Pornography By Women For Women, With Love

Publication year

This has been reprinted in The Fan Fiction Studies Reader, edited by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse, University of Iowa Press, 2014 (pages 82-96). The links above are to this edition.

K. A. Laity has written a post about it for Teach Me Tonight and there is an interview with Russ, by Conseula Francis and Alison Piepmeier, at Journal of Popular Romance Studies 1.2 (2011).

Clearly the topic (slash fanfiction) is not primarily romance, but romance fiction is mentioned, and some of the fiction discussed could fall into the category of m/m romance. Indeed, "The beginning of the m/m genre with digital origins has often been linked to a perhaps rather unexpected source: fanfiction" (Whalen 7).

A few quotations, particularly those which mention romance, are included below:

Within the Star Trek fan world lies a specialized sub-group of writers, editors, and readers who edit, write, and read fanzines called “K/S.”

“K/S” zines are anthologies of fan-written stories about the relationship between Kirk and Spock. The authors rate their own stories G, R, or X, and their premise is that Spock and his Captain are lovers. This fact is often assumed in the G-rated work, very often talked about in the R-rated poems and stories, and the X-rated work shows sex between the two characters again and again and again. (And again. Ditto the illustrations.)

And all of the editors, writers, and readers are women. (83, in The Fan Fiction Studies Reader)


Briefly: not only are the two characters (Kirk and Spock) lovers (or in the process of becoming so; many of these are “first time” stories), they are usually bonded telepathically in what amounts to a life-long, monogamous marriage, which is often literally impossible for either party to dissolve. Sometimes the union of minds lasts only until death (often the death of one bondmate precipitates that of the other) but often it is assumed to last after it. (83, in TFFSR)


even in the stories that end happily there is an extraordinary amount of frustration and delay; in these tales Spock’s Vulcan notions of propriety (emotionlessness and pure logic) are used to postpone the declaration and consummation of the love, or the conflict between Spock’s Vulcan and Human natures, or Kirk’s pride, or everybody’s scrupulousness and doubts and reasons not to— which sometimes go on for sixty or seventy pages. These endless hesitations and yearnings resemble the manufactured misunderstandings of the female romance books (themselves sexual fantasies for women). (84, in TFFSR)


So far the material sounds like the irreverent description by two of my friends: “Barbara Cartland in drag.” But if that’s all K/S stories are, why don’t the women who read them and write them simply read romances and be done with it? Why the “drag”? Why project the whole process on to two male science fiction characters?

First of all, K/S is not about two men. Kirk is a man, to be sure, but Spock isn’t; he’s a half-human alien. Susan Gubar has speculated in a recent essay that when women s.f. writers write about aliens they are very often writing about women. (84, in TFFSR)


And let’s not pride ourselves on the monogamy, either; this is another patriarchal imposition which women have sexualized— in fact, I believe it can be seen in the K/S material (as in the romances) as a metaphor for intensity, and can so be read as a way of expressing intensity and completeness, not duration (88, in TFFSR)