I Learned Everything I Know About Sex From Reading X-Files Fan Fiction in High School

Fan fiction let me safely explore my sexuality — while learning a great deal about my own personal preferences, too.
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Emily Ansara Baines
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Fan fiction let me safely explore my sexuality — while learning a great deal about my own personal preferences, too.
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Like most teenagers, I was as sexually curious as I was bored. And, like most teenagers, I didn’t know what to do with that curiosity.

Then I discovered The X-Files.

In the summer of 1998, I was 13, lonely, and weird. I had just one friend — and Elisabeth couldn’t shut up about X-Files and its first movie premiering in a few weeks. I’d let her blather on the phone, repeating old story lines about Mulder and Scully, and nod desperately because I was happy to have a friend. Whole conversations would pass without me really understanding — or caring — what we were talking about. I was just excited to have someone talking to me at all.

That is, until I saw a commercial for the X-Files film Fight the Future featuring the incredibly sexy David Duchovny. Suddenly, I cared a whole lot about what Elisabeth had to say. Any show featuring that gorgeous man was of intense interest. 

Within a week, I knew all about Duchovny’s personal life (and held a healthy hatred for his wife at the time, Téa Leoni) and, of way more interest to me, the Mulder-Scully romance. I’d spend hours discussing the likelihood of their love with anyone who would listen. 

My parents, happy I wasn’t into drugs or hardcore rap, humored me. They didn’t even mind when I would shriek for them to be quiet as I gorged on X-Files reruns (this was before DVR, much less Netflix) and read books written by fans that would keep me up-to-date on the show’s mythology. Still, I couldn’t get enough. Thank goodness for the burgeoning Internet.

My fandom meant I was immediately less lonely. I’d spend hours on the web, admiring and printing photos of David Duchovny, arranging them in binders while making friends in X-Files-related chat rooms. 

Granted, everyone in these chats assumed I was 30 instead of 13. I didn’t try to correct them. I was more than aware that my fascination with Duchovny was less than age-appropriate. My mother, in fact, also found him attractive. It was unnerving to have that in common with her. 

Still, I was “in love.” I joined the fan group ODD, short for Obsessors of David Duchovny, and made friends with the two moderators, Jen and Cassie. These girls introduced me to fan fiction. I will be forever be thankful to them.

Now, I’ll be honest: I didn’t really get how sex worked. Sure, I knew the basic mechanics, but it all sounded icky and kind of gross. Why would you want to do any of that with a guy?

“Have you read MD1016’s latest?” Jen asked me one day when we were all online. “Sexy stuff.”

I admitted that I’d never read fan fiction.

“Oh, then you have to start with Anne Haynes!” Cassie chimed in, her font its usual fluorescent green with black highlight. “Tons of Mulder/Scully angst, UST (unresolved sexual tension), the whole shebang.”

“Dasha K all the way,” Jen countered.

I felt dirty even discussing the possibility of reading fan fiction. Even at 13, I considered myself a bibliophile and an intellectual. When I wanted romance, I read Jane Austen. But I also wanted more Mulder and Scully romance, or MSR. I was sick of waiting for them to kiss on the television show. 

Maybe just a taste, I told myself as I went to a link Cassie helpfully provided. So I dipped my toes in . . . and then cannonballed. I was hooked.

Now, I didn’t begin with the smut. Like movies, fan fiction has ratings. I began innocently enough, with PG and PG-13 rated stories, steering clear of the more intimidating R and NC-17. But the problem was, the good X-Files fan fiction stories, the ones that won the Spooky Awards and got discussed on the chat forums, they tended to be more . . . risqué. So I had no choice but to read them!

Or so I told myself.

The truth is, I was sick of every story ending in a chaste kiss. I had an active imagination and I wanted more. I was horny, sexually curious, and fan fiction scratched an itch I was not comfortable scratching elsewhere. I didn’t want to sneak soft-core porn like some of my friends. Porn, soft-core or otherwise, terrified me. 

And I certainly didn’t want to have actual sex with a man. Not yet, at least. This seemed like a fun way to explore my sexuality while still reading! Many of the pieces were incredibly well written, some even with literary references. A work by Dasha K, for example, introduced me to the poems of Pablo Neruda. 

In my favorite fan fiction, there was plenty of plot, with the actual sex not occurring until deep into the story line. My favorites always had a happy ending with tons of declarations of love and possibly marriage.

X-Files fan fiction let me safely explore my sexuality — while learning a great deal about my own personal preferences, too. I realized I enjoyed the stories where Mulder, in a fit of romantic passion, would pick Scully up and carry her to the bedroom, Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler style. I liked when there was sexual tension, with the couple waiting until the last possible moment to ravage one another. And I particularly enjoyed when the male was the more aggressive partner in the bedroom. 

Thanks to fan fiction, I didn’t mind some dirty talk. I also finally started to understand how oral sex was supposed to work and maybe even be enjoyable. While anal didn’t intrigue me, thanks to X-Files fan fiction I saw how it could be romantic and not, as my girlfriends told me, demeaning.

So, when it came to me actually having sex, I felt prepared. At 16, I was the youngest of my friends to embark on that experience, and as my proclivities have shown, I lost my virginity to an older man (10 years older, in fact). If you squinted, he kind of looked like Mulder. 

Unlike in fan fiction, my early sexual relationships weren’t fairy tales. I didn’t have a happily ever after. My first boyfriend didn’t rescue me from an evil government conspiracy; he couldn’t even be bothered to wish me a happy Valentine's Day. Just because a man wore glasses didn’t mean he was smart. And no college beau said the right thing to me as often as the fan fiction Mulder would say to Scully. Real life romance, I realized, was a lot more difficult than the fan fiction version.

As I grew older, I stopped looking for Mulder and started looking for someone who would make me happy. I’ve finally found him, and our sex life is similar to — yet completely different — from the fan fiction of my teenage years. 

We don’t have the dramatic fights that end with hours of fucking because we’re real people, with real lives, and real responsibilities. I stopped wanting to be rescued, and started looking for a partner. 

We may not have the UST of Mulder and Scully, but we have the rich and rewarding relationship that comes with facing genuine struggles together.