Yaoi Infused M/M Romance

Jul 312010
 

Wow, what a question to start off with when I’ve been absent pretty much all summer, huh? From what I’ve seen out there in author-land, there seems to be some polarizing views on what Yaoi and M/M romance written by and for a female audience (yes, I know many men like it, too, and I think I’ve already covered this ground in “Yaoi versus M/M Romance: What’s the Difference“) should be and how it may or may not affect the gay community.

Let’s take the first part of this, shall we? Does Yaoi exploit gay men? Our characters in Yaoi fall into seme and uke and in many instances, let’s face it, the uke is a chick with a dick. Are there real gay men out there like that? I’d say certainly. While many lesbians (and yep, I do know quite a few) can sometimes bend their female gender to imitate a man quite well, I’ve seen it done just as well with the opposite sex. Wait, what did I just say? Some lesbians act more like guys than guys and some gay men act more like women than women do;) (Just like in the hetero world, LOL) OMG, I think I’ve just started a topic for another day – gender bending and men in dresses, LOL. So, if there are real gay men out there that act like cute little ukes, by having characters like this are we exploiting them? Hell no. Am I exploiting dogs when I have one in a story and it barks and wags it’s tail? Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme. Even if there weren’t any gay men who behave like a typical uke, does this mean we shouldn’t write about them? Again, do dragons and unicorns exist? And there are stories written about them all the time.

Yes, this is Mana, a guy. I have no idea if he's really gay. Care to take bets?

But on a deeper level, are we female readers and writers of Yaoi and M/M romance  exploiting gay men because we’re turning them into some twisted fantasy we have about gay men and them getting it on? Personally, I find this ridiculous, too. We may make them and like them to be a bit more emotional than a real guy and we may want them to fall in love more than real gay men do, but I’ve also heard from real gay men that these stories can be inspirational to them. And about the emotional part? Boys and girls are born pretty much the same, it’s our culture that forces boys to repress their emotions. Studies show that our culture is finally changing and it’s getting more and more acceptable for men to shed a tear or two. What’s the big deal anyway?

What I’d really like to know is why it seems to be okay with the lesbian community and especially our culture at large for straight men to watch lesbian porn, but, OMG, you’re a straight woman and you write gay romance stories??? It seems like every time I see some stupid ad for porn aimed at men, it’s two hot chicks getting it on. And have you seen late night HBO and such? The soft porn ALWAYS has two hot chicks getting it on. Not that there is anything wrong with that – just to be clear. I’d just like to see more, well you all know what I want to see, wink, wink.

So no, I don’t think Yaoi or M/M romance exploits anyone (maybe the fangirls, LOL). And for that last part – do we care? Of course we do, don’t be stupid. Reading and writing Yaoi and M/M romance has helped me to understand the trials of being gay and lesbian throughout history and today. My first book, A Summer without Rain, was critiqued by a man whose son is gay. He told me reading my manuscript actually helped him to understand and empathize better with his son. And guess what? I’m proud of that.

  9 Responses to “Does Yaoi exploit gay men and do we care?”

  1. I want to start out by saying that I’m a big BL (yaoi, slash, whatever) fan, but I feel there a lot of problematic points made in defense of the genre. For one, I don’t think it should be up to anyone to decide something isn’t exploitative for someone else. Why should women (or other men, of any sexual preference) get to decide that a gay man shouldn’t be offended by something that fictionalizes their love life? For that matter, Playboy shouldn’t be considered exploitative to women because the men (and women) behind the magazine don’t. And besides, there ARE some women who embody the Playboy bunny lifestyle, so it’s totally cool if that’s how we represent ALL women, right?

    Which brings me to my next point- Just because there are people who fit the stereotype doesn’t mean that it’s okay to perpetuate stereotypes. There are a lot of BL tropes (cliches?) that are problematic. Given all the emasculation that homosexuality is generally associated with, a lot of gay men have a problem seeing ANY media with an overabundance of feminine guys. Not every short guy is a femme and/or a bottom. Not every tall/beefy/handsome guy a top, a butch, or straight-acting.

    And really, how many semes are we going to have yelling out “I’m not gay!!” like it’s the most horrible thing in the world? How many characters who are completely straight with the story revolving around their one exception? Why are there so many series that have that one background character, who loudly declares he’s a gay man, very muscular with long eyelashes and tacky clothing, who’s seen as a joke/threat/creep by the main characters? These aren’t signs that read as respect for gay men.

    And I don’t think it’s right to assume that just because someone enjoys reading about two guys getting it on means that he/she cares about real gay men. There are multitudes of men who love lesbian porn and don’t respect lesbians, or even women in general! I’m sure there are plenty of fangirls who do not follow LGBT politics, plenty who have never even spoken to a gay male, and even some who are actually homophobic. Our libidos don’t dictate our beliefs, and the porn we read doesn’t usually affect our political priorities.

    I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t be allowed to create or enjoy any type of fiction. BL is just another form of romantic fantasy, but fantasies can be harmful just as easily as they are helpful and healthy. It all depends on the perspective of the person experiencing it.

    PS- Sorry this was so long and rant-like. I didn’t mean to rag so much. This is just something I feel pretty strongly about.

     
  2. Thanks for your comments Vie. You make a great point about our “libidos don’t dictate our beliefs”. Too bad…it’d be nice if everyone who watched LGBT porn actually started caring about it!

    Regards,
    Christie

     
  3. Well… first, please define “exploit.” I think there’s a significant difference between creating patently fictional characters and situations and taking real-life people and caricaturing them. I’ve never met any gay men who’d embrace the Yaoi “lifestyle,” so I don’t see how anyone can say you’re exploiting real people.

    I don’t much care for Yaoi. My personal taste doesn’t run to the anime style–it reminds me too much of those cheesy paintings of bug-eyed children that were everywhere in the 70′s, and I don’t appreciate a genre that imposes rigid gender roles, either. I can’t buy into the Greek pattern of “Daddy” and “Boy” because I don’t see it leading to a long-term, stable relationship–which is what I am looking for when I read sensual love stories. I want the partnership of equals, and you just don’t get that in yaoi. There’s a built-in difficulty, too–in the usual nature of things, boys grow up. The idea of someone being stuck for an indefinite period in the role of adolescent just doesn’t strike me as good for either partner. Just my taste–I don’t mean to suggest that equal-partners is the only kind of story that ought to be written, or that other people ought to share my own likes or dislikes.

    But no, I don’t actually think many (not most, certainly not all) yaoi fans give a flying frak if gay men are offended. I don’t think fans in general care much about the individuals they turn into icons–or they wouldn’t buy the crap that paparazzi generate by invading people’s privacy. But I don’t think most gay men–except those who are yaoi fans because it suits their personal taste–care all that much if people are writing yaoi, because it’s got very little to do with real GLBT people.

    As a bisexual woman married to another woman, I think you’re making a huge erroneous assumption that it’s “okay with the lesbian community [and especially our culture at large] for straight men to watch lesbian porn.” Those are two different populations, and most lesbians I know are not ‘okay’ with it… the attitudes I’ve seen range from “those aren’t really lesbians, they’re het girls playing bi for a guy” to serious outrage. Of course, there’s a big difference between genuine lesbian erotica and the voyeur stuff made by and for straight men (for instance, in a real lesbian film the women, however hot, generally can speak in complete sentences). I personally think that most f/f for men is indeed exploitative junk, but I also think most fast-food is unhealthy junk…. and I know that my taking offense will not affect the many people who indulge in both, so I don’t waste my time worrying about it. I deal with the issue by putting my money into healthy food and woman-made films like “Better Than Chocolate.”

    As for “our culture at large” …. well, our culture at large has very little respect for women, and that is what I think we see when gay men bitch about women writing m/m, because those who yowl the loudest never distinguish between writers like Alex Beecroft or Erastes and … well, fill in the blank yourself, this too is a matter of taste. I think either of those women could be this generation’s Mary Renault, but I’ve also read cookie-cutter rubbish that’s nothing but a bunch of sex scenes strung together with a plot so thin you could thread a needle with it. All writing is not created equal.

    And if women, het or queer, should not write men, then it is equally obvious that men should NEVER write a woman’s POV… yet I never heard a gay man complain that Armistead Maupin used a young woman character as a major POV in Tales of the City, and there has never been any outrage that such hetero males as Ibsen or Tolstoy wrote plays and novels where they presented the story from a woman’s point of view. If women should not write m/m, why do gay men idolize Judy Garland and dress up as Marilyn Monroe? We all have worlds within us, and gender roles are just that, roles–not the full definition of a human being.

    The truth is, some writers produce exploitative crap, and some write good stories, and there’s an enormous spectrum between the two–as well as a wide range of taste among readers. I said upfront that I don’t care for anime. Odds are many of your anime readers don’t care for what I write–Age of Sail and Regency historical. There really is no arguing with personal taste, as long as it doesn’t get into using living beings in ways that hurt them–and by that I’m talking about anything from dogfighting to k*ddi* p*rn to coercing performers to do things they find personally degrading. Different people enjoy different things.

    And that’s okay.

    The notion that any creative writer ought to stop writing because someone, somewhere, might be offended would mean that nothing would ever be written except by those who don’t give a damn. Those of us who do give a damn–who do want to present gay characters in a believable and positive way—well, that’s where research comes in.

    The one thing I find incomprehensible and truly offensive is that segment of the audience for m/m fiction of all kinds who enjoy reading about same-sex relationships but in real life either fail to support equality or actively oppose it. I didn’t even realize those folks existed until I read a post in a yahoo group where some dear lady said how much she enjoyed m/m stories but really didn’t think gays and lesbians should marry and raise kids. Now, THAT … is beyond exploitation and into oppression. A person who gets her jollies reading boylove but votes AGAINST marriage equality is — also in my opinion — slightly lower than the ignorant homophobes who think that God hates gays as much as he hates pork chops. That’s hypocrisy of the vilest kind.

     
  4. Nicely done – thanks, Lee!

    Christie

     
  5. just one to say that you’ve made me and others hopefully better. there was a tiny part of me that felt i was doing something wrong and felt guilty. but you’ve made feel better :D

     
  6. Not at all – people want to read about gay men or a story that eludes to two men being gay – I love yaoi and other gay books – i do not see it has stereotypical – in japan it is big business but aimed at the female market – but a lot of gay men buy them because they are beautifully written and drawn plus the sensuality of is he or is he not – one may be gay the other not – in japan in years gone by – talking a few here – it was normal for a boy samurai to sleep with his master – it probably stills happen in their society its just that others feel it is not normal but then you have loads of organisations saying being gay is wrong – tell them to go away and leave those that want to read and live the lifestyle alone.

     
  7. What an ignorant “defense”. There truly is nothing left to be said after Vie’s fantastic comment.

    Shame on you for so-called membership to all of these LGBT online communities while simultaneously spouting this absurdity.

     
  8. I’m a girl and I love reading Yaoi manga. Everyone needs to do a reality check if they think manga’s are exploitative on any one type of relationship or stereo type a particular sexually orientated group. Fact is, Manga’s are make believe. It’s someone’s idea written down and beautifully drawn to entertain the masses or possibly teach them something they haven’t thought about. Sometimes, for those living the lifestyle, it’s an affirmation that their is nothing wrong with them and that they can find acceptance.

     
  9. The problem with Yaoi is simple. It depicts gay men, doing gay things, and yet it is targeted towards straight women. It’s like.. when a show has a main female character, with huge boobs, no personality, but because she’s a main character, it isn’t sexist. That doesn’t pan out. In that instance it is clearly targeted for male viewers who want to get their jollies, which is what Yaoi is to women.
    I wouldn’t have a problem with it if 19/20 yaois didn’t depict heteronormative relationships. Seriously? Uke and Seme? Having the “receiver” simply being a chick with a dick isn’t very progressive, and having the “top” being the macho one isn’t either.
    And another thing, why does it always have them saying they aren’t gay, or struggling with their sexuality as if they’re monsters?
    I wouldn’t care so much if 19/20 yaois weren’t ripped from a bored housewife’s/high school student’s/college student’s fantasy.
    What makes it worse is that the attitude of gay men simply being here for straight women carries over into real life. At a coffee shop with my date a 30 year old woman walks up to us and tell us we are “Sooo cuuuuttee~” while her friends giggle, blush and point.
    News flash: Men don’t like being objectified anymore than you do. Seeing gay men as little more than dolls IS objectification.

     

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Pinterest
EmailEmail
PrintPrint