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Summary: Sharon Cumberland’s “Private Uses of Cyberspace: Women, Desire, and Fan Culture”

-Cumberland investigates fan fiction erotica written by women in cyberspace, and the paradox of ‘personal privacy in a public forum’ that it represents

-Concealing one’s biological gender is possible while participating in MUD’s (multi-user discussion groups)

-The ability for women authors to conceal their identities on the internet grants them a level of liberation

-Cumberland locates a powerful sense of sisterhood among women who work together to build websites for their collaborative writing focussed on iconic celebrity figures

-E-genres of fanfic: ‘getting naked’ is the central act of this genre (‘e’ for electronic, emotional, and erotic), as it is generally considered what is ‘missing’ in the original stories by fanfic writers

-A large portion of fanfic represents the longing by women for some semblance to the realities of the human struggle for understanding, affection, and communication

-‘Getting naked’ is both an emotional and erotic act, and one which exposes the body and soul of a character

-Three major forms of e-genres: ‘het’ or heterosexual fiction, ‘alt.’ or lesbian fiction, and ‘slash’ or homoerotic fiction

-Erotic fanfic taht pairs female protagonists is referred to as ‘alt.’, sometimes expressed as f/f meaning female to female

-The presence of a slash in fanfic has always indicated homoerotic sex scenes

-Convincingly written ‘alt.’ fiction provides, for the heterosexual community, examples of lesbian relationships that appear natural and successful, as well as passionate

-Of all the erotic genres, ‘slash’ is the most evolved, analysed, and due to the volume, the most popular

-There is no place for a woman in a ‘slash’ (m/m) story, therefore the female writer is nowhere and everywhere. This has led to much discussion on the subject within the ‘slash’ community

-Fanfic provides a space for all of these various communities to operate and produce cultural artefacts shaped to their taste, based on products from a detached and commercialised world

-Women especially, are using erotica not only to explore their inner lives, but also to expand their outer connections to the world, without damaging their reputations, careers, or domestic life

Cumberland, Sharon. “Private Uses of Cyberspace: Women, Desire, and Fan Culture.” Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition. Eds. David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004: 261-79.   


2 thoughts on “Summary: Sharon Cumberland’s “Private Uses of Cyberspace: Women, Desire, and Fan Culture”

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