Why Hato: build up logically

Wherein I go overboard, summing up the arguments in favour of Hato, and the odd plot contrivances that surround the character. Updated a bit after the anime’s ep 12 retcon. I think it’s finally finished, please enjoy!

Judging from comments on other blogs that cover Genshiken, both as manga series, and the new Nadaime anime, our favourite rotten boy character Hato is becoming a bit of an annoyance to some of the fandom. This is not only regrettable; it misses the point by a country mile. Back when I started this blog, part of the reason I did so was because of the story-telling/ plotting potential of this strange Hato creature set loose amidst the new fujoshi-filled Genshiken.

Didn’t I start here?

Insanely long fan-out continues below the cutline, you have been warned…
Continue reading

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Either World Domination or something about bananas

Wherein your correspondent tries to write something two weeks after my emergency surgery for something nasty that almost left me blind in one eye. Fortunately all went well and I will not have to wear an eye-patch for the rest of my life. Still a bit cross-eyed though, which makes reading and writing a headache. Hooray for Canadian socialized medicine! Sorry, no massive theory post on fan production and distribution yet…

Instead, a quick ‘n dirty review of

Otaku Sexuality
by Saitō Tamaki

Translated by Christopher Bolton,  Introduction by Kotani Mari 

In “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime” – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. pps 222-249.

The oblique intro:

I need a manga or a visual novel with an odd plot so badly that I am tempted to learn Ren’py and make it myself. I need a set of adopted twins, boy and girl, home-schooled in Japan, and raised by a very rich odd couple; a gay captain of industry who is “papa” and a pre-op transwoman “mom”. Pop culture lore has it that in Japan, a doctor’s note can get your gender re-assigned even without the need for surgery; so this little just-so story plot twist ain’t tooooo far out – except that the only news reports I have heard about in Japan involve couples where both parties were originally female.

Much later: Ok this might be a bit insensitive, or at least inelegant: Real world transitioning folks in Japan still face substantial discrimination and hassles. See: Woman waging lawsuit to eliminate prejudice against gender identity disorder,   By CHO TSUIN, October 30, 2014 at:  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201410300009

Anyways, the “parents” are only a plot device for the kids: I need to redo Rousseau’s Emile, and put the boy and girl genius twins in first year university psychology class (let’s call them Emile and Emilia, or Mike and Michelle V. Smith), because I am sick to death of reading pop psychology that is %98 coherent, only to run time and time again into Freud’s mumbo-jumbo castration theory of sexual development and the origins of desire.

How Annoying!

It is like finding out that your favourite theorist or singer or actor is also a member of a nut-bar cult.

It needs to be whacked, but good, if only in fiction.

I guess Varley (viz: Steel Beach) and before him Delany (try Triton) have touched on this before, but they never ruined a story by hammering home the point, so a crude low-grade preachy plot device tale may be in order, if only as a great opportunity for some low comedy.

I want the twins to calmly point out in psych class that they must either be gods or demons, because everyone else has such quaint ideas about sex and desire, and this must be because their “mom” “had one”.

It has to be twins because “I can’t believe etc” and we need both male and female variants for the thought experiment. And for extra plot mojo, the only odd thing that mom and dad taught them was how to fight ZOMBIES!

Otherwise they are well-adjusted, open-minded, sociable and not too hung up on secks, though of course they do tend to stick very close to each other…

Hilarity ensues…

On second thought, they would still be patriarchal constructs. The story needs a set of opponents; the other set of “new-family type” twins at the university: studious, hardworking, student government rule sticklers, raised by two hard-working lesbian moms. Of course they resent the heck out the easy-going rich kids, Freudian voodoo theories notwithstanding.

Hey! Shimoku-sensei! Are your editor’s minions getting the translated weekly intel sheets to you? This is a winner. C’mon! this should be easy for someone who came up with Ramen Angel Pretty Menma! My gift for all the Genshiken I have read and avoided paying for… OR maybe I can give it to the creator of Franken Fran.

Come to think of it, this is probably the reason for the western conservative right-wing nuts’ abject horror over the idea of gay marriage, So a Del Rey licensing deal is in the bag!

Which is by way of introduction to the work of prof Saitō Tamaki, or at least the most accessible bits of it available to us heathens in the chapter on Otaku Sexuality in “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. Ch 11 pps 222-249.

And an introduction to my main complaint about it.

MUCH LATER: Duh! I ended up hypothesizing a pale imitation of the 1990’s era manga (and later anime) Family Compo [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/FamilyCompo] which featured an impossibly sweet trans* family and their recently almost-adopted teen relative. The daughter however has been gender-fluid all her life. She currently likes being a girl, but buddy boy can’t figure out if she is really a she, or if it matters. For an artifact, it is fairly respectful, though full of anachronisms and idealised crossdressing +/or trans* stereotypes. And no moe-blob drawing either.. Wow!

Perhaps you have read my previous posts, where prof Saitō is quoted by other writers as the prime source for the idea that Japanese otaku display extraordinary self-control in  keeping their fantasy lives separate from their real lives. As this is one of the main plot tensions in Genshiken, and because early reports of his work tended to explain this characteristic in a very odd way, I thought I should track a sample of his work down, and this version is prof. Tamaki’s own updated Cliff notes for westerners. The article is well worth the read. As a bonus, we get some updated musings on fujoshi sexuality as well. As a non-bonus, we get something scary.. (NO! not Astro Boy!!!!)

Much to my surprise and relief, there is no trace of Nihon-jiron essentialism anywhere in view. Perhaps the original oft-mentioned “Japanese culture isn’t big on platonic ideals” thing was a misreading, or early conjecture that was dropped. Prof Saitō gets street cred for inventing the term Hikikomori and has spent lots of time dealing with social isolates and obsessives of all stripes. While he is sympathetic to Japanese fans, his opinions carry a great deal of weight in popular Japanese discourse on the extremes of fan behaviour.

“Prejudices about otaku based in ignorance have circulated easily for some time, even in my own field of psychiatry. One typical (mis)diagnosis is that otaku have a schizophrenic personality disorder. (My own opinion is that otaku clarify the limits of the very concept of personality disorders, but I leave this argument for another time.)

Perhaps this kind of misunderstanding should be seen as a symptom of psychiatry’s shift from a participatory activity to a system of observation. I would not go so far as to identify myself as an otaku, but my correspondence with the young people described below has led me into a rather profound relationship with this world—certainly beyond what I could call fieldwork. For all of these reasons, I feel that this record of my observations may have some clinical significance at the present time.

In 2000 I published a book titled Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki (Armored cuties: A psychoanalysis). The title names an icon that has enjoyed tremendous popularity in Japan, particularly in manga and anime— the sentō bishōjo. Literally this means “beautiful warrior girl,” though the translation I prefer is “armored cutie.” It seems to me the popularity of this strange image is virtually unique to my country. Many Western series, from Alien to Tomb Raider, feature fighting women, but they are almost all Amazonian women. Until recently the West had almost no works that featured girl warriors in the kindergarten or elementary school range. How did these sentō bishōjo come about, and how are they consumed? My book posed a series of questions along these lines, and I believe it was able to point the way toward some answers. And since it was the otaku who were most in love with the icon of the sentō bishōjo, this book also had to describe the otaku in some detail.

In 2003, as a kind of follow-up and expansion on the arguments in Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki, I published a book on the linked motifs of adolescence, media, and sexuality titled Hakase no kimyōna shishunki (The doctor’s strange adolescence). The present chapter is adapted from material in that latter book, particularly the second chapter on otaku sexuality. It summarizes many parts of the argument in Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki, though it skips some of the introductory description, for example, on the origin of the term otaku and the evolution of its use. And it goes beyond the earlier work in elaborating my arguments about the issue of sexuality and fiction.”

As you can see, he also invented the Beautiful Fighting Girl trope/ concept, and has a certain understanding of, and sympathy with his subjects’ enthusiasms. So a reader should pay attention; there is going to be good stuff here. take for example his definition of Otaku:

“It may be true that otaku have certain distinguishing features of appearance, but criticisms of these things amount to nothing more than personal impressions. If a critique never moves beyond these kinds of impressions, the critic will never escape the trap of narcissism; in other words, these criticisms simply reveal the means by which the critic sustains his or her own self-love.

This is the first difficulty with theorizing otaku: from the outset all these theories (sympathetic and unsympathetic) have been exposed to these impressions and value judgments. So my own approach here will be to avoid value judgments as far as possible and try to describe the otaku formally. My descriptors for otaku are as follows:

• They have an affinity for fictional contexts (kyokō no kontekusuto).
• They resort to fictionalization in order to possess the object of their love.
• They have multiple orientations when it comes to enjoying fiction.
• For them fiction itself can be a sexual object.”

Two things jump out: the libidinization of Otaku desire (Helllooooooo! Genshiken!) and the deft pre-emptive swipe at any critics which echoes my fave reason why one should be very careful insulting people – it only reveals to the whole world what is in your anxiety closet. Myself, I am afraid of simple, stupid answers, I guess because I am prone to them myself.

As a short digression on Japanese fan desire, his essay misses some of his more interesting ideas about manga style and visual conventions that are presented in his “Beautiful Fighting Girl”  (V1.2?), as updated and translated in 2011. Here from the Mechademia review by Nina Cornyetz (http://mechademia.org/reviews/nina-cornyetz-review-of-beautiful-fighting-girl-by-saito-tamaki/)

“I think Saitō’s book is best when describing manga as a specific semiotic system characterized by “atemporality,” “high context,” and “multiple personality space.” Atemporality refers to the subjective rendering of time, or the suppression of chronological time in the anime/manga diegesis. [7] “High context” refers to how sets of semiotic codes specific to cartoons and animation are layered one over another, to construct a visual space that is “excessively overdetermined in meaning and highly redundant.”[8] Saitō surmises that this multiplicity of monologic codes characteristic of manga resembles that of a person with multiple personality disorder, in that individual characters are partial and incomplete.”

Or to put it simpler, Japanese visual culture assumes that you will pay attention, pick up the hints as the story progresses and doesn’t spoon feed you as much as North American pop culture narrative. Cornyetz also has a bit of a problem with the Lacanian jargon – not for its density, but for its suitability to the task of deconstructing the genre. For now, Otaku Sexuality gives us the “lite” version of most of Saito’s favorite themes:

“…But all of the above are also seen to some extent in the mania of other fans. The behavior that sets otaku apart is the act of loving the object by possessing it. For example, the largest of all otaku events is the Komikku Maaketto (“comic market”), abbreviated as Komike in Japanese and held twice a year in August and December. Here, hundreds of thousands of otaku (many dressed as their favorite manga and anime characters) gather to buy and sell independently produced comics called dōjinshi. Just attending Komike is a crash course in the world of the otaku.

Dressing up and producing these dō jinshi comics are among the activities otaku must participate in to maintain their credentials, something that sets them apart from run-of-the-mill fans. Over thirty thousand groups produce and sell their dō jinshi at Komike, and most are second-order texts, that is, takeoffs on well-known manga and anime. I believe dōjinshi are significant because they constitute an otaku “rite of ownership,” whereby the fans take the works they love and make them their own through the act of parody, which is to say by fictionalizing them even further. Dōjinshi are one crystallization of this activity, though more recently Internet mailing lists and discussion boards have also become sites for publishing independently authored stories. In venues like these that are more text-based than the visual dō jinshi, participants contribute “SS”—original short stories or “side stories” with characters and settings borrowed from favorite works.

The most popular among the dōjinshi are the pornographic parodies in the “eighteen and over” genre. It is easy to hold these works up and proclaim disgust with the otaku, but unless one can overcome this visceral dislike, it is impossible to perceive the otaku’s true nature. As my list of otaku descriptors indicates, the issue of the otaku is one of sexuality, and it is this genre that displays their unique qualities in distilled form. It is not easy to locate a sexual object in fiction itself: that represents a taste for something far more direct than we see in the fetishism of ordinary fan manias. Many otaku actually have imagined sexual relationships with their favorite manga and anime protagonists, and masturbate to these fantasies.”

From this we get a natural digression into loli-smut and the first hint of the fantasy is fantasy/ reality is reality division, with the obligatory reference to that infamous otaku child-murderer, and the observation that he has not been followed by hordes of imitators; so perhaps otaku are under-represented as violent deviants in general society. It is the “normal” drunk salaryman who gropes the pretty lady, Train Man saves her.

Comike(t) also gives him a chance to introduce fujoshi activity:

The first thing to point out is that the producers and consumers of yaoi texts are overwhelmingly women. The majority of participants in the Komike comic market are women (contradicting the idea that otaku are mostly male), and the majority of those female participants are yaoi aficionados. Certainly, the number of gay men producing or consuming these texts is virtually nil. If the desires of yaoi authors are directly reflected in these texts, then how should we characterize their sexuality?

Clearly, it represents a set of desires that cannot be described in terms of the psychoanalytic theory that has defined perversion (tō saku) up to now. What is significant here is again the fact that the imaginary sexual lives of the yaoi crowd are totally separate from their everyday sexual lives. Some contend that one should investigate sexuality by considering actual sexual activities, but I have always argued that today the real or the actual is something layered, something increasingly devoid of any firm foundation. In this situation, fantasies may in fact be the most appropriate material for investigating sexuality. More pointedly, real sexual acts are far too much of an admixture to consider when analyzing the structural aspects of sexuality.

Here, the fact that yaoi fans (yaoi aikōka) and otaku are sexual late bloomers actually works in our favor: because they are unacquainted with the realities of sex, they can pursue these sexual fantasies in a purer form.

On the matter of fujoshi desire (and note that he explained in the work, that he avoids the term fujoshi), Saitō relies of the testimony of a noted, eloquent producer yaoi. But wait: keep watch on the text – the great Freudian signifier is about to pop out, like something through a hole in the screen from an Ishihara novel… cue the signifier

“Enomoto Nariko is a figure who sheds considerable light on yaoi fantasies and sexuality. She is the author of the popular manga Senchimento no kisetsu (Sentimental season), serialized in the weekly comic magazine Biggu komikku supirittsu (Big comic spirits). She has also created numerous dōjinshi under the name Nobi Nobita. As recorded in Sōhyō (Criticism) — an anthology of her critical works she issued herself as a dōjinshi—Enomoto started out as a yaoi author. She became known for a piece of criticism titled “Adults Just Don’t Get It,” its title drawn from the Japanese title of François Truffaut’s 400 Blows (1959). That essay used R. D. Laing’s Divided Self to read the celebrated anime serial Neon Genesis Evangelion (the psychology of which has been taken up even at meetings of the Japanese Association of Pathography). Evangelion’s director Anno Hideaki was reportedly so impressed with Enomoto’s interpretation that when he made the films based on the series, he incorporated a number of details that reflected her ideas…”

[…]

“Distinguishing the sexuality of male and female otaku means distinguishing male and female moe, and there are some evident differences. For many male otaku, the trigger for moe is either a character’s cute figure or the situation she finds herself in. What then is the object of moe for the female otaku who constitute the yaoi group? In fact moe is a term that yaoi fans do not generally use themselves, but Enomoto puts it perfectly when she says that while a male otaku may be “Asuka moe,” a yaoi fan is “phase moe.” “Phase” here represents one phase of a relationship. Let us suppose, for example, that a certain manga depicts a relationship of mixed friendship and antagonism between two boys. This relationship will be the focus of attention for these women fans: based on subtle gestures, looks, and expressions, or on fragments of dialogue, how and when will it move into its romantic phase of homosexual attraction? That is the universal theme of yaoi texts.

Enomoto explains that “male fans cannot experience moe until they have fixed their own position”— an observation that may well have validity beyond otaku and yaoi fans. In general a man fears the undermining of his own subject position, and he must establish that position firmly before he can desire an object. This is probably the fate of all who possess a phallus (as distinct from a penis): if the position and orientation of the phallus is not defined, the male cannot face even the object of his own desire.

The word moe is used by male otaku to locate the agent of that desire. On the other hand, in women that fear for one’s subject position is less acute. When a woman desires something, her own position is not important: she immerses herself completely in the object, and by emptying herself, she is able to take it in. The versatility of this subject position is clear when we consider how she identifies with the object. In the gay sex depicted by yaoi texts, a reader or creator can identify with both the seme (“active”) and uke (“passive”) characters.14 This is why her attraction to a text surpasses that of the male otaku.

This passion manifests itself in a different posture toward the text. For example, male otaku will often debate matters of textual interpretation with one another, but yaoi readers will argue fiercely about the combinations of characters in a parody or the choice to assign a character the seme or uke role in a sexual encounter. The latter sort of debate is unthinkable among male otaku, although both kinds of argument represent the struggle described above to “possess the work.”

Should yaoi texts be regarded as proof of the charge entertained above, the confusion of “fiction” with “reality”? In fact, these fan authors realize that the gay connections between characters in the textual worlds they create could never realistically exist. Regarding the absence of female characters in these parodies, Nobi Nobita explained to me that “when women are depicted, it can’t help becoming weirdly real.” Clearly there is no confusion between reality and fiction here.

Hmmmmmmm I smell echoes of Mishima’s Sea of Fertility again – or at least what I know of it from Rio Otomo‘s criticism. Mishima’s influence is unavoidable in Japanese modernist fiction and his heroic male youth archetype (who reads a lot like a slightly more asocial version of Wagner’s Sigfried) is pure Shonen Jump and always counterpoised against some extreme notion of a protoplasmic dissolving-all-encompassing emotional and physical sensation field of metaphorical gooo in female sexuality.

“I was lost in the valley of pleasure, I was lost in the infinite sea..” –P.Smith

Shogenai..,

Another correspondent invoked by Saitō:

“The yaoi creator Nakajima Azusa has written an analysis of yaoi titled Children of Thanatos, which is interesting as an act of self-analysis by one of the genre’s key players. The book’s description of yaoi has a number of points in common with theories of otaku I advanced in my first book on otaku, Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki. First, Nakajima writes that nearly all yaoi writers are heterosexual women with husbands and children and that she has never met one who was a lesbian. This corresponds with my own observation about the scarcity of homosexual otaku. Like otaku, yaoi fans are living out separate sexualities. They lead heterosexual lives, but their fictionally oriented sexuality turns to male homosexual relationships. These fictional sexual objects are not proxies for the real; instead, the space of fiction has a wholly independent economy of desire, a point yaoi fans share with male otaku.”

So far, Saitō’s conjectures and reportage are interesting and nuanced, Unfortunately the veneration of Freud’s demon bones intrudes:  (honking big quote warning!)

“The Origins of Asymmetry

Actual heterosexual relationships appear symmetrical in the sense that the man desires the woman and the woman the man. But as we know, in any male-female relationship, the fundamental orientation of the male’s desire differs from that of the woman. (In that sense, love is nothing more than an exchange of illusions.) We must refer to psychoanalysis — particularly Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan — to understand these structural differences between male and female desire.

Psychoanalysis teaches that female and male desire have contrasting makeups from the moment they are constituted. What first gives rise to male desire is the process of symbolic castration. When the father intrudes into the happy sufficient union that exists between the mother and the young child, he severs their connection. At this point the male child discovers that his mother lacks a penis. The mother’s  omnipotence (the omnipotence of the ego) is abandoned and replaced (along with the absent penis) by the signifier of the phallus.

When the male child obtains the primal tool of language that is the phallic signifier, the male child becomes a speaker and enters the symbolic world. By experiencing symbolic castration, he becomes a neurotic subject, and from that point the full range of desires becomes possible. Constituted as it is in this way, male desire has castration anxiety at its heart and must always seek the “object a” lost through castration. Desire directed at the object a incarnates desire as an illusion within the symbolic world, but never reaches the actual object.

On the other hand, female desire arises in a more roundabout way. Women also undergo symbolic castration to become a neurotic subject, but afterward, a woman discovers her own anatomical difference. She moves toward the mother’s position because both daughter and mother lack a penis. In males, gaining the phallus does not stave off desire for the mother, but for females, desire directed at the mother must be redirected through castration. For females, the mark of lacking a penis makes it possible to desire the phallus from the mother’s position.

The male follows a chain of metaphors directed toward the desired object a that he cannot attain. In the process, he constructs the illusion called knowledge. What he tries to possess (e.g., the illusion of woman) is actually a stand-in for the singular object a that perpetually eludes his grasp. And what is the situation for women? They locate themselves in the position of that which is desired by the male, the position of the mother. But this location represents a state of lack. Women can locate themselves only as beings lacking from the symbolic world, where women do not exist, and it is from this position of lack that women desire the phallus they do not have. This is the diametric opposite of the male orientation that constructs illusions.

The object of otaku desire, the sentō bishōjo, or armored cutie, is none other than object a, the girl who identifies with the penis. It is in an effort to become the possessor of these figures that male otaku construct the various illusions around them: fiction/criticism, novels, dōjinshi, and so forth. What is at the heart of the issue here is the reality the sentō bishōjo has by virtue of existing completely within fiction — by virtue of her state of lack. In Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki, I described this as “the inverted hysteria of visual space.” There is not room here to repeat all the details of that argument, but in summary it consists of the following points:

1. When a male desires a female, she is “hystericized” (hisuteriika).
2. Hystericization is desire that perceives a two-layered structure to the object: a visible outer layer that attracts or entices, and an unseen deeper level, the object’s true nature (like a hidden trauma).
3. The sentō bishōjo has a number of features that correspond to those of actual hysteria.
4. However, the sentō bishōjo can experience battle (“jouissance” enjoyment) without trauma (such as the experience of “rape” that motivates many “real” fighting women). In this sense she presents the mirror image of actual hysteria.

For male otaku desire, what is important is precisely that the desired object is lacking. If the premise of the sentō bishōjo is that she is fictional and lacking, it is only this that makes her eligible as an object of desire. But the illusionary quality of these warrior girls must have a concretely visual aspect. In the experience of moe, these visual elements occupy a central place, because inasmuch as these sentō bishōjo are objects of desire, they must provide some toehold for the author and reader to identify with them ironically. It is only in the visual dimension that the male can project his image narcissistically on the object. This accounts for the male predisposition to be attracted by physical appearances, and it may also explain the tendency among agents of male desire to supplement their own lack with a fetish.

How, then, does the desire of yaoi readers differ from that of otaku? Here we can directly apply what was said earlier about female desire. It may seem impossible for female readers to identify themselves directly with anything in a gay love story, particularly one from which female characters have been banished. But this is part of the fundamental process that enables desire. In the everyday world, it is by virtue of being the object of male desire that women are able to constitute their own position as a lack. If male otaku feel desire for the lack of the object, in yaoi female desire it is important that one be a lacking subject oneself.

So excluding women from yaoi texts is more or less necessary in order for the reader to alienate herself as the agent of desire. This current of desire, meticulously prepared, is then directed toward the phallic relationship of the men in the text. This phallic connection results from the fact that males, having penises, can take either the “active” seme or “passive” uke role in the sex act. Female penis envy is highly abstracted in these texts; the object of envy is rather the phallic positioning inherent in this relationship. Because of this, women can identify with any character in the story. A woman can never assert her own existence in these dramas of phallic desire, but it is precisely because of this inability that she can attempt an identification that is less limited than that of the male. The actual world contains many examples of this freedom women have as sexual subjects.”

Cixious has dealt with this bias at length, so it might be better to press on. There is something that can be rescued from this all, but the price may be a bit steep:

“It is known that men often form homosocial bonds—male unions that lead automatically to homophobia. The resistance heterosexual men generally feel toward homosexual connections is far stronger than the resistance heterosexual women feel toward lesbianism. On the stage of the imagination where desire is played out, men always try to become the agent of that desire, which is why they try to explain desire’s origins, and why in turn I am writing this. Put another way, men can feel only the kind of desire that can be described.

To all appearances, the desire of women is constituted much more passively. Women do not like to assert themselves as agents of desire, which is why their desire is so often hard to describe. Can one rationally explain women’s taste for jewelry? It is not even fetishism. This resistance to description is directly expressed by the phrase that gives us the word yaoi: “No climax, no conclusion, no meaning.”

As I mentioned, in these fanciful homosexual relations the thing regarded as most important is who has the seme and who the uke role. Among yaoi readers there are fierce debates about these assignments. This supports our ideas about yaoi desire: what matters is the relation between characters and the phase of that relationship.

Consider a slightly different formulation: if we identify otaku desire as the desire “to have,” yaoi desire is the desire “to become.” Extending a postulate of psychoanalysis that “a heterosexual is one who loves women,” we can say that women are fundamentally heterosexual beings. This is in part the reason why psychoanalysis does not regard lesbianism as an abnormal sexuality (tōsaku) but as an example of “acting out.” Yaoi readers are not trying to possess the homosexual relationships in yaoi texts; they are trying to identify with the phallic relationship itself. What permits them to experience jouissance is the form of their desire as a wish “to become.” [emp mine]

Nice to know that Freudian psychiatry, Queen Victoria and the book of Leviticus are in agreement!

“The moe of male otaku is mainly a fetishistic desire “to have.” It is a desire not for reality itself but for reality’s shroud or mantle. For that reason the elements of moe tend to multiply. For example, the visual ornamentation of manga and anime characters is increasing. It is easy to speak about the virtual quality of this kind of otaku sexual love, but it is hard to say the same kinds of things about yaoi. It may be because yaoi identification with the object seems to be constituted far more directly than otaku possession, which is, after all, possession of a substitute. In that sense, we might say that yaoi moe is a far more enjoyable experience than otaku moe is.”

“And I Tiresias have foresuffered all;
Enacted on this same divan or bed;;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall;
And walked among the lowest of the dead”
-The Wasteland,  T.S. Elliot,
(http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/eliot01.html)

Nope, the quote is ironic mode ON: the original Tireseus got to experience a female orgasm and liked it a lot! His only crime, for which the goddess blinded him, was to blab about the experience.

Guys: avoid viagra, cialis and tantric sex – it will turn you into a woman. Multiple or prolonged orgasm in males is the work of SATAN! That’s why the rotten girl’s fuck puppets are so prone to it!

Perhaps the rotten girls are convinced that our natural propensity to singular climax is what makes us crazy in the head and are trying to give us a gift to fix our sad lack, if only in their fiction?

Omne animal post coitum triste

Perhaps you aren’t trying hard enough…

Saitō then goes on to touch on an even more extreme geek perversion, shota – which he claims has equal male and female devotees, but (thankfully!) leaves any in-depth examination for future research.

(I am either hysterically defending my narcissism here or setting boundaries. Of course I prefer the latter explanation, but I could be deluded…)

The essay then gets back onto productive tracks with a discussion of fictionality and layered readings and possession vs fetishism. Basically the facility for and enjoyment of layered readings keep the possession from becoming too fetishistic – the act becomes that particular desanguinated form of french post-structuralist joy – jouissance, but at least the otaku and the fujoshi are not crazy in the head – they are just cultural producers – in effect writers, mangakas (and artists?) in their own right (though this last word, the dread A-word is never spoken)

Oh well, leave it at creator and call it a win:

“Calling the otaku “creators” will produce objections that most of their work is childish in the extreme: lacking in originality, imagination, expressive skill, and so on. But these criticisms are no more than impressionistic critiques and imagined value judgments. This kind of approach is incompatible with psychoanalysis, but unfortunately even among critics who write from a psychoanalytic perspective we still see a number who are trapped in this kind of narcissistic posture. And from them we hear that tired refrain telling the otaku to “grow up and face reality.”

One can always counter this kind of impressionistic criticism with more of the same. For example, consider Japanese academic knowledge and its insignificance to the world at large (particularly in the humanities). From one perspective the otaku’s knowledge is much more globally relevant than what is taught in our universities. The fact that Japanese anime clubs exist at almost every American university can only bolster this impression.

Japan’s greatest cultural export is anime, a commonplace that still bears repeating. Since Sakamoto Kyu¯ ’s “Sukiyaki Song” topped America’s Billboard music chart in 1963, the only Japanese works to repeat this feat in their own category are the anime films Ghost in the Shell (1995) and Poketto monsutaa: Myu¯ tsu¯ no gyakushu¯ (1995, Pokemon: Mewtwo’s Return).21 The supposed “insularity” of otaku knowledge is a delusion of academics. But even if the texts created by otaku are regarded as childish, it may be a fortunate thing for us. A brilliant work has an aura that tends to stay the hand of anyone who would analyze it, but this is not a problem when we explore the creative process through the otaku. Nakai Hisao famously suggested that a line drawn by a patient and a line drawn by a genius are “philosophically equivalent.”22 In fact, the creative activity of otaku may reveal creation in its most primitive form, because the distance between desire and creation is so short.” [emp. mine]

This is extremely valuable!

You don’t have to be a great artist to be an artist. Joseph Beuys wanted everyone to be an artist, and the western Fluxus movement makes stuff that is so pathetically lame as to blur the boundaries of the definition of “art” in favor of the spontaneity of creation within a social realm. Having no talent or inspiration is no damn excuse. “You have 3 minutes left, I expect a performance piece for the class!

Compared to Fluxus, Japanese visual culture is modular and reproducible in form and content, to an extent that it begs for fan involvement, appropriation, exchange and production. New technology helps grease the tracks (which will be dealt with in the long put off future post), but the urge to productive involvement that makes fan desire so radical is foregrounded in the otaku and fujoshi social, as much as in earlier North American car/ motorcycle sub-cultures and global computer hardware/software sub-cultures.

And to riff on an essay I read 1/2 an eons ago in Analog Magazine (and can’t find the citation for), it was the AK47 that changed war and lead to “the democratization of violence” (a term picked up by Muammar Gaddafi who liked western sci-fi), just as the modular, cheap shoddy IBM pc x86 architecture personal computer (which heh, developed out of the cpm bus board computers as well as the apple II) moved history a hell of a lot more than the $10,000 mac plus did.

Vernacular cultures are more powerful than elite cultures, especially if the tools and rules are cheap, easily mastered and distribution/ exchange channels can be found. I am not a big fan of rap, but I understand its appeal. But that’s for a future post..

Back to Saitō:

Next we get some quick and dirty analysis on Miyazaki:

“Miyazaki saw it [Hakujaden (Panda and the Magic Serpent)] 1958 as a teenager and fell in love with its heroine, then went on to become Japan’s master of the animated image. But from one perspective, his work has a quality of Freudian “repetition compulsion” that is sad. Possessed as a boy by an anime beauty, Miyazaki is fated to produce one charming heroine of his own after another, and through them to support otaku culture. This compulsion that revolves around beautiful young girls (largely absent in Miyazaki’s creative partner Takahata Isao, for example) repeats the initial trauma of Miyazaki’s early experience. This is clearly a chain of transference: a transference from receiver to transmitter mediated by the icon of the beautiful girl. Miyazaki’s inability to escape it is shown by his countertransferent dislike for adult anime fans (otaku), a scorn he makes no effort to disguise.”

Uh that’s a bit cruel, one could come up with a few alternative explanations, but lets let it pass.. Saitō then brings up Takashi Murakami’s superflat  and Azumi’s the database as a prelude to a very interesting take on otaku and by inference fujoshi sexuality:

“Let me then summarize my argument up to this point. There are three driving forces behind otaku evolution: sexuality, the transference from reader to author, and the comic market. Otaku desire (the desire to possess through fictionalization) is supported by all three. We must wait for more concrete research on the comic market and authordirected transference. Here I have focused on the connection between creative activity and sexuality. “

[emp mine again -you should try it yourself prof Saitō, there is a reason people get into making art.. Start here]

The final issue I treat in this chapter is the intersubjectivity of sexuality, or the evolutionary changes in expression that have made that intersubjectivity possible. Naturally, the driving force for sexuality is the “actual reality” of sex. In this sense, otaku are trying to face the reality of their own sex constructively. But this kind of reality differs from the search for a sexual partner in the actual world.

In my book focusing on the sentō bishōjo, I suggested that this behavior was a survival tactic employed by otaku to “resist datafication.” As the illusory notion that “everything can be turned into data” becomes more and more widespread, how can one protect sexuality from the same fate? The answer is to spin out a limitless number of illusions from the single source of sexuality.[emph. mine] The sentō bishōjo, what I have also called the “phallic girl,” is a powerful icon that serves as the medium for these illusions. The most effective strategy against the restricting forces of datafication may be to oppose them with the unrestricted possibilities of illusion, that is, narrative. And I am convinced that an important role served by otaku culture is to preserve illusion’s unbounded character.

Hmmmm… I’ve heard that one before…

“Captain, you’re getting dangerously close to the planet killer”.
“I intend to get a lot closer. I’m going to ram this ship right down that thing’s throat!”

This is the old overload it until it blows up sci-fi trope, and what the heck – it worked well enough in real life to defuse the Frankfurt school’s loathing of mass culture. One stadium filled extravaganza is a Nazi propaganda triumph, but 3 each weekend, every weekend is just the concert, the game or the convention that you are too broke or bored to attend.

The essay ends with a jarring reference once again to shota, or rather a sub-genre; robo-shota (Waughhh! bad things happen to Astro-Boy!) as some kind of point of convergence/ vanishing point/ event horizon of otaku/ fuloshi desire and of course a mandatory “more research is required” , along with a plea to not condemn it out of hand…

(Sorry, must condemn – kill it with fire!)

“This is a desire so thoroughly fictionalized that one hesitates even to call it perverse (tō saku). Before one turns away from its strangeness, it is worth considering the limitlessness of the imaginative power that is fed by otaku sexuality.  Maidroid is the emblem of a sexuality that depends only on these contexts to develop, a sexuality deliberately separated from everyday life. . If narrative is possible even after the “end of history,” that possibility may reside in emblems like these. But in the way they develop, these high context expressions are impoverished in the syntagmatic axis, even as they show such richness along the paradigmatic one. We see this in anime, where the almost excessive variation in setting and character combines with a tendency toward cookie-cutter story lines and ideas. It is for this reason that a high-context superflat space needs some stimulus from outside itself, to destabilize its internal context. Born at the boundary between modern art and otaku culture, the concept “superflat” itself functions as a point at which to introduce that externality. If we have a role to play in these processes, it should not be as critics or as opponents of otaku culture.

We should interact constructively with otaku; we should overcome our resistance enough to offer our own interpretations; and we should work from outside to keep stimulating the otaku imagination.”

Obviously, prof Saitō’s thesis is complicated, nuanced and extremely productive, even as it wears its biases and faults and blind spots (or at least currently unfashionable opinions) proudly pinned to its lapel.

Of the original reason for investigating prof, Saitō; the fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality law of otakudom, we are much further into the depths of how the mechanism supposedly enforces a psychic division of labor. The multifaceted, creative reading and production of endless variations on a favoured theme grounds itself in the realm of the imagination and would cease to function if it was to consciously “bleed” over into the real world. It would be like ordering fast food in haiku and writing fanzines on the park sidewalk. Yet at the same time fictional narratives have a habit of influencing real life, as herr doctor Freud’s work-as-trope proves.

There is a whole lot of useful material and insight here, and to ask Saitō to go a bit easy on the Freud-speak is to ask him to delegitimize himself in the eyes of the rest of his tribe of psychologists. But honestly! There are no lesbians at Comiket ??? Lets all redefine lesbian in a way that is far more violent than my past joke-conceit that the overwhelming majority of women-liking women in Japan were suspicious of the term and wanted some privacy (please!). And guess why they really aren’t lesbian? Cue monsieur Ishihara’s fave trick again.

moe ishihara web

It’s an interesting point of view, but lets not turn it into a permanent cultural festival.

Saitō gets closest to the issue with his emphasis on creative play, but must perforce pretend not to see the huge social element in fan creativity, or at least to view it in an un-social light. After all communication is merely the wielding of the phallus by a neurotic subject, which I guess is why men can’t really have any friends.

The biases in the cult of Freud and those who follow make a detached retina seem like a mild inconvenience. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is still short one eye, He does not necessarily get to be King.

The emphasis on layered reading and inter-textuality is productive, and is handled far better than the soulless vertigo of the original database model; it leads to a better explanation/ understanding of the reality is reality vs fantasy is fantasy divide, than any tentative, previous, mis-read or mis-attributed reference to a weak adherence in Japanese culture to ‘western” ideas of a platonic model of ideals. You cannot really do much with the latter, whereas the former is the gooey stuff of high late modern (don’t say postmodern please!) culture, and as such is likely to spread like a virus through all industrial/ “post”-industrial cultures.

Looked at this way, it is the next step up from North American car, motorcycle and home computer building sub-cultures, and on par with social media, electronic music and video mashup subcultures.

And don’t tell me that they weren’t libidinized.

“Says Red Molly to James “That’s a fine motorbike.
A girl could feel special on any such like”
Says James to Red Molly “My hat’s off to you
It’s a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952.
And I’ve seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme”
And he pulled her on behind and down to Box Hill they did ride”
– 
Richard Thompson – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lCH5JgWCZY

Another useful point of view is the asymmetrical approach to male otaku and female fujoshi consumption of libidinized fan material. Male sexual fantasy is pretty easy to understand: and Madarame makes a good go of it to Saki with his line drawing speech early on in Genshiken. Yup, just cave paintings of beings we really really want but have trouble catching, let alone understanding and communicating with. Saki’s reaction is truthful as well – them damn stick figures won’t help much, and will probably get in the way of interacting with real women.

But Ohno and Ogiue, and later the rest of the rotten girls are harder to fully fathom. Sure, they could be making up for a certain lack, or they could have found a way to enjoy a virtual woody without having to give up a more efficient and far more pleasurable arrangement. Or they could be trying to get back at Freud-daddy and his thick-headed followers, and all the stupid boneheaded sexism that hides stupid unfair, corrupt and ultimately self-destructive patterns of behaviour in a certain society (and ours too). Or they could be trying to, as previously suggested, give us guys the gift of multiple orgasms. Or they could just be wired so that reading about rough (or nice vanilla) sex by fictional males really turns their crank, and then they drape some good behaviour tropes over the mess (reads like romance) so they don’t feel too abject when they look at themselves in the mirror later, and because a good raunchy story is fun to share.

The asymmetry effect could merely be a side-effect of more developed patterns of female social interaction,

While it is true that every generation believes that it has invented sex, it is also true that the amount of smut, and its availability in absolute terms is far greater today than could be imagined by even the most jaded of our ancestors.

We are up to our ears in smut. We have country-wide junkyards full of rusting smut. The smut recyclers can’t keep up with it, the pile of debris grows ever skyward. We have barges and container ships that illegally dump smut, along with worn t-shirts and broken electronics on the shores of “failed states”. The smut concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere have for the first time in history exceeded 400ppm!

Houston we have smut!

Why can’t the rotten girls customize theirs too?

The rest of the book that this essay is contained in (“Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams :Japanese science fiction from origins to anime”) goes on at length to describe how Japanese science fiction was used by many writers, including women writers, to highlight social contradictions and play with alternatives. Could a theory of vernacular fiction/ narrative and social change be more productive than an orthodox Freudian psychoanalytical approach?

Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist.
Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.
..might be a misquote of Chesterton, but it is snappier.

A Freudian approach to fujoshi desire constitutes female desire as a lack, an engulfing void that seeks to absorb the absent phallus – symbol of female lack and flaw, and as such experience imagined male sexual play from an undifferentiated, multiplicitous point of view, absorbing all into a subject-less vortex of sensation, or something. It also drapes a lot of dissimulation and elaboration over the crude metaphor and metonymny that is at the heart of the the Freud myth: Woman as castrated male, and as hole/vessel, orifice that engulfs the male member, and guardian of the chthonic wound from whence blood issues monthly and new life springs forth from pain and gore.

“Here’s to the hole that never heals!”

Go too far with this, and you can end up like Apollo in the Orestia’s The Friendly Ones, reduced to gibbering to a jury of Athenian farmers that the female of the species is only some kind of container full of potting soil that adds nothing to the life that develops during pregnancy. While Church philosophers a thousand years later took this as “natural philosophy”, the 600BC Athenian audience hooted with laughter at the fine corner Athena had backed her stupid, arrogant brother into. Even he realised his fuck-up and shortly after left the “trial” in a huff.

Prof. Saitō: what do you make of m-preg yaoi stories? Are fujoshi texts trying to impose a revenge of pregnancy upon males? Are they “gifting” their imagined male creatures with something they lack in real life, much like the aforementioned multiple orgasm digression? Or are they playing with an even greater horror than their violent pseudo-homosexual coupling? Male pregnancy is something deep in the collective male anxiety closet: viz Cordwainer Smith’s “The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal” – a well-crafted nasty little homophobic nightmare straight out of the pop psychology anxiety closet. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crime_and_the_Glory_of_Commander_Suzdal
and
http://bookos.org/book/284287/c1d64f )

Intelligent cat creatures created in the wink of an eye, locked in eternal battle with a world full psychotic pregnant faggot-bogiemen bent on exterminating all women from the galaxy. Little surprise that this tale was the product of the writing hobby of the man who helped develop the concept of “psychological warfare” for the allied war WWII war effort.

These are all elaborate narratives built on very shaky chains of metaphor and association; they make for fine tales and myths, but sin against William of Occam’s simple prescriptions for making sense of the world.

Perhaps an alternate reading could be suggested by the dismissive comment of another critic of fujoshi practice; “that the girls are all just playing with dolls“. But one underestimates such play at one’s peril, for is not such play the stuff of high modern literature? Or is the third-person omniscient narrative, with jumps to multiple, sometimes conflicting and unreliable first person points of view not seen as the height of the contemporary craft of the novel?

Fujoshi desire is simultaneously the view of the goddess and the view of the void – a trick that matches and possibly one ups Job’s inscrutable big-papa-in-the- sky.

Then the fujoshi spoke to her sisters out of the whirlwind. . ..

The girls are better at multitasking, just as we are better at fixating on one thing to the point of obsession. Of course your mileage may vary and a sound exercise regime can help in levelling the differences. Guys – multitasking won’t turn you into someone’s bitch, though it may turn you into an employable telephone tech support worker. However your brain will hurt for the first four months.

And as a further aside; someone must be able to make sense of a women’s (or men’s) taste in jewelry, otherwise how could so much money be made on the exercise?

Multiplying entities without necessity is an act of love, not an act of science. (TM)

As for the escapism or coping mechanisms that the libidinization of Japanese visual culture provides, one would be remiss if one failed to note the very real social, economic and generational pressures that bear down upon folks in Japan in this particular moment in time. The old models are not working too well for anyone, unless you are really rich or retired with a good pension. Or does the search for the Lacanian “object a” explain the Japanese invention of the Love Hotel?

Demographics and economics have as much to offer to the understanding of otaku and fujoshi behaviour as strategies of layered reading and creative consumption. Even Lacan understood that post WWII France was something different from Freud’s fin-de-siecle Vienna. (hence the shift from incest taboo to the dead- father- as- the- law). One may also add that Freud didn’t have a monopoly on castration myth-spinning; That we don’t have J.G.Frazier-ian psychoanalists (we might get some Jung) is only an accident of history. We could be all reading that the otaku and /or fujoshi secretly want to slaughter all their psychic competitors to become the symbolic king of the sacred grove at Nemi, even while knowing that their reign will be short, and end in their murder by the next fool… All while they are powerless to escape the ritual of the sacred and the sacred nature of the ritual.

As per a previous post:
Hermeneutic: any narrative scheme works well enough if internally consistent; if we are lucky it might be useful under some conditions.”
Also
Repetition, aka: Invoke often, use a bigger hammer.”
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/the-laws-of-magic/

If this stuff was repeated daily for the last 100 years by an ordained clerisy dedicated to helping you make sense of the weird crap that your wetware throws up at you, you would fall in line and structure your angst accordingly. No wonder Scientology is trying to muscle in on the action.

Add to this the powerful attraction that Freudian just-so stories have to any lazy hack writer,scriptwriter, songwriter, playwright, screen-writer, mangaka and poet over the last century and the tropes of the mythos become inescapable; to the point of folding in upon themselves as parody and meta-fiction. Want some Freud “anal phase” narrative? Check out the scatologically excessive animated Korean masterpiece Aachii and Ssipak! I have always wondered what would happen when a fully fledged Freudian / Lacanian analyst got his hands on this one.

Otaku Sexuality
As the repair guy opined in “Brazil” – ‘we’re all in it together!”

Closer to psychology’s home turf, I also wonder about the lack of research connecting the otaku personality with ADD and aspergers syndrome. A large part of the otaku thing could well be a socially mediated response to biochemical variations in the brains of a certain subset of the population. A hundred years ago they would have all made great craftsmen. Perhaps given the great fear of amphetamines in any form by the Japanese government makes such a diagnosis useless? No ritalin for otakus!

Perhaps I need all this to keep my narcissism going full blast, lest the “insert lyrics from a song from the doors here” jeebies gets me at night. Could be, could be, rabbit… But I would also hope that one could pry a few more useful insights from the exercise. As with all my reviews that so far have flailed away against the violence of the Freudian mythos, I would urge that it is time to kick the ladder away, leave behind the bogies, and preserve the insights that are grounded in hard work, and real life interaction with real folks.

Of the latter, prof Saitō’s work contain insights that shine, and will doubtlessly yield even more in the future.

I’m just a bit annoyed to see the good stuff marred by a mean-spirited and ugly superstition that supports the oppression one half of humanity by means of a half-assed just-so story. It is Eve cursed by original sin, it is a secular pseudo-religious superstition,

It is like listening to an antebellum white southerner justify slavery.

It is unworthy of serious scientific endeavor!

Stop it now!

Time for a yaoi dojin along the lines of “Even a monkey would get annoyed with Sigmund Freud” – Something like 20th Century Boys… The two illustrations in this post are from Monkey Business – the Idiot’ s Guide to Tokyo’s Harmful Books Regulation, a fine example of otaku agitprop. See: Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dôjin community by Alex Leavitt http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/321/311

The Pillow Book Of Sei Shonagon

Wherein your correspondent muses on some of the structural biases of fujoshi fantasy and other naughty stuff. What a mess! Too many excerpts from MJJ’s recently found posts from the defunct Aestheticism site. Very little structure to the observations. Painfully embarrassing personal asides. Warning: The quotes have graphic descriptions of fujoshi m-m fantasies and rude language. Pix are work-safe. Oh well, if this stuff was orderly and simple.. Oh fuggettit… Onward!

“It begs the question, what does it mean that all of these female-authored stories – which, I’d wager, constitute one of the largest existing bodies of erotica written by women, for women – should hardly feature women’s bodies at all?“
Audrey Lemon – How Slash saved Me

“…reminds me of a German guy I knew in Tokyo to whom I lent some Eroica slash stories. Helmut returned them to me in agitation. ‘Don’t these writers realize men can be friends and not want to have sex?!’ Naturally, I said, but the point of the slash exercise is that the guys do have sex. He didn’t see it.” -MJJ/ Aestheticism column

In Genshiken’s Chapter 82 Kio Shimoku has a go at staging some risqué “girl talk”, or at least fujoshi talk, as Rika and Yajima try to work out their anxieties and curiosities over male and fujoshi desire. By skillfully tossing in a few themes and red herrings that have surfaced in the literature on fujoshi subculture, he makes a convincing go of it. He also leaps around a bit to keep the reader’s bullshit detector quiet, while cranking up the embarrassment and awkwardness that serves as characterisation for his creatures.(1)

it is a bit hard to remember, but Rika and Yajima have been Genshiken members for only a few Genshiken months, making their appearance after the recruiting drive, just panels before Hato and serving as a foil and a legitimation for his fujoshi/ fudanshi interests. They are his “fellow fujoshi”, or as he lets slip, “us girls”. They still have a few reservations about this last bit, but at least they are all contemporaries. Ogiue might be a fujoshi, but as Genshiken president and published mangaka, she is always going to be their sempai. Sue is out of the loop and Ohno is the Genshiken’s fairy godmother. Contemporaries or not, when the mystery plastic thingy turns up, it must be Hato’s and it must be something used for kinky fun.

Rika’s “grow a dick!” exclamation is a restatement of this great gender gap, as well as a fine narrative trick. This is not some Freudian throwback, but a bit of verisimilitude pinched from real-life fujoshi (if one can believe Mizoguchi) chatter, as well as political/ cultural humour among lesbian academia. For some odd reason it always reminds me of the Dwarf holy man in Terry Pratchett’s Discword book “Thud!”

“It’s like using an axe… but without the axe.”

Rika is a wonderful shit-disturber, but in retrospect I now doubt that she will be revealed as a junior lesbian fujoshi in the Genshiken-verse. I must curb my enthusiasm and fall back to my previous conclusions: there will be no “out” gay characters in Genshiken unless they appear as an already happily paired-off couple, and Hato holds the token virtual-lesbian-fujoshi position. If I bungle this prediction, I have either seriously misread the whole Genshiken, or it is shark-jumping time. I put aside the girls’-only high school and the forcing her sister to crossdress. Honestly! And Shimoku-sensei isn’t going to fool me with Sue either!

I should control myself when posting comments on other blogs.

Besides, a Fujoshi’s “virtual dick” or “dick-stick” (yup, both used in real-life reports) is a heterosexual female Japanese fujoshi joke (as well as a western academic lesbian joke). Here a western slash fen goes on about the elusive member:

“:#2 — “But he’s got nothing at all!!”, aka No Cock is Good Cock

Yeah well- sad fact is that one of the guys has to have a cock, so that anal sex can take place. But you don’t want a real cock, because real cocks are only fascinating to men (straight or gay, if the truth be told) and most women have other bits of a guy they prefer to think about. Now if my theory that the seme is a woman is true, the seme’s cock is necessarily a latex strap-on, so it’s no wonder if it’s totally nerveless and always up. However I don’t think most yaoi authors think in those depressingly realistic terms. They prefer the aesthetic. In picture yaoi the seme’s cock is an elegant affair, drawn in simple lines to create a pleasing outline. No toner or cross-hatching to suggest purplish skin and engorged veins etc. And it can accommodate some really odd positions. In text yaoi the seme’s cock is equally sketchily described and accommodates some equally odd sexual acts. And the reason for that is- need we say it again?- the seme as a person, and as a physical person, is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy cock. It can do things real cocks can’t (but fingers often enough can.) It’s the ideal sex organ. It can ram or it can tickle. It can pierce through to the bowels or coyly play about the entrance. It’s bloody *flexible*– it bends. What’s the use of fantasizing sex if you can’t fantasize it with the ultimate sex toy, hmm?””
From M.J.Johnson’s “The Top Ten Things I Love About Yaoi” (2002?)

Yipe!

M.J.Johnson is the nom-de-plume of a western lesbian fujoshi/ slash enthusiast who lived in Japan for a few years during the 1990’s, read (and did early fan translations of) lots of Japanese fangirl dojins and then blogged a lot during the early 2000’s. Her posts must necessarily generalise from her own and friends’ particulars, but her insights remain extremely readable and thoughtful. Though sometimes what is most important is what she almost leaves out…

First; formalism in the genre:

Desire, like biological gender is innate, but its expression is socially mediated. Japanese fujoshi desire (we will worry about the rest of the world later) exists on the edges of a continuum of “normal” female desire within that society and is shaped in a collective, collaborative project by the concerns, frustrations, aspirations, dreams and fears of its enthusiasts. That Japanese society exhibits a strong tendency to value form and surface as predicator of role and outward/ surface behaviour simply acts as one of main forces to shape that expression. Pervasive structural sexism is a big part too, but we gaijin shouldn’t feel that smug.

So much of Japanese fujoshi desire is about the articulation of “forms”; so much so that the rotten girls are often in need of another, more prosaic stick to dislodge clumps of vulgar lacanian theorist fanboys (and I’ve done it too) that accrete around their hobby, gushing about “the violence of the law”. One can posit that it would look a lot like a certain Onihime’s floor hockey stick.

Taxonomy is one of the laws of magic. So is Repetition.

A well-agreed-on formal structure invites collaboration, fan creation, discourse and the elaboration of tropes and /or “topoi” (as MJJ calls visual tropes). A trope ain’t a trope without tropers. Plaster is a skilled trade; drywall is a weekend DYI project that invites friends with trowels – the more the merrier!

“Ladies comics” and mainstream male pr0n are like Windows and OSX. Fujoshi fun is more like linux. Initializing a dick-function (to really really stretch the metaphor), within a community predicated on the enjoyment and exchange of narratives that satisfy distaff female desire is not too different from cosplay. (I now have stretched the “open-source” metaphor so far that I have damaged it.) Remember that it took the Japanese to turn a small tradition at western sci-fi conventions; the masquerade ball/ second evening piss-up, into a global cultural form.

You put on the uniform and assume the role. Young moms dress like young moms and become young moms. Salarymen dress like salarymen and become such. Go skiing, dress accordingly, go hiking, dress up in yama-girl gear. Be sure to also read the guide books on how to be a proper hiker first! The tsunami pine that survives the tsunami but dies of salt in its roots gets cut down, fiberglassed and reassembled like a plate of fake food in a restaurant window. This is somehow supposed to be inspirational. Rocks and gravel get raked into “gardens”. Form announces a consensus about function. The center holds little truth about the surface. I am by no means the first to comment on this (2)

The only really odd thing about fujoshi material is those bonking pretty-boy characters and behind them, the equally odd nature of the culture of collaboration that produces them:

Male pr0n fanatics may post their solitary efforts on forums and chans, but nothing is more prickly, passive aggressive and hysterically solitary than a male pr0n enthusiast, except perhaps a western male geek in full defence-mode of the particular sci-fi/ comic/ manga/ anime thing he obsesses over. Male geek pride is often inimical to a friendly discourse of form. Instead they stake their identities on loud proclamations of preference-as-holy-writ, often so insistently delivered that one would think they value them as their very lives. It makes for lousy “circles”.

That there are so few hysterical mastery displays by the Genshiken boys (Madarame’s fanboying in the group zine is not even close to the mildest examples of this kind of thing) is one of the great enabling plot liberties of the series. The Genshiken males keep a sheepish silence long enough to learn to tolerate other males’ takes on their fave things and eventually get to interact as friends. Real- life assemblages of geek boys are far more fraught with bruised egos and simmering anger over thwarted alpha-dog-of-this-particular-tiny-realm-of-fandom displays. Emotional critters wez guys is!

Of course no one is going to argue that Japanese women need socialization lessons from the fujoshi fandom, but fujoshi fandom is curiously social – curiously in that the subject material is centered around “solitary vices”. Fujoshi desire posits the role of agency as something that is exchanged, shared, messed with, worked on and then “put on” to see if it gets a round of approval as functional. The only hints of discord in the exercise comes from the great myth of the “pairing fight” – a disagreement over the understanding of the agree-upon rules of form that is probably more self- mocking humour than reality.

The formalistic “rules” of narratives of fujoshi desire are endlessly amenable to incremental adjustment and expansion of categories and sub-genres. I note from further readings from fangirls, that the rigid monogamy in fan-appropriated narrative versions of shonen series now makes room for a range of preliminary (?) pairings between characters within the seme x uke framework, and discounts one-dimensional displays of violent “want/take”.

Much as Ken Kurogane’s “yuri-lesbian-alien-schoolgirls” try all manner of provisional play, before settling down to “true ruv” and the only ‘bad lesbian” is the predatory one who wants the “player” character to herself and stoops to blackmail and threats to get her way. She gets pummelled with a fire extinguisher by the heroine who rescues “the player” and later declares true unending love. Said “player” more or less reforms and accepts true love. Moral of the story: never use your fists – you can hurt them! … But I digress…

No wait.. Moral of the story: Higgamous hoggamous yaoi is still monogamous, but now serially so. Unlike fanboy yuri, threesomes and moresomes are still frowned upon.

So the Genshiken anime yaoi episode is truer to type than first thought. The Kousaka character is probably what MJJ-sensei characterises in an essay as a ‘super-slut” a character whose only identity is that of a pan-sexual polymorphous player. And I thought it was all just seme x uke. The male super-slut is a trickster figure who exists solely to foreground the sex. He will try anything once or twice; even incest and Morris dancing. In a sense, he represents the event horizon of the boundaries of sexuality within the story. Think of the Rocky Horror show if you need an easy example. Some limits are necessary; if anything is possible, nothing is hawt.

The virtual dick that the fangirls laugh about is of course the role of agency – the power to make things happen as the story and within the story as that ghostly appendage. It is wielded by the seme – proxy to the author and reader and imposes an oft-violent “pleasure” and incidentally subordination/ non-/ loss of/ agency on the passive uke/catcher/ receiver/ bottom character. But it is wielded in the guise of an over-the-top imagining of male desire in berserk mock-homo mode, so at times the result is something like a newbie attempt at doing hard-boiled detective story dialogue:

MJJ-sensei again, on the sins of fanwriting: (arm the Bulwer-Lyttons!)

“Cock”. Yes you have to use it in here-and-now tough guy stories or teenage stories or whatever stories, cause that’s what guys in general call their cocks. You don’t have to use it every sentence just for the thrill of using it. ‘Duo pulled out his rampant cock and shoved it in Wufei’s face. The black-haired pilot eyed the brunette’s cock with contempt. ‘You think I care how big your cock is?’ the obsidian-eyed youth spat. You will, my Asian charmer. My cock will teach you. The master of Death Scythe flipped the delicate Chinese pilot onto his belly and shoved his throbbing cock inside the butt that normally warmed Shenron’s control chair.”

Ok, I only tossed that in because it was funny big time. Derivative source warning flag up – again we have observations on western slash slipping into Japanese bl/y territory.

That a phallic agency is conflated, mirrored and fetishized within the creation of fujoshi narratives is only strange insomuch as the nature of that agency is reflected and recreated moment to moment as a collective discourse within a community of (mostly) women.

That cock is a group-mind cock! The lacanian phallus has been stolen by the wimmins! Monsters from the “id”! A legion of Harley Quinns with a smattering of Hothead Paisans (You have been warned!) are trying out their xmas gift machine guns. Hijinx to Ensue!

“Lance! keep your effing head down!!!”

Once again, the sexual “pleasure” of the fantasy, for the consumer/ creator is “agency”. Pleasure for the author and reader is derived from the fantasy of imposing a weird idea of overwhelming physical pleasure on a character written as an incomprehensible “other”, by a character that is a cardboard projection of an imagined male “id” and therefore male-privileged sexual agency incarnate.

The uke as “other” is both incomprehensible male and mock-female. Because this “other” is by definition “alien” we get the MIB explanation “because they are aliens, they do alien things!” And the “alien” thing both seme and uke do is derive implausible enjoyment/ satisfaction/fulfilment from this arrangement. Finally the whole uncomfortable mess is wrapped up in ribbons of narrative magic posited as “this is the way those alien boy-things do love” to turn it into a just-so story.

After all, isn’t “love” something that makes women do stuff that goes against everything that is is good and safe and proper and fun?

“Look what happened to Mom! “(3)

That this sounds rather sick and squicky is both besides the point and central to it. That’s what the whole theory-term “the other” was invented for. Few Baudrillard fans quote his “Seductions” because it endlessly kneads this goo around for hundreds of pages, but as an executive summary, this will do – for it and a whole slew of other pop culture-psych-social-anthropology theory that is about the best we have to explain this and similar messes, right now.

Necessarily “the other” for fangirls is a wee bit different than for theory-boys.(4) Rika would probably find her dick-for-a-day problematic. Rather than a list of all the ways that a real mr. woody can be unpredictable and prone to painful damage and embarrassing non-performance, what is worth noting is how the seme or even less structured “top” role in fujoshi and slash fantasies is writtens as taking its pleasure from playing its role, rather than from the nerve endings of its imagined naughty bits. Even ejaculation is posited more as a symbolic role-playing pleasure than the result of an actual physical climax. If mr. seme is enjoying all that thrusting into the helpless uke, he traditionally gives very little sign of it – at least according to two infamous fan typologies mentioned in previous posts. Vocalizing pleasure during the act is somehow weak and uke-like? It is as if the uke gets to loudly acknowledge all nerve ending stuff for the pair, as well as the role/ emotional enjoyment stuff.  This one requires testimony from Japanese fujoshi. Who gets to say what when, and what? Is the speaking role indicative of shifting reader/author identification/ POV?

If the exchange of fantasies within the fujoshi community is about agency, then the uke is also what is left over in the exchange, “the accursed share”, the bits that the fantasist was trying to get rid of, give away, but stubbornly remain.

It is not that what remains is “feminine”, but rather that it is the parts of the societally proscribed yet problematically internalized feminine that the narrative is in flight from; the parts that are supposed to fit, but just effing won’t! So give them to a fictional pretty boy and kick back to watch the fun! And yet these accursed things pursue throughout the narrative like vengeance. Medusa might have her laugh, (pace Cixious) but she doesn’t get the last one. “The farmers (the social real) – they always win.” Biology always threatens as destiny. And yup m-preg does pop up an effing lot in fujoshi tales.

ASIDE: “Who speaks my name in shadows?”

I may have it completely wrong, but I venture that my modest experience that women generally find it distracting and annoying when a guy yaps while screwing carries over to female fantasies of all types: Grunting occasionally is allowed. Anything more  trespasses on her active construction of the event-as-it-happens. Years ago I had a lover who insisted on a porno movie mantra that she repeated continuously throughout our lovemaking. It was really, really annoying as all heck, and yet it worked on me just as much as it was necessary for her.

A powerful grad-student study mojo threatens here: Who gets to yammer, and when during various forms of fantasy narratives. Would the “top” blab more before or during or after than the “bottom” in wimmen’s yuri vs LFB man-made yuri? For fujoshi made m-m vs guy-made bara. Western vs Japanese?  I swear, this is not just an instant masters degree but a chance to see how the high theory of various feminisms mirrors (or not) in the vulgar vernacular. Some lucky fujoshi is gonna get tenure on this one, all while voraciously reading her fave fare as “research” – my gift – enjoy!

Such are the  terrible engines of fujoshi desire. With such internally self-generated, self-replicating chains of contradictions to fuel the fun – one could power starships with this stuff, if only it did not turn to mist in the light of day.

MJJ almost described a perfect imaginary member, but then could not resist mentioning fingers. Her fingers. The finger of a real-life woman who proclaims that she loves other women. Even if you are one of the tribe of women who love other women and who still enjoy top/ bottom role delineations, you have to admit that fingers are way way different that dildoes, let alone dicks. Touching one’s lover is whole different thing than bonking them or going at them with a sex toy. Real-life guys have fingers too, and we too soon enough learn how to be considerate with them and considerate in general in the presence of the ones we love. Else we are going to to spend the rest of our days as ronrey basement-dwelling neckbeards.

The point that every reasonably functioning sexually active adult should acknowledge is that there are 2 distinct aspects to the fun of love-making; the pleasure of one’s own body and the pleasure of being able to give pleasure to your lover. (awwww… that sounds so 1980’s) Admittedly a great deal of roleplaying fetishistic sex has one party eschewing/ limiting their physical stimulation to impose such on the other party, but even from a purely mechanical point of view, we must agree that this is “extra” – closer to the solitary vice than what two people can do with each other at the same time. Crudely put, in the language of straight missionary position sex: getting your back clawed a bit while she writhes around is plenty better than just feeling her writhe around as you screw, which is still better than her just lying there. And touching her while you thrust madly is better than just thrusting madly.

Duh? Dat so Captain Obvious? Your point?

Fetishism limits the direct feedback loop of mutual physical contact as communication during sex.

How closely do the narratives of fujoshi fantasy follow this form to emphasize the illusion of agency?

Blatant formal rules for mutual give-and-take and consideration are not what fantasies are for. It is hard enough to get the writers to remember to put rubbers on their fuck-puppets. (the North american porno movie industry is fleeing California over a State law that mandates that all filmed naughtiness “play safe”.) Fantasies are for avoiding all the troublesome work, empathy, miscommunication and perpetual fail that hovers about the scene while real-life love tries its best to find and make a bit of happiness for a few moments, at the price of the “full measure of [one’s] time.”

And all the give and take stuff can be tough for the gal, as well as for the guy (or the bottom as well as the top, or the uke as well as the seme). It can be a bitter admission of defeat/ inadequacy. The guy/top/seme is supposed to be driven to fits of very apparent mad lust just by the mere existence and intensely radiating fuck- me- now- dammit- field powers of the gal/ bottom/ uke. Having to do all those Cosmo magazine sex tricks is what unloved ugly-stick partners have to do because they are just not that appealing on their own. Or the thrill is gone…

Definitely not fantasy material. Sounds like work. See endnotes for why guys should be very, very, VERY careful buying naughty underwear for their girlfriends.(5) And Gawd help you if you drank waaaaaaay too much and you prove inadequate to the moment! What if she takes it personally? (if ?????)

Shimoku-sensei’s Spotted Flower is so deadly on-target in this respect that it hurts. What is a frustrated pregnant girl to do when buddy-boy gets all scared of your delicate condition? She even deployed the striped schoolgirl panties to no effect! (6) The main problem with the Spotted couple, and with Ogiue + Sass is the notion of the pairing itself – that a rotten girl will feel so alienated from mainstream society as to “settle” for an Otaku boy.

“the problem with that theory is that fujoshi don’t give up on seeking [social] acceptance — the majority dress perfectly normally, work out, even have boyfriends (shock!). Anecdotally, they are usually on some form of the treadmill: either interested in a lifelong career, or looking to get married and become a homemaker. So (and again this is anecdotally) the distaste for otaku comes because of the whole otaku dropout thing. That isn’t what they want for themselves, and it definitely isn’t what they want in a partner. One of the pillars of yaoi/BL and even regular shojo manga is that one of the romantic antagonists has money and/or status and isn’t ashamed of it.”

From a reply by the author in comments:
http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/

Nasty Kaminaga is closer to a “real” fujoshi than any of the Genshiken fujoshi characters. Saki + Kou are of course a perfect couple. If the previews for Genshiken’s ch83 are right, then Madarame ain’t gettin’ any, any time soon. Unemployment is a rotten cologne on any guy. Beyond this, Genshiken avoids the class-war tropes of Shoujo/ bl/ yaoi. Shame on Neojaponism for skating past this one too; the closest we have to any analysis on this is the Amorous Arabs essay by Kazumi Nagaike. The easiest way to deal with this elephant in the room is the old saw: “abuse of power comes as no surprise” while recalling that adolescent fiction of both sexes is the fiction of the powerless.

Feminist/ queer/ gender theory concepts of subversion and resistance grow out of the recognition of the structures of power in society, and then attack the myths and hidden assumptions inherent in these.

Frinstance:

“Unmarked categories

The idea of unmarked categories originated in feminism. The theory analyzes the culture of the powerful. The powerful comprise those people in society with easy access to resources, those who can exercise power without considering their actions. For the powerful, their culture seems obvious; for the powerless, on the other hand, it remains out of reach, élite and expensive.

The unmarked category can form the identifying mark of the powerful. The unmarked category becomes the standard against which to measure everything else. For most Western readers, it is posited that if a protagonist’s race is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is Caucasian; if a sexual identity is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is heterosexual; if the gender of a body is not indicated, will be assumed by the reader that it is male; if a disability is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is able-bodied, just as a set of examples.

One can often overlook unmarked categories. Whiteness forms an unmarked category not commonly visible to the powerful, as they often fall within this category. The unmarked category becomes the norm, with the other categories relegated to deviant status. Social groups can apply this view of power to race, gender, and disability without modification: the able body is the neutral body.” – some wiki entry on philosophical concepts of power

Note how this theme provides nice background music for an MJJ essay on why it has to be males bonking:

“”Gender fuck. (Which of you is the woman? a) Neither b) Both c) Toss a coin d) Him, he’s shorter e) Him, but only on alternate Thursdays.

Because the roles aren’t automatically assigned by sex, the characteristics commonly regarded as ‘female’ can belong to either of the guys involved, or both, or neither. (The neither stories are pretty bleak.) You can give the guys attitudes and behaviors that aren’t normally found in men, straight or gay. They can be super-romantic. They can swear eternal devotion and be ready to die for their loved one. They can cry, and moon over the question of does he love me or not, and spend hours discussing their feelings with their partner. As Joanna Russ has pointed out, famously, these men are an amalgam of what women consider desirable male and female qualities male bodies, male status/ power, female relating styles, female priorities (love and human connection are more important than politics, economics, or soccer.) These men are the female idea of ideal human beings.
[ my note: warning – If Russ is commenting on it, it’s about slash. ]

This is one form of m/m. There’s another, not as pretty, in which negative female characteristics are given to one guy or the other. Passivity, helplessness, victim mentality, masochism (‘He’s untrue, beats me too, but he’s my man’ as the old blues song has it.) These stories have the classic sadistic ring to them: sexual and sentimental pleasure in torturing a helpless person because he’s helpless. Some people- very few- do ‘get the strong guy’ stories; but what presses more buttons is a male who has female relating styles and priorities (love is more important than soccer and a functioning anus) being put in the most degraded female position possible (sexual and emotional slavery), where you can then watch him suffer. The reader is evidently supposed to identify with the victim, so maybe the purpose of the exercise is to give readers a masochistic thrill.

Or possibly the whole thing is a female form of catharsis: the catharsis that comes from seeing hostility represented openly. The male action pic gives you the catharsis of violence with scores of anonymous bodies being gunned down and blown apart. It makes sense to me that the female form requires a closer attention to the object of the violence (that has to be a person suffering, not an anonymous Hollywood extra) and a narrower focus on the emotions involved. The focus seems to be not physical violence and suffering so much (in spite of all those rapes) as emotional violence and suffering. Well, emotions ‘R’ us, most of the time.”

Why the Guys? or, Navel-gazing on a Sunny Afternoon by MJJ

Holy Handmaiden’s Tale Batman!

Wait a sec tho – things are getting confusing here: Sometimes MJJ is sure that the seme is the woman as reader/ author. Other times the uke is the woman as receiver and emotional proxy. Would she still be around blogging, I guess that she would answer that it is both and neither, always at the same time. Perhaps the POV jumps from the seme during the foreplay to the uke during the secks. Who can tell? MJJ is a westerner who tended to fold her slash interests into her yaoi interests, so the tropes of one field merged into those of the other – which is why one has to be cautious with western comments on native Japanese fujoshi culture, even when the western correspondent lived in Japan and could read and fan-late the stuff.

That said, MJJ was pretty much in concurrence with what Zizek has to say about fantasies being a containment field for the contradictions of desire, rather than just desires themselves.

All of this also gets nastily Hegelian, really fast. Yup; vulgar dialectic of master and slave time. Ur-Yaoi! Two Conan the Barbarian types freely wager all on the mountain-top for a chance to dominate. Suppress retching reflex and take the safeties off the claymores. Mark Twain recognized that Alfred Nobel was a heckovalot more dangerous to history than dialectics. Mark Twain had just gone through the American civil war. Incidentally this is why casino gambling is so effing pathetically useless and sad. Fuck the slots – all of you just go out into the parking lot and beat each other senseless. Winner gets everyone’s cash, minus the state’s cut. But do it slowly, so the rotten girls can watch.

ASIDE: Hmmmmm… Hato is taking economics. Wonder if he fetishizes “rent-seeking behaviour” by corporations? Keep in mind that it is the State that sets the artificial arena of the rules that allows rent-seeking behaviour. ( for those of you who don’t pay much attention to economics, read “the rich fucking over everybody with rigged rules, rather than actually employing folks and making stuff” ) Will he grow up to be a good leftist economist like certain New York Times columnists? What will be the dark secret of his amazingly intuitive economic theories? 

Back to some heteronormative male fear-disgust reactions:

This crap does not advance the project of civilization! Thugs fighting and fucking is just thugs fighting and fucking, and you can’t keep the lights on and the stores full of food when too much of this shit spills out onto the streets!

Kill it with fire!

At a safe distance…

Off to the re-education camps!!!

(Note the rising angst-flood of male hysteria)

“A WELL REGULATED MILITIA BEING NECESSARY TO THE SECURITY OF A FREE STATE, THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED !!!!! “

Yeeee-Haw! It's Male Hysteria time!

Yeeee-Haw! It’s Male Hysteria time!

“You see – We’ve tried”, reply the girls – “it is too deep within YOU!” (You too ladies; that school massacre boy got all his guns from his mom – who he shot first) so the most fujoshis and slash fen can do is trivialize it – and they’ve come up with some really fun ways of trivializing it!)

I am theory boy! 
Son of bitch! 
You want  Columbine?
You want Akiba massacre?
You want school and theatre shootings? suicide bombers? civil wars?
You want more armies of child soldiers?
Humanity is pig disgusting!
Fujoshi fantasies is murderer!
Fucking baka perverts domo me

“Humor is an interrupted defense reflex…”

...nuff said...

Those nightmares sound familiar…

All that violent domination-submission stuff is right out of the straight male (and female) anxiety closet. Pure “the other” again at work. Tar some poor bastard outcast will all our secret ickky fear feathers. Heck, even herr Hegel was stretching a metaphor in a time and place where aristos (the descendants of very successful thugs) endlessly fought over land and peasants in an eternal zero-sum game that was war in Europe before the rise of “modern” mass politics and citizen armies. If anyone is is prone to violence and degradation with towards gay guys, it is usually the gangs of nominally “normal” bashers who have terrorized gay folks for centuries. There was a big nasty reason why the “love that dared not speak its name” didn’t dare: It would get savagely beaten to death by god-feerin’ clowns. And as to why straight women should pick up on that violent fear vibe, even in Japan, where supposedly male homosexuality -as a private indulgence – was better tolerated; straight male violence towards women would be more than enough to paint most males as one step away from going berserk under “some” circumstances . We will not mention Nanking, nope, not at all.

So yeah, you are going to see dom/sub stuff in gay and lesbian culture, but it is more likely “turn it into theater to take the edge off reality” role-playing that has been absorbed from mainstream culture and being turned back on itself. And you are going to see a whole heck of a lot more real nastyness, in absolute and relative terms in straight culture just because they are more of us “normal” types to misbehave horribly.

So no wonder Japanese gay guys get angry at fujoshis “leering like dirty old men” at yaoi, and filling the magazine shelves with stuff that will just deepen the despair and confusion of youths who find themselves in a crisis over their emergent sexuality. Just think: a silly dojin fantasy or 10 could send some poor kid off a school roof or train platform.

Naw, you can’t take the stuff too seriously.

if you did, you would shatter with rage…

So with that, back to agency. This essay started with the ghostly appendage as symbol of agency, moved to the speaking role as agency, thence to the forgoing of give and take within sex to instrumental, objectifying narratives in fantasy and now questions the whole exercise of power within the structure of fujoshi works. So again – why guys? (just because they think we are hawt?) To really play with the power dynamics in a relationship, fujoshi/ slash-fen assert that it is best to control the variables.

Some theorists have commented that fangirls prefer m-m fantasies because they want to avoid being seen as/ contaminated by/ imprinted upon by the mock-lesbian narratives of yuri. Fujoshis might reply that a yuri battle of power and sex between two bitchy female executives could get so implausible and boring so fast as to really really be a dry hump – even if you get off on f-f action. Even loser fanboys must admit that Borg Queen x Janeway just doesn’t do that much…

Unless one gets off within the granola confines of 1990’s era politically correct, vanilla American slash fiction… (the following was too funny to leave out)

From MJJ again, on slash sex:

A gay man once remarked about western slash that the characters always behaved like recognizable gay men until they got into bed and then they suddenly turned into middle-aged women. Hours and hours of foreplay are followed by gradually building climaxes and an explosive very wet orgasm- and then another, and another, and another… and then the two men have a cozy conversation about how much they love each other and fall asleep in each other’s arms. Real men, he said, don’t do that.

Hours and hours? Middle aged women? Further study is required…

In the meantime, to take the whole power-weapons-might-ability m-m thing over the top, howabout using cartoon characters that can’t be mistaken for real folks no matter how hard you try?

Here are some cartoon male weapons making moon-eyes at each other for the amusement of fujoshis, Finally! No humans were harmed in the making of this wet dream!

Ok, I stole this from http://egolife.egoism.jp/index2.html image, it ROCKS!

Dojin art swiped from one of the circles at Transfunket.  Fire up the google xlate and go to http://egolife.egoism.jp/index2.html

Behold the perverse desires of the Deceptacons! via Tokyo Scum Brigade’s coverage of Transfunket:
http://tokyoscum.blogspot.ca/2012/10/transfunket-fujoshi-in-diguise.html   If the videos and pix are down, try this page of links to all the dojin circles that were showing there. May your google xlate work better than mine.

As Laurie Anderson once asked

¿Qué es más macho, pineapple or knife?
Well, let’s see. My guess is that a pineapple is more macho than a knife.
Sí! Correcto! Pineapple es más macho que knife.

I think I have dragged this one out as long as I can…

Perhaps like the Laurie Anderson song, this is all ancient history.

As commercial BL becomes a profitable niche market in Japan, the original girls’ romance roots of the genre (shoujo manga) are brought to the foreground and depictions of m-m romance are pushed in the direction of a sensitivity towards imagined real-world gay male concerns, or the girls’ ideas of how to treat depictions of gay guys respectfully, or at least in a “politically correct” manner (as opposed to the desires of actual Japanese gay male bara readers). And there is always the novelty of trying to merge some more “realistic” male gay details/ verisimilitude into the conventions of the genre. Hey! The publishers might grab some extra market share along the way. Meanwhile shonen manga hedges its bets and loads the shotgun with goggle bait so that it can “salt” its pages and maintain a certain of level of fujoshi appropriation and market interest. The hardcore fan produced stuff stays tucked away on the tables at comiket and sealed in plastic sleeves in the speciality stores of maiden road.

Rika is representative of the “new generation” of socially accepted/ recognised/ tolerated fujoshi: according to current reports, the market is now going out of its way to cater to their tastes. Nothing says acceptance in Japan better than “market share”. Per Okazu’s Erica-sensei, the whole of “maiden road” is now exclusively bl/y for fujoshis – yuri is harder to find, even though she declares that more “quality” (woman friendly) yuri and shoujo-ai is reportedly being published. Sometimes a yuri-loving woman has to go dig through the otaku-pits of Akiba to find some (fear not, she reports that off-the-main-trail supplies have been located).

Japanese merchants and publishers like fujoshis!

MJJ again, from 2002:

All of this misses the point. Most yaoi characters aren’t even realistic men, let alone gay ones. Most yaoi is fantasy pure and simple, on the level of unicorns and elves. It may be the only fantasy here that’s 100% female-created, and I think should be cherished just for that. But this flies in the face of western belief that the personal is political, and that a fantasy can’t exist totally separate from social reality. If yaoi goes mainstream, I think it will be forced, consciously or unconsciously, to conform to notions of what’s politically correct and acceptable. At that point it will cease to be the untrammeled expression of female eroticism, as it is in Japan, and will cease to be yaoi. (emp added)

Today they are a market segment.

Go ahead Rika, have another beer and talk as loud as you want…

Random endnotes:

(1) We poor gaijin miss a whole bunch of things when we read Japanese stories that feature embarrassment, and take it only as western-style embarrassment. The abrahamic religious concept of “sin”, as it is libidinized in our culture is less prevalent in Japan. Generally, what is done in private is a private matter, But if what should be kept private slips out into the public, then that is both shame and kink, as in the western libidinized “sinful”. And of course the definition of ‘public” and “private” are fluid and subject to detailed contextual rules.

(2) Hmmm! Something is wrong here! The referenced paragraph was just a quick allusion to one of the big gaijin truisms about Japan – You can find similar on Neojaponism, and in that curious Japanese Culture blog that promotes a whole lot more theory than mine and many others… However, imagine my surprise, as I finished writing it and was trolling through the MJJ/ Aestheticism essays on archive.org when I ran into a paragraph that was thematically the same as what I had just written, except she had no access to the yama-girls reference and had used an earlier one. And I am quite sure I had not read hers before. So up goes a warning flag! If there is one thing I have learned in theory land is that when this kind of groupthink pops up we (the groupthinkers) are missing a whole lot of the picture. This requires further study.

That said, another interesting thing about that “Japanese Culture” blog (burogu.com) above, is the writer’s fascination with a modified/ inverted Lacanian analysis, and his insistence on the Japanese habit of reinforcing surface appearance with sequences of familiar, repeated surface behaviour, practiced through “kata” , e.g; the warm-up exercises in martial arts, etc. This too could yield an interesting take on all Japanese narrative form, not just amateur naughty tales, if patterns of action endlessly repeat across stories. Okazu’s Erica-sensei has voiced annoyance at the ubiquitous “story A” in yuri. Is that “kata”? Familiarity is reassuring. Get it perfect through practice! Invoke Often!

(3) See (4) Also, one more time from the previously referenced essay by Rio Otomo:

“What happens to the daughters of these housebound women in the suburbs? Have they turned into the yaoi girls who are the consumers of the cute boy images and their erotic stories? The participants of the otaku debate unanimously agree that in this context gender difference is asymmetrical. The girls who do not want to repeat the Mothers’ life have two choices; to embody their time-frozen images as a little girl in order to get men’s attention, or to live in the liminal space between such images and their own bodily actuality.”

(4) …And neither have anything to do with the Lady Lucrezia Mongfish-Heterodyne, though the Foglio’s characterization of their big-bad is a hoot!

(5) Muda-kun’s iron law of why you buy naughty knickers for your sweetie at your peril:

a) You will not spend anywhere near enough. Quality lady knickers are expensive!
b) She will find your choices will be uncomfortable and ridiculous.
c) They wont fit – and if you are crazy enough to still try this, make damn sure you err on the side of too small.
d) “So you are saying I need this stupid junk to make myself attractive to you ???”

DEATH FLAG goes up!
Here are some extra considerations..

e) A gift card to a reputable firm (not a sex shop!) is marginally acceptable, only after she comments on the poor fit/ trouble/ expense of finding comfy undergarments. Anything less than $100 fails via rule (a), so be prepared to take the hit in the wallet. Ask her which store before buying the gift card. Wait until it is sometime near her birthday. Or just offer your credit card. Even if she makes more than you do!
(f) No, you can’t watch her buy them.
(g) above goes 10X for high-heeled shoes. Don’t even go there!
h) No wonder guys lust after young inexperienced women; you think you can find a naive one that will let this stuff slip, don’t you? Bakka!!!

(6) Muda-kun’s corollary to the iron law – henceforth known as the Spotted Flower exception:

If she does end up deploying fancy knickers for you, you better have a blue pill in reserve – even if you are 16 years old and exceptionally virile. Because if you fail at this point you have just… dug… your… own… grave !!!  … Just sayin’… No pressure…

Contested spaces

I invoke the Commonwealth!
I know what was in Orthroerir;
Orthroerir was in it,
In it, it was hoarded,
Hoarded, it was stolen,
Stolen, it was spilled,
Spilled, I caught it,
Caught, it was given away,
Given away, it stays my own,
My own is the Commonwealth
I invoke it!
The land may not be hidden from its lover.

Silverlock – J.M.Myers (1949)

John Myers Myers “Commonwealth of Letters” is an imaginary space carved out of the western literary canon by a fan of the classics. Perhaps one of the oddest sub-culture books of the 20th century, it was rescued from obscurity by science fiction fans who adopted it in a fit of mad love. It is still recommended as an odd treat within that community.

As proto-fan-fiction or fiction of enthusiasm, it situates its adventures within a space bounded by the enthusiasms it celebrates, and populated with the characters of the same. Amusingly enough, the climax of Silverlock’s quest is to emerge from a descent to the lowest levels of the underworld to drink at the spring of wisdom – only to be expelled from the space, back into the real world. A less elegant but analogous process would end a fan fiction about a fictional fan-space fanning over fannish things in a feedback howl and system crash.

Multiplying entities without necessity is an act of love.

Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken and Akiko Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian yaoi-space are closely related “commonwealth of interests” propositions that attempt to impose a narrative onto layered readings of real life conditions. Both center around communities of play and imagination, both are minority reports, and both contest issues within these larger communities and their shared cultural fantasies, as they relate to larger “solid” social realities.

Genshiken to Otaku/Fujoshi to real-life current Japanese society as Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian space yaoi-verse to bl/yaoi enthusiasts to current Japanese society.

Mizoguchi would probably protest that her theoretical space entails has a different project than Shimoku’s:

“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.” (Mizoguchi 2010, see below)

Why does she give rats ass? Well, she likes the stuff, but doesn’t like the potential for less-than-nice depictions of gay folk to bleed over into the real world. Such bleed-over could (1) reinforce stereotypes in the larger community and aid and abet the pain such misunderstanding causes real life LGBTQ folks, and (2) This is a wild guess, but since she found support in the commonwealth of bishonen stories when she needed it at a young age, she wants to make sure the life preservers are well maintained.

So she is going to contest and encourage the contestation of depictions of gay folk in BL/yoai works, even though they are pseudo-gay fantasy characters made in overwhelmingly large part by heterosexual women for purposes that run on a continuum from escapist pop fiction to escapist pop friction. This urge is sometimes refered to by its N.American moniker when taken to extremes as “Politically Correctness”.

On the other hand, Mizoguchi is a citizen and member of the downtown business improvement association of the commonwealth of yaoi, and recognises its pleasures and its worth; she doesn’t want to break it. She is sensitive to and feels for the needs and wants of its sister-citizens. I am guessing that potential improvements have all been well thrashed over before in slash-space and queer-space:

Such typically include less negative stereotyping, more complexity and nuanced characters, more public health and safety awareness and the importance of agency and consent: less catching, more inviting, etc. Cultural differences between the slash-verse and the yaoi-verse make the details different, and I can only infer her concerns from her writings and footnotes. Her views remain necessarily complex, even quasi- ecological:

“My research is informed by Teresa de Lauretis who has written in relation to her analysis of the feminist debates on pornography (produced for heterosexual men). “Feminist analysis and politics have always proceeded concurrently with—indeed have been prompted by—the social injury suffered by women, but the strength of feminism, or what social power it may have, does not disprove that injury” (de Lauretis 1994: 146). In other words, de Lauretis suggests that neither the propornography position that pornographic representation occurs in the realm of fantasy, nor the anti-pornography position that pornography equals violence against women is entirely appropriate.
By theorizing the female subject as a complex amalgam of conscious and political subjecthood and private and psychoanalytic subjectivity, she has shown that the seemingly contradictory double movement is inherently necessary in feminist work on representation (de Lauretis 1994: 147) 
As Judith Butler argues, theoretically a female subject is not restricted to identify with the female position in a fantasy scenario, but is also capable of identifying with the male position or the scenario as a whole. However, as the female subject always also functions at the level of social subject, she—who de Lauretis calls “Dworkin”—may not be able to secure enough distance from the pornographic text, since such a text is a public representation that depicts women’s debasement.
This double movement is clearly manifest in the context of the yaoi phenomenon. The fact that women have engaged in reading these male homoerotic representations as representing their fantasies for several decades attests to the efficacy of the theory of the psychoanalytic subject of fantasy; that is, the fact that the subject is not restricted to identifications with one position (usually equivalent to their own position in real life) in the fantasy scenario. At the same time, however, the fact that so many Japanese women continue to need male homoerotic representations that are significantly remote from their own reality (emph. added) also indicates the injury suffered by women. “
“Theorizing comics/manga genre as a productive forum: yaoi and beyond” – Akiko Mizoguchi

In other words; don’t kill the freedom and the diversity that is so critical to the empowering nature of the space – just try to nudge the canon to spruce it up a bit.

Then there is the issue of her proposition that yaoi is an emergent sexuality in its own right:

“The majority of yaoi women fans are heterosexual. Some might argue that calling those fans who are in heterosexual relationships in real life “lesbian” is inaccurate. Of course, they are not generally considered lesbians nor are they lesbian-identified themselves. But, if their sexual fantasies are filled with male-male homosexual episodes, is it still accurate to call them completely heterosexual?
A friend, a happily married woman in her 30s with two kids, told me, “Not so much these days, but until a few years ago, I could not really recognize sex with my husband as a male-female act. In my mind, I transformed what I was doing to the male-male act in the BL fictions”. Is it adequate to call her completely heterosexual? From the point of view of defining sex as genital activity, the answer is yes. At the same time, however, we know that fantasies are deeply involved in human sexuality. My friend’s male-male fantasy, which happens simultaneously with her heterosexual genital act, is as important as the act itself. In this sense, it is not accurate to consider her 100% heterosexual. In addition, I would argue that a person’s sexual fantasies, accompanied by her genital act with another person, a masturbatory act, or no act at all, are equally significant for the subject of such fantasies to such an extent that calling such fantasies “virtual sex” is appropriate (Mizoguchi 2007: 56-62).
Of course, at the most overt level, my friend was engaging in sex with her husband as “virtual gay men”, just like the male characters in yaoi narratives in her mind, but at the same time she was aware that the characters were women fans’ agents and not really representations of real-life gay men. Thus she was psychologically in the company of her fellow female fans in the yaoi community while physically she was with her husband.” (Ibid. Mizoguchi)

Hmmmmm sounds crowded in the bedroom!

Like the protagonist of Moso Shojo Otaku-kei / Fujoshi Rumi (Natsumi Konjoh) when our heroine gets interested in the guy she had previously objectified, she is unable to contemplate relations with him unless she adopts a yaoi-space derived “male” persona. (the boy, Takahiro might be more adaptable than she thinks: “I am shocked and appalled Rumi-san! – oh what the heck, the power of romance has won me over – gimme some sugar!”)

Contrast this to the Genshiken-verse. Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken is a reflection of, and a prescription for Otaku-and-Fujoshi space as much as Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian separatist space is a reflection of a greater yaoi-space. Both are popular cultural products; though they sell in different markets I would even expect some cross-over customers now that Shimoku is creeping around in fujoshi territory. Both situate within the phenomena of their attentions as well; they “ride” on cultural phenomena that in turn ride” on larger cultural tendencies within the solid/ real world.

In Genshiken, the tropes of the “school club” dictate the story setting: the club has to attract members or it will be de-authorized. The club serves as a haven for outcasts with differing ideas and interests within the “visual culture” universe, within a real world of impending disenchantment and preparation for adult work life. Club members have to deport themselves with minimum standards of restraint in their own enthusiasms and respect for other member’s enthusiasms. Solidarity against outside threats is required; as well, a group-produced product for the larger enthusiast community and/or “outside world” is a stated group goal and measure of the vitality of the entire micro-social fiction. Of course, the odd thing about the Genshiken member’s varied fan interests reside in their one common perversion: they all have to one degree or another libidinized their fan interests.

Hmmmmmm… That sounds familiar.

The action in Genshiken lies in working out the rules of how exactly to deal with the natural urge to contest the space of a commonwealth. Myers’ commonwealth was a violent anarchy; Silverlock needed a savvy friend to get through it in one piece. Genshiken starts off as a male bastion invaded by rai-ju female desire, followed by a cosplay fen (archaic usage: female fan) and finally a horde of fujoshi. These in turn get a boy-girl who wants to share their interests, all while foreign fan-girls stir the pot and the old-guard otaku males get used as material for pairing fantasies. Only the promise of a safe space for their interests keeps them together. They try to work things out. We read about how they try. We gain comfort in the idea that such a space can be imagined. Then some of us blog, start Genshiken inspired groups at Universities, make lewd dojins and scurry around the web getting obsessive and derivative.

The Genshiken-verse is less overt or ambitious in its commitment to guilt-free
weirdness that Mizoguchi’s virtual-lesbian yaoi-verse, but the urges are somewhat parallel. Shimoku’s space is heteronormative, but strives for understanding. Misoguchi’s space is activist queer, and at times separatist, but it looks like it values a certain degree of diversity. (though I am betting that it privileges female diversity, as it is currently is %90+ female in Japan) Both stress the importance and fun of active participation in the production of artifacts for their communities.

In the past, human societies could only get worked up about and “contest” the space of “faith”: help build a cathedral, go on a pilgrimage or burn a heretic. Today, while it has been said that all roads on the internet lead to either pr0n or linux distributions (or cat pictures), the volume of nested commonwealths has expanded in a way that recalls bacterial growth, or the old commie joke: “you put three Trotskyites in a room – how many factions do you get?”

(This overload effect also refutes the worst fears of the Frankfurt School, and calms most of their radical-though-intolerant aesthetics. Nuremberg has been trivialized by rock concerts and home shopping tv – there is no need to ban epic poetry. Rejoice!)

The only side effect of this wave is that all of these commonwealths appear to pick up a sexualized charge the minute they wade into the world-wide webs.

When too much weirdness seeps out of fan-space, real solid-world authorities get concerned and start stomping around with big muddy boots. The big issue in last year’s solid-world Japanese popular visual culture community has been the Tokyo regulations banning “indecent acts depicted by imaginary persons” as championed by a right-wing populist politician who used to write porny stories about dissolute rich youth.

Meanwhile in China and Hong Kong, wholesale yaoi crackdowns raged through the latter half of the last decade, much to the shock of innocent Funu (chinese rotten girls), who just wanted look at the pretty cartoons and relax. As for the west, the potential for moral panic has kept most yaoi-stuff off commercial shelves and in shady back rooms: Definitely not on Amazon or your fave online e-book sales site. Besides, western fans are cheap-ass leeches who are used to pyr8 goodies, free fan-fiction and dodgy web scanlations.

Here’s a new space of contention: Pay for the damn stuff!

There is a whole body net-enabled sociology/ anthropology/ theory that peeks in on communities of enthusiasm: I recommend a glimpse at the infinite variety of the madness of fans at the Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) site. While the writing is of variable quality, the range of subject matter is far-reaching and interesting. Care to read about a tempest in a teapot at a Dr Who fan-fiction site? TWC has got it covered, although after a while all the accounts of fan-fights begin to merge into one another (meh!). My past-life experiences in the pits of fannishness taint my views. I was a geek youth in pre-internet days; shared its culture terms and rites, and carried with me the sense that whatever the future brought, I had already read about it. I even did cosplay, before it was cosplay – when it was the costume ball at fan conventions (only once, and the sad state of my costume lead to my discovery of  FAIL). I bought and hoarded dittoed fanzines and fanfiction. All of that stuff got put away when I went off to University. See this fun paper for an expanded view of this kind of nostalgia  I miss you [all] dreadfully!

For up to the minute serious contestations, don’t forget the fun folks at Intersections; who when not doing boring gender theory studies are always on the prowl for a weird new thing – especially when it is an example of local (mis-) appropriation of Cool Japan detritus, This one caught my eye:

On the Japanese Doll Complex – by Katrien Jacobs

“”On the Japanese Doll-Complex highlights Chinese people’s appropriation of Japanese dolls or doll-like alter egos. I conducted interviews with several people in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. I wanted to analyse the experience of ‘owning a doll’ or ‘identifying with a doll’ by looking at several kinds of doll fantasies and how dolls assist people in recovering innocence and gender-fluidity. Chinese men are massively into Japanese porn stars, into hentai figurines, or life-size dolls that have a convincing and arousing skin texture. They also manifest themselves as cosplayers or cross-dressers who want to embody pretty girls. Women, on the other hand, construct fantasies about gay love and they impersonate the beautiful and effeminate men of yaoi animations (Boy Love).””

Behold the documentary – You couldn’t make this stuff up!
Sex Brain Melody (Episode 2): On The Japanese Doll Complex
(Warning: NSFW!)

http://vimeo.com/3017377
Embedded at http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/jacobs_film.htm

Also see her part 1 video on Hong kong pr0n panic: http://vimeo.com/3016343

On the Japanese original:
http://tokyoscum.blogspot.ca/2012/05/making-sense-of-dollers.html

Contestation of fan-space is a symbolic libidinous exchange in its own right.
Life would be boring without fans running wild.

The shadow of the warrior

In her doctoral thesis: “Reading and Living Yaoi – Male-Male Fantasy Narratives as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan” Akiko Mizoguchi posits the radical proposition that Japanese women fans of BL/yaoi are engaging in virtual lesbianism and/or creating a virtual lesbian/ gendered space when they discuss and meet to pursue their hobby of reading, talking about, exchanging and sometimes creating fantasy male-male romance/ sex narratives. (Holy Joanna Russ Batman!)

“Doing yaoi” is seen not only as a real exchange of highly sexualized fantasy material, but a symbolic lbidinal exchange, complete with “preferences”, “roles” and a free-floating sense of agency /command of lore or “law” that can be self- mockingly ascribed a phallic function.

Did Kio Shimoku ever read or consult with Akiko Mizoguchi? An an “out” lesbian manga enthusiast and academic theorist, who also studied in the USA and teaches in Tokyo, she writes in both English and Japanese, and her work is personable and easy to follow even as it is resolutely feminist, pro-yaoi and pro-LGTBQ.

Any random mangaka looking on the net or through the journal stacks for bl/yaoi information from a fan-academic would probably run into her work. Knowing Shimoku’s m.o., her personal (well resolved) contradictions would draw him to her work like a moth to a flame. (1)

Hold that though, but first more on Mizoguchi’s work:

That the precursor to bl, “bishonen” manga helped her navigate her sexuality at a young age makes perfect sense as she relates it, even if “yaoi helped me come out as a lesbian” sounds at first like one big mess. A script that valorized “other” desire valorized and empowered her desires. It even provided her with the language she needed to answer graciously after her first crush rejected her. Even in the absence of scripts better  tailored to her desires, this was enough. She found allies when she needed them, and later she realized that while the character mouths that spoke them were nominally male, the hand that wrote them was most likely a woman’s.

She has maintained her interest in BL/yaoi to the point of earning a PhD on it, teaching theory around it, and unlike numerous western lesbians who have “adopted” yuri and shoujo-ai and are trying to raise it to respectable maturity,(2) Mizoguchi, while not condemning it in its entirety declares yuri problematic for her and not really her number one fave thing. She’s sticking with BL/yaoi.

An extreme simplification of the view she puts forward in her thesis is that yuri for her is “tainted” by the mark of the patriarchy. As an occasional Loser Fan Boy (c.f. E.Friedman’s blog’s rating system) I know that the majority of the stuff is mostly written by males, to satisfy my male gaze, my curiosity and my – ahem- prurient interests. Especially when Ken Kurogane writes it – “PWP” doesn’t just mean plot- what- plot, (pr0n w/o pecker works too) and that can be a fine thing indeed!

Still I might have learned too much since my first brush with yuri pr0n: his signature work – which on first encounter bowled me over now re-reads as clumsy, repetitive and occasionally mean-spirited – besides being little more than near plot-less smut in manga form. Only the “mermaid” chapter, the series resolution and the joke bonus after-series/ omake redeem it a bit. And like yaoi-bait characters, its creatures are nothing close to human; gay, lesbian, straight or otherwise. Not realistic at all, but mercifully free of “I must pine away silently while I build up my courage to confess” tropes. His puppets clang together like magnets and fuck like rabbits. Then when I shake my head and wonder why I keep reading, he throws in just enough humor or over-the-top gushy romanticism to get me to read the next page. And damn if there isn’t more smut there waiting for me. Unfortunately after reading too much theory I now must ask if (gahhh!) I am engaging in a symbolic libidinal exchange with a bunch of otaku guy pr0n addicts when I read the stuff? That somehow feels not good. Curse you Mizoguchi <grin> for planting the seed of doubt.

Disenchantment is the sacrament of modernism. (TM)

On the other hand, there is material here that can be used for further exploration of the Genshiken- verse. Remember that the Genshiken is different from all the other “visual culture” clubs at the University: Its cover story is that it a hybrid model, its reality is that the “study material” is highly sexualized, starting with the initiation rites and running through the dojinshi expeditions. Everyone goes to comiket, then runs home to enjoy their loot. The place is a cesspit of pervy otaku, and later a den of pervy fujoshi. Notable members have been expelled from other clubs and dumped in the Genshiken for their sins. “I am Ogiue and I hate Otaku!” Concepts of symbolic libidinal exchange emphasize the weirdness of the Genshiken; a club that has in the past been presented as a covert field observation post for post-graduate social science research into pr0n consumer-fans.

Back to Mizoguchi and yaoi-space: for her: authorship, rather than chara is the most important thing in romance and raunchy manga. Female authorship! Female authorship that creates out of a culture of interaction with female fans! “Virtual lesbian separatism” – in her own words.

Most Yuri, to radically simplify her position, feels fake and exploitative to her, and is made by and /or for guys. For instance, she bristles at Maka Maka, and hey, it drags, and it is thin on romanticism, and the sex stuff is formulaic – the only thing that redeems it is that the characters are drawn as adults and not loliconstructs. For Mizoguchi, Maka Maka is annoying because the two main characters play with each other, but still center their emotional lives, desires and sexuality on men, which privileges the gaze of the male reader. No matter how much LFB’s protest that the characters are written as “bi”, they are inscribed as available- and- willing to male fantasy: typical japanese rezbian sex-show fodder in manga form. I bring this up, because it is an odd complaint. Lots of yuri pr0n posits male- less space (pwp) and is still built for the male gaze. Is it that with adult female characters, the s-class tropes (impending boyfriend/ husband?) are absent and so the unsatisfying boyfriends must be dropped in, to get in the way? Is this analogous to the “why doesn’t she just die in a ditch” effect in yaoi?

Mizoguchi’s section on Yuri also in some way mirrors the discomfort that het males feel with BL/yaoi – she even addresses this by arguing that the serious and persistent power imbalances within society make for significant difference between males looking at yuri and females looking at yaoi. Fair ’nuff – I’ve heard these arguments before, mostly in heated discussions in crit classes. The only way I made it through them was by muttering the old sci-fi/ fantasy mantra “magic is matter of symbology and intent” to myself. (It helped a bit – hooray for displacement strategies!) Shimoku in Genshiken (and also the parodic yaoi episode in Girl Saurus) takes this on with “Ogiue’s sin”. I guess no one likes to be objectified, but without it the whole fantasy exercise, as noted previously in the Zizek quote (and the masthead of the bwog) falls apart. “all of our desires are just things we force on others” indeed.

If Mizoguchi’s position at first glance seems conflicted, she appears to have resolved it quite well. Why the M-M fake gay stuff? Because she likes it, so piss off! Reading her footnotes, you get the sense that she even takes some small credit for trying to make the genre a bit more sympathetic to real-world LGTBQ concerns by smearing the rapey stuff and the signature “I’m not gay but,” line with a big gooey bad-taste brush. From what little I have heard of the western analog to bl/yaoi – slash fiction, its champions try to enforce similar if not far more stringent codes of political correctness on it – which sounds like herding cats to me.

Three cheers for cat-herders everywhere!

Mizoguchi also brings up the “conflict of interest” or “wolf in the fold” question by proxy in her discussion of a “more modern” yaoi series that deals with an openly gay Japanese construction worker. She notes how the writer of the series deals with the het guy characters worrying that their gay co-worker will “come on” to them with a blend of humor and a series of teachable moments that aim to put down the prejudice that all gay males are ultra-promiscuous predators, so all gay male yaoi characters (and by inference all other LGBTQ characters and real-world LGBTQ folk) must be too. To hold to the old view is hurtful, offensive, in bad taste, and worse: bad writing – them’s the new rules! (3) Never underestimate the power of a “canon” within a fan genre.
Contested space indeed!

All of this leads back to Kio Shimoku and his Hato character. Did he toy with the idea of dropping a lesbian fujoshi into the pot? Too dangerous! The yuri trope temptation would lurk in the shadows and drag the whole exercise down the wrong path. Besides, as I have idiotically asserted previously, “There Are (almost) No Lesbians in Japan!”

There are plenty of women who love other women; a few publicly declared activists; plenty of gaijin gals who are looking for lurv and material for a masters thesis from the that Monty- Python- skit University in Australia; but the term seems obnoxious to many of the Japanese sisterhood – poisoned by plain pr0n, including yuri, and s-class shoujo-ai, nosy media and a century of push back by an extremely patriarchal society. I wish I could find that online journal article – now lost, that had an exasperated gaijin lesbian researcher looking for genuine Japanese lesbian survey respondents at wimmins bars and meetings. The punch line is that she gets repeatedly brushed off by Japanese- women- who- happen- to- love- other-women- and- wish- that- the- rest- of- the- world- including- nosy- furreign-girls- would- just- mind- their- own- business. Did they really start calling themselves something that sounds like “carpenter” in Japanese or did our plucky researcher get her leg pulled? (Perhaps this is changing: more and more folk show up at the two pride parades in Tokyo each year – did I get that right? there was something in Metropolis about why they have two Tokyo parades – oh well, matsuri are movable feasts in japan, the more the merrier!)

Remember, this is a culture that won’t countenance same-sex marriage, but will readily allow gender reassignment in the official rolls, as long as you bring a doctor’s note (LATER: ooops: actually a whole lot more and it will still be a damn hard slog) or you can adopt your significant one. Perhaps also incorporation as a partnership works?

So dropping a “lesbian” main character into the Genshiken would pose too many problems (though I am still convinced that one could show up if handled as already happily in a relationship). But take the manga flavor of the month – a trap ooops cross-dressing guy who just so happens to look like a cute girl and give him a conflicted back story that makes him want to re-construct himself as a rotten girl, for the purpose of entering into a (crit-speak on) symbolic libidinal exchange within a community of women/ fujoshi and voila! we have a very serious, very truthful “I’m not gay!” Hato with no “buts” needed. And he only falls for women, (Later: at the time, it will take years before the “only you” effect raises its head) even while reading and drawing man-smut.  And damn if he wont turn out to be perfectly well-behaved, and he won’t jump anyone because that would be gauche and poor writing.

Madarame’s virtue (and anatomy) is safe, no matter how much stand-chan prods Hato-kun. It’s the frisson of dangerous possibility within the prodding that is being exchanged, because that’s what fujoshi with over-active “goggles” do. “Unfair!” say the girls: “you get more frisson because your alter-ego is a guy! You can ship yourself! SHARE!” And Hato-chan likes to share! (Note well that I use “ship” as pairing fantasy; the currency of the exchange within the fujoshi social. Still I wonder why Mizoguchi never discusses “the goggles”) (4)

Having worked so hard, Hato will never risk destroying the magic circle he joined by getting a crush on any of the Genshiken fujoshi either. Why look for sex when he has found something better, something that he has sought with single-minded determination for so long. We are told that BL/yaoi piqued his interest even before he sought out the fujoshi at his high school art club (V10 p148) We assume that what piqued his interest was the subject matter. Was there more to his desire? Could it be that he is written as a young male who gets his satisfaction from the exchange of man-smut with women, and/ or the degree to which he enjoys man-smut depends only on the degree that it fits within the potential for such an exchange? One can get off on all kinds of things,  and a convoluted solution like this maintains Genshiken as a heteronormative space,  but where the heck would Kio Shimoku get such an idea?

Where indeed?

Hato is not only Kage-Kaminaga, he is Shimoku’s Kage-Mizoguchi

Wait, I’m confused now…

Such a solution ensures that no matter how many yaoi puppets he has looked at or drawn, Hato has always spoken truthfully (if incompletely) about his desires:

He has only ever fallen for women.

Next up: Contested spaces

Footnotes:

(1) Whoa! I just hooked extra batteries to the playset field and have expanded its scope beyond all reasonable boundaries of playing what if with Genshiken characters, to suggesting authorial influences.. For now lets just consider the fantasy of Kio Shimoku getting ideas from the works of Akiko Mizoguchi as shorthand for “dealing with somewhat similar concerns”, zeitgeist, working the same district on different sides of the street etc. You want a down to earth essay, go read a mechanical engineering paper. This is my toy! Mwaaaahahaha! I push the lever forward…

[Much Later: I think I have found enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that if he would have had to work hard to miss her stuff and research yaoi at the time he started with fujoshi characterizations.]

(2) Mizoguchi’s real-world academic space is a small village; she has run into Erica Friedman a few times at least  – they go to each other’s conferences, and while they hold opposite preferences on yuri and yaoi, they strike similar activist chords. I hope they consider each other allies. I was also surprised to see that Mizoguchi supervised the translation of Allucquére Rosanne “Sandy” Stone‘s work “The Empire Strikes Back: A posttranssexual manifesto”  – anyone who is a friend of Sandy Stone must be way kewl. I first ran into the amazing Sandy Stone years ago at a puny little conference where she wowed everyone at the proceedings and the after-party. Two years later, I am hundreds of miles away, walking around Toronto and suddenly I hear my name called out and it’s Sandy Stone saying Hi! and inviting me to another of her conferences that evening – and I have no academic rep or anything. I was just a late-return to school undergrad art student of one of the profs who invited her to speak at the University of nowhere-ville two years before. Now that’s class! So Akiko Mizoguchi  goes up 3000 points in my books by association. Stone’s work is not just for readers of queer theory, but for anyone who wonders how technological extensions of identity have and will induce extreme states of flux in how we define ourselves, as selves. If you’ve enjoy John Varley’s sci-fi novels you’ll enjoy Stone.

(3) added later – yup, its a canon rule now: the later scanlation of Aoi Hanna by Dynasty is finally out (though the  /u crew did an amazing job of the 1st pass) and during the election arc we have the senior-most of the out couple making the pronouncement in a class group that “It’s not like we’re nymphomaniacs! I don’t go chasing after anyone wearing a skirt!” (ch40 p17) Of course the entire plot of Hanna hinges on the backstory of Kazama developing serial unrequited crushes for “cute girls” and needing support from her straight and “not-cute” friend. But these were politely unrequited pining-away-from-a-distance crushes.
No harm no foul.

(4) Again, later – Almost missed this one, because it flew by so fast: Hato’s sharing can at times have an odd effect on his fujoshi friends, and the effect is magnified for Ogiue who is a published mangaka. Recall when she was reviewing materials for the club zine and came upon a steamy grope scene done by Hato featuring her characters. “My characters are making love” “Is this what a doujinshi of my manga would be like?” (ch74) Is this a translator shading or a spot-on rendering of Shimoku’s nuanced description? Because she could have used other terms.

One or several Lupins

“”Franny is listening to a program on wolves. I say to her, Would you like to be a wolf? She answers haughtily, How stupid, you can’t be one wolf, you’re always eight or nine, six or seven. Not six or seven wolves all by yourself all at once, but one wolf among others, with five or six others. In becoming-wolf, the important thing is the position of the mass, and above all the position of the subject itself in relation to the pack or wolf-multiplicity: how the subject joins or does not join the pack, how far away it stays, how it does or does not hold to the multiplicity.””
1914: One or Several Wolves? A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Thousand_Plateaus)
have fun at http://notabenoid.com/book/9056/27642/

On narratives of escape, identity and re-definition, the other, the self and the group:

I feel for the poor Otaku, especially the middle-aged ones who grew up with the Lupin III franchise, and who tuned in to watch the 30th anniversary special GREEN VS RED (2008). Instead of another lighthearted master-thief and buddies pull off an amazing caper and right a few wrongs on the way, we get a meditation on middle-aged male ennui, decline, ageing, all mirrored against a backdrop of bleak societal cynicism and murderous corruption. Yikes! Bummer! But wait! Mr. mid-life crisis Otaku is gonna get a little fable about escapism, disenchantment and accommodation with the real world.
(OH Heck, it’s OZ time again!)

The “plot” is simple yet confusing:

The “original” Lupin III is nowhere to be found, perhaps he is dead, retired, or perhaps he never was. In his place are scores of peter pan types who have cast off their everyday lives and complaints and have become Lupin. There is no longer an original, yet many still NEED a “real” Lupin to give their lives meaning. And so there are Lupins all over the place, scheming, plotting heists, fighting each other, running from the cops and Zenigata, thwarting evil capitalist plans, siding with the bad guys, hiding from their girlfriends, trying to charm Fujiko Mine, and getting busted for shoplifting from a Kombini. SHOPLIFTING!

I blame Baudrillard! Of course, if there is more than ONE Lupin, there has to be many! An excess of Lupins, a horde, a swarm, a profusion to make the point. If there were only two, one would be a fake, the other real.

All of the Lupins remain masters of arcane tech, and disguise (except shoplifter Lupin).. Kinda like 2chan Otakus (neojapon article) (Part of me hopes that Azuma doesn’t play with this one in a later essay, but I can’t see how he could resist)

There is a mcGuffin, a diamond that is not a diamond, but an abomination, a couple of villains that are chillingly evil (one who cores his son for a new body) and there are plenty of odd Highlander-esque showdowns to determine who is or will be the REAL Lupin. Daisuke Jigen, Goemon Ishikawa, and Fujiko Mine cynically hang with one or another of the Lupins not out of “friendship” but according to how much “fun” they derive at the moment. In the end true Lupin-hood remains elusive – or omnipresent – available to all who need to escape from real life’s complaints.

Of note to those of us with a hunger for such things are the odd moments when a posse of Lupins break the Shoplifter Lupin out of police headquarters (or are they too late?) and then argue in a hideout over proper Lupin behavior. The cops bust the joint, but one of the more “real Lupins” and the shoplifter are on bathroom break and escape. In pairs they fight over who is real – in a group they see no contradictions in their multiplicity and only argue about what is canon Lupin behaviour!!!!

In the end, “our” Lupin makes a tentative peace with his real-world life. Others slip off to live the dream a while longer. The cops haul away the bad guys, and none of them get the girl until they GROW UP!

As one blogger commented: (engage cpt Obvious persona) “Lupin has been an idea. What the people watching have always wanted to be at one point. Even if its to a small extent. Funny, Charming, “Cool and Smart.” Able to be free. Lupin has no binded (sic) to anything. He has no family, only acquaintances. He is free to do whatever he wants. Come on who here never once gave a thought to what it would be like to actually be Lupin III? If Lupin III could actually exist in this world?”

Trickster figures have a habit of disappearing and popping up when needed. I note the newest incarnation, ANONYMOUS and their cyber-fun with “the system” (which is often little more than cyber-doorbell ringing and leaving a flaming paper bag full of dog poop on the doorstep) is open to both sexes. It is fun to watch the man yell cyber-terrorism and count up inflated hypothetical losses – just in case the chance to boost their operating budgets or sue some basement dweller presents itself later.

Occasionally Anonymous saves the day, such as when they busted a certain nasty little American security consulting firm that was using custom software and contractees to manufacture multiple fake personas for neo conservative customers – in an attempt to influence political discussion in the US “blogosphere”. (Sock-puppettry: wholesale rather than retail impersonation was their crime – each agent could multitask control 16 or more fake blog respondents – go dig it up on BoingBoing) Epic Battle of the simulations! The masked wonders vs the puppet masters!

We have all been reading too many comics!

More D&G:

“”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.””

The analyst is forever trying to shoehorn an individual, atomized reading onto a group phenomena. The analyst never looks at the surplus exchanged within the pack, especially if the surplus is vaguely 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.

One grand narrative, dead or dying? Many petit recits? Or the pack and the call to escape, to become something different, something more?

ASIDE: Finished with Azuma’s Otaku now.

A groundbreaking work, despite a few metaphors stretched to breaking limits, and the problematic focus of viewing the solitary Otaku through Lyotard-tinted goggles. More Lacan and more Zizek would have been fun, (Much later: them two are problematic as well!) as would have been more examination of the social and technological conditions on the ground that have helped foster Otaku culture. Azuma also softpedalled the curious fact that so much of the Otaku world is day and night, comics and pr0n and the slippage between the two is relentless. Dry discussions of human and animal desire/ consumption were probably needed so that the research could remain serious, but the choice to do so has consequences. Still I infer that the current jp. media canard about grazing herbivorous men owes a debt to this work.

Much later: You can visit Azuma’s “database”, in English – it is called TvTropes and it functions more as a shared vocabulary rather than a “certain magical index”. Also when I was first picking through this stuff, I had no idea how much Dr. Saito Tamaki’s works had stirred up the pot, so “Database Animals” needs to be seen in proper context. Part of that context involves “secondary production”, otherwise why would a vocabulary be so necessary?

In any case, there are some fine resources and blog essays on “Database”:

Azuma summarizes himself:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060819205959/http://www.hirokiazuma.com/en/texts/superflat_en1.html

Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 1
http://superfani.com/2010/08/06/adventures-in-criticism-otaku-1/

Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 2
http://superfani.com/2010/08/16/adventures-in-criticism-otaku-2/

Otaku annotated: adventures in moe, porn, and postmodernism
http://superfani.com/2010/04/10/otaku-annotated/

Finally, while the powerful feedback loop between fans and creators is discussed, and the dojinshi, mash-up, game patches (not to mention scanlators, pirates, etc etc) are mentioned, none of the “goggles” are particularly convincing in describing the DRIVES that encourage this behavior, or how the technology – my little matter duplicator metaphor- makes the gift, symbolic exchange, potlatch, the devil’s share, and so on inevitable and fun and part of the community.

The entire beyond objectification – the symbolic exchange of women thing needed to be explored. Women??? What about Yaoi??? (Yeehaw! got my next post topic!)

You cannot analyse Otaku by the representation of Otaku in Otaku literature. For example, a question emerges: how many Otaku obsessively stick to expensive originals, and how many exchange illegal dupes? Do they reserve their disposable income for their “pet” series/ characters and dupe the rest, or dupe all and buy figurines (wait until 3d printers – makebots become affordable!) or what? Digital media is so effing easy to copy.

First-hand experience in Japan, with japanese implementations of Windows hardware point out that there is a lot less DIY among users, but yahoo auctions and a robust mail/ delivery company infrastructure ensures that even the most isolated otaku can get all the used gear they need. Genshiken mentions this in its story, but cautiously edits out the inevitable result, much like pubic hair. We can assume that the Otaku-verse is full of
savvy computer users and pirate dubs.

Final argument: pirate copies and scans take up less ROOM!

What else – the footnotes are useful.

Of course it is 10 years or more since Otaku came out, technology and technologically assisted communities have advanced considerably. I can sit at my kitchen table in southwestern Ontario and follow kotaku, neojaponism, and hellodamage, newsonjapan and a host of other fun blogs and sites. If really, really interested or in need of a radical encounter with the other, I can try my luck with Google translate. If I am interested in Otaku culture, I can indulge myself. I can kick back and read 5 volumes of Mechademia if I really want a fun time (Gahhhhhhhhhhhhh!).

OMG! Does this mean I have become a database animal? Turn off laptop NOW! Join a political party and a square dance club quick!

RANT:
In many ways, it is FAR EASIER for me to research out and blog this stuff than it is to read my local newspaper online, or watch local tv newscasts, which have gone digital /ATSC. Because everything in Southwestern Ontario is an afterthought to bosses and pols in Toronto, the local newspaper’s web site is junked up with ads and runs on a hideously slow server – we are talking minutes here with a lousy internet connection. (this blog post is taking at least an hour to run through formatting and spell-check! Grrr!) Meanwhile, the two local TV stations were not given a proper budget for their new digital transmitters and their crisp high-definition signals are now unavailable without big 1960’s style outdoor or attic antennas or $350/year cable subscriptions. Japan is now closer to me than my local newspaper.

Of course the American stations come in perfectly; as I type this, some new cop shop has the blond babe detective chasing down organleggers! How depressing the thought of all those middle american types now worried that bad guys are going to swipe their kidneys!!

Gahhhhhh! I am in despair! I blame Larry Niven!

Next time: Mousou Shoujo Otakukei AKA Fujoshi Rumi –
Beyond turnabout is fair play to objectification and the symbolic exchange of men: Comedy and power?