..social practice tolerates it as it tolerates pleasure.
Lest we get too maudlin and protective of the Genshiken fujoshi tribe, it is a good idea to remember that they are all died-in-the-wool, over the top perverts. They may be unworldly in the sense of intimate dealings with or interest in real men-folk, but they are sexual creatures; they know, understand an enjoy their desires, to the point of “taking them for reality”. And their desires are far from mainstream – although defining mainstream in Japan might be a fools game. Like well developed pervert communities all over, they are “in negotiation” with the real world and its disappointments, and they have an alternative to the problematic real world that suits them fine: their shame arises only from unexpected collisions of their desires with the world, and a residual sense of of guilt over being caught for being ruled by their lusts. Otherwise they hold to their own supposed moral high ground; their little diversions involve no one and supposedly hurt no one – its all 2D, right?
Ogiue’s sin is a convenient writer’s fiction. As a fujoshi myth, it holds a frisson of guilty power; that a secret obsessive pairing fantasy could get lose in the real world, brand some guy a sou-uke (or a FAG) and ruin their life. Such things do happen, webcams get gimmicked to stay on and then someone jumps off a bridge, but the circumstances are far, far messier and malicious in the real world. That idiot stateside should have confessed that he was secretly intruigued by the whole thing, and that’s why he did it. The bit of lookie-at-this he did was just cover. But no, he was just being a regular run- of-the-mill jerk, and will spend time in jail, and get deported because he was a jerk. A young gay man killed himself, at least partially, over this and blood calls for blood. But this was plain old fashioned malice, not fujoshi, or fudanshi fantasy that got lose in the real world.
Heck, it was malice in Ogiues case too, just not hers. Do fujoshi seek revenge?
Fujoshi desire is about 2D cartoons of imaginary aliens that resemble human males jumping each other with no identifiable narrator-stand-in for the fujoshi reader. I seriously doubt that fujoshi “identifies” with the bottom or the top; If anything they vicariously enjoy the entire mess – since they created it. Unlike male pervs, no fujoshi is going to dream of luring a harem of young men into doing the nasty for her enjoyment, frequent a gay-boys-doing-fake-rape club show or fantasize in squick fiction about getting up a fujoshi paradise where exploited pretty boys willingly degrade each other for her amusement. A male perv wants involvement, the female perv wants distance. A male perv craves moar, the fujoshi seems to focus on the oft-violent fantasy dance of a single pair bonding.
Even the male counterpart, naughty yuri is more suspect for potential harm, reinforcing negative stereotypes of women, turning the complex dynamics of real-world woman’s love into a a group-fuck stage show, and through the S-class variant, dismissing female desire as just good sex training for an eventual pairing with mr. salaryman. Tsk tsk tsk, unless the girls are reading it too (it gets complicated, neh?)
Some points remain similar though.. The absence of a male character in yuri is often praised as one of its defining advantages: PWP Porn without pecker – which gives twice as much nubile female flesh, (or perhaps 5, 6, 7 or moar! wheeeeeeeeeeee!) to enjoy without mr. pornstar getting in there and cock-blocking. Both men and women who like yuri appreciate this. Undoubtedly, the lack of women in the way in yaoi has a similar (symbolic competition/ distraction) effect and another less-annoying-to-guys effect is also at work: a female character in the yaoi action re-grounds the fantasy in the problemmatic real-world, much more than a male character breaks a yuri paradise fantasy.
The internal moral logic of hard yaoi is something reminiscent of the old “Castle Wolfenstein” games. Die Nazi Scum! Die!
Rape, blackmail, domination, manipulation is what guys “do” in pursuit of sex, but look, they do it so well to each other, it must be love. That most behaviour among real-life guys runs closer to Beavis and Butthead than to Oil Sheik X Bishie Young Executive is beside the point. Aberrant sex-seeking behaviour is sometimes directed by guys at guys, but it is continuous, unavoidable, and carries a real chance of violence and/or death for women. It was fetishized in earlier bodice ripper romances, but It remains a real fucking drag! You don’t need the angry ghost of Andrea Dworkin here, normal societal bullshit will do just fine.
There is also a strong element of the regressive in yaoi, as “seme” (alpha male out for fuck-flesh) behaviour is posited as the penultimate in male behaviour, and enjoyed vicariously. Fun to watch, dangerous to partake in.
Look at poor Ogiue’s disappointment that Sas is not more forceful, more jealous, more possessive (Hato???) – although this is reflected through a male magaka’s POV, and which reflects in turn a larger Japanese media frenzy/ consensus over the decline of the manly man in today’s youth. Good plot fodder though.
There is a humour in the varieties of yaoi that is missing in most other strains of porn, grim as it is.
While not all yaoi is a violent and amoral fuck-pursuit – tales of pretty man-boys finding each other in an office setting long after a high-school fling are just representations of 2X as much pretty flesh doing hot things – the violence towards the male-centric symbolic order remains. Even a gay aquaintance of a woman-friend of mine who travelled to Japan a few times in search of fun and adventure pronounced yaoi “too rapey” for his tastes (Third party reporting, not very good social science, oh well). He is after all, (as Oguie mused of Hato) still a guy..
And the Genshiken women-folk are still perverts. One of the soon-to-be-new additions to the Genshiken is into what many western laws would call child porn, even if it is 2D. No teaching career for you, young lady! That she hasn’t shown up lately is telling; I hope she doesn’t get jettisoned by the author. As some fujoshi bloggers have noted, worries about customs searches are a reccurring concern.
It is troublesome enough to the authoritarian mind that women should seek solitary enjoyment in pornography. It tacks too close to rules of exclusivity, ownership, obedience and dominance that turn the woman into an exchangeable commodity, whose price is determined by lack of past use. It is worse if they enjoy stuff that isn’t “educational” to their appointed roles.. It remains the original sin of humanity that so many of us still (snicker) “serve a false god. . . a dead false god!” that tricks most its believers into accepting their status as farm animals, by convincing the males that females should be treated as such. Yaoi burlesques this, (c.f. “you are trying to tame me with food”) but a glance at the newspapers shows us row upon rows of skulls grinning at us.
A female pervert distorts the symbolic order of desire, male, and therefore state authority and patterns of patriarchal power that underpin the social order. I am doing Kitchen-sink leftist/ Lacanian feminist marxian blah blah here, in the sense that the woman “knowing her place” is posited as one of the big legitimised suck-up-kick-down structures of a heiracrchial society that keeps buddy boy slaving away at the office and mouthing right wing crap, all the while his dick has been sawn off. (cf Nazi-prop about kitchens, churches and child-rearing) In other words, no one “has” a phallus, but the rulers get to wave it’s ghostly image around to justify their comfy place on the top of the heap.
Dont bother with “Daddy I want to kill you” – his got sliced off long ago too. (oh shit, there goes the plot line of a whole raft of epic boy-dad tales from Playboy of the Western World to the latest Mamet script for The Unit) The dog barks for the master, but eats scraps, as some of our more radical friends would say.
Meanwhile Itoshiki Noizumi and Momori Oshii remind us that we really do not want to know what happens to stray dogs, or demons (The SZS stray demon thing was a tip of the hat towards Oshii’s Fast Food Grifters, someone might have finally made sense of it to eng-sub it properly – I gave up!) But I digress: society, it complicated and often tragic thing.. Duh!
Back to sophomore class-war crap: fujoshi desire is oddball though, in the sense that so much of it is internally produced, but it is even odder in that it fetishizes (and I mean fetishize as in makes her wet!) extremes of exploitative behaviour, at a safe distance. It may sugar coat this with a “the madness of lurv made me do it – I had to have you and only you” view of male-male desire, but I suspect that this convention is another source of reoccurring bitter laughter among its devotees. Nothing can blow a guy out of the water faster than finding that his confession of unending love to the woman he has been happily intimate for months or years gets the same reaction as a demand for her spare kidney. I warn ye, oh my brothers that this is more common than ye might think. You are asking her to give up her autonomy in the relationship for some societal approved love, honor and obey crap. Ya just blew it! Perhaps you should be more forceful (snort!) You can now get all petulant and hang out on 4chan. As your lawyer, I would recommend shutting the fuck up and massaging her feet.
Other angry ghosts in bedroom:
Japanese society may have eleborate conventions of politeness, but the fatalism of “the strong eat the weak” is never far from the surface. Add to that a long tradition of thinly veiled homoerotic narratives in privileged patriotic, martial death-glorifying tales (so full of bloody vicious bullshit, that they really need a good sendup.. go warm your own sandals, asshat) that a smart, thinking woman must need iron self-control lest it all just goes POP! I do hope that Rika spends a lot of time shipping those Sengoku era generals, rather than just marvelling at their abilities for producing glorious deaths.
Fujoshi desire subverts not only by “shipping” emblems and behaviour patterns of male power – exploiting the male symbolic order for something as selfishly irrelevant as solitary fapping, all the while withdrawing from their proper role as women. Then it compounds the crime by radically appropriating its own pleasure and and its means of production – the yaoi phenomenon is inseparable from the dojinshi phenomenon.
Finally, it can get lose (in manga) and shame the young men! (or worse, turn them into crossdressing fudanshis.. “HER” again!) At the very least yaoi parodies and turns to amusing sport the secret fear of all men within groups of men – that the violent reducing-to-object/victim that society reserves to women may turn at any moment on them, as one is singled out and goes in an instant from pack member to prey: the ur-source of the male fear of male homosexuality. To turn this into a “dirty story” for the girls to snicker at is terrifying.
Fujoshi desire paints all male desire with the same brush, or two brushes; seme and uke, especially when the pairing goggles get deployed. It might profess to “like gays”, but it has a guilty habit of essentializing male sexuality as predator/ prey first, fantasy-gay later, providing the flip-side to millennia of male essentialization of women.
A funny little 4-comma in SZS shows the product of a young fujoshi’s summation of male behaviour: two guys playing on a some sports field, then fighting, then ending up in bed. Haw haw. Best to ignore it, the young fujoshis will make good office ladies and wives when they get over it – or in spite of it.
Not that “rotten” at all, and they are all very, very, very guilty about it, but just can’t help themselves.
Hey! Why is not the University level Genshiken club room full of this kind of (verging dangerously close to sophomoric) discussion??? Oh right, they are too busy passing around (and drawing) the stuff.. What are you doing in the bathroom with those dojinshi? Praxis?
Ok .. stop this now… Weird Japanese campus marxism was good for nothing but murderously purging itself – might as well make sarin gas cult jokes. (or a dojinshi???)
QUERY: Does real-world fujoshi desire, in Japan extend past pairing manga characters to contemporary personalities and occasions? Could the murderous behaviour of the JRA purge and seige be re-written as a tragic tale of homerotic lust? How about the G-8 summit? The Om shin riku, Mishima’s last stand (whoops, no point), The Fukashima 3/11 meltdown? What are the actuals extant in the field? Why does mah-jong manga get all the fun stuff?
QUERY: At what point, if such was the case, would such invite the wrath of a certain Tokyo Governor with a slimy pasts of his own? Did not something like this happen with Edo-era shunga?
Aint gonna happen. I suspect it would be a withering dry hump. Back to the wimmins avoiding their responsibilities, re: the future of Japan, by snickering at mecha pilots pining for each other. 2D is best! Power level goes to 9000 precisely because of yaoi’s irrelevance. They don’t even bother to “piss on the altar”, so little is their reverence for the church.
Among the male otaku of the Genshiken, only Madarame has a similar “Néant” absolutism to following prescribed paths of desire, and it is too easily upended. Dress the pretty girl up as his favourite 2-d character and he is dashed to pieces. For the other members of the Genshiken, getting them to pair off and mate (ecepting Saki and Kou) is about as involved as getting zoo pandas to show interest in each other. Takes a bit of coaxing, it does…
A long talk with Madarame is in order. Why 2D rather than 3D. Simple sour grapes or a greater refusal? Does he even want a 3D Saki?
What has so poisoned the well?
LATER: It seems there is a critical academic study of Yaoi/BL manga out there, thought it looks like it burns a bit too much powder on how it travels through the rest of world, rather than the oddness of its production (fan & commercial), and popularity within Japan. Looks like I have to hunt down a copy of “Boys’ Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre“, Antonia Levi, Mark McHarry, and Dru Pagliassotti (eds).
Kudoes again to Intersections for keeping their journal open and search-able to all. Mechademia remains behind a clerisy-wall; You can get it for free it you are at one of a whole shit-load of Universities and have the magic password, but mere mortals have to buy it – even though mere mortals’ tax money has grossly subsidized its production, and those subsidies to universities were supposed to expand human knowledge. See Boingboing.net for ongoing debates on paywalled academic studies and the journal racket. And Mechademia USED TO let muggles read
and d/l for free. So much for “user enhancement” of Mechademia V6. If anyone wishes to properly enhance it, by making a copy available, drop a line..