5 min read

Teenage Smut

The books you loved as a teenager shape you forever... (nsfw)
Teenage Smut

Hello, grownups!

Have you spent hundreds of hours speculating on the sex lives of various Tolkien characters? I’m afraid to say that I have. This is because two momentous events happened to occur to me at the same time: my first reading of Lord of the Rings, and puberty.

I can tell you that Gimli would surprise you with his tenderness, his axe-calloused hands brushing gently up the skin on your hips. Denethor has an entire dungeon of collars and shock-wands. It takes an Ent four days to remove your clothes. Gollum is clammy-cold in an interesting way. Elves are romantic but asexual. Aragorn will insist on gazing into your eyes as he makes love to you.

Tom Bombadil, now, that guy fucks. But like, everything. He’s friends with an animate willow tree and married to a river, and you know he’s wandering through the Old Forest sticking bits of himself into every earthy hole he can find. I confess - I particularly spent a lot of time thinking about Tom Bombadil as a teenager, and that idea, of fucking a fecund fertile forest, is still a fantasy that causes a particular friction in me.

I dub this Sam’s Law of Teenage Smut: any book you happen to be obsessed with between the ages of twelve and fourteen will become fuel for countless frenzied hours of randy daydreaming, and thereby shape your sexual preferences forever. That’s just the way it goes. Sorry, anyone who happened to be really into Redwall.

The cover of the book Redwall by Brian Jacques, featuring a mouse.

My childhood best friend was an earnestly Christian teenager who was nonetheless as full of teenage hormones as the rest of us. She’d dutifully read the Bible every night in bed. Problem was, a lot of the Bible is also pretty boring, all so-and-so son of so-and-so, so her hand would find itself wandering down to her crotch, and before she knew it she’d developed a nightly masturbating-to-the-Bible ritual. Talk of damnation still has an unexpected Pavlovian effect on her today.

Around the same time I was spending far too many nights thinking about Tom Bombadil’s libidinous activities involving trees, my family got our first dial-up modem. The best thing about the Internet was that it led to the discovery that other human beings are horny too, which was a thrilling fact to learn if you were thirteen and living in verkrampte Pretoria and had been starting to worry you were a freak. In the early-2000s, the place that all horny teenage nerds gathered were the fanfiction boards, particularly, the ones dedicated to writing stories about all the different characters in Harry Potter fucking each other.

Back then, we called these stories “slashfic”, because they were organised by the participants involved. There was your more mainstream Harry/Hermione, Harry/Malfoy and Harry/Ron/Hermione, but you could find any combination if you searched long enough, down to a Professor Sprout/Hagrid/Mrs Weasley gangbang, probably. And if you couldn’t find what you were after, you could write it. Many writers of contemporary young adult fiction I’ve met admit that they honed their writing chops on slashfic. I was most proud of a Hermione/Hermione story, where she used her time turner to spend some quality time with herself. How this is not an idea that made it into Prisoner of Azkaban is beyond me. If you’re telling me that a fifteen-year-old with a time turner wouldn’t immediately use it to discover new ways to masturbate, you’ve never met a fifteen-year-old.

God bless teenagers and their erotic genius. No creature on earth is more creative than a horny teen with limited material to work with. They can see the masturbatory potential in ordinary household objects, and they can make smut out of the most wholesome fiction.

The real magic of fanfic boards is how they allowed kids who had never been represented in fiction before to write themselves into the stories they loved. If you wanted Hogwarts in India with queer kids in wheelchairs, you could write it. Beyond the raunchiness, this has always been the true radical promise of fanfiction: it allows readers to own the stories they love.

When we talk about loving books, we usually have a more cerebral idea in mind. But most people who come to love books do so - at some point - through a decidedly carnal lens. I bet you’ve thought about a literary character while masturbating. I bet I’m not the only person on earth who’s ever wished for a Tom Bombadildo.

Wishing you fun times with your favourite literary figure,

Sam


Thanks to Melanie, Andile and Velaphi for the chat that inspired this piece, Bo Burnham for reminding me how much the early 2000s internet was "all the different characters in Harry Potter fucking each other", and Murray for coining the phrase "Tom Bombadildo".


Digby hanging out on the world's most adorable quilt that my mum crocheted for me

Updates from Sam-Land

Cambridge in the autumn is a delight, all crunchy leaves and carved pumpkins and academics walking around in cosy knitwear. It's been good being back home with my cat and getting stuck back into work. I've started writing a new novel (eeeeee!) so I'll be spending a lot of time this winter having conversations with my imaginary friends, which is my absolute favourite way to spend my time.

Some things I've been loving recently:

  • I flippen DEVOURED The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix this week. If you love 80s horror films, gutsy well-written characters, and wild pacing, this is the book for you! It's the perfect Halloween read.
  • Look, everyone's talking about Sally Rooney's Beautiful World, Where Are You so you don't need me to talk about it too, so let me just say that it's worthy of all the hype.
  • Before the 1970s, people who studied baboons described them as being only a violent, aggressive species with male-dominated hierarchies. Shirley Strum was one of the first women primatologists to spend time closely observing baboons in Kenya, and helped to develop our understanding of their social behaviour, which we now know is much more complex, and friendship-based, than people used to think. Strum wrote up her findings in a lovely book called Almost Human: A Journey into the World of Baboons. It's as interesting to read about the experiences of being a woman scientist in the early 1970s as it is to read about the baboons.
  • Lastly, I have been loving this sweet little poem "Small Kindnesses" by Danusha Laméris.