As someone who was once a teenage girl trapped in the body of a teenage boy reading gay slash fan fiction about Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy having an illicit rendezvous in the Astronomy Tower as Evanescence played softly from the speakers of my E-machine, I know a thing or two about fan fiction. What was once the Internet's shameful secret has now become — well, still pretty shameful, but definitely not a secret. There are literally millions of fan works to be found online, with collections ranging from barely legible (FanFiction.net, which anyone with WiFi can publish on) to something approaching true literary excellence (Archive of Our Own, which has a waitlist to join and stories that are arguably better than many published novels). Fan fiction has also become somewhat commodifiable: I take every chance I can to remind everyone I interact with that Fifty Shades of Grey was originally a Twilight fanfic.
The common thread when it comes to fan fiction is slash: stories that pair together two characters of the same sex, usually men who would never actually interact romantically in canon. But while gay male erotica abounds in fan fiction — and while some of it is truly excellent — there is an issue I can't get past: most of these works are written by self-professed teenage girls (and a surprising amount of adult queer women), girls who have not and will never (probably, unless HRT is in their future) have gay male sex, girls who don't understand how gay male sex — or any sex at all — actually works in the real world. I have actually seen the tag "smut written by an asexual virgin" linked to dozens of stories, which gives you a good idea about the age range and experience of authors we're dealing with. There is of course nothing wrong with being asexual, with being a virgin, with being a woman who enjoys reading and writing about gay sex — but it doesn't always make for compelling and realistic erotica.
No matter how much porn you consume, there is only so much knowledge you can accrue about gay sex without actually having it. It's like learning French in America — you can figure out the mechanics and the grammar, but you won't pick up the colloquialisms, the slang, the shorthand. There are several tropes of what I feel to be poorly researched gay sex to be found in slash fan fiction, and as someone who once read a story about Professor McGonagall turning into a cat before going down on Hermione Granger, I have a vested interest in providing the community with this teaching moment.
The characters who are romantically entwined are almost always heterosexual — except when it comes to each other. I'll call this the Call Me By Your Name effect: Two characters who would otherwise never be attracted to a member of the same sex find themselves completely overwhelmed by a starstruck romance and simply must diddle each other. Part of me believes that this is such a common occurrence because the girls writing these stories want to believe that if one of these characters were real, the author would still have a chance with them. Or it's a testament to how powerful the characters' connection is.
There is a huge obsession with preparation. In the world of gay fan fiction, there is always a lot of lube and a lot of getting the other partner ready for sex. Paragraphs are spent describing how Hannibal Lecter scissors his fingers in and out of Agent Will Graham to get him ready for a good fudge-packing. Sure, in real life people prepare their partners for sex (especially if the penetrative partner is especially well endowed), but gay men who are having regular anal sex don't need paragraphs of loving "prep." Which leads to my next point...
None of these writers seem to have ever heard about Truvada. Nothing fills me with indignant rage than when I'm reading a story in which the characters from Yuri! On Ice are in an alternate universe where they are both mafia bosses and, when they finally give in to their wild passion in the middle of a gunfight, someone pulls out a condom. A condom! In 2018! In a story about two fiction characters having fictional sex! And don't even get me started on the amount of stories where characters use condoms for oral sex. Girl, have you never watched a Timtales video or talked to anyone in the world who has ever had oral sex? And what's more, when the characters do have unprotected such, one invariably tells the other, "Don't worry, I'm clean." Anyone who uses Grindr knows that yes, people are still using this outdated and offensive was to talk about HIV and sexual health, but aren't children supposed to be the future?
No one ever douches. I mean, sure this is fantasy, and unless you're writing about Magneto and Professor X being into scat it's not really necessary to bring up the possibility of poop, but if you're going to take the trouble to include safe sex in your fanfic, can't one of your characters have an embarrassing run-in with their beloved while buying a box of Fleet enemas at Rite Aide? In space, no one can hear you scream — and in fan fiction, no one can see you douche.
Alpha/Beta/Omega dynamics...oh boy. Fan fiction writers love alternate universes where the characters they're playing with are biologically determined to be attracted to each other because of, like, scents and stuff. There are heats and ruts and knotting, self-lubrication to bypass the whole preparation issue — it's a whole thing.
Fan fiction is fixated on male pregnancy. Yes, male pregnancy (#mpreg) and male lactation are huge fan fiction tropes. Do you have a yearning desire to read a 200,000 word story about how Finn knocks up Poe Dameron and loves to watch him breastfeed their child? Well, you can!
Fan fiction is, I truly believe, one of the great joys of the Internet. As someone who has fallen so in love with fictional characters that their existing narrative simply isn't enough for me, I completely understand the imperative to let them live millions of other lives, having as much gay sex as possible. But maybe that gay sex could be just a tad more realistic — suspension of disbelief only goes so far, ladies.