Fangasm: Convivial Communities and Sexual Validation


In this week’s reading, Larsen-Zubernis’ “Fangasm”,  we discussed the intricacies behind what makes belonging to a fandom feel so damn good. I began the reading with a bit of a bias, as I was one of those people who equated belonging to a fandom with being an smelly, anti-social, neck-beard nerds. That is until I actually gave it a thought, and following Larsen-Zeburnis’  introduction to fandom, realized that to some degree we’re all smelly, anti-social, neck-beard nerds; that is we all have something we’re fanatics of to some degree. Just off the top of me head I know I hardcore fangasm over: Breaking Bad, The Office, and Game of Thrones. I’ve actually been seriously considering driving to Steve Carell’s general store in [Marshfield Hills, MA] on the slim chance that I might run into him and present to him a home-made Dundie award. Again, everyone has things they’re passionate of, otherwise they’d lead a passionless life. However, as Larsen-Zubernis mentions time and again, it is overt passion that creates a false aura of mindless fanaticism and consuming ardor. As Larsen-Zubernis puts it, “Thus we mock the overinvested and shun the underinvested” (14).

Double-standards much? (No really, there are shit tons of 40 y.o men screaming for 17 year olds)

Larsen and Zubernis expand on this notion of overt passions in their fourth chapter “Get a (sex) life)”. They introduce the chapter by discussing the double-standards that exist regarding male and female sexual openness. They write, “Fanboys are no strangers to fan shame. But while male media fans fear being perceived as not sexual enough (the stereotypical fanboy virgin living in his mother’s basement), female fans seem fearful that being a fan makes them too sexual” (40). This made me think of the media’s depictions of “the creepy twilight moms”, and how these women were being criticized for obsessing over teen heartthrobs, “Thus, Twi-Moms are depicted as creepy, ridiculous, unattractive, and bad mothers to boot” (40).  Sexual shame and society’s double standard on overt sexuality make women feel guilty about feeling openly passionate towards their obsession. “That’s why finding fandom, with its “safe  space” and accepting community, can feel so compelling for women” (41). This validation of sexual normalcy is affirmed by these randoms, “The only thing that makes those self-destructive feelings go away is finding a group within which to share who you really are–warts and all” (41). Obviously, these communities foster feelings of acceptance, normalcy, and validation.

This desire to seek refuge, acceptance, and validation in an online community reminds me of when I used to be an avid World of Warcraft player. I remember feeling accepted and even admired at times within the community. I belonged to an RP realm, which stood for Role Playing. These servers are designed specifically a more immersive and elaborate fictional world. World of Warcraft, currently the world’s largest and more frequented MMORPG, has a user base of 12 millionRP (role-playing) realms are often the host of many in-game “weddings“, uniting two or more characters–whom more often than not are couples in committed relationships to each other–in virtual matrimony.

Also in World of Warcraft, there exists ERP, i.e., Erotic Role Play. Players develop characters (or avatars) with sexual natures, backgrounds, and outfits and have elaborate, text-based, sexual interactions. Robokapp, a level 85 Human Paladin from the Colossus server wrote an apt post about it on the WoW forums. Robokapp writes, “it’s more or less the equivalent of sexting or cybering but while staying in character. simply put it adressed the naughty things characters do to one another as opposed to the players themselves.”

These ERPers have extensive and elaborate stories, behaviors, and actions that dictate their sexual persona in game. They actively seek out others, in pre-established towns akin to the ‘red light district’, who also have the same sexual desires as they do and virtually fornicate; do the digital hump; and bump bitcodes. It’s intriguing to see how we try to walk that line between what we perceive to be sexual normalcy and sexual acceptance and how that struggle manifests itself in fandom or fanatic communities. These mediums ostensibly help alleviate sexual frustrations as well as sexual validate. It’s no mistake that Larsen and Zubernis chose the title “Fangasm”, because fandom and fanaticism really do amount do a thrill and exhilarating release.

ERPers gonna ERP. (hope no-one gets ERPies, haha, in poor taste i know, whatevez)

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