Special Issue: Love, Sex and Fandom

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Words by Abeer Khan

I

wish I could pin-point when I started reading fanfiction. For as long as I can remember, it’s been a part of my life. In Grade 8, I would sneakily read the latest saga of a 30-chapter Larry Stylinson fanfiction on my iPad mini under my desk. When I started university, friendless and questioning whether I even belonged in my program, I read BTS fanfics to remind myself of what friendship, comradery and happiness felt like.

Fanfiction has been a crutch in my life that has consistently propped me up when I felt alone. In my Muslim household, love and sex were often taboo and restricted topics; in fact, they still are. Growing up insecure about my body, the only place I felt truly loved and secure was when I read my favourite romance tropes on Archive of Our Own.

Everything I know about love and sex has been through what others have written in fanfiction. I’ve never had a significant other or even tried to pursue anyone romantically, but by reading characters in alternate universes fall in love, I felt like I never really missed out. Fanfiction allowed me to experience romance in a risk-free environment on my own terms, where I knew I wouldn’t get in trouble or be heartbroken. Vicariously, I lived through the people I adored through words written by fans similar to myself.

And with fanfiction comes being a part of fandom, something I’ve known since I was 10 years old. I’m a proud Directioner, Potterhead and a part of BTS’ Army. Fandom has given me so much: new friends, new music tastes, new creative hobbies and, most importantly, new experiences. I can’t think of anything that’s influenced me more than fandom has; it’s a part of my identity I will never forget or lose.

As a teenager, when I used to talk about my love for One Direction, and even now at 21 when I gush about BTS, I never fail to notice eye-rolls and the quick jumps of judgement from people ready to delegitimize my love for my favourite artists and idols, calling me childish and cringey.

But that’s far from the truth. Being a part of a fandom is beautiful. It has granted me the privilege of meeting wonderful people and finding community. And most importantly, it has allowed me to feel loved—something I’ve never felt as intensely in real life. Up until this past year, I never thought there were other people like me, who also threw themselves into fandom and owed many of their most life-affirming and fulfilling experiences to fanfiction.

This issue is an ode to every fan who, like me, has experienced love, sex and friendship through fiction. I hope you read this issue and realize that just because you’ve experienced love and sex differently than others—through a screen or on pages in a book—doesn’t mean your experiences are any less real or valid. In fact, I’d argue you’ve had some of the richest experiences love and sex have to offer.

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