I Need to Rant

I am preaching to the converted here, I know, but I need to indulge in a moment’s rant and hope my kind readers and commenters will forgive me a post for once without footnotes. :)

Saying “I don’t understand the need for slash in Tolkien’s world” is patently ridiculous. Tolkien’s world is our world. Tolkien’s characters are us, or at least our deep ancestors. Complaining about the existence of homosexuality among a human population is like complaining about the fact that we have noses or cry when sad or seek food when hungry. It’s part of human nature. Always has been, always will be.

Tolkien wrote fantasy, yes, so if I can suspend disbelief long enough to believe in immortal beings that make glowing trees and put that light into stones that get stolen and result in battles between dragons and vampires and werewolves and an immortal servant of a dark power who eventually implants himself into a magical ring that gets thrown into a volcano by a Hobbit (a what?) … yes, I can perhaps suspend disbelief long enough to believe that no one in Tolkien’s world was gay.

But pretending like this is the default or only correct way to see Middle-earth is stupid.

Secondly, claiming that slash “disgraces” Tolkien’s world is offensive. It is no different than saying that people who are gay “disgrace” our world. Homosexuality is one of many sexualities observable in the human species. While not the most common (I would argue that would be bisexuality, in a less heteronormative society), it is no better or worse than any other, including heterosexuality. It is simply the way that people are. We have words for people who judge a person as lesser because of the traits she or he was born with.

When people say that gays and lesbians “disgrace” the world into which they were born because they were born as gays and lesbians, we call those people homophobic. I think some people in fandom need to get used to the label.

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33 Responses to “I Need to Rant”

  1. Juno says:

    Amen.

    Are they STILL going on about that? The idiots never die out, it seems. :-/

  2. Independence1776 says:

    Amen indeed. (Of course, there are the people that believe homosexuality is a choice and can’t possibly be biological. *growls*)

    I *never* thought that I’d experiance this attitude first-hand, because, “Hey, I don’t write slash.” Famous last words… And yup, I’m getting the silent treatment now. (Early draft to a beta for a specific thing– I cut the scene before I sent the story, and explained why when she asked to see it. Three days and counting with no response when previous emails have been replied to within a day.)

    And even when I didn’t write it, I never understood that argument. It doesn’t freaking make sense. People approach and interpret canon differently. I still don’t read much slash, but it’s generally because I can’t see the pairing (or it contains explicit sex). Not because of the homosexuality.

  3. I have no doubt this will offend some. When you talk about “slash” in the Tolkien universe you are not moving far from the main stream. When even teen boys, 30 or more years ago(who are straight and NOT gay friendly) read the books and go “I think something is going on between those two characters”, it is NOT a stretch when someone expanse on it. Tolkien may not have intended for Frodo and Sam or Merry and Pippin to be couples/lovers, but maybe he did! We have no real idea why he wrote them with such strong homoerotic undertones. In his time he could not have made them openly gay, but maybe he did mean them to be…or maybe Hobits are naturaly Bi! In any case, I think it is far from realistic to ignore that aspect of his characters as he at the very least hinted at and leaned in the direction of “more than friends” for some of these guys!

  4. Lois says:

    I’d say it’s quite unreasonable to assume that just because Tolkien was likely to disapprove of something that it wouldn’t be present in Middle Earth (or Valinor, for that matter). Second marriages, for instance.

  5. Dawn says:

    JunoIndy: What frustrates me the most is the way that people hide their bigotry behind “canon.” They’ll say they don’t like slash because it’s “not canonical.” Nor is Aragorn/Eowyn or Aredhel/Celegorm or CanonCharacter/OFC, but you don’t see nearly the uproar over those. I wonder why.

    Personally, I find it harder to defend the lack of homosexuality in Middle-earth considering that we are talking about a human population who seemed to feel no great compunctions about behaving in ways that their author would have frowned upon in his own life. I love the “Tolkien wouldn’t have approved; therefore, it cannot be,” as though he would have approved of kinslaying, incest, rape, torture, or any of the other (much worse) things that his characters and even his heroes at times engaged in.

    Tristan: Oh you won’t find many offended people here. 😉 We are the heretic loremasters for a reason! We put forth the opinions that mainstream fans distance themselves from.

    When even teen boys, 30 or more years ago(who are straight and NOT gay friendly) read the books and go “I think something is going on between those two characters”, it is NOT a stretch when someone expanse on it.

    When I first say FotR in the theaters (having only read the first two chapters of the book when I was 11), my first reaction to Frodo and Sam was that there was definitely subtext. Now my mind has been in the gutter since middle school, but I had no idea what “slash” was or that I was picking up on something that thousands before me had seen as well. I thought my observation was off-beat from how most fans saw the story.

    I don’t think it even needs to go as far as authorial intent. JRRT was pretty clear that Middle-earth was a mythological history of our own world, and we are descended of the Elves, Men, and Hobbits that people his stories. He was abundantly clear that all three races were, in fact, human beings. I don’t need to tell you how, across time, all-male groups have tended to behave when left alone together! 😉

    Lois: Ah, GMTA, I was typing the same to Indy as you posted your comment! :)

    This is certainly one of the least imaginative arguments against slash. JRRT also, I would imagine, opposed murder, yet most of his Noldorin heroes are kinslayers. And I think that even JRRT would have thought murder worse than homosexuality, yet lo! behold! Some of his characters are not only murderers, but some of his heroes are. I think that recognizing that the guy understood human nature as more complex than his own moral/religious beliefs isn’t giving him nearly enough credit.

  6. Independence1776 says:

    Tristan: I didn’t see the possible subtext between those two until I became involved in fandom. (I still don’t see them as a couple, but I prefer Sam/Rosie.) But then, I’m the one who wasn’t aware two friends were in a relationship until they kissed in front of me, because I’m oblivious to those types of cues.

    Dawn: Yes, yes, and yes! That’s my (so far unused) response to people who claim things wouldn’t happen because “Tolkien wouldn’t have approved.” Authors write things all the time of which they don’t approve. I don’t understand why people don’t comprehend that.

  7. Rhapsody says:

    Secondly, claiming that slash “disgraces” Tolkien’s world is offensive.

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Have folks lost their minds? What is next? Erotica?

  8. Lois says:

    I guess if he had deliberately written any homosexuals into M.E. they would have met with a bad end, if he considered it to be sufficiently sinful. But then again, given the era when he was an undergrad at Oxford, there’s no guarantee he would have disapproved except from his religious point of view (and presumably even then only of the actual sex).

  9. Niki says:

    There’s no more “need” for slash in fanfic about Tolkien’s world… than there is for any kind of romance, fighting, invention, singing, dancing, facial expressions, clothing, dialog, character introspection, or whatever. And when slash is bad because it’s somehow poorly executed in a story (or just not my thing), it’s really no worse than a million silly heterosexual romances I’ve seen in any form of entertainment.

    In other words, word!

  10. Pink Siamese says:

    I do wonder a fair bit about the strong presence of m/m in fandom, and if there’s some intersection between the strong presence of m/m in fanfiction and sexism/misogyny in culture and in media. If I earned a dollar every time I came across the assertion in some random fanfic forum that “girls are icky” and “that’s why I write m/m” and “there are no strong female characters in XYZ fandom anyway, so I stick to writing m/m,” I could retire a very rich woman. I don’t want to trash the idea idea that m/m is hawt, or attempt to undermine it in any way, because…yeah, m/m is hawt! I just think that in many cases, in many fandom demographics, it’s possible that the prevalence of m/m is not so much about loving the hot m/m action as it is about hating on, on distrusting, female characters.

    I don’t have any issue with slash, m/m or f/f, and I do write both on occasion though I primarily write het. I certainly don’t see TolkienWorld as some kind of twinkly Hetero Paradise, and the arguments that homoeroticism doesn’t exist in TW because “Tolkien didn’t approve of homosexuality” are so ludicrous that they don’t merit serious consideration. As someone else has already pointed out, such logic would indicate that Thomas Harris is the sort to enjoy his fried (human) “liver with some fava beans and nice crisp Chianti.” We can tuck that line of thinking into the “Absurd” folder.

    Indy’s experience regarding his/her beta’s reaction to slash reminds me of an experience that I had last semester at school. I got along smashingly well with the woman who sat in front of me in one of my English classes. We exchanged cell numbers, e-mail addresses, and lots of times she’d drive me home after class, since she passed my place on the way to hers. We’d talked about getting lunch after class sometime…and then, one day while we were in the car together, I mentioned something about an old girlfriend of mine. “Do you mean in the best friends way, or in the lesbian way?” Of course, I meant in the lesbian way (I’m bisexual). She never talked to me again.

    So, yeah. The homophobia needs to stop. I figure the writing and reading of slash is a good a place as any to break down those walls. My main issue with it as a reader is that I wish some authors would take the time to learn how real bisexuals experience their bisexuality.

  11. Independence1776 says:

    Pink Siamese: I’m female. :) And I contacted the beta, and I’m guessing there was possibly a miscommunication, because she said to send the scenes! (It’s a m/f/f V triad, with my MC being bisexual.) So, we’ll see.

    *hugs* I hate it that things like that happen.

  12. Dawn says:

    Indy: Indeed! I am a pacifist vegetarian, yet my characters engage in violence and eat meat, despite the fact that my beliefs on those issues are at least that felt by a Catholic towards things like homosexuality, divorce, and premarital sex.

    And I’m glad the brouhaha with the beta proved to be a false alarm. :)

    Rhapsody: I think they’d have a considerably harder time proving that sex didn’t exist in Middle-earth (although it is fanon that Elves don’t reproduce but that there is a set number of Elves, but that’s so inane and ignorant that it’s really not even worth answering.) However, I do think that a lot of the same people do dislike erotica. Once again, it is a disgrace to Tolkien’s world to admit that his characters might not only have sex but enjoy it. It’s not a disgrace to have them warring and torturing, mind you, but sex? Ugh. 😉

    Lois: This is a good point. I often wonder, if JRRT was alive today, what he would think of same-sex unions, for example.

    I always find it amusing when canatics imply the JRRT didn’t know about sex, part of which is homosexuality. He made up quite a few words in Elvish concerning sex. And he had several children. I think he knew about the birds and the bees!

    Niki: Lol–good point! 😀 I think it’s easy to forget that, as readers, we don’t “need” the same things in a story. For example, I know plenty of readers who hate poetry and skip the songs and poems in JRRT’s books (or fanfic), which would probably be unthinkable to him, since this was such an important part of his imagined mythology.

    Pink Siamese: I wonder the same. The misogynism in fandom drives me crazy. The very fact that the presence of an OFC immediately disqualifies a story for many readers is, to me, deeply bothersome and indicative of how those readers view women.

    “Girls are icky”? Wow, really? What are we, making up Magic Markered signs to put up on the cardboard playhouse? (Besides that most fan writers–in Tolkien fandom anyway–are women: They think that they are icky? Their own bodies are icky? Well, I suppose that many of them do.)

    I’m sorry about your “friend.” My sister is also bisexual (happily married and living across the ocean from me since I live in the U.S. and not a state that allows same-sex marriage/unions), and I was the first person in her real life that she came out to. She was terrified that I was going to think less of her or be disgusted by her … and it is hard to find a more liberal and open-minded person in the U.S. than me. 😉 Yet I suppose that when being heckled in public is part of her daily reality, then even the thought of her uber-progressive sister hating her for loving another woman is possible.

    I don’t think that not wanting to read slash equals homophobia. But I do think that a good number of people who are vocal about their dislike of slash are using reading preferences to hide darker prejudices. And Tolkien fandom, as a whole, often fails to call people out on outrightly offensive behavior, allowing it to masquerade as “preference” and “canon.” I agree with you: That needs to stop.

  13. marta says:

    I think I have a suspicion of what might have prompted this post. (I may be 100% wrong.) But if I’m right, I just wanted to say that I admire your courage. I had a strong impulse to make a post just like this, because it makes NO SENSE to me that (for instance) Faramir/Aragorn should be less true to canon than Eowyn/Aragorn. Both involve characters outside their primary relationships, but where there is good reason why the relationship might be kept out of an official history, and subtext to build on in canon. Yet there is that attitude a lot – that extracanonical het pairings are just more acceptable, and it drives me up the wall, too.

  14. marta says:

    I hit return too soon. Was going to add another quick paragraph:

    But what I really wanted to say was, go you for having the gumption to post this. I was glad to read it.

  15. Dawn says:

    Thank you, Marta. I suspect you do too; we’re both on the group where this became an issue. I won’t say more than that lest I be accused of turning a genuine issue into wank.

    The point you bring up about the extra-canonical pairings is one of the major reasons that the whole “slash debate” tends to rub me the wrong way. Because I’m okay with people who like their canon strict. I don’t understand it but, hey, I don’t understand a lot of things that people like and that’s okay. If people were raising as much of a stink about Celegorm/Aredhel as they were about Maedhros/Fingon, then I wouldn’t agree but I also wouldn’t complain. There’s no accounting for taste, as they say, and no one has to answer to me for what brings them joy.

    It seems to me that in accepting Eowyn/Aragorn but not Faramir/Aragorn … I can’t not see that as homophobia. It irks me all the more that fandom legitimizes hiding that prejudice behind the excuses of “preference” and “canon.”

    No more. Too many people I love bear the ill effects of bigotry–thinly veiled and otherwise–every day of their lives, and while fan fiction is certainly the least of that, I like to believe that refusing to tolerate it here might make a step, however small, into refusing to tolerate it everywhere.

  16. Pink Siamese says:

    @Indy: I thought you were female, but I didn’t want to step on your metaphorical toes in case you weren’t. I’m glad to hear that the issue with your beta turned out to be a case of simple crossed wires. :-)

    @Dawn: I have to disagree; if someone doesn’t want to read explicit sexual content, or isn’t interested in reading romantic storylines, it is a legitimate preference. Because some people aren’t interested in those things, and slash as a descriptor deals specifically with relationships and/or sex, there is some teasing apart of the threads that is necessary. But if someone doesn’t want to read a story specifically because it contains homosexual characters or homosexual relationships…even if it’s “mere” intolerance, it’s still homophobia’s better-dressed and upwardly mobile cousin. If someone didn’t like stories containing (insert black/Asian/Jewish racial slur) characters because of the race of those characters, most folks wouldn’t hesitate to call it bigotry.

    Yes—it’s true, there are women out there who hate their own gender. It was women saying all of those things. I was shocked and saddened, to say the least.

  17. inzilbeth says:

    I was sent the link to this post this morning as it was felt I ought to be aware of it and after reading all the comments and opinions expressed here, I frankly haven’t known whether to explode with rage or burst into tears. I am still reeling from the shock that anyone could write such intolerant and prejudiced statements concerning someone they clearly know absolutely nothing about.
    I happily claim the statement quoted here about not understanding the need for slash in Tolkien’s world to be mine. Whether my name was withheld through courtesy or cowardice is irrelevant as no one seems in any doubt as to its source. It might have been more helpful to the overall debate if someone had taken this opportunity to answer the question and actually reveal the reasons why some find the need to include slash in their stories when the majority can exist quite contentedly without it. Then we might all have been the wiser. Unfortunately all we have here are the usual forthright protestations of the rights of one group to interpret someone else’s characters any way they please, coupled with an equally robust condemnation and the labeling of bigot of anyone who dares to hold an opposing view. And it has to be said, labeling your protagonists as bigots is a most effective, if rather disingenuous, means of silencing them. The person who sent me this link will not comment here for fear of the abuse she might receive for doing so. Having read all the appalling accusations made towards me personally, I can well understand her reservations.
    Is it really too much to ask to be able to express an opinion, and a politely put one at that, without fear of ridicule and scorn from whose who hold a different opinion?
    I almost feel if beneath my dignity to actually reply to any of this. Stupid, idiot, homophobic, intolerant, bigot. Wow, that’s quite a list! Well, if anyone had actually bothered to ask instead of jumping to conclusions, I could have answered them. I might have felt inclined to tell them of the relatives and friends of mine who are gay, people whom I have loved dearly, some of whom are no longer with us and who are still sadly missed. But then again, why should I? I really can’t begin to express how bitterly I resent that accusation. Is it really too big a concept to grasp that just because you don’t approve of slashing an author’s work doesn’t automatically make you a homophobe?
    If you knew anything about me you would also know that I don’t do AU in any form, slash or otherwise. I don’t do second marriages, I don’t do Aragorn having sex with Arwen before they wed or with Eowyn or anyone else for that matter. In short, I only do canon to the point where I can scarcely even call myself a fan fic fan. And when I do indulge, be it reading or writing, I expect the facts to be correct. If not, I have no interest in the story whatsoever.
    I’ve been reading Tolkien’s books for over thirty years and have only tentatively stepped into the world of fan fic in the last couple of years. I’ve found many things which have made my eyes pop and of which I disapprove, slash being one of them. In real life, I have many friends in the Tolkien Society, some are well respected authors of critic works on Tolkien. I can safely say I’ve never heard any of them even hint that they believed there to be a gay subtext to Tolkien’s writings. Not only was Tolkien a staunch Catholic, he was politically Conservative in an age when homosexuality was illegal. He suffered the scorn of the liberal left because he didn’t join their ranks. It’s hard to imagine that he was really a closet gay rights activist. However, this whole ‘did he intend or didn’t he’ argument is probably a red herring anyway as I’ve since discovered that just about every book and every movie ever made is slashed in fan fiction. All I can say is there must have been be a lot of sexually frustrated authors out there.
    I genuinely don’t expect everyone to feel as protective about the original works as I do. Some people obviously feel comfortable taking liberties with canon than I never could. I’ve never said people shouldn’t write slash either. I fall short of saying it’s their right as none of us actually has any right to do what we do. We’re all guilty of abuse to some degree, no matter how faithful our interpretations. It is also possible for slashers and non slashers to co exist if the views of BOTH sides are respected. As a result, I have online slasher friends with whom I’m able to simply agree to disagree on this matter. What really disturbs me most about this post is the truly staggering level of intolerance expressed by whose appear to consider themselves to be the more enlightened and open minded fans. However, by the speed and certainty with which they are prepared to condemn those who hold an opposing view, I’m afraid they are in danger of actually revealing themselves as being far more prejudiced than those whom they accuse.

  18. Dawn says:

    Well, thank you, Inzilbeth; I am assuming then that you claim the statement that slash “disgraces” Tolkien’s world? I did not include your name because I don’t know you, and you did not say that statement to me. Someone else quoted to me that you had said it to them. But if you’re willing to claim it then, by all means, accept my post here as directed at you.

    I frankly don’t give a flying fuck how you see Tolkien’s world or whether you see a “need” for slash in it. If you don’t want to read slash, I don’t care. As I have stated here and in other conversations on SWG and elsewhere, I don’t believe a person is homophobic because she or he wishes not to read slash. I do agree with Pink Siamese that “canon” can sometimes be trotted out to hide darker motives, but I am hardly in a place to know the hearts and minds of others. In the end, that is for you to figure out for yourself.

    But when you call same-sex pairings “disgraceful” and feel the need to “speak out against slash” (as you noted in an NWRG post, unless I am misremembering), then you are taking it a step too far. Although you note your dislike of “non-canon” pairings in general, I note that your status as a moderator on NWRG wasn’t contingent on allowing only pairings from the texts but on disallowing slash. There lies the root of my problem with your viewpoint and the viewpoints of all like you. Because it is never enough to say “I don’t get it” or “I don’t want to read it” and accept that others see this imaginary world differently or want to explore different angles of it. No, there must always be a protest and it must always be directed against slash. If an AU was posted on NWRG where Numenor wasn’t drowned, would you have put in your walking papers? What about Amandil/Miriel? What makes slash so special if not the fact that it is about homosexual pairings? Seriously, I’d like you or someone who believes that you do to answer me that question.

    I might have felt inclined to tell them of the relatives and friends of mine who are gay, people whom I have loved dearly …

    In other words, “some of my best friends are black/Jewish/gay.” That excuse has been trotted out for the past hundred years whenever a group of people is oppressed to demonstrate that, oh, of course I am not an oppressor! That doesn’t mean that you are homophobic if you say that. But it does mean that you don’t get a free pass just because you’ve deigned to make friends or not outcast family members with the audacity to have been born gay.

    If you knew anything about me you would also know that I don’t do AU in any form, slash or otherwise. I don’t do second marriages, I don’t do Aragorn having sex with Arwen before they wed or with Eowyn or anyone else for that matter.

    I did know that, actually. And that’s fine. But I still beg you to answer my question of why you feel the need to speak out against slash particularly and why you felt the need to make your moderator status of a website contingent upon its acceptance of slash, not AU, second marriages, premarital sex, or any other canatic notions.

    In real life, I have many friends in the Tolkien Society, some are well respected authors of critic works on Tolkien. I can safely say I’ve never heard any of them even hint that they believed there to be a gay subtext to Tolkien’s writings.

    Well pardon me for having an opinion that is different from the Tolkien society and “well respected authors of critic [sic] works on Tolkien”! I’ll just take my toys and go home since people who are clearly that much smarter than me have already decided what there is to be decided about a very complex body of works.

    I want you to step back for a moment and think about what that comment is supposed to mean to me. Because someone who holds, say, a PhD from a prestigious university (whereas I am a Master’s student at one you’ve probably never heard of) and is a member of the Tolkien Society (whereas I run a Silmarillion website without any notions of grandeur) hasn’t stopped to think about homosexuality in JRRT’s world means that the question is closed to me and others like me to explore? You reek of elitism with that comment. You and your published Tolkien Society friends do not hold the only correct way to view these books. Come back and debate with us here on the Heretic Loremaster when you don’t try to score points by name-dropping your way into respectability.

    It’s hard to imagine that he was really a closet gay rights activist. However, this whole ‘did he intend or didn’t he’ argument is probably a red herring anyway …

    Ah, now that we’ve proven that you possess friends who are gay (and probably black, Moslem, and atheist too!) then we get to the next tired argument. Why in the world does JRRT’s religious/moral/personal beliefs have anything to do with the behavior of human beings in his world? I’ve no doubt that he disapproved of homosexuality. But I also suspect that he disapproved of murder, torture, and incest as well, yet his characters–including his heroes!–engage in those behaviors in his books.

    Elves and Men are human beings. JRRT said as much in one of his letters. (#211, I believe, but that is from memory.) Human behavior includes a variety of sexualities, including homosexuality. So why–barring anything from the author to tell me differently–should I believe that homosexuality was not present on Arda? Arda is, after all (and I’m sure you know this), our own world. Surely you are capable of understanding that your “magical non-existence of teh gay” is a far more tenuous position than mine, which allows that a human population will engage in normal human behavior.

    Again, I don’t care what you read or how you see JRRT’s world. But pretending like your interpretation is the only correct way to view the world or is more “canon” than those of us who allow for a fuller range of human behavior among human characters is quite silly.

    So now having established the existence of your gay friends and Tolkien’s Catholicism and therefore disapproval of homosexuality, we turn to–what else!

    All I can say is there must have been be a lot of sexually frustrated authors out there.

    The “You slashers are a bunch of goshdurned pervs!” argument!

    And, yes, I will admit that there is a lot of slash out there that is written for the sexual fulfillment of its author and its readers. This comment is already growing unwieldy, so I won’t trot down that path and ask you what, exactly, is wrong or disrespectful about people exploring their sexuality. Maybe some other time and some other incendiary post.

    Since you don’t read slash, I guess you haven’t read the work of Silmarillion authors like Oshun, Darth Fingon, and Pandemonium? Or mine, for that matter? All of us have, at least on occasion, written slash. (Some of us write it primarily.) Yet the vast majority of that work is not intended for titillation.

    Since you don’t read slash, I’ll excuse your ignorant assumption that slash is all about all sex, all the time. It’s not. Oshun, for example, writes a Maedhros/Fingon story arc that explores how a relationship between those two characters would have been received by their families and societies, and how their relationship might have shaped the fate of the Noldor. It has sex, yes, but as a fan and one-time beta of Oshun’s stories, I can say that her stories are not loved because of the sex; they are loved because of the exploration of the characters, families, and cultures that her choice of pairings has opened to her.

    Or my novella “By the Light of Roses” … it’s Feanor/Erestor, assuming that Erestor not only lived in the Years of the Trees but was an apprentice in the House of Feanor. I wrote it on a dare from a friend who wanted PWP, but a startling thing happened around the same time: my sister came out to me as bi and told me that she was in love with a woman in the UK. (I being a United Statian, if you didn’t pick up on it from the spellings.) I believe that BtLoR is one of my best pieces of writing, even to this day, and those who are willing to look past the fact that it is “slash” tend to agree. When I was posting a chapter each week, about 3/4 of the way through the story, I had a reader complain because, while the story was a “slash” (i.e., had openly gay characters), there was no sex!

    For me, slash has nothing to do with the titillation. It has everything to do with coming to grips with the terrible way that my loved ones–including my sister–are treated in our society simply because they were born as something other than heterosexual. Because JRRT was conservative and Christian and both of those facts are reflected strongly in his writings, that makes his world the perfect place for me to explore how such relationships and dynamics play out in a setting slightly less painful than the one that has taken my sister an ocean away from me because her home country won’t recognize her partnership with the woman whom she now calls her wife.

    So if you are sincere in wishing to be better understood by those of us in the “slash camp” and not to be thrown under a blanket charge of intolerance, then I ask you to recognize that the stories you decry to the point that you couldn’t even moderate a group that allowed them are not all badfic written by hypersexual fans.

    I genuinely don’t expect everyone to feel as protective about the original works as I do.

    And there you go. Why do you feel the need to be protective of a book, a creation, an imagined world because someone suggests that some of the citizens of that world are gay? Again, it is your right to feel that they were not. But “protective”? Exactly who are you protecting, and from what?

    What really disturbs me most about this post is the truly staggering level of intolerance expressed by whose appear to consider themselves to be the more enlightened and open minded fans.

    “Tolerance” is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot to show how nice we can be to each other. We believe different things, so we “tolerate” each other. To me, it implies enduring a bad smell without being so rude as to wrinkle my nose.

    Why should I tolerate attitudes and behaviors that have denied me a family member and that, in my country, are very alive and well, denying the full rights of citizens to people I love a great deal? Endangering there lives, even? I really, really don’t care how you see Middle-earth, though I’d love to discuss sometime how “canon” are the notions of 100% heterosexuality versus a more fluid sexuality like we observe in our world. I do care when you label the people I love and care about a disgrace, even if you are only pointing at creative works when you say that. I think you really need to think hard about why you come out against slash but–professing yourself to be against all sorts of liberal readings of the canon–are not nearly so vocal or vehement about those. We are all human; we all have biases and prejudices, and many of them are ugly. You could point just as easily at me as you feel that I am pointing at you. I have nasty biases just like everyone else and they affect how I operate in the world including, yes, fandom! My purpose in writing this post–indeed in maintaining this weble–is not to put scarlet letters upon people but to perhaps start a conversation about how we can all think harder about our biases and assumptions and treat each other better as a result.

  19. inzilbeth says:

    I’m not even going to read the rest of this reply. I got as far as the ‘disgrace’ comment and realised I’ve been completely stitched up and misrepresented by a third party.

  20. Niki says:

    Is it worth mentioning that I had no idea this post might have been a reaction to one person/their post, since “slash is disgraceful/I don’t understand a need for slash in [whatever fandom]” is an argument that’s been stated by LOTS of different people over the years?

    What really disturbs me most about this post is the truly staggering level of intolerance expressed by whose appear to consider themselves to be the more enlightened and open minded fans.

    I’ll own my intolerance, then. More often than privileged people realize, I think, outrage about bigotry (or even perceived bigotry) is about people belonging to minority groups reacting to the fact that they don’t feel SAFE in a society, and I just can’t bring myself to think that looking “enlightened” or “tolerant” is so important that the best thing to do when I see something hurtful is to “tolerate” those words or the attitude. And I certainly can’t consider the pain of some privileged person over being called a “bigot” or “idiot” on the same level as the pain of anyone who’s been putting up with homophobia (or whatever bigotry applies) their entire life.

    That’s not even getting into how bigotry isn’t always easy for people in a position of privilege to recognize, but doesn’t mean it’s not there. (Sorry, I’ve got to post this comment now and dash off!)

  21. Dawn says:

    Inzilbeth: Then how would you represent your perception of the slash genre? When, in your own words, you “speak out” against it “came out against slash” and clearly feel that it’s so intolerable as to make your continued guidance to a group impossible if the group allows slash to be posted, then I’m really interested in how you then perceive a genre about which you clearly feel so strongly. (ETA: I looked up the original email, which I kept. Since you feel you’re being misrepresented here, I wanted to be sure to used the precise words that led me to believe that “disgrace”–used by someone in a conversation unrelated to this post–was an accurate depiction of your attitudes towards slash.)

    Niki makes a good point that I perhaps didn’t make well enough in my own reply, since it could have run on much too long if I said everything I had in mind. Yes, this post was inspired by your actions. Are you the first or only person to advocate these views? Of course not. So when you ask why you are not named, it is because it is not directed at you; it is directed at a pervasive attitude in fandom that is believed to be acceptable because it is couched as “canon.” If you hold those views, as I noted in my first reply, then you are pointing the finger at yourself; I am not. I could not reply on the list where the comments occurred because a moderator asked that the discussion be ended, else we would be having this discussion there. If you prefer to talk to me elsewhere, on more neutral territory, just name a place.

    Niki: It’s directed at the attitude, not this one person, although this person’s actions are what inspired me to finally let out years of biting my tongue on this issue.

    You make excellent points. When SWG had our big slash discussion last summer, something I thought relevant was the fact that people who oppose slash like to posture with pie-eyed innocence like they’re completely unaware that their opposition to homosexuality in Middle-earth closely reflects a very real struggle in our world for GLBT persons. This makes opposition to slash, I think, so much more sensitive a subject than opposition to any other sub-genre of fiction. For example, I grit my teeth when I see people who feel the need to constantly point out that they don’t read or like slash. I don’t have the same reaction to people who need to do that for AU or even Mary Sue, even though I usually disagree strongly with those people as well.

  22. Niki says:

    Yeah, I know what you mean, Dawn. Just over ten years ago, I was still trying to be a religious Christian–the kind of Christianity that meant I “had” to disapprove of homosexuality, but I still had to be “loving” and “tolerant.” I was into a fandom at the time where two of the characters were lesbians (this being an anime where the intended audience was mainly young girls, and the show’s focus was rarely on that pair anyway), and met a very good friend through that fandom. I was never the sort to rant about how horrible gays are and how they all ought to go to hell, and my friend knew me as a very nice, loving person who would never wish harm on someone else, but I imagine I probably said at least once, “Why did they have to put lesbians in a kid’s show?” (Mind you, as someone who’s probably asexual and just not into romance, I found the heterosexual relationships in the show just as needless and “odd” to me, and I’m sure I publicly rolled my eyes at some of them once or twice. But I never once “had” to ask why the creators decided to put them there.)

    But oh, I wasn’t saying anything homophobic, I was just pointing out that I didn’t get why there had to be a lesbian relationship like that in the show!

    My friend (who, btw, wasn’t a fan of that pairing if that would matter at all to anyone) eventually came out to me, and then a while later, while he was trying to cheer me up when I was depressed, he sent me lines from an old e-mail a mutual friend of ours had written reassuring him that I wouldn’t hate him once I learned he was gay because I was “too cool” for that. Later it kind of hit me then that my comments that probably never surpassed “Why do there have to be lesbians in this fiction?” or “God didn’t intend for things to be that way” could still actually have been as hurtful to him on a personal level as seeing somebody like Fred Phelps holding up a “God Hates Fags” sign on the news. Because if a *nice* person–especially his own friend–in a space he *likes* feels like that, why should he feel safe with coming out?

    So yeah, I definitely understand your teeth-gritting here.

  23. Rhapsody says:

    Wow, well I am amazed, I never read this entry thinking it was aimed at someone, I’ve grown rather tired of discussions like: slash is evol and everyone is put into the pro and anti group. Let people be, respect their opinions.

    It is apparently very hard to think outside the box and to pick up on the professor’s invitation to attempt to create a world that ‘would leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama’ (see the Letters of JRR Tolkien, Letter 131) . I am immensely disappointed that a member of a society would basically deny anyone to follow such a request. And yes, in such a line I can see the invitation for writers to explore sexuality, to write erotica (not so much for myself, but it comes so easily for me, a friend told me that it is because I am a sensual being), or explore the social issues one will encounter when they are bisexual or homosexual. If in your heart you cannot add more to his canon, fine, but give others the freedom to do so. There is really no need to chain everyone to a book and slap them on the wrist if they even dare to think something else.

  24. Dawn says:

    Niki, as always, you say things better than I ever could. :) I believe that you are right on with your perception that the constant need of some writers/fans to dismiss or condemn fiction that represents the lives of some people does create a hostile space for those people. I had never heard pinpointed so well why I feel angry at the dismissal of certain genres but enraged at the dismissal of “slash” so casually by so many people in fandom.

    And, yes, most of them are probably nice people. I’ve no doubt that many of them do have friends and family who are GLBT and whom they love. Some of them probably even vote and act in a way to advance the rights of GLBT citizens … and that somehow makes it worse to hear these people being so dismissive of “slash” simply because it concerns GLBT relationships–and seeing nothing wrong with that! Good people feel it is not only correct but necessary to speak out against fiction that represents GLBT characters and that is thought to be acceptable? That to have non-heterosexual characters in a story somehow taints or disgraces an imaginary world or–at best–is simply an unneeded indulgence? I know … I am preaching to the converted. But I am really unable to wrap my brain around that one.

  25. Dawn says:

    Rhapsody, I don’t think that most people probably knew who spurred this post. In fact, besides the two of us, only two other people participating in this discussion are on the group in question. But I’m sure, from Inzilbeth’s PoV, it looks very different. Fair enough. She feels misrepresented; in the end, only she knows how she feels about these issues, so only she can decide if that is the case. I can only report what I observe.

    To your other points, this is the problem that I have with conservatives in general, not just fandom: the need attach their opinions and views to a higher aim than what the facts present and to piss and moan when other people don’t go along with them. If you want to curb your desires, your creativity, your freedom–fine by me. But don’t expect that I should take kindly to, in your perfect words, being chained to a book and being told what to do by people who fancy themselves wiser than me. I think it’s illustrative that, in attempting to convince folks why writing gay characters in Tolkien’s world is wrong, one never hears these people cite anything from the books. The so-called “canatics” are amazingly devoid of “canon” where this issue is concerned. Instead, they trot out Tolkien’s “intent,” his religious beliefs, and of course, their noble protectiveness of his world. None of these things are relevant to whether or not it is “canon” that there would have been GLBT characters in his world. Instead, they try to force acquiescence by guilt-tripping people who offend those entities that are larger than the text: intent, Middle-earth, Tolkien himself … God, for all that I know. I’d like, for once, to see one of these people actually quote from the texts they are so fanatical about in proving their points.

  26. Rhapsody says:

    It always appears to me that in such debates, there is something else behind it. The so-called elephant in the room. I still find it a paradox that conservatives who claim they want to protect freedom, do everything to limit another (with all most the ‘not in my own backyard’ principle) to make use of such freedoms. I still stick to the principle: love as thou wilt. Yes, that sometimes means you see more than you wanted to know, but there is an off button non your telly, phone, a back button in your browser. That is also your choice to make, if you don’t want to read slash, fine by me, nobody made you!

    When you cut through all the smoke generated as you say, all the claims of authorial intent… If Tolkien would not have stated such a thing, perhaps that would be a good argument, but it is oh so clear that Tolkien in his letter basically let go of his authorial intent and wished for others to play further. That is in these times (for example Robin Hobb) a rarity.

    As for Tolkien’s own principle’s, I always wonder why anti-slashers think of Erendis and her women, her law that those who served her are not allowed to marry a man… That really strikes me as a liberal motive and not so much as conservative. And whoops, bloody hell, its in the books too!

  27. SurgicalSteel says:

    Dawn – I’m late to the party here, but basically all I have to say is WORD.

    To elaborate a little more – I think it’s naive at best to think that Tolkien wasn’t aware of homosexuality. He was in the trenches in WWI, after all. Speaking as a former military physician, gay sex happens between enlisted people far more often than I think Pentagon officials want to believe – if I had a nickel for every time I set my pen down and told some nervous guy, ‘Look, I don’t care, and I’m not putting it in your record or telling your commander – just please tell me where I need to put the swab,’ I’d be a wealthy woman.

    It happens. It’s part of human nature.

    I wasn’t aware what prompted the rant – but I will say one thing in reply to Inzilbeth. In response to ‘Tolkien was a staunch Catholic?’ So was Ted Kennedy. Went to Mass every Sunday, prayed frequently at the church where his funeral service was held. Not all staunch Catholics agree with 100% of what the Pope says.

  28. pandemonium_213 says:

    For the record, although I am beta-reading for Indy1776 (very, very slowly beta-reading), I am not the beta-reader in question. Emphatically NOT.

    Also, on Pink Siamese’s comment of August 23, which I only read yesterday. Coincidentally, another fandom-pal and I engaged in a long discussion concerning the apparent bias against f/f pairings among those who profess to support “slash.” In that off-the-radar discussion, we noted that this bias was less sexist than it was outright misogynistic, and it was a misogyny that came from other women. So I find it interesting that there are at least some of us who have remarked on this discomfiting issue. I can’t tell you how many times my antenna have been raised by those who read and write slash and champion gay rights, eager to cry out “homophobia” when someone protests the genre, and then turn around with the “girls are icky” subtext. Uh, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose, or some sorta cliché to that effect.

    I need to have a look at Hammond and Scull, but IIRC, Tolkien the Oxford don had quite a wide variety of acquaintances of different creeds, etc. Rather rare to be a tenured professor at such a major university and not rub elbows with those who — at that time — might be called “effete.’

  29. Independence1776 says:

    I hadn’t realized this post had caused such a firestorm, and didn’t check back. Although I’m a member of the group in question, I don’t currently have the time to read the emails, and was completely unaware about the history. I took it as a general rant.

    Pandë: Oops. Sorry I hadn’t made the distinction that you weren’t the beta in question clearer. Please forgive me?

  30. Spiced Wine says:

    Got to do something while my chicken soup simmers. 😀

    I read Tolkien at 16, some years before I knew any gay/bi people, and even before I had an intimate relationship with any-one.

    No-one I knew had read the books, there was no internet, etc. I read the Silm and mentally paired up Glorfindel and Ecthelion and Maedhros and Fingon because it just clicked into my mind as *right*. There was no influence save a non-judgmental upbringing, and I never took it any further, as I did not feel competent to write in Middle-earth for almost two decades, but it was always filed away in my mind from that point. So, whatever Tolkien *meant* I saw M/M relationships at 16 and did not find it appalling or sinful, in fact it became *canon* to me. I thought Tolkien *meant* a reader to pick it up. Therefore writing slash to me is natural. I’ve never written more than a hint of femmeslash in Tolkien, although I did in ofic years before fanfic, but that is probably more to do with Tolkien’s general treatment of female characters, since I certainly do not find it off-putting. When I first came across it (it was Arwen and and OFC) I thought it was intriguing, and as believable as M/M.

    Steel’s comment: ‘It happens. It’s part of human nature.’ is exactly what I believe; for Hobbits, Elves and Men and orcs too :). Obviously no one person who reads JRRT gets the same *feeling* or *message* from the books.
    When I first came across the anti-slash thing, I was gobsmacked. I believed in gays/lesbians/bi characters in Middle-earth from first reading him in the 80’s.

    All I am saying is, the anti slash/AU group clearly did not see what I saw in the books over the last twenty-three/four years, but I will not be told I was – or am – wrong in what I *picked up*.

    Peace out, let us all write what we like writing. Let us be a little generous to one another.

  31. Kondoru says:

    Hard to say…

    As a student of Mythology, the Elves….Well, a friend said “Elves will boff anything that moves and then they will boff something that doesnt move until it `does` move`

    Possibly based upon Shamans and oh my goodness we know what they did, dont we?

    (Did any of Tolkiens characters cross dress?)

    Its also best not to enquire what a race of pre pubesents get up to.

  32. Taylor17387 says:

    Well, it’s been like four years since this post was published, but I just wanted to say how much I agree with this. I’ve been bothered for a while by this trend in fanfiction of “I’m not homophobic but I’m against slash”. It’s pretty much the same as saying “I’m not racist but I’m against stories in which the protagonist is not white”.

    I can understand that somebody is against sex stories in general. In which case, I would expect that person not to read or watch EVER anything remotely erotic (nor having any sexual fantasies, since there’s not much difference between writing sex and imagining sex). I wonder how many slash-bashers are of this type (I guess a 0,01%).

    I could also understand that someone is such a canon-nazi, that simply can’t stand anything that it’s not explicitly written in the books. In which case, I would expect that person to not enjoy any Tolkien-derivative material like video-games or films. And of course, he/she shouldn’t write any fanfiction.
    Again, I doubt many slash-haters are of this type.

    I’ve also encountered on ocassion the most absurd double-standards. Like a writer in Fanfiction.net who felt the need to express a million times in her profile how Catholic she was, and how much she hated slash in consequence, but then wrote the most atrocious torture scenes. Very Catholic, indeed…
    Or another guy who complained about the prevalence of slash couples like Morgoth/Sauron (which isn’t even THAT prevalent) and then regretted not seeing ever straight couples like Morgoth/Ungoliant. Apparently, bestialism with giant spiders is better as long as it’s not gay. Nothing said.

    However, I think there’s some valid reasoning behind the objection to certain slash couples on the grounds of Tolkien’s personal beliefs. That is, for the few characters in Tolkien that represent almost pure goodness (from a Catholic point of view). I’m not against slashing Gandalf, for example, but I would find such a couple hard to believe, or out-of-character if you want. In the sense that I can’t see Tolkien ever conceiving Gandalf as gay. But Fëanor is fair game. Gay/bi orcs? That’s almost canon.
    In any case, if Tolkien’s religious views can be used as criticism against the slashing of 100% good characters, then it’s necessarily an argument for slashing dubious or evil characters. Someone should remind the slash-haters of that fact.

  33. Dawn says:

    Taylor, thank you for commenting, even so long after the original post! I do think it’s fair to say that the person against whom, at the time, I needed to rant was seriously misrepresented; however, as your comment attests, the attitudes described weren’t and aren’t that uncommon.

    Like a writer in Fanfiction.net who felt the need to express a million times in her profile how Catholic she was, and how much she hated slash in consequence, but then wrote the most atrocious torture scenes. Very Catholic, indeed…

    Actually, historically speaking, it kinda is …

    *runs and hides* 😀

    But all kidding aside, yes, it is always interesting to me how some so-called religious fans fixate on the sexual content in fanfic without a peep about the violence. As though, given the choice, Tolkien himself would have stricken gays from the world but left torture and bombs and nerve gas.

    Or another guy who complained about the prevalence of slash couples like Morgoth/Sauron (which isn’t even THAT prevalent) and then regretted not seeing ever straight couples like Morgoth/Ungoliant.

    I can understand people who think that noncanonical couples are pushing the “canon” a bit too far for them. Not my cuppa, but fair enough. But it does amuse me when vocal slash opponents then write and read Aragorn/Eowyn …

    But your example is much, much more disturbing.

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