Heads Up! This article contains text that may be NSFW.
At thirteen, an entire wall of my powder blue-painted bedroom was covered in photos of Mandy Moore. It was the wall beside my bed, the year I had kiss-printed sheets and a matching rug, a pink and purple lava lamp on my nightstand. I listened to her albums on repeat and watched A Walk to Remember three times a day, every day, all summer.
Somehow, my love for Mandy Moore didn’t make me think I wasn’t straight. In retrospect, I had a massive, life-altering crush on her, but at the time I didn’t realize that. It wasn’t until two years later, when I dove headfirst into the One Tree Hill fandom and discovered femslash, that I would figure it out.
Brooke Davis brought me out of the closet. I shipped her with everyone, but especially Haley James. Once I had combed through poorly-written Nathan and Haley fic on the WB message boards (oh yes), I set my sights on what was — at the time — the ultimate mecca for fan fiction: Fanfiction.Net. There, at the top of the updates page, was an epic-length Brooke and Haley fic that immediately caught my attention.
I’ll be honest: before Brooke and Haley, I never really got people who shipped femslash. I realize now that I consciously rejected the idea. As a kid, I made my Barbie dolls make out with my Princess Jasmine doll. When my mom watched Cruel Intentions in the living room one afternoon when I was nine and I happened to look up from my homework, I had a visceral reaction to the kissing scene between Selma Blair and Sarah Michelle Gellar. I grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and had some intensely lustful feelings over Faith…and vamp!Willow.
However, I buried those feelings deep, afraid of being called a dyke by my classmates. I had a small, tight-knit group of friends who understood how much I loved fandom, some of whom I even talked to about fan fiction. Outside of those trusted few, I rarely spoke about what I did online, how it made me feel, or why I loved it so much. I hated the idea of being labeled a weirdo, a shut-in, a freak. I certainly didn’t talk about my growing attraction to women, or how badly I wanted to kiss a girl. I knew that would be worse.
I always worried when I read fan fiction. I didn’t want my grandmother to see me doing it, question what I was reading, and kick me off the computer. When I dove into that Brooke and Haley fic, I was especially careful not to let her read over my shoulder. It felt sinful to read about two women kissing, touching, fucking.
The fucking was really what did me in. Although I can’t find the fic now (I’ve searched, but had no luck), I can still recall the details from the scene when Brooke first goes down on Haley. It happened just a few chapters in, though each chapter was so long that the burn was achingly, achingly slow. I can still recall how turned on I was, reading that scene; how I could hardly breathe for fear of being somehow caught in the act of reading this incredible, intimate act.
I thought about that scene for weeks. When I went back to re-read it, certain that getting so wet from it must have been a fluke, I found that the second time around I was able to picture what was happening even easier. The scene had filled my fantasies all the way to their fragile edges and left me desperate for more. I got off to it once, then twice, then several times. It was wildly freeing, but also somewhat terrifying.
In my fantasies, it was me going down on Brooke Davis. At the time, it didn’t seem like an important distinction, but now I know better. Oral sex is something that blows my mind, every time, but I like to give more than I like to receive.
When I started writing Brooke and Haley fic myself, I always wrote from the point of view of the character performing the act. I used fan fiction as a means to explore what I wanted to do to in the bedroom, and how, and why. There’s anonymity in writing and reading fan fiction that allows anyone to insert themselves into the action of the story, and if they don’t like it or want to do something different, recreate things to be how they desire.
Fan fiction has changed my life a dozen ways. It’s made me a better writer, a closer reader, a thoughtful commentator, and a deeply happy fangirl. It also — thanks to femslash — helped me realize that I really like to eat people out. It provided a safe space in which to explore my sexuality without the pressure of talking to anyone about it, or even leaving the sanctity of my bed.
For all the arguments for or against fan fiction as an art form, all I have to say is this: without it, I would have settled in for a much longer stay in the closet. I’ll never not be grateful for that. •
[All images © The CW]
Samantha Pearson is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager who currently writes for Rogues Portal and Culturess. Her work has also appeared on Femsplain. She occasionally blogs about vegan food and her life as a cat parent on her personal website, The Verbal Thing. Samantha likes comics, Shakespeare, cephalopods, space babes, MLPCCG, and dismantling the patriarchy. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.