Friendship and Slash
I occasionally have a problem with plot bunnies. I look at book or
films or boy bands and I see two unattached, fairly good-looking men.
Maybe there aren't any strong 'vibes', but that can always be overcome in
fiction, and most male/male relationships have enough subtext to fuel my
belief that what they really want to do is kiss each other. And then I
have to think to myself, "Why is a deep friendship between two men not satisfying enough for me?" It doesn't happen with every book or film or boy band - The Fast and the Furious doesn't have a great friendship but could have a very hot relationship, but the Lord of the Rings has some very close friendships and I hesitate to change them. I'm not talking about fiction/reality blurring; I know my ideas are almost certainly not what the author intended or not "true". The problem is, why should I feel the need to insert sex?
Let me use an example. Say there is a film about these two very close friends - call them Adam and Steve - and I am convinced, for whatever reason, that they're gay, deeply in love and fucking like bunnies. Towards the end of the film, the resident bully is fairly pissed off, and decides to take it out on them. He starts taunting Adam, who's closest, about his perceived effeminacy and gayness, and finally starts on Adam and Steve's relationship. At this point Adam finally responds. "Just because I love him doesn't mean I want to shag him," he says firmly. I leave the cinema feeling ashamed. What causes this effect?
One of the causes is quite probably my culture. I'm English, and the English race has fairly deeply embedded ideas of the Platonic, particularly masculine relationship that everyone should be striving for. It's changing, of course, but it's still there, at least in the environment that I know. To basically paraphrase what I know of this ideal of Plato's (and please correct me if I'm wrong ), it's the Western idea of love but transcending sex. Again, being British, if you can't completely achieve this Platonic ideal, then it is far better to be attempting it from the basis of a deep friendship than from the basis of a sexual involvement (insert your own joke). Therefore, when I see a deep friendship and immediately think of the slash possibilities, I often see myself as sullying a noble relationship with ignoble 'desires of the flesh'.
Another cause, closely connected to my culture, is what I believe about deep friendships. In Miriam Heddy's column, Delusions Are Grander, she states what she considers to be the basic implausibility of the genre often referred to as 'buddy shows', that deep, exclusive friendships are shown to exist, the type of friendships which she does not think occur in real life. I take the completely opposite view, and believe that a really deep friendship of this type can exist and is certainly something to hope for. However, when I see a relationship of that sort and automatically want to slash it, I feel that I am denying my own belief in non-sexual, devoted friendships.
A third cause of my ashamed reaction may be that I feel that if I automatically rush to slash a deep friendship I am denying the validity of any type of relationship other than a sexual one. After reading a story in which the relationship is purely sexual I feel that the depicted relationship is not very stable or fulfilling for either participant, which may explain why I sometimes feel uncomfortable with moving friendship into the realms of a sexual relationship. The flip side of this is evidently that I feel that a sexual relationship lacks validity. However, denying the validity of sexual relationships is the same as denying the validity of other relationships. It is a plausible argument that sex is needed to make an entirely complete relationship, although this does not quite convince me, or absolve the shame I feel after watching Adam and Steve.
Basically, my main discomfort comes from the vague feeling that I am not accepting the validity of non-sexual relationships, and the only way around this is to overcome all of my social conditioning, live as a hermit so as not to be corrupted again, and thus to obtain the ability to see all human relationships in a balanced way; to admire the true comrades and adore the cute, slashy ones. Not possible really, so I'll just have to live with my inbuilt reactions and try and overcome them. Oh, look, a plot bunny! Alexandr Menshikov was a very close friend of Peter the Great, you say?