3. Slash Reading

This section presents and discusses the results that show generally how long the study participants have been reading slash, how much they tend to read per week, and the ratings they prefer to read.

3.1 History of Reading

3.1.1 Analysis Method

The questionnaire asked participants to estimate how long they had been reading slash in terms of years and months. This answer was converted into years for the ease of analysis. Responses that gave a range were converted into an average (e.g. 3 to 4 years = 3.5 years). Some respondents did not give an actual number, or gave a number with a modifying qualification; therefore, an estimate was made based on the information given. The following examples show these estimations:

Not more than a year (= 1 year)

Since I was 16 (currently 19) (= 3 years)

Just over a year (= 1.1 years)

Since September 2001 (questionnaire completed in Feb/Mar 2003)
(= 18 months = 1.5 years)

Nearly 3 years (= 2.9 years)

In a few cases, someone mentioned reading slash first sometime before the current interest in it. In those cases the months were counted from the earlier time mentioned as this represents the history of reading slash overall. The following quotes are examples of this:

Read some Saint Seiya yaoi manga some 12 years ago, then really got reading slash approx 6 years ago (R72) (= 12 years)

6 years ago I read for about 6 months, stopped and started reading again 3 months ago (= 6 years)

3.1.2 Results

Figure 1 shows a summary of the length of time since the participants had been reading slash. Responses were grouped into years. Therefore, someone who had been reading slash for 8 months would be in the first year of slash reading, and someone who had read slash for 1.5 years would be in the second year. Those who had given exact years, such as 1 year, were classified as being in the 1st year. Only three participants (1%) did not respond to this question, and one person said she could not even guess how long she had been reading slash.

Figure 1: Percentage of participants who have been reading slash per year

Figure 1 shows that, most commonly, participants were in their first (31%), second (21%) or third (18%) year of reading. These three groups combined made up 70% of slash readers. Several readers had much longer histories of reading slash. The longest history was about 30 years.

Even though many readers gave a number to represent how long they have been reading slash, this does not necessarily reflect when they first started becoming interested in slash. As one participant wrote about the length of time she had been reading:

Around 2 years (But I've been *thinking* it since I was about 12 ;) ) (R156, currently 21)

Therefore, in some cases slash in not a new interest. Considering the history of slash in previous decades and the existence of printed Zines prior to availability on the Internet, the history of slash reading as it is represented in this study may more closely reflect reading slash on the Internet.

It is possible that if slash history is investigated again in the future, there could be more people with longer slash reading histories. This may occur for two main reasons. First, attitudes towards homosexuality are becoming more accepting. Therefore, there is less pressure from society to stop a "deviant" behavior. Second, more people are gaining access to the Internet and its expanding collection of slash sites. Greater access to more stories might keep readers interested for longer.

In addition to there being a potential increase in slash readers with longer histories of reading, the future will most likely show an increase in those who are new to slash reading. As mentioned above, the Internet provides greater access to slash material, so more people are likely to discover it. Even those who are not looking for such material would come across it from links contained in web sites based on the actors of movies. Furthermore, as more people become open about their interest in the genre they will be more likely to introduce others to it.

In order to determine whether exposure to slash on the Internet creates an interest in slash, or whether an interest in slash causes people to look for it on the internet, a question could be to asked such as: "How many years ago did you first become aware that slash interested you (even if you did not know what it was called)?"

3.2 Reading Time – Hours per Week

3.2.1 Analysis Method

A wide range of responses was obtained for this question. It was difficult for many participants to estimate how many hours per week they read slash. The following comment was typical of those who did answer but who had difficulty writing a number. The final number in parenthesis shows the estimated reading time based on the comment.

It depends...sometimes a lot...(maybe as much as 30 hours) sometimes none. (R181) (= 15)

Some people mentioned how many hours they would read in an average day. This was multiplied by 7 to estimate the weekly average.

At least three hours per day! It's a great way to unwind from life's stress. (R221) (= 21)

The above quote also hints that the average reading time could be higher than the estimate given. For those responses that included a number but indicated that it could be higher, the estimate was taken only as the number given as it was impossible to know how much higher the rating could be.

6 or more (R158) (= 6)

In many cases, the participants gave a number of reading hours between a narrow range. In this case the mid point was estimated as the average reading time.

6 or 7 (R17) (= 6.5)

25-30 (R9) (= 27.5)

In some cases respondents gave such a range but then qualified their answer to indicate it might be at the higher or lower end of the range given. In this case, based on the qualification, the higher or lower number was used as the estimate of reading time.

Hard to say. Between no time at all (sometimes I just read one story in a month) and about three or four hours a week. (R211) (= 3)

20-30 at least (R24) (= 30)

If someone indicated the amount of slash she used to read, then this was taken as the estimate. Even if it was reported that such a total was not the current reading level, there was no way to determine what the current rate was.

I used to spend 3 hours a day, I think. But they took down the music section on FanFiction.net, so I cut back a lot. (R177) (= 3)

In cases where someone reported a reading time for the past, but said she did not read currently, the time from the past was taken as it gave some indication of reading habit.

I used to spend 2 hours a week reading them, but right now I’m too busy to read any at all. (R246) (= 2)

There were 16 (6%) participants who commented but did not write a number. Some used descriptions such as: “too many,” “almost every waking," “a lot,” “varies,” “depends,” “not many” or that they just did not know. As there was no way to quantify these answers, these responses were not included in the statistical results of this study. The following is an example of such a response:

Not sure how many hours, but it seems to find me every day either from the lists or if there isn’t any on the list, I go find it. (R206) (= undetermined)

There were 10 people (3.5%) who did not respond to the question of how many hours per week they read slash.

3.2.2 Results

From the calculations of time spent reading that could be made from 90.5% (n=249) of the total sample, Figure 2 shows five categories of the number of hours per week the participants spent reading slash and the percentage of participants who were classified into those categories.

Figure 2: Number of hours per week participants spent reading slash

Figure 2 shows that 47% of the participants read for up to, and including, 7 hours a week. Those who read between 7.5 and 14 hours per week made up 24% of the total. Between 14.5 to 21 hours per week spent reading slash was reported by 13% of the respondents, but few read more than that. Four people (1%) read from within the range of 21.5 hours to 28 hours. Those who read in excess of 28 hours per week made up 6% of the total. The highest reported reading time was 70 hours per week.

3.2.3 Influences on Reading Time

According to the responses given, the amount of time reading was influenced by many things such as fandom, updates, real life events such as work, school, sexual activity, mood, or how much time they spent on their own writing. Quotes that illustrate these reasons are listed below:


I have been reading slash on and off for about four years. I only read it when I have a particular fandom I'm interested in (Right now it's LOTR).

*Turns red* Probably about 20 an average week, 40 if I just discovered a new fandom. (R101)

Stories & updates

Depends on the week, sometimes I'll read it more than I will others. If I find a good long series I'll probably spend hours everyday reading it. (R1)

Maybe 3-5 hours a week. Depends on what's new. Though I also like to re-read good stories. (R225)

Real life

About 4-10, depending on how many people have updated and what's happening in RL. (R18)

Probably between 3 and 14, depending on my internet access and time. (R155)

Sexual activity

Approx half an hour a week. It depends how much real-life sex I’m getting. (R156)


Depends on what I feel like that day... sweet and ooey gooey or utterly slashed, lol. (R7)

Depends very much on my mood and what movies, books etc I've come across in a time. But I'd say maybe 2 hours. When I'm in the right mood it can also be 20. (R157)

Depends on the mood. If I want something in depth it doesn't matter, if I want something quick R or NC-17 unless it's fluff. (R101)

It depends on what mood I'm in; otherwise I don't have a preference. (R207)

Own Writing

One-four hours each night…and that’s when I’m not writing it. (R229)

3.2.4 Heavy Readers

The results showed that some readers browsed for short periods while others spent large amounts of time reading slash. Such large amounts of reading time could be interpreted in two ways; either they are spending time on a cherished hobby or are possibly becoming addicted to reading slash. Further research would need to ask readers more detailed questions about whether such large amounts of reading time were interfering with real life obligations and whether they though that was a problem. Some readers seemed to judge their reading as excessive when responding to the question of how many hours they spent reading slash. The following comments reflect this feeling:

Way too many! 10+ (R227)

Too many...25+ at least. (R231)

*Turns red* Probably about 20 an average week. 40 if I just discovered a new fandom. (R101)

Aah, don't ask. :) Way too many. Let's say, approx 15-20. More if I have the time. (R176)

A large amount of reading can interfere with other commitments. It is up to the reader to decide if her reading is having a negative effect on other areas of her life. Ross and Kauth (2002) examined problems experienced by men who used the Internet for more than 40 hours per week for online sexual activities. They point out that just the amount of time spent online does not determine whether the behavior is disruptive. It is important to look at the context, and the consequences need to be considered as well. Large amounts of time online can be adaptive during certain a certain phase of one’s life such as “coming out” or dealing with isolation. As such, large amounts of reading time may be a phase that runs its course in time. It is not the aim of this study to classify readers as being addicted to slash; rather it is hoped that readers will take care that their reading does not negatively influence other important areas of their lives.

3.3 Preferred Ratings

3.3.1 Analysis Method

The questionnaire asked participants to list the ratings they preferred to read. If respondents wrote that they had no preference, but then qualified that by excluding a rating or two that they tended not to read, their answer was interpreted as a preference for the other ratings. The following is an example of such a response:

No preference, although I tend not to read much G or PG unless it’s humorous. (R226) (preference = PG-13, R and NC-17)

Some participants mentioned that they liked “lower” or “higher” ratings. Classifications were based on lower ratings being G, PG and PG-13, while higher ratings were R and NC-17.

I like them all, but I am a sucker for the higher ratings, because that’s where all the good stuff happened – and I don’t just mean sex. (R230) (preference = R and NC-17)

3.3.2 Results

Table 3 shows each rating and the percentage of readers who listed each as one of their preferences. Only two participants did not answer this question. Of the remaining 273 responses, 37% said they had no rating preference. This percentage was added to the percentage given for each of the other ratings, because those who indicated a preference for all would read any of the ratings. For example, for the rating PG-13, 24% of the sample who did not list all ratings as a preference listed this rating as one they liked. Therefore, out of the total (273) who responded to this question 62 % of the respondents liked to read this rating (24% PG-13 + 38% All = 62%).

Table 3: Percentage of readers who prefer each rating

Rating Percentage of Readers
(out of 273 answers)
G 42
PG 47
PG-13 62
R 84
NC-17 90
All Ratings 98

Table 3 shows that the higher ratings were more preferred than the lower ones. However, even the lower ratings attracted a considerable amount of interest. Some of the comments presented in the following section may help to explain this finding.

3.3.3 Variations in Rating Preference

Rating preference changes over time for some readers. These can be either long term trends that change gradually, or rapid changes depending on the mood of the day. The following quotes illustrate these views:

I started out with mostly NC-17, kept that up for a while; now I prefer R, PG-13 stuff, longer stories, less PWP. (R111)

Sometimes I just quickly read a PWP just for the sex (with a strong NC-17). And other times I feel like reading a real story with the sexual things as an added 'feature' (a nice PG/PG13). (R178)

In the beginning I would only be interested in R or NC-17, but after time I started to appreciate the lower ratings more and more. In part because I've pretty much read all the good high-rated fics, but beside that I think that as I've grown older I've gotten a higher appreciation of the emotional back story that tends to lack in high-rated fics. Now a day, I sometimes skip the more explicit sex scenes within a high-rated fic, because I've read so many of them by now I know how it goes from there. Especially with first time writers, the sex scenes tend to be pretty standard. Not that many writers can write truly original sex. Now for me the variation is more in the back story (i.e. why this pairing? Why the sex?). (R182)

Originally NC-17. Unfortunately, sex becomes boring after a while, so I stick to PG-13ish now. (R65)

R (Note: this is because NC-17 spends to much time on the sex and not enough time on the emotion). (R49)

It various. Mostly I've preferred NC-17 but at the time I prefer PG, PG-13. (R175)

Strong preferences

Some readers described what they preferred in ratings. This study did not specifically ask to what degree rating preferences changed. It is possible that in some cases readers have fixed rating preferences or are at least stable over a period of time.

I enjoy NC-17 if the author can write effective sex scenes; if not, I prefer a lower rating. (R162)

R and NC-17; though if it's humor, then any rating. (R93)

I prefer to read PG-13 and above, but that's mostly because the lower ratings are too sappy for me. (R184)

Slight preferences

In some cases, readers said they had no preference overall but mentioned a slight favoritism towards a rating or two.

NC-17 mostly, otherwise no real preference. (R273)

3.3.4 Influences on Rating Preference

Not just for sex

Ratings that do not contain heavy sexual content may also receive a lot of attention due to some readers finding that the implication of sexual activities is more satisfying than the actual description of them.

No special preference, though I do enjoy a well-written NC-17 ? But it does not have to be explicit, sometimes these things are better left unsaid - or to your imagination. (R203)

I like more implication than actual description. (R216)

I like to read and write about human (and elven ;-)) emotions. Even a well written kissing scene can have me all emotional in front of my computer screen, so it's really not just all about sex. (R238)

Other factors

Others mentioned factors other than the rating such as genre, preferred pairing, preferred authors or interesting summaries. Although some of these factors were not commonly mentioned, it is likely that they affect the choice of story in many readers.

I prefer NC-17 above all, but when I read slash humor I don't care about the rating. PG is fine then, too. (R211)

Usually NC-17, but I read others if I know the author to be a good one or if I like the summary. (R240)

I prefer to read NC-17, but I will read any of the ratings. Usually the determining factor is the pairing. (R212)

No preference, but hurt/comfort or any well-written story preferred. (R248)

3.4 Conclusion

Although the results showed that most of the readers of slash had relatively short reading histories of one to two years, this finding could represent a description of a growing interest in slash rather than a picture of most readers losing interest. Further research asking for reading history could gain a description over time of how the readers increase and to what extent they lose interest.

Nearly half the participants in this study reported reading between 0 to 7 hours of slash per week. In addition, almost a quarter read up to 14 hours per week. Some participants reported reading considerably more. For the most part, slash readers fit their reading in around their real lives. Further research could investigate to what extent large amounts of reading represents a problem for readers in terms of interference with real life obligations.

Regarding preferred ratings to read, the higher ratings of R and NC-17 were more popular. However, there was also considerable interest in the other ratings as well. Therefore, there was interest in the stories whether they contained high sexual content or not. This was consistent with descriptions of previous writers who have pointed out that the genre of slash is concerned with more than the sexual nature of same sex pairings.

Both amount of time spent reading and the preferred ratings could vary over time due to personal interests and influences from real life. This represents the very individual nature of slash readers, and it would be artificial to try to present a common description that applies generally to slash readers. Such an attempt is not made here.

The Journal of Slash Research Home
Library of Moria