Monday, September 16, 2013

One man's point of view on sexy Sherlocking.

Any time one starts to discuss "men are this way, women are that way," one is just looking for trouble. Gender traits are definitely a sliding scale, and as much as we'd like to claim either sex is all the same, it just ain't so. Given all that, and the trouble I'm apt to get into on a discussion of same, here goes nothing . . . by the way, this particular blog is for the eighteen and older set, so you kiddies scamper off now.

Soooooooo much foreplay on the latest episode of the Baker Street Babes' podcast. Pre-show intro, proper intro, asking multiple guests the BSB questions . . . were this podcast run by men, I should think they'd get to the actual sex part a whole lot sooner . . . or would they? After a hundred years of male-run Sherlockiana, why is this the first recorded conversation on Sherlock and sex? Has the internet finally loosened cultural norms up that much, or were us guys all afraid of getting in trouble with the missus? Or does it run much deeper than that?

Episode 44 of the Babes podcast, "Sherlock After Dark, Part 1," raises a lot of questions. I don't care if you're male, female, gay, straight, asexual, bisexual, or something else that hasn't fully caught on yet, sex can usually stir up a conversation, especially when we're amongst our favorite companions. And it's not like it's never come up in Sherlockian circles before . . . my blushes, Watson! But the ladies have opened up a can of penis-shaped worms this episode, and I can't help but blog a comment or two.

The Babes raise the classic question of a stereotypical male encountering slash fan fiction, "Why do women enjoy imagining two men together?" and, yes, there are males out there so narcissistic that they can't comprehend any point of view but their own. But I think the question they're truly asking is something that runs a lot deeper in our culture: "Why are you women going there?"

Slash fiction, with its oft-explicit Kirk-on-Spock, Holmes-on-Watson sex scenes are a distinctly female past-time. If you look at the hundred years of Sherlockiana pre-TV fandoms, you don't see a lot of Holmes-and-Watson-having-sex pastiches. Not with each other, not with any hottie clients, not even with Dr. and Mrs. Watson on their honeymoon. Sherlockian chronologers even seem to go out of their way to keep Watson chastely at one-wife-and-done. And when you consider that Sherlockiana was male-dominated for so long, with men-only meetings in many cities, you have to stop and wonder why.

I mean, men like sex. Men like sex a lot. A LOT. Women like to talk about how a man will never know how painful childbirth truly is, but . . . and I know many a lady who will argue this with me . . . I don't think most women will ever truly understand just how much men like sex. So why aren't we writing pastiches about Holmes and Kitty Winter rolling around the bushes, or Watson and . . . well, everyone getting it on? Grimesby Roylott was left alone in the house with full-grown twin step-daughters, for gosh sakes! If that's not a premise for porn, I don't know what is.

One could go the "elite devotee" route and claim that the Sherlockian male is just better than that, but c'mon . . . Les Klinger didn't bring up Watson's "ejaculated" on the BSB podcast because he just discovered it. Bawdy bits have been a part of Sherlockian culture for a very long time. But not much sex fanfic.

It doesn't take much strolling around the internet to see one difference in males and females when it comes to constructing sexual entertainments. Men, the prime consumers of internet porn, don't seem to need plot. Or scene. Or characters. Or names. Or costumes. Or . . . well, you get the picture. Fanfic "porn" is about the culmination of a passionate relationship.  The ladies writing it seem to just like to take their time in getting to a story's climax.

Before male Sherlockians spend too much time complaining about the rise of fandom Sherlockiana and all it brings with it, like this new sexy side of pastichery, perhaps we should stop and think about what is actually being brought to the table. A little more foreplay, perhaps. A little more relationship discussion. A little more balance. A chance to see favorite characters from a different point of view.

And before female Sherlockians (and podcasting ladies) spend too much time pondering why men don't get this or that bit, they should also remember that male or female, we are as varied as the colors of the rainbow when it comes to some topics, and for every man or woman you meet that's one way, rest assured there's an opposite number of the same gender somewhere else. Which is why I could well be wrong on any statement I made in the preceding ramble.

Kudos to the Baker Street Babes for keeping it interesting. Looking forward to part two. (Though why you couldn't have just had one very long special episode, I'm not entirely sure.)


  1. Let me remind you of "The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," written by a man (Larry Townsend) and published circa 1971. Pure, if one can use that word, slash. There is at least some historical precedent.

  2. I can't say that the sexualization of Holmes (either hetero or homo) is my thing. Then again, perhaps my enjoyment of Sherlock Holmes isn't the thing of the next person, or the person after that, etc. I'm glad that the Babes continue to break new ground and have so much fun doing so.

    I'm still proud of my curated list: The Top 10 Suggestive Lines from the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

    Thank you! I'll be here all week. Tip your waitstaff.

  3. I remember as a young rakehell repeatedly returning to the Canon because it was an escape *from* sex...

  4. "Any time one starts to discuss "men are this way, women are that way," one is just looking for trouble."

    But it is, I think, safe to say that it's mostly women reading romances. I'm not saying that no man ever read one, but 99 out of 100 readers of romances will be female. And that's your slash-reading public right there. Slash is not about the sex - although there may be plenty of that - but it's mainly about romantic feelings between men.

    I've read many slash fics I've liked, but mostly I read them because there's not enough good gen fic around to satisfy my needs.

    And just like there will never be a shortage of romance novels - I understand it's still the most sold genre - there seems to be no shortage of slash fic in any given fandom.

  5. "Why like woman slash?" well, how about "why is there in every porno at least one scene in which two woman make out with each other while a man watched and/or joins in?" Men for some reason like to SEE sex (which is imho the main reason why Irene Adler is Sherlock's love interest in so many adaptations, because this allows the movie maker to insert a hot female the male audience can fantasize about). Woman for some reason like to READ about it (hence the high numbers of romance novels aimed to woman). If there were more sex movies aimed to woman or more romance novels aimed at men that might change though. Until then, there is no reason to wonder about slash fiction - woman have a right to an outlet, too, after all.

  6. hey brad,

    I think one can see gender difference here (without that needing to be universal but rather culturally produced & shaped) as being a discussion about layers of context:

    Reading erotic content allows for context lacking in traditional porn forms. Even PWP (porn without plot) fan fiction is built in a fictional world with characters & plot already in place, having been produced by canon. i.e. it's not actually "without plot" at all.
    Really good fanfic arguably rests in the ability to write in-character behavior & dialog, without relying on exhausted tropes. Whether canonical or AU, so much of what makes explicit fanfic satisfying is not only about the explicit content per se but whether it holds to that standard.

    Women reading slash is in its own peculiar way both safe and freeing. We find ourselves in a cultural context in which it is still perfectly acceptable to judge women for desiring no-strings-attached sex (like a man, unless she's an object in porn scene & even then she's "a dirty girl").

    Slash fiction allows a very particular kind of wish fulfillment to play out: seeing 2 characters express desire, consensually, where emotional and psychological identity/experience has some import or bearing, but the female reader is *not* as a woman the object of the characters' desire.
    It still largely recognizes that on some level the characters matter as whole people, not just body parts to be objectified. It's voyeurism but what is being seen is more than just male *bodies* colliding but brains, hearts, psyches, histories, needs, fears, hopes, secrets & flaws. Because all of those can themselves be attractive - the more you add, the more charged it becomes. The eroticism isn't reduced or diluted but heightened & deepened. If it were simply about bodies, it would make little difference who the bodies belonged to. But this is about very specific bodies belonging to very specific characters.

    Women writing and reading male slash is a queer endeavor in ways that lesbian porn created for male consumption most definitely is not queer. Gender rules and expectations are being bent to serve the pleasure of the reader in both but on quite different terms. The former expands the object of desire, while the latter reduces. And it says something too about the limits of "straight sexuality" definitions when it comes to women. Can we call self-pleasure gained via homoerotic stimulation "straight" sex?

    Women have throughout history been severely limited in our ability to have consequence free sex or express desire on our own terms outside of being the object of male desire/control. That shapes how we relate to sex now, even as it is resisted or rebelled against. That will continue to change but I do think women reading & writing slash makes some sense in ways that have a lot to do with a broader vocabulary of desire.

    It's very tricky to argue against slash as a gatekeeping of any canon without risking latent homophobic discomfort, or indeed discomfort with what can turn women on.
    To his credit, Martin Freeman, who, let's be honest, has more skin (literally) in the Sherlockian game right now than almost anyone else bar his co-star, has been one of the most positive public voices (aside from M. Gatiss) for not getting our collective knickers in a twist about the idea that Holmes and Watson represent a story about mutual love. Nor that that story is open to homoeroticism, nor that that queering can be a source of erotic pleasure for women. In that regard, he himself represents a contemporary (straight?) masculine perspective that is far freer on many levels to explore both the subtext and scope of these characters & stories than ACD ever was in his lifetime.
    We receive both Holmes & this relationship through the (male) gaze of Watson. And if men do indeed think about sex more than women can possibly imagine, well, you do the math: surely the odds stands in the slash shippers favor. ;)