Know Your Squick

In which a post that started off quick and funny ends up long and angsty. 

One of the great things about slash fic is that it forces you to get to know your squick, those points at which the fic does something [to someone] that goes a step beyond what your personal fanon is willing to tolerate.

Sometimes, squick points are specific sex acts. Or they can be certain character pairings that to you, the reader, border on the unholy. In a bad way. Other times, it’s a particular trope that makes you nervous, like wing!fic, or curtain!fic or bottom!sammy in SPN slash.

What I appreciate about the squick factor is that it is, in my experience, a constant site of negotiation. When I started reading Wincest, for example, I was horrified by the notion of Castiel/Dean. Then it kind of slid from horrified to indifferent. Then from indifferent to oh, okay, maybe I could see it. And so on.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some squick rubicons that I still will not cross. Any slash fic featuring John Winchester, for example? Forget it. No freaking way.

But I guess I see the whole notion of squick in slash as generative, as a way of delimiting one’s imaginative [sexual] boundaries and then shifting those borders as needed. It’s like Henry Jenkins says in Textual Poachers:

“Not all of slash is politically conscious; not all of slash is progressive; not all of slash is feminist; yet one cannot totally ignore the progressive potential of this exchange and the degree to which slash may be one of the few places in popular culture where questions of sexual identity can be explored outside of the polarization that increasingly surrounds this debate.” (Jenkins 221)

So, for me, wrestling with the squick is one way that I as a reader [and a writer] do this kind of work, monkey around with “questions of sexual identity” for myself and for my own readers via slash fic.

Notice how I’ve gotten this far without saying what my SPN squick points are? As I’ve said before: repression–it’s a talent.

Now these are mine and mine alone: I sure as hell make no judgements about other readers and writers who go places I don’t want, or who avoid locations that I hang out in all the time. [I’m thinking of one of my readers who is lovely about my Wincest fic but vaguely disgusted by my Cas/Dean stuff. Heh.]

  1. Anything with John Winchester. Period. Dude creeps me out in the main narrative and I sure as hell don’t want him hovering over my slash fic.
  2. Non-con, in general. There are times when I’m ok with dubious con–because it usually works out for the best, in a not-terribly-feminist sort of way–but non-con? No thanks.
  3. Extreme violence. Yes, “extreme” is a wiggle word, but it’s like Justice Stewart said: I know it when I see it.
  4. Fic set before the boys are in high school. Just–ack.

But my biggest squick point as a fan has nothing to do with the fic. It has to do with the real world.

See, as a fan, I’ve never really been into the “real world” side of whatever it was I was fanning over. Take Star Trek, the foundation of my life as a fan. I’ve never been to a convention, or stood in line to hear the actors speak, or gone to Gene Roddenberry’s grave, because, fundamentally, what I love about ST is the fiction, are the characters and the stories. I don’t ‘ship Nimoy and Shatner, I don’t follow the actors around on Twitter, I’ve never watched the show’s blooper reels because, it’s just like, I know that it’s all pretend. All made up and crafted out of styrofoam and velour and monsters of the week: I know that.

But there’s part of me that’s cognitively dissonant enough to hang on to the fiction, to be invested in Dr. McCoy rather than DeForest Kelley, in Khan rather than Montelban, in Chapel rather than Majel Barrett. And I want to keep it so, to keep pretending at least in that tiny region of my brain that the Enterprise exists, that these people are truly tangling with all the weird shit that Kirk’s ego gets them into.

And in ST fandom, this is actually pretty easy to do, for me. Because the actors are old enough–hell, the show was old enough, when I stumbled across it–that I can fashion that dissonant space without too much trouble. Can maintain it without installing a watcher at the gate.

But in SPN fandom? Those borders are much, much more difficult to enforce, given the primary narrative’s obsession with pointing back at its real world fans and the real-time nature of the show’s production [relatively] and my consumption of the product.

And yes, talk about dissonance, right? Given that my research on this stupid show had centered on fandom, on the show’s portrayal of its female fans. But I don’t care about who’s producing, at some level. At who’s doing the writing, what the network is saying about next season, what the actors [god forbid] think about the current story arc. [This may explain why I broke up with SPN for like two weeks over “The French Mistake.” Grrr.]

So I actively avoid learning anything about the real world side of SPN. Like Ned Seagoon used to say on the Goon Show: I don’t wish to know that!

Now granted, this IS going to cause problems for my scholarship, this desire to hold the borders fast between the world of the show and the real life logistics that make the show happen, the real people who engage with the fans [whether we want them to or not]. I know this. It’s problematic. I’m not an “informed fan,” as a  fellow scholar put it once at an SPN panel.

Maybe it’s just temporary. Maybe it’ll be like my once avowed opposition to J2 [Real Person Slash for SPN], a taboo that flew by the wayside thanks to my research on meta slash fic. [Hey, I had to read those stories! It was part of my research. I swear.]

But. We shall see.

5 thoughts on “Know Your Squick

  1. Pingback: A Different Kind of Exorcism | cute girl discount

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  3. Just wanting to throw in 2¢, with regard to: 1) John Winchester absolutely no No NO a gabillion noes (cf. my recent post concerning a similar horrified AO3 research discovery ) and 2) I’m curious whether your aversion to knowing anything about the near-incessant SPN fan/showrunner interaction has relaxed in the last couple of years—to be honest one of the things I find most fascinating about this fandom is the intensity and celerity of the interaction between actors/writers/producers and fans, whether that interaction is one we could characterize as positive or, I’d say, more recently, pretty overwhelmingly negative (at least on the part of slash shippers). I’m actually fumbling toward a paper (proposal due Sept 1 EEEK) on that fraught participatory relationship and the summer’s various events, from JIBCON5 forward—okay speaking of which I HAVE to stop reading your blog and get back to work, but that’s not going to be easy—would love to be in touch and compare research notes, anytime. (PS but I also feel the same way about ST:TOS or TNG even—I was young enough when I entered those fandoms, I suppose, that even now I really resent and/or have less-than-zero interest in discovering anything that would mess with my nice happy cosy fantastical notion that in the 23rd century all those events will actually begin to take place, from the invention of the warp core to the birth of James Tiberius in Iowa.)

    TL;DR version: ASDFGHJKL, &c.

    1. Yes, absolutely! We should talk research turkey.

      My aversion to real-world fandom has pretty much been smashed by tumblr. The crumbling that started with “The French Mistake,” much to my chagrin, has only accelerated thanks to social media and my research on the Overlord’s Twitter presence. There are still big spaces of NOPE I do my best to avoid–in general, I don’t care what people’s children look like, when their wedding anniversaries are, what their bodyguard tweets about. But, as you say, the interactions between fans and TPTB in SPN is part of what makes it worthy of study in a hot mess train wreck sort of a way.

      Good luck with the proposal! Sounds tres interesting and timely.

      1. “Big spaces of NOPE” should be a paper title, haha. I did finish my chapter proposal on the Summer of Wank (or, more accurately, the Summer of CW PR Disasters) and another one on RPS/Cockles because I find that shit utterly fascinating, in, as you say accurately, the hot mess train wreck sort of way. Now I have to figure out what to put together for PCA/ACA and ICFA—if you’re at either of those, I’ll shout you a coffee—

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