… to the heart of the Yuri world!
Wherein I attempt a highly subjective and impressionistic consideration of the urgent need for an upgraded Yuri and contemplate the possibilities for a similarly upgraded male fandom. Warning; epic flood of man-splaining, sardonic humour, some bitterness follows below the cutline…
Complete with background music; an entire playlist is cued up…
Was not the sin given to me pride?
Everybody is an expert on porn.(1) I do not discuss Yuri much as a genre in this blog, precisely because, as a genre it bears the mark of a cookie-cutter objectification of women that can be easily subsumed into a wider class of “fanservice” genres available to my gaze. As well, it appears to be curiously absent from the pages of the Genshiken, which I use as a point of departure and return for my excursions in the representations of desire in contemporary Japanese visual cultures. Glaringly absent, which as I have previously noted is curious. Of course there are a few other reasons to avoid discussing Yuri. One is the obvious danger of over-fanning on my own prurient interest in it, in a blog. Another is the sense of trespass I feel, now that a small part of the genre is being reclaimed by the real-life subjects it claims to depict. Confronted with the expertise, the dedication and the breadth of knowledge of these advocates, the anxiety of influence, that I as casual, occasional consumer of a problematic genre face is overwhelming; the insight that I can offer extremely limited and most probably full of errant nonsense.
For example, when struck by the relatively mild level of fanservice and near-sympathetic treatment of a “lesbian” protagonist in the last instalment of the Bakemonogatari anime franchise, I may be tempted to offer the tale up for wider consideration. More research would have warned me that the past output of the house of SHAFT is enough to taint it with dread suspicion from their past misbehaviour and that anything they produce with the word “lesbian” in it will probably follow their past predilections.
Not quite as suspicious as Larry Flint rising from the grave and declaring that he will oversee a live action version of Holy Mary Watches Over Us, but damn close. Oh Crap(!), they already did something like that, what, two seasons of it? I give up…
On the other hand, one of the most striking aspects of the creation of “the other” in CJVC is precisely the way that the “default reader” aka the patriarchal gaze, or bunch of middle-aged guys at publishing houses, or the fan base, or the Loser Fan Boys or whatever Danshi (Yuri or Fu) feel the need to indulge in fantasy reflections of real-life sexual minorities for their (our) entertainment. The extreme, almost desperate impulse to “colonize” is something remarkable in itself. It is as if, along with the Lacanian subject-hood in my pants, I also gained free membership in the Borg Collective.
“Resistance is futile, you will adapt to service us.”
As previously noted, the Japanese culture magazine Eureka has sprung another of its famous examinations of trends in Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture with a “State of the Yuri” address to the nation. A Paetron subscription to Erica Friedman’s Okazu blog will get you an early preview of the full, somewhat-authorized English translation; rumoured to include essays by herself, James Welker and many others. Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi might have a hand in it too (my machine xlation of her blog is maddeningly imprecise). Yuri is being chivied towards another breakout in Japan.
The James Welker’s synopsis for his essay is telling:
“”Drawing on commercial and fan-produced media and observation at fan events, in this paper I examine how yuri fandom is defined in yuri media and other contexts in Japan. I focus both on gender and sexual minority fans, many of whom are seeking characters with whom to identify and representations of romantic or sexual fantasies not available elsewhere, and on heterosexual fans. Straight men, in particular, occupy a very visible position within yuri fandom, prominently personified in the cross-media narrative Yuri Danshi (Yuri boy). I consider parallels and overlaps with BL fandom, as well as the coexistence of gender and sexual minority and heterosexual fans, and how this shapes both yuri fandom and the narratives themselves.””
– Precis of; Inclusion and Diversity among Fans of Yuri Media in Japan by James Welker
Prominently personified, am me brethren?
Given a giant crate of past expiry date lemons it is commendable to consider the benefits of a lemonade stand; to accentuate the positive aspects of an anarchy of slavering Yuri fans -perhaps as a vanguard revolutionary party or supportive community rather than a perverse mob. Things are better-mannered in Japan. In English-speaking communities of interest, Yuri fandoms betray certain internal tensions, pointed out in its most extreme form in such
open cesspits forums as 4chan’s /U board. Admittedly some Anons on /U have put in a lot of effort and have at least brought some sorting rules to it of late, if not a superficial “order”, but it still remains a weird spot where anonymous posters – go ahead, try to guess their real-life identities I dare you – indulge their enthusiasm for (usually) libidinized works within the genre, the more extreme, the better. And then there is the whole argumentative Anon-mind thing. (See also: http://www.slideshare.net/mbernst/4chan-and-b-an-analysis-of-anonymity-and-ephemerality-in-a-large-online-community)
There are probably real living, breathing lesbians lurking and posting, plus old style guys who want hawt pictures of nekkid ladies doing things with (or to) other nekkid ladies; porn-without-pecker, plus newer style guys who are bored with the porn and looking for some emotional novelty in their romance/”feels” stories (along with pictures of the nekkid ladies), plus some straight women, plus some gay guys and maybe even some folks somewhere along the trans* spectrum. And then there are the folks who are one and want to explore aspects of something else. I wouldn’t be too surprised if an IBM research lab AI running on a surplus supercomputer is also posting on /U as part of a Turing test. It seems that cartoon depictions of improbably good-looking young women characters staring soulfully into each others eyes (and almost invariably doing far more raunchy things) are of interest to all manner of beings. (2)
Discourse ensues. Patterns of enthusiasms emerge.
In earlier days, male – especially vanilla straight male Yuri enthusiasts were christened with the endearing sobriquet “Loser Fan Boys“. Welker mentions the Japanese Yuri Danshi (yuri boys), which I suspect of being a blatant commercial attempt to fujoshi-analogise straight male Yuri fans; it sounds a bit less dirty, but loses the whole ironic self-depreciation note that serves as an echo of the fujoshi’s mea culpa reclamation of her rotten-ness. Besides, you can’t get LFB mixed up with a photo book of male otokonoko style crossdressers doing highschool girl poses (Hey, it’s a hobby!)
Erica-sensei’s venerable Okazu blog has long since dropped its LFB rating category, replacing it with the more neutral “service” category, but the spirit (thankfully, I think) remains in the shadows. It is one of those, “hard to define it, but I know it when I see it” things. Besides, the “just here for the feels” new- style MK II Loser Fan Boy brings with him his own carpetbag full of problematics, if he truly exists at all.
Take as well the short-lived manga Yuri Danshi that snuck into the pages of Yuri Hime (Princess Lily/ Yuri Princess) magazine last year. (be afraid, a sequel is threatened!) Hime is one of the surviving few “big” anthology-style monthly Japanese magazines that publish (you guessed it) narratives of women’s friendship and desire. Yet for the better part of 2014, valuable page space within was instead given over to an odd attempt to encourage a “Yuri Danshi” yuri-boy fan demographic for fun and increased sales. As well, they stuffed a whole bunch of BL-style subvertable male shonen manga characters and tropes into the thing, just to see if a fujoshi audience could be somehow coaxed into dropping by for tea. They even stuck an otokonoko character into it – who may like girls (?) but it’s hard to tell. Looks like a case of the editorial brain trust having the view that ALL of the weird readership really comes out of the same big misfit sack.
Do not taunt Happy almost-queer comics fun party time!
I might miss the nuances in it; all I have seen are raw scans of the first 4 volumes and they don’t make a good impression by looks alone. Whatever, it still displaced the regular Yuri. Folks want fantasy stories of f:f desire and romance in their Yuri, not fantasy stories of fantasy BL bishonen and hunky guys fantasizing (and having shonen manga fights about THEIR fantasies) about f:f romance where none “really” exists. The few pornish front-pieces were no consolation. There is something “off” about them. They look like 1970’s Penthouse cartoons.
Here are some idealised guy Yuri fans from the manga and some fan reactions:
I post a quick introduction of the Yuri Danshi just to show some references.
Kamakura Yutaka – Favourite manga: Aoi hana
Musashino Hiroyuki – Favourite manga: Maria-sama ga miteru
Sakuragaoka Kenji – Favourite manga: K-ON!, he bought a MioxRitsu doujinshi
Kagaome Seijiro – this asshole. Favourite manga: Shoujo sect. He’s there to buy 18+ stuff, clearly show how he is just one of those guys who likes yuri because “lesbians are hot”
And then the protagonist (that Kurata-sensei said is based on him)
Hanadera Keisuke – Favourite manga: Yuru yuri, OTP: KyoukoxYui
>This series isn’t groundbreaking and actually pretty gross. “Lesbro” or whatever you >want to call it can fuck off. He’s a creepy ass fanboy stalking gfs.
>Fans of romance, of which yuri is a branch of, are known for being overzealous, dim-witted and irrational. Being part of this board, we stand not above them. Let’s avoid driving the point even further home and end such fruitless discussion about mere opinions.
Well said Anon!
I am still not convinced. Besides I thought the Western Yuri Danshi/ Loser Fan Boys would turn their noses up at the crude monetization evidenced by their synthetic Japanese manga versions. I guess any recognition is flattering, even in even distorted form. Note the undertones in the above. Les-bro ??? Better stick with LFB. And for all its faults, one should not dismiss Shoujo Sect, dammit; it is closer to BL/yaoi in female skin and therefore a fascinating example of hybridization and re-appropriation. And it is pretty effective romantic smut as well. (3)
…But I digress…
The MK I Loser Fan Boy springs into being when a curiosity about pictures and stories of plural ladies who appear to be very interested in each other turns into fandom for an imagined “lesbianism”; much in the way as someone might become a fan of World Cup Soccer. This incidentally points out some of the problematic aspects of Butlerian concepts of presentation, as the fans want to see players in action. From then on, full-blown madness sets in: a fascination with imagined micro cultures and genres within a fantasy yuri-verse, the conflation of the yuri-verse for a wider fantasy lesbian-verse, favourite players, stats, games, fantasy teams, fan “support”, secondary production, discussion, commentary and even crude social anthropology. Complete Fantasy X reality breakdown. A jump to over-enchantment without the prior necessary disenchantment.
Unlike the tribes of fujoshi and the more politically correct western slash communities, there has yet to be any widespread adoption of a self-depreciating and decorum-preserving blanket disclaimers ritually invoked upon entry into the fan-space in the manner of:
Fantasy is fantasy and these characters and stories are in no way meant to depict or disrespect real individuals, genders and sexualities. We just make this stuff up for our own fallen tastes and amusements. Please pay us no mind, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation while outside these holy fan spaces, but deliver us from our obsessions, and let us feel that the real world is magical once more. OMMMMMM!”
Yuri fandom, like sports fandoms and all the other communities of interest out there contain a diverse spectrum of individual fan practices, intensities, delusions and monomanias. Yet many potentially positive real-world spill-overs are available to those who can manage and direct their enthusiasms towards higher ends. A renewed interest in exercise, socialization, an appreciation of other cultures … And that is just Yuri, I am sure that World Cup Soccer is good for something too.
Yet the potential for delusion remains strong. MK I LFB’s may come to believe that they have detailed and precise knowledge about the lives, desires, feelings, loves and behavior of real-world lesbians. And this delusion, even without stepping foot into “if I gave her the wool” territory, needs to be carefully considered by all LFBs. Any member of any fandom can find themselves in too deep, but this is also part of the fun of fandom – its self mocking practices surrounding over-fanning attempt to serve as internal corrective mechanisms.
The glaring error and trouble remains that female:female desire is not World Cup Soccer. It takes a Luciferian arrogance to turn an entire class of beings’ gender and sexuality into an object of fandom (wait a second, oh crap!), even if this class of sexuality is supposed to share a variant of your own appetites. Over on the other side of the street, the rotten girls who have grapple with similar concerns proclaim ritual apologetics and internalize the sacraments of their fandom as a slight kink in its own right – which is damn fine jiu-jitsu.
Pay no attention, we just need this stuff for our own private, slightly queer-lite desires.
And while our heads are still spinning, we fanboys are being offered an upgrade package, with vague promises of reconciling our enthusiasms with real-life sensitivities to modern pluralisms in a way that may go beyond harm reduction and contain within it the possibilities of social awareness, a commitment to social justice and self-improvement. It may even be able to ditch the (scopophillic) CREEPY CREEPY CREEEPY vibe it perpetually exudes.
This I have to see. How do I get one of those?
Or, as a fallen cis-gendered straight euroethnic middle age guy such may not be available to my too-poisoned soul? It might only be available to individuals and communities that struggle against the oppression that my tribe (whose leaders are pretty damn stingy by my reckoning; I will admit some scraps fall off the table but lets not do the privilege hurling competition right now, please?) towards a brighter tomorrow. Can I drop in the youtube INTERNATIONALE video again to prove my good faith?
Or I may be too irresponsible, unreliable, lazy and/ or bloody minded to make a good ally in any case.
But I know what I do not like.
The Yuri Danshi manga still looks like a waste of recycled wood pulp.
Worse, if Yuri Hime, home of Yuri can get it so wrong, what further glaring category errors await? Will some idiot publishing suit-type get the idea that “Oh Wicked Wanda“. sounds Yuri-ish and is a great candidate for translation and serialization in Yuri Hime?
A lesbian, so it says
Dowman Sayman’s young terror has a point, but the Yuri Danshi mistake makes a perfect kind of sense if the publishers had the idea, or the demographic studies that led them to believe that a magazine full of lesbian stories wasn’t really “for” lesbians. There aren’t enough of those around to pay the printing bills, and only a few of the stories are written by women who claim to be lesbians anyways so the whole lesbian thing must have been some kind of mirage. Time to drag some weird straight girls in along with the straight guys looking for cheap thrills. If we can only rig it so that this Yuri thing serves as a signifier of some kind of safe fantasy freak-space amusement park… We can all cosplay at being gay-ish or gay-friendly or “allies” or metro sexual too. How exciting. How profitable! Just wait until you see what the publishing conglomerate’s travel wing has arranged for Japanese tourists in Nanking.
I am Wasted Effort Boy!
Son of bitch!
You want exploitation?
You want teen suicide?
You want all human desire as bloody shit?
You want armies of trafficked child prostitutes?
You want degradation, objectification, despair with your alienation?
You want last excuse to give up real humans?
Humanity is pig disgusting!
Yuri Hime fantasies is murderer!
Fucking baka perverts domo me!
Oh goddess, make me considerate, moderate and respectful in my porn consumption,
but not just yet… (4a)
Porn, which I am using as edge exemplar of a range of narrative forms, including libidinized romances is not just for virgins. The lonely and the isolated and the disenchanted and the tired folks of all genders and sexualities partake. Normal hardworking, happily pair-bonded folks may enjoy a bit as a diversion and or a hobby, between reading political biographies and macroeconomic theory. Libidinized fiction functions along numerous arcs of desire, that can be plotted out along many axis, from disenchantment through re-cathexis among other things. Too many in fact.
Once one attempts to impose a taxonomy onto an analysis of the genre, one can spin-off in all directions. Take for instance the common parallelism or mirroring suggested between Yuri and BL/yaoi fandoms. This could be wrong. Some have argued that the flip-side of BL and Yaoi is underage lolicon moe; Yuri should be returned to its original complimentary position across the avenue from Bara. This approach necessitates breaking down Yuri into “bad” old-style guy porn; what early fen dismissed as pure Hentai (the great festering paraphilia sack of abjection) and “good” newer-style (or original Shinso/ True Ancestor form) woman – preferably lesbian authored Yuri narratives that reflect and/or posit aspirational tales of real lesbian desire, or at least a considered simulacrum of such. Whew! Gatekeeping soon becomes cat-herding.(4b)
Or does it divide out according to the “gaze” encouraged in the narrative?
Or does it divide out along lines of smut vs characterization and plot?
Yuri, how do I love thee and cringe at thee, along with my taste for thee?
Let me offer a few sorting strategies, in order to count the ways:
Lay ordinate and abscissa upon the Yuri…
- Pervy pseudonymous straight male authorship through to “out spokesperson” activist lesbian authorship.
- Minimalist functional objectifying characterization through to complex, empathetic and humane characterization.
- Fanservice scopophilic gaze through to slice-of-life presentation. (no pantsu shots in Tokyo Story rule)
- Mechanical, serial girl on girl paraphilic sex through to happy couple laughing in bed together.
- Under-age Loli moe blobs through to adult characters with agency, autonomy and life experience.
- Serial conquest of fantasy others through to soul-mate nesting.
- Many nekkid female charas in a tangle through to one true pairing.
- First sight lightning strikes then happily ever after through to relationships with real other individuals that require both parties to make ongoing effort to keep the flame alive.
- Lesbian Caligula’s nihilistic yet sexy spree of mayhem & destruction through to the Happy Couple who run a bookstore in Kamakura with cats.
- Lesbian Caligula as a happy psychopath with a limited attention span through to Lesbian Caligula as working off soul-destroying trauma and oppression slowly edging towards heroic redemption. (5)
- Improbably beautiful physically perfect character bodies and abilities through to a realistic range of human women’s body types, adult age-ranges, health and fitness.
- Emotional opaque action-driven story through to sedentary empathetic emotionally charged narrative.
- Fantasy/ out of time/ space/ un-real setting through to a contemporary setting that incorporates social and economic concerns as they impact on day-to-day life.
I give up! These damn sliding scales do nothing but point out my particular biases of the moment, which in themselves run from prurient consumption though mildly-surprised-try-to-act-respectful- tourism all the way through to a penchant instrumental bloody-minded social engineering.
The only reason I should even care about any kind of odd project to “fix” a genre of pornography is that the repair might function as harm reduction.
Disenchantment through to re-cathexis, again.
Anything that undermines or renders inert even the least part of the great human fetish for the vicious, the futile, the self-harming, the stupid and the soulless is a good thing in my books.
But don’t take away my comforting junk food or my cigarettes. I will cut down on my own; I’m working on it. And I’m definitely going cut down on the beer, internet and TV and start exercising again, tomorrow…
We strive toward a better class of smut!
From Porn Without Pecker to Other Peoples’ (enlightened) Porn
Sexual fantasy at its simplest need be nothing more than crude, effective stimulus-response. Don’t judge me too harshly, for I have heard the words of Hiroki Azuma and given up on all grand narratives. Now I just browse at the database to scratch these itches in a natural, animalistic fashion. I graze. I am a ungulant, even a sessile marine creature in the ocean’s flow. (Did I also mention that I was the King of Spain?) (7)
When itchy, f:f porn offers twice, (or three or four or more times) as much of what works fast, with %100 less of what I as straight male viewer am supposed to identify with, but really gets in the way. More complicated readings and elaborations are easy to spin out, but all function to reinforce a totalizing, isolated experience. And use up boxes of tissues.
Commodifying intimacy is dangerous to one’s mental health. Oh we keep doing it, but we really should know better. The (faux) “lesbian” thing is so damn useful though. It can serve as an excuse for why a plurality of femaloids are on display for me, as exoticism, as a virtual promise of my male right of jus primae noctis (how convenient that S-class stuff – fine practice), exclusivity and ownership or even as a challenge/ provocation/ seduction tactic variation on netorare and voyeuristic fetishes. My gaze takes them all, whichever the case.
“The dream which one comes up with on one’s own is a fantasy that is ultimately not possible to share with others. Although, of course, imposing it on others is always possible.”
-Furuhashi Teiji, quoted intro Ch6 Mizogochi, 2008, (see below)
“Even if I might just be trying to force my own desires… All of our desires are just… Things we force on others anyway”
-Hato considers his motivations, Genshiken ch 66
The wholesale colonization of imagined versions of minority sexualities and desires by the straight (default male) imagination in older variant Yuri (as well as in all the other distaff genres; moe, loli; josou/otokonoko (and the yaoi/Bl/shota of the female gaze) is a convenient displacement strategy. Bloody tourists! We think that if we go cruising over in the “deviant” section of town we deserve VIP treatment and an inexpensive night out.
A Cheap holiday in other people’s misery! (8)
A real-life lesbian viewer of the f:f porn mise en scene may find a momentary flash of stimulation in the tableau, but she pays for it with a truckload of conflicted annoy (at very least) – for multiple, obvious reasons. You can’t get rid of the stuff, so…
If she and her sisters set out to fix the smut to better suit their realities and tastes, us guys will be sure to try to peek in to see how and if the new stuff works. We are connoisseurs, we have opinions! One more time: everyone is an expert on porn! More authentic! A new point of view to the age-old questions of rock-off-ery and crank-turn-age! We will even make pleasant noises if some emotional decorations and frills are in evidence as long as there is hawt bonking somewhere. Isn’t %100 real new wimmens stuff also supposed to be more savvy about the really-really-wanting stuff and the getting-together-and-staying-happy stuff? Hey, that might come in handy just for like, the theory of it and such. Yuri is one of few easy places where a guy can find light true-romance stories without having to assimilate bodice-busters, Harlequin romances or Nurse novels. Not that I need anything like that, I am just here for the naughty bits. Yes, just the good wholesome, manly naughty bits. I am a guy! There isn’t a romantic bone in our dull, practical grey salaryman bodies. Now excuse me, I’m late for work.
The new stuff holds the promise of novelty, authenticity, insight across the great divide of the sexes and might even have a few extra pages to add to the sex technique manuals. No need any more to suffer that sinking “It’s alright dear, these things happen!” feeling. Boyfriend now has ideas! (careful fool!) It also might just work a teeny tiny bit of social awareness into our fap-addled boy brains; that real lesbians ( and lots of other folks too perhaps?) exist as folks- for- themselves. It might conversely may offer some suggestions towards friendship and even (dare I say it? nope not yet, let’s go with) affection that exist beyond societaly proscribed rules of exchange between the roles mandated to the sexes. If the rule book hasn’t been working too well of late, this can be either revolutionary or very very dangerous.
Look at all the powder that gets burnt over gay marriage. Jeesh!
The new stuff should better serve real lesbians’ gazes and interests, and it might offer support and inspiration across the range of the LGBTQ spectrum but I fear it will be a while yet before it conjures up a completely new form of straight male consumer. In reality there is no MK II Loser Fan Boy out there. He is still the MK I model with all his faults and only boredom, curiosity and some rudimentary manners welded onto his carapace. The only hope is that he also comes equipped with the beginnings of the notion that stuffing his brain with nasty exploitative crap is a daily re-affirmation of the assent he gives to the structures of power; assent that he is ever eager and willing to get kicked down upon as long as he is given something to kick down onto as well.
…And let us not forget the suck up part: that what he has been promised is going to be a whole lot less than what he will be obliged to pay.
Did I mention that in order to ram through parts of my argument I have simplified all libidinized fictions of desire and romance, indeed any fiction that dwells on matters of sexuality as “porn”? I need to keep this conceit up a little bit longer…
If the naughty stuff is beginning to feel a bit disenchanted, commodified, reified, synthetic and no longer as tasty as it used to be, authorship and POV should become important. And yet the cheap plastic shoddy stuff is still popular because it comes with its own reassuring guarantees: It might be drywall-tasting mac and cheese, but it is not gay! Well it is but girl gay – not boy gay. This matters! Anyways, it comes from machines not from other dudes, really! And they ask some women about it sometimes to quality check it…
Yeah, that’s how it is…
Oh my. What is this fear that dares not speak its name? Porn, like modernist architecture is done to – done with is enerving.
Guys sitting around the campfire and trading porn is a male space activity. In days past you could gloss over this aspect when porn was a taboo hidden artifact but now it is ubiquitous. We are no longer symbolically exchanging virtual women in a secret religious guy-hood ritual. There is no porn shortage anywhere in the world, so the more you think about it as something made and exchanged by the metric shit-tonne within a male social, the more uncomfortably alienating and yet curiously quasi-intimate it becomes. The sublimated intimate male homosocial comes into glaring prominence. We so seldom speak of love and since we are not nominally guys who like guys, or perhaps even any 3-dimensional humans, we are going to make a mess of it and get all weirdly uncomfortable about the whole thing.
We tried and tried and tried to ignore it as long as possible. But when millions of rotten girls started sitting around their campfires too, some perceptive people just had to go and point out the obvious, right? This just spoils old-style guy- written het pornography as well as old-school guy -written Yuri/ “lesbian” and all the other fake representations of minority sexualities we cooked up.
Curses Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi and all your allies! Thanks for pointing out the obvious. We always knew way in the back of our minds that there was that kind of vibe around the campfire, We just didn’t mention it.
So all male-authored porn is like the rubber sex doll in Anais Nin’s Mathilde (Delta of Venus). The sailors made it for themselves and they all loved it unconditionally as they passed it among themselves and it returned their affection by serving as the means by which they could all share syphilis.
See! Anais Nin was at least considerate and funny when she pointed out the obvious.
Does this mean that for guys all porn must eventually boil down to a choice between Bara and woman-authored non-m:m porn? Where does otokonoko fit in? Must we essentialise and cut to the chase? I hear from one prominent gaijin-in-Japan blogger that if one marries a Japanese woman, she will make all the purchasing decisions for the household. Can this suggest a solution?
Aside: Dude, start running to the station Now! Bring her the umbrella and the white wine, with the cork – no screw-top cheap stuff. Her call wasn’t about the umbrella, read the mood, duhhhh! As a gaijin boyfriend you were supposed to offer the possibility of something more than the homegrown salaryman model and it wasn’t stability or earning potential. Do you need a fricking app on your iphone to clue you in? Ok, I get it, you were making a point… Umbrella, check! White wine, check! Wonder if the verdamnt flower shop is still open.. Running shoes, check!
Or is this some kind of lesbian isolationist plot? (Gay guys tough luck, you are still stuck with us patriarchal oppressors – you can’t fool me – we are all guys and I know how I think so I am going to offload the worst of that onto you, as a nasty suspicion of what you are capable of at a moments notice, just as always…)
This is just getting sad.
Can we look at our porn with unclouded eyes?
Thankfully there is a tried and true work-around to all this suffering: add more new authentic voiced magic storytelling word dust to the naughty pictures.
This immediately drops a new form of sacredness over the campfire proceedings. It also gets far more effect from any given quantity of naughty pictures while offering the promise that valuable educational social propaganda can be snuck in along with the titillation. I only buy it for the articles! per the 1970’s excuse. At least “story A” IS a story. It is a lot better than “Hey! we are the lesbian sex-bots, we do the nasty for guys to look at us! Why, you ask? Because that’s what we do!!!! teee hee hee! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtains!”
Danger Will Robinson! You have traded one type of oppressive thought for another. Your homophobia is showing. You need to come up with a clean, simple way to untangle the patriarchy as a pattern within larger patterns of societal power and oppression from certain other patterns of behavior expressed as sublimated play or imagined as being within male same-sex desire.
Uh, ok.. I am dissing the oppressive stuff. The love part is great, we need more love in general in this world, even though I am still a bit squeamish about your variant because I grew up many, many years ago and things were barbaric back then. And guys smell wrong, in that way, for me,
Uhhhh, it’s all cool… urmm…. shit I did it again…
Another moment of discomfort, wait for it to pass, La la la…
Storytelling, where was I? Right! Sprucing up the run-down porn tenements with storytelling! Something about saying that the paint job needs 3 gallons of paint, VS saying that it is a good thing to paint.
As if heteronormative porn doesn’t know how to write. Well I already have those and I was still looking at the tangle of nekkid ladies. I guess I wanted more. I want the fantasy narratives of the fantasy versions of sexual minorities that I want, not the ones I don’t want because of something I will think of later… Oh, and lesbians are hawt.
Thus I repent me of my Yuri
(can I please look at yours?)
Now that real lesbians and gay guys and trans* spectrum folk can now write stories that better match up with their lives – including the intimate bits, because mobs of haters will not automatically track them down and try to kill them horribly any more – at least in the better neighborhoods of the global village, (Jeesh, Humans!) the ground has shifted. (Or as Ms. Smith opined, time to pay up…) There is also the relatively new thing that you do not have to buy a printing press and hide from the cops so much any more. (Any time soon the cops will get proper directions from the political class and figure out that child sex trafficking is bad, 3D models of lady-parts made big as a kayak is weird, but not bad.)
There must be a huge pent-up pool of women who like women, guys who like guys and transfolk and genderqueer folk to tell stories of their desires. They should have a whole bunch of new takes on the intimate and romantic stuff, right? I mean it is complicated and we are running out of workable ideas here in Hetlandia. What is left was getting real weird and it reads like cheap sci-fi. At least we should start looking at their stories too, while we are getting obsessed with our made-up versions of their sexualities.
And once I get over my megalomaniacal idea that reading their upgrades on my fave genres of dirty stories will somehow trigger some manner of terrible irreversible change in me – change which has only been kept at bay by the fearful brainwashing power of Penthouse Magazine – which alone (or with the help of the Holy words of the holy thing)(9) has kept me straight all these years, then I am forced to admit that trying to hammer straight guy fantasies of minority sexualities onto real folks who happen to love like that is at very least counterproductive and really bad manners: at worst it is violently psychotic.
And no one is forcing me to read Bara. I’ve stumbled across a few examples; I didn’t bleed out of the eyes or start have new uncomfortable feelings, so I guess my friend who gently chided me over my knee-jerk fear of genuine homo-written stories was doing her best to make it easy and comprehensible for the slow guy when she declared: “I have been reading het stuff all my life and it hasn’t turned me straight“. (10)
So what were we all worrying about?
Maybe the manga won’t have as many ZOMG babes in it? Maybe it will ruin the old-school stuff somehow and make it all go away to be replaced by…. I dunno, something uncomfortable? …or not as hawt?
Meanwhile my little need to feel safe and comfy and stupid has been incidentally abetting a horrible real-world shitfall on folks who happen to live the life. Not actively; Bob Guccione never went out of his way to sell porn that said that some folks have ecstatic sex that confirms their sense of self and well-being by jumping off tall buildings or banging their heads repeatedly against brick walls (wait; the letter section was always pretty creepy, but we all knew it was fake) No, the fallout came from the side effect of making these sexualities so weirdly fantastic that they could not be matched to the lived experience of real people’s desires and identities. So real people with these sexualities were left to fend for themselves, isolated, bereft of a social support, loveless and silenced. After the mobs of haters were finally curbed, the silence was left to do their job. It is still muderously effective.
That can’t happen with Yuri, can it? I mean everyone knows that lesbians exist and that they are just like straight women, except they are cooler, right? (and they are more formidable when pissed off, and they can summon unicorns, right?) Is it that the straight girls give them grief or something? Do young women who suddenly figure out that they like other women still end up in the Well of Loneliness in Japan or anywhere or worse? (11)
“But of course I had crushes on girl friends prior to that time. Especially serious was one episode with a classmate in college, whom I ended up telling that I was in love with and wanted to become lovers with. She was surprised and said she was sorry but she could only be friends with me, and proceeded to advise me that I should try to correct my ways so I could fit back into a straight lifestyle, as the lesbian or bisexual life would surely be more difficult.
“Whether or not I will lead a non-normative life is not your business. I will make my own decision and I know I will not lie to myself. The chosen lifestyle might be the more difficult one, but that is not the point.”
At the time of this conversation in 1985, I had not heard of lesbians except for “homosexuality as a mental disorder” and a few “lesbian scandals” in show business. (as I said information about real-life lesbians was marginalized in the 1970’s) How then was I able to gain access to such a strong sense of lesbian pride?
– Akiko Mizoguchi 2008 Reading and Living Yaoi – Male-Male Fantasy Narratives as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan, University of Rochester PhD thesis 2008 https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemVersionId=5822
But that was 30 years ago. Back then in Japan Yuri was in short supply due to a new and improved informal censorship regime and Mizoguchi had to use proto-BL shoujo stories in the manner of The Song or the Wind and the Trees and Thomas etc., to find bricolage-able strategies and narratives that posited minority sexualities as more than pathology or crime. What is important in her testimony from the first chapter of her study is how she used what space-offering communities and resources she found at the time to work out a “self” that fitted her heart. It is a pretty awesome read. (12)
More interestingly, Mizoguchi’s approach to yaoi-space considers the greater problem of a diffuse audience demographic from a slightly different angle:
“My critical examination of yaoi begins with the premise that yaoi does not represent any person’s reality, but rather is a terrain where straight, lesbian, and other women’s desires and political stakes mingle and clash, and where representations are born.”
– Akiko Mizoguchi “Theorizing comics/manga genre as a productive forum: yaoi and beyond” (2010) http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/143-168chap10Mizoguchi20101224.pdf
Which I only bring up to point out that an anarchic babble and a clash over contested representational spaces might be a bother when you are trying to get some work done or your fave thing is called out, and might look a lot like 4chan when folks can say anything they like anonymously but it is a strategy in itself.
It activates an entire different set of responses than an absence…
…or a monotonous pile of state approved scripts that just can’t fit. Implicit in the noise is the promise that somewhere within, a signal that feels true enough for each heart may be found. You are not alone!
Let 10,000 Lilies bloom.
How comfortably liberal of me. All I have to do is refrain from actively dismissing the new pluralism, politely acknowledge these new stories and then I can still find something to pique my interests. It doesn’t even have to have explicit intimacy (or at least have it on every single page), so I can raise the bar on my recreational reading regime. And the old-school stuff is still available too, perhaps at reduced cost because it is last year’s model.
I feel enlightened and worldly. This MK II Loser Fan Boy stuff feels like the swinging 1970’s! Where did I put my pipe, my turtleneck sweater, my sports jacket, my Haggar permanent press slacks and my gold chain pendant? Too 1970’s. Howbout the 1980’s and Arcand’s Decline of the American Empire instead? If I cannot rid myself of my hypocrisy, I can at least hang a lampshade on it and call it style. Groovy!
“”A disappointingly acid-streaked, misanthropic satire about a Walter Mitty-like Everyman whose elaborately imagined fantasy life masks deep, unflinching pathological resentment”” – review of an Arcand movie
It could be worse, I could be into game culture; look at the mess over in that neck of the woods. Were the guys that afraid that their games would be that easily ruined? So far no yuri-gate or moe-gate, so call it a win.
Will upgrading smutty stories change anything? A forlorn hope perhaps, but smut – to paraphrase the Buddhist saying about idol worship – is important for beginners. We are talking about sexual identity desire and gender so there is going to be some steam somewhere in the story. Hopefully there will also be some handy ideas about how to intermix these with friendship, affection, good manners and some intimations of maturity that can be aspired to and imitated: perhaps even humour. We might get lucky and see something might be recognisable as love.
And if the reader happens to be a happy LFB (MK II), I can clue in that even if the trip is tourism for wider experience and cheap thrills and will feature a soccer game, I should mind my manners, broaden my horizons and refrain from hooliganism. Tourism is better than invasion. Civilized, we are, now.
“To recognize an alien cultural practice as different from one’s own, and as inaccessible to understanding with respect to content, is implicitly to recognize one’s own cultural practice as a cultural practice, with its own rules and constraints. This just is the awareness that one’s own cultural practice is merely one among many. And the recognition that alternative cultural practices are cognitively inaccessible just is the awareness that one’s own furnish the only available conduit for interpretation of formal anomaly. So the cross-cultural appropriation of alien formal devices is a reminder of one’s own subjectivity. Self-consciousness of this kind is a necessary condition of innovation. “
– A. Piper, The Logic of Modernism, http://www.scribd.com/doc/45211386/Adrian-Piper-The-Logic-of-Modernism
Hey I could do that thing again and cross out all instances of cultural practice and sub in porn, – that would look nifty. Been there, done that…
We will not grow out of our porn any time soon so we might as well be mindful in how we deploy it. Done dumb, maliciously unreal and nasty it has a unique ability to make us really feel dumb, nasty and fake fast. (and that has a certain thrill too though moderation is strongly advised!) Done with sufficient care and the right kind of magic narrative word dust sprinkled about, by people who might possibly know a bit of what they speak of, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we might still be able to interact with other folks and perhaps even with a special someone in profoundly soul-pleasing ways; that the benefits of the real world might be worth the effort.
Small re-enchantments of this world are possible.
One more hour until dawn…
(1) So you think that a conflation of Yuri and porn is a shoddy rhetorical trope. Fine, your fave stories are pure and innocent and romantic and soulful; now may I direct you to the dojinshi section.
(2) Or look at the pictures on 4chan’s /u board. Q.E.D.
(3) The currently available canon scanlation into English renders the “vow scene” between the two main characters with a short “Even If I turn to ash, I will never leave you”, but an earlier version is far more florid, along the lines of (from memory ) “Even after the fire takes my dead body, I will always be yours”. This is classic 1970’s shoujo genre beautiful boys story high romantic mush – just in case you managed to ignore the disappearing lover trick in the “mermaid” chapter. Anyone care to wreck this premise can track down the non-Dyn scans, (perhaps they were by Anon/SS ?) or the original scans for ch13. Bonus points for the titles of the books that the MC is always reading.
(4) Used allegorically and as an echo of Augustine, as I personally know that while there is a deity, it cares only about cats. In fact, it is made up of cats: a giant etherial ball of cat-soul- groupmind that has existed from before time and will exist long after it. Individual “cats” come from it and return to it after their earthly existences, so it knows of humans, but it has no interest whatsoever in us or our affairs. Cats don’t care. If however it brushes against human consciousness by happenstance, we suddenly feel really good for an instant – like being enveloped in a ball of warm purr. This effect has caused all manner of unfortunate misunderstandings throughout history. Now feel free to go start a holy war with this, or mess up folk’s lives with holy writ about how they are supposed to love. So much for theology in a rant about Yuri fanboying! (4b) They don’t mind if you try to herd them, they find it diverting, but please be nice – remember what happened to Ulthar.
(5) Trivia question: name these two cartoon psychopaths and win kudos. Hint: one is named after an expensive car and the other drinks too much coffee.
(7) Just how does Hiroki Azuma continue to make a name for himself? General Will 2.0 is so far not that impressive.
(8) Sex Pistols, Holidays in the Sun 1977
(9) An error of course, see (4) above.
(10) Thanks A.S., You rock!
(11) Redacted again, grief and rage do not read well. It does not help, It reads fake, I erase it, but it keeps slipping in. Sorry kid not this time. I’ll keep trying.
(12) As a quick impressionistic history of “out” lesbian identity in pop Japanese culture 1970 – 1990 in a few readable pages,her work is a good place to start and available online.Chapter 5 is also notable in that she considers Yuri from her perspective. https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemVersionId=5822
I might be wrong about the unicorns, but it pays to be careful – those effing things are big and nasty and they can really mess you up bad!
While a certain group declined to scanlate the extant 4 volumes of Yuri Danshi, the gaijin Yuri danshi of 4Chan’s /u group (some of them) have decided to give it a go. So we all can read chapter 1. Hmmmph! It is curiously meta and text heavy, as the MC goes on and on and on with his internal fanboying dialogue, even referencing the magazine itself that it is printed in, popular authors, etc. Then he goes on and on and on with his pairing fantasies, aka, “the goggles”, etc. Then he goes on and on about his moe-ish attraction to the whole thing while peeping, creeping, stalking and eavesdropping whenever he chances on two girls within close proximity. One of the girls might be the otokonoko, I didn’t cross check back to the later chapters in the raws.The tone is fake UK-twit connaisseur-ish. He also outs himself as a “supporter” of an imagined desire to a stern-looking sports girl and gets a good solid punch in the face for his presumption. Which after pages and pages and pages of him creeping out was a small release for the reader. I understand the idea of flawed main character, but here the writers look like they are going for Nabokov lite.
UPDATE/ Much Later:
My thanks and commendations to Professor James Welker and to Erica Friedman Yuricon/ ALC Publishing for making the translated text of the above mentioned James Welker essay/ presentation available to an english-language-limited audience. “Thoughts on the Representation of Yuri Fandom in Kurata Uso’s Yuri danshi” , originally appeared as James Welker, “Kurata Uso Yuri danshi ni arawasareta yuri fandamu no sugata ni tsuite no ichi kōsatsu,” Yurīka 45, no. 15 (December 2014): 148–54. Translated (roughly) by the author, at: http://www.yuricon.com/essays/thoughts-on-the-representation-of-yuri-fandom-in-kurata-usos-yuri-danshi/
I note that the essay gives a better insight into why, oh god why ??? the Yuri Danshi manga exists; it seems to follow a rather common pattern of combining a “quirky character learning about x” to investigate Yuri fandom in Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture. Given, per Welker, how little is known about Yuri fandom in Japan, some less than optimum approaches are inevitable. His essay is invaluable for pointing out important aspects of the fandom (diversity in the readership, a quick history sketch, producer vs fan demographics, ideas on the male homosocial, etc.). To the ends of establishing a “bridgehead” towards further research in contemporary Japanese Yuri fandom, readership and authorship, the manga undoubtedly has some use. I note that as later chapters apparently feature some manner of imagined female Yuri fans, even Erica Friedman has moderated (a teeny bit) her initial reaction to the work and its inclusion in Yuri Hime magazine.
That said, sorry, I remain viscerally unconvinced. Of course I have only seen 4 short volumes of raw scans and two fan-translated chapters, so what do I know? Well.. I know that the main character is a creep and a jerk, and I don’t find him funny or appealing at all. It is as if, instead of Ogiue, the Genshiken got stuck with Kaminaga as their first fujoshi. Only she lost her self-assurance and instead acted like a simpering stalker. And then when she finally inherits the Genshiken, the new fujoshi members all look like idols and AV stars. Perhaps Keisuke will experience a great burst of personal growth and change over the course of the story and that is the point, but two chapters into it, I can’t see anything to redeem this mess.
Again: something about the style of the artwork, especially the frontispieces howls 1970’s Bob Guccione Penthouse magazine illustration style at me. I mentioned Wanda for a reason, even if it dates me. Is this is some kind of Brechtian confrontational strategy that goes way over my head? It must just be an irrational gut reaction on my part. Feel free to consider it otherwise, heck, feel free to consider that the movies directed by Paul Verhoeven are all presented as brilliantly constructed hipster irony.
One of the reasons why I persist in being a cheap leaching reader of fan scanlations is that I get a rough “exit poll sample” along with my fix (even as I help to destroy the economic viability of the genre, yes I know, I’m working on it). If it is scanlated, I at least know that a whole chain of anonymous folks spent hours and hours of their own time to bucket brigade a particular work to my laptop screen. Why did they bother? Perhaps this is worth checking out? Hmmmm… Given that, I find it telling that a major scanlation group considered, then dropped Danshi, and that the more scattered, ad hoc efforts by some 4Chan folks have dried up. If multiple teams of scanlators give up on it…
Also alluded to in the Welker article is how far the purported fandom is from considerations of the real existence and lives of Japanese women who happen to like other women (and may even self-identify as lesbians, reclaiming as identity what had been for decades stolen as a Japanese porn industry loan-word niche market descriptor). While Welker notes this, with some light shading to the effect that there is, as in BL/yaoi, a distance between the fan-created fantasies of same-sex love and the reality, I find it only further evidence of monstrous bad faith. Once again, the most problematic aspects of BL/yaoi are mirror-inverted and cookie-cutter stamped over to a hastily lashed-together mirage of a fandom that may or may not exist anywhere near the form and the manner in which it is depicted. The whole thing smells like a vile marketing ploy. I suspect it bears the same resemblance to any possible yuri fandom in Japan as Visual Kei fandom bears to an appreciation of contemporary Japanese indie music.
It’s just me. The mangaka is a genius and must be using Brechtian theatre strategies to highlight the contradictions. My discomfort is proof of his skill. Would you care to purchase this fine bridge for sale over parts of Tokyo Bay? Oh, yeah, and Paul Verhoeven makes great movies.
So I really must, once again, give credit to James Welker for getting some use out of an extremely problematic manga, as exemplar. Don’t let my hate-on for the manga get in the way of an appreciation of the analysis. (perhaps he also thinks the manga is a festering pile of squick, but he is smart enough to wring some use out of it, while I just grind on and on and on… ) Please check out the essay, and also read Erica Friedman’s Yuri: A Genre Without Borders from the Eureka magazine’s “The Current State of Yuri Culture” issue, at: http://www.yuricon.com/essays/yuri-a-genre-without-borders/
It’s just me.
A further update even later:
Thanks to a very interesting, well-researched and well-written PhD thesis: Beautiful and Innocent Female Same-Sex Intimacy in the Japanese Yuri Genre by Verena Maser [ http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf ] ,
the casual western student of the genre now has a whole lot more to work with. For instance, the “defining works” of the genre as it evolved from the 1920’s are better described, and -yikes!- do they sound dire! Bad endings abound. That sucks. There is also some examination of the Japanese male yuri fandom, of the guys who could be what was turned into the fictional yuri danshi, of the editors with their own ideas about yuri (or sad lack of them) and even details about how the actual Yuri Danshi manga was whomped up and why.
The state of the yuri, presented within is a bit dated, the snapshot presented hovers around a 2010-2012 time-frame, but this work deserves a more thorough run-through in this blog. I will hope to get to it soon (fall 2015) along with perhaps another one or two significant pieces of research. In the meantime, it is well worth the read.