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
(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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