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On the vagaries of internet smut - Tactical Ninja

Jun. 24th, 2013

10:39 am - On the vagaries of internet smut

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So in the last year or so I've read a reasonable amount of fanfiction. I've already written about the problem with people constantly letting out breaths they didn't know they were holding*, and my uncontrollable giggling at the sight of a supple mound or a marble column. I think we all have these moments, and I can forgive the occasional slip up from a good author. But oh, there's some bad fic out there. So.Bad.

There is also some very good fic out there. Fic that if it weren't using someone else's world and characters, would actually be of publishable quality. No, I'm not talking Fifty Shades here, because ugh no. Give me some credit for having some discernment. But it is true that if you read fanfiction, smut is kind of inevitable.

I've got nothing against smut** - if it's good smut in a good story I'll read it with relish and probably repeat the experience for good measure. Bad smut in an otherwise good story I'll skim over, but if the story isn't good, the smut will make me stop reading.


First up, can I just say that I don't seek out slash. I've never been a fan of going "Ooh, he's hot and he's hot, let's make them fuck." It just.. doesn't work for me, even though in my fandom the possibility of homosexual relationships is canon. I like story, character development, action, humour, entertainment. I've come to realise that smut is an intrinsic part of fanfiction, but I've also come to realise that as long as the smut is well written and makes sense within the plot, I don't really care what flavour of smut it is or what shape genitals the characters have. Good smut transcends gender (she says with +5 pomposity). At least for me it does.

But, what I have come to realise in my meanderings around the various kinds of smut that pops up in fanfiction, is that slash seems to be far and away the most likely smut to be well-written and plot-relevant. And I find myself wondering why that is.

I mean, it seems the majority of fanfiction writers are women. If they are in any way reflective of the wider population, the majority of those women are likely to be heterosexual. So these women would be most likely to be familiar with heterosexual sex, right? And that's what they'd be able to write with the most believable voice. But that.. is just not the case. Pretty much all of the heterosexual smut that I've read in my fandom has been stilted and either boring or embarrassing compared with the slash. And I don't even get off on slash really***.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I can totally understand appeal of the 'two men touching each other' aesthetic. Hell yes I can.

So I'm asking myself - is it me? I mean, what sort of inner stuff goes on when I'm reading this? Some thoughts that have crossed my mind include: Do I find this hard to read because I'd rather it was me fucking this hot guy? Like, if it's another guy fucking him then I can be a voyeur without the invasion of wish-fulfilment - does this make a difference to how I'm viewing the whole scene? So, maybe the writing isn't that bad and I just don't like reading het porn..

.. but then I realise that no, in general het porn is just not as well written. And I come back to thinking about the authors. It must go deeper than just 'men are pretty and so I will write about them only'. And I wonder if the authors have trouble putting themselves in the scene as the woman - or if they are deliberately avoiding doing that because of the derision with which that sort of writing is scorned, and some fear that writing their experience of sex and relationships will auto-MarySue their story. And then I wonder if it's because it's almost impossible to talk about sex involving women without using euphemisms.

Aside here - an author I've been reading recently has no qualms about using the word 'cock'. I like that. It's a shitload better than one minute his marble column is rising to the ceiling and the next it's turned into a majestic tree trunk, right? I mean, this may just be a cultural thing, but I find euphemisms jarring, and the best smut for me is the stuff that can describe what's going on without resorting to them. I like cock. I would totally give a thrusting marble column the side-eye.

*ahem* Anyway, so women's parts are, I think, more difficult to write plainly about, and I suspect that's more because of our socially constructed way of viewing vaginas as dirty.

Argh no Tats, get your sociology out of my fanfiction!

Yeah, I know, but think about it. I think I would find it easier to write slash than I would het, because when I start to think about how I would describe a heterosexual sex act, I get hung up on not wanting to talk about vaginas. Because they are secret things, even though 50% of the population (more or less) has them and they are an intrinsic part of this whole sex business for a woman. Or maybe because for me, sex is mostly in my head and so reading or writing about bonking is just a big yawn. Man on man sex is sufficiently distanced from my own experience that I can view it and not have a little voice in the back of my mind being hyper-critical of how that isn't really how it is and how her responses aren't like mine and ..

.. and you know what else? I don't think there's actually that much porn out there that's written from a woman's perspective anyway, for writers to learn how to write it. We are still trying to work out what porn for women should look like, given that up until a few years ago ALL porn was by men for men. Even the first women's porn was based not on asking women what they like but on assumptions about what women like based on what gay men like.

And suddenly it all makes sense. What pleases men is everywhere. What pleases women is still something of a rarity, and even a woman who knows what pleases her has a bunch of social conditioning that her sexuality is mysterious, secret and not to be talked about.


To which I go "Oh bollocks." (kind of literally I guess)

Because it would be nice if that changed. But as of right now, it seems that slash is more common and usually better written, and what I have read of het is generally biasing my perspective towards choosing slash over it purely for the sake of the writing quality.

And yes, I have already read all the non-smut-containing gen in the fandom, why do you ask?

* See also: He raked his eyes over the other man's body. Only ever do this once in a story, or your reader will start to have some really creepy visualisations.
** On most days my mind is a cesspit of filth and debauchery. Seriously, you have no idea.
*** I get off on good writing.

Comments:

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From:ecosopher
Date:June 23rd, 2013 10:57 pm (UTC)
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Damn you and your infernal insistence on always posting stuff to which I desperately wish to respond, but find myself either too short on time or brain function to do so in a suitably coherent manner!

Or:

Much of what you observe really resonates with me, and I have quite a bit to say about this, and will be back later to say it, when I don't have a poorly baby on my lap.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 23rd, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC)
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Hee, I'm glad someone understands what I'm on about! ;-)
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From:ecosopher
Date:June 24th, 2013 02:29 am (UTC)
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OK, here we go with some thoughts ;)

I get the appeal of fanfiction -- I mean, I understand wanting to recreate more of the world and the characters you like, but I generally shy away from reading it. It's like... there is a lot of it out there that is really poorly written, and I have HIGH standards for reading. I mean, I will read absolutely anything that is put in front of me (I can't help myself!) but if I'm going to make a decision to spend time reading something, it has to be good. That's not to say there's none out there, I'm sure there's a lot, but I've not found it (and I'll admit, I've not really gone looking). As for smut... I guess I like a well written sex scene, but romance/erotica as a genre? Again with so much of it being poorly written, and I just can't take it seriously (or get really aroused) if it's clumsy or unnatural, you know?

And it's interesting that you mention you like the use of the word cock. I personally don't like it, but I've come to embrace cunt a lot more. I used to really hate it, but then someone gave me the idea of being able to reclaim it as a word women can use, rather than being a degrading insult. I read a friend's novel where she used the word clitoris, but tended not to use any other sexually anatomical terms, and so I found it snapped me out of the scene a bit, if that makes sense? It does seem weird that we don't just use the words penis, vagina, labia, etc, though, doesn't it? I mean, we don't find alternative terms for arms or noses... is it just our prudish history which doesn't allow for this when we're talking about sex?
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From:tatjna
Date:June 24th, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)
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I've recently been reading an author that seems to want to avoid using the word 'arm' every time someone grabs somebody. Maybe they want to differentiate between the various different kinds of arm-grabbage. But what it ends up with is a hell of a lot of bicep-grabbing.

And after a while, I get this picture in my head every time I read it, of Fender from Futurama with his pincers, grabbing onto *insert favourite character here* by the bicep and dragging him away. It's.. just weird.

I think it we were to use the clinical terms, it would sound too, well.. clinical. And that's probably because the only place we ever really hear them is in the doctor's office, which isn't really sexy (well, there are some folks, and I don't want to read their fanfic mmk?). So I kind of get the euphemisms, but I seem to have a sweet spot somewhere in between penis and throbbing marble column, and cock fits in that sweet spot.

Yes, I really just did say that in a completely innocent way. Yep.
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From:ecosopher
Date:June 24th, 2013 03:07 am (UTC)
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*snort*

Yeah, I suppose in real everyday conversations we don't use the clinical terms either, or at least, most people I know don't. And now it sounds like I have real everyday conversations about penises and vaginas (or their 'nickname' equivalents) and that's actually not really the case. Now, if it were poo? Yep, I talk about that all the time.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 23rd, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC)

Re: LUX slash...

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You were fine right up until magnificent marble column.

Now I am totally giving you the side-eye.
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From:t_c_da
Date:June 24th, 2013 01:30 am (UTC)
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wonders if that's a bit of the "Apprentice Column" from Roslyn Chapel in Scotland - but is too slack to check it via google/wikipedia....
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From:bekitty
Date:June 23rd, 2013 11:03 pm (UTC)
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In slash, there is also the possibility of the Magical Self-Lubricating Butthole makng an appearance. Which can be entertaining.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 23rd, 2013 11:06 pm (UTC)
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In my fandom, there is magic. Mages can learn a spell called 'Grease'.

This is actually canon, and I play a mage. I will never grease a floor to trip up a bunch of darkspawn again without sniggering.
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From:pombagira
Date:June 24th, 2013 12:05 am (UTC)
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mm.. smutt and yes i have had similar thoughts, and came up with that slash is just written better.. on average.. cause marbled column yeah ' nar!

:)
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From:phd_fan
Date:June 24th, 2013 01:11 am (UTC)
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Loved reading your thoughts on slash! I've read some excellent het smut, and excellent slash smut, and avoid the hell out of the bad smut of either type. I'm like you in that I'm not particularly into slash, but if the writing's good... *shrug*

I'm not sure I agree with your analysis on why het smut is worse written, though... perhaps there's just MORE of it written, and hence it's more likely to be bad? Idk.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 24th, 2013 01:45 am (UTC)
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Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, but I seem to find way more slash than het.

And if you can point me to some het that's actually good, I'd be keen to give it a go. ;-)
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From:phd_fan
Date:June 24th, 2013 01:59 am (UTC)
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It would be good if we could get some statistics.... *hops off to AO3* Okay, so I searched 'Dragon Age - All Media Types' with M/M, F/M, and F/F, and here are the results:

Dragon Age - M/M: 1,866
Dragon Age - F/M: 2,349
Dragon Age - F/F: 419

Ouch on the lack of femslash :(

Some of my favourite smut-including stories, both het and slash:

- Ever Rise, by loquaciousquark (M | Vampire AU | F!Hawke/Fenris)
- Coffee, Black, by black_ink_tide (M | Modern AU | M!Hawke/Fenris)
- Old Roads, by aithne (M | F!Amell/Cullen/Zevran)
- Behind Closed Doors, by jillyfae (M | post-DA2 | F!Hawke/Sebastian/Fenris)
- Jazz Age, by mongoosebite (M | 1920s AU | M!Hawke/Fenris)

Haha, I seem to like a lot of AUs. :) And also, if you read anything by any of those authors I'm sure you'd like it. :)

Edited at 2013-06-24 02:05 am (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:June 24th, 2013 02:26 am (UTC)
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It could be because I tend to filter by (my definitions for) quality. So perhaps fewer F/M make it through that.

I am also detecting a Fenris slant here. ;-)

Thanks for the recs!
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From:anna_en_route
Date:June 24th, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
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I wonder if it's just a function of the particular fandom.

I mean I used to read Buffy fanfic pretty heavily and I would say the amount of quality fic coming out of slash and non slash writers was about the same (although if I never read the words "cold dead seed" used seriously in any kind of fiction, I will be very very happy).
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From:pombagira
Date:June 24th, 2013 03:59 am (UTC)
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'cold dead seed'

*makes twitchy face*

thats kinda odd and not in a good way.

O.o
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From:tatjna
Date:June 24th, 2013 04:00 am (UTC)
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I am trying very hard to create a mental picture of a melancholy winter's day, in which the old seedheads from the dried grasses of summer are driven to the ground by the pounding rain...

..it's not working. Damn.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:June 24th, 2013 04:01 am (UTC)
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The kind of fics I was reading were only ever mocking its usage but I'm pretty sure that at some point someone used it in an overwrought piece of prose.
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From:pythia
Date:June 24th, 2013 04:56 am (UTC)
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A friend's smut writing website: http://www.adventurotica.com/


And my favourite of their stuff: http://www.adventurotica.com/index.php/read/novel-list/11-pride-a-prostitutes
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:June 24th, 2013 09:17 am (UTC)
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if it's good smut in a good story I'll read it with relish and probably repeat the experience for good measure. Bad smut in an otherwise good story I'll skim over, but if the story isn't good, the smut will make me stop reading

Ha, yes, that's me pretty much. In addition to that, I dislike most slash in fanfiction. So if my movie or TV heroes are heterosexual I can't take slash, if they are homosexual I don't like them being pictured as trying the other sex in the story. They are stuck in my mind as this or that and I can't read them being turned. Obviously that only goes for fanfiction. Original stories I don't mind at all which sexual orientation the characters have or explore. But for me to read it the sex scenes have to be well written and believable within the plot.
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From:neverminetohold
Date:June 24th, 2013 11:50 am (UTC)
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As a slash fangirl, one would think I would have some thoughts and answers relating to this post, but I don't, well, not really XD I can only say that I'm very picky with what I read too and that I avoid FFs with het and those that have too much smut - and I have no problems finding well written ones that don't go beyond a kiss, though in others a sex scene just fits very well.

Aside from that, I personally don't like pairing characters just based on the eye candy factor. Usually I pick up on subtext or the character's personalities seem to be complementary to each other (or the exact opposite), or something like that (though that might be wishful thinking on my part as far as canon is concerned and I'm sure I'm guilty of eye candy at least once too, though I can't think of an example right now).

Hm, what else? I'm sure guilty of using certain clichés in my own writing sometimes (like the holding breath one, but I do that in RL sometimes myself) but I try to avoid them. And I hate euphemisms when it comes to sex; the worst I ever read was in a German book, not fanfiction.

And it might be just my imagination, but LJ and A03 usually do have better written FFs in general.
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