Yaoi/Slash is Porn; But Does it Have Males?

Zephyrus and Hyacinth; Attic red-figure cup fr...

So, here’s the deal. Slash is a form of fan-fiction written that for the most part covers (male) homosexual relationships between two characters, from the same fantasy world, or even crossing boundaries (pun). Yaoi is anime/manga focused on homoeroticism.
So far, so good?

These are porn, and the characters written within them often fail to portray people of the gender they seemingly portray, not unlike lesbian pornorgraphy (pornography with two (or more!) women, mostly aimed at men, as distinct from pornography aimed at the lesbian community).

Now, I’m going to leave aside the discussion of whether Porn is or isn’t bad, but if we’re honest, fiction written in order to get people sexually aroused and which people use in order to get sexually aroused? I don’t really see any term to use to describe it aside from pornography.

My other claim which is a bit more controversial (that is less to say, it’s more of an opinion), is that there’s a “gender-swap” going on. The men in yaoi/slash, while they are males (biological distinction), are not men (social distinction). What they are, is women, or to put it in a crass but catchy manner – they are chicks with dicks.

This is not surprising, because it seems most slash is written by femles for females. It also seems more fan-fiction is written by females, so how much that distinction is significant is questionable, but… it’s written by women, and it’s mostly written for women. This is not unlike steamy purple prose dime-novels with flowery sex scenes.

It is also somewhat of a thorny issue, because what exactly makes for a “male character” or one with “male attributes” (I will use “male” here instead of “man”, the social distinction)? There are many men and women who will stand up and say that these attributes so long held as belonging to the “other” gender describe them. But I feel there’s something we can notice and still distinguish as being a male character or a female character.

I have read some slash, and I have read some femslash (like slash, but lesbian), and for some reason it kept nagging on me.. these characters do not behave, do not court, do not struggle or think in the manner which I attribute to male characters. It is often quite subtle, and I am the last person to argue for essentialism (that men and women are different from birth, and have different personalities because of their sex). And yet, the personalities, the stories, are the ones which “belong” to the other gender.

Harry Potter and Ron Weasley - The Gay WizardThe counter arguments against “our” group. I put “our” in scare-quotes because many of us will not side with what is now being attacked, and on another because even if it describes the majority it seems to be in part because that majority is male. Majority of bloggers and die-hard geeks, not the majority of people…

Yuri and Lesbian porn, that is, pornography with two female characters which is aimed at the male audience. This is an easy target, because as all porn, most of us know that this is not how people actually behave, this is not normal human behaviour. Likewise, these are not female characters on screen, and some may argue are not even human characters.

Japanese government and anime, the ethical discussion is interesting, but a large part of it is sociological and off-grounds for our purposes, but if the written word can be pornographic, so can anime/visual novels. This is without talking about whether pornography is inherently wrong; some people who do hold this position thus try to claim these things (and also slash) is not pornography. I disagree.

The point of pedophilia is very apt if you look at say, Harry Potter slash, because not only do the young characters have intercourse, you’ll find many Harry/Snape and other stories. And it’s not like yaoi in general and anime in particular is not heavy on the “lolicon” hinting.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on the issue.

This marks the blog’s 100th post, and as always, sharing is caring. Share if you agree with the post, share if you strongly disagree with the post, and share if you want other people to also read it. Twitter, Facebook Like, links, etc.

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18 comments on “Yaoi/Slash is Porn; But Does it Have Males?

  1. Mark says:

    So. This is a complicated issue.

    I’d argue that you are missing one big point: exactly what it means to be “male” is very subjective. Are men intellectual and logical? Not according to the ancient Greeks – they thought that women were coldly logical while only men could appreciate passion and love. Are men passionate, overcome by strong emotions? Not according to modern America, where men are encouraged to not have too many feelings. Are men less beautiful than women? Not according to Victorian England, where women were written of as having “incorrect” proportions when compared to men.

    So basically gender is a great big steaming pile of… assumptions, assumptions that vary hugely from place to place and time to time. That’s why I generally avoid making blanket statements about gender roles.

    Are the men in Yaoi feminine? Sure… to you.

    Anyway, to completely contradict myself by branching off something you did say, the men in Yaoi are generally aimed at girls who want to be titillated, not gay men. They resemble girls because the writers are hoping a female audience will identify with them. In some ways, they are a “female fantasy of maleness,” much like the “lesbians” in male-directed pornography are a “male fantasy of femaleness.”

    How do I reconcile these two points? Basically, I’ll concede that while you can make statements about what seems more “male” and more “female” in a given temporal and cultural context, it really isn’t fair to say that the dudes in these stories aren’t male because they don’t coincide with your idea of maleness. That said, the phenomenon you have noted is interesting because of what it reveals about the audience of Yaoi and slashfic.

    Mark, Captain of the Burning Zeppelin

    • Guy says:

      Hey Mark, it’s good to see you here :)

      I’ll begin by saying that yes, this is a complicated issue.
      What it means to be a male is very much a question of the time and place. That is undoubtedly true. That does not mean gender has no meaning, it just has a meaning reliant on when and where invoked…
      BTW, I always found those moments in the Socratic Dialogues quite amusing. But you can’t blame Socrates/Plato, who wanted all the good looking boys for himself. I mean, the Symposium and Alcibiades? :D

      But that does bring us to the point; we generally can feel “around” the shape of gender, because it is so amorphous, and as you say, because they are written for a certain purpose, they are written in such a way that they cross the boundary (or I’d say, usually exist completely on the other side of the gender-divide), on purpose. This can’t really be done if the writers didn’t have an idea of where the divide lay.

      Now, to clarify, I’m not saying that they are written on the other divide is proof that it exists, for that’d be backwards. I’m saying that the characters are written to be on the other side of where the authors feel the divide to be…

      Your before-last paragraph (beginning with “Anyway”), is exactly what I’ve been trying to say, but put more succintly. I think identification is a part of it, I think they also hit more of the “Tittilation buttons”, and are closer to the ideal that is “lacking” – as in my answer to Canne below.

      Also, I don’t find them feminine. I don’t find them to be men. They are characters taken directly from cheap romance novels, with a gender-swap. Well, the concept of men in romance novels is also interesting, but I haven’t read enough of those to comment too deeply there. 2-3 were enough for me ;)

      P.S. I edited your post to close the open italics tag.

  2. Baka-Raptor says:

    I’ve never read any yaoi, so all I know are the stereotypes. In my view, it all boils down to this: if they look like girls and act like girls, they may as well be girls.

    • Guy says:

      Except for the tittilation it needs to cause, which is why it’s written in the first place to a large degree (If they just were girls, it’d be yuri).

      Also, good to see you here. I thought you might like this post. Now we just need the missing Snarky.

  3. kluxorious says:

    I love anything and everything that has to do with yaoi so you probably can guess what my reaction is and most of the time I don’t see them act girlish unless he was portrayed as some pussywuss in the beginning. So yeah *shrugs*

    oh btw, Ron is so dreamy @_@

    • Guy says:

      Why do you like yaoi? And well, it’s not “girly”, it’s not a feminine boy. It’s not always a boy at all. And yes, it’s hard to point out where exactly this happens, thus the comparison to lesbian porn (aimed at heterosexual men), and the even stronger claim that what happens in porn doesn’t actually depict human characters, which is quite a claim.

      Yaoi and yuri certainly have their places, I have nothing against them, just pointing out that I think they are not as they are described :)

      • kluxorious says:

        Why do I like yaoi? It has something to do with forbidden romance I think. Or unconventional.

        But, if that’s the case I should like yuri too. Which I don’t.

        I guess I just like reading/watching guys make out. lol

  4. Yi says:

    Very interesting post. The second claim is indeed controversial. I’m not sure what I think of it as of yet. I think the main qualm about it is that without defining how men and women should act (which opens a whole other thing), it’s hard to argue that the men in yaoi are really women. Still, based on gender role stereotypes many readers and authors have, the point is certainly valid.

    Well, I know less about yaoi than yuri, though I have seen/ read a few yaoi titles and several shounen ai stuff. It’s not always all “girly” men, though most are pretty boys. ^ ^

    As for fictional pedophilic material, it’s a touchy subject because it involve heavy legal consequences.

    Anyways, great post. It’s given me a lot to think about. Also, congrats on 100 posts. ^ ^

    • Guy says:

      It’s a really hard issue, regarding gender-roles. See Mark’s comment above as well. I am still considering my reply to that, but most of it is true (and I think I’ve said so as well).

      It’s not really that they are girly, or feminine, or weak. In many ways, it’s not really about the characters themselves and more about their relationship and the stories that are told. And it is very much a cultural and temporal thing, yes.

      And Yi, all pornography involves such issues. Pornography is legal, but not everyone wishes for it to remain legal. Animation and its relation to pornography is also a touchy subject, since while paedophilia is obviously illegal, pedophilic animation is in limbo…

      And thank you :) It’s been a long road.

  5. Canne says:

    I rarely read any of those genre, yaoi/slash. But I suspect that the males in yaoi which is written by women contains the qualities of both genre. Or in short, an ideal male who has what real male lacks. Now I am starting to have a headache +_+

    • Guy says:

      It’s very interesting that ideal specimen are defined by what most/all lack, rather than the ideal being something that most not only can but have already achieved.

  6. Ninjovee says:

    Wow. Congratulations on your 100th post! And what a surprising topic it is, not all guys want to talk about Yaoi/Slash in an analytical sense. I have to say though, that HP slash photo… I dunno what to say. LOL

    As far as reading slash/femslash fanfiction is concerned, I haven’t read a lot, compared to other girls out there, actually. It’s funny because studying in a Catholic school, one either becomes uptight about these kinds of subjects or becomes quite open-minded. At first I was the former, but after some influence of friends, I became the latter.

    Having read a fair share of slash, G Wing slash being the first of what I’ve read (typical!), I cannot agree to your statement that all the characters in slash are “chicks with dicks”. Well, unless the writers tend to write the characters out of cannon — a common issue with fanfiction writers. Usually the Seme is depicted as the “male” and the Uke is depicted as the “female” in terms of their actions and demeanor. Physically though, it really depends, although I think slash with manly (like Kamina) men are possibly scarce, I have a feeling it definitely exists. No offense meant to others there, but I shudder at seeing real life gym buffs who are gay Dx I dunno why, but it’s there. I’m pretty sure there are some who get freaked out by the same thing too, but then again, there are definitely some people who like that.

    I have to agree with Mark, the first commenter. Considering the men in slash as “male” or not is totally subjective. Just that majority think of males having a strong demeanor, instead of being sensitive.

    • Guy says:

      I don’t think it’s totally subjective. Mark as well points out that it’s more closely related to the time and place you’re at. There are definitely social definitions of what’s masculine and what’s feminine.

      Anyway, being muscular is not what I identify as being “man-like”, and certainly not what I’m talking about. These “strong man” characters often strike me as fake as well. Thing is, you do have people acting like that in real life, often mimicking such cliches, and you have them in soap operas and such as well. But still, even those “Seme” are usually not male. And again, it’s not really them that I focus on, but their interactions.
      I’m loathe to say it, but perhaps you need to be a male and be always a male amidst males to see it, or maybe I’m just wrong ;)

      I don’t think the reason males don’t discuss this is because it makes them uncomfortable, due to what the issue is. Lesbian porn and yuri are equivalent topics. I think regarding slash the problem is with fans. It’s uncomfortable to discuss next to any topic calmly with fans, especially rabid ones.
      You want to see rabid fans, look at slash-writers on LJ, especially when LJ had issues with their pedophilic slash, or when authors dare to say they do not approve of fanfiction in their settings.

      And thank you :) 100 posts, woot!

  7. lovelyduckie says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA nice choice for your milestone 100th post. I actually don’t have any defined thoughts on this topic because neither yaoi or yuri are my cup of tea. I have nothing against it, it’s just not for me.

    • Guy says:

      Yeah, I wanted my 100th post to be special!
      Sadly, didn’t get posts and links that caused this post to roar into life. Maybe in the future :)

      And I agree with your sentiment, overall. Minus the defined thought part, for obvious reasons :D

  8. […] I thought it’s interesting, so I am going to share it, especially seeing what I covered in my 100th post, regarding slash-fic. Anyway, onward we […]

  9. I LIVE FOR ONLY...YAOI says:

    i have been an avid and VERY devoted fan of all things YAOI for years. i love all the hot men/boys making out with/getting ?raped? by other men. its hot as hell and i DO NOT care what anyone anywhere has to say about what makes me tick. my own mother has never been able to sway my interests. i cant explain to ?normal? ppl why i enjoy YAOI so immensely. whether its the unconventionalness of it or because same sex (mainly gay men) are frowned upon in rl (modern) society. ive never been one to like yuri. they girls in yuri just seem so incredibly whiny and beyond irritating. like, i really would slap the lot of them if i could. thats about it for now. thanks for listening :)

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