This week’s Waxing Off topic at Deadspin was… disturbing. And gross. And demeaning to the women asked to write about it. If you didn’t read it, here’s the email sent to the women asked to contribute:
Michael Phelps Slash Fiction.
The inspiration for this comes from two sources. First, this post, which is pure nightmare fuel. Then there’s this, about how Phelps is being pursued by Lindsay Lohan (equally terrifying). We’d like to follow things to their logical conclusion, and figure that you guys would be the best to do that. Make it read like an excerpt from a steamy, filthy book. Put Michael Phelps in the situation of your choosing … male on male, male on female, Phelps on llama … the aristocrats! Nothing is too over-the-top or depraved; it’s slash fiction. Let ‘er rip. Keep to 250-350 words, if possible. And don’t forget the short graph at the end about yourself, where you can plug your site and/or projects if you wish.
Here are our collected reactions to this request:
A commenter on last week’s Waxing Off objected to what they called the “blogging ghetto” aspect of the feature. At the time the objection seemed to arise mostly from the topic choice (as if women writers were supposed to know about women’s gymnastics just because it’s a “girly” sport); because the topic was in fact, timely, I didn’t particularly agree with this sentiment. As soon as Metschick shared this week’s assignment, however, that comment was the first thing I thought of.
My objection is not to the actual request to write slash porn. My objection is not that female bloggers were given this assignment (though I do think it would have made a more interesting post if male writers were also given a crack at it). My objection is that in only the third week of a feature that purports to give women a chance to “discuss issues of the day” (a direct quote from the Waxing Off intro), the assignment has nothing to do with opinion and everything to do with titillation. Presenting this topic in this forum says “we don’t care what the girls actually think, we just want them to write porn for our amusement.” And that does make Waxing Off seem less women’s roundtable and more blogging ghetto.
I’m doing my best to restrain myself here, so take what I’m about to say and multiply my sentiment times about 40, and that’s where I’m really at. I think that slash-fiction is gross. I mean it is PORN, for the most part. But it’s written porn about REAL people. People who didn’t ask it to be written about them. People who don’t know you wrote it. Someone is taking their private and sometimes totally icky fantasy about another human and putting it online. The Drew Brothers? Pretty sure they’d be horrified to read that story about them in full. However, in most situations, a celebrity or public figure would probably have to google their names and slash fiction in order to find these stories that people (IMO, weirdos) write about them. But why make them work that hard?
How bout we get one of the biggest sports blogs in the world to get it’s newly introduced all FEMALE column to write pervy stories about one of America’s newest sports gods. They can put in on the main page, where Michael Phelps, his agent, his mother, his teammates, normal people everywhere can stumble upon it while trying to look up amusing sports news stories. This is not hidden on some creepy person’s livejournal or personal site where their weirdness is for themselves and a most-likely small group of readers. Now, these ladies who have only recently been allotted a spot on Deadspin, can write porn for the whole freaking blogoshere to read! God forbid we give them real sports topics to write about, let’s toss these ladies credibility in the toilet a mere 3 weeks in and turn them into porn authors! I applaud Clare for refusing to join in. I question the other ladies for their choice to actually complete this task.
Would AJ or Rick ask their male contributors to write porn stories for Deadspin? Somehow I don’t think they would. Two of the three Waxing Off topics have been sexual in nature and the other one was about a female sport that people only care about once every four years. When are they going to let these women out of the box and give them something actually, ya know, sports-related to write about?
It’s really neat that, per an email exchange, Will Leitch agreed with me a couple months ago that it’d be nice to read some female voices on Deadspin and then the way that came to fruition after he left was ONE weekend editor and a weekly column that so far has been about sex in public places, women’s gymnastics and writing Michael Phelps porn. Awesome. Maybe next week they can ask the Waxing Off women to dress in slutty football jerseys and read fantasy football advice from cue cards, then video tape it and put it on the site. That’s the ticket.
When I got the first Waxing Off email, I was ecstatic! Imagine – my musings up on Deadspin. What’s not to love? I didn’t think anything of the first topic, sex at the ballpark, nor of the second one, women’s gymnastics. Not even when someone on Deadspin said it’s sexist that they’ve “ghetto-ized” the female writers. I thought nothing of it; instead, I relished in the fact that smart, female writers had been asked to contribute to one of the leading sports blogs out there. But my joy turned to dismay when I saw this week’s topic: writing Michael Phelps slash fiction. Perhaps I’m too sensitive, but what?! You want us to basically write porn? This is the Deadspin I know and love. I’m not going to start the “back in my day, Deadspin was blah, blah, blah” stuff. Rather, I just wanted to express my consternation with the direction DS has been heading in.
It’s pretty obvious that nobody *wanted* to write about this week’s topic. There was no way to win – if they had gotten into the assignment and written livejournalesque slashfic, the commenters would tear them apart for being so gross and horse-obsessed. (What?) But I can imagine that it’s hard to say ‘no’ to Deadspin; who wouldn’t want that kind of recognition and traffic? Then again, who wants their big traffic spike to be from Michael Phelps slashfic? It’s a, erm, sticky situation in which none of the bloggers could fully win, except Clare and Metschick who saved themselves the grossness, each in her own way. Can’t wait to see what topic lady bloggers are stuck with next week. I propose one that has barely been touched so far in Waxing Off: SPORTS.
A friend of mine, who I know from the world of collegiate wrestling, asked me where I was going to watch a particular UFC fight. I said that he and his friends were welcome to come watch it at my place, and if they gave me enough notice, I would bake for them. He was astonished that I liked baking. This is my problem with the slash fiction assignment, and Waxing Off in general: pigeonholing. Just because we are women and we write on this site about the hotness of men, that doesn’t mean we are incapable of writing about other topics. If you look at the sidebar of Ladies…, you will see that we are quite capable of writing on myriad subjects. Thinking that we should write about Michael Phelps as a sex object just because we’re women completely underestimates us, not to mention wastes our talents. And for the record, I make really good brownies.
“I’m with Clare.”
Dame of Extra Time
Clare’s response pretty much sums up my thoughts on this and the Amanda Beard issue. Slash is best left in the hands of Livejournal, anyway.
Genuine question for Rick and/or AJ-who came up for the topic last week? And what made them come up with that topic? I want to know the thinking going into this. Did the two of them assume that because the writers are women they automatically would be able to write slash fiction? That they would want to write slash fiction? That they write slash fiction now about Christian Bale or some other actor so it would be nothing to write another story? Because honestly, I find it insulting that this week’s topic was Michael Phelps slash fiction. I think some people forget how big of a blog Deadspin is. That last sentence Skeets said at the end of the mock “Costas Now” vid, “10 million hits motherfuckers” speakers truer than some realize. That’s a lot of people reading what they write. And what if one of those people so happen to be a boss or interviewer? How are they then suppose to explain that to boss and/or interviewer? Just because they blog for a living doesn’t mean everyone else does as well.