Give me smut and nothing but

Michelle Zheng

At age 7, my first encounter with fan fiction was in the form of an epic, 20-chapter whirlwind romance on Hiromu Arakawa’s “Fullmetal Alchemist.” From the couple’s first, tentative kiss, to their passionate lovemaking, I prayed for their happily ever after, and they got one in the form of a pregnancy.

While you could find this plotline in any dime-a-dozen bodice ripper, this specific rendition featured a 30-year-old man falling in love and somehow impregnating a 15-year-old boy.

If something like this was released for mainstream consumption, there would rightfully be a massive amount of outrage, but in the fanfic world, no one would bat an eye. The work would be comfortably filed under the tags #mpreg (short for male pregnancy) and #underage.

While I do not deny the problematic aspects of this aforementioned story, the beauty of fan fiction is its ability to allow exploration of difficult and sometimes taboo sexual desires through familiar characters.  

Fan fiction is known to be pretty smutty, and is frequently criticized for perceived fetishization of gay relationships. Even as the vast majority of fanfic writers are women, most fics are oriented around the love and sex lives of male characters.

So why is fan fiction as prime of a licentious, homosexual medium as Oscar Wilde’s ghost? While it seems like more of a modern invention, fan fiction started in the 1960s by women in the “Star Trek: The Original Series” fandom. In Francesca Coppa’s 1970 “A Brief History of Media Fandom,” 83 percent of Star Trek fan fiction authors were female, and 90% by 1973. In 2010, fanfiction.net, one of the older fan fiction archive sites, noted that 78 percent of writers who joined that year identified as female.

In comparison to the classic erotic novels like 1748’s “Fanny Hill” or 1928’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” which use female characters to fulfill male fantasies, women-written fan fiction frequently use male characters to explore otherwise difficult sexual desires and identities. This is not to say that men only write pointless smut while women only write profound pornography: fan fiction, however, does provide a uniquely female-dominated platform for exploration of sexuality.

One of my favorite writers in the “Tales from the Borderlands” fandom Arcturus proposes that exploring taboo interactions between white cisgendered men creates a barrier, or “cipher” that distances us from the all too real oppressive social constructs we face in our everyday lives. White, cis men are currently the last “blank slate” human which exists in society, and using them allows us to focus on the navigation of complex sexual identities without guilt.

With this blank-slate idea in mind, fan fiction offers the opportunity to safely explore controversial works on topics such as incest, bestiality, pedophilia and abuse. God knows that these works will have their own issues, but it is possible to dismantle ideas which reinforce problematic behaviors while still using fan fiction as a space to open up conversation on these taboo subjects.

We are not born knowing how to confront our sexual desires and identities. Fanfic provides a safe avenue for us to work through our complicated wants without having to actually foist them upon ourselves.

I devour Iron Man/Captain America fics not only because I’m interested in how their dicks interact, but also how their traumas can reflect my own. While I’m clearly neither a billionaire-playboy-genius-philanthropist or a super-soldier from the 1940s, I resonated deeply with both their feelings of isolation. I was invested in how these two would love, because I was interested in how I might act in the same situation.   

As I have grown up with fan fiction and fluttered from fandom to fandom like Tony Stark’s butthole on Steve Rogers’ cock, I can pinpoint the emotional difficulties I was going through via the types of plots I was interested in. When I was struggling with loneliness, I sought out easy reads that started with mutual pining and ridiculous conflicts that ended in neat, happy resolutions.  

Now, as I am reaching a more stable plane in my life, I seek out complex depictions of love that focus more on realistic conflicts between two flawed people.

But, after a long day, sometimes I just want to pull a simple porn-without-plot from my spank bank. All I need to tickle my clit is a good ol’ fic of Legolas using his healing dick to liberate his Gimli from the clutches of his lust.

Michelle Zheng writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @thezhenger.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this column misspelled the novel title “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”

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  • lspanker

    So let me get this straight: progressives who have a fit over “Huck Finn” and other literary classics because fictional characters in them use the N-word, have no problem whatsoever with reading fictional accounts of man-boy pedophilia. Care to explain the logic in all of this?

    • Nunya Beeswax

      Not only has no problem with it, but flicks the bean to it to boot. Though she does make the requisite acknowledgment that it’s “problematic.”

  • Left Unsaid

    Daf uq I just read? Sosh major gone wyld?

  • Man with Axe

    I know I don’t have to click on this story, but I did after reading the lede just so that I could comment: Why do you publish this? What is this sort of thing doing in a university publication that is accessible to the general public?

    • William Baker

      more like Man With Axe To Grind

      • lspanker

        You make up a new handle just for that last remark?