Kirk, Honey. It's Me, Spock!

Women's fantasies find a powerful outlet in these strange stories about odd couples

| September/October 2002


If you've been hiding inexplicable fantasies about steamy sex between, say, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame, you can now breathe a sigh of relief-it's not as freakish as you may think. And you're definitely not alone.

In fact, you might consider joining the underground community of 'slash' enthusiasts, suggests Audrey Lemon in her zine good girl (Winter 2002). Slash is a subgenre of fantasy fiction in which writers compose their own plots for favorite pop culture characters. Slash (which gets its name from the way stories are categorized; a Kirk and Spock story is labeled K/S) tends to be written by heterosexual females about homosexual relationships between male characters portrayed as heterosexual or asexual in their TV shows. The name also alludes to a violent element in the story lines, in which one character typically is in danger and awaiting rescue by the other. Common pairings on Internet slash sites include Starsky and Hutch, and Angel and Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer; even pro wrestling foes fall into lustful trysts.

Lemon has heard several theories about what inspires this longing for eccentric fiction, which draws heavily from the damsel-in-distress motif of heterosexual romance novels. Some writers point to a dissatisfaction with male TV characters, who are often portrayed as wooden and emotionally aloof. Others-especially the gay male minority of slash writers-see the genre establishing more of a gay presence in the media, where homosexuality is either absent or devoid of intimacy. In this way, slash is a form of culture jamming: writers infuse characters from TV-land's numbing banality with emotion and sensuality.

For others, of course, it's just about imagining two beautiful, naked men having sex.

But, as Lemon asserts, such theories still don't take into account someone like her, a self-described 'fat girl, shy girl, queer girl' who imagines these fantasies and feels compelled to craft them into stories. Nor do they explain why this new form of erotica, written by women for women, never contains women's bodies.

'I can't explain what the appeal is,' Lemon writes. 'These stories start to feel like dangerous ground, the kind of thing that people use to argue that women are inherently masochistic. Or maybe the expression of a fierce, deeply held hostility against men, that these characters should be made to suffer so terribly to earn happy endings. It made me start to wonder just what hurt, what wounding this is that we all seem to be struggling to write out.'

But even if slash is inherently a dark method of communicating dark feelings, it does offer a valuable forum, concludes Lemon. So if K/S turns you on, why not start writing your own tales of intergalactic adventure and hot sex?

Discuss slash fiction in the Literature forum at Café Utne: cafe.utne.com