What to do with Genshiken Ch 79? Nothing but wait until ch80. As we have been told that this forms the last chapter of a collected volume/ tankoubon, we at least know that G2 is not going to vanish suddenly away. As for the rest of it, speculating about what happens next is too vexing, both on a plot and meta- level. One talk in the club room is not going to cure Madarame, unless something momentously strange happens.
At least Mada is going to get his little problem addressed by a sensible “normal” woman. Hmmmmm, I wonder if it means anything that only Keiko, Sue and Hato decided to launch this odd initiative?
Meanwhile, more reading and research:
I thought I would try a bit more of Boy’s Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre, edited by Antonia Levi, Mark McHarry and Dru Pagliasotti (the pdf still in some demented unicode variant so I cannot cut/ paste quotes dammit dammit dammit!) This time I tried ch4: Better than Romance – Japanese BL Manga and the subgenre of male/Male romantic fiction by Dru Pagliassotti. Pagliassotti runs the fairly dormant Yaoi Reaserch wiki site, which holds the raw survey results http://yaoiresearch.com/2012/05/03/bl-survey-qualitative-dat/ An earlier, more detailed take on the material in the chapter can be found here: http://www.participations.org/Volume%205/Issue%202/5_02_pagliassotti.htm
As with another chapter in the book, which I reviewed earlier as a straw man
(I admit it – used it to set up an oddball application of Adrian Piper’s ideas on modernism), the Pagliassotti chapter gives plenty of insight into western fan interest and hobby-horse jockeying – both theoretical and practical, but very little insight in to what makes straight Japanese women want to read and make the stuff. At least the participations article comes right out and deals with the fact that her interest has always been centered around the diffusion of bl/yaoi across borders, and into “western” space. Then again, the collection IS about the Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre, so perhaps I am being unreasonable to expect anything but reports from the diaspora.
One important point that her survey, (including the results of a similar Italian survey) made was that bl/yaoi readership outside Japan was split near equally between straight women and gay folks. Japanese studies still show a %90+ straight female readership. The book chapter seems to gloss over the radical difference in readership inside and outside of Japan. (again, Piper’s “assimilating our culture, that’s what they are doing” observations prove valuable) It takes a while for it to kick in that she is as clueless as to why individual Japanese wimmen-folk do this stuff as the rest of us heathens. Or she has her suspicions, but ain’t telling.
Fortunately, while digging through the pdf pile, I also stumbled upon:
Reading and Living Yaoi – Male-Male Fantasy Narratives as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan by Akiko Mizoguchi, University of Rochester Phd thesis 2008
Wow! Testimony by a japanese fujoshi! Download this, read it! Fujoshi Confidential!
Right from the start, Mizoguchi proclaims that reading yaoi helped her become a lesbian (!) and then gets down to individual, personal questions of desire versus societal expectations. Testimony from an actual Japanese women fans of the genre, with historical research, anecdotes and just enough theory to entice the reader, without the usual citation procession of orthodox gender theory sages.
What Mizoguchi brings to us poor gaijin is the sense of complicated fluidity that surrounds desire and sexuality (as private matter and public face) in contemporary Japan. I swear that Shimoku-sensei must have had something like this in mind when he filled his venerable otaku-pit with young fujoshi. In her introduction, Mizoguchi remembers an early Lesbian and Gay film festival attended by only a few gays and “out” lesbians; the inference being that a large number of the women present were straight, and there for some “new and different” BL fare.
This stuff is gold! Testimonials from early adopters torn between the feelings that their previously secret deviant hobby is now so mainstream and popular as to be a subset of “normal” female interest (at least in Japan), but at the cost of losing the feeling of being a part of a (self-) chosen elite.
And what is an “out” lesbian doing proclaiming that her fujoshi-dom helped her cope with her feelings for her first big girl-crush? Read that part and note the language she places into the scene! I was moved, but I also smiled as her statement was pure genre trope.
As she discusses the genre, and its evolution, she tries to keep things from getting too graphic, but since this is about pseudo-gay pr0n, there is the inevitable illustrations and ahem, details. Yikes!
This is compensated for by a lot of work on the idea of the fan community as a woman’s space – at times an insanely crowded public woman’s space (eg comiket among others; I am sure that if this thesis had been written 2 years later, Genshiken would have popped up in the footnotes) and on the distinctions between public identity and private desire that are emphasized by Japanese notions of honne and tatemae (alluded to but not pushed too hard – all societies have their public and private faces). There is also a good section on why Japanese gays, and lesbians find the genre annoying as hell – the signature “I’m not gay, but” line of the genre grates them just as much as it would their western counterparts, and the genre has in the past been chock full of heteronormative stereotypes about “real” gay men being un-selectively promiscuous, to the extent that when a nominally “gay” male in yaoi is smitten with a yaoi -crush he turns “straight” in the sense that he will forsake his errant ways for monogamous forever “trew ruv” with his one and only. (2 points for Shimoku for having Saki discombobulate the Genshiken fujoshi with reference to 3D gay folks – Hah!!)
The comiket testimony could be unpacked a bit more with theory and real-world contrasts: floating behind the scene is the ghost of french structuralist/ poststructuralist anthropology’s trope of the “exchange of women” inverted into a 400,000+ attendance public, outdoor space where fantasy male-male sex puppets are exchanged by and for women to bond in a “community” and then later drag home and “enjoy”. This is like some Planet of the Amazons 1950’s sci-fi movie! Except of course that the wimmins don’t need the men for breeding, just as tokens in a game of “symbolic exchange”.
Also of note was the way the issue of rigid seme x uke pairings was treated: Queer folk in Japan and beyond find this really annoying, but the fangirls seem to find the formula reassuring. My suspicions center around the popularity of fan-produced work: the (ahem) rigid scheme makes fan writing/production easier.
Rio Otomo has more to say about this, aparently, but of course mere mortals like me can’t get their hands on the research paper (1) Mizoguchi hints that she believes commercial publishers support and even [yikes! A patriarchy of editiors!] enforce the formula, as essential for situating work within a genre that keeps selling. Mizoguchi also asserts that tastes in the genre have recently moved towards championing sensitivity towards LGTB real-world issues, if only because “rapes-of-love” and “I’m not gay but” should be seen as unrealistic and distasteful – and therefore shoddy constructs for a fantasy setting.
A real live Japanese lesbian fan-
girl woman academic is in some ways a far less intimidating guide to the genre for those of us with little interest in the full gender studies theory universe, but with a nagging sense of curiosity as to why so many Japanese straight girls really really want this stuff. But make no mistake; Mizoguchi considers yaoi-space as women’s space, to the point of it serving as a zone of quasi/ virtual lesbianism/ lesbian separatism.
I get the sense that a real-life Hato would severely annoy her unless he could summon up the courage to declare himself as some kind of “queer”. Then he would get a hall pass – until he declared himself thoroughly acquainted with her theories. In such a case Hato-chan would be something dangerously close to a gappel-san of her: seeking a kind of female community where symbolic desire is exchanged with those who you also happen to be interested in, in real life. Hmmmmmm! We have a potential “explanation” for Hato here!
Still, with its candid, personal and rigorous approach to the genre, in Japan, by a Japanese fujoshi / o-kifujin this is by far the most detailed work on the Japanese fujoshi-verse I have yet come across. Anything that helps make sense of the whole odd bl/yaoi phenomenon in situ is a major addition to the field!
Good Great Work! (cartoon double thumbs up!!!!!)
Someone get Shimoku-sensei the Japanese version of this one, so he can drop a few more realistic fujoshi into the pot! (well, she publishes widely in Japan too – perhaps he already reads her stuff for background?) Akiko Mizoguchi is currently teaching at Tama University in Japan. Her blog can be found here:
Google xlate works well enough on her blog: She seems to be active in a lot of academic and community queer theory stuff, but retains her interest in yaoi. She is still a fujoshi, and makes a point of helping out with sales of tiger x bunny dojins produced by her friends at current comic markets! Wow!
Her recent thoughts on yaoi, an update of her thesis with added concerns can be read here: http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/143-168chap10Mizoguchi20101224.pdf
This article is part of a symposium on manga and comics, all the papers can be downloaded in one giant pile, in english, at the bottom of the page, here:
And finally, published as a thesis at the same time, a western fujoshi finds a similar community among western fen: Amy Ann O’Brien, “Boys’ Love and Female Friendships: The Subculture of Yaoi as a Social Bond between Women” (2008). Anthropology Theses. Paper 28. http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/anthro_theses/28
(1) “An Essay on Pornography: Readers and Their Multiple Realities” Rio Otomo, University of Melbourne. Qote abstract from http://www.isc.oita-u.ac.jp/e/news_window_epdf/BLworkshopprogram.pdf :
“While sameness thus enables a quick fix, as it were, it controls
the process of association and crucially precludes the possibility of her transformation, or at least of her finding a new form of pleasure. In contrast, when a pornographer pursues her artistic end and attempts to focus on difference, transference on the part of the reader becomes onerous and devious. As usual, the reader tries to associate two sets of relations and creates the third one in her mind. By then, however, she will have had to deconstruct her knowledge of existing relations, and the experience as such will affect and possibly transform her, though at the cost of erotic achievement. I discuss a cause to re-articulate the seemingly ordinary statement that pornography, including BL, does not exist outside readers’ reality.”
The paper is from a workshop at Oita University in Jan 2011: “Glocal Polemics of ‘BL’ (Boys Love): Production, Circulation, and Censorship” . Despite the damn Glocal neologism, the topics sounded interesting with a lot of powder burned about the Tokyo anti-pr0n regulations. The previously discussed Uli Meyer paper popped up there too. Facilitator was Mark McLelland, University of Wollongong, who is unavoidable in the gender -studies fujoshi/ Japan field and organizer was probably Kazumi Nagaike, of Oita University who also presented: “Do Heterosexual Men Dream of Homosexual Men?: BL Fudanshi (‘rotten men’) and the Discourse of Male Feminization” – which sure looks like somebody has been reading a lot of Genshiken lately. She has a $140 book out on fujoshi/ bl/ yaoi that mere mortals will never read.
Why can’t they put their stuff online? Many taxpayers from many countries supported their research: time to share folks!