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18 May 2007 @ 04:37 pm
Discovering "Smarm"  
Not the obsequious kind, either.

Yesterday, wandering through metafandom, I happened on a discussion of "smarm" fic. thelana is probably laughing her butt off right about now...

So, "smarm" is what one really might consider sexless slash. Proponents don't see it that way, and it doesn't always cross that line, but sometimes the manLove is more than brotherly, you know?

What thelana's going to laugh about is that I have unwittingly written "smarm" on occasion. Sometimes I still think of it as Gen (the manLove is typically brief and doesn't go on and on), and other times it's supposed to be Slash but doesn't get as far as I'd intended (in which case, I really consider it "light Slash").

A very thorough definition/argument of what constitutes "smarm" can be found here. The audience for it is readers who want big manLove and affection and often touching and cuddling, but no sex. Slash lovers may wonder what the point of that is, but I clearly remember that my first Slashy desires were around age 13/14, and I would have been perfectly happy to fade out with romantic kissing and snuggling together in bed. Obviously, I've expanded my horizons since then, but you get my point. The thing is, though, that's still Slash to me.

So, case in point there is this Sentinel story, Beach by two very big fans of smarm, and for me that is definitely slash. Check out this chapter here, where there is kissing, tonguing, and I believe also declarations of love.

Looking at the larger story (I wasted some 3 hours at work reading this thing, and hating myself afterwards), if you look past the buckets of crying in the story it is a big hurt/comfort-fest of touching, cuddling, kissing, hair-petting, declared love, romanticizing of the other person, pondering on "joined souls" and "owning each others' hearts". There are also some 11 installments of naked showering, and some 6+ of naked bed-cuddling before it wanders off into a dream sequence (still a WIP).

See, now, that is clearly romantic love to me-- it might be brotherly love if they were actual brothers (though if there's tonguing, I think some misunderstandings are going to arise!), but how is that NOT light Slash? The fact that there's no mention of arousal when they're mooshing their groins up against each other? (Seriously. And as the rest of the story is written, if you're that emotionally thrilled by someone I don't see a physical reaction not happening, especially for men).

So, I read some more in that genre last night (could not help myself-- and I never even watched the Sentinel!). Some of it is just a hug, a touch here and there. But there are loads of what can only be called cuddling, honestly.

I don't know. I can definitely see why there would be an audience for stories that cut off at the pre-sexual point, but most of what I read I'd still say is Slash or Slashy.

And that particular story, 70+ installments and not yet finished... I have to call that emo-Porn, because it totally is. Not a bad thing, but that definitely describes it.

Clarification: I totally forgot about the range of canon behavior. I.e., if we're talking "Starsky and Hutch" even a single kiss on the mouth might just be Gen smarm, depending on how romantically skewed that was. Virtually everthing else was already canon. NOT that I have any complaints about that...

What do all of you think? Probably many of you were already aware of it long before me!

So, thanks to the time wasted on the story in the cut zone above, I never did get out to exercise yesterday. :( Which means that today, I had legs and then some! In other words:

Cycling: 34 miles for speed today! Whoo! Plus a couple more to warm down. I did nearly get hit by a van, making a U-turn right into the bike lane where I was progressing, and she stopped right in front of me. I was pissed. I smacked one of her back windows with my fist and came around to discuss this with her, but she was already stumbling through an apology and was honestly so horrified with herself that I relented, and thanked her for apologizing. Yikes!

No interesting animals today-- not even the pygmy goats were out! Earlier this week, along this same route (the office, not the bike path), I caused a mini cattle-stampede. \o/ On the plus side, the roadkill count is still down.

Got a drabble to post this weekend for bluesister, if I can force it to be 100 words and not keep creeping up. Almost there...

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 20th, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC)
at that point Jim has been completely broken and Blair is trying anything and everything to provide comfort; even if Jim and Blair were lovers in the story, their actions in that circumstance would not be sexual.
I guess, having read it, that I just don't buy the extreme that it gets to as being necessary. Or to the point, I feel entirely manipulated by the authors with the "joined at the hip never-stop-touching" premise.

But for a reader who can get past that, I'm sure there isn't a similar problem.

I don't like Jim-and-Blair-in-love; IRL, couples with their sort of dynamic turn abusive, IME. Smarm doesn't have this problem for me.
Now, this is really well and clearly-stated. I can entirely understand your feelings about that, especially given that you think the romantic dynamics would not work particularly well. Heaven knows, I've had those thoughts about pairings myself. :)

Thanks for your thoughtful participation in the discussion, and also for bringing your hilarious icon into the mix. It cracks me up. :)
Helen W.: Itwneleh on May 21st, 2007 01:30 am (UTC)
Thanks for your thoughtful participation in the discussion, and also for bringing your hilarious icon into the mix. It cracks me up. :)

Thanks for opening up a discussion of one of my favorite topics!

I've put a link here in my LJ, since I have a number of TS readers in it, gen, slash, and bifictional. I'm hoping some will jump in.

RE: My icon - a few years ago, my daughters and I gave my husband odd fruit for Christmas. He looked at this (it's marketed as a 'Buddha Fruit') and said, "Cthulu," so of course we had to put some eyes on it. When I started an LJ a few months later, I wanted something that looked like me but was unrecognizable, and it looks more like me than any other fruit (and I look more like it than most people.)

- Helen
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 21st, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
Uh-oh-- the fact that it looks more like a happy little yellow octopus to me is probably not what you wanted to hear!