The sudden surge in popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James has sparked widespread discussion about fanfiction, often with a lack of understanding.
In a review published in the Guardian, Jenny Colgan remarked, “Originally emerging from online slash/fic (fan-created erotic content on the more obscure corners of the internet, where characters like Ron Weasley and Harry explore their true emotions for one another, and so forth) featuring Edward and Bella from Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey has now become a fully developed trilogy.”
This portrayal not only confuses Slashfic with fanfiction (slash referring to stories depicting male homosexual relationships) but also perpetuates the idea of the work and its authors as ‘creepy.’
Such descriptions overlook the diversity of fanfiction, aiming to ‘enlighten’ those unfamiliar with it, by emphasizing that it’s not a singular genre but a medium encompassing various forms of writing with different intents. Erotica represents just one facet, with further distinctions within it.
One of the particularly intriguing aspects among these is the kink meme, a realm that mainstream journalists have yet to fully unravel. Kink memes serve as fandom-specific platforms where users engage in interactive erotic fanfiction primarily through anonymous requests.
Typically hosted on Livejournal, kink memes feature two main types of posts: requests and fills. Users submit requests for stories they desire to read, and authors subsequently fulfill them.
These stories are then cataloged using a tagging system that identifies the characters and sexual activities portrayed. For instance,Quinn/Puck or Quinn/Finn – Noncon/dubcon, beastiality, rough sex, slut shaming, dp’ or, ‘Kurt/Blaine – bp!Kurt, oral, at work’
These narratives typically lack titles and are usually confined to a single chapter. Furthermore, as demonstrated by the examples, the realm of the kink meme is intricately woven with codes and terminology that may not be readily understandable. Kink memes serve as both inclusive and exclusive spaces.
While they uphold principles of non-judgment, often referred to as ‘kink shaming’ within the community, they also employ a highly specialized language tailored to their specific needs. Nearly anything may be permissible (though controversies have arisen over the creation of racist and misogynistic content).
Yet, due to the nature of how the content is organized, users may only encounter prompts and fills that cater to their particular interests.
For instance, if a user seeks stories exclusively featuring characters X and Y engaged in activity Z, the entire archive can be filtered to display only those results. The overarching principle governing these spaces is “if you don’t like it, don’t read it.” In the guidelines of the Glee Kink Meme, their fourth rule states, “Your Kink is not my kink (and that’s OK).”
This emphasis on acceptance, or at least the deliberate ignorance of content that does not align with one’s preferences, fosters an innovative environment where even the most niche interests can thrive without the pressure to conform to mainstream appeal. These spaces offer endless and unexpected possibilities, yet paradoxically, they often adhere to self-regulating conventions.
Interestingly, despite its target audience and the storyline of the show, one of the most vibrant kink memes belongs to Glee. Through my exploration of the Glee Kink Meme, I’ve uncovered a realm where virtually anything can be eroticized, yet traditional stereotypes of gendered power dynamics persist.
Numerous narratives feature female characters with penises (referred to as girl! peen), yet in nearly every instance, the character possessing the penis assumes a dominant sexual role over those without. Within the show’s narrative, Kurt is consistently portrayed as feminized, while his boyfriend, Blaine, does not undergo similar treatment. In the Glee Kink Meme, Kurt is typically depicted as a sexual submissive, often subjected to sadistic acts.
He becomes the perpetual target in stories featuring domination. Santana and Quinn, the show’s stereotypical “bitchy cheerleaders,” are most frequently endowed with male genitalia, while Rachel, portrayed as a child of adoption, is consistently cast as the submissive figure in infantilism narratives.
Although kink memes may embrace a wide range of content, they rarely deviate from the established gender and character dynamics outlined in the original text. Despite their divergent themes, these spaces remain remarkably faithful to the essence of fanfiction.
While journalists often portray fanfiction as a realm dominated by “creepy” anonymous erotica, they overlook the fact that erotic content constitutes only a small fraction of fanfiction stories. Despite unabashedly featuring themes like BDSM, intersexuality, and even bestiality, these stories remain entrenched within dominant gender paradigms.
If the widespread popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey aims to shed light on the realm of fanfiction, particularly erotic fanfiction, the focus should shift from labeling participants as “weird” to recognizing that conservative gender ideologies persist even in unexpected corners. ■
For a comprehensive list of active kink memes, visit 4theloveofkink, where you’ll find diverse prompts from Tintin to Metal Gear Solid.
For clarification, “dubcon/noncon” refers to dubious or non-consensual content, while “bp!Kurt” signifies that Kurt has a vagina.
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