Do Japanese Gay Men Read Boy’s Love Comics, Dislike ‘Fujoshi’?

BL (Boy’s Love), the genre well-loved by “fujoshi” (腐女子, which literally means “rotten women” – women who like comics depicting male homosexual love). They are comics and novels about romance between men, primarily written by women, for women. BL is based purely on the fantasies of women. What do gay men think of BL and fujoshi?

What should I do if they get angry?

It would take a lot of courage for me to ask gay men about their opinions on BL. What if I offended them and they told me “Don’t lump us all together”?

I came across a book titled Men Who Love Men (オトコに恋するオトコたち, Otoko ni Koisuru Otokotachi). In it, I read that fifty-two-year-old Ryuu Susumu, the editor-in-chief of the gay magazine Barazokuregularly answers questions about gay topics that might be difficult for straight men to ask. I wondered if he could answer the question “Do gay men read BL?”.

I immediately went to meet Mr. Susumu.

“The relationships are often portrayed as if they are between a man and woman.”

“I read BL”, Ryuu answered calmly.

Furthermore, he also had a paid subscription to the magazine June (1978~2004) from the very first issue. The magazine is said to be the original BL magazine.

In many BL comics, while the characters are male, the stories are written by straight women according to the tastes of straight women. That’s why even though the relationships are between men, they’re often portrayed as if they are between men and women. I wondered if Mr. Susumu found this strange.

“There are certainly a lot of BL comics that feel a lot like old romantic dramas. For example, there are gestures such as kabe-don (slamming one’s hand into the wall in front of somebody, for example to stop them from leaving) or pinning someone down. I think that’s quite feminine. Whether or not a gay person likes BL is a matter of preference. Of course, works that depict gay men poorly like being treated as play things are generally disliked.”

The Clash Between Fujyoshi and Gay Men

In the early 1980’s, a conflict arose between fujoshi and gay men over the magazine Barazoku. In those days, the terms BL and fujoshi didn’t exist, but there were women who loved stories about relationships between men. The fujoshi of that time pursued a fantasy that ‘homosexual love is pure and not calculating and selfish like heterosexual love’.

It is said that the conflict arose when these women who demanded depictions of “lofty, pure love” complained in a letter to the editor that “Barazoku’s models are all ugly and weird”. This is said to have enraged the gay readers of the magazine.

BL often features the type of slim, handsome men popular among women, but it seems to be intolerable for gay men to have those ideals forced upon them.

“There are two types of fujoshi…”

Ryuu says “There are two types of fujoshi”. The first, as mentioned before, are the insensitive type that worship the idea of “lofty, pure love” and try to force this ideal upon real gay men. The second is the considerate type who care about not harming real gay people with their fantasies.

“Above all, it’s a matter of whether they have consideration or not.”

Opinions of BL seem to vary between generations.

“Among older generations, there are many who react negatively to BL, calling it “feminine” and going so far as to deem it abnormal. On the other hand, there are readers of the younger generation called ‘fudanshi gei’ (lit. gay rotten men). Among kids these days, being an otaku (lit. a geek) is normal, right? This means the number of gay otaku has also increased. Those kinds of people are reading and drawing BL.”

Gay Men Have Various Opinions

Next, I went around asking gay men about their opinions of BL.

“I’m not interested in it and have never read it.”

“I’ve read it, but it wasn’t realistic, so I couldn’t sympathize with it and found it boring.”

“I often read it as erotica.”

There were also those who said, “Hearing fujoshi talking about BL has become common”. Thirty-seven-year-old Amiya Yuuki works as a representative of the non-profit organization Bubbling (NPO法人バブリング) which supports people wishing to come out to their loved ones. He works with two fujoshi, and he often gets BL comic recommendations from them.

At an event held in October of last year, they displayed three comics related to coming out, two of which were BL.

“Now, there are a lot of high-quality works.”

Amiya had this to say:

“I like manga, so I read BL regularly. I like young adult stories. There are authors whose art I like or dislike, but it’s the same as with other genres of manga.”

In my early twenties, when I first read Onozuka Kahori and other author’s works, I wasn’t opposed to them. The stories were heart-wrenching and I could sympathize with them. Now, there are a lot of high quality manga, and the differences between BL and young adult manga seem to be disappearing.”

In Amiya’s case, it seemed that he was surrounded by the considerate type of fujoshi and had never felt negatively about them.

The Common Feature of the “Insensitive Type”; Causing Harm

However, the type of harassment received by gay men from inconsiderate fujoshi was similar no matter who you asked.

“I was drinking alone at a gay bar, and a woman I never met before sat next to me and asked, ‘How do you like to have sex? Tell me!’, and I felt offended by her barrage of questions.”

“A young women I had met for the first time suddenly asked me ‘Are you gay!? I’m a fujyoshi and I always wanted to meet a homosexual!’, and I felt really uncomfortable. For example, it would be disgusting if I told a woman ‘Hey, I like nurse porno videos so I always wanted to meet a nurse’ right? It’s the same.”

“Someone I had just met suddenly asked me ‘Could you please tell me how you like to have sex?’, so I said, ‘If you talk about how you like to have sex too, then sure’, but they didn’t understand what I meant and just looked at me blankly.

The common theme was “someone I just met” and “asking about sex.” It appears that many gay men dislike this type of fujoshi. Well, it’s only natural that they would. It might be that to these “insensitive type” of fujoshi, men who carry the label of “gay”, appear not as people but as BL characters to them.

The Existence of “ikahomo”

While gathering sources for this article, one question was that of gay men’s tastes.

In the gay world, there exists a word, ikahomo. It’s an abbreviation of the expression ikanimo homo ga suki (いかにもホモが好き, ‘I quite like gay men’), and describes the stereotypical gay man.

Ikahomo men are typically macho, muscular types who have short cropped hair, facial hair, and are masculine and wild. On the other hand, the types of characters who appear in BL are often the type of delicate, sensitive men that women tend to like.

Perhaps gay men who read BL don’t find ikahomo men attractive.

The Diversification of Gay Men’s Tastes; Over Twelve Categories in One App

“The tastes of gay men are diversifying.”

The person who told this clueless reporter is thirty-year-old Mr. N. On Mr. N’s gay dating smartphone application, there is a screen where you can select the type of men you are seeking.

When he allowed me to look, I found that the various types were separated into minutely specific categories. The option of ‘favorite body type’ was separated into eight categories, such as chubby, solidly-built, and slim. “Favorite type” was separated into twelve different categories, such as athletic, office worker, male idol, gyaru type, and so on.

Come to think of it, I’ve also seen expressions such as “office worker” or “construction worker” used when referring to genres within BL.

Refined, Good-Looking Gay Models 

Mr. N is the creator of the lifestyle culture publication IS Magazine, which is targeted towards the younger gay generation. He has released up to volume 3, and plans to put volume 4 on sale at the Tokyo Rainbow Pride, to be held on May 7th and 8th.

Mr. N states that when referring to older gay magazines while making his own, he was surprised to find that the type of models who appeared were disproportionately ikahomo types.

“Nowadays, the term ikahomo is often used mockingly. It means “you’re stereotypical and have no individuality”.

The type of models that Mr. N chooses to appear on his magazine covers seem to be gay men, but they are all the refreshingly handsome types popular among women as well.

“Even gay young men are becoming herbivores”

Mr. N says,

“Rather than portraying flashy men characteristic of the gay world , I wanted to select men who have a more refined look. I wanted to make a magazine that you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable about opening on the train. Well, my own tastes are reflected as well” <laughs>

The models, who are the type of men also popular among women, appear to be a practical choice for mass appeal. They are also the type of refined men Mr. N prefers.

“Older generations of gay men often tell me, ‘Lately, the number of guys who I can’t tell are gay or not just by looking at them seem to be increasing’.”

While collecting sources for this story, I often heard the expression “Even gay young men are becoming herbivores”. But this is because we all live in the same society. We all change similarly, so it’s only natural, perhaps.

Mr. N also appears to read BL regularly, because “it’s more exciting to talk with fujoshi whose tastes aligns with yours, rather than with gay men who have different tastes”. Mr. N’s tastes do seem to align with that of fujoshi.

‘Whats the relationship between fujoshi and gay men?’. Next, we’ll hear what the fujoshi have to say.

Source – ゲイの人って、BL読むの? 腐女子は苦手? 当事者に聞いてみた

Part 2 – Evolved Boy’s Love: How Fujoshi Could Eliminate Prejudice

8 Responses

  1. Hi. I’m curious. Why do many Japanese and western men criticize BL, but not bara? I’ve keep hearing that gay/bi men should bara instead of BL because BL is full of rape, unrealistic, aimed at women, etc etc.

    The majority of bara are oneshot porn, so it lack of character development. Not to mention, bara manga can involve rape, cheating, and “unhealthy relationship”. There’s a bara manga where a married middle aged man with kids have an affair with his male co-worker. Or “I’m straight but want to screw a guy for once” yada yada yada.

    In term of story, bara is not that different from BL. The difference is that men in BL tend to be bishonen, while men in bara are muscular.

    • First of all stop using the word “bara” in Japanese context. This word doesn’t mean what you think, in Japanese it means rose and it used to be an insult similar to pansy or fag. The word you are looking for in this case is geicomi, the term for manga by gay men to be consumed (primarly) for gay men, and it’s more diverse than you think. While you probably won’t find skinny pretty young men like in most BL, not everyone in geicomi is big fat burly hairy men like western bara community made you think.

      Second because it’s manga wrote and illustrated by gay men for gay men. While I believe in freedom of expression the intention and origin do matter to some degree. Specially if it comes from prejudiced, ignorant female authors.

      You also make very surface level comparisions, and narrowing geicomi to the ugly parts just like some of the men in this article narrow BL to the ugly parts. Truth is both geicomi and BL have narratives and aesthetics more diverse than the general opinion (or rather, their opposition) make you think. There’s a reason plenty of gay men consume BL and geicomi indiscriminately, and in later years even women. Mentaiko is a gay author that is fairly popular with women. There are also gay men who produce content that they call “BL” and not “gei” due to aesthetics being more like what you would find in stuff produced by women, like Mito Togo.

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