Evolved Boy’s Love: How Fujoshi Could Eliminate Prejudice

withnews 5/4/2016
Asahi Shinbun Tokyo Local News Reporter Harada Akemi

Fujoshi, otherwise known as “rotten women”. It’s a moniker for women who enjoy depictions of romantic relationships between men. What do these women think about gay people in the real world?

“I definitely feel guilty”

“Well, I definitely feel guilty…”

Twenty-seven-year-old company worker Kakuno Masami says that she has always been interested in gay people. When I told her I wanted to write about ‘gay men and fujoshi’, she enthusiastically offered to speak with me.

Kakuno told me that because she attended an all-girls school, she was always surrounded by BL. Just like romance and yuri manga (※yuri are comics and novels about female homosexuality), she came to love BL.

“It must be unpleasant to get picked on”

“I feel guilty consuming these types of stories. I can only guess, but if it were the other way around and someone was depicting my life in this manner, I think I would feel uncomfortable.”

According to Kakuno, she has lesbian and bisexual friends, but no gay friends. Curious as to what gay people think of BL, she has reached out to gay men over SNS. There were some who said they read it and some who expressed their distaste of it.

“What’s the difference between real life and BL?”

At Comiket (コミックマーケット) a manga event popular with fujoshi, it appears that male authors of BL comics are also setting up booths. However, fujoshi, including Kakuno, lack the courage to speak with them, choosing to keep their distance.

I asked her about what she would like to ask if she could speak with a gay person.

“The way BL characters’ feelings waver in their relationships is very characteristic of shoujo manga (※Shoujo manga is manga aimed at a teenage female readership), but I wonder what it’s like for real gay people. I want to learn the differences between real life and BL.”

Love, Obligation, Curiosity, Guilt

While the characters in BL may be male, the works are merely a fantasy world catered towards the ideals and desires of women. Within the fujoshi, there are some who claim “I don’t want to destroy our world”, and have no desire to learn about the reality for gay men. Kakuno believes she doesn’t think like that.

“There are fujoshi who say they don’t want to ruin the world they’ve created, but I’d rather embrace the real world. I want to read works that reflect what gay people are actually thinking. However, it goes against my feeling that I don’t want to bother them…”

Love, obligation, curiosity, guilt. It seems that there are a variety of mixed feelings.

The “Evolved BL” of the 2000’s

The truth is, BL has been changing from generation to generation.

Law school lecturer Mizoguchi Akiko is an avid BL fan and researcher, and also identifies as a lesbian. In June of last year, she published her research in “The Evolutionary Theory of BL: The Influence of Society on Boy’s Love” (Ohata Books).

For example, until the end of the 90’s, BL characters would often declare “I’m not gay,” and there were many references in stories about discrimination towards gay people. From the year 2000 and onward, society has become less narrow-minded, and works that depict a world where gays can live happily have been introduced.

Mizoguchi has come to call these works “Evolved BL”.

Imagining Yourself in Their Situation

What is behind this change?

First is the evolution of society. More and more information about sexual minorities has begun to be circulated on the internet, and the understanding of sexual minorities is making progress.

The other reason is what Mizoguchi describes as “realistic imagining”.

“The characters in BL are an object of affection by both the author and the readers. One part of being a BL author is imagining ‘how would a same-sex couple deal with not being able to have children? Would they come out to the people around them?’, and so on. The author must imagine how they could live happily within Japanese society by imagining themselves in the character’s situation. The result of this are works that depict the characters in a world without discrimination and where gay people can live happily.”

Stories That Are Changing Society

This may be so, but it’s not like authors and fans are saying, “Gay people have it pretty bad, so let’s not draw terrible things”, right?

“Yes, the stories aren’t changing out of pity. ‘Evolved BL’ was not born of a desire to be compassionate (towards gay men). It’s because both the authors and fans of BL are ‘living’ in the world of these handsome male characters.”

“In order for these characters (whom the author and readers identify with) to live happily, there is a desire for the characters to be depicted in a way that overcomes the hate and prejudice towards homosexuality (that exists in real life). So even though BL is just romantic entertainment, the signs of society’s evolving attitude towards homosexuality is being reflected in the stories.

The Influence of BL; Recognizing and Eliminating Prejudice

So it seems that people are creating and consuming BL with that in mind. On one hand, it’s just entertainment, but on the other hand, it is recognizing and helping to eliminate prejudice rooted in society. Could BL really have such a big influence?

However, I remembered something. The fact that “there are two types of fujoshi”. That is to say, the insensitive type of women who push their ideals and fantasies upon gay men and don’t care about causing harm.

“I feel a responsibility as a fujoshi”

Kakuno and the “evolved” type of individuals identified by Mizoguchi seem to be the considerate type.

Regarding the existence of insensitive-type fujoshi, there were some who said, “I feel a responsibility as a fujoshi”.

Twenty-six-year-old Hiramatsu Risa has been a fujoshi since around middle school.

“Sometimes, I see fujoshi making insensitive remarks on twitter and angering gay people. I try to be careful, but I can’t help but think I’m no different from them, and I often feel a sense of responsibility.”

Fujoshi Burdened With ‘Original Sin’

It seems that even though there are many fujoshi with various tastes and viewpoints, they are still often lumped together.

“While I wouldn’t go to far as to say ‘simply enjoying BL hurts sexual monitories’ or ‘everyone who enjoys BL should learn more about sexual minorities’, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone can just say and do as they please.”

Hiramatsu went on to say,

“BL is just fiction geared for women, and I want readers to take into consideration that it is different from the lives of real gay people. I think that those who enjoy BL should try their best not to cause any trouble for actual sexual minorities.”

“How will gay men use BL?”

We’ve heard many things regarding the fujoshi’s love of BL and their troubles, but lastly, I’d like to deliver some words from a gay man to the fujoshi.

When I mentioned the troubles of the fujoshi to Kuwaki Akitsugu, a thirty-nine-year-old restaurant owner, he laughed and had this to say;

“There are fujoshi who worry if they are being offensive or not? If they’re that concerned, they ought to become an ally!  Even among gays, there are those who think ‘straight men are great’ and pursue a fantasy. Gay or fujoshi, it’s okay to dream.”

“There isn’t anybody who doesn’t cause trouble for someone else. Of course, there are those fujoshi who ask ‘how do you have sex’ after just having met someone, but it would be good to show them what gay people are really like and turn them into allies. To be told that ‘you’re different than what I imagined’ is bothersome, but fujoshi or not, those who can’t understand just can’t understand.”

“Afterall, because of BL, there are gays who are benefitting from the progression of understanding, right? In other words, how will gay men use BL to their advantage?”

Source – 進化するBL文化 腐女子のモヤモヤが、「偏見」取り去るヒントに

Part 1 – Do Japanese Gay Men Read “Boys Love” Comics, Dislike “Fujoshi”?

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