When I first began writing slash, about a year and a half ago, I
tried to improve my understanding of the genre by searching the web for
non-fiction slashy material. I found useful informational sites, entertaining essays and "rants," lists of personal peeves, writing tips, resource listings... a veritable gold-mine of information. And a large percentage of this material is devoted to the effort of making the sex in slash stories "more realistic."
This isn't too surprising. After all, most slash is written by women, who do not and cannot have any firsthand experience of m/m sex, so how else are we going to get it right if not through research? Lately, though, I've been asking myself a different question -- just how much realism do I want in my slash, anyway? As a writer, or as a reader?
Let's face it, nobody reads slash because they're looking for a nice, healthy doze of reality. We're talking about homoerotic fantasies about TV and movie characters, written mostly by straight women. If the world "escapism" didn't exist, we'd probably have to invent it, just for the purpose of describing the genre. So how real does it have to be? Do we really want to see Iolaus trudging off into the bushes to take a dump before a wild night by the campfire with Hercules? Is it charming or frustrating when Methos breaks off a clinch with Duncan to go rummaging in the bureau for KY Jelly? Is it cute or annoying when Jim gets an unexpected mouthful
of Blair's hair?
A lot depends on the fandom, of course. Some shows, such as "Homicide" or "Oz," require a certain amoung of gritty realism in order to capture the feel of the source material. Others are so far removed from reality that just about anything seems acceptable. Greek gods and Jedi masters can bend the laws of the universe to their will; are they going to let a lack of lube keep them from a night of hot nookie? In between these two extremes there is a wide spectrum of shows that bear various degrees of resemblance to the real world. And it seems to me that a fanfic writer's goal should be not to produce a story that feels like reality, but a story that feels like the show it's based on. If you give me a well-written tale where everyone acts in character, I'm not going to care if Mulder got it up twelve times in one night, or if Autolycus forgot the olive oil.
I'm not saying that all attempts at accuracy should be thrown out the window. Even when dealing with a pure fantasy world, it's important to give the readers something solid to suspend their disbelief from. A judicious use of real-life detail can add charm, humor, and romance to a story. And I myself find that a sex scene does a lot more for me if I can visualize all the positions without snickering at the impossibility of it all. All I'm saying is, sometimes you just don't need to sweat the details.