On the vagaries of internet smut - Tactical Ninja
Jun. 24th, 2013
10:39 am - On the vagaries of internet smut
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.