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Someone asked on our message board recently if we, as fanfic readers, like to read guys who are masculine or guys who act a little feminine. I think she used the word "fairy," but I can't exactly remember. I guess it's a matter of preference, but my preference is this: if the characters is a "fairy," then write it like that. But if you write an obviously masculine character like a girl, it makes it onto my squick list.
There have been many times that I have read a story and practically heard Fox Mulder, Fraser from Due South or some other typically masculine character scream "we're not girls, so don't treat us like it!" There seems to be an overwhelming tendency in the slash community to make masculine characters so feminine that you could change one of the names to "Mary" and it wouldn't make a difference.
Maybe it's because it fits the story better. Maybe it's because it's the easiest way for female writers to relate to them. Maybe it goes back to the old anime thing, where women like to read about feminine men because they are venting their pent-up sexual fantasies. But even Vincent Valentine has a gun fetish and even Sailor Moon's boyfriend pees standing up.
I find it a little annoying when I see perfectly masculine men, like the aforementioned Fraser, acting like women. Even if we're writing stories about an alternate universe, it's always more interesting when the dialogue and actions of the character are somewhat true to life. The neat thing about slash is that you get to see characters act out what you don't see onscreen but it loses its appeal when the character is so "feminized" that you can't recognize him.
Here are some things I think constitute "feminizing" a character:Pet names:
Pet names run rampant in slash, sweetheart. Baby. Babe. Lover. I read an entire X-Files series that had Mulder and Krycek calling each other by one pet name per paragraph. Think about if the Mulder you know would really be talking to his lover that way, regardless of it being male or female. One sentence of said series was "Oh, shit, babe." Mulder really doesn't strike me as the type to say that. This guy has a crazy, renegade FBI agent side to him, but he's still intense and very well spoken, in or out of love. If that's really the way you see Mulder, then I think we're watching a different show.Top vs. bottom:
Some beefy Austin 3:16 guys are really bottoms and the guy who wears the midriff shirt and the scrunchie around his wrist to the gym is really a top. The most feminine of the two characters is not necessarily the bottom and the one most likely to nail you to the wall is not necessarily the top. If you're assuming that in every story, you too could be feminizing your character.Their emotional reaction to sex:
How many slash stories have you read where Character A and Character B feel drawn to each other, fall into bed and make passionate love? How many times have you seen said characters proclaim or acknowledge their love for each other? Dozens, I bet. But if you're writing every story like that, you could be feminizing your characters. It's no secret that women fall in love faster than men, or are at least 1,000 times more capable of expressing and coming to terms with said love. We think, we feel, we yearn, we adore. Men are not so easily swayed. If they were, it would make my relationships a hell of a lot easier. Think about what guys really do after sex. Some actually do profess their love to you. Some remember a previous engagement and leave like their ass is on fire. The end result is not always an unspoken bond. Sometimes they just want to get off. It's perfectly reasonable if the ending of your story is sex that leads to a soul mate relationship, but if every single one is like that it gets a little old. One of my favorite examples of male behavior is in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer story where Oz and Xander have sex. Xander gets freaked out and takes off as quickly as possible.
Xander was fully dressed and ready to bolt when he decided that this was his friend and he had to make this right somehow. He stopped for a second, smiling at Oz as sincerely as possible. "I'll see you tomorrow, bud."
Now that's a man.
I can just see the comments I'm going to get on this. First, there will be e-mails from men telling me that I'm all wrong. Second, there will be e-mails from women telling me that I'm stereotyping them too. But there do seem to be qualities that are inherently female and other qualities that are more often than not found in men. Then there will be a rash of comments like "so now you're an expert on men, huh?" Well, no, I'm not, but I am someone who gets a little annoyed when I see two characters who are ready to move in together simply because they got their rocks off once. If they're going to move in together, you have to show that there's a reason to do so other than the fact that they had sex. Anything otherwise will make me think they're wearing skirts.
I can't put it any better than someone very cool did on her mailing list recently. She likes slash, but she likes to see the characters she loves slashed. She doesn't like to see some sort of romanticized incarnation. I agree.