"Smut, Please"! The Fabulous Online Universe of 'Twilight' Fan Fiction, in Which Edward and Bella Get It On and On and On

R PATSThe exhibition hall in downtown San Diego was divided by sex. By dawn on the second day of Comic Con-this was back in late July-the men figured out they were beat. Hundreds of young girls had spent the night camped out on the sidewalk and so they packed the first 50 rows of the 6000-seat convention room. The unmoving estrogen division-girls in plastic fangs, clingy tops and body glitter-sat patiently through the morning’s promotional panels for disaster movies and action hero sagas. But the girls began to screech and jostle as their obsession approached: Twilight.

When the star of the young adult Twilight movie franchise, Robert Pattinson, finally took the stage, he was greeted by a swell of withering sighs.

When that panel’s frenzy eventually climaxed and petered out, a smaller squadron of females emerged from the bubbling mass. Together, they rode the escalator to the second floor so that they could have their own conversation about the Twilight world’s attendant online fan fiction. I went up the escalator expecting to sit in another room filled with gasping girlies. I was completely wrong.


* * *

We were given a rose-colored program with panelists’ names and bios at the door. They all went by their online handles: Angstgoddess003, Hopey, Lolashoes, Psymom. The forces behind Twilight fan fiction are women over thirty. Many of them are mothers.

Dressed in tidy, modest clothing, these women were spending this late July weekend away from their jobs as store clerks, hospital administrators, scientists and homemakers to meet and mingle with a group of strangers who, like them, were all enthusiastic consumers and purveyors of smut.

Smut is their playful nickname, given to X-rated fan-authored fiction pieces (Twilight fan fictions are called Twi-Fic or fandoms). The biggest Twi-Fic fan site is called Twilighted. It’s a 60,000-member online community that, they said at the panel, gets three million unique hits a month. It was founded in March, 2008. The site, according to its tag line, is dedicated to ‘All-Inclusive, High-Quality Fan Fiction.’

The top titles of the website have included: The List (a 78,890 word novelization of all the places the teenage couple of the series will have sex after they marry), The Office (an X-rated hybrid version of the NBC show, wherein Dunder Mifflin is staffed by vampires). There is a nine-part series named Edward and Bella’s Sex Anthology. Here’s a passage from The Office:

“Very, very bad move,” he seethed through his teeth. Placing his hands on my shoulders, he looked into my eyes and slid the fabric to the floor. His hands took mine, turning me around, bringing them up and pressing my palms against the wall…. His touch left a spark of electricity all the way down my back, over every inch of skin he touched. I felt his hands grab my ass and squeeze, his breath hot and heaving in my ear. “Very naughty girl.”


I yelped out in surprise as I felt his hand come hard against my ass, and my only response was a moan of pleasure. What the fuck was he doing to me? I would never do these things. Yet here I was, panting heavily at his rough touch. I breathed in another sharp gasp as his hands clasped the scant material on my ass and yet again, ripped it off.

These women edit stories, write reviews, judge writing contests, host podcasts, and have five conventions planned in the course of a year. The stories range from traditional romance plots (a cabin, a fireplace, a hot tub, general yearning) to ecstasy-fueled threesomes in college dorm rooms. Sites like Twilighted have filled a space on the internet that no publishing house ever could. They dodge copyright laws and taboos about teen sex. Also they do it for free.

And the leaders of Twilighted are trying to thread an extremely narrow needle. Nobody wants to get rid of the smut, because that’s where the audience is. But no one really wants to talk about the smut either.


* * *

Twilight is not about vampires; it’s a love story, a bodice ripper for tweens about the forbidden love between a killer and a shy girl. At the center is Edward, a 108-year old vampire housed in the exquisite body of a teenager. Though he harbors some Victorian notions about chastity and women, he also embodies the timeless qualities of a romantic lead: he is protective, mysterious and lusty.

Bella, a human in high school, has some quirks-she’s klutzy and sarcastic-but really she acts as an unthreatening stand-in for the reader’s affair with Edward. Most of the fan fictions on Twilighted are devoted to the sex life of Bella and Edward. (Sex between Rob and Kristen runs into legal trouble.) Many follow a general pattern: a slow build to the couple’s first-usually forbidden-sexual encounter, a Bella masturbatory session, some explosive sex scenes, reflections about the nature of love and then more rapacious sex scenes.

Twilighted grabs hold of the Stephenie Meyer franchise and turns it inside out: sex, the rough and forbidden sort, which is the novel’s subtext or denied desire, becomes the main focus of the writing. The fact that the characters involved are vampires is just a useful device.


* * *

Psymom, the founder and chief administrator of Twilighted, sat at the center of the panel. She’s a plump red-head in her late 30s with a cropped Kate Gosselin cut and a candy-coated voice. The seven other authors on the panel show her deference, and the audience praises her with hoots.

Psymom and friendsDuring the TwiFic panel, Psymom skirted the sexual nature of the site. It’s unclear if this is intentional dodging or just shyness-it would be reasonable to assume that someone who has made her fame in an anonymous online community dedicated to erotica could wilt before a crowd. In her introduction, Psymom plugged new aspects of the website that “have nothing to do with Twilight,” such as published romance authors hosting workshops on writing, as well as non-Twilight-related fiction contests. But the crowd seemed uninterested in Twilighted’s new ventures. The questions and the conversation stick to one topic: how can readers transcribe their own Twilight fantasies into compelling fiction?

Over a speaker phone, a voice asked Psymom, “Do you have any regrets or lessons learned by conceiving Twilighted?”

“I have no regrets, it has been the most amazing-” her voice cracked and she put the pads of her fingertips below her eyes, so her makeup wouldn’t smudge. An audience member yelled out, “We love you, Psymom.”

Shortly after the panel, I contacted Psymom to see if she’d be willing to discuss her website and the Twi-Fic world. She was delighted. I also contacted eight other popular Twilighted authors and administrators. All were happy to talk. In the course of one week and three emails, however, all were instructed not to go on record with me and a “message” was passed on from an attorney. “With participation at this level, including that you may want to use direct quotes, Twilighted would need final approval before publication to the extent it involves any input from our perspective,” Psymom wrote in an email.

Two authors contacted me and said they’d be willing to be interviewed anonymously. And one actually agreed to talk.


* * *

“I’m a pervert,” Becca Shear told me.

Becca is one of the top-ten most-read writers on Twilighted. Her series ‘Smut, Please’ remains of the ‘most favorited’ series on the site.

“I cuss like a sailor, I like the kinkier stuff,” she said.

Becca is a 25-year-old nursing student who divides her days between school and working in the medical records office at a hospital in Phoenix. Becca has been a fan fiction writer for close to four years.

“I used to write about magic,” she said. She got her start writing PG-13 fan fiction about Harry Potter. “It was tedious,” she said, “because I had to come up with new spells all the time. ”

We speculated about the fuzzy line between porn and erotica, and what exactly drives thousands of women to write and read Twilight smut. Becca believes it has to do with details.

“Smut, to me, is like the girl version of porn,” Becca said. “Like, I’m a girl! I want details. I want a backstory! Watching two people have sex devoid of context gets kinda boring pretty quickly.”

Becca is not prudish about old-fashioned video porn; she likes it. But she finds herself more titillated by serialized sex. “I like the tease!” Becca said. “I want to be seduced. Tell me about what you want to do me. That’s so much more exciting.”

Becca has created her own raunchy narrative using the characters and concepts from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series but she has little loyalty to the Meyers canon. In ‘canon’ Twi-Fic, the characters follow the same romantic lines as they do in the book: heterosexual, single partner, couples like Edward and Bella. All of Becca’s stories have the tag “AU,” for alternate universe. In Becca’s universe, partners swap, get a little queer and have sex in Manhattan publishing houses and elite college classrooms.

There is a splinter faction of Twilighted members who disapprove of AU. Some have taken to trolling the message boards and comment sections and castigating authors of Alternate Universe smut for defiling the series.

What remains a constant theme from ‘the canon’ to AU fan-fic is the element of restraint. In the Meyers series, Edward refuses to have sex with Bella because the taste of her naked skin would arouse his homicidal vampiric instincts. So when things get hot and heavy between the young duo, Edward will break away. This creates a (really quite steamy) cat and mouse game that unwinds over four books.

In several fictions, Edward is recast as Bella’s unimpressed professor or her undermining but ravishing co-worker or-my personal favorite-her dreamy doctor. In a story Becca co-authored, A Tale of Two Edwards, Bella gets caught in sex triangle between the Cullen twins (this is a Becca’s own twist on the story; there is only one Edward Cullen in the original Twilight). One twin is cold and irresistible. The other is sentimental and chaste. Bella cannot have both-but oh how she wants to! This scene takes place in a wine cellar:

Opening my eyes, I found Cullen watching me, his face fixed on mine, watching me writhe beneath his touch. It was torture. The look in his eyes-lust, want, need-was all there, and it was almost enough to make me uncoil. Not wanting to waste the moment, I grabbed his face within my hands and said three little words. I knew it was all wrong, but all right all at the same time.


“Fuck me, Edward.”


Cullen stared at me incredulously as the words tumbled out of my mouth. However, his shocked expression was soon replaced with a look of pure desire and need.

This “fuck me” meme is common in fan-fic. At some point Bella insists that Edward break through whatever professional, ethical and/or supernatural barrier prevents their lovemaking. I asked Becca if she thinks the older readers and writers of Twilighted are scandalized by it.

“No,” Becca said. “It’s the teenagers. They ruin it. Younger readers want you to stick the story. The moms and older set of Twilighted are more sexually adventurous.”

The moms, said Becca, enjoy the sexual spontaneity of her fiction because they’ve “seen it all before.” But Becca has shied away from becoming too involved in the website because the older ladies tend to act “cliquish” and also tend to take smut “way too seriously.”


* * *

Psymom says she works as a research psychologist. Her skittishness regarding being written about is not surprising-it’s not uncommon for people who run Internet communities to have a healthy and well-earned fear of outside attention.

But Twilighted is one these amazing user-driven corners of the Internet where the porn is literary and operated for and by women. This is rare; it deserves attention. And as the fandom swells in size and the possibility of monetizing this massive community becomes more likely, it’s also possible that those sitting on top may be getting even more squeamish.

The day before our scheduled interview, I received an email from Psymom. She wrote, in part: “When reviewing the interview questions you sent to my staff and me, and seeing that the focus of those questions appears to be directed solely to sexually explicit fanfiction stories, I am troubled.”

She also wrote: “I spent some time researching some of your work. Unfortunately, that raised some concerns on my part. Many of your articles seem to be focused on opinion-based commentary designed to tantalize your readers by denigrating the subject of the article.”

Psymom did agree to answer questions about her website by email. Her answers included:

Q. What crosses the line from ‘smut’ to ‘pornography’?
A. As with art, it is in the eye of the beholder.

Q. Do you feel like your work is subversive (i.e. sexualizing a teenage romance?) Given the fact that Stephenie Meyer is Mormon and one of the main themes of the book is chastity.
A. The overall theme of the books is love-it is a love story about a couple that falls in love, gets married, and has a child despite the adversities they must face.

Q. How do writers and readers react to gay story lines?
A. People read and write what interests them.

Throughout our correspondence, Psymom insisted that I just didn’t get it. She explained that Twilight fan fiction was a huge genre and that what she called “adult” pieces only make up a minority of the fanfiction content. She said that there is nothing naughty or subversive in fantasizing about a married couple (Bella and Edward get hitched in the fourth book).

There are only two stories on Twilighted with “Psymom” as the author. (Her piece “Stranger than Fiction” was taken down “for legal reasons,” she has explained on the site.) One of these two remaining pieces is about Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, just after they are cast in Twilight.

In the story, Rob calls Kristen the day before they shoot their first scene, in which the director will have them kiss. She is staying at the Four Seasons in L.A., and he comes by and picks her up in a silver Volvo, just like the character in the books. In the car, they listen to Debussy. They find an Italian place in Long Beach. “‘Be with you in a moment…’ said a very flamboyant guy with a nametag that said ‘Marcus.’ He was flipping through a copy of the National Enquirer and didn’t seem eager to be interrupted.” Then the waiter is overcome with his fandom for Pattinson.

Over dinner, the two actors plan to make out in the car-but decide to save their burning passion for the screen. “Method acting, remember?” Rob says to Kristen.

Her other story is about the characters Edward and Bella. “In honor of your birthday, Rob, I have written some ‘Human Edward/Bella’ smut…yeah, that’s what we’ll call it…” she wrote in the introduction. It contains this sentence: “As I slid my hand back down his shaft, I lowered to my knees and let my tongue make the next ascent.”

The reviews were good-terrific, in fact.

“I had to take a cold shower after reading this, it was soo good!” wrote Kayleigh, signing her review “xx.”

“I was undone from the first line–just imagining that ass!” wrote Laura Cullen. “Kudos!”