I need some insight on something.
My teen-aged daughter, like many of her friends, has a Tumblr. Her Tumblr — like those of her friends — is nothing like my own. My Tumblr is full of pictures, gifs, and captioned shots of sex, desire, attractive women in sexual poses and situations, and depictions sexual fantasies. Hers, on the other hand, is full of pictures, gifs, and captioned shots of hot, attractive guys staring soulfully at each other, physically touching, hugging, or struggling with their emotions.
See? Hers — like those of her friends — has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with sex.
I maintain a more mundane Tumblr with funny pictures of animals, bicycles, and vacation shots so she and I can share things. Naturally, among her friends, I’m the cool dad. “Wow, your dad has a Tumblr? My dad still emails in all caps.” This means that they feel free to talk about what they’re reblogging with me, and most of it seems to be emotional pairings of characters in movies and TV shows such as Doctor Who, BBC Sherlock, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Avengers, etc. The big draw for most of them, however, is the shipping of characters from Supernatural.
Shipping is the modern variation on slashfic; fan fiction that pairs characters in books, movies, tv, etc., in a romantic or sexual situation. Slashfic further carries the connotation of being primarily about gay, i.e., homosexual pairings, such as (for you old-timers) Kirk/Spock or (more recently) Edward/Jacob from Twilight. The hottest OTPs on shipping Tumblrs right now seem to be Dean/Castiel, two of the characters on Supernatural. I won’t even attempt to describe the show, except to say that Dean and his brother Sam are traveling demon hunters, and once in a while get some assistance from the angel Castiel.
Coincidentally, IO9 just posted an article about Supernatural, calling it “the best gay romance on TV that isn’t actually gay.” The article is fluff, the the comments point up that many people (and not just women) see the homoerotic undertones, and enjoy playing along. Anyway, here’s where I need the insight. I understand fanfic pairings; fan fiction is often more about fleshing out the relationships between people than about adding to the canon, and slashfic just does so in a more adult fashion. I mean, who hasn’t watched Star Trek and thought about Uhura and Spock, or Deanna Troi and Riker, or saw the older, matured Harry Potter movies and thought about Harry and Hermione? But what is it about gay pairings that are so fascinating to young women? Most of the Tumblrs I’ve seen appear to be run by straight women in their late teens and early twenties, an age that I associate with obsessing over straight relationships as they try to negotiate the twists and turns of growing up and finding a life (or long term) partner.
I’m guessing that my lack of understanding is partly a generational thing. Mrs. Edge assures me that neither she nor any of her friends even entertained the idea of gay sex back when she grew up. Hell, back in the 1970s, we were just getting used to the idea that straight people had sex, and that it could be fun and not just for married people making babies. But this raises the further question: now that we seem to culturally accept the idea of recreational sex, hy are younger women now fantasizing about straight men having relationships with each other?
Supernatural pictures? I thought you’d never ask. Here’s one that has been floating around on some of the Tumblrs. I can’t tell if it’s a capture, or it it’s been shipped… er, shopped. But they are a couple of fine looking guys.