Supernatural, you’re the Tracy to my Hepburn. But sometimes, I want to kick you in the nuts.

A rant about episode 8.3. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read it.

Continue reading “Supernatural, you’re the Tracy to my Hepburn. But sometimes, I want to kick you in the nuts.”

And Sometimes, It’s Beautiful.

Maybe it really is all about the emotions.

So as an academic, as somebody that studies slash fic, I’ve been pretty committed to the idea that our attraction to slash, as women, goes beyond the traditional understanding: that we like the emotional attachment we have with the characters, that they have for each other, and we feed off of that, use it to construct our narratives of [emotional] desire. That we read and write sex for the intimacy, for the connection between these male partners whom we adore, whom we construct as adoring each other.

As a reader, as a writer, that always felt like bullshit to me.

I mean, yeah, I want to read stories where the characterizations are right on, where Sam and Dean or Kirk and Spock act like themselves. And part of that characterization for me is each man’s great love for the other, their incredible affection and devotion that goes beyond the bedroom, yes–but almost always ends up there, too.

But yeah: I also read it for the sex. Well-constructed, physically plausible, scorching hot and loving (sometimes) or not (sometimes), hard and quick or slow and gentle: but yeah, sex is a big part [heh] of why I love slash fiction.

Exactly.

And in reading all of this academic commentary–much of it grounded in feminist theory, at least in part–I kept running into this notion that slash is girly, that’s teenage girl emotional, that we read for intimacy and not (most explicitly not) for Sam fucking Dean into oblivion. No no. Sex may happen, these theories often go, but, as women, we’re reading for the connection, just as we do when we read traditional, happily-ever-after heterosexual romance novels.

Again: bullshit. Because we read, we write, at least in part, to get off. To get each other off, yes? As Anna Feigenbaum argues in her brilliant and hilarious essay, “If Adorno Could Hear Us Now: Female Fans [Re]writing the Romance/Porn Divide in ‘Boy Band’ Slash Fiction”:

For every [slash] story that maps out a fairly conventional conflict-resoution, there are others that bare little resemblance to the ‘romance novel’ trajectory…For example, in Mel’s story Going Up?, *NSYNC members Chris and Justin share an X-rated ride in a hotel elevator…I doubt the reader is meant to interpret Chris’ demand, ‘I want your fucking mouth sucking my cock,’ as an eroticization of nuturance. Given the explicit depictions of sex and the lack of a developed emotional relationship in this story, I am inclined to argue that it in no way resembles a conventional, heterosexual romance.

Exactly. We read slash, we write it at least in part because the sex, the bodies within it, are fucking hot.

Yeah.

But I’ve read a couple of stories lately that reminded me that it’s not a simple choice of A-or-B, that there’s a sliding scale of sex and romance and emotion, a Kinsey scale of erotic/pornographic fiction. Sometimes, these stories whispered– even as I turned my head and tried to pull away–it’s the emotion, the angst behind it, that make the sex so hot.

And here’s the really fucked up part: both of these stories are Real Person Fiction. One AU [alternative universe], the other straight-up J2. Maybe that’s how they got me: I didn’t expect to find gut-wrenching, heart-breaking angst in the middle of an AU J2. Much less two.

The first story is Ygrawn’s “Private,” a J2 inspired by this incident at an SPN convention. Misha gets a little handsy with Jared onstage and damn, does Jensen not like that. But here’s the thing: Jared’s not his, not really. Not anymore. He should be with Danni. He knows this. But there’s something that reminds him of how it used to be, with him and Jared, gets the jealousy and the grief and the lust all mixed up in one, and, well.

What I love about this fic–what surprised me–is the emotion in it. The genuine sadness mixed in with the scorching, toppy!Jensen sex.  Yeah, the sex is great, but it’s great because it stings; everybody’s hurting in this one, especially Jensen, but it’s that angst which makes the brief respite of sex, the momentary return to what was and what will never be, all the sweeter.

The second is an AU J2 called “Half of Your Heart” by jojothecr. This one broke my heart with a hammer and came back for the scraps. Jensen should be with her. Jared knows this. And this time, every time, it’s supposed to be the last. But they keep coming back to each other, a few times a year, and she knows. She tolerates. And Jared will, too. Because even a few hours with Jensen are better than none. That’s good enough, for now.

I’ve never cried over fan fic before–any fan fic, much less RPF–but “Heart” had me weeping. Again, what makes it extraordinary in my book is the emotion: the pain and unhappiness that’s so tightly intertwined with the sex that the two feed each other, thrive off one another. And I didn’t know quite what to do with that, as a reader, except let myself get lost in the story and cry like an idiot when it was over.

So.

Maybe it is all about the emotion, sometimes. Maybe what I need to remember as a reader, as a writer of this stuff, is to embrace the Kinsey of it all, to avoid the easy, critical binary of it’s either porn or romance, A or B. It’s human. It’s messy. And sometimes, it’s beautiful.

Gimme What You Got (But Not Your Cock)

Magic Mike in three lines:

  1. Too much Soderbergh.
  2. Not enough cock.
  3. The female gaze says what?

A spoiler-y feminist take after the jump. Continue reading “Gimme What You Got (But Not Your Cock)”

Dirty Angel In A Trenchcoat


As women, we need permission to burn.

We need somebody to give us permission to ogle, to turn the unabashed gaze on male beauty and just go with it.

Most of the time, we need permission from ourselves. As the authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts point out, our brain chemistry demands that we give ourselves a mental go-ahead before the brain lust meets the body and those Wonder Twin powers activate into something wonderful.

But there’s also a lot of cultural and social crap that gets into our heads and gums up the works even more.

I wish this weren’t the case. I wish I didn’t feel a twinge of guilt when I look “too long” at the pretty. It’s a twinge born of feminism (you should not want what the heterosexist patriarchy tells you to, goddamn it.) and a childhood spent in church (thou shalt not want, well, anything. Ever. That’s not God.).

The church thing you’d think would be gone by now; hell, even as a kid, I resisted. The feminism? Well, again, I push back when my well-meaning colleagues attempt to regulate, to school me in the power of not-want, but those little twin voices, those towering thou shalt nots, are still there, still perched on my shoulder and tsking when I stare too hard at Padelecki or cross my eyes over the angel, yes.

But now I know they’re there, those voices, now I know enough to acknowledge and then ignore. Because I’m trying to give myself permission to take pleasure in the gaze.

That’s why, to me, the movie Magic Mike is so freaking genius. It’s a permission slip of a film, sculpted as an invitation, a way of saying: yes, you women so inclined (and gay men), come and pay your money for two hours of dominant discourse-sponsored gazing. No guilt, no shame, just two hours of looking that’s been sanctioned by the powers that be.

Because those boys on the screen?

They know you’re coming only for them, that their agressive lack of clothing is what’s gonna drive you to the theater. And that’s OK, hell, it’s more than ok: it’s awesome. Cough up the cash, ladies (and gents), and bask in sex with little fear of being mocked or even noted. Because you’ll be among friends.

So this is what I love, what I wish weren’t quite so culturally necessary: an excuse for communal lust, for a public performance of female desire in which we as the audience can feel safe in participating. It’s like a natural evolutionary step from the Fifty Shades phenomenon, the motion picture equivalent of reading a novel with a very sexy cover in public.

And yeah, it’s the commodification of female desire, and ok, it’s a little heteronormative in its approach (though the outreach to the gay press has been great), and in some ways it’s just as prescriptive in terms of what I (the female audience) should want as my feminist colleagues and the church, but.

If they’re marketing to us–the “us” that’s not white, heterosexual, and male–honey, let’s jump on it and give them reason to do it to us, for us all over again.

Go Easy On Her, Tiger.

Another of my Goodwill romance finds. This one warrented a dollar just on the title alone–and then I saw the cover, which. Wow.

Backcover summary:

“The news clip from Thailand lasted only a moment. But what Meg Devlin saw was enough to convince her that her father–missing in action for nineteen years–was alive. Meg’s best hope…lay with Conor Tremayne, the reporter who had shot the film. But could she trust Tremayne–a man who would sell his soul for a story?”

Rupert Murdock IS Connor Tremayne IN a Fox News production OF…Ghost Tiger!

Random sample sentence:

“She [Meg] curled into the warm body at her side, giving in to the memory of Conor’s hands and lips at the irrigation pond.”

Because nothing says romance like an irrigation pond. I hope it’s not the one where the fish lives.

What I love about this cover:

  1. The look on Conor’s face! Wow. Maybe they’re standing next to the irrigation pond. Or an open sewer. Also, his left arm seems to missing. And he’s a dead-ringer for that dude from The Nanny.
  2. The gold leaf border and the cheesed-off tiger in the background. I think both are meant to be visual cues to the “exotic,” to the Southeast Asian location of the story. It’s interesting to compare these choices to the background imagery in “Suffer a Sea Change,” which is much more literal in its interpretation. I don’t know that I’d have made the “exotic” connection here if I hadn’t read the back cover. Indeed, when I first picked it up, the cover read to me as an exemplar of 80s bad taste. But the book was actually published…in 1994!
  3. Meg’s physical positioning. Her arm on Conor’s shoulder makes it apparent that she’s *gasp* leaning on him for strength in this difficult time–though I’m not sure how him groping her ass is gonna help with that, exactly. She looks almost two-dimentional here, which is not, I hope, indicative of her character development within the text.
  4. The tagline. You had me at the Phil Collins reference. Though draping it over Conor’s crotch is an…innovative choice.

I’ll Make A Man Out Of You. With My Fists.

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So I had C-Span on this AM so that I could watch Mitt Romney’s commencement address at Liberty University.

Make of my sanity from that what you will.

But I was early, or Liberty was late, so, in the interim, I heard a series of calls from C-Span’s morning call-in program.

The conversation centered on the Washington Post’s article this week on Mittens’ dumbassery at a high school student, which, according to the article, centered on at least one occasion on physically assaulting a younger classmate whose haircut Mittens didn’t like.

So he gave the kid a new one. You know, while his buddies were holding the kid down, ignoring his crying and screams for help.

Totally normal behavior. For a sociopath.

Anyway, Steve from Haymarket, VA came in on the Republican line.

And Steve? Couldn’t see what the big fucking deal was about. Because, he argued, he’d been bullied at school, during his time at a military academy. No, not bullied, he said: hazed.

And that hazing had, he claimed, been just awesome for him. Being bullied makes you butch, makes you tougher, he argued. Turns you into the man you’re supposed to be. That’s what it did for him. Getting the snot beat out of him convinced him to take up weight lifting, exercise, blah blah blah macho, and goddamn it: Steve from Haymarket was grateful for it. And he didn’t understand why the kid that Mittens and his buddies “hazed” wouldn’t have “manned up” under such treatment.

Now what struck me wasn’t the bullshit notions of masculininty, or of what it means to be a “man.” How you become a man–through physical violence and intimidation, apparently.

It was that, for Steve, Romney’s participation in this kind of behavior–which Mittens hasn’t denied–is a good thing, is a selling point for Steve on why Mitt is the Right Man for the Job.

To be a man, it seems, means you have to be willing to beat masculine conformity into the bodies of others who are failing to live up to your expectations.

So what does that mean for a guy who wants to be the President, the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military in the world? What about from a diplomatic perspective? Are “real men” only those willing to wage war, to push the physical assault of one kid out onto a multinational stage?

Certainly, I don’t care for Mittens, and I–like most people, I imagine–was bullied in high school. Not physically, for me, but bullied nonetheless. And over what my would-be tormentors perceived as my being a “lesbian.” Now, mind you, at my wee little high school on the edges of the East Coast Megalopolis, there were no constructive discussions of gender and sexuality, more out of ignorance, I think, than any sort of malice. I doubt the morons who tried to give me a hard time [in French class, no less! I think that’s my favorite part, in retrospect] even understood what a lesbian was, other than, perhaps, a girl who didn’t look “girly” enough to them.

So all that said: I’m not with Team Mitt on this one. [Or any one.] But I’m more freaked out by the notion that some people would see this kind of asshattery as a sign of Mittens’ leadership potential, of his potential awesomeness as the leader of the free world. And I wonder how many of said people would also claim to be “Christian,” to be followers of a religion that, ostensibly, is all about treating your fellow humans with dignity and respect.

Not sure what to make of that, exactly. But it doesn’t feel like something good.

Slashing NC’s Amendment One

Suck it, Bob McDonnell.

As Rachel Maddow notes, last night was yet another instance of the majority voting on minority rights: and guess what happened? The minority lost. Shocker.

Except this time, in North Carolina, the passage of Amendment One is a loss for everybody in the state who might, one day, somehow, love someone and want to have that non-marriage connection honored in any way by officialdom. The amendment bans not only “gay marriage” [which was already outlawed by existing state legislation], but also prohibits civil unions or common-law partnerships from being recognized by the state in any capacity.

Straight people, gay people, bi people, whoever: this is bad policy for everybody who might love someone else. Who might want to visit that person in the hospital during a serious illness. Who might want to be able to make decisions re: medical care for their partner. Who might want to care for the couple’s children, to have that parentage recognized by the state. Who might want to be protected from the partner in a domestic violence situation. Bad news all the way around.

Now my friends in the liberal media–and some in the mainstream as well–are blaming the passage of the destructive amendment on a lack of voter education, on the notion that many people who voted for this thing knew not what they did [as a famous man once said].

This is, to me, an optimistic interpretation.

I think many of the folks who voted for this bill knew enough: they knew it was against the gays, that it would “protect” marriage from homo-cooties, or whatever. The rest? Was just noise. Doesn’t matter. The objective here was to hurt, to lash out against the “evils” of homosexuality.

This is terribly sad, to me. And utterly un-“Christian,” the word behind which many of the bill’s proponents took refuge. Granted, I don’t go to church, though I was raised in one. But I do believe in the basic tenets that that Jesus cat was kicking around 2000 years ago, the ones about being your brother’s keeper, about caring for your fellow humans, about treating everyone with love and dignity and respect, even when you think they’re fucking nuts.

Ok, maybe that bit’s only in the NRSV version.

Still. To me, practices that make hate a central tenet of your government, that invest one whacked out version of “Christianity” into the state: that’s not what the cat was saying. That’s not how I read the Good Samaritan, you know?

My fair state has its own issues, namely Gov. Transvaginal Probe and his mealy-mouthed “protecting lady brains from teh hard medical decisions” bullshit. So I cannot cast aspersions on North Carolina as a whole. So, for, now, I content myself with my own particular kind of resistance, summed up in my car tag above: writing gay porn about human and angels, among others.

And hey, you never know. Maybe the nice people of NC would be a little less anxious to kick gay people in the head if they just relaxed with a little Destiel, in their time. Or some nice smutty Wincest. Hell, maybe they need to go straight to the Wincestiel.

Whatever it takes, people. Whatever it takes.

He’s Best When He’s Bound and Gagged


I’ve spent a lot of quality time with Becky Rosen lately. And this is a piece that’s come out of our communion.

I’ve been working with Becky since last November, when I watched episode 7.8, “It’s Time For A Wedding!” for the first time.

My first reaction to what I saw as the episode’s, uh, problems? Was to write my first S/D story, “Hot Blooded.”

My second? Was to start work on this piece, which has moved  from a presentation [of which this is version 2.0] to a lengthier academic essay.

The reaction that I’ve received to this work at the two conferences at which I’ve presented it has been generally positive, but it’s also stirred up some hornets’ nests for some folks, which is kind of awesome. 

This presentation relies pretty heavily on images [which is part of why I’m so fond of it, I think]; if you wish, you can download the associated slide show here

While Supernatural doesn’t belong to me, this work does. And, as Becky might say, everything may be a fic of everything else, but don’t try to slash this slasher, to represent this work as your own.

He’s Best When He’s Bound and Gagged:
Deleting Female Desire in “Season 7: It’s Time For A Wedding!”

Soon after its premiere in 2005, the television show Supernatural—the story of Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who’ve committed their lives to protecting people from supernatural creatures—spawned an online fandom dedicated to “slashing” Sam and Dean; that is, to writing stories in which the brothers are portrayed as lovers. Indeed, over the course of seven seasons, the existence of these narratives—affectionately dubbed “Wincest” by the show’s fans—has become a defining feature of Supernatural‘s primarily female fandom.

By introducing a meta-textual version of the show—a series of books also called Supernatural—into the primary narrative, the program’s producers have allowed Sam and Dean [and, by extension, the producers themselves] to comment upon the productive and consumptive practices of Wincest fans. However, the subsequent introduction of the character of Becky Rosen—dedicated Wincest writer and devoted fan of the Supernatural book series—has allowed the producers to take this commentary one step further: to illustrate the monstrous potential of the female fan, particularly one who actively engages in the construction, consumption, and distribution of Wincest narrative.

In this paper, I will argue that a central image in Becky’s most recent appearance in season seven, episode eight exemplifies the danger that the show’s producers see her [and the female fans for whom she stands, in their minds] posing to the show’s carefully maintained masculine order: the image (slide 1) of a semi-clothed Sam bound to a bed, his body and the text which it represents at the mercy of his female captor. The transgressive nature of this image lies in its reversal of what Laura Mulvey calls “the symbolic order” of gender in the visual, one in which “the silent image of woman [is] still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.” That is, the threat that Becky poses to Sam, to Supernatural, lies in her status as a woman and as a fan writer, as a figure who can upend the central narrative by affixing the masculine to her “rightful” place as the signifier of meaning while claiming the role of producer for herself. Continue reading “He’s Best When He’s Bound and Gagged”

Love! Frat Boys! and Visualizing [Female] Desire

One of my projects of late has taken me into the world of romance novel covers. I went into the work thinking I’d talk about the covers of het romances—and then I stumbled across Anne Tenino’s Frat Boy and Toppy. And that discovery led to the presentation below.

You can see a slide show of the images that I reference here and learn more about the book from the publisher here–which you should because this novel? Is awesome.

Covering Up to Strip Down:
Remixing Anne Tenino’s Frat Boy and Toppy

I began this project with a general interest in the covers of romance novels (slide 1), in these too-familiar renderings [rendings] (slide 2) of female garments by well-muscled, occasionally well-meaning masculine overlords.

And then I came across this (slide 3): Anne Tenino’s terribly titled but oh so very excellent novel Frat Boy and Toppy—a male/male erotic romance.

Now on the one hand, this cover is stereotypical, a close cousin of the now-familiar images plastered on heterosexual romance novels—featuring two naked male torsos for the price of one. But on the other, the cover is just bizarre. Its assemblage-like quality comes off as an artist’s fever dream: over-thought, over-designed, and, worst of all [to my mind] a poor representation of the content [and the pleasures] the text presents. My goal, then, has been to redesign Toppy’s cover so that it might more effectively reflect both the book’s content and the current cultural conversation surrounding women and the consumption of popular [erotic] romance, a discussion sparked by the runaway success of this novel, (slide 4) Fifty Shades of Grey.

Perhaps the busy nature of Toppy’s cover (slide 5) is due, in part, to the many different kinds of stories that the novel manages to tell within the generic constraints of an erotic romance; that is, a romance in which sexual encounters are used as the building blocks of a mutually satisfying and emotionally supportive love match and one which concludes with the characters living “happily ever after.” Toppy manages to do this while performing several other kinds of stories within the same text. First, the novel is a coming-out story in which Brad [the titular frat boy] recognizes that he’s gay, that he’s attracted to other men: specifically, to Sebastian, the TA for Brad’s “Classical Greece” history course.

Early in the book, Brad comes out to his family, who are relaxed and groovy about the whole thing, as, it seems, is Brad himself. Indeed, he is pretty angst free about the whole thing: he accepts who he is—and who he is wants Sebastian. That said, Brad is reluctant to come out to his frat, many of whom aren’t homophobic, per say, but are pretty happily ensconced in their belief that Brad’s straight [given that he’s been dating—but not sleeping with—women] and show little interest in discussing the potential fluidities of male sexual desire.

But this is also a romance, a story about two people falling in love and using hot sex as a means by which to discover that their attraction goes beyond the physical. After getting Sebastian’s attention by turning in a paper he purchased online as his own [like you do], Brad confesses his desire. The two men immediately sleep together [in that Yankee Candle- infested living room on the front cover] and it’s all happily uphill from there. Continue reading “Love! Frat Boys! and Visualizing [Female] Desire”