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Japanese Buttsex

Sunday, November 5, 2006 Posted: 02:42 PM JST

America appears to be falling in love with 'Japanese butsex'. The Village Voice this week published its second article about yaoi, manga of boys who fall in love, with other boys. Having lived in Japan for almost a quarter of a century now, the article surprised me.

It immediately focuses on the sexual aspect:

"I know you've all been having fun so far, because there's been a lot of discussion of DICK," the announcer says, with a grin for the crowd. "There's also been some discussion of COCK. But the primary topic of discussion has been about . . . " " he holds the microphone out to the audience.

"BUTT SEX!" shriek almost 2,000 women, rearing up from their chairs.

Only after this enticing introduction, does it start to give an explanation for yaoi:

Japanese comics that tell stories of beautiful young men falling desperately, passionately in love, and often having enthusiastic butt sex. The twist is that the comics are created almost entirely by women artists and writers for an audience that's primarily female, satisfying a craving that few knew existed. Each October, the most dedicated fans pay $60 for a weekend pass and often travel across the country to gather in a pair of bland hotels across from the San Francisco International Airport for "a celebration of male beauty and passion," as the convention's Web site explains it.

The article manages to introduce the phenomenon as a Japan inspired variation on Chippendales.

Bishounen " beautiful boys " climb onto the stage, elaborately costumed as their favorite characters from manga, anime, and literature. If a character doesn't already have queer tendencies, he gets some via a skit or song...

The next three hours are a riot of stripteases, dirty limericks, and S/M skits. A Slytherin " perhaps Draco Malfoy himself, from the Harry Potter books " strips off his schoolboy outfit, down to bright green briefs. "Show us the one-eyed snake!" screams a blowzy woman, but the boy just smiles demurely. A mob of women rushes the stage to slip dollar bills into his waistband, and a girl dressed as the luscious and swishy Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean locks lips with the schoolboy, to the most piercing screams yet.

The article completely ignores the strong romantic appeal that bishounen hold to most, if not all, of its readers. Only at the end of the article, it alludes to this appeal, but without being able to shed the sexual focus:

As with most yaoi fans, the girls seem more practiced in fantasizing than in fulfillment. For all the wildness of the auction, and for all the innuendo about what the winners would do with their bishounen, "President Shinra," whose real name is Devon Jacobson, later says that they had a pretty tame night. They went to the dance organized by the convention, "but it was hot and they were playing pretty bad music," he explains. So the group of girls just took some pictures together, snapped a few shots of the boys embracing, and drove around looking for fast food at 6 in the morning.

Maybe bishounen fans in the US are really different. Many Japanese women who read BL (Boy Love) manga tend to be overly romantic. Quite a few of them way to shy to even approach a man, let alone bid for one at an auction.

There is an interesting overlap between readers of BL manga and fans of the all-female Takarazuka Revue, where female fans adore the women who play male roles, the otokoyaku. These fans are heterosexual women harboring impossible fantasies of romantic love. Place a photo of an otokoyaku next to a bishounen manga and the remarkable similarities are immediately self-evident. To the fans it is not about sex. It is about a romantic fantasy, a strong emotional bond and a perfect love.

yaoi (73k image)

Keywords: culture_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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