Illustration by Sarah Schmitt
From My Little Pony bestiality to gay Harry Potter porn, women use fan fiction and fan art to explore their sexualities and kinks. We find out why queering the canon is so alluring.
This post was originally published on Broadly Germany.
In the vast expanse of the Internet, you can find basically all the entertainment your heart desires—so as Rule 34 ("if it exists, there's porn of it") would have it, it's logical that TV shows, books, and computer games would inspire their own take on porn. Whether it's fan art or fan fiction, the creativity of a devoted fan knows no limits. Plotlines get mangled and plunked in an alternate universe; desperate fans take an unloved ending and rewrite it into a happy one. In the process, things inevitably get dirty.
On the fan fiction site AO3 alone, there are about there are about 260,000 entries tagged with "sex." That's a lot of smut to choose from, but why would you prefer to read porn instead of watching it on a site like xHamster? I spoke to a couple of anonymous fans to find out why.
Non-erotic fan fiction—stories written by fans about their favorite characters—often provide an entry point into the world of literary erotica. Fans exchange 'fic' with friends; they send each other funny or exciting stories and loyally follow longer, episodic works. You can subscribe to stories on fan fiction sites and get notifications when a new instalment goes up. Other people write porn on LiveJournal or Tumblr.Longer fanfics may typically have a slower build, but sooner or later a chapter arrives where characters—let's take Harry and Draco from Harry Potter—get down to it do the nasty.
But there's also just regular, straight-up porn in shorter fics. This can also go on for several chapters (orgies take a lot of time to do justice in text), or there are so-called one-shots: Purely pornographic fanfics are often labeled as such, with tags like "PWP" ("plot, what plot?" or "porn without plot").If you think sexual intercourse is described in a few sentences, think again: There's extensive foreplay, passionate spontaneous sex, mentions of contraception and consent, multiple orgasms, and a lot of drawn-out sexual release.
You won't believe how much I leaned about anal sex from fan fiction.
"In the beginning, I read everything that I could find on my pairing, so also the erotic fics," says one young female fan, who has been reading fan fiction for years and has just started writing, too. "By now, these texts are part of the standard reading for me."
The ways people to live out their sexual desires in fan fiction are only restrained by the creativity of the fandom itself. In role-play, fans take on the roles of their favorite characters, in the form of a live action role play or a text-based event on platforms like Twitter or LiveJournal. So what's driving young women to prioritize pornographic fanfics over traditional porn? It may have something to do with the diversity of representation in fan fiction.
Photo by Simone Becchetti via Stocksy
There are also no limits to sexual preference in fantasy. Even if characters are heterosexual in the canon, they can be queered for the sake of fan fiction. Bisexual Ash Ketchum from Pokemon? Sure. Gay Edward Cullen being best friends with a lesbian Bella Swan; why not? Fan fiction is dominated by women, and many stories are written by women for women. Characters who might have otherwise been shafted in the original source material become characters with their own desires and fantasies. They're elevated into subjects who decide for themselves who and how they want to fuck.
The biggest pornographic tags on AO3 are, respectively, anal sex (45,000 entries); oral sex (34,000); blowjobs (32,000), and masturbation (23,000). You may think that's pretty vanilla—but the content itself is as diverse as the fandoms that make them up. There's BDSM, exhibitionism, and group sex, as well as knotting, tentacle sex, and watersports—countless kinks and preferences are all described and read.
More niche kinks require a little more open-mindedness. "At first it really tested my tolerance," says one My Little Pony fan, who was shocked to see fan fiction describing the animated ponies getting frisky with humans. "Then I became more and more relaxed in terms of other peoples' kinds [of kinks]."
There's a neat side effect for fans who read adult fan fiction: They learn an insane amount. They learn about different kinds of sex, about sexual practices, and about themselves. "You won't believe how much I leaned about anal sex from fan fiction," a fan fiction reader wrote me when responding to my question as to fan fiction changed their point of view. Younger tween readers can learn more than they would in any sex ed class in the world; things like what kind of lube not to use with certain sex toys, or how proper aftercare and pain play works—stuff you wouldn't ask your teacher, let alone your mother.
I drew my character with a hyper-sexualized female body and added a penis.
One fan, who uses they/them pronouns, told me that they became aware of their kinks and sexual identity through fan art: "I drew my character with a hyper-sexualized female body and added a penis. It took me years of drawing this way, before I realized I could be something more than a [heteronormative] cis woman. I don't know if I would have ever found that out without the way of drawing that I do."
What fan fiction communities offer is space to reflect on your own identity and sexuality. When I gave a lecture on the subject at Berlin's re:publica conference, a young man came up to me and told me he used to secretly read gay fan fiction before he came out. Looking back, he said, it now makes a lot of sense. Every reader doesn't have a similar aha effect, but the basic theme endures: Fan fiction is an erotic, sensual, and safe way to experiment with your own sexual identity.
But in 2016, fan fiction is still stigmatized as the domain of screaming, hysterical girls. When it occasionally surfaces in the media, fan fiction and fan art is highlighted as a way to embarrass or laugh at the fans themselves, usually with the help of the actor who plays the respective character. Fans are laughed at for lovingly spending hours on a piece of work; works are torn out of context and displayed without credit on Jimmy Kimmel Live to make actors squirm.
What's missing here isn't only an open understanding of fan culture, but also an adult approach to eroticism and sex. That can only change if we're able to have an adult conversation about sex, porn, and kink. Until then, we'll always have AO3, Tumblr, and an armada of saved bookmarks for our favorite fanfics.
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