obergefell_smI was invited to write five hundred words on why I write erotic fanfic. This piece, under my nom de plume elizajane, originally appeared in Spark! No. 24 (27 March 2018) the newsletter from Improbable Press.

Some of my earliest memories from childhood involve the creation of stories involving my favorite characters from literature. Even at eight or nine I was weaving romance and sexual relationships (in the vaguest of terms) into those fanworks. As a teen reader I was often frustrated by the fade-to-black approach to sexual intimacy in published fiction, and spent many hours thinking (and sometimes writing) about what might have happened after that first-kiss moment. Fanfic, for me, has been an erotic experience from my earliest memories of fanwork creation.

My introduction to online, networked fandom in my late twenties was a revelation: here was a form of literature that I once created in isolation, being created within a socially networked world! At that time (2008), I was exploring my own queer sexuality and in a relationship with the woman who eventually became my wife (she was, in fact, my introduction to networked fandom!). I wrote and published my first fanwork — a Downton Abbey Sybil/Gwen series — full of righteous, queer feminist anger about the lack of erotic femslash, so my return to writing fanworks as an adult had an explicit sexual agenda. I wanted more sexual intimacy, and specific kinds of under-represented desires and experiences, in the stories I watched and read; when I couldn’t find them, I created them myself.

I love the communal nature of modern fanfic creation, and the way erotic fanfic provides a space for people to co-create a multiplicity of visions for what sexual intimacy and relational happiness might look and feel like. As a historian, feminist, and queer woman I am interested in the cultural scripts we have around sexuality and sexual relationships; fanfic is a creative space to engage with—and often challenge—those cultural narratives through story. Writing in fictional spaces allows for imaginative flexibility beyond the bounds of scholarly analysis and historical evidence. Fiction may well be informed by historical and present realities, but it can also re-vision kinder, more joyful pasts and futures full of radical possibility.

I push back against bisexual erasure, for example, and I avoid writing anal sex in my m/m in part because it’s so commonly used as the ultimate sexually bonding experience between men. I write m/f that doesn’t assume sex means intercourse. I introduce sex toys and lube, and try to make birth control sexy. I write older couples. I write men who are shy about partnered sex and women who are comfortable with masturbation. I try to write bodies that are a bit saggy and leaky, that have creaky joints, wrinkles and scars—and are sexy in the eyes of the lovers who behold them. I try to use every sex scene—partnered or solitary—to tell the specific story of these specific characters having sex, and illuminate why that sexual experience matters to them.

Ultimately, I write the fiction (fan or otherwise) that I want to read, and that fiction has always had relationships and sexual intimacy (often queer, feminist) as at its heart.