My Little Pony: Lesbianism is Magic

If you’ve been reading the likes of Jezebel and Wired over the past year or so, you’ve probably heard about the “brony” phenomenon: adults, particularly adult men, who love the latest incarnation of My Little Pony, called Friendship is Magic (which wrapped up its second season April 21st, but you can find the episodes on Netflix and iTunes). It’s not every day that you hear that a bunch of straight men are fascinated by a show with female protagonists, but especially one aimed at prepubescent girls and that has a reputation as the height of the sugary-pink, sparkly kind of femininity. Heck, it’s hard to find a show like that with adult women watching.

So, what makes the new My Little Pony so compelling to fanboys (and fangirls)? Well, for starters, unlike some previous incarnations of the franchise (such as the infamous “third generation”), the characters aren’t prissy flibbertigibbets who care for nothing but tea parties and pretty clothes. The show’s six protagonists run the gamut in their interests and styles, showing that, as show creator Lauren Faust put it, “there are lots of different ways to be a girl.”

MLP features tomboy characters, fashionistas, and characters who fall somewhere in between; all of the characters are shown as having depth beyond initial stereotypes, and each has her own “passion” that drives her life and is reflected in her “cutie mark” (a symbol that appears on each pony’s flank when s/he “comes of age”). Even Rarity is portrayed not as a shopaholic trend-follower, but as an artist who creates her own clothes and aspires toward a career as a designer; many of her focus episodes hinge on her running her boutique and how her designs are received by the Equestrian fashion elite (winding up in some hilarious jabs at fashion icons like Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld –- in pony form, of course). Another episode has Applejack and Rarity fighting over what to do at Twilight’s slumber party; the lesson ends up being that both extreme tomboys and hard-core girly-girls can find common ground and be friends.


Clockwise from center: Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash.

The show also has real conflict, you guys! And real villains. Among the biggest ones are Nightmare Moon, a former princess turned evil, and Discord, a chaos-loving chimera based on Star Trek’s Q (and voiced by the same actor, John De Lancie). With so much going on, it’s no wonder that the show has developed such a huge adult fanbase, even without the sexual innuendos, constant celebrity references, or trippy moments more typical of cartoons with crossover appeal. (Not that My Little Pony doesn’t have a few pop-culture refs, as seen here.)

And with any adult fanbase comes a whole world of fan works, from fanfiction to fanart to even fan music (which ranges from original works celebrating ponies to existing songs rewritten with pony lyrics, such as this YouTube channel full of “ponified” Beatles songs). The hub for that is Equestria Daily , a My Little Pony fan blog run by and targeted at teenage and adult fans of the show. If you take some time to browse through the fanfiction posts, especially the ones with “shipping” (fan-speak for focusing on romantic or sexual relationships), you might notice something interesting, and unusual: The majority of My Little Pony shipping centers around relationships between mares.


Bronies have their own ways of talking about shipping, referring to mare/mare relationships as “fillyfooling” (and relationships between stallions as “coltcuddling”). The amount of fillyfooling equals or outnumbers the amount of heterosexual shipping on many fansites. What is also surprising is how non-fetishistic these stories are. While sexual fanfic – called “clop” in the brony fandom – certainly exists (it’s Rule 34, after all), the majority of sapphic pony fanfiction I found was fairly chaste, and more focused on romance than titillation. In many respects, it was basically just a gender-flipped version of a common fanfiction phenomenon known as “slash.” Slash refers to fanfiction that focuses on homosexual relationships, usually between men (the lesbian equivalent is often clarified as “femslash”). You can read more about it in this very informative article from Bitch magazine, about the evolution of slash over the decades, from its humble beginnings in print fanzines to its movement online. Compared to the often-fetishistic depictions of girl-on-girl make-out sessions we see aimed at men in the media, women’s depictions of male/male slash pairings in fanfiction tends to focus as much on the emotional side of those relationships as on the sexual side.

It’s interesting to ponder why My Little Pony lesbian fanfiction follows the same pattern, despite being mostly written by men. In order to investigate this, I took a survey of members of various “shipping” groups on FIMFiction to gauge their attitudes about fanfiction.

Of the 74 responses I got, 59 who responded were men, the majority of whom said they were attracted to women. One of the more interesting parts of the survey was where I asked them why they liked their favorite pairings so much. Most, again, focused on emotional attractions or compatibility between the characters.

About Fluttershy/Twilight Sparkle: “They’re both nerds. As a nerd myself it’s fun to identify with that, and as a socially awkward person myself it’s even more so.”

About Rainbow Dash/Twilight: “Opposites attract and complement each other’s personalities and provide work skills balance.” Another wrote: “One of the things I really like in this ship is the playful attitude of Rainbow Dash and Twilight’s reaction to it. She tends to be brash and insensitive maybe, but Twilight can take a lot of it. I don’t think it’s because she doesn’t care, but rather, doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Quite interesting if this gets elaborated on.”

About Fluttershy/Rarity: “I think they would simply make the best friends and romantic partners. Both of them are soft spoken and kind to everyone (element of kindness and element of generosity just go together so well), In addition, Fluttershy has a canon ‘freaky knowledge about sewing’ (said by Applejack in ‘Suited for Success’) so she would be able to help Rarity with her work. All in all, I just think they’re the best together.”


That didn’t mean there weren’t some more, ahem, “predictable” responses from the guys in the survey, though, like one who wrote about his shipping of Rainbow Dash with Wonderbolt captain Spitfire: “Lesbians are awesome, they are a lot like each other, furacious and fast, and that’s how I like it, giggity.” Another one wrote that he liked the idea of “human x Rainbow Dash” because it was a “personal fantasy” of his.

The last one gets at one explanation for the less-fetishistic nature of many femslash fics in the My Little Pony fandom: A lot of fans are simply grossed out by the idea of the characters having sex, for obvious reasons: they’re horses, and, well, bestiality is one of the last big taboos for a reason. In addition to that, My Little Pony is a children’s show where only a handful of plots even focus on the kissing and holding-hands (er, hooves) type of romance, and a lot of people get upset at what they see as the “pollution” of a children’s show by fanfiction featuring graphic sex scenes. The fandom has a similar reaction to stories with violence and gore; take, for example, the widespread Internet outcry against “Cupcakes,” a well-known fanfic featuring Pinkie Pie brutally murdering Rainbow Dash. Lastly, “clop” is a weapon that many non-bronies use against the fandom – thinking the only reason a grown man could be into a little girls’ cartoon is because he finds the characters arousing, so it must be the case that all bronies like it. This will, naturally, lead bronies who aren’t into clop to go on the defensive.

That said, the majority of the survey respondents said they were at least somewhat open to read clop, including with same-sex pairings, though most were careful to say they didn’t actively seek it out so much as wouldn’t be opposed to reading an otherwise-good story that included a sex scene, and that they stayed away from stories with stuff like rape, pedophilia or human/horse sex.

One other factor may be that My Little Pony fans tend to be a group that is more open to LGBT relationships and rights than average. As a result, that might lead them to view lesbian relationships as more than just fetishes. The survey also included questions on how the respondents viewed gay rights issues. A majority supported same-sex marriage, even those who said they did not have any close LGBT friends or family members. A majority said they enjoyed TV shows and movies that included same-sex relationships. And a number of the respondents were LGBT themselves. While it’s hard to draw anything conclusive about the fandom as a whole from 74 respondents mostly culled from same-sex-shipping groups, it is what I have seen to be mostly the case from my own experience with the brony fandom. Bronies have taken the motto of “I’m going to love and tolerate the shit out of you” as their response to the sexist and homophobic abuse they frequently get from outsiders, in tune with the show’s message. This can be seen in the mostly-supportive response that popular pony musician Not A Clever Pony received from fans when she came out as trans on her deviantart account.

But I’ve also heard plenty of instances where people did not feel that the brony fandom was quite as accepting. Making the brony fandom a paragon of tolerance and open-mindedness is one response to homophobic outsider commenters, but others have responded in less-savory ways, feeling the need to reaffirm their masculinity by making their brony communities less friendly to women and queer people. One of my close friends who is active in brony groups offline says he’s heard plenty of homophobia from other bronies, and feels like the fandom often isn’t very welcoming of male homosexuality compared to female homosexuality. This is something I heard again and again from fans of “coltcuddling” fics (who tended to be a fairly even mix of queer men and straight women) who responded to my survey, that there was a “double standard” in the community where male homosexual fanfiction was automatically voted down by straight male bronies who hadn’t even read it (something even acknowledged by the staff of Equestria Daily in posts about M/M fics), while those same bronies would give enthusiastic thumbs-up to lesbian-themed fanfiction. The reactions go beyond simply stating their own dislike of M/M (which was common for the straight male bronies in my survey), to actively discouraging other brony sites from posting it.

One of the other topics I discussed in the survey was the issue of subtext. Children’s cartoons have a long history of sneaking potentially “objectionable” material past the censors through the use of subtle hints, the kind only those looking for them would see. But homosexuality is still one of the most taboo topics in kids’ media; anyone who is familiar with the history of American anime adaptations knows the lengths to which networks will go to cleanse them of queer elements. As a result, many shows are afraid to even hint at it. Yet, more than a few of the bronies whom I surveyed felt there was at least some deliberate lesbian subtext in My Little Pony, and given the evidence, it’s hard not to agree with them. For instance, in “Griffon the Brush Off,” Rainbow Dash’s friend from flight camp, Gilda, is irrationally jealous of Rainbow’s other friends, and many fans felt Gilda’s behavior more closely resembled that of an ex-girlfriend than an old friend. In other episodes, the relatively minor characters Lyra and Bon-Bon are often interpreted as a lesbian couple, because they’re never seen apart. The show has occasionally responded to the fandom’s interpretations in the past, and in the episode “Hearts and Hooves Day,” about the Equestrian version of Valentine’s Day, Lyra and Bon-Bon are seen walking together in a clip with other couples celebrating the holiday. Then, in “Putting Your Hoof Down,” Bon-Bon is seen carrying Lyra’s cutie-mark bag during a scene where the characters visit a farmer’s market. Later in that same episode, Lyra is seen sitting alone at a table, looking sad, but is instantly cheered up when she sees Bon-Bon approaching and pulling out a chair. Little things, sure, but the fans sure seemed to enjoy it.

via Friendship is Magic Wiki

But we can only take so much subtext, right? If you want to see some actual lesbian relationships playing out, then you’ll need to read some fanfiction. If you’re scared off by what you’ve heard about how terrible fanfiction is, don’t be; while there’s a lot of bad stuff there — like with any art form — when it’s good, it’s really good. Life-changing, even (as one of my friends recently discovered). And as Jarrah Hodge writes at the Bitch Magazine blog:

“If people are expecting Pulitzer-caliber writing, they don’t understand what fanfic is about. There are some really great fanfics and some not-so-great ones. The most important thing is the opportunity it gives people…to explore gender identities, build a sense of community, practice writing, and express themselves without fear of censorship.”

My fanfiction recommendations (heavily biased toward my favorite ships):
1. Following a Rainbow by malikvamp: Rainbow Dash confesses her love for Applejack, and then runs away. It is up to Applejack to find her friend, and on the way, examine her own feelings on the matter.

2. Swayback Mountain by butterscotchsundae: Applejack and Rarity begin to reevaluate their feelings for each other as they take shelter during a fierce storm.

3. Secret Admirer by Thecrazyrabbidfangirl: Rarity’s imagination runs wild after she receives a series of anonymous love letters.

4. How Lyra Met Bon-Bon by butterscotchsundae: What the title says, and it doubles as the story of how Lyra and Bon-Bon got their cutie marks.

5. The Prince and the Workhorse by fellstorm: While it’s not the main plot, there is a cute side-plot involving Rainbow Dash coming out as a lesbian and exploring her feelings for Fluttershy and then Applejack, and the larger story (about a body-switch between Applejack’s brother Big Macintosh and the snooty Prince Blueblood, and the hilarity that ensues) is definitely worth reading, too. Basically, it’s the most interesting fanfic I’m following right now, and I’d recommend it to anyone as a good introduction to My Little Pony fanworks.

And if even that isn’t enough? Check out the Fillyfoolers group on FIMFiction for all your femslash shipping needs.

Enjoy, everypony! And recommend some of your favorite fanfics in the comments!

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Rose is a 25-year-old Detroit native currently living in Austin, TX, where she is working on her Ph.D. in musicology. Besides Autostraddle, she works as a streaming reviewer for Anime News Network.

Rose has written 69 articles for us.


  1. I just have to say, the amount of my little pony avatars on here is very quickly starting to confuse me.


    That being said, I may check out the show sometime. Thanks for the cool post!

      • Not saying it’s bad, just strange and wonderful. The internet makes a home for all the weirdos out there.

        • Fuck you. You’re part of the problem.

          Hopefully one day men and boys will be able to enjoy whatever the hell they want – even shows meant for little girls – without being judged and labeled “weirdos”.

          • Considering how often bronies hear “weirdo” and much worse as an insult you might want to find a different word.

          • Brony here. Not offended. “Weirdo” is a perfectly acceptable word to describe the concept of a grown man becoming an enthusiastic fan of a show originally intended for little girls.
            But then, this isn’t just any show for little girls. If the show itself is “weird” in that respect then I suppose any fandom that crops up around it would be perfectly normal by being weird.
            Or perhaps we should define our terms: MW Definition of “weird” is “of strange or extraordinary character” Which Bronies certainly are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Who wants to be ordinary, plain and boring, anyway?
            Raef, she meant no offense. Don’t take any.

          • The problem is that it’s a clear example of a double standard. Women are free to enjoy shows and things targeted solely towards men without any sort of backlash. Men obviously don’t enjoy that same freedom, and this sort of mentality is extremely damaging to boys and insulting to girls.

            I trust the readers on a site such as AS understand the damage pushing gender norms so strongly on growing boys (and girls) can have. Liking something intended for girls does not make one less of a man, and teaching growing boys this also teaches them to devalue women’s things in general.

            This leads me to why such a double standard is insulting to women: it treats shows and things marketed towards women as being inherently inferior, completely without redeeming qualities that would make them interesting to anyone besides silly little girls. In contrast women who like shows targeted at males are somehow rising above stupid girly things in favor of “real” shows.

            I can accept that Emma meant no insult, but I’m not going to stop being extremely defensive of bronies. Given how much blind irrational hatred I’ve seen I got no reason to. But this really isn’t just about bronies; it’s about a pervasive double standard that needs to end.

          • Sigh. And after rereading the OP I can see the intention was fairly obvious.

            I was an asshole, sorry. Blame it on the early morning and my oversensitivity to all things.

            Stand by everything in my previous post though.

          • I think with words like “weirdo” as well as “nerd” or “geek,” the rise of the “nerd pride” movement has led to a lot of people within various subcultures treating those words as compliments or lighthearted jabs, while outside of it many people still see them as insults. I know that where I went to high school – which was an academics-focused magnet school with a really nerdy reputation – those kinds of labels were treated as badges of pride, and it took me a while after I graduated to get adjusted to the fact that other people didn’t necessarily see it as a nice thing when I called them “nerds” or “weird.”

            Just some food for thought when dealing with these words online, where we don’t know the frameworks from which others are viewing them.

          • Also re: the whole double-standard thing, I completely agree, and it’s actually been a little sad how many comments I’m getting along the lines of “Finally an article about bronies with a positive opinion of us!” Because so many people jump to sexist and homophobic (obviously, guys who like things for girls MUST BE GAY!!!!) assumptions when dealing with men who are fans of “girly” things.

          • I agree with nerd and geek, not so much with weirdo. When you hear the word “nerd” or “geek” you can generally form an accurate perception regarding their interests and what they’re like. Just saying “weirdo”, though? It’s such a general term with no common subculture behind it, and the most common intent behind using it I’ve seen is as a stand-in for “creepy”. And bronies get called creepy a LOT.

            But yeah, I don’t think anyone takes being called nerd or geek as an insult anymore.

          • I wanted to reply to your comment about double standards but it wasn’t letting me.
            I totally agree with what you had to say. I have 3 nephews who are little and they are already being told by their dad that watching “girls” cartoons is not okay. This makes me furious. I think a lot about how girls are pushed into boxes regarding gender roles and what they should like/play with/watch, but don’t often realize that boys are subject to the same pressure. Thanks for making me think about that.
            And about the whole ‘weirdo’ thing- Rose is right, especially on this site, weirdo is definitely used as a badge of honor. We are all weirdos and proud of it.

      • Hey :D I’m the author of Following a Rainbow, and I’m so glad that ya liked my story!! Look, as much as I love writing fanfiction, I want to one day publish my own original work and become a writer, so I’d like to ask a favour. Obviously, as you recommended my story, I’m guessing you’ve read it. Now, on my quest to learn the art of literature, there is no better teacher then criticism! So, if you have any things that you did not like about the story or my writing in general, I would love to know!! I am always trying to improve, and criticism is my best friend!

        My email is
        [email protected]

        You know my fimfiction of course

        And my DeviantART is

        I would love to hear from you, weather it by criticism or complements, especially concerning what you liked most about the story :) anyways, thanks again for promoting my story, and I’d be glad to help in the future, wi any articles you are writing if you ever need anything!

    • I checked my calendar at least five times while reading it, just to make sure it wasn’t April 1st.

  2. I don’t know anything about My Little Pony & I don’t really belong to any fandoms at all, but I’m always fascinated by the vocabularies that they create for themselves. The internet has done very interesting things for language.

  3. God, I love this show.

    (does anyone else get a genderqueer vibe from Dash? She’s my favorite)

      • There’s actually a fanfic that I was just reading called “Rainbro Dash” where RD gets accidentally turned into a stallion by Twilight’s magic going awry. (It’s a sequel to one of the ones I linked above but I won’t say which one!)

        • I know which one you’re talking about! Ah, it seems it’s updated, I need to read!

          Your article was very well informed! You were fair, did alot of research, and it made me glad to see some article that wasn’t declaring everyone ‘queer’.

          Also, honestly I think this subtext is mostly wishful thinking, though the Lyra and BonBon thing was rather interesting.

          There are only a few outright romantic relationships/crushes in the series, three of which being married couples (all M/F) and a few hints at crushes in episodes like “Hearts and Hooves Day” but those were all M/F. (Rarity’s crush on Blueblood before she meets him is also notable.)

          I don’t mind F/F or M/M shipping, but I do not think Dash was intended to come across as a fillyfooler. The creator of the show herself said that she was not supposed to be any stereotype like that. (As many accused her of Rainbow Dash being a lesbian, because of her attitude and rainbow mane and tail.) I just think she’s a hardcore tomboy, and Gilda is a jealous friend.

          But enough ranting! This was fantastic, thank you so much for posting it!

    • Dash strikes me as a normal tomboy type. the REAL genderqueer character would be Spike.

      Seriously, his character is a mix of masculine and feminine traits. He is interested in cooking and baking, he’s enjoyed time at the spa like the other girls, he is occasionally shown wearing or using or owning frilly pink things without it really being used as a joke against him, yet at the same time he also has almost all the traits you could expect of a 13 year old boy.

      • See, I always thought Spike’s girly side was just to get into Rarity’s pants.

        (Does that joke work with ponies? Since they don’t wear pants? Although Rarity does sometimes since she’s so fashion-forward.)

        • I’ve heard it used before, but pants are not canon to the show. Perhaps a better phrase would be along the lines of “Getting into her Saddle”, or something like that.

          • Actually, pants are canon. In call of the cutie, when Applebloom is trying to sell apples, the tennis racket carrying stallion is wearing shorts, and in Sisterhooves Social, Rarity and Sweetie Belle’s mother is wearing pants as well.

        • Equestria Daily made a post about this article so I thought I’d give it a read, since it’s always interesting to read other’s perspectives on communities that you’re a part of.

          Anyways, I feel that, as a guy, I can help provide some insight as to why Spike is the way he is. I’ve always loved his character; perhaps because we’re so similar. Spike strikes me as the way that most young boys *actually* are.

          Personally, I love singing, cooking, reading, writing, and a lot of activities that perhaps aren’t considered “manly”. However, I’m also a very active athlete (captain of the swim team, state ranked swimmer, all that fun stuff) as well as a video game junky. However, I know that society’s expectations of little boys don’t include joining choir, or activities in that same vein, and as a result kids (including myself) don’t develop those interests until later in life when they’re more sure of themselves as individuals.

          And now we look at Spike. He is exactly like many young boys; interested in everything. However, look at his social environment. Instead of being surrounded by a society that demands he act a certain way, he finds himself surrounded and raised almost exclusively by mares. The result is a more rounded individual who doesn’t hide what he enjoys because society has no gender bias against him.

          I think this avenue of thought was also explored in episode 21 of season 2, Dragon Quest. It explored how Spike fit in with other dragons who were raised in a very different environment than Spike himself. While the other dragons may have shown nothing but disapproval for his more feminine attributes, if this was a real life scenario then, as a guy, I can say with some confidence that they, even if just on a subconscious level, were jealous of his freedom from social pressure.

          Anyways, just my two cents. Thanks for the article, I really enjoyed it.

        • On my preferred MLP forum, the usual phrase is “trying to get under her tail”. Just thought I’d let you know.

      • Reading this post has actually inspired me to write a fic about Spike coming out as genderqueer.

        It’s almost done. I’ll post a link when it is.

  4. So what do folks think about the show’s “villains,” Discord and Nightmare Moon in terms of this analysis? A friend’s son is obsessed with them, and I haven’t quite worked out how they’d fit in here!

    • Discord seems to be the only true “villainous” character in how he wants to impose what he wants over all of Ponyville and Esquistria. Nightmare Moon just seemed more like a retelling of the Biblical parable of the prodigal son.

      That being said Princess Luna is amazing with her royal WE.

      • I thought that Chrysalis the Changeling Queen was more evil than Discord.
        Or is it a SPOILER ALERT to bring her up?

        • I don’t think so, she was amazing. And the episode has been out for like a month.

  5. Really good article.

    I think you have to be either a fan or someone with rudimentary knowledge of Brony culture to understand this.

  6. major pegasister over here. way too excited to read this. you and this article are awesome and should feel awesome.

  7. One week I became moderately obsessed when I discovered that fanfiction existed for the imaginary pairing of a penguin and an otter from The Penguins of Madagascar cartoon.

    Then I would paste photos of them into my work emails. Because I’m very professional.

    • Because you went there: I used to ship Spongebob and Patrick together especially when they were raising a baby scallop together.

      I just love to see Spongebob in a dress, it brings me joy.

    • Oh god. Skilene. This is the ship that started everything for me – my fascination with PoM and, consequently, MLP: FiM. I can’t wait to see the new “Tunnel of Love” episode this June.

  8. This show is so amazingly queer; I love it. That and Rainbow Dash’s alternative lifestyle haircut.

    • To quote David Bowman in 2010: The Year We Make Contact: “Something wonderful!”

  9. Thank you, Autostraddle, for encouraging me to become even nerdier and weirder than I already am (I just got over my Kingdom Hearts fanfic obsession about a year ago.)

  10. The bronies are actually pretty racist. There were definitely some pretty vile responses to humanized fanart of ponies that depicted them as POC.

    That said, this show is the absolute best, and the few times I watched it I ended up interpreting every single main pony as gay. Because my mind is awesome like that.

    • Yeah, I saw some people making comments like that on POC humanized ponies on Tumblr and it made me sad. I didn’t know it was widespread, though.

    • There’s always some people like that in larger groups, it seems. Though there are some, not all bronies are racist

    • Complains about racism by painting a diverse group as a single entity with shared attitudes.

      • Ok, I probably should have specified, sorry about that. The bronies (which I had thought always used to refer to the white males in the fandom so that’s my fault for not saying) on tumblr and DeviantArt were being very racist.

        Also you’re talking about generalization not racism, but that’s cool.

        • I’ve heard “brony” used alternately to refer specifically to teenage/adult male fans but also to all teenage/adult fans. There’s a female equivalent, “pegasister” but a lot of women don’t really like that term, so they prefer to just call themselves “female bronies.” (Plus I think if I were a my little pony I’d be a unicorn, not a pegasus, and that is SERIOUS BUSINESS don’tchaknow)

      • Ohmigosh. Those are adorable! I loved the one with Rainbowdash and Fluttershy in those awesome leather jackets!

      • There’s too, I was going to mention it re:hating on humanised depictions of ponies because the creater draws RD with a boyish figure and a kinda genderqueer appearence and got a lot of crap about making her ‘look like a guy’.

        I like the chaste sweet relationships as ponies, but would only really start shipping the characters if its human versions, which is another aspect of fandom that didn’t really get covered here. Great article though :)

  11. This. All of this. A thorough article that runs the gamut on fanfic and the general attitudes behind the fans feelings on it. Fantastically written, and you don’t really seem to take a side in the article, letting those who have not been introduced to the idea of bronies (though that circle is getting smaller by the day) make their own opinion.

    I must say though, you hit the nail on the head with the double standard that exists with f/f shipping vs m/m shipping and the lack of tolerance that this fandom seems to have for the latter. I mean, yea, I’m straight, and I don’t personally enjoy reading m/m shipping, but I’m not about to condemn those that write it, and certainly not disparage their story because of it.

    But yea, I’m rambling now, so once again, great job on the article and nailing what is best about these shippings: the emotional story that their relationships let us delve into. Oh yea, and one last thing….OctaviaXScratch is OTP!!! XD

  12. I love that you conducted an actual survey to write this article, it’s like a second layer of nerd on top of an already nerdy premise

    • One of my best friends and recent ex is a statistics major, I think it’s rubbed off on me.

  13. I’m not sure if there is anyone else here who shares the same opinion, but me and my friends read clopfics together out of humor, rather than actual attraction or for stimulation. Yes we are very well aware of the fact that its immature, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t hilarious.

  14. 95% of the characters are female. roughly 85% of the fanbase is male.

    Why are people surprised at the huge amount of lesbian shipping?

  15. Also, another alluring aspect of shipping is the cuteness factor.

    1 pony = adorable
    2 ponies cuddling = extremely adorable.

    It doesn’t have to be shipping, it could be friendshipping, but still. I believe cuteness is a factor for watching the actual show and there’s no shame in liking cute things.

    Although the is fact that anything that is presumably cute, but not ponies has no effect on me :v

  16. To be fair, there are a good chink of people who don’t really consider human/MLP type ponies bestiality because they are obviously not what we consider “beasts.”

    they figure if they are intelligent enough to built cities and run an economy and such, then it’s really not the same thing as being with an actual horse.

    • Good point, but I think bestiality is a taboo for reasons beyond simply the “animals can’t consent” part. I think it’s also because of the genetic problems that come with species hybrids (like ligers), if the two species can even produce them at all (humans and horses probably can’t, as we haven’t even been able to do that with other primates*). Which is similar to the incest taboo; if consent were the only issue, there’s no reason people would have a problem with siblings who are consenting adults getting it on, but obviously we still do, and I think the genetic side is part of it.

      *why do I know this?

      • Like you mentioned, it wouldn’t be able to happen, so it can’t be a (rational) basis for the taboo.

        Besides, society does not seem to consider the idea of mating with humanoid aliens to be bestiality, or even treat it as akin to incest, though it is sometimes depicted as taboo on its own.

        • There are some scientists who think a human/chimp or human/bonobo hybrid may be possible, especially now that some are considering putting chimps and bonobos in the same genus as us.

          But, oh god, I hope we never find out… Ew!

          Also, I dunno if the mores of science fiction shows can truly be applied to real-life. Especially since a lot of these humanoid aliens are basically just humans with small changes, like the pointy ears and eyebrows that Vulcans have in Star Trek. Where Spock is a viable hybrid, like, I’m pretty sure there was an episode about it.

          Aaaaaaand I think I have just topped my geek quota for the day. Good night everypony!

    • “Xenophilia” is the word I’d use. It’s the same as having a relationship with a sentient alien.

    • I was linked to this in the comments of a certain Regretsy post that went up today.


      (I’m proud to be a pegasister but I’m not going to deny that there’s definitely a gross part to the fandom. It’s just not as widespread as some people would like to think it is.)

  17. True fact: I know a straight guy who intends to get Applejack’s cutie mark tattooed on his butt. I’m not sure if I’ll want to see it or not.

    • Ah ha, that’s nothing. I know a guy who is trying to legally change his name to twilight sparkle.

      Every time i remember this i feel a twinge of shame for this…

      Also AJ is best pone.

  18. Hey geuss what I got you a present.

    Lezbronies unite!

    Although I’ll add I’ve seen some odd reactions to Rainbow Dash being tagged as gay. People get hyper defensive about it, still not really sure why.

    • I think because it’s so easy and a lot of it is due to stereotypes – she’s a tomboy with a rainbow color scheme, OF COURSE she’s gay!

      Lauren Faust also pointed out how stereotypical it was in her response to that Ms. article that labeled the show as “racist, homophobic and smart-shaming.”

  19. There are a couple of explanations based on how cynical I’m feeling.

    The first is that here are more lesbian pairings because most of the characters happen to be female. If there were more male characters, there would be more opposite-sex pairings. If there were very few female characters, there’d be more m/m pairings, and so on.

    The rather less optimistic explanation is based on the fact that the majority of the fandom are men attracted to women. However, if the cast were mostly male, the fanbase would be mostly women attracted to men, and then there would be more m/m pairings. (All proportions may include homophobic or heterophobic assholes, but I’m not concentrating on them).

    What I hope all this means is that fans are looking at character before sex. It’s easier to do in a show like MLP that doesn’t go slapping sexuality labels on its cast.

  20. Thank you for writing this wonderful article Rose. I believe a lot of people get mixed up when it comes to the topic of shipping in MLP, especially when it’s “fillyfooling” or more so “coltcuddling”. It’s about their personalities are important to shipping, not them just rutting each other. hopefully your article opens some eyes of those who tend to bash on shipping.

  21. Its so strange that this brilliant article came up. When I suddenly started contemplating about how my favorite writers are woman and my favorite musicians are homosexual men in the fandom. Thank you so much. This article has helped me get my thoughts a little straighter.

  22. I think someone else may have mentioned it, but the story “Allegrezza” by Coffeegrunt (on Equestria Daily and Deviant Art) is very good and stays SFW for the most part. It’s also the archetype of the Octavia X Vinyl Scratch pairing.

    Oh, and thank you for the intriguing article. :-)

  23. OK so I’m not a fan of shipping any of it…BUT i do not feel people should not read it if you like it that is fine just don’t tell me how applejack told twilight she loves rainbow i really don’t want to know. as a side note i did get one thing from this i now know that clopfics and shipping fics are not the same you see i was sure shipping would be full of sex and stuff that i really don’t want to hear about anyway good article.

  24. Hey this finally got up, yay!

    Nice work Rose, that’s some impressive surveying over ponies…

    I want season 3 now…

    • Also you forgot…


      (on a more serious not people please do not look up the cupcakes fanfic)

      • No, Cupcakes has become so widely spread in the fandom that I think reading it is now necessary for all bronies.

        I mean, a large number of fanfics are rewrites/sequels/prequels/etc of Cupcakes. A lot of others reference it. At some point you should just get it over with and read it.

  25. so weird that this article was linked from Equestria Daily within a a day of me thinking about how media is progressing in equality (something I’m a big fan of, race, sex and orientation)and how I pictured future cartoons and movies with sexual orientations as variations and options rather than deviant and taboo.

    Possibly My Little Pony is a step in the right direction as they’ve eluded to same sex romance around equestria, both lesbian and gay. Plus how most ponies are pretty varied in both looks and lifestyle, yet get along and stat friends with no prejudice obstacles.

    I honestly do ship myself in the form of pictures (pornographic too I might add so dont seek my nsfw art out if you dont like that) it’s graphic but I value love over sex, as you mentioned the shipping fics favoring as well. As a bisexual male I dont favour m/m vs f/f obviously, but I think there are more f/f ships because of the focus on mares in the show and how they all have deep and fun personalities that both compliment and contradict eachother, like Fluttershy/Rainbow Dash (which is one of my fav pairs)

  26. i knew absolutely nothing about any of the things you wrote about here before i read this article and i found it super interesting!! thanks not only for writing, but for putting so much work into it as well!

    (also that picture of one of the ponies comforting her crying friend(?) is JUST THE CUTEST)

  27. You want an awesome shipfic? Allegrezza. It’s personally one of the best love stories I’ve ever read, even more so than ones by “official” authors.

  28. Great article, but i feel the need to add that pony fanfiction isn’t always about shipping. there’s plenty of non-romantic stuff, too. For example:

    “My Little Dashie” follows a human who finds himself raising a filly Rainbow Dash. Very adorable.

    “Envy and Arrogance” is more of a PG-13 rated (no gore, but lots of death mentioned) adventure epic set to a soundtrack of mostly Kingdom Hearts music. One of my personal favorites

    There’s also fiction that combines ponies with pretty much anything else. Like “Fallout:Equestria” That one’s super long though, probably one of the longest fics on the internet.

    I know this article isn’t just about pony fiction, but i just wanted to make clear that there is something good for everyone.

  29. This was a very well-written piece, and non-judgemental as it could be from what I saw (until the shipping came up, but then that’s allowable subjectivity).

    Very nice portrayal overall.

    • Shipping is serious business. You should be glad that I’m talking about shipping ponies and not something like Downton Abbey (Mary/Lavinia forever)!

  30. Meh. The reason the shipping is mostly F/F is simple, men like girl on girl. Me, I personally dislike shippers and shipping because I think only canon counts and I find it annoying how shippers see subtext everywhere. That subtext is bull, by the way, “ooh they’re sitting next to each-they must be shagging there’s no other possible reason!” That Gilda stuff is also weird, is it so difficult to believe Gilda’s just a relatively antisocial person who was irritated that some annoying pink mare was interrupting her visit, I personally know how awkward and annoying it is when you’re looking forward to seeing a friend you haven’t seen for a year or so only to have to constantly deal with someone annoying?

  31. Another good story is “The Party Hasn’t Ended” also by ButterscotchSundae. It’s 15+ chapters, but the read is worth it.

    • ButterscotchSundae writes a lot of good fics.

      Btw, is ButterscotchCream that person’s M/M account? I was just wondering since they have similar names and Sundae writes a lot of F/F and Cream a lot of M/M.

      • Hi Rose! First, I loved the article – it’s great to read some positive press about the more ‘adult’ (I don’t like that word, but I’ll use it anyway…) elements of the fandom for once. I also love the academic approach you’ve taken… I’m a sucker for graphs.
        And thank you for mentioning my work! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying it. Swayback is still probably my favourite story, since everything came together so effortlessly when I wrote it, and When Lyra Met Bon-Bon has been very popular amongst readers, probably due to how cute the characters are as a couple.
        As for ButterscotchCream, I’m afraid that’s not me – but my interest is definitely piqued and I’ll be reading their work as soon as I’ve finished here!
        I’ve only ever written a little M/M myself (I shipped Big Mac and Caramel in The Party Hasn’t Ended) as I’m a bit lacking in confidence when it comes to describing gay characters. I don’t want them to come out as charicatures, of course, and so I’ve kind of avoided it for that reason.

  32. While I haven’t finished the article yet, explaining why there’s so much lesbian fanfiction is easy. Lesbians are HOT!

  33. This was an awesome read!! I love MLP and I loved to see this on Autostraddle :D thank you!!

    • Also it makes me weirdly happy to see a lot of the responses and that I’m not alone in liking the show, its like more support for my interests in my already supportingly awesome favorite website :P

      (also excuse any errors in my writing, I’m kinda drunk right now)

  34. I *Highly* recommend the “My little Dashie” story. It can really change your life. Don’t read with sad music on- will induce tears.

  35. One of my favorite ships (unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the story) has Princess Luna falling in love with Derpy Hooves and Princess Celestia, out of a misguided sense of propriety, trying to stop their relationship. I like it because it has the characters behaving in a; in *my* opinion, anyway; believable fashion. In fact, Celestia isn’t angry about Luna taking Derpy as her lover because of any sexual hang-ups (Celestia tries to get Luna interested in *other* mares); she’s reluctant to accept Derpy as Luna’s companion because she considers Derpy to be mentally inferior. Luckily, Love conquers all and Luna and Derpy live — together — happily ever after.

  36. I recomend you “Allegrezza”, It’s a really well writen love history between clasical musician Octavia an DJ Vinyl Scratch

  37. I’m more inclined to avidly ship Discord, the old shlag!
    Seriously though, I love Discord and Pinkie Pie most of all, they would make a fantastic couple (although I don’t like Cupcakes kind of fanon, I do like the idea of either Discord going good or Pinkie Pie becoming the chaos queen)

    Oh, and Celestia and Discord are totes bitter exes. “I’d forgotten how grim you could be, Celestia!”

  38. it’s crazy how complex all these fandoms are, and which shows (especially kids shows that become cult shows for grown ups) end up with the really dedicated groups of adults who love the characters

  39. *looks around a bit sheepishly*
    I will offer a few recommendations, though I admit I don;t really read much of the fanfiction.

    “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” is a straightforward Fulttersy/Twilight Sparkle Shipping fic that is quite cute.

    “My Little Hangover” Pretty much what’s on the tin. The Mane 6 Go to Las Heygas, have too much to drink one night, and the next day, they have to reconstruct what happened through a bunch of wacky vingettes.

    There are a few “ask [character(s)]” tumblrs which can be cute. is pretty damn adorable.

    Anyways, Back to my regularly scheduled Utena/Aoi Hana/other miscellaneous yuri comic shipping.


        when i was in sixth grade, i picked up the first volume of utena, read it, wondered why i was so captivated by the main character, and then kept reading. then utena/anthy was a thing and i suddenly got it.

  40. One of the bigger subtexts is also the reason Rainbow Dash is so often featured among the shipping fics (both M/F and F/F). The rainbow mane (and flight trail) is reminiscent of LGBT symbols, and the character herself is aggressively tomboyish (though drops hints in both directions if you’re looking, see “Sonic Rainboom” in both the intro and ending for this).

    • Tomboyishness and rainbows don’t count as evidence; the majority of tomboys I know are straight, and the majority of lesbians I know aren’t tomboys. Her interactions with Fluttershy do seem to indicate something though, and for reasons explained elsewhere I figure that at least 3/4 of mares are at least bi…

  41. Great article! MLP FIM is definitely the show that launched a thousand ships, most of them female/female. Completely fascinating. I think part of it is that people always tend to ship main characters together (I mean, they are the ones interacting the most) and in this case they’re all female.

    On a sidenote, you might like my fic, Canterlot Follies ( ), if you like whimsical stories. It’s not a shipping fic, but does have romantic subplots, both F/F and M/M (starting in chapter 3). I’ve tried hard to keep them non-eroticized/accepted as normal because it annoys me when people act like having F/F or M/M love interests is the same as having characters rutting . . . Like, if a F/M pair holds hands that’s cute, but if a M/M pair does, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!

    (Also because, even though I appreciate the social message, I get a bit tired of gay ponies having to be plagued with self-doubt and bad feelings before they can come to terms with themselves. I mean, I know this is a real struggle that real GLBT people often have, but I thought it would be nice/affirming to have gay characters who live in a world so accepting of their orientation that all their worries stem from other problems–class differences, snooping mothers–instead of “being gay.”)

    • Sidenote: It’s also a Wodehousian Jeeves & Wooster crossover, with all the hijinks and circa 1920s British slang that that entails.

  42. Aw man! You need to feature Appledash more! (at least some months ago, it was the most popular ship, I think). And I must balk at your choice of fic example thereof… there are many better Appledash fics (not that that one is bad, but it needs some work…) My own nonwithstanding, Bronyneumo’s “Confessions and Considerations” is amongst the best of them all (first chapter in a series).

    (in other words, love this article! :) 28 year old hetero who is an Appledash fanatic, if you’re wondering.)

  43. Something that sort of goes along with the larger focus in the romantic ships being on the emotional and romantic aspects rather than sexual aspect are the other types of relationships the fandom really likes to explore that are completely non-sexual. There is so much exploration of sister-sister, mother-daughter, and teacher-student (both usually female since the only cannon example is Celestia-Twilight), and non-biological-sister bonds and a lot of F/F friendshipping and this stuff is really popular and the fans get really attached to it (put themselves in the characters’ hooves).

    I’ve been thinking about the stuff in the previous sentence for several days coincidentally and have come to see something, perhaps one of the best things that the show has inspired in fans (especially considering how little other media inspires this). I see the fans exploring a larger variety of relationships that females have from the shoes/hooves of the female/s involved. Other media only really inspires this about male relationships and expects girls, women, and others not male to be able to put themselves in the male/s’ shoes. MLP: FiM inspires the same but for female relationships and moreover seems to even get boys, men, and others not female to put themselves in the female/s’ shoes/hooves.

    A good, and very popular, example of a fanfiction that explores a lot of these types of bonds simultaneously is Eternal at Be warned, Twilight and Celestia go through A LOT of emotional pain to try and fix their relationship/make it how they want it to be.

  44. Awesome article! I admit that I never realized that shipping fanfics in this fandom is more romantic in nature (I don’t read many fanfics) but it’s certainly positive. I aint going to lie, I’ve seen the more… Adult things too and I’m semi-indifferent about it personally and I really don’t think it should matter what people get off too as long as there’s no victims. Of course though, there’s nothing wrong with having a distaste or dislike about it, the important thing is that those who DO enjoy it does not show off about it and that those who don’t simply stays away from it rather than search out and flame others. Having a sexuality is one thing, but it’s best to keep your fetishes for yourself most of the time ;p At least I think so as I would consider R34 of ponies a fetish (The line between Fetish and sexuality can be a pretty thing one I reckon!)

    Shame about male homosexuality being somewhat looked down upon though… But at the very least it’s positive to see homosexuality depicted in a positive light for the most part and it’s probably not that easy to change the stigma that male homosexuality has among straight men. I am pretty sure that it in short stems from “Manly” being important for many, both on a conscious and subconscious level and that there’s a general consensus that being gay is as far away from “Manly” as you can get, creating a fear and distaste for it and I really mainly blame society and culture for this.

    ANYWAY, as I said, great article, it was enjoyable to read trough and I really liked the fact that you stayed respectable and unbiased about R34. I’m also enjoying the comments as well that are quite civil and open minded about this. As an openminded, straight man myself, it makes me really happy to see tolerance and acceptance being somewhat cherished in this fandom and I hope that this show will help with improving the view on homosexuality for many.

  45. It makes sense from a pure logic perspective. Given that the observed gender ratio among ponies seems to be about five mares to one stallion, there are three realistic possibilities:

    First is that the majority of ponies never engage in romantic or sexual relationships. This is ignored by fanfic writers because it’s boring, and seems unlikely to me.

    Second is that ponies are typically polygamous, but this seems to be refuted by the few relationships we have seen canonically, and the whole plot point about finding an appropriate and unattached stallion in Hearts and Hooves Day.

    Third and most likely is that the majority of romantic relationships among ponies are lesbian, since for every M/F pair there would be four unattached mares. Combine the gender ratio with the generally tolerant and peaceful society, and you’re probably looking at a world in which the stigma against homosexuality (at least among mares) would never have existed.

    M/M relationships would be significantly less common, and the societal implications can’t be determined without more evidence (which the writers will never give, since the moral guardians would freak and the show would be pulled from the air if there was anything clearly gay being shown to the children), but I like to think that my little ponies are good and tolerant enough to accept them.

  46. I haven’t really been around AS much lately. Coming back and reading this…Um.. Just…Wow. Things I never knew I never knew.

    • The absence of your comments has been duly noted. I think we could all use some more Digger in our day ;)

  47. I can’t help but wonder if the fact that there are pretty much only female characters in the show could have something to do with it?
    I’m a fan of most of these shippings, but to me their gender has just become a non issue. It’s not that I particularly like lesbian shippings, I just like the characters, their personalities, and the way that shipping make those personalities interact in interesting ways.
    There are only so many ways you can ship Big Macintosh.

  48. There was a fanfiction scandal at my small weirdo high school, so this provided some unexpected insight and generally, this was really fascinating. The vocabulary was my fave part of this, omg fillyfooling.

    • Fillyfooler may replace beanfiddler in my list of ridiculous references to lesbos I’ve picked up from tv shows.

      • maybe it would be called friendfiction? idk but one day a lot of people got links via myspace secret box and it was a thinggg, a sexually explicit detailed thing, multiple stories and all the “characters” were my friends and people from anime. everyone chose to make it not awkward by never ever mentioning it to the person even though it was a million miles of obvious that that’s where the trail led. in hindsight this situation was fucking hilarious.
        i choose to fondly remember basically everything/everyone from my high school, even that person;
        i guess this article just helped me relate to their perspective and feel less residually creeped about that situation, if possible. SHE JUST REALLY LIKED US.

        • The biggest scandal at my high school while I was there was when a bunch of computer nerds hacked into the teachers’ grading software to change their friends’ grades (resulting in everyone involved getting expelled or suspended).

          I thought that was the geekiest possible “high school scandal” but I think yours beats it.

  49. I haven’t read through all the comments so maybe this has already been pointed out, but I definitely think that Arnearno is on to something. In the article you link to the Bitch Magazine piece that tries to explain the slash phenomenon. In that piece the author talks about how almost all slash stories are male/male. She points out that there could be several different explanations for this but one of them is that the female characters simply aren’t that interesting. In contrast however the male characters of many of the TV shows that slash concerns itself with the male characters are often layered and (somewhat) deep.
    When we talk about FiM I feel we have the opposite problem. Where slash is yearning for deep female characters we are in acute need of male characters with any sort of personality that is interesting to write about. Off the top of my head I can only name three male characters who are any sort of relevance to the story (and none of which that I care for). This is Big Mac, Soarin and Caramel. I’m not even sure if that is their names because I find it hard to remember. Also these characters are as stereotyped as they come, with Big Mac’s answer to any question being either “Eyep” or “nope”. That’s pretty sad. Then we have Soarin who just likes pie. And Caramel who is just some distant cousin of Applejack (I think). Now it’s not to sound hateful, or because I dislike any male character in the show, but when you have these guys on one hand the Mane 6 on the other there just isn’t much that compels you to write about them, if you don’t have a predispositioned liking towards the male/male or male/female ship.
    So as Arnearno says it’s not so much about gender but more about personality.
    (by the way amazing article, just thought I should mention that here in the end ^^)

    • I think the explanation is simpler than that. The vast majority of fanfic writers are female, who almost always write M/M.

      The majority of MLP fanfic writers are male, and so write F/F or self-insertion fic. The lack of male characters in numbers leaves little option for M/M or M/F. It has nothing to do with how interesting any individual character is.

      • Hmm, maybe although your first argument makes no sense whatsoever. “The majority of MLP fanfic writers are male, and so write F/F or self-insertion fic.” There’s really no evidence to support the claim that because the writes are male they write F/F. I don’t think the gender of the writer has a lot to do with it. If you look at erotica and romance as a genre in general there’s really nothing to support the idea the one gender prefers to write about any specific hetro- or homosexual pairing more than the other.
        I think that you second claim is somewhat more reasonable, but still if the few male characters were more interesting I think people would enjoy to ship them more. After all if weren’t for the characters there wouldn’t really be much appeal in the fanfics unless you just genuinely like to read about ponies being romantic (which of cause is totally fine). It’s just that there isn’t a lot else that is special about the characters other than their personality.

        • Ever heard of yaoi fangirls? Damn near all of them write fanfiction, and they make up a sizable portion of the M/M fanfic community. There is a number of gay men/straight men/lesbians that write M/M but they’re a small minority.

          A lot of straight men, as some other commenter here so eloquently put, think lesbians are hot. It makes sense that they would write F/F more than M/M. Again, nothing to do with how interesting the characters are and everything to do with the writer’s sexual preferences. Also in general F/F written by men is more pornographic, so how interesting the characters themselves are is irrelevant because the fic’s essentially just a sexual fantasy. It should be noted that most F/F written by bronies is not pornographic, but such fics are the exception and not the rule.

          Going outside the realm of fanfiction, I would say that there is some evidence that straight women prefer to write M/M over F/F. A number of gay romance authors use fake male names to make the romance seem more “authentic” and sell better, and the readership is comprised mainly of straight middle aged women. Comparatively few straight women write lesbian romance and few straight women read it. And I would say that writing and reading preferences are generally the same; people who read F/F write F/F, people who read M/M write M/M, etc.

  50. Thanks for the article! Very fair, and it’s great to see you did a bit of research to test your findings.

    A bit of background on the pony fandom with regards to 4chan, specifically its comics and cartoons subboard /co/.

    If there is one thing its amorphous, anonymous denizens hate, it’s the furry fandom. It used to mean “likes funny/anthropomorphic animals” with all ‘like’ implies. Now it basically means “animal fucker”. I wasn’t around for it, but the mods once created a /furry/ subboard and banned everyone who posted. Add that to the typically masculine attire of posters (“faggot” is the number one insult, followed closely by “autist”. ‘Nuff said), and there was already preexisting tension before FiM’s rise.

    Pony fandom got its main drive on /co/. I think it was given extra impetus by the flip-flop from ‘hate’ to ‘like’ when watchers realised it was good, and the joy of sharing that. It was cute and funny. It turned out to be an excellent source of reaction images. And it exploded. (You can see the graph on Know Your Meme.)

    But the hatred started to build up, for multiple reasons – the haters didn’t see why these people liked it (I can see the “Us” and “Them” starting), “it’s a children’s show”, the porn created, it was drowning out the rest of the daily content, the creepy side, the self-congratulation, the way the fans identified as a persecuted subgroup… The nice ones left for pastures anew. The hardened and the stubborn and the opinionated stayed. The posters were asked to keep it to a single “general” thread, but it began to creep out. The mods started banning anyone who stepped out of it. By this time, the blog Equestria Daily and the imageboard Ponychan were taking off; there were NIMBY cries of “gb2 Ponychan” and such. The generals grew more and more marginalised and extreme (more porn and creeping). Finally the feud grew so intense that moot created the /mlp/ subboard. The jubilation in /co/ was sickening. By then, everyone sane had stopped coming. The fandom was too big to feel like a family any more.

    The point is that this left its mark. I am not condoning, but this is, I believe, a partial explanation for why a large proportion of FiM fans are touchy, creepy or just plain misogynistic – they learned that behaviour from being in 4chan.

  51. this is the nerdiest thing i have ever seen and my job includes watching the national spelling bee all day

  52. Wow, I thought my Michele Bachmann articles had a lot of comments, but this totally leaves them in the dust! Thanks, everyone!

    • You got mentioned on Equestria Daily, which has on the order of half a million hits every day. And you wrote an article about the Herd that was well-researched, entertaining, informative, and actually positive? I’m afraid there was no way to escape being swarmed by bronies at that point.

  53. First off, I AM SO HAPPY YOU GUYS ARE TALKING ABOUT THIS. The brony phenomenon has become such a huge deal in my social circle that it weirds me out when people don’t know about it (I don’t know what this says about me).

    One of my guy friends has a ridiculous/amazing Pinkie Pie outfit that consists of a pink dress and hat/mane. While I’m not as huge a fan as he is, I do have an appreciation for MLP:FIM (especially Fluttershy).

    I’d agree with previous comments that the prevalence of f/f ships is simply because all of the main characters are female. You don’t want to pull random male ponies (hey Dr. Whooves, sorry, you’re awesome) out of the background just for the sake of having m/f or m/m ships. Look at Star Trek, which is basically the source of m/m slash. Obvs shipping everyone with Uhura all the time would be pretty ridiculous. People ship the relationships they see developing onscreen, and as MLP:FIM is (mostly) aimed at young girls it focuses on female friendships and interactions.

    On a tangent, pegasister is supposed to be the female equivalent of brony, but I know female MLP fans who prefer to call themselves bronies, which I think is interesting.

    so I can’t believe I said all that. um. anyway, Fluttershy/Rainbow Dash forever?

    and because I need to seem even nerdier, I propose a crossover–My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The Gathering

  54. Very great article; well researched, well written and fair. I do not really read a lot of fanfics, or shipping fics, but I see the amount of shipping fics to have a direct connection to the seclusion and repression of sexual identities of all people from a strict societal construction, not just those people that are LGBT. The fandom, in general, is often more open to challenging social normality, and often that challenge is expressed through the creative outlets that many people within the fandom have such a passion for (I.e. music, writings, art). The creation of these arts, as you stated, are often tied directly to a connection that the creator has between characters that they feel are compatible with themselves; and thus are used as an implement of discovery and release for the self and then identified with by others. The F/F and M/M roles of the shipping fics fall into this category of discovery, as it is the author putting to paper the imaginings of their mind, free of societal constraints and ridicule (for the most part). These fics, as you pointed out, are more than just fantasized exploits of sexual encounters, and instead tend to delve into deeper ideas of relationship, connectivity (being building characteristics) etc; where these ideas are flushed out and are able to become characterized on a personal level with the author. Often these types of ideas are left to wanting within current cultural outlets of identification and realization, where sex (a particular type) is often the main factor. This type of limiting has negative effects on the ability of a person to be able to fully construct their own identity. Again, great article and great comments.

  55. Interesting read. I especially enjoyed the survey bits.

    I wish someone would analyze the relationship in Ren & Stimpy. I find it fascinating how a children’s show could have the sheer boldness to depict both main characters as in a gay relationship, under a positive light.

  56. Nice article :) Awesome facts… And I’m probably late on this but has anyone here read “Cupcakes” yet?

  57. I’m not sure what was more amusing – the idea of bronies, the scientific american-like long essay about this phenomena in relation to queer culture, or the charts included in this article. Seriously WTF did I just read. It was like trying to read about dark matter. I need to read this again stoned.

  58. All the people marveling over how NERDY and WEIRD this article are are making me think I need to get off the internet more. This isn’t even the nerdiest thing I’ve read today.

  59. Umm, I’ve skimed through the comments and I haven’t seen a certain fic that I personally enjoy. Not that it’s bad that it wasn’t mention but I just wondered if it was or not so I woouldn’t look like a complete fool.

    Green is a very sweet ‘femslash’ about Rarity and Fluttershy, following the episode Green isn’t your color.

    • That’s one of my favorite episodes (Photo Finish is best pony) so I’ll definitely have to check that one out! Thanks!

  60. Omigod, FANDOM FEELINGS. I need to watch this show and become happily obsessed with it now that Glee has ruined my life forever.

    • As an ex-Gleek I can personally testify to the fact that MLP is much much better than Glee, and also less manipulative of its fans. So you should check it out!

  61. This just prompted me to watch the first two episodes.

    It’s really cute and I’m really getting a Twilight/Applejack feeling.

    Also just love Applejack in general.

  62. Well this is quite the shock!

    I log onto and see 31 notifications waiting for me! Sure, I’m rather surprised, but then I see they’re mostly for Secret Admirer. At this point I’m floored; it’s very odd to see a spike in popularity for a story that’s been out for awhile, so I decided to investigate and looked into my referrals category and saw 436 referrals from this link.

    First off, I’d like to say the article was great! I read the whole thing and you got right to the core of it: it’s not about the fetishism. I’m a romantic by nature (what others would dub a shipper) so I’m always looking for the romantic hints, whether they’re intended that way or not, and love to see romance or potential love wherever it may exist. That’s how I view Friendship is Magic, through that lens of romanticism, and the show has definitely delivered with how compatible the different characters are.

    Second, I’d like to say thanks for featuring my story in an article such as this. It’s still kind of blowing my mind at the odds of it. I mean if this was a My Little Pony fansite I’d be less surprised, but since this isn’t a site dedicated to the show I’m still pretty amazed at how li’l ol’ me got featured in it.

    Again, thanks for this, and great article.


  63. I came upon this when my friend (the writer of Following A Rainbow) mentioned it to me, and it brings up very good points about the fandom, and I can’t get over that Following A Rainbow tops the list! :D

  64. ”Slash refers to fanfiction that focuses on homosexual relationships, usually between men (the lesbian equivalent is often clarified as “femslash”).”
    Okay, so I bet you’re gonna call most of these things femslash.
    ”In many respects, it was basically just a gender-flipped version of a common fanfiction phenomenon known as “slash.””

    Thumbs for the rest of the article. I like graphs.

    Double: apparently greater/smaller than signs are some weird code in these comments.

  65. Bonus awesome queer fact about My Little Pony: The guy who voices Braeburn and Shining Armor on MLP played Dana’s little brother Howie on The L Word.

  66. I haven’t heard anything about Lickety Split here, my favorite my little pony, but I heard she’s a boy now! I won’t complain but is she even in that show often?

  67. I know I’m a little late to the party, but I figured I would throw in my two cents. I believe that f/f shipping is most popular in the MLP fandom for a few reason. The first of which being there are so few male characters with any personality built in the series. The few that do exist appear only a few times, and as they say, out of sight out of mind. There is Big Mac, Braeburn, Blueblood, Fancy Pants, Soarin, and Discord.
    Big Mac is a fairly popular choice for shipping, particularly FlutterMac.
    Braeburn is a little rare, partly due to him being in a total of one episode.
    Blueblood shippings are more rare, but that is because he is in one episode AND shown as a scum bag.
    Fancy Pants is, presumably, in a relationship so there is little room to work with.
    Soarin and Rainbow Dash is a pretty popular shipping pair, though other shippings with Soarin are virtually non-existant.
    Discord we run into trouble with, but as a major villain and being epic, he gets a lot of sympathy, and their are a few shippings with Celestia or Pinkie Pie, though most Celestia shippings are stories showing the past.

    Going down your list of questions, I believe in a marriage equality, or at least a civil union which has the some effects, particularly those effects that involve adopted (or not?) children.

    I identify myself as heterosexual, and have never been relationship or had a sexual experience with another man, however if the perfect man found me, I might have an internal struggle. I have a very simple test to PROVE that everyone is, on some level, bisexual. Think of the ugliest person of the gender you are not attracted to, that you can remember. Ugly, aren’t they? That means you can find someone unattractive, and by simple relation, can find someone attractive. Everyone is on some level bisexual.

    In terms of double standards, I do believe there is SOME double standards AGAINST M/M shipping. This is simply because the majority of us are heterosexual and M/M rustles our jimmies in an unpleasant way, and as such avoid them.

    I personally do not read M/M shippings because I would not enjoy romantic moments. It would be awkward and by relation, unpleasant to read. So I neither rate nor read them.

    Again, a little late to the party, but I figured I’d throw my thoughts out there.

  68. I really enjoyed reading this actually. I was thinking this would be some sort of hate article, honestly, and I was curious what you had to say. I liked the points you made and I do think it’s true about the fanfiction and how more bronies prefer girlxgirl pairings for this show. Now, I am a brony, or well, since I am a girl, a pegasister, and I’m not huge on pairings for this show but I would support Rainbow DashxFluttershy if the show decided to put them together. Another point I’d like to make too is that I am, more than anything else, in the Hetalia fandom(Axis Powers: Hetalia (APH) is a Japanese anime where there are just about 7 girls in the show compared to 20+ guys) and the main ships for it are yaoi(malexmale). In MLP:FiM, the mane six are girls and so are most of the background cast too, same with Hetalia but with guys. I think it’s just easier to ship yuri(fxf) pairings in MLP because there are more girls and it’s easier to find possible interests for them together. I am guilty when I say that I support the yaoi(mxm) pairings in APH and that I’d be fine with the yuri pairings in this show. But, at the same time, this show doesn’t focus on making the mane 6 into couples. Let the fans like what they like and love and tolerate :)

    Just, putting it out there, I am a 16 year old girl and my sexual orientation is lesbian. I DO support gay rights because it is, quite simply, right. My sexual orientation has nothing to do with the pairings I like, I just think it’s cute and if they have possible chemistry that can be backed up, sure, let’s ship it.

    Sorry for the long comment! D:

  69. I don’t write or read ‘clopfics’ or MlP: FiM fanfiction, but I enjoy the series. And I’m a heterosexual male, near 30.

    I’ll be honest: I peaked early, intellectually. Way back at the age of 4-8, I kid you not, I comprehended the disparity between the content of boy’s cartoons and girls. Boys had neat things like Transformers, Thundercats, Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, the list goes on. We dominated the entertaining cartoons with sugary sweetly summarized ‘adult’ relationship stuffs. Doin’ things. Construction, morality, logic, even some way out there science fiction. It was mind expanding for little boy brains. Seriously. I can’t imagine a childhood without the animated drama and adventure. Dark humor, too.

    And then.. we young boys saw what the little girls had, and it only tore the curtain away from the fact for all we liked about our cartoons, they were just to sell toys. Because for the girls, it was just so blatant and obvious. It’s like they took everything they thought little girls liked, and then added a mix of 1:5 of everything they WANTED little girls to like, emphasize and think about, and made them cartoons. I mean, no woman walking the earth that crawled or toddled in the mid to late 80s would say G1 MLP negatively impacted their childhoods, because it was just something to be entertained by at that level of immaturity.

    So for decades after, we boys learned to bear grudges against ‘saccharine sweet’ girls entertainment. And then added things like soap operas, romance novels and other traditionally ‘feminine’ things into the pile of sour, shallow stuff that women liked, but we loved them for it anyway. Every so often, a boy might say, “You know what? Little girls get the short end of the stick when it comes to good, quality, mind expanding entertainment. Stuff that’ll do for the social brain matter of girls what sci-fi and fantasy conflict shows did for the analytical minds of young boys.” And then some of us might set off to do just that. Only to realize later, that adult men can’t produce such heartfelt, soulful things. Because women would reject them, citing a grown man that would do that would be weird, potentially dangerous, or ‘speaking down’ to young girls by patronizing and condescending. Or just subconsciously producing things we’d think girls would like, but are actually nonplussed by. So we sulk about this catch22 and just tolerate how it seemed like young girls would always just have to choose between glittery giggly teaparty princesses or graduate to catty, drama-llama teen girl TV shows.

    We knew what it’d take were female creators and heads of projects to get anywhere with this sort of thing. But it had to be organic. Somebody with XX chromosomes, a whole bunch of talent and experience, passion, and a depth of maturity would just kind of have to appear out of the ether and want to produce something healthy and entertaining for the female side of things. We knew the likelihood they had of producing anything was smaller still, because toy companies don’t care about shows for little girls. Little girls will either buy lots of pretty plastic, or jump rope outside. Plot and writing not important. And then, here it came. She’s moved on to other things now, but outside my appreciation of her product, I’ll always respect what she and the staff behind it did. The right women with the right stuff and the right philosophy just don’t seem to step up and do what needs to be done, sometimes. We don’t know why. But we can’t do it for them.

    FiM plunked out of nowhere as an answer to all the Barbie Horse Adventure and Disney Princess stuff. And it’s good. The Mane 6 are all healthy archtypes without being archetypes, labels without necessitating or being limited by the labels or ‘kinds’ of girl. The male characters aren’t limited to being dopey, deriding boogymen or bullies, the dialog feels like they actually try instead of giving it to an intern to phone the effort in and patronize to the kids with baby talk. There are little nods and winks and cameos of things those girls that bother getting into more standard ‘guy things’ will rediscover in coming decades (the ‘thumbs out’ dance Twilight did from Seinfeld, Yakkety Sax with the phoenix.)

    I’m single, without daughters (or sons, either) but I have feelings and opinions. And in my opinion, we need more things like FiM in our culture. Nothing feels tacked on or preachy, everything feels organic and healthy. It’s a girl’s cartoon that I wouldn’t feel assaulted by diabetic coma were it to turn on on a sunny saturday morning. My only disappointment is Faust was even MORE ambitious than Hsbro let her see through! The show was supposed to get more recurring villains and a few multi-part adventures.

    As for the stuff about homosexuality? I don’t see it. If you’re looking for it, you might see it. If you’re not, you may not. But I do know the fact people are so quick to jump all over a hug you give to another man as, “EEEE! A SIGN YOU MIGHT BE GAAAAY!” that it just makes the prospect uncomfortable and conspicuous where anyone can see. It kind of annoys me as a straight man that a go-getter like Rainbow Dash gets pigeonholed into the position of ‘the lesbian’ just because she’s sporty and hasn’t been written to have a male friend yet. But people, particularly people with marginalized sexualities, want somebody to represent them in media. If only to validate who and what they are. I’m not adverse to adding alternative sexualities in media for children, but I admit annoyance at people foisting it on Rainbow just because she’s competitive and athletic. That doesn’t mean I have anything against homosexuals, but it does mean I’m disappointed in how athletic girls either have to be dykes or hyper-culturally-feminine. That ultimatum hurts female athleticism.

  70. I realize that this article is quite old at this point, but nevertheless as the artist of the Rarity/Applejack image you linked to above, and as a very avid supporter of LGBT rights and representation in the media I just wanted to express how much I enjoyed this article, as well as to thank you for writing it. Although it is obviously incredibly unlikely (though not entirely impossible) that we shall ever actually see any homosexual relationships realized or even seriously implied in this series (beyond what appears to be the occasional tease done for laughs), the fact that such a large percentage of the fandom seemingly embraces or in any case does not oppose the idea in fanworks is extremely encouraging to me, and gives me hope that someday soon enough we may well see such a thing cease to be a taboo subject in children’s media. In any event, cheers once again on a great informative article, and many thanks for featuring my work.

    • I still check this periodically and I wanted to let you know I saw your comment and I really appreciate that you liked this article!

      “the fact that such a large percentage of the fandom seemingly embraces or in any case does not oppose the idea in fanworks is extremely encouraging to me, and gives me hope that someday soon enough we may well see such a thing cease to be a taboo subject in children’s media”

      This and the embrace of homosexuality in other fandoms of children’s media makes me very hopeful as well. I’m less about the optimistic about the brony fandom these days than I was when I wrote this, but I do think that it won’t be long until we see an at least very implicitly, if not explicitly, LGBT character in Western children’s media.

  71. This is very old. I’m just commenting, because it was very rarly mentioned, but sence season 2 began. He was probably the most flouresed out side character. Dr. Whooves as known by the fandom or finally recognized by Hasbro as Dr. Hooves he is very rarely talked about, and he is not fisicaly shipped he is intertwined. He also is romantically a little one sided at times but Romanticlly involved and even has a foal and adopted young mare. Derpy is his Assistant and later love.There filly/foal Dinky is a Unicorn. Derpy is the mailmare.There is many incarnations but the one who loves derpy is my favorite.Look up Doctor whooves and assistant and be inthraled.He may be a copy of Dr. Who but that just gits me interested in another show and shows how the references in MLP:FIM git you to broden your horizons Look it up on youtube There’s many caracters in the show Roseluck, Master even other Doctors you just have to look. Remember Me As I Was is another good one a little sad but good.He is the most Beleavable M/F relationship character I know.

    sorry it’s long and most of it sounds like rembling.just my first post on the net in a long long time

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  73. Somehow, I missed this posting on its debut, and have only just discovered it (and duly passed it on!). It makes me happy to see this here, as MLP:FiM’s proven to be such a joy, upending so many common perceptions of what we’re “meant” to like, regardless of age or gender; I’m delighted to see some folk indeed gave it a try, having read the article. ^_^

    I doubt anyone will see this, given the posting’s three years old now, but I’ll add a couple video recommendations:

    Non-canon, but.. it takes one of the minor characters, Snails, and casts them in the position of questioning their gender (adorably).

    “Love Me Like You Do”:
    So many adorable couples in this wonderful shipfest. ^_^

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