Autoethnographic Invesitation: Japanese Yaoi Manga Summary

Jyotsna Singh

In my final blog, I decided to explore my last arguably most important epiphany during my reading of Fake – the ethical and legal lined which Yaoi seemed to surpass. I was left feeling puzzled by how such explicit and sexual images were aimed at teenage girls. Furthermore, in a particular scene, despite Ryo saying that ‘he’s not ready’ (for having sex), Dee pushes him to the bed and shouts ‘silence, love-slave!’ as it was time to have ‘fun, fun, fun’. I was shocked by this because it essentially violates the fundamental legal notion of ‘consent’ to sexual intercourse. I must admit, I did not appreciate that particular part of the text.

During my reading, I questioned how could such texts be appropriate for teenage girls when pornography clearly is not? Furthermore, while Fake does not present this, Yaoi often depicts homoerotic relationships involving underage boys. As a student of legal studies, I…

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Autoethnographic Invesitation: Japanese Yaoi Manga Part 2

Jyotsna Singh

Upon my reading of Fake, a classic form of Yaoi Japanese manga, a number of thoughts went through my head and I decided to delve further into them.

Upon reading the final volume of Fake, while I felt confronted and confused, I was also left feeling intrigued, with several thoughts passing through my head. The first thing I could not help but question was how did this genre develop and become popular in quite — what I thought was— a conservative Japanese society? Thus I felt the urge to explore the brief history of Yaoi and learn about the basic conventions of this genre.

Upon furthering my research, I learnt that Yaoi first appeared in the 1970s, out of a genre of Japanese women’s comics known as shōnen’ai. It emerged as a reaction against the contrived and formulaic heterosexual love stores marketed at a female audience at that time’…

View original post 475 more words

Autoethnography Invesitation: Japanese Yaoi Manga

Jyotsna Singh

Today – a day before my assignment for this subject is due – I decided to change my autoethnographic experience from learning how to cook to exploring Japanese manga. I know it’s crazy but I just was not feeling confident enough with submitting my assignment on my previous idea. I decided to explore Japanese manga because it is foreign to me and I knew it would challenge me. Furthermore, a couple of years ago, on one of my Sociology classes, I briefly read about the existence of a manga genre called Yaoi. I remember feeling quite intrigued by this genre upon learning about it. Yaio (boy love) focuses on male romantic and homoerotic sexual relationships. Yaio conforms to the seme-uke dichotomy, whereby the top, dominant male (seme) pursues the bottom, passive figure (uke). Interestingly, this is not written for a male audience; in fact it is written by female authors…

View original post 560 more words

Autoethnographic Invesitation: Japanese Yaoi Manga Summary

In my final blog, I decided to explore my last arguably most important epiphany during my reading of Fake – the ethical and legal lined which Yaoi seemed to surpass. I was left feeling puzzled by how such explicit and sexual images were aimed at teenage girls. Furthermore, in a particular scene, despite Ryo saying that ‘he’s not ready’ (for having sex), Dee pushes him to the bed and shouts ‘silence, love-slave!’ as it was time to have ‘fun, fun, fun’. I was shocked by this because it essentially violates the fundamental legal notion of ‘consent’ to sexual intercourse. I must admit, I did not appreciate that particular part of the text.

During my reading, I questioned how could such texts be appropriate for teenage girls when pornography clearly is not? Furthermore, while Fake does not present this, Yaoi often depicts homoerotic relationships involving underage boys. As a student of legal studies, I was left wondering how such texts could be allowed in Japan when such images are defined as ‘child pornography’ in Australia? For example, under section 91H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), any films or publications that depict children actually or apparently under the age of 16, in a sexual context or victims of cruelty, physical abuse or torture are criminalised. Thus this left me in a dilemma; is Yaoi manga art or pornography? Such laws exist to protect children and criminalise material that advocate for the sexual abuse of children. However, while I am no expert in Yaoi manga, I do not believe Yaoi is used as a genre to cause harm to children. Furthermore, as McLelland (2005, p.69) argues, ‘the highly stylised nature of the illustrations and conventional plot lines of the narratives…militate against any realistic interpretation of these stories’. Such laws inadvertently criminalises a large, female yaoi manga fans, who comes together to share their love for fictional ‘beautiful boys’. Indeed, this can be problematic and arguably harmful to young people as it restricts their freedom to express sexual fantasies in a secure and supportive environment (McLelland & Yoo 2007, p.1) – this can be viewed as an important issue of censorship.

While I am currently restricted with time, I am particularly interested in this issue. I plan to further my research in this area and develop and understanding on whether Australian policy-makers have addressed this legal issues. I think it is worth considering the utility of these laws through their extension in application to such comics. Indeed, the law seems more draconian in this area.

References:

McLelland, M 2005, ‘The World of Yaoi: The Internet, Censorship and the Global ‘Boy’s Love’ Fandom’, The Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol.23, pp.61-77.

McLelland M, Yoo, S 2007, ‘The international Yaoi boys’ love fandom and the regulation of virtual child pornography: current legislation and its implications’, Journal of Sexuality Research and Social Policy, vol.4, no.1, pp.93-104.

Autoethnographic Invesitation: Japanese Yaoi Manga Part 2

Upon my reading of Fake, a classic form of Yaoi Japanese manga, a number of thoughts went through my head and I decided to delve further into them.

Upon reading the final volume of Fake, while I felt confronted and confused, I was also left feeling intrigued, with several thoughts passing through my head. The first thing I could not help but question was how did this genre develop and become popular in quite — what I thought was— a conservative Japanese society? Thus I felt the urge to explore the brief history of Yaoi and learn about the basic conventions of this genre.

Upon furthering my research, I learnt that Yaoi first appeared in the 1970s, out of a genre of Japanese women’s comics known as shōnen’ai. It emerged as a reaction against the contrived and formulaic heterosexual love stores marketed at a female audience at that time’ (McLelland 2005). Interestingly, this phallocentric phenomenon has largely been influenced by the the system of patriarchy. Through Yaoi, Japanese women have used patriarchy to empower themselves by adopting imagined male subjectivities instead of female subjectivities. This is because the exploration of inner sexual desires through boy-love was deemed safer and more liberating. Arguably, women had to resort to Yaoi because as women, they could not enjoy fantasies tailored to their desires if they were expressed through stories about heterosexual romance. As Akiko Hori (2013) writes ‘This claim is based on the idea that a fictional romantic relationship between equal partners is much more likely to appeal to, and be plausible to, female readers and creators if the relationship is between two men.’ Thus Yaoi enables women to challenge the gender binaries as their characters are not confined to such dual constructions.

This made me question how such a genre was popular amongst a heterosexual female audience. I found it interesting that such boy-love depictions were for women, not homosexual men. I personally struggled with trying to comprehend this because as a young woman myself who loves watching the classic rom-coms, I could not understand how this would appeal to women. A number of questions filled my head: What attracts Japanese women to yaoi? Is yaoi manga a form of empowerment for Japanese women? According to Mark McLelland, ‘as a fantasy trope for women, male homosexuality is understood to be a beautiful and pure form of romance’ in Japan (Wood 2006, p.395). This it is a fantasy which idealises men’s physical beauty and the romance two male partners can share.

Indeed, my exposure to Yaoi challenged my assumptions about Japanese society’s conservatism towards homosexuality. I simply assumed, because Japan is a non-western country, it would condone homosexuality. Even upon reading Fake, it did not cross my mind that perhaps Japan is more accepting of homosexuality. Instead, I assumed that the representation of homosexuality was only allowed as fiction for other symbolic purposes. However, to my surprise, I learnt that as the world’s only fully ‘modernised’ non-western culture, Japan does not have a history of hostility towards homosexuality, with majority of Japanese people in support of same-sex relationships. Nevertheless, homosexuality as a status of sexual orientation has not been widely embraced, and has merely been tolerated. Interestingly though, during the period of the Meiji Restoration, as a result of Western influences, Japan experienced more vocal criticisms towards homosexual behaviour. Apparently, ‘the Japanese elite experienced a desire to “absorb Western learning in order to obtain the respect of Western nations”’.  As homosexuality was considered ‘abnormal’, the homophobia of the West infiltrated Japanese society, and same-sex relationships came to be viewed as uncivilised. I thought it was quite interesting how Western values influenced Japanese values and made Japanese society more conservative. However, Yaoi manga demonstrates how Japan has progressed significantly since that period.

Autoethnography Invesitation: Japanese Yaoi Manga

Today – a day before my assignment for this subject is due – I decided to change my autoethnographic experience from learning how to cook to exploring Japanese manga. I know it’s crazy but I just was not feeling confident enough with submitting my assignment on my previous idea. I decided to explore Japanese manga because it is foreign to me and I knew it would challenge me. Furthermore, a couple of years ago, on one of my Sociology classes, I briefly read about the existence of a manga genre called Yaoi. I remember feeling quite intrigued by this genre upon learning about it. Yaio (boy love) focuses on male romantic and homoerotic sexual relationships. Yaio conforms to the seme-uke dichotomy, whereby the top, dominant male (seme) pursues the bottom, passive figure (uke). Interestingly, this is not written for a male audience; in fact it is written by female authors for a predominately young (as young as teens!) female readership.I decided to read Sanami Matoh’s seven-volume boy-love manga Fake, which is an example from the Yaio genre. I chose this comic because upon doing some research, I found out it was quite popular.

The story of Fake focuses on a romantic —which later turns sexual —relationship between two New York City detectives (Dee and Ryo). In the final volume, Dee and Ryo rekindle their relationship and confess their true love for each other. As they talk, both reminisce of the night they spent together three weeks ago. Dee then asks Ryo if he could kiss him and later they end up having a night out together in the city. The night end with the two having sex. During my reading, a number of thoughts crossed through my head:

  • the beautiful artistic detail of the drawing – however, sometimes certain images seemed quite abstract and left me feeling a little confused.
  • I also found it quite difficult to follow – i’m not used to such visual narrative structures – i noticed how I had to rely less on the words and more on the details/symbolism of the visuals – while this might sound obvious, i’m not used to it as I rarely read stories which are supported with visuals!
  • The androgynous physical characteristics of both male characters made it sometimes difficult to discern who was male.
  • The explicit and violent sex between the characters was a little confronting as I am not usually exposed to this in cartoon form…not that I am ever exposed to it in any form. But you would not expect this to appear in cartoon form because you associate animation/cartoon to children. Similar to my exploration of the Anime film, Ghost in the Shell, this challenged my assumption that cartoons were only for children!
  • I was quite surprised by the extensive detail during the sex scene between Dee and Ryo.
  • The power dynamics between Dee and Ryo was interesting – Dee was obvious the ‘controller’ – Ryo seemed inferior to him. Despite Ryo saying that that ‘he’s not ready’,  Dee pushes him to the bed and shouts ‘silence, love-slave!’ as it was time to have ‘fun, fun, fun’ —I was shocked by this as it arguably violates the fundamental legal notion of ‘consent’.
  • During the read of the text, I kept thinking how surprised I was about how such themes/storylines would be allowed in Japan. I assumed Japan was quite a conservative society where homosexuality was not really condoned.
  • I thought it was interesting but also confusing how such a text is aimed towards young females – it left me wondering whether it was a form of empowerment for women? Although, while it may be good for women’s movements, did it not also undermine homosexual men but limiting their experiences to sex and erotica?
  • I also thought about how is an ethical concern that Fake is aimed at young women and teenage girls. Some of the images are arguably quite explicit, sexual and pornographic. How can such texts be appropriate for teenage girls when pornography clearly is not?

Anyway, that was my experience with Japanese Yaoi manga. I must admit, my brain is exploding with the amount of thoughts running through my head. I feel quite fascinated by this genre and I’m keen to delve further into some of these issues.

Autoethnographic Invesitagtion: Cooking Indian Food Take 2

Last week I cooked up an Indian meal for the first time. It was quite an interesting experience. I felt like I had actually cooked something up properly from scratch — unlike merely steaming veggies and placing a chicken in the oven. I was amazed by all the different ingredients used to create such a simple dish.

However, what struck me the most was how my mum made a minor adjustment to the lentils dish (but adding only a small amount of chilli) to cater to my tastebuds. According to her, i’m not a ‘true’ Indian because I can’t/don’t like eat/eating spicy food. My parents attribute this to me being born in Australia — unlike my brother — and developing different taste buds as a result of that. Whether or not this is true, I could not help but feel interested by how Chefs alter their foods of different cultures and countries to cater to the people they serve their food to. I know this definitely holds true for Indian food. I remember when I was younger, I always used to feel confused by my mum’s homemade butter chicken and the butter chicken we would eat out in restaurants. My mum’s butter chicken has never been sweet, whereas when you order butter chicken in Australia from a restaurant, it is always super sweet. Similarly, only recently when I was in India and we ordered butter chicken, I was expecting it to be sweet but it wasn’t. Then I realised authentic Indian butter chicken is not meant to be sweet at all. This suggests that Indian food offered in Australian restaurants is essentially ‘watered-down’ and adjusted to cater to the Australian pallet.  Similarly, the easy-to-make kits you get in the supermarket is completely different to authentic Indian food. This left me wondering to what extent is Indian food altered to cater to the Australian pallet. Other than making butter chicken sweet and perhaps adding less chilli in Indian food, what else is done? Is this why Indian food is quite popular in Australia? Would Indian food be less popular if it was made authentically as it is made in India? Are such adjustments good or bad?