The Salt Mine

The Salt Mine: Being Considered Gay Isn’t Bad (and nor is fanfiction)

I see a lot of people talk about how ‘the tumblr fangirls’ are all bad, and ruining wrestling for the rest of us. I meet a lot of female fans who tell me that they’ve written or read fic, but would die of embarrassment if the male fans they go to shows with, or the wrestlers they know, knew about it. I traded fic like we were trading state secrets with a woman recently, who said she’d never hear the end of it from her show-buddies if they knew. I hear a lot about how sending wrestlers your artwork of them is fine, but sending them your fic is gross and vile – and I’m not talking about pornographic epics, here, I’m talking about friendships or character fics. And it sort of pisses me off.

There’s been a lot written, over the years, about how men tend to curate and gatekeep fandom, whereas women tend to be the creators and innovators. Wrestling is no different, with a dozen men ready to tell you that if you weren’t at a show (that happened in another country, when you were five years old) then you’re not really a fan, or that if your matches of the year don’t align with theirs, you’re not a real fan. The sexism surrounding Roman Reigns fans has been well-documented, and is the same trend; men telling women that they don’t know how to appreciate something properly.

But fanfiction is the poor cousin twice removed of even those parts of the fandom. People who read my work here and people who read my fanfic are a broad crossover, but they don’t identify themselves. I know at least one person who, if they knew a wrestler had seen their fic, would delete all of it, every last bit, in fear and shame. And I think that’s a pity. I’ve got some lovely wrestle-sisters (when we all feel like identifying as female) in The People’s Tramp and Lady BoobsViews; people who take their sexuality seriously, who are unashamedly sexual and open about it, and don’t see the need to hide it. They’re a part of wrestling fandom, too, and I’ll slaughter anyone who calls them ‘ring rats’ – the ways we enjoy our fandoms are incredibly subjective. And enjoying them with a tongue-in-cheek sexual overtone is perfectly acceptable – or at least, we’re told it is when men watch women’s volleyball.

The creative and remarkable Felicia Rose, and her signs of sexual solicitation. The creative and remarkable Felicia Rose, and her signs of sexual solicitation.

So why is fanfiction seen so poorly? Well, there’s a lot of gay shit, and most people assume that wrestlers, in a sport known for homophobic banter and a totally non-gay way to shove your head between your best friend’s legs, might not like being considered gay. Most male-dominated contact sports are prone to this sort of oxymoron, where the line between ‘bit gay, bro’ and ‘no homo’ is blurry and easily crossed. It’s homosocial, not homosexual, and with these attitudes, it’s no wonder we’ve not got a lot of out queer wrestlers. There are absolutely safety concerns with that sort of thing, because working together in a ring requires a certain amount of trust that someone isn’t about to start shoot wrestling you because you’ve sucked a couple of dicks in your time.

But what I want to frame is that being seen to be gay for your tag partner, your opponent, the rest of your stable, the friend you grew up wrestling with – none of this should be seen in a negative light. Wrestling is about telling a story, and when you tell a story well, you gain a relationship with the audience, whether that’s positive or negative. When you have a tag partner, or are part of a stable, you tell the story of your relationship to each other with every hot tag, with every cheap shot you take for them, with every interference. And for those of us watching, who’ve never had that sort of relationship with a person – the kayfabe cameraderie or the actual trust and timing that comes with working together – there’s nothing we can call that but love.

When I think of trusting someone with my life for certain moves, I think of the way my wife can spot me about to have a seizure. I think about how she can hear the quiet thud from the bathroom and know I’ve passed out underwater. I think about how she can tell when I’m having PTSD flashback, and protect me from being touched. That sort of unspoken communication, the easy way we move around each other, the way we know what the other is thinking – that’s what we see when we watch wrestling, that’s what we see when we watch you, and what else can we call that bond but love? Maybe it isn’t a love that we can understand fully, but that’s why we want to write and explore these things. We want to know more of the story.

Sure, there’s forms of love which aren’t sexual, but wrestling is pretty sexual, with all the half-naked blokes grabbing at each other, and lying on top of each other. It’s not a big step for us to take the story you’re telling us about a group of best friends defending each other against the world, or beloved enemies fighting forever, or one turncoat leaving behind a broken pair to achieve glory, and put romance and sex in there as well. Writing Seth Rollins’ betrayal of The Shield as also a betrayal of a relationship the three of them had makes it darker, and more real to us. Suggesting that Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens were lovers through the indie years, and that Kevin’s betrayal was of a lover and a friend makes the way they fight each other seem more desperate and painful. Creating a story where Pete Dunne’s attack on Tyler Bate was the rage of an older lover at the success of a younger adds drama and tension to something which is already high stakes.

By suggesting that working relationships are sexual relationships, we’re not cheapening wrestling, we’re enriching it. We’re giving every move, every hold, every drawn-out stare more meaning, not less, by writing about you being in love with each other. Being considered gay shouldn’t be a pejorative thing, shouldn’t be seen as negative. It isn’t. And you should be assured enough in yourself to know that, and to not take it as a slur on your masculinity. No one’s questioning that – you can lift the equivalent of two of me, easily. Saying you also might like to take it up the arse shouldn’t impugn your sense of self all that much.

I didn’t write 300,000 words of wrestling fanfiction in the last year and a half because I’m a kinky wench who can’t look at a well-muscled man without wondering what he looks like in bed with his best mate – well, not entirely – I did it because I love the medium. I love the way everything is so physical, how disputes are settled in matches, and how kissing your partner’s head at the end of the match makes me ache for the bond between you. When I watch wrestling, I watch for the story, and if I can take that story and make it more emotional and more heartbreaking, I will. I wrote all that fic because the relationships you played out for me were compelling, because I wanted to explore how your character would react in different settings, and because I wanted to cherish the bonds you all have between you.

I did it because I love wrestling.

(I invite you to join me over on Archive of Our Own, where I have the ninth and tenth most popular WWE fic by kudos. Give it a try – you might find it’s not as bad as you thought it was. And if you find me at a show, feel free to talk to me about it. I’m not ashamed.)

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