Editor's Note: This article includes sexually frank discussions and uses explicit words to describe certain sex acts.
The Numbers (06)
The Boring Numbers (07-09)
Slightly More Interesting Numbers About Sexual Orientation, With Pie Charts (10-14)
Titillating Facts And Figures About The Fanfic (15-25)
The Crux Of The Matter: The Writers' Own Lives (26-34)
Introduction They make us laugh. They make us cry. They make us glance nervously over our shoulders as we read their stories at work and try desperately to think of excuses for that flush creeping up our necks. They are the writers of Xena: Warrior Princess subtext fan fiction. But how much do we really know about any of them? As they boldly go where no bottom-line-driven scriptwriter has gone before, what experiences and fantasies drive their stories?
 This researcher's intense curiosity and utter lack of a worthwhile hobby led her to develop an online survey of authors of Xena/Gabrielle slash fiction. The survey was designed to measure the degree to which the authors' work is informed by their own romantic and sexual experiences. Do their stories provide a forum for sexual autobiography? Or does this brand of fiction serve as a way for them to articulate fantasies about activities and relationship models they have never tried (and perhaps will never try)?
Methodology This researcher solicited respondents from several online Xena strongholds. Announcements were posted to the Xena's Campfire Girls and Chakram mailing lists, to Universal Studios' Netforum and to alt.tv.xena-subtext. Readers in all these groups were asked to circulate announcements to others who might be interested.
 The announcement solicited writers of at least one story in which Xena and Gabrielle have a non-platonic relationship. It was not necessary that the writers' story(ies) be sexually explicit. Writers who were interested in responding to the survey replied to this researcher personally and were given a password to a web-based survey form developed and hosted by Katherine Villyard. Respondents were not identified except by IP address (to reduce the chances of multiple entries). Survey responses were mailed automatically to the author.
 While most questions were multiple choice, respondents were invited to write open-ended responses to three of the questions. Those responses will be included at the end of the survey.
The Numbers With such a small sample size, it is difficult to generalize and draw conclusions about Xena/Gabrielle fan fiction writers with any sense of accuracy. In fact, because the survey population was self-selecting, it is entirely possible that many writers were simply too shy to respond and that the results skew toward latent exhibitionists and voyeurs.
The Boring Numbers While there are men writing and publishing Xena/Gabrielle lesbian fan fiction on the Internet, none of them responded to this survey.
 The average number of stories for each writer was ten. One writer has written only one story; another has written a whopping thirty-eight.
 All but four writers have published their work on the World Wide Web. Thirteen shared their work by private e-mail; twenty-two distributed their stories on mailing lists.
Slightly More Interesting Numbers About Sexual Orientation, With Pie Charts Fifty-nine percent of respondents identified their own sexual orientation as gay.
 Among gay respondents, just over three-quarters have been sexually active with both men and women in the past (Figure 2). Thirteen of the gay respondents reported that they are currently active with members of their own sex; four said they are not currently sexually active. (Figure 3)
Figure 1 -- sexual orientation
Figure 2 -- sexual history of gay respondents All three respondents who identified themselves as heterosexual also said they had been sexually active only with men in the past. Two of the heterosexual respondents reported that they are not currently sexually active. One is currently sexually active with a man (or men).
Figure 3 -- current sexual activity of gay respondents
 Of the five respondents who identified themselves as bisexual, three reported that they have been sexually active in the past with both men and women, one reported never having been sexually active, and one did not respond. Two of the bisexual respondents said they are not currently sexually active; two said they are currently sexually active with men; and one did not respond.
 Of the four respondents who did not wish to label their sexual orientation, two have been active with both men and women in the past, one has been active only with men, and one did not respond. One of those respondents is currently active with a man; one is active with a woman; one is not currently sexually active; and one did not respond.
Titillating Facts And Figures About The Fanfic Respondents were asked to characterize the sexual content of the their fanfic in several respects and then compare their own sex lives to that portrayed in their stories. Specifically, they were asked to quantify their stories in terms of sexual explicitness, frequency of sex acts between Xena and Gabrielle (whether or not those acts are described in detail), and the "kink" factor of those acts.
 In each of these categories, respondents were asked to choose from a list of options. Numerical values were then assigned to the choices for purposes of quantifying the data. For reader convenience, the options the respondents were given and their numerical values are provided.
 Sexual Explicitness Of The Stories (Figure 4)
Question: On average, the bards characterized their work as just under a "3". However, just over half the respondents assigned their work a "4". The bisexual and non-identifying respondents characterized their work as slightly more explicit than the average. The gay respondents' average answers were exactly the same as the overall average, and the heterosexual responses were somewhat less explicit than the overall average.
How would you characterize the level of explicitness of your alternative XWP stories, in terms of the graphic detail?
Not explicit (value: 1)
Somewhat explicit (value: 2)
Don't read this at work (value: 3)
Don't read this without flameproof clothing (value: 4)
 Sexual Frequency Portrayed In The Stories (Figure 5)
Figure 4 -- sexual explicitness of material
Question: Again, on average, the bards quantified the sexual frequency in their stories at about 2.75. As with explicitness, the bisexual and non-identifying respondents quantified sexual frequency at above average. Gay respondents quantified sexual explicitness at just under the overall average, and heterosexual respondents at far below average, with a 2.
How would you characterize your stories in terms of the frequency with which you portray Xena and Gabrielle making love (whether or not it is described graphically)?
Xena and Gabrielle are in love but have never made love in my stories (value: 1)
Xena and Gabrielle are once-a-weekers at best in my stories (value: 2)
Xena and Gabrielle can't keep their hands and other body parts off one another (value: 3)
Plot? What plot? (value: 4)
 The Kink Factor (Figure 6)
Figure 5 -- sexual frequency of Xena and Gabrielle
Question: On average, respondents gave their work a 2.14 kink rating. However, like in the other categories, those who identified themselves as bisexual or declined to identify their orientation were a good deal less vanilla than their gay- and heterosexual-identifying sisters.
If you consider your stories sexually explicit, how would you describe the level of sexual adventurousness ("kink") in them?
no "kink," just good clean sex! (0)
I hate labeling "mainstream" and "adventurous" activities--if it feels good, do it! (4)
my stories are not explicit (na -- blank)
 Types Of Kink: For this question, respondents were asked to choose as many items as appropriate from a buffet of types of kink. Their menu was as follows:
Figure 6 -- The kink factor
bondage and discipline, Eighteen of the twenty-nine respondents identified at least one type of "kink" in their stories. Eleven respondents (two of the four heterosexual respondents, eight of the seventeen gay respondents and one of the four non-identifying respondents) identified no kink in their stories. Bisexuals again led the pack in this category: every bisexual respondent identified at least one type of kink in their stories.
dominance and submission,
sadism and masochism,
BDSM (all of the previous or don't recognize distinctions among the previous),
role-playing and role-reversal,
voyeurism and/or exhibitionism,
playing with gender roles,
sex with men,
and other (respondents were asked to specify in their own words).
 Two respondents, both gay, identified "fisting", use of toys and semi-public sex as "other" types of kink that were not on the menu.
The Crux Of The Matter: The Writers' Own LivesSexual Frequency
 Writers were not asked to discuss their own level and frequency of sexual activity. Rather, they were asked to indicate how closely their own sex lives matched their fanfic in terms of sexual frequency.
 Sadly, only four respondents, three gay and one who did not self-identify, characterized Xena and Gabrielle's sexual frequency as "3" ("Xena and Gabrielle can't keep their hands and other body parts off one another") or more and said their own sex lives either over time or currently "very closely" matched that of their characters in terms of frequency.
 Fifteen respondents, three bisexual, nine gay and three non-identifiers, gave Xena and Gabrielle high marks for sexual frequency but indicated a low correlation to their own sex lives.
 The three heterosexual respondents all characterized Xena and Gabrielle as "once-a-weekers at best" and said their own sex lives generally did not closely match that.
 Overall, however, the more frequent Xena and Gabrielle's sexual activity, the higher the correlation respondents identified to their own lives.
 Again, writers were not asked to identify specific practices in which they engage. Rather, they were asked to indicate how closely their own sex lives matched their fanfic in terms of kink.
 In general, those who characterized the level of kink in their stories either as "moderate" or who said they didn't like to make distinctions between "kinky" and "mainstream" sexual behavior also indicated the highest average correlation between their sex lives and their stories, but that average correlation was still fairly low, less than "2" ("somewhat closely"). Only two respondents, one gay and one who declined to self-identify, identified a high level ("3" or greater) of kink in their stories and a high degree of correlation. One of those two commented, "Sometimes, if I need to get a sexual point across to my girlfriend, I will write a Xena/Gab story to show what I want. She enjoys it and I get what I want!"
The Bottom (So To Speak) Line (Figure 7)
 As part of the survey, respondents were asked whether they would write about an activity in which they would never engage. Only eight of the twenty-nine respondents answered "yes" to that question (Figure 8). Eighteen answered "no" (Figure 9). Three did not answer.
Figure 7 -- The bottom line
Figure 8 -- Yes respondents Respondents who answered "yes" to the question were asked to elaborate in their own words; six of the eight respondents did. The comments:
Figure 9 -- No respondents
- My most recent story involves rape and torture (by Callisto to Xena), and that's what I wouldn't engage in - because it's non-consensual. In my X/G stories there's nothing I wouldn't do (or haven't done) myself. I've written stuff in another fandom where the characters have a greater tolerance for consensual pain (and better equipment!) than I do. Examples of those would be anal fisting and use of a single-tail whip, neither of which I've experienced or intend to experience! Why? Not that heavy a masochist.
- I don't play with toys.
- I write them as lesbians (or bi) and I'm heterosexual.
- In my parody "Women in Prison", the 'bad' Xena character "Captain Krieger" forces women to make love to her at gunpoint. The gun is unloaded, but the women don't know that.
- I've no plans to get my "ha-ha" pierced any time soon. Why? One word - OUCH!!! I wouldn't be one for being tied up either. Why? Rope Burn = Ouch! I'm not interested in sexual activities that result in "ouch". And unless I'm wearing it - not interested in becoming up close and personal with a strap-on either.
- I would not force someone to have non-consensual sex because, of course, it's wrong. But I wrote it into a story because since women don't really do that, it's just a fantasy. Besides it wasn't entirely unwanted.
Conclusion Based on the survey responses and the respondents' comments, writers of Xena/Gabrielle fanfic who responded are more likely to reflect their own lives in their stories than to use those stories as an outlet for activities in which they do not or would not engage.
Appendix As noted before, respondents were given an opportunity at the end of the survey to offer their own comments on how closely the sexual components of their fan fiction mirrored their sex lives. The comments are perhaps more illuminating than the responses to other survey questions.
- Actually, I don't see my stories as mirroring my "wishes" at all. Mostly, they mirror my desire to write lots of mushy romantic stuff. I don't tend to write explicitly graphic scenes. In the beginning, and this is odd, I tried to write the "flaming knickers" kind of sex scene, but found that that just isn't me, so I've stuck to the emotional kind of thing... perhaps it's just a reflection of my own desire to love/be loved, perhaps it's just my own fantasy to see two women loved/loving in front of the world without recrimination.
- I personally would not engage in same-sex sex. As I writer I found it challenging at first, and later surprisingly easy to write something completely outside of myself. I don't have any trouble imagining that Xena and Gabrielle might be lovers, but I also don't have trouble with them as great friends. In other words, my portrayal of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship does not at all act as a mirror of my own life, actions, or desires.
- My stories tend to mirror not my own practices or fantasies, but where I believe the characters to be in their emotional/sexual development. For example, I portrayed, in a seven story arc, characters who started out not being sexually interested in each other (tho not averse to the idea), to, at the end, a couple involved in a committed monogamous relationship ... To be authentic in description, however, I tend to pull from my own sexual experiences, in describing the sex scenes. Also, I tend to interpret Xena or Gabrielle's character in terms of people I've known. It's the old adage: 'write what you know'.
- My wife and I are in a monogamous relationship that includes bdsm. So when I write about certain activities I'm writing from a certain amount of experience. I don't identify with the characters, however, so if I am writing about something I've done, I'm just trying to get the technical details and the sensations right. I'm not projecting myself into the characters. An example would be a hot wax scene in my Callisto story - in the context of the story, everything Callisto is doing to Xena is rape, but I happen to know it's really not all that painful, so I tried to convey that Xena found it more irritating than excruciating. So I used my own experience, but in an entirely different context.
- For the most part, not fantasies, except the ones where they went al fresco in the elements, or the 3-somes with themselves. (I don't think I'd want to catch my death in snow/storm; and I haven't been dead. ;)) Not an outlet. I write love scenes usually because the storyline calls for them. Basically, a method-bard when it comes to those scenes - since I do want to make sure the acts/positions etc. are feasible - just project the experiences onto the appropriate characters and add their emotion.
- But I do like to play nonetheless.
- The stories do not provide such an outlet. Not for sexual stuff. For other, emotional issues, yeah. But sex is not the point or the focus of my stories.
- My stories thus far have pretty much been similar to my own real-life experiences with past and current girlfriends. And since it's been a while since I last wrote a Xena story (though I am working on one now), it's pretty much mirrored my current relationship (since my gf lives in another part of the country) :)
- Okay, well, here's for me the crux of why you write any story... to find a truth about people, yourself, the characters, that somehow the series hasn't found for you ... yet. In my stories, I'm exploring what it means to be in a relationship. What are all the truths that relationships whether they are M/F or F/F possess? What makes them work? What can make them fail? What rough spots do they all have to work out? In writing the alt. stories though I am hetero in personal practice, I hope I'm learning and showing that all relationships require work, balance, compromise and partnership... And then there's the fantasy element. Of my fan fic, the only one my husband has read was my first alt. For us, my writing it and his reading it was a "safe" way to share a fantasy, and well, I have to say it spiced up my love life. Hopefully it can do the same for a few of my readers.
- Almost all of my stories have an element of 'real life' experience to them. Little things I put in my stories I have either done or would do. Also, many of the things that I have Gabrielle or Xena notice/appreciate/get turned on by/like about each other are some of the things that mirror my own taste. Certainly, there are elements of personal fantasies in the stories, but I try not to let that influence how I characterize both of them (i.e. if for example, my fantasy involved a three-some, my conceptualizations of X&G don't match that fantasy...I personally don't see either of them wanting that). I try to let the characters dictate their activities rather than my own personal stuff coming out in the story. If I read something and it feels like the author took on the Xena or Gabrielle role and just inserted themselves in their story, that tends to make for less interesting reading for me. So, I'm conscious of making sure "I" don't show up in the story and that it's just X&G relating. One result of writing fanfic is certainly providing more incentive to get out there and live it up more! :)
- Like every other lesbian on earth, I would like to be young, robust and beautiful and make love to a woman who is young, robust and beautiful. And it is fun to create ever new settings in which to portray this. Of course fiction is a fantasy. That's why people write it and that's why people read it. But my stories are always about other things too, and the sex is only a tiny portion of the plot -- one page out of 30!
- When I write, fiction is the operative word. Okay there have been a few instances when I've wondered "what's up with that" and tried something I wrote about-- A) to see if it was any fun or B) to see if it was physically possible with Earth's gravity. But for the most part I don't share a bedroom with my characters.
- In my opinion, sex makes life worth living. My stories do mirror my likes and fantasies. I wrote in my stories the kind of sex I like. A lot of it was kind of jokey, so I guess you could say I like a good f**k and a good joke. I'm in a long term monogamous relationship, and I do keep my girlfriend busy. I wrote my stories as kind of x-rated comedy entertainment with a little bit of social commentary on the side.
- Some might say my actual sex life is kinkier than my fic.
- It's not so much the sex in the relationship. It's the relationship itself. I think Xena and Gabby are the uttermost definition of 'true' love. By that I mean they argue, have sex, open themselves fully and would die for the other if need be. I've had people in my life that I've loved that way, although the feeling wasn't mutual. I think with Xena and Gabby it is mutual and that's why its so wonderful to write.
- The stories are about pushing the boundaries for me. I like using them as an exploration of character and meaning in relationships. I tend to write what "feels" right, following Tom of Finland's method of knowing if an erotic "telling" has met its goal. The fantasies arise from the subconscious, I think, because I don't really "guide," them. They just show up. It's more like X/G have affected my fantasies than I've affected their fictional experiences. (oh, by the way, I tend to relate to both Xena and Gabrielle. They both have "bits" that I can relate to, within a given story). And as for my sexual relations, that depends on how you define sex, doesn't it. On the one hand, I have an active sex life because I have a vivid imagination. On the other, I haven't been with a physical partner to consummation, but I've had sexual experiences. Then there is the whole realm of cyber sex, which I've had "plenty" of. So. .. you got me with those questions. As for gender. .both. Yep, pretty well both. :)
I am an attorney working for a civil rights organization in Nashville, Tennessee. I am the proud mother of a dog and two cats, and I enjoy playing guitar and stalking Billy Ray Cyrus.
Favorite episode: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Pull yourself together." Xena: "Pull my finger." THE FURIES (47/301)
First episode seen: DESTINY (36/212)