It is important to consider perspectives.
“Saito highlights that BL “characters overcome the taboo of homosexuality, thereby proving that their love is truer and purer than that of heterosexual couples and “real” gay men.” (Saito, 2011: 183) She sees the relationships depicted in BL as having severe implications for “real” heterosexual characters and “real” gay men because of the idyllic romance depicted that typically conquer time, space, heterosexuality, homophobia, and wide range of possible trials. Similarly, Mizoguchi argues that “when yaoi protagonists say ‘I’m not gay, I just love you,’ they are also saying that those gay men who love other men for their male bodies are creeps.” (2008: 134) Both Mizoguchi and Saito argue that the disavowal reifies “real-life” gay men/identity by, in effect, suggesting the yaoi pair’s relationship is pure because it lacks the taint of homosexual desire. However, I question to what extent readers will differentiate between “real-life” gay men and BL manga characters as “different.” This is not to say that readers will expect “real-life” gay men to be like BL characters, but that the expression of homosexual romance is the same. McLelland reports similar findings with over half of female respondents under 35 declaring support for homosexuality as another form of love. (2000: 70) While Mizoguchi and Saito’s observation are not necessarily off-base, but the subtleties of their reading is not necessarily one that fans would notice.”
— “What’s So Queer About Boys Bonking?” A Queer Analysis of Gender Normativity and Homophobia in Japanese Boys’ Love Manga” MA Thesis; Gender Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) September 17th, 2012 by John Francis pps 25-26
“Hello, I’m a liberal middle-aged white guy in a movie. Although I’m very supportive of LGBTQ and POC friends, often offering concrete aid, I’ll still constantly slip up and say things that show I can never truly understand… godDAMMIT this is just me in real life, FUCK this game, fuck!”
–Redacted well-meaning liberal middle-aged white guy on Twitter
January 2019. A new year begins. Regular readers may notice that my previous “12 days of Anime” series of posts wound down abruptly. I plead the holidays, “local state”‘s bureaucratic engines suddenly target-locking on my concerns and a really nasty flare-up of one of those middle-age-related health things that, even if they are a Real Effing Drag™, are not (yet) chronically debilitating or fatal. Also, I am getting used to my high-spec bionic eyeballs (BL SofPort Advanced Optics Aspheric IO Lenses). Yup, a cataract snuck up on me last year, scared the crap out of me; the doc told me best to do both eyes and now for the first time since I was 5 years old I don’t need to wear glasses. Except when I need to see anything closer than 4 feet. Grrrrr. I can’t cut my toenails without 3.00+ cheaters!
TLDR: I don’t write well when I hurt, focussing on the screen is annoying and I have paperwork shyte-shyte after me. Most of all that has been dealt with. So do I finish up those 12Days posts?
Oh lookie, a shiny shiny new thing!
Finding this nifty 2012 Masters thesis in a link in a 2016 blog post about Fujoshi [ I noticed a ping-back to my blog, so: https://shiraai.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/the-f-word/ ] prompts me to try to tease apart a few more of the strands that entangle the “queer-ness” as well as the “heteronormativity” of BL and the fujoshi project.
“Boys’ Love manga grew in popularity in the United States at the start of the 21st century. While I cannot recall the exact year I first came in contact with the genre, likely sometime around 2005 or 2006, my first BL manga was Shinobu Kokoro – Hidden Heart – by Matsumoto Temari.I remember purchasing the book, unaware of the content, but attracted to the art style. I always favor the BL manga featuring androgynous ukê characters. My involvement as a passive fan of the genre over the years formulated my interest in queer theory and gender studies, because I always identified and found interesting the absence of sexual identity. I am sure that my continual enjoyment of the genre is seeing a romance that defies the expectations of both heterosexuality and homosexuality, an expression I view as queer and similar to my own position and identity. For me, Boys’ Love manga provide(d) a significant impact on how I have crafted my queer identity. In this regard, I am heavily invested in queering BL manga, which is why I want to problematize the issues that interrupt and problematize the enjoyment of BL and its
–ibid p30 Chapter 4: Concluding for a Queer Appreciation of BL Manga
Theory Moe time! I am assuming that the author identifies as male – though I could be wrong and as “queer” in the sense of attempting to surpass the role limitations that a strict “gay guy”, let alone “straight guy” identity would entail. At a short 39 pages, the work is interesting in that it examines some of the value and attractiveness of the genre to a queer reader of stories made by/for a fandom “marked” as originally majority (%90) women, with those women equally “marked’ as majority “straight” or at least operating within a “heterosexual” framework.
Whew! Disclaimers! More: why is old pale-skin straight-boy me (Later, from jail/ I sent a brace of telegrams/ to the right people/ explaining my position. –Thompson 1965) mooching around this stuff? Huh? The value of this work is not only that one gets to peek into the thicket guided by a queer POV but it’s enquiry into modes of post-yaoi-ronso identity category blurring. How does a “queer” guy look at the women-written bonking bishies?
It has two main faults or at least shortcomings for my tastes and towards the ends I plan to bend my argument towards: First, it really, really situates itself in the mid 2000’s. The genre has evolved since. Examples that refer to Japanese “gei” tropes are even older. Furthermore, in exploring a wider “queer” subjectivity it compresses ‘heteronomativity’ into a screeching white-hot ball of
GOP voter patriarchial whatever.
Which blurs SOME of the reasons why all those Japanese nominally straight women (and many more) find it all so yummy.
What the paper DOES well is go through arguments, sometimes using Dr Akiko Mizoguchi as a straw-lesbian-BL-enthusiast-and-academic-authority, to highlight aspects of BL (and those that can be transcribed to other queer-for-nominally-straight genres such as Josou/Otokonoko and even Yuri) that are often minimised, if only because they are a bit harder to stuff into a sound bite.
There is an odd parallelism/ congruence in the view of the paper’s author, as a queer reader searching for stories of relationships by actors less-marked by social roles; a view that he considers as “queer” and the views of the within-a-heterosexual-framework “dreaming in yaoi” rotten girls who want a fun p0rny gooey romance featuring (their choice of) good-looking characters (guys) getting all hot and bothered about each other without having to OBEY a thicky stack of disappointing set social scripts that guys and girls are supposed to follow. Hey lookie, lust hits, they go mad. Society has ZERO to say about how it plays out. After lots of angsty schmex, tadah! They be in love. OTP! (One True Pairing) OTP!
The rotten girls want stories outside of “heteronormality” as much as the author of the paper enjoys stories outside of “homonormalities” (and “heteronormalities”), the latter preference getting shorthanded to “queer”. You could draw one of those intersecting circle graphs with “rotten” as one circle and “queer” as the other. But one more thing sneaks through the net: these stories are, beyond 15page doujins full of porny “the good stuff” fundamentally romance stories. Harlequin Nurse novels for those of us who need a dismissive stereotypical analogue. Bodice busters; the dashing privateer and the haughty heiress, etc etc. Only done as all-guys.
And as I have noted previously, the rest of us straight Borg (guy variant) can now and again fall prey to the siren call of hawt and steamy romance tales too; as long as these center on two soon to be nekkid with each other ladies. That gives us cover… and nekkid ladies.
We all know how to fuck but what do any of us know of how to love?
Otherwise we seek refuge in traditional social roles, because they are reassuring and if we iz guys, we are supposed to get more privilege out of the song and dance. This is less than optimum because “I have a job, so you make dinner, my babies and obey me” isn’t working so well any more. Social norms and law aside, the economy will grind any such bullshit into dust soon enough. So, what next? She is also going to also get a part-time job and offer tribute to you? If you really really cannot survive without a submissive partner, you should take up either an extreme sexual fetish or join a cult. If the latter, best start your own cause Holy Leader gets all, while you get to wind up your incel rage into paroxysms that serve him; not you.
A kinky leather wardrobe might be easier than some of the other net-shyte out there.
Here’s a nifty Twitter exchange that demonstrates the point; complete with the sound of a whole bunch of trolls’ whiney little needinesses shattering.
“A real woman is ready to sacrifice her career for the man she truly loves.
— Redacted Twitter troll #23,976. Dec 24, 2018
“The hets aren’t okay. Also, in what universe would someone even *need* to sacrifice a career to love someone unless that someone is a needy asshole who won’t let you have a life?”
— Twitter [律「HoliDyke」] aka Andrearitsu
“All the school in the world can give you a
But only a man can give you a “Mrs” so be humble… 😌😌 ”
— Redacted Twitter troll #23,977
“Actually a woman who marries a woman can still legally use “mrs” to refer to her married state and I bet she won’t have been asked to “be humble” for it by her partner in doing so.”
— Twitter [律「HoliDyke」] aka Andrearitsu
Yuppers, they did it. Them darn gays “killed marriage”. If by marriage the above trolls really, really believe their crap — in which case they will either end up forever ‘ronery or on a sex-offender list. I have seen too many happy straight marriages fall apart because buddy suddenly got all paranoid and controlling. Don’t do that! Only villains do that. Your mate is a free human being with agency and the law insists on equality (mostly, less in some GOP States). You might be able to minge your mate into getting your way for a while but in the end all you will win is a mouthful of ashes. You knew that from the start, didn’t you? Self-sabotage; the ultimate wank.
This soon veers out of the lane over into the old “its the fault of -class of individuals-“, rather than actually using whatever democratic structures of government are available to push back at the capitalist/ mercantilist power structures that want everyone to work without job security or benefits, for peanuts, as well as pushing for the usual basket of social safety net supports; you know the drill. The urge to individualise changing socio-economic conditions that cause extreme societal role friction is strong. Scapegoating remains a popular response; there are plenty of wrong-headed personal reasons to wink, nod and mouth the bullshit. You might even be ready to cut off your own nose so that “those people” don’t get to have one on their faces but in the end it is futile.
Muda muda muda, you fell for it again! Global corporate capitalism continues unimpeded!
…And that’s why Japan, BL (and their other dream-in-queer genres) are so fascinating.
A whole genre of women’s fiction has been DIY’ing allegorical glimpses of alternatives for almost 40 years now.
Mandatory disclaimer: These shadows of real LGBTQIA lives and/or practices mean something completely different to actual readers who live in that life. Or IRL as the otaku-speak goes. Their approach, enthusiasm and/ or disdain for these representations (often a mix of all of the above) are separate, yet in parts, congruent to the concerns of us boring Borg-like “hets”. Again; that is why this paper is so useful. It recognises but slips past, then returns, then drags off in a different direction these issues from a queer POV. Any group develops strong normalities of how that group ideally acts. There is always plenty of under the surface jostling over what is the right thang for any particular time and location. It too gets suffocating.
To appreciate how, and why this is useful to a majority subjectivity requires putting “Heteronomativity’ up on the hoist and taking the air-wrench to it.
Whirrrrr… whirrrr…. Whackackackack… whirrr.
Part of this “Heteronormativity” is of course that there are so darn many of us all over the place. We end up distorting the socio-economic gravity field. Whether old-style haters, well-mannered contemporary citizens or whether our polite behavior masks a rapacious and instrumental curiosity (or all of the above), any time we gaze upon “the other” that is the “queer” (etc) we do so for our own subjective and undoubtedly selfish reasons.
Similarly, we outlanders looking in and doing kitchen sink etc (now expanded to social anthropology) can pretend to understand the contemporary Japanese experience (build a teeny tiny imperfect model based on our concerns) from say; a whole bunch of weird little comics – including self published naughty doujinshi and whatever stats and trends we can shake out of the English language web pages of The Japan Times leavened with the occasional expose by Jake Adelstein (& co.) in Buzzfeed. Oh; Rocket News. (maybe Kotaku too)
Before I further “fetishsize” and “other-ize” the Japanese experience, I should lead off with the inescapable one big thing that makes Japan’s Culture so tasty to “us”. The Japanese are as fascinated and prone to “fetishsizing” and “other-izing” us as we are of them. Our eyes meet from across the room, then our gazes lock. This is like some kind of romcom.
Oh heck! One… More… Time:
“More than fifty years after the war’s end American scholars are still organizing knowledge as if confronted by an implacable enemy and thus driven by the desire either to destroy it or marry it.”
— Intro, Perversion and Modern Japan: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Culture. Edited by Nina Cornyetz and J. Keith Vincent. London and New York: Routledge, 2010.
Not that this grants an all-day pass for the above fetishsizing” and “other-izing” but we can at least be aware of the slip and back-and-forth exchange between our respective, hungry subjectivities. Stick to BL-ish stuff: 1970’s proto BL bishonen works. Why so often set in some pre-WWI exotic fantasy Europe? Why, in the 1980’s and 90’s was the rich exotic foreigner seme such a big BL thang? How about exotic, dangerous foreign locales and locals instead? instead? Wikipedia is your friend: Banana Fish (orig and contemporary anime vers.) On a het level, note what was swiped and repurposed to serve in Black Lagoon.
Oh Heck, veering all over the place. Eyes on the road!
How do you strip away the society-sez-you-gotta-act-in-these-roles from the steamy romantic (as well as the smutty) stuff? Kind of like how you get rid of the peaceful obedient, law-abiding well-ordered toxic hierarchical and suffocating Japanese corporate social rules so you can help the really strong hawt merc babe reload her guns as the edgy-dangerous South East Asian Dive Bar™ you and her are having a drink in turns into a free-fire zone. Damn! That’s exotic. That’s adventure!
And now I have conflated a BL classic with a Merc adventure series. Facepalm.
As well, it is not that the majority of Japanese women have turned into asexual and/or lesbian BL-marathonning low-level office drudges, any more than that the majority of Japanese men have either gone gay and/or decided to marry a hologram (She is NOT a hologram! Her name is Hatsune Miku and she is a -minor, Japanese- God. Also a Shinkansen pilot!) as they try to hold onto their office jobs or precarious freeter/ temp gigs.
Except for the office drudge/ precarious employment freeter/temp stuff.
As far as I can make out, the only non-toxic ideal heterosexual romantic make-a-life Japanese fantasy story left, short of lottery wins and saving incredibly rich corporate exec ladies for train drunks is marrying into/starting a family restaurant and/or grocery store. Everybody, including the eventual kids take turns stocking/cooking/serving and standing behind the counter. After the day’s work is over, the happy couple cook dinner together, supervise the kids doing their homework and then retire to their someone-tosses-and-turns-at-night-so-twin-beds where a quiet slide-over and some not too noisily enthusiastic measures of happiness can still be regularly indulged in at night.
Such dreams are probably a lot harder to pull off than imagined. Also, no one wants to leave the big city to marry into a farm family any more. No one.
Extra research: do a quick survey of manga/anime depictions of MC’s families from 1980 through to current. Do the survey with mainstream/ het-normed manga/ anime. Note how first Dad then Mom evaporates. Was it a trick to “destroy the family”? A device to focus attention on the potential for (forced) individual agency by the MC? If it picks up some identification points from the readership; bonus!
Among Japanese women, even BL reading fujoshi, the mythic ideal of financially secure good-wife-wise-mother-hood still holds a powerful appeal. Pity it is so out of reach for so many and/or what if the guy turns into useless needy, controlling man-baby? Shit! What if he gets unemployed and/or starts screwing around, drinking too much and blowing the savings on the ponies? What if the fool goes and gets himself dead? More than half of Japanese single mothers live below the poverty line. Child support is an optional civil contract matter – even if Japanese family courts will always put the kid(s) in care of the mother. Even if she manages to keep things stable and hubby brings home the sarraryman pay cheque, everyone is worked to near-death. Where is the mad romance?
Let’s destroy all the social rules and roles and scripts that get in the way and take two bodies with physical and socio-economic strength/ freedom/ agency and bang them together and get some theoretical yet intense romance, with steamy schmex. Bonus twice of what looks good to the readership without some cartoon bimbo with a huge rack in your face and buzz-killing your fujoshi enjoyment. Hey wait! Them is guys! They have no idea how to do romance. Fallback: they have friendship and guy friendship is supposed to be mythically stronger and more intense than m:f or f:f friendship.
Note that they DO NOT ask on 2chan for dating advice, even if they crave the reassurance of herd approval.
Damn! Lookie at those hunks. They even do more than grab tits, crotch and then hump until someone prematurely ejaculates. They do the nasty BETTER than real guys. They have (gasp) multiple orgasms! (Japan needs to get to know a few reputable online pharmacies from India – yes, these exist; also a great way to load up on anthrax-strength antibiotics fast and cheap too.)
Back to the fun light reading. Buried somewhere under the guys working out who is going to act out some of the catalog of available uke roles (and/ or seme roles) there might even be a dab of aspirational romantic fantasy modelling. And this is far less of a useless fancy than say, what Rock offers his sarraryman readers while he guards Revvy’s back.
This is not exactly a new idea, even in the West. Go dig out Heinlein’s thicky 1973 sci-fi epic Time Enough for Love if you want an ancient American male-gaze version. Of course the two med-techs are both happy that one of them ends up a woman and the other a man, but the sci-fi societal conventions were made clear from the beginning of the tale. In such semi-formal workplace hookups, gender is incidental. Also everyone wears Asbestos Suits (cf Leacock, 1911) If you can make it through to the end, our annoying MC even gets to time travel back to bonk his Mom! (She has no idea of his identity but considers the daliance fun and somewhat sweet). Also circumspect when it comes to RAH’s spanky fetish.
Heinlein can re-het-norm even the queerest in-the-future setup. And he did so half a century ago. Also he preached too much. Still, many of the trolls out there might benefit from reading this one. Within their comfort zone. Not like anyone is forcing them to read Dhalgren or anything.
To tie this up with a bow, what our essayist relentlessly marks as “queering” looks damn close to a straight instrumental gaze that wants to eliminate distractions while positing a fantasy level playing field. The readership can relax without getting their noses re-rubbed in annoying IRL scripted roles and conventions and maybe, perhaps even figure out some approaches or desiderata for that most elusive prize: the egalitarian romantic life pair-bond.
I previously mentioned the Yuri genre, taken from the view of the straight male gaze. Other odder fetish-y genres have grown in prominence since the 2000’s, some of which I find ridiculously funny and yet useful in teasing out what is acceptable to an expanded heterosexual male-gaze subjectivity, what is marked as ‘gay’ or ‘gei’ but still might be within the realms of guy-ness and what is irrevocably tainted by the touch of the fujoshi gaze. As I have previously ventured:
“The “deception” that the straight male subjectivity fears is not present upon the body of the otokonoko but within the emotional complexity of any interaction. ”
But the problem goes far deeper than this, lying in the modeling of fictional, idealised (or less) same-sex/ gender-fluid relationships created for the consumption and entertainment of heteronormative subjectivities. As a straight man, I can read and model, even consider multiple, even conflicting fictions/ models of such desires but in the end, I must acknowledge that what finally gives the real desires that these stories are shadows of, the weight of authenticity is precisely that I will never fully understand them. If I could, I would distrust them as mere fictions. This is how all those het-ish tropes sneak into BL; many more examples abound.
The mirror distorts; the reflections therein bear glimpses but not fascination.
Too Complicated. Wait; figured it out. Blame the millennials!
What little more-contemporary BL-ish stuff that I have stumbled across and not freaked out over (just moi, working on it) has meanwhile gone on to sand off some of the rigid seme-uke rusty bits (even as we outsiders simplify an entire catalog of variations on the seme/uke theme) in the genre. You can flip back through this blog for examples. Consider the lonely angst of the younger chara in Rendou Kurosaki’s ON or the ways in which the Utsotsuki Lily BL spinoff gives the (young woman) reader who might care to consider ways and means for getting a guy’s attention while demonstrating that yup, she not only likes but wants mr. slow on the uptake guy THAT WAY — a safe stand-in to work out how to go about it – or at least dream of doing so. Happy romantic and physical pairing achieved! (and c’mon, that bishie boys set-up is so damn heterosexual transposed “I know what you like” girl takes the lead seduction that, oh well, right… Margaret Magazine. For now the readership is just enjoying the show and taking a few notes.)
With the Genshiken spin-off Spotted Flower, we have a slightly more conflicted rendering. Almost as if, IF those two were going to “give it a try” they should have developed some spine(s) and gone at each other while still single and still in University. Bhuttt Noooooo….. (WTF izzhe goin on about? It’s a series and sequel that took up a lot of posts in this blog until the main series ended 2yrs ago; the kinda-sequel still comes out 4x a year.)
Now if I could only find a guy queer-theorist take on isekei (I was reincarnated as a….) stories. I have exactly ONE example of a woman-centric one: Magic Market. Are there fujoshi isekei? Queer approaches to BL isekei? Again; chercher le dissatisfaction done with a genre of escapist fiction. Scan with all available sensors, consolidate and report findings! Oh Fuck! Most isekei start off as net-novels written by guys(?) whose pen names translate out as “Emperor restoring repulser of foreigners“.
Maybe that genre needs a more subtle approach.
Also, read the thesis paper. Good’un!