Praxis

"Let's get those Winchesters pregnant": Male pregnancy in Supernatural fan fiction

Berit Åström

Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

[0.1] Abstract—This article investigates mpreg slash fiction—same-sex relationships featuring male pregnancy—based on the television series Supernatural, looking at issues of gender and genre. It has been argued that slash writing is a highly subversive and resisting activity, appropriating someone else's characters and rewriting the romance script to suit different tastes than those prescribed by patriarchy. Yet fan fic texts are very diverse and it is difficult, if not impossible, to draw any general conclusions from them. The theme of male pregnancy has the potential to produce narratives that challenge our notions of gender, identity, sexual and social practices, as well as parenthood. Although the fan fiction I have analyzed all deals with these notions in various ways, the focus lies elsewhere. The authors of the texts focus more on exploring Sam and Dean as fathers and homemakers, on writing about family life, with all its traditional trappings. When the authors bring pregnancy into the equation, they draw on narrative and social conventions that follow this experience, resulting in conventional stories set in a very unconventional universe.

[0.2] Keywords—Gender; Mpreg

Åström, Berit. 2010. "Let's get those Winchesters pregnant": Male pregnancy in Supernatural fan fiction. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 4. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2010.0135.

doi:10.3983/twc.2010.0135

1. Introduction

[1.1] The quotation in the title of this article is taken from the subtitle of the Winchester mpreg archive, and as the Winchesters are brothers, the statement produces a mental double take, similar to our reaction to the phrase "the king is pregnant," which Ursula K. Le Guin used in the novel The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). In some Sam/Dean slash mpreg fan fic—fan fiction about Sam and Dean Winchester featuring a same sex incestual relationship and male pregnancy—phrases such as "Sam was pregnant with another man's child" (Calysta 2008) are presented as commonplace, forcing the reader to make a mental adjustment. The supposed conflicts between masculinity and giving birth are handled differently in the different texts, however (note 1). Le Guin portrays a fictional society where the inhabitants are sexless most of the time, and alternate between sexes when they become sexually active. The alternative constructions of sexuality are gradually made known to the reader through the growing insights of the novel's protagonist, a human sent to observe the alien planet. The Sam/Dean fan fiction discussed here, on the other hand, does not need to provide such mediation. Because of fan fic reading practices, and because of the existence of magic in the television series Supernatural, the author can rely on readers accepting a world where men can get pregnant. Even though male pregnancy results in a number of situations that produce the double take mentioned above, the texts analyzed in this article generally explore more conventional themes of love, trust, and homemaking. Rather than placing the focus on issues of biology and gender, the emphasis is on interrelational and emotional aspects. Pregnancy as a theme in popular culture narratives is commonly accompanied by a number of structures and conventions that are transferred, with very little change, into mpreg stories. In some narratives, the queer theme of male pregnancy therefore results in quite heteronormative stories.

[1.2] From the earliest studies of fan fiction there has been a tendency among scholars to read slash in terms of resistance and subversion. This tendency has been questioned, for example, by scholars such as Sarah Gwenllian Jones (2002) and Catherine Tosenberger (2008), who suggest that a more constructive way of reading slash is as an "actualization of latent textual elements" (Jones 2002, 82) and that a view of slash as always resisting the dominant meaning of a text prevents a deeper analysis of potential queerness in the canon, or as Tosenberger states: "too strong a focus upon slash as a subversion of canon can mask consideration in which the canon itself may make queer readings available" (2008, 1.3) Other scholars have also questioned the emphasis on resistance, albeit from a different perspective. In a study of fan fiction and genre, Elizabeth Woledge rejects the idea that slash is "a unique genre of literature that subverts the dominant literary and cultural tropes" (2006, 98). Similarly, Christina Scodari, in her analysis of fan activities, shows that the resistance label should be applied with caution, since "fans sometimes appropriate resistive rhetoric in defense of hegemonic proclivities" (2003, 111). What may at first seem like resistance may in the end reinforce heteronormative structures.

[1.3] Slash may thus rewrite dominant scripts and subvert heteronormative tropes, but it should not be assumed that the genre automatically produces resisting narratives. Although addressing different issues, Jones, Tosenberger, Woledge, and Scodari all point to and question an impulse within academia to valorize the slash author as a resistive force, a force that challenges both the commercial culture of big corporations, and the patriarchal, heteronormative structure of romantic/erotic relationships as expressed in a popular television series.

[1.4] Interest in men becoming pregnant is not a new phenomenon. Male pregnancy has been used in fiction and on the screen by many authors for a variety of purposes: perhaps most often for comic effect, but sometimes also to explore gender identity. Mpreg fan fiction spans numerous fandoms and addresses a multitude of concerns. Some of those concerns are reflected in the mpreg intersection with domestic fic (Stein 2006, 253). Domestic fic, a much larger genre than mpreg, is not restricted to slash fan fiction; indeed some of the stories do not refer to sex or love at all. Domestic fics focus on characters going about their daily lives, doing mundane things, such as buying curtains, hence the alternative term curtain fic (Fanlore n.d.). Authors of domestic fic may be writing for humorous effect, to give a story a happy ending, or to explore how explicitly nondomestic characters behave in ordinary life. The Supernatural mpreg domestic fics discussed here are not centered on the hunting and destroying of demons and ghosts, but on the relationship between the brothers, exploring what they would be like if they settled down, bought a house, and tried to live the normal life they talk about in the canon. Indeed, some of the fan fiction, such as Fairytales Are for Princes and "Tears and Raindrops," dismiss hunting as a thing of the past in the first paragraph in order to get down to the business of the relationship. The analysis of these stories supports the claim that many fan stories are not really about action scenes, or plot development, but about what goes on in the interstices, in the downtime between adventures (Pugh 2005, 20–21; Cicioni 1998, 159). In the stories discussed here, the interest lies in what happens after the adventures are over, when there is time to explore emotions of love and tenderness.

[1.5] Mainstream male pregnancy fiction tends to treat the pregnant male as monstrous. Discussing male pregnancy in film and on television, Stephen Kerry points out how such narratives are seen as posing a "threat to (male) audiences' homosocial bonds with a male character" (2009, 709), a threat that needs to be disarmed and dispelled in some way. Similarly, Barbara Creed, analyzing horror films, states that the pregnant man, taking over women's territory of reproduction, is presented as a monster (2005, 50). In the mpregs discussed here, the construction of the pregnant man is very different (note 2). The characters may be surprised to find themselves pregnant, but they are never constructed as unnatural, monstrous, or threatening. Instead the pregnancies are, most often, described as life-affirming experiences resulting in the joy of fatherhood.

2. From canon to fan fic

[2.1] Before moving on to the analysis of the fan texts themselves, it is necessary to look at the canon, the television series Supernatural, and what particular features are remediated into the fan fiction. In the program, the two brothers Sam and Dean Winchester hunt and destroy all manner of supernatural creatures. Although both brothers exhibit a sexual interest in women in the series, there are a number of features in the episodes that invite a slash reading. One of those is the brothers' great affection for each other, which is stressed throughout the series. Dean's feelings of responsibility for his younger brother are often discussed and their strong familial bond is repeatedly brought up. This is evident, for example, in 2.20 "What Is and What Should Never Be," where Dean is given the chance to live the normal life he has always wanted, where his mother never died, and the brothers never had to go on the run. Here the brothers have girlfriends and settled homes, and Sam is planning to get married. Everything is perfect, except that the brothers are not close; they are barely on speaking terms. This is enough to make Dean reject this opportunity for what should have been perfect happiness.

[2.2] Other aspects of the dynamic between the brothers also lend themselves to slash interpretations. Sam and Dean bicker constantly, and their arguments have overtones of a stereotypical, long-married couple. In 2.15 "Tall Tales," another character even comments on these overtones. The brothers are several times mistaken for a gay couple (1.08 "Bugs," 2.11 "Playthings"), and to a certain extent they are gendered as stereotypically male and female. Dean is a man of action who is interested in car maintenance and heavy metal music and who shies away from emotions. When he wants to express comfort, sympathy, or other tender emotions, he slaps Sam on the arm. He avoids hugs, and refers to any emotional displays as "chick flick moments." Sam, on the other hand, is an intellectual who is happy to talk about emotions, who wants to hug his brother, and who knows nothing about cars. Dean calls Sam a bitch, and Sam calls Dean a jerk. The gendering continues on the official Web site, where Dean is referred to as "the rugged bad boy" and Sam as "the sweet reluctant hero." This gendered dynamic is transferred to the mpregs analyzed here, where, in several instances, Dean is reluctant to express his love in public. In the mpregs, Dean repeatedly complains about Sam being "girlie" or a "whiny bitch." In "Tears and Raindrops," in particular, Calysta devotes a considerable amount of space to the exploration of Dean's inability to deal with his own emotions. Sam, for his part, is shown in these mpregs to be emotional, crying a great deal, and often succumbing to despair and depression. In this way, the traditional gender structures embedded in the canon continue in the fan fiction.

[2.3] In the canon, the brothers' sexual interest in women is repeatedly stressed; Dean, in particular, is shown to have a number of casual sexual relationships with women, but it is also made clear that no woman is allowed to come between the brothers. As Tosenberger argues, "all of Sam's and Dean's romantic relationships with women are doomed to failure" (2008, 2.2). Every woman that might become a serious interest is removed in one way or the other (note 3). In the case of women in whom Sam might be interested, the removal can be quite violent (Tosenberger 2008, 2.2), but it is dangerous to approach Dean as well. In 4.01 "Lazarus Rising," the psychic Pamela Barnes propositions him in a rather straightforward manner, and minutes later her eyes have been burned out from seeing the angel Castiel in his true form, preventing a sexual liaison. There is a staggering amount of violence toward women in the series. Under the guise of defending themselves against demons possessing people, Sam and Dean beat up a number of women, killing some of them. This removal or mistreatment of women is echoed in some mpreg fan fic. In Double the Trouble, Basezcaf and Sammyndeansgrl posit that Sam's girlfriend Jessica, whom he had planned to marry in the canon, was mainly a friend: "We were never that serious." In Missfae's "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them," Sam and Dean's mother Mary, whose death in the canon serves as the impetus and driving force of their existence as hunters of things supernatural, is reduced to a minor character, the younger sister of their father John, who has given birth to both of them. In SaryWinchester's Fairytales Are for Princes, Jo, an on-off love interest for Dean in the canon, is constructed as a threat to the brothers' happiness. Not only does she try to separate the brothers, but she also attempts to engineer Sam's death. In the end, she is herself killed, and the threat she poses as a rival is removed. In this way, the mpregs analyzed here continue the removal of women that has begun in the canon.

[2.4] As the television series progresses, there is an increasing insistence that there is no other life for the brothers, and that they do not want, or need, other people. This is particularly noticeable in 4.17 "It's A Terrible Life," in which Sam and Dean are stripped of their memories and given alternative lives as coworkers rather than brothers. Their lives as "civilians" are shown to be dull and dreary, and it is revealed that the whole episode is engineered by an angel in order to make Dean accept that he was born a hunter. The angel, Zachariah, points out that Dean is privileged to do exactly what he wants, drive a classic car, and "fornicate with women," and that he should stop longing for normalcy. In her article on Supernatural slash and Wincest, Tosenberger has postulated that the fan fic is not so much subverting the heterosexuality of the canon as responding to inherent queer cues, and that if there is any subversion in the fan fic, it is accomplished through the provision of the happy ending denied the brothers in the canon (2008, 1.5). In light of the development of the canon, her observation could be extended to the mpreg fan fic I have analyzed, where the brothers are allowed to settle down and create a stable family life, including children. Of course, not all mpregs end in happiness; Love Dean's "Five Days and Counting," for example, ends with the death of Dean's children, but those that I have analyzed in more detail all either end with a happy family, or are set on the road toward one.

3. Mpreg and Wincest

[3.1] When constructing their stories, the fan fiction authors choose a variety of reasons for the pregnancies, including angelic intervention ("Angel of Mine"), demonic rape ("And a Little Child Shall Lead Them"), or a witch's curse on the family (Double the Trouble), whereas others simply take place in an alternative universe where men can get pregnant (Fairytales, "Tears"). This in itself could lead to very interesting questions: what would a society look like where men also need to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies, and where men are not dependent on women for children? Some mpregs touch on such questions, but none of the mpregs discussed here address these issues.

[3.2] All Sam/Dean stories, whether they are "regular" slash or mpregs, are of course stories of incest, or Wincest. Incest in itself is not an unusual fan fic phenomenon. It is very common in fan fic based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Busse 2002, 207–17), but in those texts the taboo is perhaps less strong, since it is a question of sex with one's vampiric parent, one's sire, rather than a biological relative. Incest between siblings, on the other hand, can be found, for example, in the fandoms of Harry Potter, Firefly, and the Chronicles of Narnia. It is often assumed by non-fan fic readers that incest fic is written purely for titillation, for the breaking of taboos, but in much incest fiction it is a question of exploring love and emotional intimacy. Fans focus on the emotional ties between two specific characters, who happen to be siblings, rather than glamorize the breaking of social and sexual taboos. In the case of Sam/Dean slash, the canon itself rules out any long-standing heterosexual relationships, thus limiting the choice of potential partners to the brothers (Tosenberger 2008).

[3.3] Even though Wincest is integral to the mpregs analyzed here, most of them do not discuss the concept itself. Instead, the stories are simply based on the understanding that in the world they describe, incest and male pregnancy are acceptable, and need not be commented on, leaving space for topics such as love and childrearing instead. Those mpregs that do address the issue choose a variety of approaches. In Double the Trouble, Basezcaf and Sammyndeansgrl use John to voice cultural rejection of incest; at first he expresses revulsion, but gradually and grudgingly he accepts Sam and Dean's love for each other, especially when the grandchildren start arriving. In Fairytales, SaryWinchester presents the relationship as accepted by everyone, and lets Ash explain why: "Look, I'm not judging you and I'm not disgusted. With what we go through in our lives, incest is just a blip on everyone's radars. Demons and saving people are more important." This story juxtaposes the canon world where humans are under constant threat from supernatural powers with the brothers' fan fic love to create a space where characters can argue that loving incest between consenting adults is more or less normal. Even though the supernatural is not generally part of the plot in this fan fic, it is in this instance used to normalize incest. The fullest discussion of the incest motif is carried out in "Tears," where Calysta states that the brothers "had created a world where only they existed where they shut out the people who would judge and be disgusted by their relationship." The fact that the lovers are also brothers is kept secret from the brothers' coworkers (they do not seem to have any friends), leaving the brothers isolated. This isolation gives a claustrophobic feel to the story. Because the brothers love each other, they have nowhere to turn, apart from their father's friend Bobby, who has accepted their relationship.

[3.4] In a number of the stories, John, the brothers' father, is paired with Bobby, a longstanding friend in the canon. Although John and Bobby may have initial difficulties accepting the brothers' incestuous relationship, their grandchildren are always immediately accepted in all stories. In Basezcaf's and Sammyndeansgrl's Double the Trouble, the final tally is five children, and John and Bobby become proud grandfathers, spoiling them. At no stage in the fan fic does anyone address the notion that an incestuous relationship resulting in children might be violating cultural taboos, producing "genetically compromised offspring" (Tosenberger 2008, 5.2). The result of this plotline is paradoxical, in that the topics explored are very conventional: buying their first house, deciding which room should be the nursery, buying baby clothes, deciding on names and so forth, but played out in a very unconventional setting with two pregnant men living together with two grandfathers. The unconventional setup is used to create a family life for Sam and Dean, where they can enjoy giving birth and parenthood just like heterosexual couples.

4. Genre conventions and reader expectations

[4.1] Pregnancy on television follows certain conventions, some of which are transferred into mpreg fan fiction. Examples in the Supernatural mpregs analyzed here include pregnancy revealed through morning sickness, characters in denial using a large number of pregnancy tests, and a pregnant character falling over and immediately going into labor. Television pregnancies, particularly in drama series, seem unusually precarious, with women living under a constant threat of miscarriage, and this plot device is also employed in the mpregs.

[4.2] Another convention used is that of cravings. In the canon, Dean is portrayed as a voracious eater, who loves all manner of junk food, and his fascination with food is continued in the mpregs. In Basezcaf's and Sammyndeansgrl's Double the Trouble he makes a peanut butter, tomato, and salami sandwich, as well as mashed potatoes with sardine gravy, both dishes making Sam nauseous. In SaryWinchester's Fairytales, when it is Sam who has cravings, those cravings are less extravagant, limited to a giant portion of pancakes, and a pizza with banana topping.

[4.3] Not all the mpregs give any detailed descriptions of the actual delivery of the baby. In Calysta's "Tears," it is briefly referred to in retrospect, whereas in Basezcaf's and Sammyndeansgrl's Double the Trouble all five children are delivered via caesareans. When the delivery is depicted, it is often using another convention, that of the extremely rapid birth, taking place away from medical help. In Silnt.whisperer's "Can't Do it Without You" the child is born very shortly after the water breaks, in the Impala. For women in real life, it may take many hours from the first contractions until the baby is finally delivered, but television births are often very rapid, and this is the convention that is transferred to some of the mpregs. Even though the stories describe a fantastical occurrence, men giving birth, they draw on narrative conventions of women giving birth.

[4.4] In the Supernatural mpregs, the authors are using the conventions of the romance narrative, even though the stories are set in an alternate universe where male pregnancy and homosexual marriages are commonplace and where incest is accepted. (For discussions of slash as a rewriting of the romance script, see, for example, Driscoll 2006 and Kustritz 2003). The stories do cut across several different genres, but they all tend to contain a high proportion of emotional drama and suffering, with characters misunderstanding each other, crying, flaring up, storming off, only to be reconciled with more tears and professions of love. Other plot devices from romance novels are also employed, as in SaryWinchester's Fairytales, for example, when Jo manipulates Dean into a relationship, and makes sure that he cannot explain the situation to Sam, who thinks that Dean has stopped loving him. Resolution is delayed for as long as possible, making the most of the pain and suffering experienced by both Dean and Sam. Thus, these stories are using transgressive settings, but relying on conventional plots and plot devices.

5. Masculinity, pregnancy, and the male body

[5.1] As stated above, all the mpreg stories discussed in this article can be read as examples of domestic fic, exploring domestic and familial themes, and when these themes are transposed onto the male, pregnant body, they bring with them a number of female-gendered features.

[5.2] Loss of bodily authority is one such feature, common to many of the texts. As soon as either brother finds himself pregnant, he loses control over his own body, just as many women are shown to do in popular cultural narratives. He is now not allowed to drink beer or coffee, and he has to stop hunting demons, just as traditionally many women are encouraged to stop working. In "Angel of Mine" by KayR-I heart Dean, Sam suggests that Dean should stop working until the baby is born, a proposition Dean vehemently rejects, but Sam makes it clear that other concerns now override Dean's autonomy: "Its [sic] just that even if you don't like it you ARE pregnant and its [sic] putting the baby's life in danger." The danger-to-the-baby argument is also used by Basezcaf and Sammyndeansgrl in Double the Trouble, when pregnant Sam has been upset with Dean. Dean replies: "I don't want you getting upset again like you did earlier. It's not good for our little guy in here!" This is a line of argument often used in narratives of female pregnancy, where women are told not to exert themselves, and not to express strong emotions, because they are endangering the baby. In Love Dean's "Five Days and Counting," Dean is not even allowed to decide when to take his pants off during the delivery: "Fine it is obvious between you and this baby I am not in control of my own body anymore." Thus, even though pregnancy as such is not constructed as feminine in the fan fiction, the narratives draw on the image of a loss of body authority that is usually associated with women.

[5.3] In a large proportion of the mpregs, Sam and Dean begin expressing emotions stereotypically expected of women when they find out they are pregnant. In several stories, Dean worries about looking fat during and after his pregnancy, and in Double the Trouble he even refuses to undress in front of Sam, because he feels overweight and unattractive. In "Tears," Dean comments to himself that Sam will probably "be back to his normal weight in no time," echoing the insistence in the media that women should shed their "pregnancy pounds" as quickly as possible. Both Sam and Dean spend a lot of time worrying about being abandoned by the other one, and, as pointed out above, they become very emotional, crying and hugging much more frequently than in the canon. In Double the Trouble, Sam, who is very happy about a house that Dean has bought with financial support from their father, is described as bounding out of the car, flinging himself into his father's lap, and crying with joy and gratitude: "No, Dad…it's not D-D-Dean. He's great. It's yoooooooou…" In the canon, this behavior would be ridiculed as unmanly and effeminate by both John and Dean, but this is how the effects of male pregnancy are constructed in this mpreg fan fic.

[5.4] It is not only emotions that are traditionally associated with women that Sam and Dean express in the Supernatural mpregs, but also desires and longings that go against the popular culture image of what a young man should be, and against the canon's images of masculinity. Dean, in particular, is portrayed in the canon as incapable of commitment to one woman, and when he suspects that he has a son (3.02 "The Kids Are Alright"), he becomes very uncomfortable. Although the characters talk of having been denied a normal lifestyle, they are at the same time shown to be quite happy traveling around the United States killing supernatural beings, having brief encounters with beautiful women. In the fan fiction, they voice very different desires, however. Mirna Cicioni has pointed out that some fan fiction authors want their characters to have "a lasting monogamous commitment and recognized, even if unofficial, family ties" (1998, 166). This is shown in the mpregs analyzed here, where Sam and Dean want to settle down, set up house together, and start a family, as expressed, for example, in Calysta's "Tears." Even unplanned pregnancies make them happy, which is not an attitude commonly associated with young men in popular culture narratives. In Double the Trouble, Dean voices his longing for parenthood: "I want to have birthday parties, PTA meetings, Christmas mornings where the kids drag us out of bed at 4AM because they can't stand it anymore. I want trick or treating, kissing scraped knees—I want all that crap, I just never knew it."

[5.5] In general, the stories portray both men as supportive, nurturing, and caring, and longing for a stable family life that includes children.

6. Gender and identity

[6.1] In the mpreg fan fiction analyzed in this article, a very female experience, pregnancy, is mapped onto the male body, bringing with it a specific, gendered discourse that challenges our preconceptions of masculinity and femininity, of nurturing and family life. The stories are not simply dealing with a gay couple having a child, which could be accomplished through adoption, or insemination of a surrogate mother, but of two men reproducing themselves together. As Stein states, mpreg "raises issues of gender, identity and experience" (2006, 253) and in these mpreg stories these issues are explored in different ways.

[6.2] Two of the identity issues in the mpregs are how to label the relationship between the brothers and how they are to be viewed generally in terms of masculinity. In most popular culture narratives, homosexuality is constructed as incompatible with masculinity and this view of homosexuality has sometimes been transferred into slash, as has been discussed by Cicioni (1998), Scodari (2003), and Woledge (2006). Some fan fiction authors have presented the characters as not gay, but instead experiencing a deep love that happens to be directed toward a member of the same sex. In the Supernatural canon, popular culture assumptions that homosexuality equals effeminacy are repeatedly expressed, most often through the character Dean. The mpregs generally avoid discussing the concept of homosexuality, focusing on the exclusive emotional bond between the brothers instead. Those authors who do comment tend to allow Dean to stay in character, such as in Double the Trouble, where he reacts very strongly when a shop assistant assumes that he and Sam are a couple, congratulating them on their impending parenthood: "Dean's first impulse was to smack the shit out of her for assuming that they were gay," but later in the story, Sam ponders "their homosexual relationship." In many of the narratives, the characters voice a tension between the emotional tenderness between them, holding hands, snuggling up to each other, and a need to distance themselves from any unmanly behavior, so that the brothers spend a lot of time accusing each other of being "girlie," and the term "chick flick moments," so often used by Dean in the canon, is repeatedly used in the fan fiction as well. When Sam and Dean get married in Double the Trouble, Dean makes it clear that Sam is the bride, a notion Sam strongly rejects. It seems the narratives negotiate a space where homosexuality, which in the canon is repeatedly ridiculed as effeminate, is separated from unmanliness. In other words, Sam and Dean may be gay, but they are not effeminate.

[6.3] Issues of gender also come into play in regard to Sam's and Dean's children, as in Double the Trouble, where Basezcaf's and Sammyndeansgrl's representation of the children develops from unconventional to traditional. Early in the story, Sam and Dean have an argument when buying baby clothes. Sam wants to buy dresses, in case they have a girl. Dean says that his daughter will not wear dresses: "She'll wear jeans and t-shirts, and look cute—not all foofy!" When Sam gives birth to their daughter it turns out that she has supernatural powers, and when Dean gives birth to twin sons a few months later, she uses her powers to save them from kidnappers. Even so, later on in the story, the characters refer to her as needing protection. When it is made clear that her youngest sibling will also be a boy, bringing the total of males in the household up to six, Sam worries that she will be unhappy. Dean dismisses this: "Naw, she'll love it. She'll be protected all around!" Since she is the one who has protected her brothers before, there is no narrative reason for this statement, but it reflects traditional attitudes, where brothers are supposed to protect their sisters. Toward the end of the story, it is Christmas time and as presents the children all receive vehicles to ride in. The four boys are given four-wheelers and the girl a pink jeep. Thus during the trajectory of the story, the girl has gone from a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, to an infant who protects others from evil, to someone who needs to be protected, and who is only allowed to drive a jeep if it is pink. Even though the narrative is set in a most unusual family constellation, it still draws on traditional constructions of gender in the family.

[6.4] Gender, sexuality, and vulnerability are also explored in some stories, for example by Calysta in "Tears." In this mpreg Sam has a one night stand, which is narrated as a struggle between Sam and the other man, Grady, with them "each trying to possess the other." Grady finally wins "their sexual battle," turning Sam over, "claiming him." Sam's reaction to the whole encounter is similar to those displayed in countless popular narratives of rape of women. He waits until the other man falls asleep, staggers off to the bathroom, where he vomits, and spends a long time curled up on the floor. He then takes a long shower, scrubbing his skin in "frenzied efforts" trying to wash off the "memory of Grady Mallory's touch on his body." The image of a woman trying to wash off the taint of rape has become a visual shorthand for the emotional suffering experienced. Afterward, Sam is consumed by guilt about his betrayal of his brother, and as he suffers emotional distress throughout the narrative he repeatedly states: "I deserve this. It's my fault." Throughout these scenes, the language describing Sam's experiences draws on conventions of female vulnerability, gendering Sam's body and actions as female.

[6.5] In "Tears," Calysta also explores Dean's sexual vulnerability, when he is subjected to another man's aggressive flirting. The language and imagery echo heterosexual narratives in which a man pursues a woman even though she is clearly unwilling. When Dean tells the man to let go of him, or he will break his arm, the man replies "I like a man with spirit," a clear reference to the stock phrase "I like a woman with spirit." The man attempts to rape Dean, and initially Dean responds like a female character in a romance novel, unable to comprehend what is happening, unable to defend himself. Yet since he is, after all, a demon killer, he is able to control the situation and overpower the attacker, breaking his nose. Dean's objectification is, however, discussed more in terms of personal suffering than in terms of gender. Since Sam's infidelity, Dean has allowed himself to become a victim, has lost sight of himself, and the narrative focus is more on Dean finding himself, and being able to forgive Sam, than on questions of gender and sexual predation.

7. Conclusion

[7.1] Early fan fic scholarship argued that slash writing is a highly subversive and resisting activity, appropriating someone else's characters and rewriting the romance script to suit different tastes than those prescribed by patriarchy, but more recent scholarship has called that notion into question. Fan fic texts are very diverse and it is difficult, if not impossible, to draw any general conclusions from them. The theme of male pregnancy has the potential to produce narratives that challenge our notions of gender, identity, sexual, and social practices, as well as parenthood. This potential is demonstrated, for example, by the quotation from Calysta's text at the beginning of the article. Such statements have the power to produce a mental double take and force the reader to consider her own reactions and what they say of her as a cultural and social being. Although the mpreg fan fiction I have analyzed all deals with gender, identity, and related issues in various ways, the focus in these stories usually lies elsewhere. These texts explore Sam and Dean as fathers and homemakers, depicting family life, with all its traditional trappings, but without women. When pregnancy is brought into the equation, it brings concomitant narrative and social conventions, resulting in conventional stories set in a very unconventional universe.

8. Acknowledgment

The research for this article was made possible through a grant from the project "Challenging Emotions," which is part of the research program Challenging Gender/Centre for Gender Excellence, Umeå University.

9. Notes

1. The incongruence in Le Guin is really on a semantic level, since the king is actually female when conceiving, and the main drive of the plot is the fact that the characters change sex repeatedly. In the mpreg fan fiction analyzed here, on the other hand, both characters involved in the conception of the children are men, and their biological status does not change.

2. Whether this is because the authors and/or readers are women who do not feel that their homosocial bond with a male character is threatened, or because of other reasons, cannot be resolved here.

3. These female characters may be seen as versions of what Star Trek fans have dubbed "Captain Kirk's space bimbo of the week" (Scodari 2003, 119). The women's main function is to show that the brothers are "normal" men, with "normal" appetites, whom women find attractive.

10. Works cited

Basezcaf, and Sammyndeansgrl. 2008. Double the trouble, twice the fun. Fan fiction. http://samdean.archive.nu/viewstory.php?sid=988 (accessed January 17, 2010).

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