Sexuality in Slash: My God, Spock, You're a Woman!
by Rachel Shave
A bowl of soup flies across the room in a display of anger by a person
suffering from the cyclical effect of reproductive hormones. Who threw it? My friend, Belinda (who gets a bit tetchy at that time of the month), or even me? No. It is our favourite half-Vulcan/half-human, Spock, who is suffering from a severe case of hormonal imbalance.
When we first look at slash fiction, the sexuality of the protagonists would appear rather obvious. However, in the words of Ira Gershwin, "it ain't necessarily so"! I'm going to focus on K/S to explore the claim made by Joanna Russ that the sexuality in slash is only nominally homosexual.
Russ suggests that K/S is not about two men but rather that Kirk is a man but Spock is a half-Vulcan alien. She uses the notion of Patricia Lamb and Diana Veith that this alieness is a coding for the female (Russ, 1985: 83). Like a woman, Spock's reproductive cycle is cyclical and uncontrollable (which makes one wonder if Vulcans have pre-pon farr contingencies in their laws like our PMS ones). Despite being
descended from Surak, Spock is just another star fleet officer, which is similar to the negation of women in our society. As well, through being isolated from both humans and Vulcans, Spock parallels the non-traditional woman who is alienated both from the traditional women and men. (I would hope that this alienation has decreased somewhat in the last 15 years since this article was written.) Taking all these
points together, Spock encodes women, who constitute the vast majority of slash fandom.
Russ also notes that the descriptions of sex highlight that it is basically heterosexual sex, citing a variety of reasons including a "blithe lack of lubrication" (Russ, 1985:83). I would argue that this is more due to the naivete of the writers. In recent slash stories, there is a great deal more lubrication used, as evidenced by
the "amber hued bath oil" put to such good used in "Turning Point" (Killashandra, 1995: 36). Indeed, much time is now spent by slash writers in detailing the great degree of preparation carried out by one partner on his soon-to-be-penetrated lover.
Taking this discussion out of the ST:TOS arena, we can find similar elements in some other slash fandoms. In The Sentinel, some slash writers have codified Blair into a virtual female, one that is frequently reduced to tears . This is possibly due to his longish, curly hair; his slighter build in comparison to Jim and Simon; his high communication and empathy skills, and his ability to display a greater emotional range than the cops he hangs around with these days! In The Professionals slash fiction,
Ray Doyle has also been known to be described as fine-boned and slight, while his green cat's eyes frequently fill with unshed tears while in AU slash, he is often made elfin. This reading of slash does not appear to work in the Blake's 7 universe where it is hard to conceive of Blake, Avon, Villa, Gan or Tarrant as being codified
So, are all slash writers really penning heterosexual sex in the guise of homoerotica? While it is possible that some are, it seems unlikely. However, this interpretation does provide a different perspective from which we can gain insight in the sexuality expressed in slash fiction.
Killashandra (1995) Turning Point:
Russ, Joanna, "Pornography by Women for Women, With Love" in her book, (1985) Magic
Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans & Perverts, The Crossing Press: New York pp 79