Anime Vice News

All You Ever Wanted To Know About Yaoi (And More)

A new volume of essays about boy-on-boy-for-girls.


It seems like we've been reporting on a lot of new scholarly(ish) books on anime and manga these days, doesn't it? Tip of the hat to The Yaoi Review, who spotted this new volume: Boys' Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre.

Long title, but I can give a thumbs-up to at least one of its three authors: Dr. Antonia Levi taught at Portland State University in my former-adopted-hometown of Portland, OR for eight years, and I heard a lot of good things about her Japanese history and culture classes during my own brief attendance at PSU.

Levi has been working with her co-authors Mark McHarry and Dru Pagliasotti for some time now, and the book is in fact a series of essays by these three and others, including Yaoi Press publisher Yamila Abraham, Dr. Marni Stanley (best known as a Buffy the Vampire Slayer scholar and critic), and GLBT lit expert Dr. Mark John Isola.

I think it's fair to say that even though I know the source of the cover image (I think it was used for Yaoi-Con 2008's art anthology), I've long been interested in yaoi from a scholarly standpoint as well as from a fan's-- I did write that whole big yaoi piece for The Escapist, after all. But even without that I still think this book sounds more interesting than Anime and Philosophy...
constanzadellarosaon Jan. 27, 2010 at 5:38 a.m.
Yay! this looks really interesting. I have been always curious about yaoi (and Japan's take on homosexuality). Your essay was excellent, perfect for people that don't fully get what yaoi is.
John_Martoneon Jan. 27, 2010 at 11:49 a.m.
@gia said:
" I think it's fair to say that even though I know the source of the cover image (I think it was used for Yaoi-Con 2008's art anthology), I've long been interested in yaoi from a scholarly standpoint as well as from a fan's-- I did write that whole big yaoi piece for The Escapist, after all. But even without that I still think this book sounds more interesting than Anime and Philosophy... "
Hmm... that is a good article.
 
I dunno, as long as I don't see insane amounts of squeeing inside this book, I could see it being an interesting read. People are interesting. Trying to explain why we do what we do is moreso.
CharkeeFarleeon Jan. 27, 2010 at 2:03 p.m.
DO 
WANT
giaon Jan. 27, 2010 at 2:22 p.m.
Aw, I'm so glad a few people commented on this poor lonely article. I mean, no comments is still a better place to be than a dozen "ewwww, yaoi" comments, but a few positive comments are even better than that :D
sunfloweron Jan. 28, 2010 at 11:57 a.m.
I missed this.  I'd be interested in seeing a review of the book.  I'm really, really skeptical about it, since a lot of people talk about yaoi and know nothing about it or its fans.  I mean, they do research but they just don't get it.  So if these people 'get' it, I'd like to read it.  But only if they do otherwise it will just annoy the crap out of me.  Thanks for the head's up, Gia.
sunfloweron Jan. 28, 2010 at 12:07 p.m.
Your article is good btw, but I think it focuses too much on the sex, as Western essay writers about yaoi tend to do.  What's important for most readers of yaoi is that the sex is in an emotional context.  If we want m/m porn, we can get it.  But we keep going back to the stories that contain more.  Yaoi isn't female porn with guys, yaoi is romance novels with guys.  Romance novels have the same range of sexual expression, from kisses to erotica, but sex is always part of a relationship.  That's the key, and when essayists see that, I know they understand yaoi and its fans.
reinon Jan. 28, 2010 at 12:11 p.m.
To be perfectly honest i've never wanted to know Anything about yaoi, But Your article was pretty interesting.
giaon Jan. 28, 2010 at 12:27 p.m.
@sunflower: I think I actually did talk about it, in that I discussed how sex in yaoi more closely resembles straight porn (submissive bottom who lays back, moans, and writhes in pleasure) than actual gay sex-- the implication being that it's not "gay sex" that gets girls into yaoi, but the setting of the story (the built-in taboo, primarily, but I could go on for hours about the rest). ;) 
 
Actually, I could go on about theories of the psychology behind yaoi for hours too, but this article was designed to be an overview of the topic, not an exhaustive report, so a lot of things had to be left out that I would have loved to address.
sunfloweron Jan. 28, 2010 at 1:47 p.m.
@gia: Yours is one of the few articles I've ever read on yaoi that got all the facts right.  You did excellent research.
 
But I think that the sex in yaoi / straight porn comparison is unfortunate.  Rather it is like sex in straight romance as opposed to gay, a seemingly small but very significant difference.  Because of the porn comparison, people come away from the article equating yaoi with porn, and that's just not accurate.  I'm not saying that sex isn't significant in yaoi -it is- but it's not the main point of it, not since the word yaoi was coined.
 
I'm coming at this as a long-time advocate of romance novels.  I've seen too many people equate the novels with porn, because they're uncomfortable with any expression of sexuality from women.  They will not accept that sex is a part of romance, and thus one that can rightly be explored and written about in novels about romance.  To them, anything with graphic sexual expression equals porn, which is silly.  
 
So for me, seeing yaoi manga as the graphic novel equivalent of romance novels but with men, I get annoyed when people focus on the sexual aspect to exclusion of all else, and especially when porn is brought in as an equivalent.
 
*Edit: You didn't do this to the exclusion of all else, but the porn bit made me wince.
John_Martoneon Jan. 28, 2010 at 4:19 p.m.
@gia said:
" Aw, I'm so glad a few people commented on this poor lonely article. I mean, no comments is still a better place to be than a dozen "ewwww, yaoi" comments, but a few positive comments are even better than that :D "
Such a drama queen.
 
@sunflower:
Very interesting insight. Its in a way that any gender/orientation can enjoy a good romance with interesting characters, even if it does not match up with their own feelings/preferences. Though I think some degree of connecting sex and yaoi is unavoidable. Like all endeavors, not all Yaoi is artfully done or about heavy emotions, and can degenerate into me being stuck in a room with three women giggling at a centaur getting his junk fondled by a man. 
 
Not that such a thing has happened since Saturday, but I'm just saying.
sunfloweron Jan. 28, 2010 at 5:14 p.m.
@John_Martone: Ewww?  Though really the first thing that comes to mind is, which set? -__-;
 
Yes, it can happen, and does.  And it happens at one particular romance novel convention where men are treated the same way.  But fans aren't the books, regardless of how it leads some of them to behave.
 
I'm not arguing that sex isn't part of yaoi or romance.  Of course it is.   Yaoi and romance are sexually liberating because of it.  And too, who wants a romance in RL without a physical side to it, other than nuns or something?  That why it's part of these books.   But sex isn't the only part of yaoi/romance, and I just wish people wouldn't equate it with yaoi/romance as if it were, and as if it were the only important thing about them.  
 
To me, the focus on the physical to the exclusion of the emotional is a patriarchal approach, one that's devalued the emotional content and focus of many women's works for years, leading to the lower rung status of romance as a whole when writing in the genre is no better or worse than in most other genres.  It's sad to see the same thing occur to yaoi. 
 
I don't think Gia did that.  But the use of porn comparisons leads readers doing that, IMO.  And frankly it's what happens in most essays on the matter, and what I fear will happen in the above book.  But it would be nice if it didn't.
xiaoyuntuon Jan. 30, 2010 at 6:07 a.m.

Did you get a permission or pay Heise to use her artwork for your artbook. You will get yourself sued if you didn't. We can't tolerate art thief.

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