The wall over my desk at school is slathered in SPN-related paraphernalia. It’s like the real-world equivalent of my tumblr: part inspiration, part visual outburst, part happy zen space I can visit when grad school gets too weird.
The image above is in a particular place of prominence: a pseudo-Dean half-naked, open, and willing spread out over the hood of the Impala.
Now, given that, in my life as a grad student, I openly proselytize for the Church of Gay Incest Porn, having this picture over my desk didn’t strike me as particularly notable: it’s sexy as fuck, sure, but it’s not pornographic. And the only people that see it on a regular basis are my officemates, fellow students, who’ve grown accustomed to my discussions of Wincest, Destiel, etc.
To be more blunt: they know that I research porn and I write porn. End of story.
So it struck me, yesterday, when the presence of this image in the physical space associated with (assigned to?) my academic persona became notable and even laudable to someone else.
Let me explain.
I’ve been at an academic conference for the last day or so, my sixth [fuck me] conference this year.
Fellow grad students, let me assure you: this is WAY TOO MANY to do in one year from a logistical/sanity perspective. Gods. [That said, it’s been awesome for my research, but that’s a topic for another time.]
The panel I was on was poorly attended: we had two audience members. Two. And one of them was my fellow panelist’s husband.
My fellow panelist was and is amazing: she’s one of the leading voices in the field of fan studies.
In her paper, in her work, she’s wrangling with issues of ethics in fan studies; that is, how do we/can we/should we balance our roles as academics AND fans of the material that we’re studying? Like me, this panelist got sucked into fan studies thanks to SPN [damn you, boys]. Unlike me, she’s written an entire flipping book on our baby discipline [awesome]. And, unlike me, she is very careful not to mix her ID as a slash writer with her ID as an academic; that is, she’s been quite deliberate in shielding her online psued from anyone that knows her as a professional.
This is not my approach.
Here, on my personal blog, I openly mix my life as a fan (writer) and my life as an academic. At first, this wasn’t a conscious choice, or one I made with any sort of ramifications in mind. I am always an academic and a fan together, all at once; I can’t (and I don’t) see a neat line between the two, as my early posts on Star Trek slash suggest, I think.
I’m myself. Fucked up: maybe. Wonky: certainly. Insightful: occasionally. But always me. Whoever that is.
And when I started this blog, I wasn’t writing with an eye towards potential audience, with the idea that potential employers or colleagues might see this stuff. That I might be “outing” myself as a consumer and producer of porn, and that such self-exposure might affect my job prospects.
What the fuck ever.
But now, as a PhD student, as someone who’ll (in theory) be on the “job market” in a few years, I’m supposed to (I gather) be worried about the persona that I’m constructing online. About limiting my job prospects by performing an identity that’s not professional enough.
So my fellow presenter’s talk yesterday got me thinking not only about issues of ethics in my research–issues that are front and center for me right now–but also about how I’m consciously constructing my identity as a person/academic/slash fic writer.
I used the image above, that of pseudo Dean rough and ready on the Impala, in my presentation. I’m very visually oriented, when it comes to conference presentations. I’m not above using the sexy and the pretty to keep people involved in what I’m saying. And I’ve sat through FAR too many “presentations” that just involve people yakking; I appreciate the power of visual.
Thank you, Visual Rhetoric prof. You’re amazing.
And I mentioned, in the course of our discussion yesterday, that I have this picture hanging in my office.
And my colleague–who is established in the field like whatfor, who has a rep in our field, who’s spent a lot of fucking time interviewing the SPN actors, which, ok–was like:
“I admire you for having that in your office. That’s great.”
I mean, we’re in very different positions, academically: she has tenure, a book, is a name in our field. And I’m just a derpy PhD student.
In theory, she’s in the more powerful, the more influential, position.
In practice, she’s who I want to be as a professional: paid to go to freaking ChiCon, for god’s sake.
But my liminal, marginal status as a grad student–as a writer, as someone who doesn’t give a shit if people know that she writes porn–affords me a different kind of power, I think.
As I’ve talked about before, I’ve taken my inspiration from Hasan Elhai and his “Tracking Transience” project, in which he casts into the world the minutia of his life, letting anyone who visits his site know where he’s been, what he’s paid, what he’s been doing–where he is right the fuck now. After his encounters with the FBI–who were convinced for a time that he was a terrorist–he decided that he’d share all of these intimate details with the world, with the understanding that most of the world wouldn’t give a shit.
So that’s where I am, as a person/academic/fan writer.
I don’t care who knows what I do. That I write porn AND academic wonky shit about said porn.
And that’s something that my more well-established colleague was jealous of, a bit. That she seemed to admire in me, just a little.
At first, I found that confusing. I mean, she has the career, the established identity, the access to which I aspire. And she’s envious of me?
But now. Now. I sort of see why.
There’s no split in my identity, as far as I’m concerned. And, so far, I’ve learned that almost no one gives a shit. No one fucking cares if I write brother-on-brother sex. Or angel-human sex. Nope.
Now, will this change when I go on the job market? Will potential employers care?
For now, it’s enough for me that I’m not embarrassed by what I write, on either side. Yeah, I write porn. But I also write academic wankery in which I cite Foucault, or Della Pollock, or whoever, and that could be considered embarrassing in its own right, among certain audience.
I suppose that I didn’t realize, until yesterday, that there’s a certain amount of power in that position. That I have seized some power in taking this stance (however accidentally) towards my own identity.
Which is, upon reflection, kind of fucking cool.