Think about some of the non-canonically supported ships that you know. Mycroft and Lestrade have been in one scene together in all nine episodes of Sherlock, but Mystrade is a huge ship. In Teen Wolf, Stiles and Derek are constantly shipped together, despite sharing very few canon scenes. Meanwhile, Allison and Lydia, who are getting a lot of screentime together this season, have barely five hundred fics on AO3. (Sterek has about twenty thousand.) I don’t mean to disparage one ship or the other—what I’m curious about is why fandom seems to have latched onto the male ship over the female one.
This disinterest in female sexuality can be seen even in everyday examples from our culture: female rape scenes in movies are okay, but female pleasure is not allowed; girls are taught that their first time having sex should hurt, because the person who gets pleasure out of sex is the man; there’s even been controversy over lesbian erotica being “too racy” to sell well, although gay erotica seems to do just fine. This focus on male pleasure over female pleasure can even be found throughout history: early translators of the poet Sappho, a woman who loved both sexes, deliberately changed the pronouns in the poems so that Sappho was waxing poetic about a man, not a woman. Culturally, the male gaze rules supreme—if a lesbian scene isn’t written by and performed for a male consumer, it most likely would not exist.
And yet fanfiction is an inherently transformative work which, by its very nature, strives to address or change some flaw that exists in canon, even if that flaw is “why isn’t there more of this thing?!” Fanfiction has addressed the lack of gay men by making straight characters gay; it’s addressed countless cultural misappropriations with wildly varying AUs; it’s addressed canon plot holes and timeline issues with fix-it fics and crossovers. Fanfic is the show your show could be like, if only you dared to dream.
But for all its transformative nature, fanfiction and fandom still suffer from a real dearth of femslash. Beyond the simple fact that very few girls exist in canon materials, the societal emphasis on the male gaze seems to have affected fanficcers’ creativity to such an extent that even in our own fantasies, we cannot give women a fair shake.Femslash and Fandom (via alchemy)