“Sociology is a Lacanian sin in my family””
“…compared to that psychology is just.. weak!”
“You are in big trouble when you start quoting yourself”
– Hunter Thompson
On Kazumi Nagaike’s Doctoral thesis (Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, 2004):
“Japanese women writers watch a boy being beaten by his father:
Male homosexual fantasies, female sexuality and desire”
Get your own copy here: https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962
Gets the feeling,
He’s been surrounded by,
– Patti Smith (Horses,1974) (1)
Kazumi Nagaike’s work has been cited here previously, so I thought I would track down her 2004 doctoral thesis and read the whole thing to see if it was of any use: also, it isn’t pay-walled. Whew; uphill slog! For casual fan-girls and LFB’s like me who stray across the tracks it might be best to skip right to chapter 6, then read the rest hunting for footnotes and background material.
Of course her ”Elegant Caucasians, Amorous Arabs, and Invisible Others: Signs and Images of Foreigners in Japanese BL Manga” http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/nagaike.htm is what drew me to check out her earlier work, and there is real powerful scholasrship here, but this earlier work is forever inscribed and crippled by the requirements of smothering the interesting stuff – along with 3/4 of your writing style and what you really care about, in order to satisfy the gray beards on your thesis committee. Gotta get that PhD!
I pray that I will never have to so mangle this blog’s writing if I have to drag my sorry ass back to academia!
Freud’s “the boy is being beaten” is an obvious organizing conceit. But Sigmund is an atavism and everyone knows it. Still the demands of a PhD thesis say that you need to build your theory structure on long-dead stupidity, so steel yourself to wade through dumpster-loads of it.
— 8 paragraphs of why Sigmund is a jerk redacted —–
Later women psychologists who follow Melanie Klein try to slightly de-sexist this mess, but can’t completely, as the language and concepts of Sigmund’s empire make it impossible.
Pages and pages of boring pro-forma psycho – babble ensue.
ONE MORE TIME:
”Who is Freud trying to fool? The wolves never had a chance to get away and save their pack: it was already decided from the very beginning that animals could serve only to represent coitus between parents, or, conversely, be represented by coitus between parents. Freud obviously knows nothing about the fascination exerted by wolves and the meaning of their silent call, the call to become-wolf. Wolves watch, intently watch, the dreaming child; it is so much more reassuring to tell oneself that the dream produced a reversal and that it is really the child who sees dogs or parents in the act of making love. Freud only knows the Oedipalized wolf or dog, the castrated-castrating daddy-wolf, the dog in the kennel, the analyst’s bow-wow.”” (D&G, Lotsa Plateaus, one wolf etc., etc., etc., Just use your damn google search-this in the context menu..)
And what I added:
The analyst is forever trying to shoe-horn an individual, atomized reading onto a group phenomena. The analyst never looks at the surplus exchanged within the pack, especially if the surplus is pornographic and violates a slew of copyright laws. The analyst never considers how the subject changes within the pack from self/ other to in/ out, how much, how close/ far, how often, and why.
What Gailbraith said about Otaku carries over to Fujoshi:
“Anyway, otaku become known as a certain type of otaku or one with a taste for certain things, images and characters, genres and narratives. This is about as deep as “identity” goes in otaku culture. Self here is performed with characters, media/material and others. There is a lot of subversive potential in “playing with one’s self,” as McGill professor Thomas LaMarre puts it, but I think that most otaku are just out to have some fun, talk about what they like, and make friends.
I guess what I’m getting at is, is it possible to be an otaku without having an audience? Publicizing it seems to be a big part of the experience, particularly for younger otaku.
[interviewer:] I see what you mean. It does seems that otaku are becoming more public and performative in their interactions with favorite characters from manga, anime, and games. Cosplay, itasha cars, anime tattoos and shirts, a room filled with anime goods and so on are ways to express one’s interests, tastes and orientations, and to relate to an imagined self, others, and media/material.
We see performances of private connections to characters, which make those connections public. Intimacy is affirmed by others watching and the self who looks back on the performance. Often there is a component of mediation, recording, and transmission. Otaku are totally wired and seem to enjoy working through “layers” of connections. There are so many layers to anime, manga, and games. When someone says that he or she likes a character, they can be referring to the setting and narrative events that define the character, the character design, the character type, the voice (actor or actress), the creator, producer, studio, the medium in which the character exists, the world that allows the character to exist and is accessed through it, one’s own interactions with the character, the community surrounding it and interactions with it, the way one feels in relation to it, and so on.”
By chapter six, all the Freud and post Freud psycho babble has been ceremonially trotted out for a religious procession, and some post-war Japanese high literature with nasty sexual undertones has been discussed in order to try the various bits of babble out.
She is finally ready to get real:
From a readers comment in Be-boy ( a famous yaoi mag)
“[On the train ,] I was eating rice balls and sandwiches while reading magazine Be-boy. Then a middle-aged woman sitting next to me peeped into my magazine and said “It’s amazing that nowadays not only men but also women read such obscene magazines” – from a readers comment in Be-boy famous yaoi mag, ca. 2000
I swear by all I hold dear that i found this after posting my last post – Honestly!
Whatever, Here is Nagaike on yaoi as pr0n:
” I would like to promote Drucilla Cornell’s concept of pornography as “speech”. She asserts that “we need to explore the temptation of pornography; exactly how and what it communicates”. For Cornell, pornography is not synonymous with visual representations of kinky scenes; instead, it provides a discursive space in which to analyse the conceptualization of sexual temptation. Thus in this chapter, I would like to consider the concept of the erotic … as a way to discuss pornography’s “Language of lust” and to show how the sexually explicit scenes in yaoi manga “speak” to female readers and “tempt” them.”
First she goes at the last dregs of Freud: The fujoshi is a defective woman/ lack/ not- male, rebelling against powerlessness, the abject, accursed share, etc. All the other chapters’ spade-work pays off as she is able to convincingly bury these ‘explanations’. But Nagaike is fixated on the power of a certain type of voyeurism, what she terms scoptophilic, wherein the puppet-mistress of the yaoi mise-en-scene gets to have God’s own seat at the festivities.
This leads to a few novel approaches:
The MOAR is better argument:
Here we get the standard argument for yuri pr0n redoubled onto itself to outdo the guys: not only do the girl viewers get to see double the nekkid male sex actors they want – without distracting female actors – they also get to see/ exchange pseudo m-f sex (anal) and masturbatory (privileged dick) sex all at the same time ! Whooo Hawww! Happy rotten girls! Insert “Lucky Pierre” joke here.
This leads to the inevitable woman’s dick.. Yup.. yaoi girls get to “run” one, or two like a riding mower:
“…we can discern that the back ground narrative of woman’s psychological development in reading yaoi is their subconscious desire to deviate from a principle of female sexuality defined as irreducibly under the power of male domination. The privileged position of the “penis” in yaoi has to do with desires (and fantasies) of assimilating phallic sexuality into a vaginal [her italics] orientation.
Bathing in a fantasy of male homosexuality – in which the male characters (both uke and seme characters and the “reversible couple”) highlight such divergent sexual aspects as active and passive, the penetrating and the penetrated – female readers desire not the unified sexuality of the vagina but an encompassing eroticism that combines vaginal/anal and phallic [her italics] orientations. Female yaoi readers therefore identify with yaoi characters who discard neither the ecstasy of the penis nor that of vaginal/anal pleasure…’
This leads to some play with Cixious’ bi-sexual (pan-sexual) ideal (no, not screwing both, being both)
Someone ought to have fun with the mirror/ fail-to-achieve drama of this – Mishima’s Sea of Fertility, besides Patti Smith – Smith’s modus operandi has always been extremely sloppy (and we love her for it, but that’s another post..)
Finally, we get to the Yaoi Ronso section: AKA, do yaoi puppets insult real gay people, and/ or lesbians? To be fair, this had not yet fully exploded in Japan by 2003.
A reverse Tireseus.. the girl at the shrine:
“” The woman asks her boyfriend, “Can you guess what I prayed for?” He answers ” You probably prayed to be reincarnated as a man in your next life. You are so demanding, so you also prayed to be reincarnated as a homosexual man and experience both seme and uke pleasures” She is surprised and shouts ” Wow! Did I say it out loud?”
Of course this was a parody scene in a mag that pokes fun at yaoi culture, by enthusiasts, so it is inscribed with the ol debbil patriarchy once again. Above guy is damn happy! His girl is a pervy cyclone of desire, always ready to exhaust him in new novel ways.
Fujoshi desire is probably much more than this…
The writer then asks.. why don’t these gals read Bara? Besides avoiding the grotty details of real male homosexual desire, Nagaike claims that the narrative structure is profoundly different: Especially that reoccurring pledge of true, eternal, you- and- only- you lurv..
“I will pledge eternal love to you in the name of Mother Earth and Father Sun. My body belongs to this earth, but my soul is yours only. Even if my life ends, my soul will be with you forever” (some yaoi thing)
Wait a second.. I had heard this one before, in its more elegant Yuri version: did not the strong, reluctant girl in Shoujo Sect finally announce her love to “the player” after proving it by rescuing said player from the “bad lesbian” in a similar manner? The yaoi version must, by the dates of the work precede the yuri version. Looks like there be crossover in the genres..
This leads to those damn “rapes-of-love” tropes. Gehhhhh! Fortunately Akiko Mizoguchi was incensed about this nonsense long before she finished her PHD thesis, and had already righteously laid down a sound drubbing on anyone who presumed to dismiss the trope as ‘mere fantasy’ Nagaike tiptoes carefully through the minefield. (lookie at all the Mizoguchi citations in the bib!) But instead of spending the next few pages going over how these “rapes” were just plot engines to demonstrate the madness of sexual attraction, she could have asked why such bitter extremes were so often used as a trope in the genre.
More interesting is the possibility of imagined males as equal friends and lovers – a condition thought to be impossible between men and women:
“Thus in yaoi narratives, female readers attempt to simulate an experience of romance highlighting the spiritual bond of (non hierarchical, homosocial) men. …
The relationship between protector/ protected is not needed for them. The structure of the protecting man and the protected woman is still firmly established in heterosexual romance novels (but] the uke laughs at and strongly rejects power relations based on gender.”
That looks wholesome at first, but on second thought is just plain sad. Guess guys and girls can never be true friends. Thank you ms. Led Zeppelin song.
Another reader request in a magazine:
“Please publish a lot of work in which the sexual scenes are very erotic and obscene but the narrative contents are based on the concept of pure love.”
“The very concept of “queer” can be paradoxical since it is usually intended to describe a subversive force, but at the same time it also is often used in a conservative sense to institutionalize some discourses and exclude others”
Naked self-interest can be a wonderfully funny thing: a parallel from the housing market – everyone loves a run-down neighbourhood that lets you buy a house cheap, until you own one, and then you want the neighbourhood to spruce up and those damn low-class types to stop renting 2 houses down.. NIMBY! Privilege my kink, not yours!
All this is pretty damn interesting, but something is missing. Something BIG!
What is it?
“Does it sound like 10am on the opening day of comiket?”
– guess who
The rest of the thesis is a forced march through the theory- suicide forest at the foot of mount Fuji – pretty grim psycho babble stuff. With hindsight, one is tempted to consign the entire Freudian enterprise to the flames for the damage and evil its stupidities have given rise to, voiced and perpetuated. Of course Nagaike has to trot them out so they can be gently, slowly brushed aside (but never out rightly condemned – this is a thesis after all).
After the veneration of the demon bones, we get some early Japanese ur-yaoi in high literature form. Chapter 2 starts off better, then gets weird: Seems there was this woman novelist Mori Mari. She was the daughter of a big name Japanese male novelist, and wrote some important stuff of her own. Her big work is a real Freudian nightmare exploring her feelings for Daddy (thinly veiled o course) But she also wrote a trilogy of ur-yaoi novels – crap – she may have invented modern Japanese yaoi, because lots of famous yaoi/ BL mangaka ladies saw her as their inspiration and major influence.
Even Mishima liked her stuff too, but Nagaike forgets to mention which works. Predictably the Japanese literary establishment went head over heels about the “daddy” novel and completely ignored with frosty silence the other stuff. Well with reason; the works are full of violent homo-ish s+m fantasies which amazingly re-create the Freudian “boy is being beaten” story as the woman main character’s masturbation fantasies. The theory stuff from the first chapter gets trotted out again. One could argue that the Freudian theory stuff is the official safe way to handle this kind of squick – One of the stories feature a sadistic fantasy wherein a man whips a small boy to death on the orders of an unseen woman. High lit as an excuse for some vicious squick!
The next chapter gets into Freud vs s+m texts from some other woman’s novels. The common thread here is the woman narrator characters all recount stories of young boys/ men being beaten by their father figures/ older lovers and these women narrator characters have masochistic love lives – they demand abuse in lovemaking.. because all three of them are sterile!
Now it can take only a split second to recognize that to try to tease some societal insight (or even personal insight about the writer), out of this is a fool’s errand. The idea of the theme of a high lit novel’s “hook” as being a perfect descriptor of a societal problem is dangerous and sloppy. Of course the stories are written like that – that is how writers make a story hang together! DUH!
..But insight? … Yeah.. the woman in Deep Throat is “written” with a just-so story of having a clit in her throat.. that’s why she performs fellatio.. Go build a societal / Freudian reading out of that. Bakka!
“To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.”
– Our fave mistranslation of Chuang Tzu
I am excerpting furiously from a dense scholarly work here, but all the Freud and post-Freudian psychology trotted out to try to make sense of the violent fantasies cited in the “high literature” sections did nothing to shine any light of understanding on why the author and the readers needed to go to such extremes in pursuit of the pleasure of the text (and other pleasures). Perhaps the entire history of yaoish narratives in Japanese culture is an effort (conscious or otherwise) to parody and subvert the tropes of a blind stupid psychoanalytic lore of female consciousness and desire.
Perhaps they did it all on purpose to make a fool out of Daddy!
As for the grotty, disgusting stuff – In the end, all one can say is that if works for them. Perhaps throw in some of MJJ’s catharsis argument? Or face up to the fact that some fujoshis are serious perverts, and they don’t know why either.
And for the meta-narrative strategy; the method offers to the fujoshi (and reader of similar “high” literature) a script, a kata of how to enjoy / situate oneself to enjoy distaff reading material.
“Ah easy! I read this stuff to get X and Y kind of forbidden thrill, while distancing myself via Z! Ok that’s what I am doing…”
Whether or not this comes anywhere close to what is really going on in the mind or loins of any particular real fujoshi enthusiast is irrelevant.
Similarly, all that one gets from analyzing these texts is that the Japanese women writers wanted to show that a Japanese woman writer could deploy some heavy perverse stuff and retain agency throughout the entire operation; remain in total control of all levels, of all varieties of perverse imaginings. So.. That makes sense too: that’s how sexual fantasies are supposed to happen. Is there a suggestion that “normal” woman’s sexual fantasies are entirely passive?
High fiction vs Manga VS Doujinshi:
In a high lit fiction, the author can chase pathology around in a maze forever.. It eventually folds into itself so many times as to become the fetish itself – that is, it redoubles the action of pathology inscribed within the narrative onto the act of consuming the narrative. This is a standard modernist/ postmodernist writing technique.. Even for theory! Go read some Kristeva on Celine or Duras.
Good trick, but a bit much for light entertainment..
A manga is more limited.. It is a small machine designed to do one thing. What is interesting is the one thing it chooses to do, and why so many do it over and over.
A doujin is even more limited.. It highlights the one thing of the Manga, or a section of it, or places that one thing in jarring juxtaposition with another thing.
What links these three forms together, is the meta-narrative. And Nagaike slips in as much between the lines, but then quietly fails to follow-up on it. Then mentions it again, then drops it, then again, and so on. The Freud nonsense leaves no room for it, for the story of let me tell you a story, within the high lit original, that informs the invitation to a discursive social space.
“girls, let’s get together and talk about this stuff” slips through all three forms.
So can we better re-read all the pathologies enumerated in this essay as ” the writer inviting the readers(!) to try-on these male-variant pathological plot engines as pure enjoyment, as women situated in a certain society.
“During the process of trying to mediate between the brothers through her symbolic femininity, Yukiko suddenly realizes an ideological transition (from active agent to observer) that provides her with a libidial space in which she can view Tomonosuke and Umemaro as the object-choices of her scoptophilic [voyeuristic] desire”
Awwww C’mon ms Nagaike! What you really wanted to say was “the writer drops big heavy (DUH!) clues into the story to invite her fellow women readers as to how to approach a problematic tale”. If the writer did not want to invite the reader to take a voyeuristic role, she would have written that Tomonosuke suddenly changed into Godzilla and raped a freight train.
“” Wishing to incite her desire further, she gradually became interested in the thrilling tragedy that was being acted out in front of her”
The next chapter goes even more into fantasy as a shared experience: The tales here are “almost lesbian” – A novel of stories one writer makes up as “rent” to the woman she lives with, they are narrated in a formulaic way.. the story is the exchange of these generic stories by one ur-fujoshi to another, but only to that other. The resulting effect is so damn close to Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian exchange as to require a strategic retreat. But once again, the fujoshi sisterhood, and all of its ferocious power and charm is negated. We would agree that the majority of Japanese fujoshi-dom are not ‘lesbian” – whatever that means in Japan, but to ignore the fans as a fan phenomenon is a glaring omission and a violence.
The violence lies in the atomistic biases of Freudian psychology itself and its negation of the social.
Freud recoiled from his women patients when too many tales of childhood sexual abuse popped up. He retreated and consigned these voices to the realm of “childhood sexual fantasy”, and so damned his soul and his works for all time.
It is the tragedy of this thesis, that by adopting a Freudian structure to examine women’s use of fantasy male-male sex, that Nagaike is driven to a recapitulation of Freud’s original sin.
The great societal mass of Japanese women who read, write, produce, encourage, comment, appropriate, support, exchange and love this weird story-telling form are thus rendered mute in this study. Which is a crying shame, because this beast could have been worked over and de-PhD’d in order to regain a powerful voice. The scholarship and ideas are all here. The work is complete and potentially comprehensive and worthwhile and powerful.
Repent! Save it!
(and please put up all your later studies on non-paywalled sites too!)
(1) If you have not yet made her acquaintance, a video of the song: