Definition of Slash
The term slash refers to stories in which a homosexual relationship between two characters is portrayed, whether the sexual part of the relationship is explicitly described or not. Slash can be either femslash (female character/female character) or slash (male character/male character).
Slash fiction is not widely considered to be conventional lesbian or gay fiction, as the characters portrayed rarely identify as homosexual.
The Supernatural Slash Fandom
Occasionally one or both of the brothers will be slashed with minor and/or recurring male characters; OMCs; or characters from other fandoms, including characters that have been portrayed by either Jensen Ackles or Jared Padalecki in another tv-series or movie (e.g., Sam/Jake from Devour, Sam/Alec from Dark Angel, Dean/Dean from Gilmore Girls). (See also: Crossover).
Although the pairing had been utilized from the beginning, after the airing of 1.22 Devil's Trap on May 4th 2006 significantly more John/Dean fanworks appeared (possibly due to the chemistry between Dean and the possessed John). John/Sam is rarer, but not unknown. Both pairings often explore issues of authority and consent.
Possibly due to its emphasis in canon on emotions and relationships, Supernatural became one of the major slash fandoms in 2006-2007. Over the last two years Supernatural fiction has evolved to include all possible genres. Its canon holds significant sci-fi and fantasy elements that can be easily adapted to suit any kind of universe created by the author.
With its main pairing already transgressing society's norms, Supernatural seems a confident fandom that is ready to explore every flavor of sexuality. See Crack.
Brief Overview of the History of Slash Fiction
In general, fandom scholars agree (Jenkins, Brooker, Bacon Smith) that slash was introduced with Kirk/Spock homoerotic fan fiction in the early to mid-70s in Star Trek fandom. The name "slash" fiction comes from the / between the names of the pairing in fan fiction, and was also presumably coined in Star Trek fiction. Even though initially timidly introduced and confronted with ideas of masculinity and heroism, "slash" gained a wider audience over the years.
Much has been said about why fans (the majority of them women) write slash fiction, and it always stands in relation to the concept of slash fiction itself.
Camilla Bacon-Smith understood slash fiction as a way of helping women deal with traumatic love relationships by utilizing a non-threatening, non-aggressive form of male sexuality as means of comfort. The notion that fans write slash as means of therapy and to write about their own hurt and their need for tenderness seems quite antiquated today, and has been openly opposed by fans and acafans alike for decades.
In the mid-80s some scholars, most notably Henry Jenkins, introduced the idea of slash fiction as a possible reaction to heterosexual pornography; that it was a form of fiction liberating itself from gender hierarchy and genderized images. This form of transgression is also often cited as one of the joys of writing slash fiction.
The transgression of gender in slash fanfiction has also raised question as to whether or not slashed characters should be considered gay, or rather have their own sexuality fluent between male and female characteristics.
Jenkins was the first academic to define slash not as merely concerned with representations of sexuality: "Slash is not so much a genre about sex as it is a genre about the limitations of traditional masculinity and about reconfiguring male identity."Jenkins, Henry (1992), S. 191 Furthermore, the emphasis of sex is identified in its emotional quality.
Over the last 15 years, with the emerging and widespread use of the internet, increased visibility of and participation in fandom, as well as social changes, fans have become bolder in describing their enjoyment of slash. While older generations of slash writers prided themselves on belonging to a sub-culture, inventing a new form of pornography and transgressing gender lines (and being generally very conscious about all this), a new generation of writers has joined slash fandom. This new generation finds itself in a more slash-friendly environment, and seems understandably a bit more confident about writing erotic fiction, often claiming that they write slash mainly because it's a turn on to see two men fuck.
Transgression and recontextualization (see Jenkins, 1992) still seem to play a part, but this new confidence (fueled by generally more acceptance of both female sexuality and lesbian, gay, bi and transgendered people in Western society) often reduces the feelings of shame authors and readers of slash fanfiction may have experienced in the past. Nowadays, slash seems to be a very public, very well-known chapter of fan involvement.
Small Bibliography and Suggested Further Reading (chronological)
- Bacon-Smith, Camile (1991). Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1379-3.
- Jenkins, Henry (1992). Textual Poachers. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-90572-9.
- Lewis, Lisa A., ed. 1992a. The adoring audience. London: Routledge.
- Penley, Constance (1997). NASA/Trek: Popular Science and Sex in America. New York: Verso. ISBN 0-86091-617-0.
- Cicioni, Mirna (1998). "Male Pair Bonds and Female Desire in Fan Slash Writing." In C. Harris & A. Alexander (Eds.) Theorizing Fandom: Fans, Subculture and Identity. Cresskil, New Jersey: Hampton.
- Harris, Cheryl, and Alison Alexander, ed. 1998. Theorizing fandom: Fans, subculture and identity. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
- Busse, Kristina/Hellekson Karen. Fan Fiction and Community in the Age of Internet: New Essays. North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN-13: 978-00-7864-2640-9
Links of Interest
- Slash fiction entry on Wikipedia (focuses on recent years and new fandoms)
- Confessions of an AkaFan: Henry Jenkins' Blog
- Henry Jenkins Website (offers several Essays)
- Henry Jenkins on "Supernatural"
- Karen Hellekson Blog
- Bibliography collected by Karen Hellekson and Karen Busse
- Herzing, Melissa Jean. 2005. The Internet world of fan fiction. MA thesis, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.
Articles on the Internet
- Henry Jenkins: Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking
- Henry Jenkins: The Poachers and the Stormtroopers: Popular culture in the digital age. Red Rock Eater Digest. Talk presented at the Univ. of Michigan, Spring 1998.
- Jung, Susanne. 2004. Queering popular culture: Female spectators and the appeal of writing slash fan fiction. Gender Forum Gender Queeries 8.