I started watching horror in the 1980s and was immediately hooked. I was/am very feminine or “girly” with an early interest in makeup and fashion with a fluffy pink and lace aesthetic and rose-covered wallpaper. Why does this matter? Because of the gender-definition of the typical horror fan and all of its expectations. I didn’t have any female horror fans to spend my time with outside of my mother, so I would overhear boys talking about Nightmare on Elm Street and desperately want to join in the conversation. I found out very quickly that I must pass a screening or “test” of some type to be able look at the latest issue of Fangoria with them. The “proving grounds” began there and, while they have been nearly eradicated these days, a bit of the old guard are still hanging around.
Horror hit a big boom in the 1980s with the VCR becoming a staple in every home and video stores everywhere with large quantities of horror inside – right at a person’s fingertips. My mom worked at a local video store chain and she would take my brothers and I inside and let us pick out movies. I grabbed what struck my fancy or came highly recommended from my mom. In most cases, I knew more than the boys with the Fangoria magazines. To add to that, I was an advanced and avid reader already into Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and Bram Stoker works – to name a few.
It never failed throughout my childhood and teen years and even into my adulthood to be quizzed when I joined in a horror conversation with males. It was a “guy” thing to be into horror, apparently. I would immediately be asked what my favorite horror film was, my favorite gore moment, my favorite slasher, how many movies I’d seen, etc. It was grueling and quite insulting to have to prove my credentials again and again and again. Little Jimmy from a different class would overhear the conversation and drop in and, to my absolute “horror”, would not be asked a single question. There was no screening or quiz for him because of course he knew about horror. He was male.
As I got into my high school years, I became even more feminine – perfumes, purses, makeup, clothes, shoes: the very stereotypical trappings of the feminine ideal. By this point – the mid-to-late-1990s – the proving grounds were still in place and this time also including my video game credentials as I was also a dedicated gamer. More females were outspoken about horror and video games then but it was nowhere close to the way it is today. Also, there was a significant change. Once I would “pass” my screening to prove that, yes, I was quite a horror fan and, yes, I played a lot of video games – the worst reaction of all would happen: I suddenly became the “perfect” woman. I encompassed the “feminine ideal” with my looks and I had many of the same interests the males did. I would later come to understand that males wanted me pretty, docile, and someone who wouldn’t detract them from their own activities in male-dominated pursuits like horror films and long gaming sessions. This made me wildly popular with males who now desperately wanted to date me and overflowing with the kind of attention and objectification I, struggling with being queer (demisexual), did not want. I merely wanted to be a peer, not a love interest. This also earned me enmity from other females that claimed I was “faking it” for male attention. It was overwhelming.
It wasn’t until my 20s that I met a soulmate in both horror and gaming. He, a gay male, took me out on “friend” dates to horror films and gamed with me with zero pressure and never asked for my credentials. There was no awkwardness or idealization. We just bonded over the same things. It changed me and gave me hope just being so blindly accepted.
Obviously my husband (who also is my best friend) shares these interests with me. I mean, he edits and co-hosts The House That Screams horror podcast each week with me. It’s wonderful that we can share that passion together and with our friends on the show. The horror community has changed dramatically. I feel such a sense of community and acceptance from everyone there, particularly on Twitter. I’ve met so many other females who have shared the same proving grounds with me and what a long way we’ve come! Meeting other female horror fans – unafraid of judgment or ridicule for their love of the genre – and also meeting female horror icons has refreshed the horror community. I’ve only had one condescending male experience and it was what inspired this blog post. This “mansplaining” male assumed that when I posted on Twitter about the 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula (seriously, that’s the name of the film as Universal owns the rights to the simple title “Dracula”), that I had no idea who Bram Stoker was and that I assumed he was the director. He asked me if I even knew the author of the book it was based on and it caused audible groaning from me. Not only do I think Bram Stoker directed the film, I apparently can’t read books – in his mind. It gave me a shock as fans of my horror podcast and the horror community in general have been so lovely to me all this time.
The bottom line is this: myself and other female horror fans have nothing to prove to anyone else. We are fans and that’s genderless. It’s a community that is kind and supportive so we must all shake off the unwanted DMs and male naysayers and keep being exactly what we all are: horror fans.
I spend $ on lashes, good skincare, my hair, high-end perfume and makeup… and gore films crack me up. I identify as a massive horror fan.
The horror hostess with the mostest!