Introduction: Fandom as Fantasy

Fandom is essentially fantasy. It is fans contemplating their wants and their desires, expressing their interests and curiosities. While there are hundreds of things explored in fandom, but one thing stands out among it all: sexuality. Fandom is often used, especially by women, to explore their sexual identity. Fanfiction and fanart are often soft-core pornography, made for women, by women. During a time when the public's ideas about women and sex were changing, fandom became a place for women to explore their sexuality. While fandom has changed and evolved since then, it never really lost its roots.

Fan works have existed in many incarnations throughout the years, but the general consensus is that fandom itself did not begin to come together under the back-alley publications of Star Trek fanzines. And while there may have been some more plot-minded works, for the most part these fanzines focused on one thing, and one thing only: Spock and Kirk, doing unmentionables.

Photomanipulation by MR-Bestiya (deviantart)

Fandom has grown since then, but it hasn't shaken the women who couldn't help but imagine that the characters of Star Trek were secretly involved. But as time has gone by and female sexuality has become more widely accepted, other, more repressed sexual groups have come to the front of the fandom collective. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals - even some sexualities that did not have a name before fandom - have all found a home. (Check out How Does Fandom Affect Perception of Gender and Sexuality?)

Character Presentation and Interpretation

Often, fans identify with a particular character in their fandom. It's not uncommon for a viewer to see themselves in a character either because of character traits or physical appearance. In some cases, the character may have a vague gender or sexual identity that leaves a blank for viewers to project themselves onto and gives them an opportunity for self-exploration. That reflection shows through in art and fic where the viewer, now turned fan creator, expresses their sexual curiosity through the work. Fandom provides a safe outlet for sexual curiosity and expression, often without fear of rejection. When the fan uses characters to figure out their sexual and gender identities, it creates a sort of wall. The wall protects the fan, both physically and mentally, from harm until the fan is willing and able to explore on their own. Fandom is in a way a preschool, teaching and educating until the students are prepared to move on.

Anonymity of the Net

While fandom had its beginnings in fanzines, they were clunky and inconvenient. They cost money to print, so they had to be sold, and a fan had to know where to go and what to say to buy them. To read fic, a fan had to go to a con or gathering and talk to the write person. And because the fanzines were published, there was much less variety. Only popular fandoms had magazines at all, and they were often based around popular pairings. If a fan liked an obscure fandom, they were out of luck.

With the invention and subsequent popularity of the internet, things began to change. Posting on the internet was cheaper than creating fanzines. There were no printing fees, and if a fan could go online, they could simply look for fic (well, not so simply, in the early days of the internet) and read whatever they found. In 1998, was created, and for the first time in the history of fandom, there was a central location for fic of multiple fandoms. One year later, livejournal went online and provided a place for fan communities to form.

The internet provided a way for fans to get their fix in one location, without paying or knowing passwords. While it's certainly easier for a fan to find quality fanworks if they know where to look, it's certainly possible to find them simply by googling the right (or wrong) combination of words. The back alley days of fandom were over, but that didn't mean that fandom was moving into the daylight, because the internet provided one more thing: anonymity. And that meant that for the first time in the history of fandom, fans could admit to anything without fear of prosecution. And thus the kink meme was born.

A kink meme is group, unusually on livejournal, usually for a specific fandom, that is designed for NC-17 art and fic. While some have rules or restrictions, others are "anything goes" and patrons can request or contribute fic or art of fetishes that would otherwise be kept under the rug.

Image by kisscrisis (tumblr)

Overtime, though, because of their popularity, kink meme have lost some of their blatant sexuality. Often, prompts on the gen memes (general, not kink memes) go ignored, and so are placed on the kink meme, where they will be acknowledged. Kink memes have become a sort of catch-all for fic and art. Recently, and especially on the Homestuck kink meme, Homesmut (warning: NSFW) there has been a recent trend of requesting fics and art that while certainly sexual in topic are not so much for gratification as consolation and exploration: requests for trans characters is one such example, as is requests for gender-fluid characters, and characters exploring their sexualities (gay, bi, queer). The acceptance of the kink meme makes it a natural place for a fan to explore their sexual and gender identity, and the variety of the media gives them waters to test. Fans who are not sure where they lie sexually might read about their favorite character being asexual and realize that they are, as well.


Fandom started out as a group of women writing their fantasies out on paper, and passing them on. It's evolved from its primal beginnings, but it's still an expression of desire. Fandom is an acceptable way for one to explore one's identity, and get information (although information in fandom may not be the most accurate) on sex and gender. For many adolescents, fandom is their sexual education. It is sometimes the only place where confused teens can get information about their gender and sexual identity, and because of that it has become something of a safe place. Fandom is a vast thing, giving fans room to play, explore, and learn.