Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Let's Talk About "Mature" Han and Leia fanfic
So, let's move on to talking about fanfic again, since that is a very large part of why we are all here. And as a side note let's also thank Amara Z for that lovely photoshop job she did on the above picture. More specifically, let's talk about "adult" Han and Leia stories. You know, the ones that go into the sex details, the ones that sometimes we all seek out specifically rather than being bothered by looking for a story with actual plot. Although of course there are plenty of stories with actual plot that also include some good sex scenes.
I think as far as our readers here go, we have a wide range of ages and also a lot of variations as far as how long we have all been reading fanfic. There are people who have been around for a few years, a lot of years, and probably even some who have been around since you couldn't even use the internet to find stories. For myself, I discovered fanfic right around the turn of the century (that sounds old). For anyone not familiar with things back then, there were several good sources for fanfic stories, and most of them no longer exist. I think fanfix was the main one I visited. Also these sites were not like ff.net where anyone can go and post a story, stories had to be submitted, so there wasn't quite the endless stream of content that there is now, and updates were not all that frequent. I do miss some of the Han and Leia specific sites we used to have. There were so many of them that there was even a Han and Leia webring, which some of you old timers may remember. I believe exactly zero of the sites that used to be in that webring still exist. Each of these sites had pictures and fanfic, and a few had forums. There were usually not a ton of stories, but most of them were good.
One thing many of you who were not around then may not realize, is that finding adult Han and Leia stories was like finding buried treasure. There weren't that many of them, and if you spent even a small amount of time in the fandom it didn't usually take you all that long to find all of them, and then remember specifically where to find each one. And let's face it, pretty much the first thing you do when you discover fanfic (especially if you are a teenager, like I was) is go and find all the smutty stories, because online fanfic is your only way to read about that with your favorite characters, because it certainly wasn't in any EU book.
Now, aside from these stories being difficult to find, I would also say that they were probably pretty.... tame compared to what you see now. What I'm going to discuss now was actually more the point of this post, and you're going to see me kind of struggling to find the best way to say what I want to say about the differences I've noticed over the most recent years of things shifting.
Han and Leia stories with sex tended to follow a similar formula. Like, seriously, I think almost every single one was Han goes down on Leia, missionary sex, the end. I never really gave this much thought until quite a bit later when talking with other readers, but it really is kind of funny that they were all so similar. I probably have most of my "adult" stories follow this formula too. Please do not let this stop you from occasionally writing stories like that, because I'm sure they do it like that sometimes. It was just kind of amusing that that was pretty much the only way things went. But there usually wasn't much else going on, and it was incredibly rare that you would find a story where Leia would go down on Han. So rare, in fact, that for a long time you could probably count the stories on one hand and you would know exactly where all of them were located.
They also tended to not be overly explicit. Body parts were not referred to by much more than maybe something like "his manhood" or "her femininity" or something else like that. The thing is, I've noticed that there has been a general change in Han and Leia adult stories, and I was curious if I was the only one who noticed. One other thing you should know about me if you don't already is I am very monogamous in my fandom interests. I really only read about Han and Leia and Star Wars. I think some people are interested in other fandoms, and for those of you who are I'd be really interested to hear from you if there are similar tendencies within those fandoms, or similar shifts in how things are done or if maybe we are unique here in our Han and Leia corner of the universe. And also, please know that I am not calling any of these changes bad, or saying that there is anything wrong with the way these stories have evolved. It's just changed quite a bit and has become much more standard to be going in the complete opposite direction with it, and it is just interesting to me that it has become so much more normal when it used to be rare to non existent. Also I should note that I had never been a reader on AO3 because I find their tags frustrating and making it nearly impossible to sort and find a story you would actually want to read, so maybe this has all been around a lot longer than I would even realize.
So in like 2009 I started spending a lot more time reading Han and Leia fanfic again, and story updates on ff.net were fairly infrequent. I think there were literally like 4-5 pages of adult stories and that's it. And really even then there was very little just outright smut as most of the stories included sex within a much longer and more involved narrative. Sometime a few years ago there started to be more and more "mature" stories out there. And somewhere along the line I started noticing that they were a lot more explicit than the old ones had been, and it became more the norm than the exception.
This is really in terms of almost everything. Words that are used to describe body parts, positions, Leia finally more regularly going down on Han (I'm sure fictional Han is thrilled with this change in the dynamic) words the characters are using and such. Again, I'm by no means saying this is a bad thing, it is just something that has changed noticeably. Does anyone have any theories as to why this is? Part of it I think is just that one or two people "broke the mold" and started writing that way, and it was no longer this small niche of people writing stories that most everyone else was too shy to comment on or admit they liked. Also probably because the writing itself was of higher quality, where I can think of a few stories that went in that direction but the writing wasn't any good and it was done more purely for the shock value or just to be as graphic as possible. So once it became more "mainstream" and accepted, I think other people were less shy about being a little more explicit in writing those scenes.
One other theory I have is that this shift happened near the time that Fifty Shades came out. Of course the funny thing there is for anyone who read it, it actually isn't outrageously explicit, and the author especially shies away from using certain slang words to describe genitalia or anything, to the point that that, among other things, was largely criticized. So, maybe that made people less shy about holding back in writing those scenes? Again, these are all just theories that I have no way to know whether or not they are true. But seriously, a few years ago there were maybe one or two "dirty" stories you'd see the word cock in, and now it's pretty standard.
Again, don't get me wrong, it's been fun to see Han and Leia get a somewhat more adventurous sex life. I think they'd be far from boring. And it's also interesting that while there are certain things that once upon a time I'd have thought Leia might not say or do, seeing a lot of those things now in stories regularly makes me think more like, sure, why not? (although this does depend on what period in their relationship they are in). And again I'd be interested to hear from anyone especially who has been involved in other fandoms to see how these kinds of stories are handled there, and if there was a similar shift or if we were sort of behind the times here.
Anyway, hopefully this will be an interesting conversation!