When normal and deviant identities collide: Methodological considerations of the pregnant acafan

Mary Ingram-Waters

Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States

[0.1] Abstract—In this article, I examine how my visibly pregnant body influenced my experience as a field researcher at a fan convention, interviewing amateur fan fiction authors who write Harry Potter male-pregnancy fan fiction. Despite my efforts at carefully cultivating an identity as an acafan (a researcher who identifies as both a fan and a scholar of fandom), my identity as a pregnant woman was most salient throughout my fieldwork. I argue that because of the particular genre of fan fiction, male pregnancy (mpreg), which my participants engaged with, my status as a normative, heterosexual, publicly pregnant woman negatively affected the research process: my interactions with my interviewees deviated from my expectations in ways that shaped the data I collected. When I analyzed my field notes, I found a strong correlation between interviewees' recognition of my pregnancy and interviewees' experience of stigma associated with authors of mpreg. This research contributes to several bodies of work: the interplay between online and real-life identities, the role of the researcher in field research, and the role of pregnant researchers.

[0.2] Keywords—Fandom; Fan fiction; Gender; Male pregnancy; Methods; Mpreg; Pregnancy; Stigma

Ingram-Waters, Mary. 2010. When normal and deviant identities collide: Methodological considerations of the pregnant acafan. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 5.

1. Introduction

[1.1] July 26, 2006, at 4:00 PM, I found myself throwing a hastily packed bag into the passenger side of my old Honda Civic. I climbed into the driver's seat, buckled up, and then called my partner at work to say good-bye. I also gave him reassurance that I was feeling just fine, if a little hot. I was seven and a half months pregnant with our first child, and I was headed to Las Vegas for Lumos 2006, a fan conference on all things Harry Potter. I had made up my mind to go to the conference earlier that day, when I realized that many of the male-pregnancy fan fiction (mpreg) authors whose work I had been following online for over a year would be attending this conference. After a few harried e-mails and phone calls, I scored one of the last standby conference registrations (the conference had been sold out for nearly 6 weeks before the event), and I booked a room at the casino hotel next door to the sold-out conference hotel.

[1.2] About 6 hours, 340 miles, and numerous bathroom breaks later, I pulled into the Sun Coast casino hotel. It had been a hot drive from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas. I skipped the poker slot machines and the blackjack tables (two of my favorite Vegas guilty pleasures) and headed straight to my room. There I checked my e-mail: several mpreg authors had confirmed their interview times, one of which was set for fairly early the next morning. I e-mailed them back with a suggested meeting point and described myself as easy to find: "I'm white, of average height, brown-haired, and extremely pregnant." I thought no more about it, and I went to sleep.

[1.3] Around 7:30 AM, with a large Starbucks coffee in hand (was I certain I didn't want decaf? a slightly anxious barista had asked me), I drove across two football-field-length parking lots to the conference hotel, the JW Marriott. It was easy to find my way to the conference itself: I merely followed the excited march of robed fans, some of whom had their robed parents in tow. When I got to the conference site, I was momentarily stunned by the volume of people. The vast foyer was packed with fans, many of whom were decked out in full costume. From the foyer, I could see into several ballroom-sized meeting rooms, most of which were nearly full with attendees.

[1.4] I should back up for a moment: this conference was my first con (fan convention). Other than the last-minute planning I had done the day before, I had given absolutely no thought to what it would be like to attend a con. When I had first heard about the conference a few months back, I had not considered going, even though it would be held relatively close by. I knew that I would be in the late stages of pregnancy, and I thus assumed that I would not be up for making the trip. As it turned out, I was feeling pretty good physically, and a trip to Las Vegas, even in late summer, did not sound too intimidating.

[1.5] But as I stood in that foyer, dumbfounded, while several thousand fans bustled around me, I felt viscerally out of place. It was completely unexpected. The population of fans was hardly homogenous: white women from their teens to their mid-30s made up the visible majority of attendees. I had been living among these fans, albeit online, as a participant observer for more than a year. I knew many fans. Furthermore, my own particular identity within fandom, that of an acafan (an academic researcher of fans and fandom who also identifies as a fan), was hardly something unknown, at least within fan-oriented spaces. I had expected to be a fellow fan. At that point, I began to question how my pregnant body might influence my experiences in the field. Being publicly pregnant, a concept I will explore in more depth throughout this article, was already something I had been thinking critically about in both the professional and personal facets of my life.

[1.6] I made my way slowly to the registration table, still pondering how being visibly pregnant trumped my self-identification as an acafan. Later, I would write the following passage in my field notes:

[1.7] After waiting in a snake-like line for about ten minutes behind others whose names started with letters H, I, J, and K, I got up to the registration table. A slim brown-haired white woman, probably in her late 20s, handed me a large folder of conference materials. She gave me a quick once-over and then smiled warmly at me, "You must be Mary!" She pulled her hair away from her shoulder where it had obscured her name badge: SG. I am sure that she recognized me by my pregnant body because she had not heard the other registration volunteer say my name. "You must be so hot," she remarked. I laughed and assured her that I wasn't as long as I was inside air-conditioned buildings. We then confirmed our plans for an interview later that afternoon.

[1.8] As I headed to a panel on slash fan fiction, I realized that my pregnant body made me feel out of place. For the next 3 days, as I moved among thousands of fans, most of whom were women, I would not come across another visibly pregnant woman. Although this was not an uncommon occurrence in other venues of my life, it was startling to me because it emphasized a distinction in my identity, both self-imposed and imposed by others, that seemed to cancel out the amount of time and effort that I had put into carefully cultivating my particular identity as an acafan within the fandom.

2. Researching while pregnant and being pregnant publicly

[2.1] In the appendix of her book, Fixing Families: Parents, Power, and the Child Welfare System (2005), and in an earlier article, "Pregnant with Possibility: Reflections on Embodiment, Access, and Inclusion in Field Research" (2003), Jennifer Reich reflects on how being visibly pregnant influenced the processes and outcomes of conducting her dissertation research. Unlike me, Reich had anticipated that her changing body would drastically affect her access to multiple sites within the child welfare system that she studied. (I had not had time to speculate about how my pregnant body might alter my presence in the field.) To her surprise, she found that her pregnancy eased her way with nearly every population with whom she interacted. Not only was her pregnancy an opening with negligent parents as well as child welfare lawyers, social workers, judges, and other professionals, but it also afforded her a sense of legitimacy in her research agenda.

[2.2] Reich found that her pregnancy gave her two main advantages: first, as a pregnant woman, she was inherently nonthreatening, and second, by virtue of her physical condition alone, she was someone with whom others knew how to relate. The first advantage is hardly surprising. Reich noted that even in high-stakes situations (such as children being removed from their homes, with lawyers and social workers meeting privately to discuss outcomes of custody decisions), her presence was easily accepted. It was if her pregnancy stripped her of all the features that might make her inclusion as an outsider/researcher risky for the populations she was observing. The second advantage worked in different ways with different populations. Parents at risk of losing custody of their children identified with Reich because she was visibly in the process of becoming a parent herself. This identification was mostly positive, though Reich had anticipated that her pregnancy would create tension with people whose parenting status was being evaluated. Professionals in the child welfare system used her pregnant body to highlight the differences between those entitled to procreate (like themselves and Reich) and those who were not worthy to procreate (like the parents under the system's scrutiny).

[2.3] In the second situation, Reich's pregnant body allowed others around her to invoke normative ideals of parenting. She described instances where child welfare professionals assumed that she was heterosexual, married, and otherwise well suited for parenting—drug- and alcohol-free, without a criminal record.

[2.4] What Reich thought would make her an outsider, her pregnancy, actually made her an insider. Because she had conducted her research before, during, and after her pregnancy, she could assess the differences between how she was treated as a pregnant and then a nonpregnant researcher. She concluded that because she had been pregnant, she likely had access to people, situations, and information that she would not have obtained otherwise.

[2.5] Though Reich does not label her experience as being publicly pregnant, the concept is useful for explicating how she assessed her target populations' experiences of her pregnant body. Each of her populations accessed her through her visibly pregnant body. For Reich, it was clear that her pregnancy overrode any other possible identification. Another conceptual understanding of being publicly pregnant follows Balsamo's (1999) discussion of cultural narratives that shape women's experiences of being pregnant. For Balsamo, pregnant bodies engender specific interactional scripts that render the pregnant woman as pregnant before any other potentially meaningful identity. Moreover, the pregnancy is a thing in and of itself, and as such is publicly owned.

[2.6] Similar to Reich's experience, my own pregnancy was obviously a factor while I was in the field. My pregnancy had a very real presence for me and for my participants, as I discovered when I analyzed my field notes and interview transcripts. In each of the 10 interviews that I collected in person, my pregnancy was at the very least mentioned by my research participants. In nearly all of those interviews, it played a definitive role in shaping the process, and thus it may have shaped the outcomes as well. I assert that the influence of my pregnancy on the field research process was negative because of how participants interacted with me and some of the content of their interviews. This correlation between my pregnant body and the field research is evident to me because I also conducted three interviews via e-mail, using the same questions, with similarly socially placed mpreg authors, in the weeks after the conference. My pregnancy, even for the two interviewees who knew about it, did not come up. Moreover, I was working as a research assistant for a different project on the social history of nanotechnology at this same time. I conducted both face-to-face interviews and telephone interviews with more than a dozen participants. Though my pregnancy also played a role in the data collection processes of the nanotechnology research project, the overall influence of my pregnancy on those research processes may have led to different outcomes that I would not characterize as negative. Specifically, my pregnancy seemed to make the nanotechnology research participants feel at ease with me very quickly, thus engendering an open and comfortable research setting.

3. The acafan

[3.1] Though I had not anticipated attending this conference for purposes of data collection, I had still expected that I would not have trouble establishing a rapport with my interviewees. I was hardly unknown among my research participants. For more than a year, I had carefully cultivated a participant observer status (Adler and Adler 1994) that allowed me access to a core group of mpreg fan fiction writers without writing mpreg fan fiction myself. To them and the larger online fandom community, I publicly identified myself as an acafan, which has been defined with a range of different subtleties (Baym 2000; Hill 2002; Jenkins 1992). Generally, these definitions explore the role of a researcher's relationship to fans, source material, and fandom at large, as a variable of the research process (that is, does it matter if you are a fan first and foremost or if you participate in fandom activities as a fan?). Though acafans may have different relationships with other fans, source texts, and fandom, they seem to have the most agreement about what they are not: they are not researchers seeking the "objective truth" of fandom. This critique is leveled at Bacon-Smith's (1992) anthropological study of female Star Trek fans, wherein she used her outsider status for the purpose of objectively observing fan culture. Though they did not use the term acafan, I prefer Harrington and Bielby's (1995) definition of a researcher-fan. For them, being a fan of a fandom that one also studies professionally means being respectful of the various components of that fan world—components that can be fraught with stigma. It also means being up front with one's identification as a fan during the research process (1995). In their definition, there is plenty of room to play around with other identities within fandom in addition to conducting rigorous research on fandom.

[3.2] For me, developing my insider status meant reading and reviewing mpreg fan fics (stories written with author J. K. Rowling's characters and settings from the Harry Potter series) that were published online at a small number of Harry Potter mpreg fic archives. Reviewing is an integral part of an online fan fic community; it is the primary way authors and readers interact. This is especially important for the mpreg fic community because writing "male preg" or "mpreg" carries a stigma (Penley 1997) in addition to the usual stigma associated with writing fan fic (Bacon-Smith 1992; Baym 2000; Jenkins 1992). Generally, authors are gratified when readers take the time to leave comments about their works. It is fairly easy to quickly develop a connection with an author by participating in the two-way communication of leaving and acknowledging reviews. Though this was my primary means of entry into the Harry Potter mpreg fan fic community, I also occasionally offered authors my services as a beta reader—a critical reader and editor of fan fiction. From previous online interactions, I already knew, to some degree or another, all of the women mpreg authors I attempted to interview at the conference. Had I not interviewed them in person at the conference, I would have attempted to reach them online, as I did with three other authors.

[3.3] The mpreg fan fiction community that I studied is made up of an amorphous group of writers, artists, beta readers, and reviewers, who participated in the construction of mpreg fan works at a number of Harry Potter fandom–affiliated online spaces. I engaged with this community through LiveJournal, an online blogging site friendly to fans. Writers and artists posted their works on their blogs. Their works were usually edited by betas. Readers encountered the works on specific fandom-affiliated sites or through some other contact with writers, artists, or reviewers. Reviewers commented on the works, sometimes recommending them on their own blogs. Each of the authors I interviewed acknowledged the stigma of writing mpreg fan fiction (note 1). One author, CJ, says,

[3.4] Maybe taboo is not the right word. But it's definitely a "guilty pleasure" for some and a squick for others and is in general not that well-regarded, mostly because it allegedly turns the male characters into whiny, feminized versions of themselves.

4. When pregnant women are threatening

[4.1] Unlike Reich's experience of being a pregnant researcher who was perceived as nonthreatening and therefore was more easily accepted by her subjects while she performed fieldwork, my own experience was that my pregnant body immediately put many of my interview subjects into a defensive posture, even those who already knew from our previous online communications that I was pregnant. This correlation is based on my analysis of the field notes I recorded of my encounters with interviewees. In these notes, among many other details, I noted how interviewees noticed my pregnancy. Although I cannot make a causal connection between interviewees' perception of my pregnancy and their stigma as mpreg fan fiction authors, from my experiences, I assert that a strong correlation was present.

[4.2] The most memorable encounter with a research participant happened on my first full day at the conference. In my field notes, I wrote:

[4.3] At approximately 10:50 am, I was on the way to meet CJ for a scheduled interview. I was a few minutes early so I stopped by the registration table to chat with SG [another mpreg author]. SG was talking with three other women, one of whom I recognized by her nametag which read [online pseudonym]. She really stared at me while I was waiting for a lull in conversation so I could introduce myself to the group. It seemed obvious that she was staring at me because I was pregnant [she repeatedly stared at my belly]. She also had a negative expression on her face. When she realized who I was, her expression did not change. She refused to commit to an interview time and after a minute or two, she walked off with one of the other women.

[4.4] I had been excited to run into this author because she and I had been unable to set a meeting time for an interview over e-mail. She had been enthusiastic about being interviewed. That author never returned my e-mails or phone calls, even though she had given me her cell phone number so we could connect during the conference. It is entirely possible that the author had a number of different motivations for her abrupt change in behavior. However, I think that my visibly pregnant body was a source of discomfort for her. Taken in concert with other more straightforward reactions to my pregnant body by mpreg fan fiction authors who did grant me interviews, I can assume that my pregnancy played a role in her dismissal of me. I speculate that my pregnant body, marking me as what Reich refers to as a "normative reproducer," enhanced the stigma that she, as an mpreg author, already faces (2003, 359).

5. Normative versus deviant pregnancies

[5.1] My pregnancy, like Reich's, was invoked by research participants as normative in terms of my presumed sexuality, marital status, health status, and, most salient for my research, gender. For Reich, being a normative reproducer garnered her better access to everyone within the child welfare system. For me, being a normative reproducer was correlated with negative interactions between me and the mpreg authors. By negative, I mean that the content of the interviews was markedly different from other non-face-to-face interviews. One explanation for the negative interactions is that my physical presence illuminated the extent of deviance of their mpreg stories. Where I was (presumed to be) heterosexual, married, healthy, and female, I stood in stark contrast to the characters that these female authors had spent countless hours writing about: their characters were male and homosexual, and many of their pregnancies were fantastically exciting because of the inherent danger of such risky pregnancies. My interviews consisted of an intense series of questions about authors' understandings of mpreg fan fiction in the larger array of fandom. I asked them for detailed explanations of how male pregnancy works. I also asked them to comment on whether mpreg fan fiction challenged norms regarding gender and sexuality. Let me put this bluntly: I asked authors for graphically detailed accounts of their understandings of male pregnancy while I sat across from them, seven and a half months pregnant.

[5.2] Let me further explore the claim that my presence as a visible normative reproducer negatively influenced the interview process by enhancing the stigma already carried by mpreg writers. Most of the data supporting this claim comes from my field notes rather than my interview transcriptions. Before I turned on the recorder, interviewees usually made small talk about the Harry Potter fandom, the conference, and, inevitably, my pregnancy. Interviewees would often ask me if I was interested in male pregnancy because I was pregnant—implying that I needed a particular reason to pursue what is widely regarded as a derided genre of fan fiction. The prevalence of this question struck me as odd until one participant, WG, a Southeast Asian woman in her mid-20s, pushed the question further:

[5.3] After we introduced ourselves, WG asked me how far along I was. I said 7.5 months. She seemed surprised and asked me more questions about the baby's gender and name, etc. Then she asked if this [my pregnancy] was why I read mpreg. I said no, that I read mpreg because it's interesting in a number of different ways. Then she said, "But you're pregnant, why would you read mpreg? It must seem implausible. Silly." She said it in a funny way and we both laughed.

[5.4] To me, the implausibility of male pregnancy is not unlike many other science fiction and fantasy novums. I study it, as I told WG, for a number of different reasons, most of which have to do with the ways that communities of women authors create novel reproductive technologies for men's bodies. I was interested in male pregnancy long before I was actually pregnant. At the time of the interviews, linking the two together seemed spurious to me. For my interviewees, however, the timing of my pregnant body and my questioning them about their mpreg stories seemed unlikely to be a coincidence.

[5.5] In my analysis of the face-to-face interview transcripts with the authors, I found evidence for two mechanisms of stigma management: first, they attempted to normalize aspects of their mpreg fan fictions by relating to my pregnancy; and second, they emphasized the research they had done on "real" pregnancies in preparing for their own writing. First, authors used my pregnancy as a shortcut to relate information ("well, you must know what I mean"). For example, one author, AM, a white woman in her mid-30s, defended her answer about the prevalence of pseudo-uteri and cesarean section births in mpreg fics by explaining one admittedly less than glamorous side of vaginal birthing:

[5.6] Despite the fact that a pregnant woman has all the same organs pretty close to each other, when she pushes a baby out, she's probably going to push a lot of other stuff out of her rectum, too. You're probably thrilled, aren't you? (laughs)

[5.7] AM assumed that I was familiar with a particular aspect of a vaginal birth. What AM did not know was that I had not given this aspect a lot of thought because I was scheduled for a cesarean section. Thus, I was not extremely familiar with it. But her assumption can be interpreted to mean that she expected me, as a pregnant woman, to understand how the particulars of a "real" birth experience (that is, a woman's vaginal birth) back up an author's particular decisions regarding the anatomy of male pregnancy.

[5.8] Second, even though I did not ask them about their expertise with pregnancy, authors often emphasized that though they had never been pregnant, they had done extensive research on being pregnant. Most of the time, authors used both tactics. For example, PS, a white woman in her early 20s, told me that she knew quite a bit about obstetrics even though she had never been pregnant because she had wanted to be an obstetrician when she was a child. She and T (white woman, late 20s), a coauthor she often writes with, then told me that they both regularly consulted an online baby-information center. They would input fictional due dates for their characters so they could receive weekly informational e-mails about their characters' pregnancies. Both PS and T assumed that I was familiar with these kinds of Web sites.

[5.9] Though I followed the same interview script with my e-mailed interviews as I did for my face-to-face interviews, I did not encounter either of the two stigma-management strategies that I noted above in those e-mailed interviews. None of those interviewees used my pregnancy as a shortcut, although two of the three interviewees knew that I was pregnant. Furthermore, none of the interviewees offered any sort of credentials for their expertise in pregnancy.

6. The demands of pregnancy

[6.1] The purpose of this essay has been to explore the questions of how and why my own pregnancy influenced my experiences in the field, here defined as interviewing mpreg authors at a Harry Potter fan conference, held in late summer in Las Vegas. Though I think there is evidence that my pregnant body was offputting for research participants in some fairly substantive ways, there is another, even more obvious level of analysis. It would be difficult for even the healthiest and hardiest of women to be 7 months pregnant in the summer in the desert! The physical demands of advanced pregnancy also played a role in how this research was carried out.

[6.2] Notably, I had not entertained the idea of attending this conference because I had assumed that my pregnancy would make attendance too difficult. In retrospect, I see that this had been fairly sound reasoning. Other salient factors were my exhaustion, sensitivity to heat, and general physical discomfort. Each of these influenced the research process from two perspectives: my own and the participants'. In other words, I had to take certain measures to protect myself (I scheduled frequent bathroom breaks, meals, and snacks; I went to bed early; I avoided being outside), though I was careful to avoid mentioning these to my interviewees. But my research participants also felt obligated to take measures to protect me too, in ways that echo Balsamo's (1999) understanding of the interactional scripts associated with a public pregnancy. For my research subjects, this manifested in the following ways, as noted from my field notes:

[6.3] WG insisted that we have our interview at a restaurant after I answered her question truthfully about being hungry, even though I said I could easily wait.

[6.4] During the second half of our interview, W [a white woman in her mid-20s] kept her answers very short. She also apologized repeatedly for wanting to reconvene outside by the pool. It was probably 110 degrees. I was very hot.

[6.5] AM rejected two different sites for our interview because she didn't think the chairs were comfortable enough for a pregnant woman.

[6.6] In each of the above examples, the research process was hindered because participants tried to accommodate my pregnant body, even though I had not asked them to do so. Not only had I not asked them to accommodate me, but I actively tried to downplay my pregnancy so it would cease to be a factor in the research process. The recording of my interview with WG is difficult to hear in some places as a result of restaurant noise. The second half of W's interview is much less detailed than the first because she was so keen about getting me back inside the air-conditioned hotel. Finally, AM spent nearly 10 minutes of our allotted 45 minutes looking for what she considered to be an appropriately comfortable place.

[6.7] None of these particular findings is surprising, though. Although there is relatively little research about being a pregnant researcher, there is a large body of research about women being publicly pregnant, a concept I will explore further below. That my interviewees felt obligated to look after me, even at the expense of our interviews, is not unexpected.

7. Publicly pregnant

[7.1] Similar to Reich's experience with her pregnancy and research, I am quite certain that my pregnancy altered the way this particular part of my research manifested. In hindsight, I should not have been so surprised that my pregnant body would play its own role in the field. Pregnant bodies are public bodies (Balsamo 1999; Bordo 1993; Davis 2004; Reich 2003). To be publicly pregnant means that a woman's identity as being pregnant is pushed to the forefront of all other identities, and that a woman is literally on display for commentary with possible actions taken on her behalf by surrounding publics. For me, being publicly pregnant meant that my interview subjects perceived me as being pregnant before being an acafan. It also meant that it was socially acceptable and expected for my interviewees to acknowledge or accommodate my pregnant body, even at the expense of our interviews.

[7.2] Another way to explain the differences between my in-person interviews and my e-mailed interviews is through considering the actual medium of the interview. It is a fairly established claim that face-to-face research interactions can enhance the stakes for both researchers and participants (Adler 1990; Adler and Adler 1987). Thus, one would expect that sensitive and potentially stigmatized identities would emerge more often in face-to-face interviews. Though I do not doubt this general finding, I do wish to refine it with an analysis of how a researcher's pregnancy may amplify the stakes in particular ways.

[7.3] It seems highly likely that had I met with preg authors as a nonpregnant woman, my identity as an acafan would have been most significant. Had that been the case, I would have expected preg authors to readily accept the premise of my research: that mpreg fan fiction is important and thus worthy of investigation. Moreover, I would have expected more details in their explanations of the technologies of mpreg, as they would not have had an obvious point of reference, which would have mirrored the data collected in the e-mailed interviews. However, in this case, my carefully constructed identity, which I had honed with more than a year's worth of online ethnographic work, was trumped by my pregnant body. Though I only attribute one author's refusal to grant me an interview to my pregnancy, it seems clear to me that all of my other interviews were negatively influenced by my pregnancy. I was able to contrast the mpreg fieldwork with face-to-face interviews conducted for an unrelated project on the social history of nanotechnology. Though my pregnancy was still mentioned by nearly all of these other interviewees, it served a different purpose: it led to small talk, which then helped me establish rapport. This is similar to the positive influence Reich experienced during her pregnancy. When I examine my field notes for the nanotechnology project, I can find no evidence that my pregnancy negatively influenced the research process. I can only conclude that for my Harry Potter research, my pregnant body clashed with the genre of fic being written, bringing to the fore the stigma of writing mpreg fiction and the lack of real, embodied experience that many of these authors had of pregnancy.

[7.4] I do not advise researchers to avoid doing research while visibly pregnant. Nor would I ever recommend that researchers who identify or can be identified as different from their research populations avoid face-to-face interactions. On the contrary, social differences may help to illuminate attitudes and positions that might not have come to light otherwise. I have chosen to see my field experience as negatively influenced by my pregnancy because it affected the responses of the subjects I interviewed. Yet perhaps my difference offers a venue to a better understanding of stigma management strategies for mpreg authors. Or perhaps mpreg authors are in a better position to look after a pregnant researcher because they are more sensitized to the challenges of pregnancy.

[7.5] For Reich, being pregnant was helpful during her research process. For my other research work, being pregnant helped me to establish a rapport with interviewees. But my understanding of my research experience with mpreg fan fiction authors leads me to conclude that in situations where identities of gender, sexuality, and normative bodies are sensitive topics, adding a further layer of sensitivity should, at the very least, be carefully thought out and planned for.

8. Note

1. All pseudonyms were selected by the interviewees and are included with their explicit permission. All demographic details were defined by interviewees and are included in the interest of creating an accurate representation of the target population. All quotations I provide, unless otherwise sourced, were obtained during face-to-face interviews conducted at the Lumos 2006 fan convention, held in July 2006 in Las Vegas. All data collection processes and procedures were approved by the human subjects review panel of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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