Just because there is no explicit sex doesn't mean the fic isn't sexual in nature. Some fic skips over the sex scenes themselves, but still manages to be incredibly arousing for me. Hell, sometimes there is no sex, skipped or otherwise, but the relationship aspects totally get me hot. They might even turn me on more than a sex scene. If I get the feeling that this erotic effect is intentional on the part of the writer, and if that effect seems like the main thrust of the story, then I class the story as "erotica" even if it lacks explicit sex.

Not all slash is erotica, but when I go looking for slash to read, I'm mainly looking for the erotica.
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