Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Fetishization of Gay Men in Manga

            One popular genre of manga in Japan is Yaoi, more commonly known as Boys’ Love (BL), is primary centered on young gay men. These comics are written by straight women intended to be read by straight women.  BL manga depicts mainly homoerotic scenes in graphic detail that at best tangentially connected to the lives of actual gay men in Japan (McLelland and Welker). Their widespread availability and popularity might suggest that being openly gay in Japan is easy, but BL manga’s only purpose is to meet the sexual fantasies of straight women. Yaoi superfans called fujoshi or “rotten women” even rent out karaoke room and listen to audio files of BL manga to feel some kind of sexual arousal. It seems as if these rotten women do not really understand the reality of being gay in Japan and are only objectifying gay sex.  With same-sex marriage still being illegal in Japan having sexual desire for someone of the same sex is still considered to be taboo.

            Representations of any group of individuals, especially marginalized groups, in mainstream media can help bring light to the specific struggles faced by oppressed groups and can help exposure the general public to a plethora of different identities. Yaoi manga is an extreme exaggeration of the lives of gay Japanese men and as a result many people do not consider being gay a valid identity. With a lack of information circulating around Japan many people believe that gay people are only on TV and overseas and not simply assimilating to the homogenous Japanese culture that perpetuates heteronormativity. Inaccurate representations in BL manga further stigmatize gay men by always associating the lives of gay men with fetishized sex. Fujoshi superfans fail to comprehend the bleak reality faced by gay men in Japan and in doing so do not help normalize same-sex relationships and desires.

            Yaoi manga has not only continued to make gay sex taboo in Japan, but further alienates gay men who read the comics and cannot identify with any of the characters. This fantasy world creates unrealistic representations of sex for gay men since it is one of the only sources of information regarding gay sex publicized in Japan. Always depicting the top, or penetrative partner, as the dominate one in the relationship and the bottom, or receiving partner, as the submissive one in the relationship again continues to popularize stereotypes readily consumed by the public as facts. It can be challenging to understand your own identity if you cannot see yourself represented by tropes in popular culture.  BL manga and fujoshi women’s fetishization of gay sex and gay relationships silence the voices of gay men and prevent social equality. In Japan homosexuality has been interpreted as a naughty hobby that men partake in by choice, and it is not seen as an innate and valid sexual orientation. 

McLelland, Mark, Nagaike, Kazumi, and Suganuma, Katsuhiko, eds. Boys Love Manga and Beyond : History, Culture, and Community in Japan. Jackson, US: University Press of Mississippi, 2015. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 25 April 2017.

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