And now, ladies, just for yourselves . . .
When Harry met Garry
Those crazy cats who make up the LSE Darwinist collective have just published a rather racy little number on a form of fiction that will be new to all but the most excitable literary connoisseur. The book, Warrior Lovers, by Catherine Salmon and Donald Symons, is an evolutionary take on slash, an erotic genre written by women for women in which girls get their kicks in the depiction of two stalwartly heterosexual men enjoying a sudden conversion and equally stalwartly getting it on. As an added kink these men must be part of an established double act - Starsky/Hutch, Holmes/Watson, Lewis/Morse, Dr Who and presumably any one from a galaxy full of possibilities.
Like any self-respecting form of sexual exotica, slash began in the Seventies and flourishes on the Internet. It sprang from the fevered imaginations of Star Trek fans who asked themselves what Kirk and Spock got to doing when they weren't spreading interplanetary concord and decided it must be each other. Its name derives from the punctuation mark that holds our heroes so near and yet so far, the tantalising boundary that their love - and various other parts - must dare to overcome.
Unusually for the realm of pornography, it's really rather good. When girls are running the show there's none of that "I've come to read the meter, so let's do the business" narrative void that male porn tends to fall into. Slash has inventive plots and established sub-genres, such as the drabble, a slash of exactly 100 words, or an HHJJ, or happy happy joy joy story. The sites are friendly and well organised and feature cluckily maternal exhortations from women with names such as "Aimee" and "Belynda" admonishing minors and those not into male on male relations, to "Shoo, shoo away!" Theories as to why this form of writing should hold an appeal for the ladies are many and various.
The Darwinist take is that women don't have to worry about the future of the relationship. In their dealings with women, men are always on the lookout for a younger model, or so the argument goes, but in a union with a man this evolutionary pressure is off. The romance can thus be of the enduring kind that women are programmed to wish upon themselves.
For my money, the answer is that, just as many men have a penchant for a bit of sapphic action, so heterosexual women find themselves enchanted by a story in which there are not one but two male bodies to get their teeth into. If this kind of thing lights a girl's candle, then she has two torsos over which to become inflamed.
Whatever the secret of slash's appeal, any man pondering that immortal chestnut "what do women want?" should certainly take a look. Given the notorious trickiness of capturing the heart of the female electorate, politicians in particular are encouraged to slash up their acts.
Labour must move now to ensure that Mr Portillo does not corner the market in this strategic new genre. The relationship it can offer a voracious public is as complex as it is compelling - moving, turbulent, impassioned - an enduring alliance in which intrigue and ambition are mixed with power and iron will. Ladies, I give you Brown/Blair.
Scene 1, Granita. Blair wears chinos and the softest of chambray shirts. Brown is dominant in pinstripe. It is the first occasion the two have sat opposite each other for some time.
Blair breaks the silence. "Remember?" he asks the man who has been both brother and adversary, Cain to his Abel. "Remember that night in `94?" A wry smile crosses the Chancellor's lips. "Tony, how could I forget?" For a moment the two men are lost, each in their separate thoughts, before Blair continues.
"I brought you here tonight, Gordon, because I want you. Not want you in my Cabinet want you; not want you to succeed me want you; and not want you like I want Cherie." Brown's gaze flickers and his hand moves instinctively to his mouth and the nail-biting that is never far away. The Prime Minister seizes this errant hand and . . . well, you get the general idea.
All it needs is a bit of chemistry, the odd spot of tension. Just a discreet hint that beneath these virile Whitehall breasts beat potential homo-erotic hearts. Blair might whisk a stray hair from Gordy's shoulder or offer to carry his briefcase. Brown might mix the PM a drink and supply an after-Cabinet massage.
All that is wanted is the merest sniff of slash and all British womanhood will be transfixed on the really new Labour that's on offer. After all, the honeymoon is over and there's a long hot summer ahead. Time to put aside the spinning and concentrate on some slashing.
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Last updated on 09th of July 2001.