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‘The Tent’s Big Enough for Everyone’: online slash fiction as a site for activism and change

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This article draws on a piece of wide-scale mixed-methods research (n = 429) that examines how women who write and read male/male erotica feel their involvement with the genre has affected their views on gender and sexuality and their political engagement with gay rights issues. Previous work has looked at how online slashfic communities might provide a safe space for exploring gender performance and sexuality, while other researchers have observed a tension between those who identify as queer themselves and those who only ‘play at queerness’ exclusively within the online environment. However, much of this work has examined the theoretical positioning of such forums as transgressive and/or political. Far fewer pieces have attempted to engage with the women who frequent such sites to ask them about whether their involvement in these online spaces has affected their attitudes and behaviours. This study looks not only at the ways in which online m/m fandoms can act as a safe space for women to explore their sexualities and gender identities, but whether and how these insights connect to women’s real-world lives. Data presented here shows a strong consensus among participants that involvement with explicit slash communities has had a positive effect on their lives, as well as contributing to beneficial changes in their knowledge, attitudes, and practices with regards to LGBTQ+ issues. Overall, slash is seen as a medium which can create better allies, encourage cross-identification, and bring about positive personal changes. To this extent, I argue that explicit online slash sites can act as heterotopias.
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Keywords: Activism; M/M; heterotopias; queer space; slash fiction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Criminology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK

Publication date: March 4, 2018

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