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Manlove For Ladies

Mark Simpson on the crossover of female man-on-man fantasy – or ‘slash’ – into the mainstream

(‘The London Times, December 29, 2007)

When Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt of the hit BBC comedy The Mighty Boosh snogged on air the other week, it may have looked as if they were pandering, tongues literally in cheeks, to gay male fans. At first glance the swarm of comments on the YouTube clip (now removed) of the clinch seemed to confirm this: “The hottest thing I’ve ever seen!” and “Oh sweet baby Jesus!”, being typical examples.

Until you get to: “I broked my ovaries!!” – and then you realise that most if not all the posters perving shamelessly over this man-on-man action are actually female.

Welcome to the wonderful, if sometimes slightly perplexing world of ladies who love men loving men. Once, this scene was confined to obscure online groups of fanfic “slashers” – women who subversively outed a homoerotic subtext within the “buddy” genre for one another. So Starsky played with Hutch’s clutch, and Sam fingered Master Frodo’s ring.

But as we’ve increasingly seen, virtual day-dreaming has a way of infiltrating traditional media. In a sign of the crossover of slash – fashslash if you will – that Mighty Boosh snog seems to have been directly inspired by the online frenzied feminine fantasising about this male comedy duo’s close friendship.

Meanwhile, the semi-secret reason so many, from Desperate Housewives to Coronation Street, have boy-on-boy romances now is not so much political correctness, but a growing awareness that a large segment of their mostly female audience rather like seeing pretty boys getting it on.

This, after all, has been the implicit erotic dynamic of all those screamingly successful gay-managed, gay-flirty boybands from the Beatles to Wham to Take That. The huge success of Queer As Folk on both sides of the Atlantic was in part down to it’s slashy ‘Take That on Canal Street’ feel. Brokeback Mountain was essentially posh slash fiction that became a massively successful fashslash movie.

Sometimes though, today’s ladies’ overt and sometimes over-eager interest in manlove – the Queer Eye of the Straight Gal – can make men rather… shy. Earlier this year, a gay bar in Melbourne had to go to court to get an order banning women. Apparently they were descending on the club en masse to ogle the canoodling men.

Read what the slashers themselves have to say about this article.