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Sexual participation within fan cultures: Considering a sex toy as a mode of reception for The Shape of Water

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This article considers how the purchase and use of film-inspired sex toys interacts with current understandings of fan practice. Using existing critical frameworks, including Jonathan Gray’s work on fan-made paratexts, this article will consider how these toys operate as paratextual engagements with The Shape of Water that reify some of the queer elements that have been adopted by a portion of the film’s fandom. It is this article’s position that the devices in question offer fascinating (if not entirely unprecedented) forms of textual engagement that suggest a continuation of the film’s defence of queer love through their enabling of tentraphilic masturbation. It is the aim of this article to consider how the pleasures offered by such devices can be understood in relation to established and emerging forms of fan practice, whilst illustrating one of the more unique forms of reception operating beyond the realm of licensed ephemera.

Keywords: The Shape of Water; fan practice and cultures; gender; paratexts; reception studies; sex toys

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000404553120Plymouth College of Art

Publication date: September 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • The multi – disciplinary nature of fan studies makes the development of a community of scholars sometimes difficult to achieve. The Journal of Fandom Studies seeks to offer scholars a dedicated publication that promotes current scholarship into the fields of fan and audience studies across a variety of media. It focuses on the critical exploration, within a wide range of disciplines and fan cultures, of issues surrounding production and consumption of popular media (including film, music, television, sports and gaming), The journal aims to address key issues in fans studies itself, while also fostering new areas of enquiry that take us beyond the bounds of current scholarship.
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