Well, that title sounds far too formal and pretentious for what this post is, but I couldn’t think of anything clever. At any rate, I just wanted to write about something that’s been bugging me for a while about the fangirl community in general. As usual, this is just an unstructured, not really edited, collection of thoughts and not a pointed argument or indictment of anything. This isn’t in response to anything in particular, it’s just been mulling around in the back of my head for a while and I’m bored, so why not. This is all very generalized and obviously doesn’t apply to everyone. And in other things that should be obvious but mentioning it anyway: this is all anecdotal/etc.
So, over the years I’ve noticed a particular tendency among fangirls (I hesitate to call it a trend because it’s entirely possible that this attitude has always been there and I’ve only been deep enough recently to notice it) to basically straight up fetishize any and all gay male relationships. Now, I feel like there’s an important distinction between enjoying depictions of man-on-man relations of a romantic and/or sexual nature and fetishizing homosexuality (for the sake of brevity, for this post let’s just assume “homosexuality” refers specifically to male homosexuality––not that there aren’t ladies who fancy ladies gettin’ it on too, but that’s an entirely different discussion). And moreover the thing being fetishized isn’t the dude-on-dude aspect in and of itself so much as an, ultimately false, sense of authenticity.
More plainly: What is it with fangirls and this hangup about “real gay”? And why is it that everything with a hint of “gay” must be consumed?
I’m sure anyone who’s spent anytime, even in passing, in BL (let’s just use BL as shorthand for “dude-on-dude romantic/sexual fantasy fiction made by ladies for ladies” from now on) related communities has probably seen people tossing around phrases like, “don’t use the words ‘seme’ and ‘uke’ because real gay couples aren’t broken down into those categories!” and “omg I can’t believe they left out the lubing up stage again! That’s not how gay sex works!” as if it was part of some sort of calculated PR campaign to make sure The Gays know fangirls are well informed™ about gay issues and don’t have any illusions about how unrealistic BL is. And by the same token we have fanfic writers engaging in hot debates about using only the most technically correct jargon when talking about buttsex, because describing the prostate except explicitly as a “gland” is incorrect and unrealistic.
It’s one thing to prefer romance/porn that’s more on the realistic side, but I feel like this weird, mandated pretense of realism is something else entirely. Because, ultimately it’s not about achieving “realism” so much as adding prescribed touches of authenticity to what ultimately amounts to fap material (you know, a sexual fantasy), but to what end? I don’t exactly have an answer, but I’ve got some vague ideas. I definitely feel like part of it is a weird attempt at uh… “political correctness”? for lack of a better term. But there definitely seems to be an element of general nerdsperg in it too––you know, in much the same way you’ll see the SF nerds going “Excuse me, his name isn’t ‘Doctor Who.’ It’s just ‘Doctor.’ We don’t actually know his name. Duh.”
There’s probably more to it than that, but I think both elements are certainly present and they’re both far from unproblematic. The “political correctness” element (ex: “don’t use the words ‘seme’ and ‘uke’ because real gay couples aren’t broken down into those categories!”) is really weirdly counterproductive imo. On one hand, the whole point of those efforts seem to be to point out the absurdity and lack of realism of BL (totally founded, objectively speaking) but at the same time it fosters this weird meta environment of “authenticity” that ends up blurring the lines between fantasy (i.e. porn) and reality (i.e. actual gay people––key word: people) in discussion. BL is, fundamentally, fantasy. It’s largely constructed around ludicrous stereotypes and cliches that bear little resemblance to real life. So, why is there this need to discuss ludicrous fantasy in “real” terms? The vast majority of BL manga is constructed around the fictional concepts of “seme” and “uke” (I’m not an expert on 3D gay porn but I’m p. sure it uses similar distinctions) so why the need to act like they don’t exist? Not that we shouldn’t critique BL because it’s “just porn,” but I think it is problematic to discuss the usually cliched and stereotyped as hell characters in your average BL in “real” terms. In more concrete terms, I guess I mean like: So <insert generic porny BL oneshot> you just read? Yeah one dude is the seme and one dude is the uke. Why? Because those are the concepts around which that story was constructed (like, chances are that story was probably pitched to the magazine with those explicit terms). So isn’t it a little weird to be discussing those characters like they deserve respect like real people?
The nerd spergular side of things is more an issue of construction than consumption. Of course, people still use these arbitrary “authenticity” standards to discuss and judge the works they consume, but it’s more visible in the generation side of things. Were you to check out the work of a long-time BL fanfic writer, I’m positive you’ll find it peppered with “authenticity tokens” (ex. overly precise anatomical language, bordering on medical-terminology at times; any sex act will follow the prescribed fangirl “authentic” pattern with very prominent, specific details about things like lube and preparation––it’s about specificity and “accuracy” not about sexiness in these details and it seems to go far beyond verisimilitude). As with most nerd sperg it’s basically a dick measuring contest. It seems like new “tokens” get introduced as a means to one-up each other on authenticity until they become standard currency. Readers compliment writers on how authentic and realistic the work is despite the fact that the vast majority of them have probably never gotten anywhere near a dude’s butt, let alone participated in anal sex OR you know, been a man engaged in dude-on-dude butt love (I don’t mean that to be virgin-shaming or whatever, just that, the vast majority of people participating in this sub-sub culture are thoroughly and completely disconnected from the “reality” that it vaguely, at best, resembles).
Anyway, I think the most problematic aspect of the nerd sperg is probably that those who trade in these “authenticity tokens” become sort of self-proclaimed experts on gay dudes and gay relationships and gay sex even though they’re so far removed from the reality of it. Further, it codifies a rather warped and, well, spergular, idea of what “real” gay men are like (and of course the sperging itself is a kind of objectification, but I just sorta assume that goes without saying). And then it seems to lead occasionally into this weird objectification of real gay men (not because they’re hot, but expressly because they’re gay).
At any rate, for whatever reason it occurs exactly, many fangirls seem to have a fixation on “authenticity” even if this idea of authenticity is largely just a heavily codified set of rules, tropes and stereotypes that are perhaps just as ludicrous (if not moreso for their claim to reality) as the cliches and stereotypes in the BL they were born in reaction to. Which brings me to the next half of this discussion:
So, to be perfectly clear, again, there’s a distinct difference between liking to watch two dudes boinking and the fangirl fetishization of all things gay. The more I think about it, it’s reminding me more of weeabooism’s relationship with Japan. The weeaboo has a heavily distorted image of Japan and the Japanese language. She or he tries to utilize “authentic” elements of the culture/language in their own creative endeavors, but ultimately those tokens of authenticity are only tenuously related to the source and in a way become a code of their own. The weeaboo’s quest for authenticity through these tokens leads to a sort of inability to distinguish between reality and their code of authenticity. I hesitate to make the comparison between the weeaboo’s deep seated desire to actually be Japanese (often out of a feeling of displacement in their native culture), though I’m sure there’s an element of that among fangirls as well though that sense of displacement is probably more related to The Patriarchy than the standard weeaboo I-don’t-have-any-friends/I-hate-America thing––at any rate, I don’t want to make that jump there because, while there are certainly fangirls out there who proclaim their desire to be gay men or proclaim that they are trans gay men (not to imply that they’re necessarily illegitimate), it seems like a less common, or at least less overt, phenomenon in this group and sexual identity stuff is complicated.
Anyway, like I was saying, the fangirl fetishizes gay men in the same way the weeaboo fetishizes Japan. I’m seeing more people these days (again this is probably less of a trend and more of an exposure thing) who will a) only watch a show (/otherwise consume a piece of media, but most of my experience here is with anime/TV) if there are gay elements or hints of homosexuality (ex. “Does this show have any homolust in it?” “No, not really.” “Aw, I guess I won’t be watching it.”) and/or b) will be compelled to watch something precisely because it has a gay character/couple in it (ex. “Hey you should watch this thing it’s good.” “Nah, I hate that shit.” “There’s a gay dude in it.” “Sold!”––1 month later: 300,000 words of fanfiction and counting). Then there’s, of course, the ever present authenticity element. In this case media is arbitrarily given more attention/acclaim for being more “realistic” even though it’s generally quite the opposite (how many fangirls have you seen gushing about how realistically and well Wandering Son handled LBGT issues vs. No. 6? Yeah). At any rate, I guess if we simplify it down to the analogy fangirl:gay dudes::weeaboo:Japanese shit the media selectivity thing makes sense (swap “gay dude” and “homolust” for something Japan related).
I guess one of the things I don’t really understand is the “I’m only watching this show for the homolust” phenomenon. Doubly so with merely “slashy” shows. Just, why? If you want homo romance there’s a shitton of actual BL out there. Just to be clear I’m not wut-ing at like BL fan stuff in general, it’s just like, I don’t understand why people actively seek out media to stan that they do not enjoy at all save for some gay hints about some usually minor characters. Writing BL fanfic about your favorite characters from your favorite show? Makes sense. Begrudgingly deciding to watch (by one’s own admission) boring, generic as hell shonen action show #8734 because it has some homolusty overtones? Yeah, idgi. Could it just be a factor of people newer to the animes who don’t know where to get what they’re looking for (I’m looking at you, No. 6 fans who keep saying that No. 6 is in any way unique for having BL elements in a not explicitly BL series)? Is it a shame thing? (like, a need to couch BL stuff in a “legitimate” show as an excuse) Or something else entirely?
Like I said, I don’t really have a particular point or a conclusion to make, just that there are some really kinda weird (imo) and kind of problematic (in the that’s-kinda-sexist/racist sense, but idk what you call it when it’s about sexuality, you know what I mean) aspects to some subsets of the whole BL thing (not that the rest of BL isn’t problematic in it’s own way) that are probably worth talking about. lol, anecdotes isn’t really the place to start insofar as declaring something “Offensive” (and I won’t even pretend to be thoroughly informed on all the related subject matter) so I’m not trying to make any kind of authoritative statement about it, just, you know, some of this seems potentially kind of problematic and it’d be interesting to discuss further. There doesn’t seem to be much critical discourse on the fandom in the anime/Japan arena (though I guess most of this really isn’t exclusive to anime) that like American comics seems to have, though (and most of that seems exclusively focused on male fans). Annnd train of thought status: lost. Anyhow,
tl;dr fangirls, discuss?