melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2010-01-16 15:46

Science, y'all.

ETA early morning jan 18: a short follow-up with more poll numbers + things /ETA

I was going to wait and post this later, with a much more elaborate stastistical work-up, population variables and meta-analysis - because I think it's interesting in its own right - but the ongoing conversation I'm seeing, and the extremely clear result I'm getting, is making me think it's more important to get the facts out there, than to make them pretty.

So: Are slashers straight?

I spent an afternoon and evening finding all of the polls & surveys of slash demographics I could that included a question on sexuality. Some I already had bookmarked, some I found through google, delicious, and following citations in academic papers. I'm sure there are more out there, and if you have links to more more polls I would love to add their data to my analysis. But you know what? The results of the ones I've found are pretty consistent, across a large range of survey population. And it is, to be quite honest, not the result I was expecting, even as a slasher who does not herself identify as straight, and is used to finding people like her in fandom.

Are slashers straight?


I present to you the raw numbers on sexuality for the 10 polls & surveys I could find results for, plus several more I could only find references to.

You'll note that there are a variety of categories used for sexuality; for the purposes of the meta-analysis, I am counting as "straight" any poll answer that was straight, heterosexual, primarily heterosexual, heteroflexible, or direct equivalent. I am using "queer" as shorthand for everybody else, including people who self-identified as bi-leaning-straight, questioning, and asexual. (You'll also note that the polls that included options beyond gay, straight, and bi had *significant* numbers of participants choosing them, something you might want to consider in general when talking about fans' sexuality. Just fyi.)

I only listed gender statistics for a few of the polls. That's because I'm lazy, and the way LJ polls work, separating out the responses by gender wouldn't have been terribly meaningful without a lot of annoying hand-collating anyway, so for the record: any poll with no gender statistics here either had no gender question, or over 90% self-identified women respondents. As this analysis is mostly meant to address the question of slashers' sexuality, I'm leaving gender identity unexamined for the quick'n'dirty version. (Though I'll note that only one of the polls had options specifically involving non-gender-binary people and orientation. Other possibilities, fandom: they exist.)

http://www.libraryofmoria.com/jsr/part2.html#21
2003
Library of Moria, a LOTR fic archive
Participants: 275
Heterosexual: 124
Mostly Heterosexual: 39
Bisexual: 84
Mostly Homosexual: 0
Homosexual: 10
Undecided: 6
Non-sexual: 2
Percent identified as queer: 37%

http://rushlight75.livejournal.com/38193.html
2003-10-14
Pre-metafandom, but widely distributed through its precursors
Participants: 1000
Male: 26
Female: 974
Only result available is an average Kinsey Scale rating: 1.8
(which kind of comes out to 40% queer, but not really)

http://idroppedarice.livejournal.com/59133.html
7-28-2004
Harry Potter slashers, by way of Fiction Alley Park
365 participants
straight: 173
bi: 119
gay: 22
undecided: 49
Percent identified as queer: 52.7%

http://lavinialavender.livejournal.com/179885.html
4-28-2005
locked, but currently available through Google's cache; mostly HP and anime slashers
participants: 203
straight: 85
gay: 8
bi: 73
Confused: 36
Percent identifying as queer: 54.6%

http://www.misterpoll.com/polls/242137/results
2006-2-13
posted by Proserpina "For the yaoi girls", but I have no idea where it was linked/promoted.
total: 43
heterosexual: 23
homosexual: 1
bisexual: 11
pansexual: 2
asexual: 1
unsure: 5
Percent identifying as queer: 53% 47%

http://hederahelix.livejournal.com/259632.html
6-29-2006
Mostly the metafandom crowd; specifically slash-focused.
Participants: 402
Heterosexual: 35
Heterosexual but slasher: 62
Bisexual, but heterosexual in practice: 102
Bisexual: 128
Bisexual, but queer in practice: 26
Lesbian, gay, queer, etc but slasher: 30
Lesbian, gay, queer, etc: 19
Percent identified as queer: 76%

http://wisdomeagle.livejournal.com/931805.html
February 2, 2007
Mostly the metafandom crowd; not all slashers - includes het & gen fans.
469 participants
straight women: 206
bi/omni/pansexual women: 186
lesbians: 56
asexual: 30
Straight men: 10
bi men: 5
Gay men: 3
Percent participants who identify as queer: 59.7%

http://jadelennox.livejournal.com/265022.html
Feb 7, 2007
A small poll of one fan writer's circle, not specifically fandom-focused:
Participants: 35
straight: 8
gay: 1
bisexual: 10
sligtly bisexual (kinsey 1 or 5): 9
other: 5
Percent participants who identified as queer: 71%

http://sailorptah.dreamwidth.org/11270.html
Feb 13, 2008
Mostly the metafandom & anime crowd, but not specifically fandom-focused; a freeform survey which emphasized complex & fluid sexuality
Total participants: 71
Identified as some subset of queer: 60
Percent participants who identified as queer: 84.5%

http://kleenexwoman.livejournal.com/248586.html
2-12-2008
Mostly the metafandom crowd, but with some exposure outside it
Participants: 577
gay: 25
bi-leaning-gay: 47
bi: 62
pan: 76
bi-leaning-straight: 84
straight: 192
asexual: 37
other: 23
no labels: 31
Percent identifying as queer: 66.7%

Polls whose results are not included in this analysis:

There are two other polls on FAP, but they were free-response threads and I'd've had to collate the results by hand, which I didn't have time for: http://forums.fictionalley.org/park/showthread.php?s=f041f722f3998ddd1bfbc6055d650507&threadid=19455&highlight=slash+survey and http://forums.fictionalley.org/park/showthread.phps=f041f722f3998ddd1bfbc6055d650507&threadid=133998&highlight=slash+survey

...it's on my list.

[personal profile] skuf ran a poll through metafandom sometime in early February, 2007, which was deleted, originally at: http://skuf.livejournal.com/132143.html . The only data I could find was a reference that it was "running closer to just 35% saying they are "strictly het".

I found several fandom demographics polls pre-dating 2003, but none of them had a sexuality question, which is interesting in its own right. (I suspect that the farther you go back in slash's history, the less likely it is that we would have even dared to ask these questions, and the less likely we would have gotten accurate answers, if we did. And in a time when fanfic was getting a *lot* of flak from the straight world, presenting an image to outsiders of "ordinary housewives" was important. I think the time when we need that protective image is fading.)

Finally, Wikipedia's reference for saying that "polls claim most slashers are heterosexual women", which has propagated everywhere, is Anne Kustritz's paper "Slashing the Romance Narrative", first published in the Journal of Amercan Culture in 2003, available in pdf here: http://www.laurientaylor.org/research/sources/slashfic.pdf . She, in turns, cites three informal fandom essays in her fandom demographics section, which is only a small part of the paper - those three essays are no more or less rigorous or inclusive than the 11 I have analysed here, note. The first is a clearly parodic essay on the Sith Academy, http://www.siubhan.com/sithacademy/criticalintro.html , which uses no poll or survey data, and does not even touch on the question of slashers' sexuality (despite Kustritz' citation implying it does.) The second is given the URL http://www.apps4.vantagenet.com/zpolls/count.asp?rlt=91221204045&id=91221204045 , which was a poll of the Darth Maul Estrogen Brigade in 2000. It is no longer available online, nor can I find any other references to it remaining online. The second was at http://www.sockii.com/ma/criticalintro.htm ; it is also no longer online, and I can find no details on it whatsoever except the date given of 1999, though the URL + the other references in the paper strongly imply that it was limited to TPM fandom, like the others.

(I will also note, because it seems worth noting, that the demographics section of that paper was very strongly trying to make the point that slashers are NICE WELL-ADJUSTED WOMEN WHO ARE NOT DEVIANT OR SCARY, so I am inclined to think the author had a bias toward categorizing slashers as heterosexual, especially as she uses the phrase "mostly to totally heterosexual" in the passage with the citation, but does not qualify heterosexual anywhere else. There is a lot of wiggle room in "mostly", as the variety of categories in the polls I listed above demonstrate. ...also, I @#$%&^@$ hate wikipedia's goddamn paternalistic notability and citation rules, since it means those two ten-year-old Phantom Menace polls somehow turned into GOSPEL TRUTH on the way to the printing press.)

So, over 9 polls, in a variety of slash subfandoms from the late-teens yaoi set to the mid-thirties meta fans set, dates ranging over 7 years. Only onetwo polls had less than 50% queer participants, and that wasone of them the earliest one, and even they were at 37% and 47%. The median percent of queer participants was 59.7%, and the mean was 61.5% 60.8%.

SO when people say things like "slash fans are appropriating queer experience", what THE MAJORITY OF SLASHERS, WHO IDENTIFY AS QUEER hear is either "you aren't queer enough, your queer identity isn't real" or "male voices are the only ones qualified to speak for the queer community."

I think the question of how queer women can appropriate queer men's identity, and the damage that can be done when gay men speaking about themselves are drowned out by women, are valid discussion topics, and worth addressing. That is not a conversation that is going to happen as long as THE MAJORITY OF SLASHERS, WHO IDENTIFY AS QUEER, are being erased from the discussion. fyi.

And SO when people say things like "slash is a legitimate way for straight women to express their sexuality", what THE MAJORITY OF SLASHERS, WHO IDENTIFY AS QUEER hear is either "you aren't queer enough, your queer identity isn't relevant" or "straight voices are the only ones qualified to speak for the slash community".

I think the question of how straight women's sexuality interacts with queer sexuality, and the ways straight women's sexuality defines slash, are valid discussion topics, and worth addressing. That is not a conversation that is going to happen as long as THE MAJORITY OF SLASHERS, WHO IDENTIFY AS QUEER, are being erased from the discussion. fyi.

Can I say that one more time? I like saying it. Science makes me happy.

THE MAJORITY OF SLASHERS IDENTIFY AS QUEER.

ETA: People in comments have pointed out math errors that change the numbers slightly: I've added corrections in the relevant places. The conclusions still stand, however (for now.)

ETA 2 early morning jan 18: a short follow-up with more poll numbers + things /ETA 2
sailorptah: Space (Default)

[personal profile] sailorptah 2010-01-16 21:06 (UTC)(link)
Have I told you today that I like you?

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sara: S (Default)

[personal profile] sara 2010-01-16 21:11 (UTC)(link)
presenting an image to outsiders of "ordinary housewives" was important

Hell, I certainly get a huge amount of cover, both online and off, out of publicly presenting as a housewife who spends most of her time wibbling on about how adorable her kids are.

(They are adorable, mind you.)

Also, gold stars to you for tracking this stuff down.
Edited 2010-01-16 21:12 (UTC)

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naraht: "The combined total of everyone's indiscretions was known as Swinging London" (Simon Napier-Bell) (beatles-Groovy)

[personal profile] naraht 2010-01-16 21:14 (UTC)(link)
Fascinating post. Thanks for running down these numbers. I think they'll provide an important basis for the next part of the discussion.
ithiliana: Tauriel with bow from Hobbit film (Default)

[personal profile] ithiliana 2010-01-16 21:23 (UTC)(link)
Fascinating: I'm impressed you tracked down that many polls.

And I'm also wondering if more straight women are m/m original fic than is the case with slashers; and it's interesting (by which I mean maddening) how many people conflate the two which is very problematic.

Good work!

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isis: Isis statue (statue)

[personal profile] isis 2010-01-16 21:43 (UTC)(link)
I think I have answered a number of polls in what may be contradictory ways. I don't identify as queer. If the choice is, queer or not queer? (I think it was [personal profile] torachan had such a poll in the last few days) I am in the not queer camp. I, myself, don't think I'm queer enough to be queer. But on the other hand, if the choice is along a Kinsey scale (and I think I answered that one, too) I'm about a 1 or 2. I guess what it is is that I hesitate to identify as straight; okay, I'm bent, but my degree of curvature is pretty slight.

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lapin_agile: (Default)

[personal profile] lapin_agile 2010-01-16 21:47 (UTC)(link)
Thank you for making these points: (1) in many discussions of what women mean and do when they write about men having sex, there has been a very odd/troubling/significant erasure of the majority of slashers identifying as queer; (2) there may be historically specific explanations for this erasure; and (3) it's past time for academic work on slash to upgrade its research methods in order to generate better data on which to base its analyses, and it's past time for academics and the rest of us to keep sharing and recycling citations to early 'studies' that have disappeared into the mists of internet history and cannot now be consulted.

Oh, and thanks for queering the conversation because, yes, it would indeed seem that the majority of slashers identify as queer.

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fenellaevangela: text: Kirk & Spock & Bones & some guy in a red shirt. (Default)

[personal profile] fenellaevangela 2010-01-16 22:01 (UTC)(link)
I haven't been following this discussion very closely, but I find these numbers interesting.
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)

[personal profile] damned_colonial 2010-01-16 22:16 (UTC)(link)
One thing which occurs to me is that you should write this up a little more formally and submit it to Transformative Works and Cultures, which should then make it cite-able on Wikipedia, I think.
katealaurel: Sepia sketch of a young woman with loosely pulled back long hair, looking pensive. (Default)

[personal profile] katealaurel 2010-01-16 22:20 (UTC)(link)
(Here via [personal profile] flourish.) This is terrific, and I love that you tracked down the numbers. Go, science, go!

One quick thing, though: you did the math backwards on one of the polls.


http://www.misterpoll.com/polls/242137/results
2006-2-13
posted by Proserpina "For the yaoi girls", but I have no idea where it was linked/promoted.
total: 43
heterosexual: 23
homosexual: 1
bisexual: 11
pansexual: 2
asexual: 1
unsure: 5
Percent identifying as queer: 53%


In that poll, it's 23/43 = 53.5% heterosexual, 46.5% queer.

But! The data on the whole is very compelling, and for that specific one, I even think the fact that it's the "the late-teens yaoi set" could be significant. Are there strong statistics on what age, at average, young women start self-identifying as queer, if they do?

Anyway: this rocks!

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happydork: A graph-theoretic tree in the shape of a dog, with the caption "Tree (with bark)" (Default)

[personal profile] happydork 2010-01-16 22:39 (UTC)(link)
Yes. Thank you. This is such a valuable post -- my queer slasher friends and I have been discussing this as, "Hey, they're erasing us, which is weird because our circle is pretty damned queer -- still, I guess we're self-selecting or something, right?"

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Seen on Metafandom.

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Re: Seen on Metafandom.

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[personal profile] azurelunatic 2010-01-16 23:05 (UTC)(link)
I recall the Sith Academy mailing list denizens as having our fair share of LBTGQ people, quite a few lesbians and bi women. Would be interesting to ask on the husk of the mailing list.

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[personal profile] azurelunatic 2010-01-16 23:12 (UTC)(link)
And let me see about whipping up a survey that might in some accurate and reasonably sensitive and sensible way measure these things.

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sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)

[personal profile] sasha_feather 2010-01-16 23:16 (UTC)(link)
This was so incredibly cheering and heartening to read. :D
Edited 2010-01-16 23:18 (UTC)
cathexys: dark sphinx (default icon) (Default)

[personal profile] cathexys 2010-01-16 23:28 (UTC)(link)
FWIW, one more from 2003 and using a mostly popslash crowd (199=69% self-identify as queer)

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cypher: (right beside you)

[personal profile] cypher 2010-01-16 23:30 (UTC)(link)
Thank you so much for this post. ♥
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[personal profile] cofax7 2010-01-16 23:33 (UTC)(link)
Fascinating!

I had wondered how it was that so many of the slashers I know, who are lesbian or bi, were invisible to the common wisdom that slashers were straight women.
waywren: Sad bunny and sadder pet (BUNNY)

[personal profile] waywren 2010-01-16 23:35 (UTC)(link)
SO when people say things like "slash fans are appropriating queer experience", what THE MAJORITY OF SLASHERS, WHO IDENTIFY AS QUEER hear is either "you aren't queer enough, your queer identity isn't real" or "male voices are the only ones qualified to speak for the queer community."

...thank you.

Thank you so much for saying that. I've been vaguely following this--more or less involuntarily considering the contents of my various friendslists/circles--but I wasn't able to articulate how it made me feel.

As a bisexual woman, I already get 'you're not queer enough, you're just a slut/you're just playing/you're straddling the fence so you don't get hurt.' So this ... really resonates.

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loligo: Scully with blue glasses (Default)

[personal profile] loligo 2010-01-16 23:39 (UTC)(link)
Science FTW!!

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threewalls: threewalls (Default)

[personal profile] threewalls 2010-01-16 23:48 (UTC)(link)
THE MAJORITY OF SLASHERS IDENTIFY AS QUEER.

Thank you for doing the numbers on this. So much.
jest: (Default)

[personal profile] jest 2010-01-17 00:44 (UTC)(link)
Amen to this!
darthneko: purple cartoon bunny (Default)

[personal profile] darthneko 2010-01-17 00:53 (UTC)(link)
I was linked here by [personal profile] jamie and I just have to say - THANK YOU. I've tried to stay as far away from this whole debate as possible because a) it raises my blood pressure and b) all I kept hearing was "straight women shouldn't appropriate the gay man experience!" to which I, as a lesbian, kept going "...um. That's awful darn binary for the broad strokes you're painting with it."

So thank you. This is another one of those topics where I don't think anyone who's in a bunch about it is ever going to be satisfied, but not blatantly ignoring a good half of my slash-writing circle of acquaintances would be a good start.
eisen: Painted lady (a face in the crowd). (have a gay old time.)

[personal profile] eisen 2010-01-17 00:58 (UTC)(link)
These numbers are amazing! I myself keep falling into the trap of assuming my circle is self-selecting the same way, and it's interesting how that assumption has very little basis in the numbers, and how it's such a prevalent meme even in the face of facts.

You keep being smart and clever and saying things that I think are really important to have heard, so I am subscribing to you and providing access because most of what I say is under flock and based on your behavior hereabouts on journals of friends I trust you with that. This in no way has to be reciprocal! But you are awesome, and it's high time I stop just reading you via network and make my appreciation visible on my userinfo.
monanotlisa: (alexis! - ugly betty)

[personal profile] monanotlisa 2010-01-17 01:05 (UTC)(link)
Rock on - numbers! Figures! Math! :)

(Not about quantifiable elements, but dude, all the false dichotomies in certain assumptions made me shake my head. Even if a lot of slashers really are middle-aged house-wives, that wouldn't in any way, shape, or form mean they aren't also queer.)

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[personal profile] monanotlisa - 2010-01-17 01:40 (UTC) - Expand

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[personal profile] maevele - 2010-01-17 08:34 (UTC) - Expand
trobadora: (Default)

[personal profile] trobadora 2010-01-17 01:07 (UTC)(link)
Here via metafandom's delicious - thank you so much for digging up all those polls. It's really heartening to see the results.
kiwikiwi: (ToV: Okay! That's wonderful! H-Haha!)

[personal profile] kiwikiwi 2010-01-17 01:47 (UTC)(link)
Thank you for the work that went into this; it's very heartening to read.

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