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.
I'm very interested in the whole "Why Slash?" question. I've read lots of essays on the subject (and even written up my own reasons for liking it). I've also heard from lots of readers of my stories what they get out of them, and out of slash in general. Of course, everyone is different and what one woman gets out of reading/writing slash isn't what another will. Likely that is true of straight men and pseudo-lesbian porn as well. Still, with the trepidation that accompanies generalizations that one knows aren't true in all particulars, I offer the following general differences between male consumers of pseudo-lesbian porn and female consumers of slash:
- Men are truly consumers of the porn. It is produced by someone and generally purchased by someone else. Women in slash are often both consumers and producers. Of course many slash readers never write but the writers are often avid readers as well. And there's an interaction between writer and reader that I don't think occurs between consumers and producers of commercial porn.
- Not all slash is explicitly sexual. As far as I know, there is nothing for straight men that's comparable to romantic m/m slash focused on relationship building, with little or no actual sex.
- Women are more interested in text; men in pictures. At least that's the conclusion I draw from observing what medium is more prevalent in each.
- Women are more interested in there being some story or character. Even what's labeled PWP has more sense of character and plot than a lot of male oriented porn.
- Many women like m/m sex where one of the men is very feminized in behavior and personality and somewhat androgynous in appearance (not what I write and not what I like *at all* but it's very common) and pseudo-lesbian porn tends not to have butch-looking or acting women. Both women tend to be very classically feminine in their dress, makeup, nails (yikes) and demeanor.
- From all the slash discussions I've been involved in and/or read over the years it seems to me that women interact with the text somewhat differently from men. 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.
- Women regularly report that their marital sex changes as a direct result of what they read in slash. I've heard from many who have expanded their sexual repertoire because sex acts they were not interested in are presented in a way they find erotic in a m/m context and they then want to do them. I've never heard of anything like this with straight men and find the idea of it unlikely. I do hear of men who want their wives/girlfriends to engage in sex with women for them to observe. Those seem to me effects on sex life of a different character.
- Men sometimes feel threatened by explicit heterosexual porn because of fear that they are reacting sexually to the *man* in the scene, so pseudo-lesbian porn isn't scary in the same way. Women don't seem to have that reaction to women having sex. Still, 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. I find both of them to be kind of dismaying, but in different ways. They suggest internalized homophobia in the men and internalized misogyny in the women who have them.
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?