Slash – even more so than gay romance – is the ultimate fictional expression of erotic faith. The romance heroes in these stories fall so in love with their male friend or partner, so embrace the religion of erotic faith, that they can’t help committing themselves as lovers. These male heroes may not understand themselves as “really” gay and may be portrayed as heterosexual men whose beloved simply happens to be another man. But the love these men discover for each other is strong enough to defeat patriarchy’s chief rule that a man must be straight. In a society that preaches the religion of erotic faith – where love provides meaning and fulfillment as the path to the promised land – the ultimate test of erotic faith is for a heterosexual alpha male to willingly and openly love in a romantic way another such male. To do so is much riskier than the expected path of loving a woman, for it is to breach the great taboo against same-sex male love that defines patriarchal masculinity.

Roach, C. M. (2016). Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture. Indiana University Press.

Remember Catherine Roach and her breakdown of the key elements of the romance story? Towards the end of her book, Roach turns to gay romance and slash fan fiction. There has of course been a fair amount of fannish meta written about the exact relationship between slash and queer sexualities, and some academic research too. Roach’s perspective is as someone who is primarily a romance scholar (and writer), not a fan studies scholar, so she perhaps emphasises different aspects of slash to those fans and fan studies scholard to. What do you think?

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