Ten Steps to a Perfect Fanstorm

1. Gender-evpsych/cogsci researcher and game show contestant Ogi Ogas decides to prove that men’s and women’s desire is hardwired differently, using his Boston Uni credentials to gather material for a book which he’s going to call Rule 34: What Netporn Teaches Us About The Brain.

2. G.E/C.R decides “Hey, we need some juicy naughty data to fudge! But where to get it?”

3. After extensive considerable some almost no pondering and research, G.E/C.R decides “Fanfic! That’s all about slash and kinky sex and stuff, isn’t it? And the chicks dig it. Hurr.”

4. G.E/C.R decides to bypass any and all basic research into fanfic and fanfic communities – this is pop-cogsci, after all – and move straight to a bit of slapdash survey-writin’.

5. Survey starts badly, with a binary gender question, moves on to fave-fandom and sparkly-glitter questions like “which fictional character do you think could be your ideal mate?”, before moving onto questions about drug use, real-life sexual behaviour, personal kinks, masturbation habits, and rape fantasies.

6. G.E/C.R unleashes hastily-written, poorly-thought-out survey on fanfic community, including communities frequented by minors.

7. Fanfic community says “Dude, this isn’t just stupid, it’s stupid and creepy.”

8. Bemused G.E/C.R treats fanfic community, many of whom have more advanced degrees and research knowledge than he does (which, admittedly, is a low bar), like a crowd of unruly, ignorant teenagers. G.E/C.R drops name of Fan Friend, and tries to use status as Homeland Security Fellow to gain credibility.

9. Fanfic community says, “Dude, no“, explaining clearly why.

10. G.E/C.R backpedals, hastily changes some questions after the survey starts, and generally throws up hands in panic.

Hilarity ensues.

Extra special points go to kink_bingo co-mod eruthros, who when contacted by Ogi, replied with a reply made of awesome, including this [emphasis is mine]:

And these biological adaptations of sexual behavior, biological differences that you have defined as important, lend support to the “naturalness” of certain categories of sex practice. They mean that heterosexuality is normal and understandable and biologically necessary – after all, evolutionary success can only mean genetic success can only mean only having heterosexual intercourse in the missionary position. They mean that homosexuality and kink practices are not only deviant, queer practices in American culture, but that there are underlying biological reasons for the perception of homosexuality as deviant. They reinforce our position as objects of fascination; they reinforce our political status as secondary citizens; they reinforce violence and certain kinds of violent response against the sexually deviant (“gay panic”). When we are in the DSM, when we are objects of fascination, when we are biologically determined as deviant and queer and perverted, you have taken popular discourses of sexuality and made them concrete and real. And we want to make trouble in those discourses, to point out the problems and the flaws, to stand outside categorization and to make you work to fit us in. We’re not going to do that work for you.

We are operating in discourses with tremendous institutional and institutionalized power – your power, your medicalizing discourses, your determinations of what is natural and normal and what is deviant and unusual and fascinating. The subject position you are trying to retain in your query places you in authority, and places us (women, kinky, queer) as the objects of your fascination, unable to speak for ourselves, and grateful for the slightest hope that someone will speak for us. And so we decline to be interviewed by you; we decline to be the objects of your fascination; we decline to be naturalized; we decline to allow our political project to be cited in support of the very discourses we are trying to question.


For those wishing to catch up on the happenings, check out the Fanlore wiki entry on SurveyFail.

Categories: Culture, gender & feminism, Meta, Science

Tags: ,

30 replies

  1. What utter, utter nongs. Unethical, unprofessional, uninterested in anything except bigbuck$ through publishing reactionary pop-science.
    They should be ashamed, but they probably think they’re really clever to have come up with such a cunning plan. To paraphrase Blackadder, they couldn’t catch a clue if they were drenched with clue musk in the middle of clue mating season, dancing on the table and singing “happy clues are here again”.

  2. Addit: ‘tacit’ asked for hir survey responses to be removed, simply by making a comment in Ogas’ livejournal, which provides the journal owner with an IP address. Hir answers were removed, indicating that this bloke, who is both linked with US government and appears to have not obtained any ethics approval for this research, may be logging IP addresses of survey respondents and connecting them with identifiable livejournal users. This is unconfirmed, but a lot of people are pretty ooked out.

  3. I believe a ‘Fuck Yeah!’ is in order. Eruthros, you rock.
    Also, Ogas, WTF? Although I have to say, this kinda confirms my suspicions about a certain kind of evpysch and cogsci, and their research methods. I.e. ‘I have a thing I think is true. Now, I shall seek out data – it doesn’t really matter how – that I can misconstrue and misrepresent to prove that this thing I think is true has always been true since like FOREVER. WHEN THERE WERE CAVEMEN. Therefore it must always be true, and all you deviant lot ought to not exist! Science sez!’
    It’s creepy on so many levels, but the attempt to make use of one of the most sexually diverse and knowledgeable-about-it arenas that exists, to heteronormative ends is offensively arrogant, quite aside from everything else. Wow. It does make me love fanfic communities rather a lot though, reading their responses!

  4. WTF?
    The second-best part (after eruthros’s awesomeness) is, the researchers are calling this “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Fan Fiction.” And claim to be “studying subcortical circuits.” With an anonymous survey.
    fMRIs can be taken through the Internet now, apparently.

  5. I like the fact that apparently this survey has nothing to do with fanfic, according to the authors.

  6. Interestingly, in the sex-positive roman world it was the missionary position that was considered unsavoury and “kinky”, which suggests that biological hardwiring/genetic success probably isn’t linked to choice of position.

  7. I didn’t read all of the comments but this one I liked in particular:

    (“If you write m/m slash, how do you study male physiology in order to write more convincing stories? (Check as many as apply.)”) There should, at the least, be an “I am a man” option.

    Massive survey writing fail right there.

  8. This is beauty itself. I love you, fandom.

  9. That survey was incredibly creepy. And, of course, completely unsound as a method of gathering data.
    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way that women are perceived as fans, and the ways in which our responses to texts are invalidated by dominant discourses, and I think this is more of the same — “Let’s accumulate some ‘data’ that we can interpret however we like, and say that women are just hardwired to have certain heteronormative responses, which means we don’t actually have to listen to them talk about their own experiences.”

  10. The AWESOME book is being written by two people: Drs. Ogi Ogas & Sai Gaddam, both with shiny new PhDs from Boston University.

  11. More from the authors, just in case anyone was thinking that fandom is over-reacting to some harmless, well-intentioned little scientists:
    Ogi Ogas (on this ‘research’) (the responses suggest that read “trannies” before he edited it):

    ”Thank you for your questions! Well, slash is kind of the female equivalent of the straight male interest in transsexuals. That is, the opposite of what culture would predict. So it probably reflects a more direct subcortical effect.”

    Sai Gaddam:

    My research interests have evolved over the years I have spent in the Ph.D program, but my derision for my subjects remains a constant. Well, not really, but this quote does make me smile.
    The individual I chose as my principal subject for the experiments … was an old toothless man, with a thin face, whose features, without being absolutely ugly, approached ordinary triviality, and whose facial expression was in perfect agreement with his inoffensive character and his restricted intelligence.
    The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression — Guillaume de Boulogne

    Ogi Ogas:

    Gay erotica (that is, gay sex stories written by gay guys for gay guys) is probably easiest because it feels like straight erotica (which I can enjoy), with domination and erotic tropes I can relate to… I can handle the emotional aspects of slash (makes me feel like I’m reading chick lit, which I do read once in a while) but when the emotional stuff then leads into gay sex… that’s pretty much the worst! 🙂

    Sai Gaddam:

    Ladies, lads with different interests, and card-carrying NAMBLA members

  12. He’s also referred to trans men and women as “tr4nnies”, and then insisted “well, that’s what they call themselves.”
    And seems to believe “Rule 34″ is something else entirely. I think he thinks rule 34 is “women like pr0n” or something, as opposed to “If you’ve thought of it, someone else has written pr0n about it”.

  13. Check out linkspam for thorough link roundups.
    If you haven’t seen it already, check out this response by one fan, who decided to throw up hands at the complete fail and write badfic instead. **Not at all safe for work.**.
    [edited, because I can’t make the spoiler/warning-obscuring HTML work in comments, something to do with code stripping]
    Want to objectify and make offensive assumptions about a subculture that’s got well-honed defences? Right back atcha, dudes.

  14. OMG, Lauredhel, that is priceless! 😀

  15. Oh dear. That’s so awesome! 🙂

  16. As much as I appreciate the attempts to warn and the like, it didn’t really “take” when going to the inbox subscription, so I still ended up with pr0n in my email this morning. 😦
    That aside, this actually really bothers me. There’s a fandom norm (such as there are any fandom norms) about not showing RPF to the people that you’re writing it about. If the author of this piece had, instead, written it in the livejournal of, say, Jim Butcher, or at Neil Gaiman’s blog, people would be really appalled and calling for her head – which is what happens whenever some fan decides they’re going to hand off their RPF or character-slash to the actors involved.
    I don’t think it’s somehow “okay” to go against this norm just because a large section of fandom hates these guys (quite justifiably, as far as I’m concerned – they’re a real piece of work) and wants to see them “punished”. Presumably they have comment notifications on (heck, maybe they don’t – with the amount of comments they’re getting, I wouldn’t have it on), which means this was delivered to Dr Stupid’s work-related email. Obviously he works with pr0n, so maybe that’s not a problem, but what if it is?
    I don’t like these guys. I hope they are eaten alive by Boston University for associating them with this fail and awful. But I just can’t cheer along for “I’m going to write pr0n about you to get back at you for something.”
    This is something I feel ridiculously strongly about, being that I actually want these people to be eaten alive by their uni.

  17. I’m sorry about the lack of warning, Anna – the comments section apparently also strips certain formatting too, so I futzed and fiddled and grumped, but couldn’t get things working. (As an aside for newbies rather than for you, our comments sections frequently contain lots of NSFW stuff, from text to images to links, so work-email-address notifications are very unwise unless you’re self-employed.)
    I recognise lots of problematic issues with RPF and the various ways it can be used, too. For me, this fell _just_ this side of the line because of the very tongue-in-cheek nature, and because of some other aspects of the dynamics in this particular situation (I’m out of words & spoons today, but perhaps more later sometime); but that doesn’t mean it has to fall that way for you.

  18. Anna: my thoughts exactly.
    If I wasn’t so low on spoons I’d write a post with a title like “Spite-porn is not ok” or something and link it to linkspam.

  19. @Lauredhel,
    Yeah, I just wanted to mention it because I could see from the html that you had tried to make it “Do you want to see this?” and that it didn’t work. No harm, no foul, at least from my POV.
    If I had the energy for the “OMG YOU HATER” that I thought such a post would generate, I’d make it myself, but I’m just too busy and too stressed and trending towards “Word, you are awful” to cope. I mean, here I know if I say “I didn’t like this, here’s why”, I’m not going to get hatemail for my troubles.

  20. Darn it, I meant to link this when I commented.
    I like this comment from Ashenmote as a response:

    It was always an evolutionary advantage for Neuroscientists to crave clear distinctions between women and men and now it’s kind of hard-wired in their brains to create this kind of surveys. So, don’t be too mad at them, they can’t really help it.
    It’s interesting though how they’re stubbornly typing the name of their dialog partner and signing their contributions, even when the very comment structure of the medium they’re interacting in made it redundant to do so, and everyone around them adapted to the fact. Classic rigid behavior patterns.

    Of course, ‘Mote and I share a very dry sense of humour.

  21. Anna: I don’t know if you’ve seen but some other people have done it for us 🙂 I was ironically made aware of this by ithiliana posting to disagree with them: http://ithiliana.livejournal.com/1126645.html (There’s some interesting discussion in her comments too)

  22. Interesting.
    I’m kinda uncomfortable with the way multiple types of fanworks have been lumped into one. A’s drawing didn’t thrill me, but that’s not my kink, and I’m not terribly concerned about it because it was in her space, her rules, and well warned for. (Some of the people defending it have been a bit … eyebrow raising for me, but I think people’s tempers have flared, badly, and [as tends to happen], everyone who is seen as being on the same “side” is lumped in together. As though there were only two ways of viewing this all.) I think there are some very effective and well-reasoned defenses of it, and totally understand that, because this is not where I come from in Fandom, this is viewed differently to me than it is to them. I don’t think We As Fandom (for the meaninglessness of that statement) can really spend a lot of time fretting over what They As Not Fandom think of us, so I don’t really buy the argument that we need to be worried about what this Says About Us.
    [I do hope, for A’s sake, that this doesn’t make into the damned book, because I suspect she’ll get trolled like woah.]
    I did find it interesting that people compared it to the macro-bombing. I’ve never really considered that an aggressive act, but most of the macros I’ve seen are lol-cat fails, and not aggressively offensive. So, again, my perceptions of an action are different because I’m in a different Fandom Space.
    My problem was the stuff basically shoved into Ogi’s face. (And not with the fic itself – I mean, it’s not my thing, but that’s not a problem. If Fridgepunk had posted it in her LJ and it had been linked all over the internets, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought beyond “Oh fandom. I’m surprised it took this long!” I’ve certainly read other slash-written responses by Fandom (Pink Dude/Blue Dude/Pinata stuff from Fanlib, the Fandom/LJ one after Strikethrough).
    Eh. I certainly see where most of the people I respect are coming from, even if they disagree strongly with each other. I’m just sad that it seems Alchemia’s become the focus of this whole discussion, as though She and She Alone made this happen.

  23. Thanks for the link, sqbr, and your comments Anna. The variety of readings in the comments at ithiliana’s are striking.
    More on just how awful one of the authors is, at romaine24’s. Summary: misogynistic homophobic white-supremacist neocon hate pieces about spousal abuse and date-rape, by F Roger Devlin: Gaddam says that they have the “familiar ring of truth” to him.

  24. Ithiliana is one of my favourite people on LJ. I do not comment in her space nearly often enough.
    As far as that link, Lauredhel, I got as far as “Feral female sexual behavior is governed by a number of chemicals.” and decided I had better things to do tonight, like wash my hair or count my toe hairs.

  25. Anna: You don’t shave them? TEH HORROR.

  26. I know, I know, I’m bad for feminism’s image.

  27. Anna: I agree that people shouldn’t be lumping it all together, there’s a lot of different nuanced responses and the fic and art pose different questions.
    Also, Alchemia is a guy 🙂

  28. Why do I not know that? He’s on my reading list at DW. *blushes mightily*

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