Just Friends?


For any slasher, it's a fact of life: you're going to be insulted, denigrated, and looked upon with disgust by the majority of het-oriented fandom. For as long as there are those of us who choose to see the world through slash-tinted glasses, there are the masses who shake their heads and say, "That's just weird / sick / wrong / stupid / insert-adjective-here."

What's slash? It's really very simple, what it boils down to- fanfic written in which two characters of the same sex are involved in some sort of loving and/or sexual relationship that isn't shown on TV. There are some who argue that once it crosses over in canon (i.e., Beecher/Keller on OZ), it isn't slash anymore; that the essence of slash is subversion, not just homosexuality. I won't get into that here. It's not relevant to my point.

We slashers are those weird people who write the stories. Or just read them, or, really, just watch TV and say- "Oh, yeah, those two guys are sleeping together." Or, "Those two guys should be sleeping together." Or just, "Did you see that look/smile/touch?" The funny thing about being a slasher is that once you turn it on, it's hard to turn it off. Every meaningful stare, every bit of physical contact- it's automatically filtered, labelled, and filed away into the rainy-day slash bin. Ideas for later on.

And people talk about it like once you reach that stage, you're, quote, corrupted. Now, speaking personally, "corrupted" isn't such a bad thing to be. You pay closer attention to things. You think about certain things more. It heightens awareness. To be sure, it requires a greater degree of involvement from us than from those who just turn on the TV every other week and catch the show if they have time. Granted, we're not alone in that; that's what fandom is.

But being a slasher... is like writing a thesis. Everything has different levels of meaning, and we thoroughly discuss each one.

Being a slasher means rejoicing at certain moments in time.... When Xander talks about visiting his "girls" and, at that moment, grabs Oz's leg under the table. When Kowalski asks Fraser if he finds him attractive- and Fraser responds, "Yes, very much so." When Willow and Tara clasp hands and stare deeply into each other's eyes. When Faith drapes her arm over Buffy's shoulder and tells Angel that she's just keeping Buffy warm for him....

Of course, as with anything else, there's a down side; in this case, it's the general feeling amongst many- not all, mind you, but many- "gen" fans who thinks that slash is the sickest thing in the universe, and anyone who slashes simply can't grasp the idea that it is possible to have a good friend without having sex with that friend.

I'm lucky. So far, I've never been flamed just for writing a slash story, probably because I haven't actually written enough to start to seriously annoy people yet. But I have, on two separate newsgroups, gotten into arguments with people who declare themselves to be disgusted that, with "us people", everything has to be about sex.

One of these occasions was at the Buffy newsgroup. Right after the episode "Hush" aired, when Willow meets her new witch buddy and they share a moment that is utterly slashy, arguments and fights and flames broke out in spades- whether Willow was going to go in for girl love, whether she was lesbian all along, whether she's just bi, whether it's Tara that has the crush and Willow that's oblivious, whether these people who dare suggest such things are sick and should turn to Pay-Per-View to indulge their male lesbo fantasies, whether everyone's making way too fucking big a deal out of what basically amounts to a shared meaningful look and a potentially loaded conversation....

I posted my Everygirl theory, my suggestion on why everyone was getting so freaked out over whether Willow might be possibly-gasp-bi-no-way. And someone else replied to that, and I replied with this:

> Further, I am *disgusted* that those few moments of what could easily turn
>to be platonic friendship, or frankly the relief in finding another witch,
>blown so completely out of proportion, and taken as sexual. It horrifies me
>eager our society is to put all things in the realm of the sexual - can we
>really imagine no other intimacy?

I'm pretty sure you didn't mean that to be as insulting as it is.

Actually, it's probably not as insulting as it seems to be, to me. It's just that, as a slasher, you have no IDEA how often I have to put up with the "You guys have no concept of friendship! You're all sick and perverted! Two men/women CAN be just friends you know!!!" class of thinking.

Did I ever deny that? No. Did I ever say that Buffy and Willow are getting it on? Not to my recollection, no. Do I, in fact, have several female friends that I am NOT having sex with? Most definitely.

The FACT is that what I saw onscreen between Tara and Willow looked like sexual chemistry.

I'm not saying it was unequivocally sexual chemistry, without a doubt. I'm saying that that's what it looked like to me. It did not look like platonic friendship to me. It did not look like merely relief at finding another witch to me. To me, it looked like sexual chemistry. What part of my observing that disgusts you, exactly?

As a slasher, I often slash for fun- I'll decide that, say, Oz and Xander need to sleep together, or Spike and Giles, or Faith and Cordelia. (Now those were just off the top of my head.) That doesn't mean I believe that the actual characters are really, in the Buffyverse, sleeping together. That, for me, requires more than "They spend time together and I think it would be a good idea."

But as someone who's used to picking apart the subtext in any given show (read: as a slasher), I am not closed off to the possibility of a same-sex relationship becoming very likely in the context of the show. One of those for me is 3rd season Due South. I cannot watch that season and not think that Fraser and Kowalski aren't together by the end. It's just impossible to me. Now Fraser and Vecchio, I could never see them as more than good friends. Very good friends, who love each other very deeply, but *just good friends*.

So see? Not *everything* is in the realm of the sexual, for me.

And I got into an argument in the DS newsgroup once, as well, with someone saying the exact same thing you are- that it's a sad commentary on today's society that people like me are oh-so-willing to make everyone jump into bed together, and can't we all just be friends? You have no idea how many of my buttons that pushes. Yes, people can just be friends. But the fact is, some people are more than friends. I call 'em as I see 'em and if I think that F and K are a couple, or that Willow and Tara are sexually attracted to each other, *based on what I see*, how is that any more disgusting and horrifying than the person who says such a thing would NEVER happen just because they don't want to see it on their TV screen?

Yes, two women can be friends without hopping into the sack together. Yes, two men can be friends without wanting to fuck each other. But guess what? A man and a woman can be friends without being a couple, and that doesn't stop everyone around them from saying "When are you guys gonna get together, already?", now does it? Are those people considered disgusting and horrifying? No, just nosy. Seems like a double standard to me.

(On a real-life, related note, a friend of mine recently started dating her best friend, who happens to be male, after a year or two of saying "We are NOT going out!" Make of that what you will.)

The chemistry between Willow and Tara, to me, felt sexual.

And if that horrifies and disgusts you to such an extent, I'd really have to ask why.


What really gets to me is the conceit. Like I said, I slash for fun. I don't really, honestly believe that Dan and Casey were ever involved in a sexual relationship of any kind during Sports Night's run (or even, honestly, after). That doesn't prevent me from choosing to read Dan/Casey slash, or to someday write it. I'm not emotionally stunted. I understand their canonical relationship. I simply choose to take it out every once in a while and play with it.

Why? Because I like it. And that is most certainly the extent of the justification I feel I need.

But by the same token, there are certain slash relationships I feel very strongly about and am convinced went on behind the scenes, or after the show ended. Jim and Blair from The Sentinel, for example. Hell, even the producers joked that the last shot of the series would be the boys, cuddling in bed. (And yes, I understand it was a joke. But the idea was out there. It was recognized.) And Fraser and Kowalski- well, let's take a look at Due South for a moment. Fraser cross-dresses in one episode (and ends up looking a hell of a lot like Lucy Lawless, incidentally). He saves Kowalski's life with "buddy breathing" (i.e., the underwater kiss), and after they break the surface, Kowalski says, warily, "So nothing's changed, then." Kowalski asks Fraser if he finds him attractive; Fraser says, "Yes, very much so." Paul Gross and Callum Keith Rennie were very much aware of the undercurrents running through their portrayal of the characters; there is, after all, the infamous "if you'll have me" bloopers scene. Again, it was acknowledged. For me, in my canon, these are relationships that exist.

In essence, I slash because I like to, because it's fun. Not because I'm emotionally stunted in any such way so that I cannot fathom the concept of plain, non-sexual friendship.

And then, on occasion, I really believe there's a sexual relationship there. Not often, but sometimes. And you know what? That's not because I have no concept of friendship either; rather, because I'm open- and used- to seeing things that most people wouldn't. When you're conditioned to weigh every look and touch on that slash-o-meter for vicarious pleasure, when something more serious is in evidence, you catch it right away. And you're convinced. For me, that's Due South (third season), and that's Sentinel- I'm convinced. They're in love. (And that's another thing- it's not always sex. It's love. It's a concept. Look into it.)

Now, the Willow/Tara thing- I suspect there may be a thing. But I'm reserving judgement for the time being.

(Note- 11/5/01- time sure proved me right on that one, didn't it? ;-D)

But please, do not have the fucking arrogance and conceit to assume you know why I read, write, think, or believe the way I do. Do not have the fucking nerve to psychoanalyze me based on my opinions and your narrow-minded, straight-laced, bigotry-disguised-as-the-moral-high-ground view of the world.

I have friends, and I know what friendship is. The difference is, I accept it when I think there may be something more, while other people will deny it with their dying breath- "That's not what's on my TV"- which leads me to ask, why is it so important to you to change my mind, anyway? Or, alternately, to be able to write off my opinion so easily? I'm not trying to change yours, or to pretend that your opinion isn't valid just to preserve my peace of mind. I generally don't care what other people think.

Think what you want; I don't give a flying fuck. But do me a fucking courtesy, and don't tell me that because of what I think, I don't understand the concept of friendship.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Email: panthea@populli.net

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