A torrid affair between Captain Kirk and his trusty Vucan sidekick, Spock? It may sound faintly odd, but not to readers of slash fiction - fan writing by and for women based on characters from TV shows, most of it featuring sexually explicit relationships between two men. The "slash" refers to the punctuation mark connecting the the odd couples. But what has this to do with science?
Catherine Salmon and Donald Symons tackle that question in Warrior Lovers, a book in the Darwinism Today series that uses slash fiction to examin the female mating psychology. And while they're at it, they want to unveil the unique appeal of the genre to its fans.
Salmon and Symons argue that the essential features of slash hold information about human psychological adaptions that are rooted in evolution by natural selection because it's a window into sexual fantasies. Comparing slash fiction with commercial female erotica, and contrasting both with commerical male erotica is one way to illuminate evolved female mating behaviour.
And after a clear introduction to evolutionary biology, Salmon and Symons wade in with evidence that mating behaviour has its roots in the needs of our hunter gatherer ancestors. Women, they say seek secure relationships with warrior men: tall, strong and brave, yet tamed by love.
There's more than a whiff of mainstream romance novels about all this, but slash fiction has a unique appeal in enabling readers to indentify with a co-warrior rather than a Mrs Warrior. The argument is persuasive and clear, but slash fiction is rather more diverse and complex than these authors allow, and so, one suspects, is modern female mating psychology.
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Last updated on 09th of July 2001.