Redefining the Rotten Fandom of the Rotten Yaoi Genre

Hello, folks! Can you believe that Otaku Warriors for Liberty & Self-Respect (OWLS) is now on our sixth blog tour? Wow! For this month, our Chief Creative Officer LynLyn gave us the topic titled “Team”. Three members have kick-started this tour already, and I’m honoured to follow after our President Katrina Sade (Grimm Girl) with her perceptive post “When We Fetish Yaoi”. Please make sure to read it.

“Team” Blog Tour Topic

June is known as “Pride Month” within the LGBT & Queer communities in honor of the Stonewall Riots that occurred at the end of June in 1969. At OWLS, we strongly support individuals who are part of the LGBT & Queer communities as well as individuals who are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Team” functions in two ways: 1) allows individuals to show their support to the LGBT & Queer communities and 2) allows LGBT & Queer communities to express their love to whoever they want.

So for the “Team” topic, we will be discussing our favorite LGBT & Queer characters in anime and other pop culture related media, the impact of the yaoi and yuri genre within LGBT & Queer communities, our personal stories involving gender/sexual orientation, and etc.

Immoral Graphic Sexuality?

I like yaoi. However, I’ve only been a fan fairly recently. I first encountered yaoi during my early teens, but I avoided the genre like a plague. Not because I was homophobic, but because I felt that I was too young for such graphic sexuality that time…and for what my religion teaches as immoral. I guess this is what sums up others’ impression of this genre: immoral graphic sexuality. Why?

The graphic sex is a given since the majority of the series in this genre feature sexual, not necessarily romantic, relations between males. The “immoral” part may be from the graphic sex itself, but let’s be honest. Saying yaoi is immoral more likely stems from homophobic roots.

The “Rotten” Fan Labels (Literally)

Fans of yaoi or BL (Boys’ Love)—a term I prefer much better—are called fujoshi, fudanshi, and the less used kifujin and fukei.

  • fujoshi (腐女子) = literally “rotten girl”
  • fudanshi (腐男子) = literally “rotten boy”
  • kifujin (貴腐人) = literally “esteemed rotten woman”
  • fukei (腐兄) = literally “rotten older brother”

All of these terms have the character 腐 (rot, decay, sour) in them. I’m not 100% certain as to the exact origin of these labels, but based on quick web searching (thanks Google!), it’s alleged that the fans themselves have embraced these terms when they first appeared on mass media.

I’m iffy about calling myself a fujoshi, but I will say that I have fujoshi sensibilities. What I’m doing is admitting that I have characteristics associated with being a fujoshi without the desire to wear the label. Why? Because I don’t like that single “rotten” character 腐. But it’s more complicated than this.

Why is the “rotten” character 腐 in these labels? I feel like if I readily accept this label, I’m admitting that I’m someone who is rotten obsessing over a rotten genre. The yaoi genre has many flaws; some of the most common ones are:

  • prevalence of sexual harassment, assault and rape
  • the overused dominant “seme” and submissive “uke” character archetypes
  • all sex, sex, and more SEX (basically porn)
  • lack of safe sex (usually no condom, no lube for anal sex)
  • non-identification of the characters as openly gay, even to themselves
  • simply unrealistic

Perhaps these are the reasons why the fan labels include the character 腐 for “rot”. These characteristics are unpleasant—in short, “rotten”—things that are better buried out of sight. In a similar sense, the yaoi fandom exists as something treated as “rotten” and avoided by more mainstream fans. They are seen as kinky perverts obsessed in plucking male characters from any series, mainstream or not, and pairing them; degenerating these characters into sex-starved gay perverts.

I know a lot of fujoshi, fudanshi, and even a couple of kifujin and fukei who are of your grandparents’ age. They are NOT “rotten”. I am basically a fujoshi, even if I won’t readily wear the label. I’m NOT “rotten”…I hope.

“Even if someone identifies herself or himself as a yaoi fan, it does not automatically mean that she or he is non-homophobic or accepting of the LGBTQ community.”

And let me tell you something VERY IMPORTANT. Even if someone identifies herself or himself as a yaoi fan, it does not automatically mean that she or he is non-homophobic or accepting of the LGBTQ community. Please remember this. It is more than possible for a homophobic person to like reading or watching yaoi just because it fuels her/his fetish. I, myself, have been utterly shocked numerous times when I encountered homophobic fujoshi and fudanshi on the web. Yes, they do exist, believe me or not.

“The characters in the yaoi series are just instruments for their entertainment and sexual gratification.”

I think that to them, they have a clear distinction between what’s acceptable in fantasy and what’s not in reality. The characters in the yaoi series are just instruments for their entertainment and sexual gratification. Accepting the same kind of homosexual relationship in real life is a completely different matter. Saying these, however, I assure you that there are yaoi fans who would not hesitate to support the LGBTQ community, myself included.

No climax, No resolution, No meaning” = No Positive Impact

The biggest problem about this topic is that I really don’t see the current yaoi genre as having a significantly positive impact on the gay community at this moment. On the contrary, it is giving an inaccurate depiction.  But I guess this makes sense when we look at the word’s terminology. The term “yaoi” is coined from the phrase:

yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi
(山なし、落ちなし、意味なし)
(contextually) “No climax, no resolution, no meaning”

So if we base the typical content of yaoi series from this terminology alone, then we shouldn’t expect them to provide us with any meaningful stories, let alone with ground-breaking ones that positively impact the gay community. If we continue to accept this terminology, we should just satisfy ourselves with enjoying all the hot sex between two (or more) gorgeous guys of fixed archetypes. But should we really?

Redefining Yaoi & its Fan Labels

Just as how I am advocating the evolution of the label “otaku” into something positive and a source of pride here in Fujinsei, I  also hope that the labels “fujoshi”, “fudanshi”, “kifujin”, and “fukei” evolve into badges of honour indicating that their wearers are knowledgeable, open-minded supporters of the LGBTQ community. But this will only be possible if yaoi itself evolves into a genre consisting of meaningful and socially relevant stories. It has a long way to go to reach this point.

I’m not suggesting a total overhaul of the entire yaoi genre. Whether we like it or not, the current yaoi genre has a strong fan base worldwide. Any drastic changes to it will only alienate the current fans, and I think yaoi creators wouldn’t want that.

There is another genre called “bara”, also called ML (Mens’ Love) or “gei komi” (gay comics). Whereas yaoi is usually written for female audience, bara is written for gay audience. Some say that bara series provide more realistic and mature depictions of male-male relationships, and I must agree to a certain extent. However, it has its own set of issues similar to the yaoi genre. Yes, it often features less than physically perfect characters compared to yaoi series—I applaud it for this—but it is still a far cry from having a significantly positive impact on the gay community. Try reading some bara manga and you’ll see what I mean. It has an even smaller audience than yaoi, especially outside Japan.

Kicking Prejudice on its Ass

The hesitation of a yaoi and bara fan like myself from readily accepting the label “fujoshi” should already be an indication of the prejudice towards the genre and its fandom. And I’m not the only one who feel this way. My friend Cat (Another Gaming Day) rants about the common misconceptions about fujoshi on her post “Let’s Rant On: Labels and Misconceptions of Fujoshi”. Please check it out.

I think that the yaoi genre and its fans are viewed in too much negative light. Sometimes with good reason, I must admit, but oftentimes it’s based on prejudice. Perhaps someday I would be brave enough to proudly say I’m a fujoshi. I hope that when this time comes, the yaoi and bara genres are boasting awesome series that both the fandom and the LGBTQ community can be proud of at the same time.

This is a future worth aiming for: when the “rotten” character 腐 from these labels evolve from negative into positive—signifying the decay of old-fashioned, close-minded misconceptions into the birth of open-minded, more accepting values. I’m optimistic that we’ll reach this point someday, when prejudice has its ass kicked aside, and yaoi and bara series can be enjoyed by virtually all mature audience including members of the LGBTQ community, not just a small niche of fans.

Thank you very much for reading my tour post today. Please look forward for the next tour post this coming Wednesday by Naja (Nice Job Breaking it, Hero). I’m sure it’s going to be great. Don’t forget to check out the full schedule of our “Team” Blog Tour this June. We always appreciate your support. If you have any questions about our group Otaku Warriors for Liberty & Self-Respect (OWLS) or are interested in joining us as a member, please visit our official blog. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook. We welcome new, committed members.

That’s all for today, folks. Have a lovely day. Cheers!

Free to be ME,
Arria (OWLS Secretary)


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31 thoughts on “Redefining the Rotten Fandom of the Rotten Yaoi Genre”

  1. i actually didn’t know about the whole rotten part of the Fujoshi (and others) label. Kinda makes me want to stop using the label when talking about what kind of anime fan I am, it just feels kinda dirty now. But no, you are not rotten and neither am I, we are just awesome!

    Like

  2. I really enjoyed reading this, I had no idea about all the labels and what they meant until now so this was extremely insightful to me, thanks a bunch for that!

    I think what you’re saying makes a lot of sense too. Its a shame these negative labels were accepted so readily in the first place. I’m with you in regards to not liking the “Rotten” character, it just makes it sound like its dirty when it is perfectly natural.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you think so. Exactly, it’s very unfortunate indeed. However, I think there’s a lot of room for a positive evolution in this genre and fandom, especially now that the industry is globalized. That “rotten” character is not that bad, I guess, it’s just that I’m iffy whenever others take it as it is and see yaoi fans like weird, inferior beings, you know? It’s so sad.
      Anyway, thanks for dropping by and sharing your opinions. I appreciate it. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Arria dear,
    Like kat’s posts you touched upon something I didn’t know the Yaoi genre was being labelled as rotten with the mentioning:
    fujoshi (腐女子) = literally “rotten girl”
    fudanshi (腐男子) = literally “rotten boy”
    kifujin (貴腐人) = literally “esteemed rotten woman”
    fukei (腐兄) = literally “rotten older brother”

    Mostly I’ve heard of fujoshi among girls like us who are lovers of the yaoi genre. Personally I wouldn’t put myself in that category. Yaoi genre I stated to Kat has a means to go in terms of being deemed in decent light where you have shows like Junjou which I love. Sadly the perception of rape, rape like is not taken in well other lovers of the genre. Not all Yaoi’s are like that I’ve not seen or read much of yaoi yet, scoping my interest in it much more now. I believe there is going to be something I watch or read which will truly surprise me.

    Great work and post as always Arria ^^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Lita! Yaoi is quite the revelation to me nowadays. I enjoy it, but some of the themes are just questionable, you know? I enjoyed Junjou Romantica, as well (yay), but it’s by no means innocent in overusing these tropes. However, I think that its focus on “love and relationship” alongside the sex is a great redeeming quality. Most yaoi series just focus on the sex in detriment of the actual romantic relationship and the challenges associated of being a male-male couple.
      Anyway, thanks for dropping by, Lita. I really appreciate it. Cheers!

      Like

  4. Nice post. Honestly, the Yaoi genre has a variety of things nowadays – which I really appreciate. When we go back to the early drawings of Yaoi… there weren’t many nice stories. Especially realistic stories. I for example loved one story, where a homosexual character started to fall in love with a friend (who was too scared of being gay, so he started bullying him in school for being gay) and the sister accidentally heard the bullying and wanted to beat the guy up. Very heartwarming story for the siblings.
    Or the story of a older brother being gay and his little brother idolised him, but when he found out his brother was gay, he was a bit disgusted by it. But very soon, accepted it and supported him in front of their mother. Also realistic and heartwarming! And the younger brother stayed straight and didn’t suddenly turn gay like with some yaoi stories.
    THESE are the kind of realistic stories that should be drawn more often.

    And don’t get me wrong, I love the anime Yuri on Ice and was very pleasantly surprised that it showed homosexual scenes, but the fandom got on my nerves pretty quickly.
    The Yaoi Fangirls and boys can be unnerving and I get why they’re seen in a bad light. Still: Most people exaggerate with their prejudice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, do you remember the titles of the manga that you just described? I think the brother one is familiar. I might’ve read it, but I’m not sure. Thanks.

      To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the yaoi genre in general. On one hand, I do enjoy it as a fangirl because, my gosh, so SEXY! But on another hand, some of the overused and unrealistic portrayals are just plain unacceptable, especially if I imagine them happening in real life. Of course, people will argue that yaoi series are just series, they’re fantasy not reality, but still if we want to use anime to have more significant influence in the gay community, then the current yaoi genre is not the answer.

      Ahahaha! I’m included in that Yuri on Ice fandom. I have annoyed a lot of my Twitter followers for flooding their timelines with YOI, but at least I can say that I don’t rage and attack others for not liking it and forcing others to watch it. I just recommend it to them, if they’re interested.

      Well, a lot of prejudice are exaggerated which is very unfortunate because it just strengthens the negative impressions. So sad. Oh well. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your opinions about this matter. I appreciate it. Cheers!

      Like

      1. Ani no Hanashi by Ike Reibun. One of my favorites in the Yaoi genre (well not really yaoi, since there were no sex scenes)
        Yeah, of course not everything has to be realistic, but the situations should be at least. You know, I don’t mind rape stories… But they should at least be more realistic… Not only Yaoi doesn’t do rape justice, but it’s also hentai that’s very bad at it too.
        The mangaka Yuki Ringo did a very good job on one of those mangas – the boy was bullied and sexually abused by his classmates until a teacher caught them. His nephew went into the high school and befriended with the boy (and fell in love lol). Very realistic and heartwarming story. And the teacher never laid a finger on the student – also realistic and not the typical Yaoi story. Nowadays there are more good stories – and much more realistic than before too. But I have a very special taste anyway. My favorites have always been realistic.

        I’m not in the Yoi fandom, I just enjoyed the anime while it lasted. The hype was a bit too much for me. I enjoy the Natsume Yuujinchou fandom more (it has been small and steady for many many years)
        Imagine my surprise when Viktor suddenly kissed Yuuri – I was like “… Oh! So it really IS that kind of anime. Nice!”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh! Thanks! I’ll look for these titles. Those sound good. Indeed, nowadays there are more good stories. I like yaoi, but I find that I appreciate Shounen Ai more because they focus more on the friendship and that “maybe” love between the two male leads, rather than just getting them naked, tangled and sweaty every single time. Have you read “Komatta Toki wa Hoshi ni Kike”? It’s so GOOD. I like it more than “Doukyuusei”.

        Ahaha! I just binge-watched Roku last night and my head is filled with Natsume. As for YOI, I’m just drooling for the latest merchandise releases more than the anime itself right now. I’m looking forward to the announced movie. I hope that we get a s2, though.

        Like

      3. Don’t know this manga. I will try to read it (the caption of naive protagonist is a bit off-putting but maybe he’s not THAT naive:) )

        Yeah, a lot of people say Shonen-Ai is better in this aspect.
        Though I know two Yaoi mangas with very good stories too: Thank you my god (by Hideki Kawai) – Maybe it’s because it’s me and I’m a sucker for tragic family stories (Hello Natsume Yuujinchou…) but it’s so damn amazing and I cried my eyes out! And I think there’s just one sex scene and the sex is very emotional!
        And this one is very famous: Kyuuso wa Cheese no Yume o Miru and its sequel Sojou no Koi wa Nido Haneru by Mizushiro Setona…
        Who allowed them to make me cry that much over some Yaoi manga…? ;_;

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ahaha. Don’t let the “naive” bit discourage you from it. I have read it several times again and again. It’s really good. He looks weak, fragile & like a girl but he’s a badass, literally. He can fight off thugs by himself. It’s a funnt & adorable shounen-ai manga. I hope that you get the chance to read it. It was created by the same mangaka of as Super Lovers. In fact, some of the settings are the same. But it’s not questionable like the premise of Super Lovers.

        Ooooh. I don’t think I have read these manga. Thanks for the rec! I’ll hunt for them. I like it when I cry while reading/watching.

        Like

  5. Nice article but I’m afraid the suggested etymology is a bit mistaken. The “腐” is there because it’s a play on words: 婦女子/fujoshi means “women”. (For the record this 婦 itself means “woman” in a positive-ish sense. It’s the same as in 婦人/fujin.) Every other “腐” construct has evolved from this wordplay. As for why “腐” it’s simply because the idea of shipping two dudes with each other instead of female characters is supposed to be a perverted/depraved idea (ie. 腐っている).

    Thing is, even if BL fans themselves also use it, it’s almost always in a self-depreciating/tongue-in-cheek way. 腐女子 itself is a reclaimed slur. Attitudes may change (very slowly), but in the wider, especially the male-dominated otaku community BL is still not accepted, and women who like BL are supposed to be failures as women. You remember that little art of “the fujoshi” that’s been circulating some years ago, pointing out various aspects of “the fujoshi”? Flabby thighs, wears no bra, wears plain and un-cute underwear, is generally unkempt, etc. It’s the opposite of the male otaku fantasy of the “otaku girl” who is cute, pretty, feminine, and is into the same things male otaku are, so she doesn’t mind being objectified. “Fujoshi” are not like that therefore they’re seen as sort of un-women. This is pretty much the background of the word.

    Personally I really hate how it’s spreading in the English language fandom as if it was just an innocent word to call female otaku by…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello. No, I’m not suggesting in this post that the etymology of fujoshi is entirely written in the characters 腐女子. I’m aware that the original characters are 婦女子. In fact, the origin of my blog’s name Fujinsei came from “fujin” (婦人), and 婦 is actually one of my favourite kanji in Japanese. I didn’t include the original characters 婦女子 for fujoshi here because I assumed that my readers would be aware of it already. And I was focusing on discussing my reservations about the modified “fujoshi” with the 腐 character.

      Indeed, these reclaimed labels are supposed to be self-depreciating, unfortunately I don’t really appreciate the “humour” behind it that much. I argue that it contributes to the negative preconceptions about the fandom. Like you said, the common stereotypes associated with BL fans are “Flabby thighs, wears no bra, wears plain and un-cute underwear, is generally unkempt, etc.”, and I find this very unfortunate. An example of this can be seen on the series “Watashi ga Motete Dousunda” or “Kiss Him, Not Me” in the English release. Although I appreciate a series that finally centres around a fujoshi, I cringe a bit at the blatant use of these stereotypes in that series. And I agree with you that yes, women who like BL are seen as some kind of failures as women which is utterly ridiculous.

      As a BL fan myself, I’m not very happy about the stereotypes associated with fujoshi and the other fan labels. But I really do hope that this impressions change for the better in the future. But the way I see it right now, it’s not going to happen soon, unless something major happens. Anyway, thank you very much for dropping and sharing your views about this issue. I appreciate it. Do you consider yourself a fujoshi? Have a lovely day. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, OK – I misunderstood it, then. My mistake!

        Regarding WataMote, that’s such a curious and disappointing case. I love the manga and I think it’s both hilarious and very much on point – the mangaka came from fandom and she mostly writes BL (I think this was her first non-BL manga), and I love all the winks and nods and the “yep, been there, done that” feeling. Sure, Kae starts out as fat and it’s not an entirely respectful depiction, but on the other hand more than once we see that it doesn’t really matter, and even those guys who came to like her for her good looks eventually get over it and realize that her looks are not what matters. And all the other BL fans in the story are non-stereotypical – quite pretty girls, at least one of whom is mentioned to have a boyfriend and everything.

        The anime, though, was a very clear case of the creative staff not getting it. It went from “gently poking fun at ourselves” to “outsiders poking mean-spirited fun at us”. From the terrible performance by Kae’s seiyuu (Kobayashi Yuu was so miscast it’s not even funny) and the horrible “fat voice” to the reorganizing of the timeline ending up in scenes like Kae apparently going gaga over merch for a fandom she’s not even in anymore… it was just so disappointing.

        Personally I’ve been a “fujoshi” before the word even existed, heh. Maybe that’s why I can’t find myself liking the word, not even in reclaimed usage.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No problem. 🙂

        Oh my gosh. I know, right? I also like the manga, and I was so excited when the anime was announced. Then I watched it, and just like you, I was very dismayed about the fat voice. I’m like, hello? Voices don’t change drastically just because you lost weight. Sigh.

        And oh my gosh, speaking of the mangaka’s other BL series, I have read them and they’re hilarious. I wouldn’t say they’re masterpieces, but they’re entertaining. I think I like WataMote more than her BL series, to be honest. That anime was just disappointing. But it’s OK, I guess, if you watch it just to be entertained and not think too much analytically about it.

        Oh, I see. So do you still consider yourself a fujoshi now? No? I’ve only really been actively reading/watching yaoi for 2-3 years. I’ve watched and read some shounen-ai here and there before, but not at the level that I’m doing now. Anyway, thanks again for dropping by. I appreciate you sharing your opinions about this matter. Cheers!

        Like

  6. Excellent posting. I think that, for me, the biggest problem I have with yaoi has been the overuse of certain tropes. Like the regular run of non-consenual physical contact leading to love. I do wonder if the engative connotations attached to the fandom would fade if more realistic depictions appeared. For example, I understand that Shimanami Tasogare is marvellously realistic (though I’ve not read it so couldn’t vouch for it directly).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Matt. Indeed, but to be fair, yaoi is not the only genre that overuse tropes. Mainstream anime is far from innocent either. However, I agree with you that the non-consensual sexual contacts are just too…sigh. Hmmm. To be honest, I’m not sure. If more realistic depictions appear, sure, it’s going to be awesome and more socially relevant, but I think that it’s going to lose a big percentage of the fandom. But who knows? Perhaps not. Oh, I’m not familiar of Shimanami Tasogare. I’ll hunt for it and check it out. Thanks for the info!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, absolutely, mainstream anime is certainly at fault too. It’s an unfortunate side of anime, for sure, but I’m not sure what it’ll take to change it at this point.
        I think it would depend on the shows and what people are watching. Any changes to an established genre will always risk turning people off, but sometimes it draws new people in too. It’s one of things that’s hard to judge unless it actually happens.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Indeed. Who knows what’s going to happen. We can only know when it happens. And true, any change would turn off some but would definitely attact new ones. We’ll see if I’ll be included in the ones who will be turned off or if I’ll like this genre even better. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

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