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Forbidden Elephants: Sex and the Single Winchester
So thereâ€™s an elephant in the room and itâ€™s been here for a long time. Letâ€™s discuss it. Letâ€™s go there: Sex and Supernatural. Now, before you turn away and call for brain bleach, I will tell you that the not-so-brotherly love between the Winchesters will be a small part of this tale. Itâ€™s there, but it exists alongside a range of other intriguing sexual issues at play on the Supernatural landscape. We have rape metaphors. We have sexual deviancy. We have religious ecstasy analogies. We have unrequited desire. We have erotica. We have porn. We have necrophilia. We have bestiality. We even have notions of object erotica and sexuality (hello, Dean and the Impala). So, yes, we have a plethora of kinks, but most importantly, we have the objectified male body.
(Close your eyes and remember â€œThe Third Manâ€ â€“ now look at me, or donâ€™t, because quite honestly my eyes are still closedâ€¦.hmmmm).
Now, to be honest, when I began watching last summer, I already knew about the â€œlovethat dare not speak its nameâ€ that seemed to hover around the edges of Supernatural. Anyone interested in fandom studies knows about it. â€œWincestâ€ is a hard term to break or ignore. Itâ€™s catchy and when the show itself acknowledges slash, you know you have a winner. Sam/Dean. Itâ€™s a clichÃ© by this point and I often find myself watching The Borgias or Game of Thrones and saying, â€œHuh, wonder if Supernatural started a weird sexual trend on television.â€ N.B â€“ If you havenâ€™t seen these shows (or read the books) just let that reference fly on over.
Anyway, back to last summer. I started watching Supernatural and became addicted, of course, as all viewers who really watch this show are obliged to do. I mean, hot guys, a muscle car, and existential angst. Itâ€™s like an intellectual orgasm made for the female scholar. And funny thing is, I started watching in medias res. My first Supernatural episode was the two-part â€œAll Hell Breaks Loose.â€ Yeah, you know what Iâ€™m talking about. Dean searching for the missing Sam. Dean anguished over the endangered Sam. Dean holding dead Sam. Dean crying over dead Sam. Dean selling his soul for dead Sam. Sam crying over the sold soul of Dean. By the end of the two hours, I was convinced that (1) Jensen Ackles is so much hotter when he cries than he was on Days of Our Lives and (2)â€¦.Ackles, flannel, beer, Impalaâ€¦..where was I? Oh, yeah, and (2) both Sam and Dean have some â€œattachmentâ€ issues.
Now, after having spent a lot of money on all the seasons of Supernatural and being armed with a DVR full of season 6, since you know, it doesnâ€™t come out for another few months and there might be episodes I want to watch multiple times (as if I havenâ€™t already), I feel confident enough to say: Supernatural may need sexual therapy. Sex, it seems, is an underlying issue for the show and it emerges in peculiar and interesting ways. Sometimes itâ€™s violent. Sometimes itâ€™s endearing. Sometimes itâ€™s offensive. And sometimes itâ€™s downright creepy. So letâ€™s take a short tour through the sexual wasteland of the Winchester tale and see what we findâ€¦.anyone interested? If so, let the journey begin.
And the lady doctor, her name is Cara. I have the scene of her and Sam on my iphone, and yes I feel wrong for having it there.
We are usually respectful and well, coherent in our discussions here. So, if this was meant to be critical, trying being a bit more constructive.
Most times I just want to enjoy my show without these people screaming their fanfiction fueled fantasies at me.
Bookdal, I enjoyed reading your article and thank you for the lovely pictures. I like your respect toward the real life married couple and choosing not to include their pictures. Well done.
Re about the saying "Sleeping with Sam Winchester can mean your death" --- My take: Boy, it's a great way to die!
BINGO! I've just recently stumbled on this site and I'm a huge fan already. This article sealed it. Fantastic job! Can't wait for Part Deux.
ItÂ´s hard to concentrade right now.
"The best part of waking up...."
And yes, Soulless Sam's sexual appetite is a rather fascinating thing. I tried to find a way to put it into my own piece, but it just didn't seem to fit. I'm glad you're going there. Take away Sam's reserved exterior and look what comes out to play.
I've made my peace with the Wincesty and Destiel sides of fandom. I figure if I don't want to see it, I just don't look at it. I do look forward to how you address it, actually. The fact that all the main characters for the most part are male has a lot to do with the slash elements, but hey, what can you do.
Glad that you made your peace with that side of the fandom. Me on the other hand will continue to make bitch faces about it. Honestly I hope it doesn't get mentioned in future articles because it seems there are already enough stuff written about it and continue to feed what I feel is a small but obnoxiously loud group of people.
Thanks for all of your comments and I agree, Sam does not want Dean to know about this side of his nature, which I will explore later in the other parts, especially when it comes to Dean's sexuality and the show's portrayal of such.
I will be doing a section on Wincest, because I think I'd like to address that issue, but interestingly enough, I am actually of the opinion that the show opened a can of worms with it and has tried to put the genie back in the bottle. And to a degree, it has. In fact, I think Wincest, for all of its cultural cache in fandom, is pretty much dead on the show and that Castiel/Dean is a direct (and inorganic) consequence of that death....But I promise to put a big warning on the section that goes over Wincest and Cas/Dean because I know that you are not alone in feeling that it's a frustrating part of the viewing experience.
Again, thanks for your observations.
As for the Wincest and slash elements, I've checked it out in sheer curiosity here and there. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I most certainly can't stop them from doing it, either. It's just one of those shrug your shoulders and just don't pay it any mind type things. I might not agree with it, but I understand the pull, too. It's taboo and forbidden, an indulgence that is out of bounds. I don't think it's as prevalent within fandom as those who adhere to it would like us to think. The type of slash fans that kill me are the ones that take it that single step further and make it about the actual actors. Like excuse me? Those are REAL people. It's one thing to dabble with fictional characters, another to twist a real life person's life into something that is not in any way realistic or appropriate.
Now, the RPS/RPF stuff, well I think that is a gigantic step too far, and actually, I think that it was that step too far that contributed to the death of wincest...again , something I'll allude to briefly later. I have thoughts about this that I've included in a paper I'm proposing for a conference. I won't go over it here, of course, but I do think there is a real sketchy line there....
Thank you for the comments, Far Away!
I think you're right, though, that it is part of the idealized romantic relationship often peddled to what people feel is the average woman. To me, Sam and Dean love each other very very much, and while it might be on the unhealthy side in many ways, it is a powerful love that attracts. I don't see them as being romantic or sexual with one another. I've read a handful of slash fics myself that are extremely well written---and actually provide a plausibility for whichever slash pairing they were writing for. To me, any story can be good if handled right.
As for the crossing the line by writing stories or having RPGs centered on the actors themselves, that makes me all sorts of uncomfortable. It's funny to see a meta episode like the French Mistake where they dance that fine line, but yet they were smart to couch that with Sam and Dean still Sam and Dean, just being mistaken by everyone in the alternate universe as Jared and Jensen. Those that try to write them as "characters" and twist them into their strange fantasy on the other hand just disturbs me.
The interesting thing is this is not my first fandom---nor is it my first encounter with an incestuous relationship within fandom. It seems that there's a subset of people who will explore that element and play in the darker side of taboo. I think there's reasoning for it, considering how we are often repressed sexually in society in one form or another.
Not my first fandom either that had shades of incest, although it is the first one to have it as a very controversial and taboo subject within fandom. The polarization is fascinating, and of course, the fact that the show has often been identified with tag. I think of Russell T. Davies here.
That's the elephant in the room, to an extent. I think Levi-Strauss, if he were alive, would be interested in online fan communities.
Perhaps this is the internet effect on things.
I don't like non-canon slash pairings at all. They don't do a thing for me.
I don't really 'get' slash, I guess. Maybe you're right and its romantisizing the relationship just like the folks that insert Mary Sues or ship other characters Dean/Jo or whatever are doing to add a sexual/romatic aspect to the story that Supernatural, overtly at least, does not have. (and hopefully never will -- 'One Tree Hill with Monsters' a fate worse than 40 years in hell! ;))
By the way, to answer the legality question - all fan fiction, including videos, art, texts - has been traditionally protected by the legal right of parody. Disclaimers in the headings of fan fiction, that disavow the author's possibility of profit and that state that the work is not a work based on fact, protects fan fiction writers from libel suits, much like Law and Order's disclaimer at the beginning of their episodes. And while I agree with you about RPS, I resist any law that limits fan production - it's a slippery slope, to me. (Interestingly enough, Elijah Wood actually said he didn't care about RPS and let me tell you, the LOTR fandom? That's a whole other story. He might not care, but I cringe.)
By the way, a note for the sake of full disclosure - my dissertation is on plagiarism, so fan production will be one of my chapters.
Agree with you regarding the other genre, don't get it and I hope I never get it.
To me it doesn't seem right.
I agree about the rights of these fans to GO there. I have every right to ignore it. It squicks me out to no end, but I can't stop them and since I can't stop them why get all worked up about it? I figure with fandom as with anything you have to pick and choose your corner of it carefully.
Until just recently, I lived on what I call the fringes of fandom in SPN. I had a rough time in a previous fandom as back biting and flame throwing took precedent over any intelligent discussion, so I tend to stay on that fringe edge in all of my fandoms to avoid ending up in the same boat and having them ruining the canon that I'm following at that time.
I think it's fairly obvious to say that the WFB is nothing like that and while we disagree, we always disagree in a friendly manner and all views are explicitly welcome. It's refreshing to know we can discuss not only the show itself BUT the fandom here so openly.
We saw Souless Sam do what we've only heard about Dean doing -- the waitress with the weird rash anyone?
Dean himself, in Unforgiven said 'Even he was impressed' with the notches Souless Sam was racking up on his belt. Is promiscuity being deviant? If so, then both Dean and Souless Sam have been guilty. But actually, I don't think I would catagorize it as such and I don't think the show intends to either. (It is the CW afterall - I think the entire premise of the Vampire Diaries is more deviant than anything the Winchesters have done.)
I don't think they've shown Sam to be out of control and while he's forceful, he's not forcing anyone. Show even made a point of Ruby having a'walk-in' body with no consciousness to be taken against her will. And the hooker in the third man makes a point of saying what a good time she had - which meant to me that whatever Sam's proclivities were/are it wasn't too kiinky or the hooker wouldn't have given him her private number and a good time was had by all.
I also think its important to note that Sam slept with Madison only after he thought that she had been cured of being a werewolf, so I wouldn't say he had any particular conscious attraction to her because she was a 'monster'(there may have been some pheromones going on there of course ;))
And in Sex & Violence, it was Dean, not Sam who was involved with the Siren. Sam did not think Dr. Cara was the Siren. He was quite sure of it - he wasn't attracted to a 'monster.'
So apart from the self loathing nature of the relationship with Ruby a demon his sworn enemy, -- I'm not getting that Sam is 'deviant' I'm getting that he's passionate and physical.
To my mind, though, I think it's very important to note that we see more of Sam's sexual nature than we do of Dean's. Dean we know almost entirely as hearsay or as innuendo.
He's actually the perfect geek - smart and sexy.
I love intellectual men. For some reason I find them terribly sexy. And then, who knows what's going on beneath those placid waters? And surely, Soulless Sam is Sammy without restraints.
Now, concerning more physical attributes, Sam could also be described as a Greek God.
I am curious, you counted the dream scene with Bela as one of Sam's on screen sex scenes, why did you not include Dean's dream in TTM. It was with Lisa and reasonably long and it even fits with his pattern of gentle and sweet as a lover? Was it because they kept them under sheets for most of the scene? I understand your leaving out the short scene with the twins in Mag 7, it wasn't really a full out sex scene, just a way of showing how Dean was reacting to his impending doom.
I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.
Okay, perv moment aside, it's a very interesting article, and I like it a lot. It's about time somebody addressed the elephant in the room. And as someone who supports homosexuality but doesn't ship slash, I love looking at both sides. (I really can't wait to read about Wincest- I'm not a big fan, but it's like a car wreck, I'm still fascinated by it)
I can only plead with our beloved writers who do not deprive us of that amazing body of Jared. please!!
I wonder if you consider both brothers to be the mirror image of each other in terms of repression (or the face they choose to show), and sex to be a manifestation of this? Sam outwardly quiet and sweet, inwardly confident and demanding, and Dean outwardly confident and demanding, inwardly quiet and sweet.
And if so, what purpose does this reflection of one another serve, in terms of the story, or traditional archetypes or your thesis about the philosophy of the Winchester world?
Looking forward to the rest of your series :)
I do wonder if Jessicas death bought this more aggressive side of Sam to the fore. It is rather difficult to equate that side of Sam with the sweet, earnest, almost reverent way he treated Jessica in the Pilot, What Is and What Should Never Be and, to a lesser (slightly more disturbing) extent, Free To Be You and Me. Maybe the huge emotional upheaval of Jessicas death bought about a much more Wham Bam Thank You Maâ€™am side of Sam because he didnâ€™t want to be reminded of how he was with Jessica.
Maybe this rather rough sex is a detachment process for him, as with Soulless Sam, less about the emotional and more about the physical. Soulless Sam was all about the physical release, as was Sam when he was with Ruby. Itâ€™s possible that with Madison, it was still too soon for Sam to get emotionally attached again hence the rough and ready Sam.
I do wonder about Sam being drawn to the supernaturals. I originally thought that like is drawn to like ie because Sam believed he was part-demon (in the sack, guffaw!!), monsters were drawn to him. However, I donâ€™t think that is the case anymore. Discounting Ruby (and Sam was in a serious self-flagellati on mode at that stage, probably felt far from human, and didnâ€™t consider himself safe to be around other people), youâ€™re really only left with Madison and letâ€™s face it, she had more humanity in her than many of the humans weâ€™ve met on Supernatural. Plus, had Dean not lost the rock, paper, scissors, heâ€™d have made a serious play for Madison so... (I wonder would she have cut him down??)
It was touched on earlier and I definitely agree, that Sam is a fiercely private person and does not like to show that side of himself to anyone, even Dean. Perhaps itâ€™s embarrassment (though I donâ€™t know why, these guys have lived in each otherâ€™s pockets for years now and Dean certainly isnâ€™t shy about his exploits), so it is interesting that Sam is so determined to keep this side, quintessentiall y human, side of himself under lock and key.
With regards to Dean. I think heâ€™s gotten down and dirty a good few times in the past, it just hasnâ€™t been shown on screen. We saw how Sam wanted to bleach his eyeballs when he looked in on Dean and the twins (I think. What freaking episode is that?? Dean gave the thumbs up sign to Sam, who was sitting in the car, before closing the curtains... Bad Tim, not knowing your SPN) and it was also alluded to again in 3.2, when both Dean and Lisa mentioned the weekend of wild shenanigans. Add to that the many references thrown in about watching porn, one night stands etc etc and I find it hard to believe the middle Mr. Winchester hasnâ€™t got down and dirty in a more exuberant way.
I feel that the show has chosen to show the brothers respective state of minds via the nature of the extra-curricula r activities they partake in. Dean was emotionally invested in both Cassie and Lisa and also (given that she knew a hell of a lot about Dean and understood him better than practically anyone else at that stage, Sam included), Anna. (Besides, you canâ€™t get all kinky sex with an angel, ffs. Youâ€™d have to say about 4,000 Hail Maryâ€™s before youâ€™d even be let out of the confession box!)
I think with these women Dean needed the grounding effect, the reminder that he wasnâ€™t a ghost, that people do remember him and want him, for him. Sam was the opposite. He was only ever emotionally invested in Jessica, and that relationship took place off-screen and was now dead. Sam needed to be transient, to be a fleeting presence, because thatâ€™s how he felt.
That being said, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™d be adverse to seeing Dean get down and dirty ala Sam, any more than Iâ€™d like to see some sweet Sammy loving for once.
Spending Monday thinking about Winchester sex..... ah, let every day be Monday! Thanks Bookdal.
I agree, I do think Dean can be naughty - I think the interesting thing, to me at least, is the way the show portrays Dean, when he is in a sexual situation. The portrayal is counter to the persona, so that intrigues me.
I like the idea that Sam is drawn to the "monsters" because he sees himself in them, as well as juxtaposing that with Dean's need to be "seen" as opposed to Sam's need to "disappear" into these encounters. I think that's an incredibly valid point. Sam kind of invested the whole future in Jess and when she was gone, he just let it go for the most part. In the early seasons he thought about going back (in Salvation and the confrontation with Dean), but look at the conversation in "Swap Meat" and Sam says he basically doesn't imagine that life anymore, so it's not really surprising that sex moves from emotional connection to physical release, whereas Dean is on the opposite track, moving from physical release to emotional attachment.
Thanks for making me ponder this, Tim.
The other aspect of Sam with the Dr in Sex & Violence was the 'c-blocking' as Dean put it and the theme throughout S4 of Sam besting Dean.
I'm going to guess you deal with the whole dominance thing in a future section?
Its an interesting thing about Souless Sam that he doesn't chaff against Dean being the Alpha as Sammy did -- both are headstrong and do what they want regardless, but SS just does it without the angst and/or anger.
However I don't feel that the brothers have an un-healthy bond. It can seem that way by standards set by civilians and non-hunters. I just don't think that we can apply those standards to the kind of life that these two characters have lived. While it's an unusual upbringing, it had far more advantages than disadvantages.
Raised under very isolating conditions, the brothers were the only company the other had. As they got older and began to participate in hunting themselves, they developed an extremely tight bond where they had to be able to know exactly what the other was doing in order to keep themselves alive and safe.
For Sam and Dean this kind of closeness is their version of "normal". What was abnormal was the extended estrangement from s4 and s5.
I have never thought they had an unhealthy attachment to each other. Dean loves Sam like a son, which can mess up the dynamic at times. I think the devastation Dean felt when Sam died was much like how a parent feels when their child dies. Sam also has a great love for his brother.
Keep 'em coming!
If there was an 'exalt' button on this site, I would have hit it in all of your answers--esp. the part about fan fiction work of all kinds having the right to exist...Now, I'm drooling in anticipation of all your other issues, incl. your proposed conference paper. (Hope you'll share it, even if it's in another site.)
Now my theory is that some fans put Sam and Dean together together and throw themself in between.
Just my theory.
But you are right some of this stuff is just sick.