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Some Slash Writers Explore Dominance

April 16, 2001

Regarding "Fandom's Final Frontier: Homoerotic Literature" (April 3) by Mary McNamara: I want to register an alternative view to the prevailing and now-tired view, advanced by such scholars as Constance Penley, Camille Bacon-Smith and Joanna Russ, that slash fiction allows women to write romances in which the characters are "truly equal" and "must turn to gay male relationships to find this equality."

In fact, many slash writers find equal relationships uninteresting to write about and are confident enough in their sexuality and their feminism consciously to explore and play with unequal relationships in their stories, creating power imbalances between such characters as Picard and Q ("Star Trek: The Next Generation") or Angel and Spike ("Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel") or Xena and Gabrielle ("Xena: The Warrior Princess"), relationships based on a positive vision of "consensual" dominance and submission as a profoundly intimate expression of love between two strong characters. Some writers go so far as to write about violence, torture and rape, often as a means to put their favorite character to a test and see how he or she survives the experience, much as the "Star Trek" episodes "Best of Both Worlds" and "Chain of Command" explored the effects of violation on Capt. Picard. Slash is extremely diverse, and scholars who study it should beware of overgeneralizing about why it is written.

ATARA STEIN

Chino

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