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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...

klangley56klangley56 on May 22nd, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
Now, if you want to read some *really* slashy "gen"
Try any part of Susan Foster's curiously popular Sentinel AU series, her GDP universe, found here:

She seems to have inadvertently created a new fan fiction sub-genre, dubbed "intense bonding fic."

In the course of her series, it is necessary for Jim and Blair to bond and "claim" each other with a frequency and intensity that suggests an animal in heat. Blair must be submissive, often naked, usually fondled and sniffed and tasted and so on, all over, by a very possessive Jim . . .

And in her series within the series--a historical version of the parent series, the Blair and Jim characters are equally aggressive and possessive in the whole bonding-and-claiming shtick:

"Blaer gave a cry of frustration as his hands where caught and held tightly in one large hand at the middle of his back. Using his free hand the Panther cupped his Guide’s face, his thumb brushing almost roughly over Blaer’s full lips so that he could taste his Guide’s scent. A shudder ran through the Panther as he Guide’s tongue swept around the ball of his thumb. That swept away the last of the Panther’s control. When confronted with his mate in the heat of the dark bond, needy body pressing against him begging to be claimed not in words but in action, the very heart of the primal panther was touched. His hand brushed his Guide’s face then fastened on the long hair. He pulled Blaer’s head back exposing his throat. With a roar the panther, his teeth clamped onto the pale skin at the base of his throat bit down hard at the same time his body pushed the Dark Guide deep into the furs.


Outside the tent a smile twitched the lips of the Shield as heard the moans and cries coming from the dark Guide as he was claimed in the darkest bond. His blood already heated by the fight, Blaer was vocal in the furs. A good sign in a mate, but then it was always said of the Dark Guides, that no other Guide could come close to them in the bond. The scream was then overlaid by the low-throated growl of the panther."
Helen W.wneleh on May 22nd, 2007 09:56 am (UTC)
Re: Now, if you want to read some *really* slashy "gen"
I was wondering if GDP was going to be the next series/author mentioned! Because her stuff also doesn't read as slash, through my Sentinel-fanfic-tuned filters; it reads as dreck. And the bit quoted? Purging in from my brain as I type....

While I think a good chunk of TS fandom is happy rating "Beach" smarm and leaving it at that, the major TS gen archive has decided not to allow stories with "bonding scenes" that it feels push the limits of gen: http://www.skeeter63.org/~tslibrary/misc/bondingpolicy.htm.

The funny thing for me is that, while the sub-genre the GDP series inspired that includes bonding squicks me majorly, GDP has also inspired many stories/series in which guides and sentinels are a major part of society, absent the oddness that is GDP, with different authors having different takes on how this would work; and many of these stories are marvelous.
julchen56 on May 22nd, 2007 12:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Now, if you want to read some *really* slashy "gen"
I was wondering if GDP was going to be the next series/author mentioned! Because her stuff also doesn't read as slash, through my Sentinel-fanfic-tuned filters; it reads as dreck. And the bit quoted? Purging in from my brain as I type....

Oh dear! Herein I fully agree with you! Re the 'dreck' part, not the slash part. Otoh I do understand where you come from, if you don't want it called slash. But in my eyes it's definitely not gen either. It's a funny cross of sexualised behaviour that is'nt meant or to be understood as such - or something. And it's a very good example for the kind of fic I mean when I think of writers writing sex lite.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2007 04:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Now, if you want to read some *really* slashy "gen"
It's a funny cross of sexualised behaviour that is'nt meant or to be understood as such - or something. And it's a very good example for the kind of fic I mean when I think of writers writing sex lite.

Yes-- to me, sexualized behavior (I just realized that you use British spelling) is Slash.

Doesn't matter if the characters would have wanted it beforehand, or even if they want it now... it's still Slash. Might be light Slash, but still Slash.

"Dreck" is marvelous description of that passage. ;)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2007 03:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Now, if you want to read some *really* slashy "gen"


That's definitely Slash to me, obviously. I do wonder sometimes if people are confused into thinking that for true Slash the characters must be either 1) secretly gay, or 2)secretly want it.

A lot of Slash is (not saying that this is a realistic premise, just attractive to many readers) characters that are actually straight, but who find themselves loving someone far beyond where they thought love could go-- past the potential squick of it being someone of the same-sex (squick for the character, not the reader). I mean, some of it appeals as more the "ultimate" romance rather than just the sex-- loving the soul of the person and not the "packaging."

And then there's the occasional "thrown into this mess together" thing that starts out non-con, but they get over it. Or don't. But there's sexualized behavior. That sounds very much like the genre of what you linked above!

Same-sex characters having sex or with highly sexualized behaviors (such as kissing, french-kissing), for whatever reason, is Slash.

Same-sex characters who are basically in love with each other... also Slash, even if nothing further happens.

Wonder why that's so elusive to some writers? :0

Now my slashy little heart wants to go and read that story, even though it sounds painfully over the top in terms of... something. Laughability? Manufactured drama?
Helen W.wneleh on May 22nd, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Now, if you want to read some *really* slashy "gen"
As the saying goes, the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from! And so it goes with defining slash, I think.

Sometimes I'll take a story defined as slash and choose to interpret it as non-slash because I get a bigger charge out of the interaction that way - I'll link one such from home later, the author is great, I really like her slash, but this one story is really what I like to read.

As for GDP... it's not just the flowery prose, it's the spelling, the interesting sentence structure, the protagonists going to a mall food court when trying to avoid all contact with humanity... and her site crashes my PDA :-(

- Helen
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Now, if you want to read some *really* slashy "gen"
it's the spelling, the interesting sentence structure,

Ouch. I have so little tolerance for that, I imagine I wouldn't read much of it.

There is a wonderful online friend whose personality and such I get a big kick out of. But her writing hurts me to read, in large part because of the syntax, which jerks around within subclauses in such an awkward way that you have to parse out the actual meaning of the sentence almost every time. I... just don't have the energy for that. :(
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 30th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Now, if you want to read some *really* slashy "gen"
I tell you, the Sentinel lovers will be the death of me.

I spent FAR too much time this weekend reading stuff on that page, starting with the GDP stuff and then eventually I hit the AU version of the GDP-verse that you quoted above.

Now I'm starting to find Blair's eyes compelling, and I notice that he has great lips, and Jim's build is a total turn-on. Ack!

That series you quote, which is !!! unfinished and almost a year old in its stalled-out phase, is kind of the epitome of the "Slash in disguise thing," just as you noted.

The description of the "bonding" is basically a form of sexless mating with an incredible amount of biting and rubbing naked bodies together again and again and again (and Blaer stripping for Jeme and tantalizing him with his body). About 4 from the end, I started to boggle over the "Why aren't they having sex yet?"

I mean, how do you create a universe where the ultimate bonding would clearly involve love-making (there's even a M/F pair near the end there who expect to be fully bonded and married in the future), and where all other people are going to be secondary to that bond, and then not go for the whole thing?

That series, as read, is the ultimate in sexless Slash-- there's an incredible amount of biting and chewing, and Jemes giving Blaer tongue-baths and Blaer's whole body is shaking and he's moaning, and there's biting on the stomach and thighs-- everything but the messy genitals, which are not mentioned. And the endless bed-snuggling naked, draped all over each other, and the talk of pheremones and "being in heat" and on and on. Plus, you can only deny the "morning wood" concept so far, and I can't imagine Blaer being on the receiving end of that attention and not showing a sexual response-- because hello, Male character.

The author also writes slash, I believe, so I'm confounded by the whole thing. She's set up a dynamic where the Sex between male bondmates is "impure" (except in Blaer's background, where all sex is a sacrament), and everyone around them talks about it, and there is NO way Blaer's ever going to love anyone the way he does Jeme (and maybe vice-versa), so why must the full thing be cast in the light of "Sex" vs. "love-making?" The love-making would complete the whole mood/setup.

Honestly, do people think that when men sleep together, love always goes out of the picture? That seems so bizarre to me, and this story just begs for it.

The GDP thing... I kind of cracked up over a setting where there's this frequent need to bond, which is basically bed-snuggling and often involves falling asleep, and the notion of a bonding pedastal (because bonding on the bed apparently is evil? You must be kidding!).

The whole "Sentinel Suite" AT THE POLICE STATION was even funnier.

Thanks for the links, though I lost damn near a whole weekend to it. ;)