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Heterosexual Female Slash Fans

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We’ve all heard it said - “Of course M/M shipping is more popular than anything else! Most fans are women, most women are straight, therefore they want to write about hot guys together! What do you expect?”

However, among the 10,005 respondents to the AO3 census survey, the proportion of M/M fans who consider themselves both heterosexual and female is between 25% and 36% (depending on how precisely the terms are defined). Respondents in that demographic were less likely than average to be fans of M/M. Of course, this data has its limitations, but these results are supported by many past surveys.

Evidence suggests that it is worth questioning the assumption that all or most M/M fans are heterosexual women.

If this assumption is false, continuously attributing the abundance of M/M slash to heterosexual women is misleading, and erases a large group of slash fans who ID as non-heterosexual and/or non-female.

More info/methodology under the cut.

Results Summary

Looking at four definitions of the term, heterosexual women represent between 31% and 36% of M/M readers surveyed, and between 25% and 31% of M/M creators. Compared to the total group of respondents, heterosexual female respondents were slightly less likely to be both readers and creators of M/M works - 87% were readers, compared to 90% overall, and 32-33% were creators, compared to 40% overall.

Although this survey is not necessarily representative of all AO3 users - most respondents were Tumblr users, and the sample could not be randomised to prevent social group biases - it does give evidence of at least 5,709 M/M readers and 2,765 M/M creators who go against the received wisdom that “nearly all” M/M fans are both heterosexual and female.

The results also falls in line with the results discussed in melannen’s Science, y'all post which looked at surveys from a wide range of fandoms, and suggested that on average approximately 60% of slash fans are queer. This is the only other discussion of the topic I am aware of at the time of writing.

A further breakdown of demographics in M/M fandom can be found here. I have discussed the importance of/reasons for this in some other posts, which can be found here and here.

Definitions

To examine this phenomenon, I first defined two versions of “straight” and “female”:

  • Identifying solely as female - the respondent selected Female when asked “What gender(s) do you identify as?”, but did not select Male, Androgynous, Agender, Genderqueer, Neutrois or Other. Transgender and Trans* status were not taken into account.
  • Identifying partially as female - the respondent selected Female among their responses when asked “What gender(s) do you identify as?”
  • Identifying solely as heterosexual - the respondent selected Heterosexual when asked “What sexuality(s) do you identify as?”, but did not select Homosexual, Bisexual, Pansexual, Asexual, Queer or Other. Demisexual and Grey-asexual status were not taken into account.
  • Identifying partially as heterosexual - the respondent selected Heterosexual among their responses when asked “What sexuality(s) do you identify as?”

This research looked at all four possible combinations of these terms, and then considered the numbers of M/M readers and M/M creators in each group.

I defined “M/M readers” as those who selected M/M among their responses for the question “What category(s) of work do you prefer to read?” There were 8978 M/M readers in this survey, out of 10,005 total respondents.

“M/M creators” were defined as those who selected M/M among their responses for the question “What category(s) of work do you typically produce?” There were 4013 M/M creators included in this survey.

Breakdown of Results

Definition 1: Respondents who identified solely as female and solely as heterosexual.

3176 respondents fell into this group, or 31.7% of those surveyed.

There were 2751 M/M readers in this group. This accounted for 86.6% of the group, and 30.6% of M/M readers.

There were 1018 M/M creators in this group. This accounted for 32.1% of the group, and 25.4% of M/M creators.

Definition 2: Respondents who identified partially as female and solely as heterosexual.

3197 respondents fell into this group, or 32.0% of those surveyed.

There were 2771 M/M readers in this group. This accounted for 86.7% of the group, and 30.9% of M/M readers.

There were 1029 M/M creators in this group. This accounted for 32.2% of the group, and 25.6% of M/M creators.

Definition 3: Respondents who identified solely as female and partially as heterosexual.

3693 respondents fell into this group, or 36.9% of those surveyed.

There were 3223 M/M readers in this group. This accounted for 87.3% of the group, and 35.9% of M/M readers.

There were 1223 M/M creators in this group. This accounted for 33.1% of the group, and 30.5% of M/M creators.

Definition 4: Respondents who identified partially as female and partially as heterosexual.

3744 respondents fell into this group, or 37.4% of those surveyed.

There were 3269 M/M readers in this group. This accounted for 87.3% of the group, and 36.4% of M/M readers.

There were 1248 M/M creators in this group. This accounted for 33.3% of the group, and 31.1% of M/M creators.

N.B. The fifth definition I considered was not included in the summary as at least one respondent has reported that they consider cis heterosexual women to be a gender minority, due to that group experiencing sexism. Thus, this definition is almost certainly over-broad, but is listed here for comparison purposes.

Definition 5: Respondents who identified partially as female and answered “No” to the question “Do you identify as belonging to a gender, sexual or romantic minority?”

4392 respondents fell into this group, or 43.9% of those surveyed.

There were 3883 M/M readers in this group. This accounted for 88.4% of the group, and 43.3% of M/M readers.

There were 1524 M/M creators in this group. This accounted for 34.7% of the group, and 38.0% of M/M creators.