Sexuality, Gender, and the Performance of Wrestling Fan Culture

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This dissertation focuses on fan culture in the world of professional wrestling, specifically the perspectives and experiences of female and AFAB (assigned female at birth) non-binary fans . The project explores broader themes about empowerment, female sexuality, and representation through the lens of fans of American professional wrestling, particularly World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The dissertation looks at the performance of self and the performance of fandom on social media sites (such as Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram), during “live” wrestling events, as well as through fan fiction and other artistic expressions. In so doing, I explore various ideas about the ways that fans behave, interact, and connect with one another in a frequently male-dominated forum in order to grapple with larger questions about gender and performance in American society and history. I argue that non-male fans attempt to refigure the image of wrestling fan culture to include their own voices and their own presence through the use of social media and other virtual methods of connection and community-building.