Why Girls Like Yaoi: A Biological Side?

Topic started by gia on Oct. 18, 2009. Last post by Sonata 2 years, 2 months ago.
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13

Warning: this post talks about yaoi, female arousal, and methods of measuring such.

There have been countless discussions online about why, exactly, girls are so damn into yaoi and/or slash. I've been a part of many of them-- I even explored it in-depth at The Escapist --and more recently, ANN's " Chicks On Anime" panel discussed the topic as well. However, all of us pretty much talk about it from a purely psychological standpoint.
 
But here's an interesting factoid that I just pulled out of a book that I've been reading, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. On page 253 of the paperback version, author (and journalist) Mary Roach says:

"A series of studies by Meredith Chivers and colleagues at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto showed that...women, both gay and straight, will show immediate genital arousal (as measured by a photoplethysmograph) in response to films of sexual activity, regardless of who is engaging in it-- male, female, gay, straight, good hair or bad. Men, contrary to stereotype, tend to respond in a limited manner; they are aroused only by footage that fits their sexual orientation and interests."

Now, this is in a section of the book that discusses the fact that what arouses a woman physically may not be what arouses her mentally, in stark contrast to most men. How'd they test it? Well, to go further in depth than you probably want me to: a woman has a photoplethysmograph inserted into her vagina, which measures the amount of arousal via amount of lubrication (which trickles through the vaginal walls when more blood is sent down that-away, if you weren't aware), and she also has an "arousometer" in her hand, with which she says how aroused she thinks she is by the material being watched.
 
In other words, the fact that straight and gay women respond physically to BL does NOT mean that they have some kind of innate taste for the stuff. It seems to me, however, that given this information, it's not so surprising that some significant number of women, once exposed to boy-on-boy material in a positive setting (aimed at their market, probably shown to them by a friend, etc), would move from only physical reaction to psychological as well.
 
Of course, this is no definitive answer to the age-old "why girls like yaoi" question, but it's certainly an additional piece to the puzzle.
Post by Sonata (35,640 posts) See mini bio Level 20
Moderator
Ahh very cool Article Gia, I always thought the reason Why girls watch Yaoi was the same reason Guys watch Yuri, but it seems like there is more to it than that.:)
Post by OneGreatTurtle (13 posts) See mini bio Level 1
Bonk is a pretty great book--I need to finish reading it, but it's both hilarious and informative, and Mary Roach is awesome at any rate. I don't think I've made it quite that far as that chapter, but I do know of the studies that reported a disconnect between physical and mental arousal in women (I think the report I read also mentioned that women showed similiar amounts of arousal to both men and women, which might also explain yuri a bit...but don't quote me on that).
 
The physical/mental disconnect is interesting--I don't know how much of that is biological in origin and how much is due to societal programming (the whole "lie back and think of England" attitude, and the Madonna-whore complex), but it's almost the reverse problem men have. No one tells us that physical and mental arousal are different, so men have the annoying tendency to conflate the two, or (worse) forget about the mental aspect and go for the physical.
 
I don't think there'll ever really be any straight-up reason that explains once and for all why girls like yaoi, for the same reason that we'll never have clear explanations for the popularity of the Heathcliff and Rochester windsome male tsundere bastaards.
Post by sunflower (191 posts) See mini bio Level 1
Why do people find it so strange?  Honestly, I don't see a bunch of articles on "Why do men like chicks making out with each other?"   I think it's just a sign that women's sexuality still can't be freely and equally expressed without people having to examine their psychology with the implication that something odd must be happening, and most of them do it in the most amateur sense possible.     At least the next time girls who don't like it go 'ewww' and feel the need to dissect us we can point them to this post and say "you evidently like it too; you just won't admit it."  Which, come to think of it, is a major yaoi theme. ;P
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
@OneGreatTurtle: I'm totally loving Bonk. I think I'm going to move into Pride and Prejudice and Zombies afterwards (speaking of popular tsundere male characters, Mssr. Darcy), but I may go back and read either Stiff or Spook, her two other books (on death and the afterlife, respectively). :D
 
@sunflower said:
" Why do people find it so strange?  Honestly, I don't see a bunch of articles on "Why do men like chicks making out with each other?"   I think it's just a sign that women's sexuality still can't be freely and equally expressed without people having to examine their psychology with the implication that something odd must be happening, and most of them do it in the most amateur sense possible.     At least the next time girls who don't like it go 'ewww' and feel the need to dissect us we can point them to this post and say "you evidently like it too; you just won't admit it."  Which, come to think of it, is a major yaoi theme. ;P "

Actually, a quick search for "why do men like lesbian porn" turns up plenty of results-- I believe there are still more men in psychological research than women, but as more women move into it we do start to see more research being done on why men think and, ahem, act the way they do.
Post by aztek the lost (116 posts) See mini bio Level 8
@gia said:
" Actually, a quick search for "why do men like lesbian porn" turns up plenty of results-- I believe there are still more men in psychological research than women, but as more women move into it we do start to see more research being done on why men think and, ahem, act the way they do. "
I don't know about all men but I think it may have to do with the fact that if I look at lesbian porn then I'm not making my homophobic feelings (that I like to bury away for the sake of being politically correct) afraid that I'm betraying my sexual orientation...if all the participants are female then I'm still straight, right? or at least that's how my male logic works...maybe I'm being too open and honest here but I'm already labeled as a freak so... :P
Post by OneGreatTurtle (13 posts) See mini bio Level 1
@gia: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is probably a good followup, but I'm waiting to read that until after I read Pride and Prejudice proper. The same company has put out a new one titled Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I hope they don't overdo it and ruin the joke, but we'll always have Mike Resnik and his alternate-world Teddy Roosevelt stories.
 
Meanwhile I need to read The Taming of the Shrew so I can get some Shakespearean tsundere action going on--and speaking of, when are we going to get the anime version with Rie Kugimiya playing Kate?
 
@sunflower: I don't find it strange at all--I'm a firm believer in equal-opportunity offense, and if, as you say, I enjoy girl-on-girl action then it follows that I have zero right to criticize girls enjoying guy-on-guy action. There's nothing weird about it whether you're male or female.
 
Incidentally, the lack of in-depth discussion on male sexual physiology is the one complaint I had with Bonk. I want to know how crazy I am too. :(
Post by Emandudeguyperson (182 posts) See mini bio Level 5
Hell I just thought it worked that way, men like to see chicks get it on and girls like to see dudes get it on, am I right?
Post by Slim (238 posts) See mini bio Level 3
Ahh ... This is the kind of weird research and discussions I always miss the most while stuck in prison. Good to see Gia is still hard at work being a big perv! >.<;
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
@OneGreatTurtle: You'd probably have to talk to Gonzo about doing Taming of the Shrew, and they don't seem to have the money to do much of anything right now. Besides which, they'd probably make it like, Taming of the Shrew-- WITH VAMPIRES!!! or something silly like that. (If anyone's not getting the reference: they did Count of Monte Cristo-- IN SPACE!!! and Romeo and Juliet-- ON A FLOATING ISLAND WITH PEGASUSES!!!)
 
That said, I'd still watch it.
 
@Emandudeguyperson: Men are more inclined to admit to it, but there's probably some truth to that assessment...though I also am of the opinion that there are a lot of other reasons why women get into BL, with all its very specific tropes (rape/coersion, very defined top/bottom roles, very effeminate guys, etc), as opposed to, say, live-action gay porn, which (relatively) few women enjoy. Even yaoi and BL fans don't seek out much live-action gay porn.
Post by SimonJones (24 posts) See mini bio Level 1
> a woman has a photoplethysmograph inserted into her vagina
 
> into her vagina
 
I have reason to believe the results of the study may be slightly skewed...
Post by Lan (621 posts) See mini bio Level 13
@sunflower said:
" Why do people find it so strange?  Honestly, I don't see a bunch of articles on "Why do men like chicks making out with each other?"   I think it's just a sign that women's sexuality still can't be freely and equally expressed without people having to examine their psychology with the implication that something odd must be happening, and most of them do it in the most amateur sense possible.     At least the next time girls who don't like it go 'ewww' and feel the need to dissect us we can point them to this post and say "you evidently like it too; you just won't admit it."  Which, come to think of it, is a major yaoi theme. ;P "
It's not strange that girls like yaoi. What I find strange is that yaoi has become dominant and privileged over heterosexuality in fandom. It's just ironic that something that is often viewed as secondary or less than in mainstream (though that's changing) has become basically the norm in the realm of fandom. And it's interesting that yaoi is targeted mainly at straight women. I don't think anyone's criticizing women's sexuality here. It's just an interesting question that can lead to all sorts of discussions on sexuality and its construction and performance, etc.
Post by JJOR64 (2,074 posts) See mini bio Level 16
That's some interesting stuff........
Post by Nerx (13,843 posts) See mini bio Level 12
I wonder if they prefer shota yaoi or GAR yaoi...
Post by sunflower (191 posts) See mini bio Level 1
@Lan: I don't think BL's become dominant over heterosexuality at all, just noisier because the yaoi fangirls are loud, and because everyone else seems to have to perform amateur analysis on what makes us tick, which irritates the hell out of me.  If I want psychoanalysis I'll go hire a professional. (and btw, I don't consider Gia's article to be in the annoying category, being about the physiological responses of women to sexual stimuli). 
 
But shoujo still sells way more than yaoi volumes almost ever do, though there is the occasional BL volume that breaks into the top ten.  If you check Japanese sales for shoujo volumes, the popular ones hit in the hundreds of thousands the first week of sales, whereas it's considered amazing for a BL volume to hit in the tens of thousands (and by comparison, some shounen sells in the millions).   Most het romance supporters, in manga as in novels, tend to be quiet consumers of massive numbers of books.

It's not really strange that yaoi is targeted at women.  That's what yaoi is by its definition.  If it's not targeted at women, it's not yaoi, it's gay.  (BTW, on my BL-focused community only 59% of the readers consider themselves to be straight (I've had about 600 people respond).  The rest are gay, lesbian, bi, pansexual, etc.; just an interesting thing to note. ^_^)  
 
Anyway, when sexuality for women became more of an open thing in the 60s, women wanted this expressed in all kinds of sexualized romance, and they wrote their own stories to fill those needs.  Slash, BL (though it was shounen ai then), and romance novels with sexually adventurous heroines, all for women readers, all took off in the 70s. The publishers responded to a group that bought and gave them more (Did you know romance novels make up almost 50% of all mass market fiction sales? That's a powerful lot of money.)  Women who love romance and erotica of all kinds support their love.  So BL and romance novels and slash genres arose around the same times, are created by women, and supported by a huge groups of mostly female consumers.  Most sales are in het romance, but het or BL, women want it, create it, and put their money where their mouths are and buy it.
 
So I don't see this debate as het vs mxm, but rather about a blossoming of different flavors of eroticized romance for women, and that seems to make people uncomfortable.  Which is what makes me think it all comes back to women's sexuality.
Post by FoxxFireArt (2,648 posts) See mini bio Level 25
Moderator
Uh, that study seems to imply that men are a close minded lot when it comes to sex.
 
I've seen examples of this in my art work. I often draw these Code Geass parody comics of my devArt page. In one in particular The sight gag at the end has Schneizel, completely nude, being spanked by his attendant, Kanon. For what ever reason, girls adore this image.
 
This happened again when I did a parody where lelouch didn't realize who he was in such emotional distress that he didn't realize who he was tlaking to and accidentally said something he regretted to Suzaku. This again got great female reactions.
 
I find my female audience is much more open to both any male or female nudity I draw, but my male audience gets uncomfortable with male nudity. I always tell them that I'll take their complaints seriously the day I get a guy complaining about the size of breasts on the women I draw.
Post by JackSukeru (402 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Well, well, the more you know..
Post by cfatalis (19,150 posts) See mini bio Level 15
@Nerx said:
" I wonder if they prefer shota yaoi or GAR yaoi... "
bi-shonen, GAR yaoi is for you know........, while shota has it's own niche
 
often bi-shonen and shota collapse, and it will sometime result in TRAP
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
@sunflower said:
"But shoujo still sells way more than yaoi volumes almost ever do, though there is the occasional BL volume that breaks into the top ten. "
It is worth noting, however-- a Media Blasters rep tells me that yaoi sells better than their straight hentai. :)
Post by dagas (37 posts) See mini bio Level 6
I think a better question would be, why would women not like yaoi. It has cute boys, romance, passion, forbidden love. 
 
I like both yaoi and yuri. Besides in anime boys and girls do not look that different. When I first came into contact with Japanese games/anime etc. I had a problem telling if a character was male or female sometimes.  
 
I mean for someone new to anime it can be quite hard to tell that this is not a girl  http://www.animevice.com/kenshin-himura/18-20500/all-images/84-55057/kenshinhimura4/83-74140/
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