Bound princes and monogamy warnings: Harry Potter, slash, and queer performance in LiveJournal communities

Darlene Hampton

University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Media fans often refer to their texts, practices, productions, and selves as works in progress—unfinished, in-between, and transformative. This article applies theoretical models of performance to the fannish practice of crafting slash fan fiction within LiveJournal communities. By examining the content and form of the fiction itself, its mode of production, and fannish interactions, this paper discusses fan practices as opportunities for media fans to engage in individual and collective performances that negotiate hegemonic norms of gender and sexuality. These negotiations often illustrate a disconnect between social conditioning and female desire in heteronormative and patriarchal culture, and demonstrate the utility of theories of performance in studying individual and collective fannish engagement with texts as a means of intervening in the world.

[0.2] Keywords—Fan fiction; Media fandom; Textual analysis

Hampton, Darlene Rose. 2015. "Bound Princes and Monogamy Warnings: Harry Potter, Slash, and Queer Performance in LiveJournal Communities." In "Performance and Performativity in Fandom," edited by Lucy Bennett and Paul J. Booth, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 18.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Slash fan fiction, the practice of writing homoerotic fiction inspired by existing narratives, has been discussed in relation to cultural discourses that construct gender and sexuality since the earliest scholarship on fan works, communities, and practices (Jenkins 1992; Penley 1992; Camille Bacon-Smith 1992; Russ 1985). However, it is only fairly recently that we are beginning to have an explicit discussion about how the practices and cultures of fandom engage with queer identities, practices, and politics—characterizing slash fandom as queer space and emphasizing the construction of a range of sexual identities through its practices that undermine the gay/straight binary (Busse 2006; Lothian, Busse, and Reid 2007; Lackner, Lucas, and Reid 2006). This turn toward the queer in fan scholarship coincides with work examining fan practices through the lens of performance (Hills 2002; Lancaster 2001). After all, as Francesca Coppa (2006) pointed out, even engaging in a textual practice like fan fiction is more like directing a theatrical production than authoring a text, as these stories "direct bodies in space" using fans' shared knowledge of a canon text's "sets and wardrobes, of the actors' bodies, smiles, and movements" (225).

[1.2] This dual scholarly focus on both queerness and performance in fan scholarship is especially fitted to our current socio-historical moment, as articulations and representations of both fandom and queerness are increasingly visible and increasingly being performed in public online spaces alongside other aspects of identity. In this context, the goal of this study is to extend these scholarly threads out and weave them together to examine not only how fan practices can be read as performance, but also what is being performed and how those performances unfold at the level of the individual fan's personal narrative, the work of fiction itself, and the interactions that produce the community.

[1.3] Work done by Rebecca Black (2008) on adolescent fan fiction demonstrates how fan writers perform aspects of their identities, such as literacy skills and religious identity, in communities; different works and different communities provide unique performance opportunities. In the case of slash fandom, I argue that what is often being performed is articulations of and with queerness. Taking a coauthored Harry Potter slash novel entitled Harry Potter and the Bound Prince (BP) published on the social networking site LiveJournal (LJ) as a case study, this article demonstrates how theories of performance can help us understand some of the concrete ways that online slash fandom performs queerness through personal narrative, the deployment of repeated scenarios, and community rituals that govern fic production and reception.

2. Theory

[2.1] Fan fiction manifests through the limitations, possibilities, and tensions that exist between a canon text as read through a synthesis of dominant cultural codes and through the subjective desires and embodied experiences of fans (Willis 2006, 153); what is produced is often a negotiation of ideological dissonance between these two readings. Although it is more common to discuss these textual productions as negotiated readings, using a performative lens not only helps us account for fan fiction's intense focus on embodiment, use of repetition, and collaborative nature (Coppa 2006), but also helps us engage with fandom's liveness, ephemerality, and the characterization of individual fans, fan works, and fan communities as fluid works in progress.

[2.2] Because of these characteristics of fandom, Diana Taylor's (2003) model of the cultural archive and the repertoire provides a useful way of thinking about the relationship between canon and fan text. The archive refers to materials that are assumed to be enduring, such as literal texts, buildings, or documents that, arguably, work as a cultural canon. Existing alongside the archive, the repertoire refers to the ephemeral, embodied, fleeting, and fluid, such as spoken language, ritual, and various genres of performance—which Taylor characterizes as connoting an embodied "process, a praxis, an episteme, a mode of transmission and a means of intervening in the world" (15–19). Simply put, the archive houses knowledge reducible to texts, while the repertoire is the space where embodied knowledge is produced and circulated in transformative ways (20–21). The work of fans is also very process-oriented, and the knowledge fandom produces is embodied and ephemeral—shifting alongside changes in canon, with individual and collective fannish desires, and evolving modes of transmission and communication.

[2.3] Reading fan practices as categories of performance within the cultural repertoire aligns our method of analysis with fandom's valuing of embodied knowledge and lived experience and its ephemerality. Fandom's use of the same characters in repeated tropes—such as first-time, hurt/comfort, or friends-to-lovers—does, at least in literary terms, make it easy to discuss fan fiction produced through generic conventions and formulas. Yet, I argue that this perspective renders trope use as static, and doesn't take into account the ways in which each repetition performs the unique desires, experiences, and gendered subjectivities of individual fans—both writers and readers. Reading fan practices as "reactivated scenarios," which Taylor defines as "meaning-making paradigms that structure social environments, behaviors, and potential outcomes" gives us a useful way to examine the relationship between fan texts and individual subjectivity (25).

[2.4] Scenarios appear in both the archive and repertoire; the repeated performances of scenarios that proliferate in the repertoire negotiate their originals in the archive in the same way fan texts negotiate the canon text. Scenarios, as Taylor describes them, are "sketches or outlines" of theatrical plots with all the inherent trappings: setting, actors, costumes, props; but they also include cultural milieu and embodied behaviors that are not reducible to language, such as gestures, movement, and tone. Scenarios that are consistently repeated in culture reactivate and "work on" things that have been worked on before. The scenario "structures our understanding. It also haunts our present, a form of hauntology that resuscitates and reactivates old dramas. We've seen it all before. The framework allows for occlusions—by positioning our perspective, it promotes certain views while helping to disappear others" (25).

[2.5] Understanding of gendered identities is also structured through repeated scenarios, deploying what Richard Schechner calls "restored" or "twice-behaved" behaviors, which are performed "completely independent of the causal systems (personal, social, political, technological) that brought them into existence."

[2.6] These behaviors have a life of their own. The original "truth" or "source" of the behavior may be lost, ignored, or contradicted—even while this truth or source is apparently being honored and observed. How the strip of behavior was made, found, or developed may be unknown or concealed; elaborated; distorted by myth and tradition. (Schechner 1985, 35)

[2.7] As poststructuralist feminist theory has demonstrated, the "truth" of gender has long been debated, lost, and contradicted; yet it is still performed and transmitted in ways that are remarkably consistent from generation to generation in a range of cultural contexts, largely through the citation of its repetition (Butler 1991). Slash fandom engages in queer performance when it restages scenarios in ways that undermine this consistency.

[2.8] Although the term queer is often used to indicate non-normative sexualities, gender expressions, and political affiliation (and I will also use it in this sense when applicable), my overarching use of queer as it applies to slash fandom is more expansive, based on its usage by Sarah Ahmed (2006) to refer to something that is "oblique or offline" (161). In laying out a theory of queer phenomenology, Ahmed discusses how sexual orientation unfolds through "lines" of directionality established by familial and social love that require subjects to "tend toward" some objects and not others, noting that, "bodies become straight by tending toward straight objects, such that they acquire their 'direction' and even their tendencies as an effect of this 'tending toward'" (86). The objects that bodies are straightened through are described by Ahmed as "heterosexual objects" within the conventional family home, the cultural backdrop in which bodies are formed (87). This cultural backdrop that Ahmed describes could just as easily be termed part of Taylor's archive, and includes categories of popular media.

[2.9] The practices that constitute online slash fandom—the production of transformative works, the reading and discussing of those works in online communities through the creation of fannish personas—can perform queerness by directing desire and bodies in space (Coppa 2006) in ways that are similarly offline, orienting them along angles that are oblique to the established lines of directionality that produce the range of "legitimate" interpretations of a narrative text. Source texts guide readers toward specific meanings through directional lines. These lines—drawn through genre expectations, cultural milieu, characterization, relationships, settings, and points of view—orient us within the space of the text; they direct the range of possible meanings and establish boundaries for acceptable interpretation. Slash twists the direction of the lines being drawn between characters, reorienting the reader along a different set of angles; this, effectively queers the source text, even if the individual text/writer does not include non-normative sexual practices or engage directly in queer politics.

[2.10] Although queerness is performed in slash fandom in multiple ways, the length of this article limits its focus to two: how slash-specific scenarios such as hurt/comfort and first-time queer canon texts, and how fans' construction of online personas and the interactions between those personas in slash communities legitimize and transmit queer interests and desires. In synthesis, I argue these practices provide fans with opportunities to perform an array of identities and behaviors that are off-line or oblique to straight orientations in a space that is relatively queer-friendly.

3. Methods

[3.1] The overarching method employed in this study is close analysis of the performance of slash fans as social actors on LJ, at the levels of individual personal narrative, text production and content, and community reception. The performance of queerness through slash is evident not only in the repeated scenarios staged within the fic's narrative, but also in fans' performances of their roles as slash fans of Harry Potter, as users of LJ, and in their adherence to the practices and conventions of slash fandom—that is, the rules and expectations for posting content, commenting etiquette, and so on. Following the model put forth in Rebecca Black's (2008) work demonstrating how adolescent fan fiction in online spaces serves as a means for authors to perform specific aspects of their identity, I examine fannish performance on multiple levels: the authors' personal narrative as produced through profiles and posts, the story's metadata (summary, notes, header, warnings, ratings, etc.), the use of the repeated scenarios within the narrative itself, and the performance of community norms in the reception of serialized fiction on LJ.

[3.2] All of the content for analysis comes from the individual LJ (public) journal of user SP, which is the site of their profile, the fic's posting, and all of its attached comments (note 1). As a social networking site, the default privacy setting for LJ journals is public. Users can designate journals as private (self only), public, and friends-only (readers must have an LJ account and be friended by the journal to access its content). All of the fiction, profile information, and conversations cited in this close analysis are gleaned from public threads. I am characterizing "public" as locations that are accessible without having to use a login and password.

[3.3] Although these spaces are public, the positioning of LJ as a journal associates its content with the private, the personal, and the intimate. The content posted on fannish journals and in LJ communities is directed to a specific audience—fellow fans who share similar interests and who seek similar fannish experiences. In other words, what is posted is meant for the community itself and it produces meanings that are specific to the fannish context. Taken out of context, these discussions can be misread and fans do assume a certain level of privacy on LJ pages, regardless of the public nature of the network. Keeping this mind, I have taken steps to protect the identities of those who have participated in discussions related to Harry Potter and the Bound Prince by referring to commenters in generic terms—for example, as reader 1 and reader 2—and not including direct links to posts or comments (note 2).

[3.4] I chose Harry Potter and the Bound Prince from the 56 works posted on SP's journal for three reasons. First of all, the fic is quite popular within the Harry/Draco fandom; it has a total of 1,092 comments on LJ alone and is also cross-posted on several other fan fiction archives, and it won multiple awards within the Harry Potter fandom between 2007 and 2009. Second, the story was produced through live role-play between its two coauthors; this results in a dialogic format that is especially rich for analysis of both individual performances of gender identity and a collective performance of queerness. Finally, the fic and its reception are fairly typical in terms of the narrative's use of repeated scenarios and readers' adherence to rituals that govern reception of serial fiction.

4. Harry Potter and the Bound Prince

[4.1] Harry Potter and the Bound Prince was developed through role-playing over instant messenger software through a process SP describes as follows: "Most of it is written using a cooperative style of writing that uses YIM or AIM based 'role playing' and then a great deal of negotiation and editing to make it fiction" (note 3). This process of negotiation involves transcribing the role-playing logs, stripping bits of unrelated conversation, researching, and rewriting to orient around plot. The completed story itself is the written, revised, and beta'd (edited by fellow fans) transcript of those role-play sessions in 37 chapters, which were released in serialized form between January and February 2007; it was posted on the public journal of SP, and archived on a page containing links to all 56 of SP's individual and coauthored fics with all of the comments included.

[4.2] Thus, the story is first constituted through live performance with each of the authors playing the characters. SP takes on the role of Draco, and the coauthor plays Harry. The plot unfolds spontaneously as each player reacts to the other's ideas and actions over the course of the role-playing. This live performance is then transcribed into an explicitly textual form and posted on SP's journal in serial format. Since role-playing is not generally how slash fiction develops, it is tempting to assume that this particular story's performative characteristics—the dual point of view and dialogic format—are solely the result of its rather unusual production process. However, the story's performance extends beyond the original interaction between the authors—to the manner in which it is posted on LJ, the evolving content of the story itself, and its reception within the community.

[4.3] The novel is posted on SP's page in ways that conform to expectations of the LJ community; its posting is a kind of social performance as it adheres to community norms. Although specific requirements vary, there are guidelines for posting stories that are generally consistent across fandoms and communities. For example, each story must be prefaced by a header, which usually includes: the fandom (generally the source text that inspired the production), a listing of who was involved in the production, a rating (which is usually based on criteria familiar to us from other cultural rating systems such as the MPAA, with sexual content and violence leading to more restrictive ratings), genre, character pairing, content warnings (to help fans avoid triggers and choose stories based on their own interests), length, and completion status. The header for Harry Potter and the Bound Prince reads as follows:

[4.4] Fandom: Harry Potter

Rating: Adult

Genre: Romance, Drama, Angst, Smut

Pairing: Draco/Harry (others implied as backstory).

Length: 135,000 Words (37 Chapters)—COMPLETE

Warnings (Mark to Read): Language, Explicit M/M Sex, Anal, Oral, Rimming, Dom/Sub, Dubious Consent, Monogamy, Jealousy, Humiliation, Pain, Violence, Blood and Character Death (H/D live).

[4.5] Nearly every section of the heading demonstrates that the story is a queering of the canon text. Whereas Rowling's series is young adult, BP is adult; the novels in the Harry Potter series are generally classified as fantasy or adventure, while BP is listed first as a romance, followed by drama, angst, and smut (a term used to indicate a large amount of sexual content). The romantic pairing is a queer one, both in the sense that it is a same-sex couple who are heterosexual in the canon text and in that these two characters are written as enemies. The warning also includes explicit sexual behaviors that perform a range of deviance in regards to cultural norms. Essentially, the header tells us how the fic has reoriented the source text—drawing different lines between characters, and removing the restrictions produced by the source text's young adult rating.

[4.6] Yet what is most interesting about the heading in the context of queer performance is how the warning section includes both queer sexual practices and heteronormative ones—in particular, monogamy—an inclusion discussed by the author and their readers in the comments to the first chapter, "Hex Me or Kiss Me":

[4.7] Reader 1: I have read this several times and am mad-crushing on the sequel! And can I just say how wonderful it is that monogamy is one of your warnings???

[4.8] SP: That is wonderful to hear! *blushes* The monogamy warning is funny for me. I am polyamorous, but found if I didn't warn people in my poly fiction, they got upset. But it felt wrong to warn about one and not the other. Hence the monogamy warning. I don't see Draco as naturally monogamous. It is Harry's need for control that makes him so in this story. (LJ discussion, 2007)

[4.9] Here SP performs a queering of heteronormativity—both by claiming a poly identity and by warning poly readers that the central characters are monogamous. This undermines the normative status of heterosexuality by calling attention to it and pointing out the hypocrisy of elevating one model of relationships above another. This assertion of the legitimacy of both monogamous and polyamorous relationships performs a queering of heteronormative discourse.

[4.10] SP's performance of queerness is also integrated into their LJ profile—which, like any other social media profile, is constructed for a very specific audience and with the goal of performing a very specific persona. In this case, the persona that is performed is intentionally and explicitly queer. SP communicates an interest in non-normative sexual behaviors: bisexuality, queer, sex, slash, BDSM, and polyamory (LJ profile created 2006), followed by listings of other communities and journals on LJ that revolve around these interests. This persona is reinforced through a FAQ response to repeated queries about the origins of their screen name (which contains the word "pervert"), in which SP states, "I like the idea of reclaiming the word 'pervert' as 'a person whose sexuality deviates from the norm'" (LJ, May 26, 2007). Here, SP engages in a performance that intentionally queers discourses that construct normative sexual expressions by taking on a deviant identity as the defining characteristic of their LJ performance.

[4.11] This performance of queerness is extended throughout SP's performance of their Draco in BP—which queers the canon text through its premise and its restaging of romantic scenarios to rework norms governing gendered and sexual behaviors; the novel takes this particular scene from the canon text as its point of departure:

[4.12] Harry realized, with a shock so huge it seemed to root him to the spot, Malfoy was crying—actually crying—tears streaming down his pale face into the grimy basin. Malfoy gasped and gulped and then, with a great shudder, looked up into cracked mirror and saw Harry staring at him over his shoulder. (Rowling 2005, 529)

[4.13] This moment from the sixth installment of Rowling's series is a scenario that we see reenacted in countless versions of the heroic story—one in which the hero stumbles upon his enemy in a vulnerable state. As Harry stops and watches Draco crying, we know what is going to happen because we have seen it all before: the enemy will lash out at the hero in order to disguise his weakness and forestall any growing empathy on the part of the hero—or those who identify with him (readers). A fight will follow, which the hero will win (often reluctantly).

[4.14] This scenario's framework is structured around the lines of directionality (to use Ahmed's terminology) that orient readers within the ideology of both heteronormative adolescent literature and the classic heroic epic. The series constructs its protagonist, Harry, as a prototypical hero type: the young, white, straight boy who must grow into his potential, overcome great odds and defeat the ultimate evil. His heroism "depends upon an alpha-male model of masculinity that systemically marginalizes most other characters, especially in relation to gender and sexual orientation difference" (Pugh and Wallace 2006, 261). Not only are periphery characters marginalized as the hero arc expands, but the Harry Potter source text contains no explicitly queer characters or any overt mention of non-heteronormative relationships. The ideology of adolescent literature is similarly restrictive, demonstrating "a strong imperative toward pedagogy—inculcating 'correct' attitudes about sexuality to an audience deemed in need of education" (Tosenberger 2008, 188).

[4.15] Thus, what happens next in this scenario is not at all surprising: Upon discovering Harry Potter looking at him in the cracked mirror, Draco Malfoy draws his wand and fires off a hex that misses Harry by inches. Various spells are deployed and blocked until our hero desperately casts a spell he has never used before, not knowing what the effect will be—a spell that leaves the other boy "shaking uncontrollably in a pool of his own blood" (Rowling 2005, 531). This series of events conforms to norms that produce hegemonic masculinity; caught in a moment of emotional vulnerability by a male enemy, the "correct" masculine response is violence, since to be vulnerable in front of a rival reveals weakness and emasculation. This response is the one that the text's lines of directionality point us toward and it is the one we are conditioned to expect.

[4.16] BP is one of several slash fan fiction works that restage this particular scenario to reorient the canon text around their own desires and concerns, and each version constitutes a unique performance that unfolds on the basis of the ideological subject position of the authors and readers (note 4). SP sets the stage for their performative scenario in the fic's summary:

[4.17] In HBP, there is a pivotal moment where things could have gone very differently for Harry and Draco. In the bathroom sixth year, Draco is upset that Harry has caught him crying and throws a hex. It escalates and ends in blood, with Harry nearly killing Draco by accident. In this story, instead, unvoiced attraction to Harry motivates Draco to take a chance and kiss him. Once sparked, their mutual desire and exploration becomes the driving force in the alternative ending to the series. (LJ, January 7, 2007)

[4.18] Diana Taylor's formula for analyzing performances of scenarios requires us to first take into account the physical location, the embodiment of the social actors, the deployment of formulaic structures, and the forms of transmission (Taylor 2003, 23). In formulaic slash, the staging of a scenario like the bathroom scene often manifests through the hurt/comfort trope, in which the vulnerability of one character serves as a way to help the two lovers recognize their unacknowledged love/attraction for each other, paving the way for the consummation (the first-time scenario). Traced back to early Kirk/Spock slash in zine culture, the hurt/comfort trope is most common in buddy slash stories where the action of the plot transforms two friends into lovers. Generally, this involves one of the two being injured in the context of an adventure or crisis, thus providing an opportunity for comfort in the form of touching and nurturing (Lamb and Veith 1986, 107). Yet each repetition of the hurt/comfort scenario is unique and rooted in the embodied knowledge and lived experience of the author. Once it is transmitted to the fan community, it continues to evolve after it is posted, based on feedback from fellow fans in comments; a fic's seriality can contribute to its liveness as readers take on the role of audience.

[4.19] BP, for example, must reconfigure the trope in this restaging because the existing relationship between Harry and Draco is that of enemies, not friends; it lacks the same level of trust seen in a buddy relationship, so it requires a reversal. In BP, the moment of touch is not offered by the would-be comforter (Harry); instead, it is issued as a challenge by the vulnerable party (Draco), for Harry to react to. Yet it is still very much a hurt/comfort scenario, as it is Harry's witnessing of Draco's hurt and vulnerable state that makes the eventual shift in their relationship possible.

[4.20] The setting of the scenario's action is a bathroom—a space used for accommodating the more private needs of the body: its cleansing and the elimination of waste. In a range of popular media, bathrooms are also used as a site for central characters to hide, overcome emotions, or prepare for anxiety-producing experiences. Of course the setting includes more than the physical space; no space is without history and cultural context. This particular bathroom appears in the Harry Potter canon at multiple points, most significantly as the opening to the Chamber of Secrets, through which a giant basilisk is summoned to murder students, and as a private place for the hero and his companions to brew illicit potions. This particular bathroom is also haunted—by the ghost of a young woman, known as Moaning Myrtle, who was murdered while using the space as refuge from bullies.

[4.21] Myrtle's bathroom also includes the history of the ongoing confrontational relationship between the two boys—members of competing school houses with different values, affiliations with different social classes, and on opposite sides in an ongoing battle being waged between the forces of good, of which Harry is the champion, and the forces of evil, for which Draco is being forced to play a part on threat of death. In BP, however, this space also includes Draco's unvoiced attraction to Harry—something that is not acknowledged in the canon but is instrumental in the slash restaging. This attraction is what drives the scenario's transformation as it leads Draco, as played by SP, to deviate from his gendered script, bringing Harry along for the ride in much the same way SP's profile and comments engage with fellow fans.

[4.22] Although the scenario is altered in a very significant way, Draco and Harry are still recognizable as the same characters from the canon scenario; this is evident in how SP and Author 2 embody and direct them in their restaging. Draco is still haughty, competitive and driven by a need for approval; Harry is still struggling with unresolved anger and ambivalence about his heroic mission. In both versions of the scenario, Harry is hesitant, reactionary, and defensive. The difference is that here, each is initiating and reacting to embodied intimacy rather than violence. The following conversation between Harry and Draco in the opening scene is a choreographed dance in which each carefully skirts Draco's display of vulnerability and their true motives for being in the bathroom (Draco's confessing his fear and desperation to Myrtle and Harry's following Draco to confirm he is up to no good):

[4.23] "So, Potter," Draco sneered, "why have you been following me?"

[4.24] Harry's eyes shot to Draco for a second, but shot back just as quick. "I haven't been following you," he said, trying to work some disgust into his voice.

[4.25] "Sure, you haven't…" Draco drawled. "You just happen to be wherever I am these days." He stepped behind Harry, putting himself between him and the door. (LJ, January 7, 2007)

[4.26] Harry continues his denials and Draco pushes harder, calling him "Harry" instead of his usual "Potter" and suggesting that he fancies him. Harry finds this sudden familiarity confusing; he hurls angry denials and a homophobic slur. As Harry tries to move past him, Draco blocks his attempts with his body. Harry becomes increasingly confused and angry, but also experiences a "funny feeling" in his stomach. The angrier Harry gets, the more aggressive Draco becomes, until he pushes Harry against the wall and kisses him; Harry pushes him away, calls him "mental," and stalks out of the bathroom.

[4.27] Draco is explicitly deviating from the script that generally governs his interactions with Harry—changing modes of address, teasing, initiating physical closeness in ways that unsettle Harry and force him to view their relationship in a new way. New lines of directionality have been drawn, and he must reorient himself to the realigned space. This queers the relationship between the two characters and performs a queering of the canon text by rendering it at an oblique angle—one that examines the story as if its potential for engagement with queerness were actualized.

[4.28] The premise of BP is a restaging of a common narrative scenario in a way that performs a queering of masculinity; by exchanging a hex for a kiss, it transforms the violence of that moment into an opportunity for emotional and embodied intimacy. Although Draco's kiss is initially rejected, this moment exposes a crack in the source text that, much like the mirror in which the boys' gazes meet, reflects a different narrative space, with lines that point in new directions. These lines point directly toward the next scenario I want to examine closely, Harry and Draco's first time.

[4.29] This scenario uses another repeated trope in Harry Potter fan fiction: the use of the Room of Requirement as a location. This room, for those unfamiliar with the Harry Potter universe, is a room in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that magically becomes whatever space is required, attendant with all of the necessary supplies—whether that be mounds of pillows to soften the falls of young wizards practicing defensive magic in secret or the home of a cupboard used to smuggle dark wizards into Hogwarts. Like Myrtle's bathroom, the Room of Requirement is a space that houses a range of illicit activity and objects, and it figures into the history of Hogwarts at various points in the canon narrative, playing a central role in the survival of the young wizards to help to overcome the Dark Lord at the end of the series. The Room of Requirement is often the site of sexual encounters between characters in fan fiction, where it provides a comfortable bed and copious amounts of lubricant and tissue.

[4.30] Typical of the first-time scenario, this scene sets up one partner who initiates and another who is more reticent. Although it is Harry who seeks out Draco in the Room of Requirement, it is, ostensibly, for the reason of learning what nefarious deeds he is up to—not to initiate a sexual encounter. Once the two are in the same room, Harry is constructed as the more introverted one—responding to Draco's challenge to kiss him with the kind of reluctance, embarrassment, and anxiety that embody what we might characterize as a typically constructed heteronormative response to the notion of queer sexuality. When Draco asks him what he is afraid of, Harry is compelled to assert his masculinity and sexuality to perform the category of normal:

[4.31] Harry narrowed his eyes. "It's not that I'm afraid of you," he said. "I just can't. I'm not gay for one thing," he said, the blush on his face now creeping across his neck and chest.

[4.32] Draco responds by also refusing the label of homosexuality. When Harry asks, with some confusion, why he would want to kiss him if he is not gay, Draco replies:

[4.33] "Is everything black and white with you?" Draco asked in exasperation, putting his cup down and standing. He walked around the table, gesturing as he spoke. "Straight or gay? Good or evil? Reality is a complex place, and people even more so. Isn't there room in your head for all of the other possibilities?"

[4.34] This bit of dialogue performs not only a revised Draco who is emotionally vulnerable, sexually attracted to Harry, and willing to communicate his own complex notion of morality—but again performs the persona of SP as crafted in their profile information and discussions with readers: someone who explicitly identifies with sexual identities and behaviors deemed deviant by hegemonic norms. Draco is seeking to get Harry to think critically about what constitutes deviant in the same way that SP is seeking to communicate with readers (note 5).

[4.35] This scene's insistence on gray areas in both the novel's notion of good and evil and binary constructs of sexuality performs an explicit queering of the canon text that mirrors SP's performance of queerness on their profile. SP's Draco repeatedly challenges these same binaries throughout the rest of the text, elevating a more nuanced and flexible view of the world—which Draco transmits to Harry and his fellow good-aligned wizards, repeatedly undermining this notion of everything being "black and white" and "good or evil." This results in a virtual performance of a queer identity that successfully "meshes" (Booth 2010) the author's real and fannish personas with their Draco Malfoy, a performance that is then transmitted to the community through SP's interactions with fellow fans and readers-as-audience through comments on their LJ journal in each successive chapter.

[4.36] The first-time scenario chapter has a total of 47 comments, including responses from SP and Author 2. This system of comments and responses performs yet another repeated scenario within fandom itself. The comment-response scenario is enacted on other fannish distribution sites and communities such as (FFN) and the Organization for Transformative Works' Archive of Our Own (AO3) when a writer posts an update to a fic that is a work in progress (WIP). Although individual conversations vary, in general, authors acknowledge reader comments, respond to questions and criticisms, thank readers for their feedback, and solicit more comments. Commenters offer thanks for the update, note their emotional/sexual reactions—often pointing toward specific sections that brought them to tears or turned them on; comments address the quality of the writing, quote favorite phrases, and admire and critique stylistic choices.

[4.37] This scenario plays out in multiple locations. As the communication is digital, both readers and commenters can participate from any number of locations—wherever they have access to the network: home, work, a Wi-Fi hot spot—the possibilities are endless. Yet the conversations take place in the digital space of LJ, which, as discussed earlier, is a space that interweaves the fannish and the personal—providing a stage for the production and performance of personas that mesh real and online personas with characters and roles within fannish communities (author, beta, commenter, etc.). The fact that this space is not physical is significant, as it determines the form of transmission: disembodied text in an Internet community. Since bodies are technically not present, physical interactions must be embodied through text. We see this in comments when symbols, punctuation, spacing, and capital letters are used to reproduce rhythms of speech, mimic sounds, and express physical reactions. Thus, we get comments such as these (all posted as comments to LJ in 2007):



hot damn.

fuck—that was *so incredibly fucking hot*

holy *shit*

*adores you both like crazy*

[4.39] That was so hot, I almost came when they did.

[4.40] *guh.:.melts*

[4.41] SP responds to these comments affirmatively, thanking readers and noting how glad they are that the story is being enjoyed and producing these kinds of reactions—at one point even comparing readers' reactive comments to feedback given during a sexual encounter: "Every little bit of encouragement helps. Kind of like yelling 'yes' during sex to encourage the person to keep doing what you like!" (LJ, January 11, 2007).

[4.42] The social actors that embody the actions enacted in the commenting scenario are fans' LJ personas. These personas, as Kristina Busse (2006) points out, are constructed through multiple contexts: the serial narrative created on the user's personal journal through their profiles, interests and posts (personal narrative, fics, icons, responses to comments, etc.); their mentions by others in interlinked posts and journals; and their comments on the posts and journals of other users. A fan often performs much differently as a commenter than they do on their own journal; and what other fans say about a fan impacts that fan's persona as well, which is constantly shifting and evolving—a "work in progress" (219–220).

[4.43] The formulaic scenario of comment-response is enacted by multiple LJ personas, following scripts that adhere to fannish conventions governing appropriate fannish interactions. When deviations from these scripts (such as rudeness, anonymous hateful comments, homophobic remarks, etc.) occur, they are dealt with swiftly—usually by the original poster (OP), who is often backed up by other readers. Take, for example, this exchange between SP and a commenter who disparages BP for containing too much sex:

[4.44] Anonymous: Uh, there IS supposed to be a plot in here somewhere, right? Or is this just chapter after chapter of fucking? I mean, there's nothing inherently wrong about chapter after chapter of fucking. It's just that I thought somewhere in here there would be a plot, much like what would happen if J.K. wrote HBP differently…as, I may mention, it is advertized [sic] as such in the header text… This DID get an award of some kind. Makes me wonder if it wasn't just a popularity contest instead. Think I might stop reading here, giving this a definite thumbs-down. (LJ, October 13, 2007)

[4.45] SP responds in kind:

[4.46] It is not usually my policy to reply to rudely-worded anonymous comments. Yet, I have decided to reply here to save the annoyance of other such folks in the future. First, the story is clearly labeled as "smut" and contains quite a lot of graphic sex scenes. I think, overall, that is about half the story. If these offend or bore you, please go elsewhere. No sense wasting your time or bothering us with complaints about the amount of sex in the story. (LJ, October 13, 2007)

[4.47] In this comment, the reader has performed multiple violations of the conventions of fandom; they inserted unconstructive criticism, used a rude tone, and demonstrated that they did not make appropriate use of the fic's header and warnings in making their decision of whether or not to read the story. In addition, they made these comments anonymously to avoid any consequences this comment might have on the reception of their LJ persona. SP's response, as director, performs their control over the scenario on the journal and stands as a warning for others who might deviate from the script in a similar way. Criticism is welcome in the comment-response scenario so long as it is respectful and constructive.

[4.48] So how do the performances of the commenters engage with the production's queering of the canon and SP's performance of a queered identity? In a space where women are constructing narratives for each other that are reoriented around queer desires, does that make the performances of these readers queer? The answer to this question is not, as SP's Draco might put it, black and white. Fans who participate in slash's shared sexual fantasies in spaces like LJ come from a variety of different backgrounds, identities, and experiences (Lothian, Busse, and Reid 2007). Early scholarship on slash fandom often assumed that a majority of slash writers and readers were straight, white women; today, the increased visibility and voices of fans of color and fans that identify as lesbian, bi, trans, or queer renders this assumption illegitimate (Hellekson and Busse 2014, 80) (note 6).

[4.49] Fannish performances are personal, individual, and part of the production of a constantly evolving self—of which sexuality is only one part. As Kristina Busse notes, "Slashers perform their identities in many ways, and the concept of queerness itself is clearly complex and not wholly containable in a straight/gay binary, or even a continuum including a variety of sexualities and expressions thereof" (208). Whereas some fans may be using slash fandom as a way of engaging with issues of queer politics and practices in ways that (however subtly) seek to transform, others may simply be playing with queerness in a space relatively safe from consequences in the real world; some fans may be exploiting queer desires in ways that can even be read as homophobic, while others are explicitly doing activist work. The conversations following the first-time scenario in BP do not perform queerness as explicitly as SP does in their profile and journal narratives. However, the comments—in expressing embodied pleasures derived from both the sexual content of the fic and its central theme of questioning binaries—do demonstrate that this space within LJ is one where fans can make room for "all the possibilities."

5. Conclusion

[5.1] This study set out to synthesize scholarly discussions of slash fandom as both queer space/practice and identity performance, extending existing research by looking not only at how fan practices can be read as performance, but also what is being performed, how the performances unfold, and why they are significant. Reading the case study of SP and Harry Potter and the Bound Prince through the lens of both queer theory and performance demonstrates how an individual fan's personal narrative, the work of fiction itself, and the interactions that produce the community can be read as multi-layered and collaborative performances that engage with queerness in a variety of ways. But why performance? What do we gain by examining these articulations of queerness as performance, other than a new set of conceptual terms? Why discuss repeated tropes as performative scenarios or examine the relationship between canon/fanon through the lens of Taylor's archive and repertoire?

[5.2] First and foremost, when we examine fan fiction only as a text, we focus our analysis on the words on the page or screen and we read it as if it were an enduring and static cultural object. Essentially, we are limiting our analysis to the perspective and values associated with the archive. Yet fan works, including but not exclusively fan fiction, that are largely produced, distributed, and consumed on and through digital technologies and networks are neither enduring nor static; they are ephemeral—here today, impossible to track down through a Google search tomorrow. They are fluid in terms of both location and content, the consummate "work in progress." Works can be removed from one archive and moved to another; they can be revised, deleted, or locked from public view—often based specifically on reader feedback. We see this in BP, as interactions between SP and their audience provide inspiration and alter the direction of the narrative in tangible ways. In online fan communities, readers are also live audiences; when fan fiction is released in serial format, creators get a consistent stream of feedback that mirrors that given to a performer on a stage.

[5.3] In addition to taking into account the ephemerality and liveness inherent in online fandom, performance addresses the radically personalized nature of fan works—both as produced by individuals and as received by fans in communities. In spaces like LJ, the personal and the fannish are enmeshed. Each fan-writer has their own version of the characters, whose bodies they direct in ways specific to their lived experience and ideological subject positions. SP performs an explicitly queer personal narrative through their LJ persona, which is constructed through profile information, journal posts, and interactions with readers on their LJ page. SP also performs a queered identity through their portrayal of Draco Malfoy as a dually queer character that readers are given access to through the novel's dialogic structure. SP's Draco is heavily invested in undermining binary constructions of not only sexuality and romance but also good and evil; combined with SP's LJ persona, the result is a rich and multi-layered performance of queerness that is received in a variety of ways reliant upon readers' individual experiences and how those experiences are performed via their own LJ personas.

[5.4] When scholarly discussions of fan fiction are limited to a textual or literary context, it is often dismissed for the very characteristics that would make it valuable in genres of performance: repetition with difference, collaboration, and embodiment (Coppa 2006). Within fan communities, variations of repeated scenarios are evaluated like different stage productions of the same play—how SP's Draco is similar or different in comparison to other versions, how the story relates to the canon, its unique twist on the hurt/comfort scenario, and (as we know from the comments) its ability to produce strong embodied reactions (emotional, sexual, etc.).

[5.5] Common fan fiction scenarios such as hurt/comfort and first-time perform cultural work that has been worked on before—be that negotiating discursive linkages between masculinity and violence, or appropriate expressions of intimacy between individuals of the same sex. In SP's novel, each scenario performs an explicit and formal queering of the canon text by drawing oblique lines of directionality. This opens up the narrative in ways that encourage—even proselytize—multiplicity by transforming moments of animosity and violence into opportunities for emotional and sexual intimacy. The result is a queering of gender norms, heteronormativity, and the very clear black and white distinctions of morality that serve as the foundation for the Harry Potter epic.

[5.6] It is also significant that the novel's origins in collaborative role-play are not derided as unoriginal by the fan community as they might be in a literary context where the singular author is lauded as the source of creativity; instead, they are a point of discussion in a conversation about different ways to produce fiction. The novel's use of graphic sex as a means of constructing narrative is celebrated and praised by fans in comments and discussed by the authors in terms of creative choices and narratology. The novel's intense focus on bodies and the intense reactions it provokes in each chapter's comments are also markers of its quality. These characteristics are not only lauded and valued in genres of performance, they are critical sites of analysis in performance studies.

[5.7] Essentially, the lens of performance can help us reorient our approach toward the centrality of embodiment to transformative fandom in general—particularly the practices of those constructed as cultural others. Although this article specifically addresses how repeated slash scenarios address the embodied concerns and desires of those othered by virtue of their gender expression or sexual orientation, additional research could examine how fans deploy various scenarios and tropes beyond the hurt/comfort and first-time (such as race-swaps, alternate universes, crossovers, omegaverse, mpreg, etc.) to perform other aspects of identity such as race, ethnicity, or class in transformative ways.

[5.8] Fans span a wide range of ideological subject positions, so performances—including those that constitute slash—can both reinforce and undermine hegemonic discourses. Thus, it is important not to slip into the trap of categorizing the archive and the repertoire (or canon/fantext) as oppositional binaries. Fan performances can be (and often are) regressive, traditional, and aligned with repressive discourse. The tools of performance studies, such as the analysis of fannish repetition as performative scenarios, are incredibly valuable in this context because they refocus the methodological lens—shedding light on how the practices of fandom that unfold within the repertoire function to value and elevate embodied truth over language, and experience over ideology; as a critical frame, performance studies provides insight into the embodied knowledge produced by fannish repetition and collaboration, legitimizes it as valuable, and allows us take it seriously without assuming an innate progressiveness.

6. Notes

1. I refer the dominant author of the fic as SP, an abbreviation of their LJ screen name.

2. I secured permission from one of the fic's two authors (SP) to quote from anything posted publicly and to cite profile information. The fic's coauthor is no longer an active user of LJ under the pseudonym attached to the story; that profile has been deleted and purged. As such, I was unable to contact the coauthor to secure permission for quotes. I simply refer to this person as "Author 2," and I focus the bulk of my analysis on the performance of SP, whose journal the story is posted on and who engages more directly with readers.

3. YIM refers to Yahoo Instant Messenger and AIM to AOL Instant Messenger. The quotation is from an LJ post seeking coauthors on May 19, 2008.

4. This particular scenario is one that has been reworked several times by slash writers in the H/D pairing, as many fans found it incredibly troubling in its adherence to norms of hegemonic masculinity and its elision of what slash fans experience as a sexual tension between the two characters. Although an exact number of stories that rework this particular scene would be difficult to measure across fan archives, the search terms "Draco/Harry fic, AU bathroom scene" turn up nearly 100,000 hits on a Google search, and comments on BP refer to this reworking as a very common trope. Specific examples include: "Two Sides of the Same Coin" by KatySummers, "Fix You Baby" by maybegasoline, and "Apology" by Naadi. Each of these fics reworks the scene to end in emotional and/or physical intimacies or in apologies that lead to such intimacies.

5. Because Author 2's LJ profile has been purged, there isn't a basis for examining how their performance of Harry reflects their individual fannish persona. However, the comments from Author 2 that are posted alongside the fic's chapters generally consist of them echoing SP's responses and deferring to SP's interpretation of the scenes. In the coauthoring of the fic, the limited available evidence seems to indicate that SP is the dominant one of the pair, the one who directs the role-play's transformation into fiction.

6. An informal poll conducted by SP via SP's LJ page on July 30, 2010, demonstrates the diverse demographic of their readership. Of the 273 respondents, the range of gender and sexual self-identifications are intriguing. Although these results demonstrate that slash is still largely practiced by those who identify as female, the sexuality of the readership is much more fluid. The gender results: 3.6 percent male, 91.1 percent female, 0.7 percent trans (FTM), 2.8 percent gender queer, and 1.8 percent androgynous. As for sexual orientation, 54 percent identified as straight or heterosexual, 30.8 percent as bi/omnisexual/pansexual, 4.8 percent gay/lesbian, 8 percent asexual, and 2.4 percent other (unspecified).

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