Of Underage Boys and Slash


by: Bethany (website)

I spent about three years in the Backstreet Boys fandom, from 1998 to 2000. At that time, I don’t think the term popslash even existed and most of what was written was of the teenybopper variety. I think the young age of the fans probably had a lot to do with why those who were neither young nor innocent tended to keep their “adult” fics under wraps. I first discovered slash by clicking on a link that I feared would lead me to something full of blood and guts, not Kevin and AJ naked on a tour bus floor.

All adult fics had large, prominent warnings. I seem to recall at least a few sites using color coding to differentiate between het (did we even use that term then? I’m not sure) and slash. Mature sites were nearly always very separate from other sites. Some stories had alternate chapters for those who did not want to read sex. Everything was done with the purpose of keeping out those who disapproved or were too young for such stories. And there were those who disapproved.

The Hanson fandom might be expected to be even more immature about sex, given the equally young age of the boys. I think that had the opposite effect, though. Age warnings were pretty uncommon or at least not as strongly enforced — after all, we were writing what essentially amounted to kiddie porn and most of the writers were the same ages as the boys. The mental acrobatics required to say that other people our age couldn’t read what we had written was too much for most of us, I think. Warnings would stress that writers should not be “young” or “immature” but most warnings were pretty vague on what that meant.

That’s not to say that hanfic doesn’t have a long and not-too-pretty history of trying to erase slash from the web, and also to keep our adult fic very private. Because we most certainly do. Here’s a sample warning from the story Excruciate:

disclaimer: this story contains adult situations, sex, drugs, alcohol, swearing, etc. if you’re too dumb, ignorant or immature to handle that then we suggest you leave. if you really have a problem with us, leave us a note in the guestbook. that’s our disclaimer, live with it.

Definitely a certain tone to that. Ironic that a fairly immature disclaimer such as that is attached to an “adult” story.

Most of the old sites I’ve found seem to use words like adult, erotica, slash, etc very prominently in their descriptions and titles. I suppose this is a simple and elegant way of dealing with the warning issue, except for those people who don’t know what slash means. Then you exclude them purposely and, conversely, entice the curious among them.

Basically, the fandom divided itself. If you wanted the adult stuff, you knew where to look — sites such as hansonporn.com, hansonerotica.com and lustjunkie.com, just to name a few, had already cropped up by 2001 (when two brothers were still under 18) to host such stuff. Their fare ranged from het sex to hardcore drugs to slash to incest.

It became so divided, in fact, that the idea of warning for slash is both totally foreign and totally normal to me. What does that mean? Well, in hanfic we tend to view het, slash or cest as the most important genre to put a story in. I’m sure other fandoms use these as genre labels as well, but it’s especially prominent here.

I see this system we’ve developed as sort of the lesser of two evils. Some people do still warn for gay sex, but that’s usually just to note that it’s explicit rather than implied. Using these as genres first and foremost seems to prevent the issue of “warning” for homosexual content being offensive.

But I think it makes things worse in other ways. It sets up a sort of “one drop rule” in the fandom. Apologies if that comparison is bothersome, but I can’t see any other way to put it. Basically, if you’ve written one cest drabble amidst a sea of het epics, you’re a cest writer. That’s all it takes. I felt compelled to put myself in the “cest writer/fan” category even when I hadn’t written any for years and only read it privately, and did not discuss that reading with any other fans. It’s just that stigmatized among those who don’t like it. There really isn’t much “regular” slash in this fandom, so it’s a very black and white issue. Het or cest. No in between. Those of us who enjoy all sorts of stories are the bisexual unicorns of the fandom.

So we’ve, on the surface, gotten around the issue of “eww gay sex” warnings, but we’ve divided the fandom up so much that you can entirely avoid slash/cest if you like and never even know that those writers or stories exist. Likewise, you can entirely avoid het. Is that good? For finding stories you like, sure. But it isn’t good for building a cohesive fandom, and so it’s still an issue. I’m certain we’ll never convince everyone to approve of and enjoy hancest, but we’re in about the same state as most other fandoms when it comes to offensive story headers, I think.