ETA: since metafandom has apparently linked to this post sans context, let me state explicitly that I'm talking about the MISLABELING of original fiction featuring a same-sex relationship--as for example, matociquala's Carnival--as slash in reviews and commentary by people who are not slash writers themselves. I'm not trying to talk about what slash writers choose to do within their fandoms and communities. Not a slasher. Don't play one on TV. I'm arguing that slash, as a term, belongs to fanfiction, and should not be applied to works that are not fanfiction. My reasons for feeling as I do, explained in the following post, stem partly from my own career as a pro writer whose work features a lot of same-sex relationships, and partly from my appreciation, as a genre theorist, of the intertextual subversion inherent in what slash does.
The subtext, as Giles says to Buffy in "Ted," is rapidly becoming text.
More specifically, let's talk about slash and why it is offensive and heteronormatizing to equate it with homosexual relationships.
The subversion/containment model (proposed by Foucault and applied by a bunch of New Historicist critics in the 1980s) has buried somewhere in the unexamined assumptions of its premise the notion that somehow subversion is bad. Or nonsustainable. Conservation of energy. A society tends to conserve the status quo.
This may be descriptively true (she says, looking dourly at her own society), but prescriptively, it sucks major moose cock, because it assumes that subversion exists to be contained. Hence Natalie Zemon Davis's elaboration of Foucault with her "pressure-valve" idea. (Which, btw, I think is incredibly helpful for understanding extremely
conservative societies--like I said, descriptively
the idea can be very helpful.)
Slash is subversion.
(For those of you who are still wondering what on earth I'm talking about, slash is a kind of fanfiction which posits a romantic/sexual relationship between two characters who in canon have no such thing. You might also describe it as an underground movement. It's named for the labelling convention that marks it; the first slash was K/S: Kirk-slash-Spock.)
Slash says, "These two canonically romantically-uninvolved characters have a close, intense, and obviously loving relationship. Our society--as inscribed on these characters by censorship and other kinds of normatizing pressure--does not allow that relationship to be developed in a sexual way. Let's transgress the taboo."
Now, obviously, that transgression can be done mindfully or otherwise, but the key component to slash is the overt sexualization of a non-sexual, or only subtextually sexual, relationship.
That relationship is, 9 times out of 10, between two men. Because, 9 times out of 10, the most intense and interesting relationship in any given canon is--wait for it--between two men. (And that has to do with a whole bunch of other factors and influences including, you know, four or five millennia worth of patriarchy.)
Now, why am I so adamant that slash is not the same as homosexual relationships?
Because I insist that homosexual relationships ought not to be categorized as subversive.
(Okay, yes, leftist liberal commie bitch, that would be me. Please don't tell me you're surprised.)
Labelling a homosexual relationship in a work of fiction as slash is wrong for a couple of reasons. One is that it's eliding the line between a work of fiction and commentary ON that work of fiction. I think it's inherent to slash that it is subverting and deconstructing and undercutting a canon text's assumptions about sexuality and love (using "text" here in a broad and metaphorical sense, rather than the literal one of words-printed-on-a-page). Slash is a game played with canon, and part of its value is in the tension it both creates and illuminates between canon text and subtext.
The other reason that it's wrong to label homosexual relationships, whether in or out of fiction, as slash is that it is reinscribing heteronormativity on our society and our discourse. It's a syllogism. Slash is gay sex. Slash is subversive. Therefore, gay sex is subversive.
The subversion/containment model is a BOX, and as long as we keep putting homosexual relationships in that box, we are reinforcing the idea that heterosexuality is the standard by which all other sexualities will and ought to be judged. The same idea that is powering the (often hysterical) attempts to define marriage in such a way that gay and lesbian people cannot have it. Because their committed monogamous relationships are being judged as subversive.
And that's so horribly wrong that it's eaten all my words.