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Who Really Reads Yaoi in English?

December 23, 2008 | | Comments 19 |

In 2005, an English-language survey was conducted online by communications professor and literary author Dru Pagliassotti which asked the question: who is really reading yaoi in the West? Now Dr. Pagliassotti has collected her findings in an academic paper for Particip@tions – the Journal of Audience & Reception Studies entitled “Reading Boys’ Love in the West” which is currently available online.

Strong Enough For An Academic, But Made By A Fan

The findings in this study are fascinating, but have no doubt, the intended audience for this work is other academics. Take a look at this sentence from the introduction:

Romance as a literary genre has been so often criticized and defended that it virtually forms an academic sub-discipline of its own, revolving around the question of whether female readers’ enjoyment of romances is an empowering oppositional act of textual appropriation or a disempowering acceptance of the dominant, heterosexual, patriarchal model of love, courtship, and marriage.

“An empowering oppositional act of textual appropriation”? Hoo doggie — People magazine, this ain’t. I would imagine that many non-academic readers would hit that paragraph and stop right there. But let me suggest that you keep on reading her paper because after Dr. Pagliassotti has established the academic street cred of talking about yaoi fans, the rest of her style is surprisingly straight-forward and accessible. It is clear both from her knowledge of BL history and her passion for this subject that she is a fellow fan. And the results of her survey offer a number of items of interest — both for fans and publishers alike.

But How Much Can We Trust This Study?

But before we get into detailing what those results are, let’s take a moment to look at how exactly Dr. Pagliassotti arrived at her findings regarding yaoi fandom. Whenever a study has provocative findings I, for one, like to know a bit about its methodology and the limits of those methods. (It’s been my experience that the mainstream media breathlessly reports every new scientific discovery with gleeful abandon — “Chocolate is good for you!”; “Night lights damage kids’ eyesight!” — while rarely taking the time to examine at how rigorous or unbiased those studies actually were. And IMHO, this is doing a tremendous disservice to their readership.)

Now, as a layperson yaoi blogger, I have neither the resources nor the expertise to give “Reading Boys’ Love in the West”‘s methodology a truly professional-level critique — but some things do stand out on their own.

The first thing for us to look at is the sample size of the survey — were enough people surveyed for Dr. Pagliassotti to have obtained statistically accurate results? Well, the English-language survey was conducted online in 2005 and had 478 respondents. If memory serves from my undergraduate statistics class, while 478 respondents might seem like a low number to a lay person, statistically speaking any number above 400 tends to provide very accurate results — in fact, conducted properly, the results can be over 90% accurate.

But the rub is, this “accuracy” is only valid if the sample is actually taken from a truly random distribution of the population you are trying to study — if every member of a population has an equally likely chance of being selected. (For example, I can claim I have interesting findings about what straight men really think about monogamy, but if I only survey men at swingers’ clubs, then I’m not actually getting accurate data about all straight men, just those who frequent swingers’ clubs, right?) And it’s here that we must exercise some caution in accepting Dr. Pagliassotti’s numbers at face value.

Most troubling in terms of methodology is that this survey (which was conducted online) appears to have been self-selected — meaning it used a survey process that allowed anyone who was interested to respond. This is problematic for a number of reasons, primarily because of the issue of representation. It is argued in a number of places online — and I think rightly — that self-selected surveys will only get you information about those who already hold strong opinions on the subject you are studying and have strong motivation to share them — which might not represent the population you are studying very well or, in the case of “ballot stuffing”-type maneuvers, at all. (And there are those who would argue such surveys are “worthless” just for this reason.)

And there are additional compounding factors in terms of representation for this survey, including as Dr. Pagliassotti notes, limitations that were imposed on her by her institution’s ethics committee:

These surveys’ results might be skewed, however, because the English-language survey was only open to those who reported their age as over 18, due to institutional review board restrictions.

As well as the potential bias that might have been created by the choice to conduct the study online:

These results may also have been affected by the fact that the surveys were online; internet access is correlated with higher income and educational levels.

So, in terms of methodology, there seems to good reason for us to question how well this sample of 478 respondents truly represents BL fans who read yaoi in English, let alone general fandom in the “West”.

Now, that said, I have a great deal of sympathy for Dr. Pagliassotti’s choice to use a self-selected Internet survey here — after all, how would you go about getting a truly random sampling of English-language BL fans? Even just randomly grabbing Yaoi Con attendees would limit you to those who were both motivated enough and financially solvent enough to attend a national yaoi conference. Getting a truly random sample would be a very tough nut to crack. And the restrictions imposed on her by the ethics committee and the distribution method could be accounted for if we assume we are just reading results relating to adult BL readers with Internet access (perhaps someone just like you, Gentle Reader…)

But these shortcomings in the sample selection cannot be ignored, and thus we must unfortunately view the findings with not just a little skepticism in terms of understanding the yaoi fan community at large. We can use these findings as a springboard for discussion, but I would hesitate to rely on them. As the nature of yaoi fandom is a fascinating area to explore, it is this author’s hope that such discussion would generate enough interest in this topic for further study with a truly random sample of fans — perhaps conducted by Dr. Pagliassotti herself on a future date.

And happily, in addition to the survey results, Dr. Pagliassotti includes a lot of wonderful context in her paper — about the history of yaoi fandom, how yaoi is perceived by native gay Japanese readers as well as the relationship between fans and publishers here in the West that don’t seem to be subject to the same criticisms around methodology as the survey — and all of which make the paper well worth reading.

All’s Fair in Love and Fantasy?

But first, let’s talk a bit about what the survey “revealed.” In her paper, Dr. Pagliassotti takes head-on the assumption that yaoi “is not intended to realistically portray or support homosexuality in society and that its readers, at least in Asian countries, understand it that way.” This view forms the basis of an argument we’ve often heard when discussions about inaccurate (and even offensive) portrayals of gay men pop up on the Internet — you know the kind, something along the lines of “Hey boys — yaoi is all fantasy and it’s not meant for you, so STFU!” This is an assumption that is definitely worth challenging.

After discussing the studies and opinion pieces that support this claim, Dr. Pagliassotti states:

What the previously cited studies did not address, however, were Japanese gay and lesbian readers of boy’s love.  Assumptions that Japanese BL readers were only, or primarily, heterosexual women have been challenged by Lunsing (2006), who also argued that that BL manga do not merely “exist in a world of fantasy”: I found that many of my gay informants were not only familiar with BLB [boy loves boy] manga but read them voraciously from the moment they came on the market in the mid-1970s.

In terms of Western readers, in her survey Dr. Pagliassotti found that 11% of BL readers were male and an astonishing 53% identified their sexual orientation as something other than heterosexual. In addition, 45% claimed they perceived yaoi characters as “somewhat realistic” or “very realistic” (instead of pure fantasy as is claimed by the rebutters). And, most provocatively, Dr. Pagliassotti argues (again based on the results of her survey), that BL readers in the West are overwhelmingly in favor of gay rights and gay marriage:

The final question in the English-language survey asked whether respondents thought same-sex marriage should be legal in the United States. At the time, the only state issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was Massachusetts, which began doing so in 2004. As a result, the issue of same-sex marriage in the U.S. was on the public agenda when the survey was put online. An overwhelming majority, 96% (n=389), of the respondents said “yes” to the question of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Now those are some juicy results — which unfortunately we cannot 100% trust. Do yaoi fans support gay right? Based on the responses I’ve received on this blog, some certainly do. Are all yaoi readers heterosexual women? Again, based on the responses I’ve received, I’d say certainly not. But that 96% are gay rights supporters? And only 47% identify as heterosexual? Well, maybe… but based on a self-selected survey, we can’t be confident of this. Which is a shame, because I’d really love to know what the real percentages are.

What we can be confident of based on these results, though, is that any exclusionary definition of yaoi fans that claim that “all yaoi fans are X” is flawed. The survey results at the very least support the assertion that yes indeed yaoi fans come in all different sexual orientations, more than a few look to yaoi for realistic character portrayals and at least some are strongly pro-gay as well. And, well, maybe we already knew that, but it’s nice to see some results in black and white — even if we can’t trust the exact percentages.

And there are other interesting tidbits in the paper, particularly for publishers of yaoi. Such as:

Why Fans Choose A Particular Book

Dr. Pagliassotti states:

Respondents reported a number of considerations that affected their decision to buy, borrow, or download a particular issue of BL manga. The most common reasons — the categories were nonexclusive — in the English-language survey were familiarity with the author (78%), appreciation of the inside art (73%), and reading an interesting online description of the issue (67%). Other reasons cited by over half of respondents included liking the cover (56%) and a friend’s recommendation (53%). 

How Free Comics Encourage The Purchase Of For-Pay Comics

There was apparently a free-form open comment section of the survey which elicited a number of interesting responses, including how downloading scanlations encourages purchase of the physical book:

In the open comment section of the survey, a few English-language respondents denigrated scanlations; for example, “Boycott scanlations. Re-publishing an artist’s work without permission isn’t ‘fannish.’”  However, more argued that scanlations help readers decide what to purchase: “I would more likely buy a manga I’ve partially or totally read online then a manga I’ve never had access to,” and “Scans are important for deciding on potential online purchases; the costs of import shipping equal zero urge to take risks on the unknown.”

I, of course, found this particularly interesting and certainly hope there’s truth to it. (Or at least enough truth to support my ability to continue to make yaoi comics!)

Western Fans Relationship With Western Publishers

But most interesting was Dr. Pagliassotti’s discussion of Western yaoi fans’ interactions with Western yaoi publishers. This section doesn’t rely on the potentially questionable survey data at all, instead using quotes from representatives of DMP, BLU and DramaQueen to support its assertions.

In discussing the differences between the power of the yaoi fandom vs. other fandoms, Dr. Pagliassotti writes:

In 1992, Jenkins noted that “fans lack direct access to the means of commercial cultural production and have only the most limited resources with which to influence entertainment industry’s decisions” (p. 26).  Jenkins has also described numerous cases of adversarial relations between fandoms and copyright owners. However, perhaps because BL is a relatively new publishing genre in the United States and its reader base is still comparatively small, readers have been able to communicate with and influence the handful of publishers currently licensing and translating boys’ love manga. This communication is carried out online and face-to-face, and publishers are interested in what readers have to say.

Quoting DMP representative Rachel Livingston, she continues:

The relatively high level of interaction BL readers enjoy with BL publishers has led to occasions in which readers have directly influenced publishers’ production decisions. For example, reader demand led to DMP’s entry into the BL novel market, according to Livingston:
“Only the Ring Finger Knows was one of the first yaoi manga that DMP published. We got a couple of requests from the fans to also publish the accompanying novel series. We honestly weren’t sure if there was a market in the US for translated light novels. So we posted a petition online and asked fans interested in the novels to sign it. The response we got was overwhelming so we are currently releasing the series.”

This correlates well with my own discussions and interactions with other BL publishers, with almost everyone I talked to suggesting that fan interest and requests were a big influence in their title selections. (Dr. Pagliassotti actually offers several quotes from industry insiders that speak to this. Interestingly, President and Owner of DramaQueen Tran Nguyen, listed here as a “public relations representative”, offers the only dissent from this line, stating ““we usually have our in-house staff help select the titles.”)

Really, there are a number of other quotes of interest in this section, including how Western publishers respond to scanlations — of their own work as well — and the compromises publishers must make in terms of age-ratings to appease the larger bookstore chains (which I’ve also discussed elsewhere.) It’s tempting to list those quotes here as well, but I already feel like I’m pushing the boundaries of fair-use commentary, so I encourage you to read the paper yourself — these topics are discussed under the sections “Translations & Scanlations” and “Interacting with Publishers” near the end of the paper. They are written about in an accessible and engaging manner and, as I’ve said, suffer from none of the concerns I have about the methodology of the survey.

So What Do You Think?

So, Dr. Pagliassotti’s paper paints a provocative picture of Western yaoi fandom, suggesting that the majority of yaoi fans are pro-gay and don’t identify as heterosexual; that a sizable number don’t see yaoi characters as pure fantasy objects; that fans choose books primarily based on who created it and what the inside art looks like and that BL fans have extraordinary influence over the way BL publishers do business. Her findings directly challenge entrenched assumptions that are made about BL fandom and their relationship to real-life gay people. As a gay man and yaoi creator, I would love to be able to rely on the results as they certainly fall in line with my belief in and desire for an inclusive BL community where all are welcome. And it is with some disappointment that based on how the study was set-up, I feel that I cannot.

But — what do you say? Do these results represent you as a yaoi fan? Do they represent your impression of the yaoi fan community? Please let me know what you think in the comments!

(We won’t be able to make any scientific claims about yaoi fandom in general based on comments in a blog, but I’d sure love to hear what you think. ;-D)

If you’re looking for further information on this topic, Dr. Pagliassotti invites questions about her study at her blog.

EDIT (12/28/08): In private correspondence, Dr. Pagliassotti responded to my concerns saying this (quoted with permission):

Due to the survey’s online nature and respondents’ self-selection, *and* the
fact that my survey didn’t include anyone who reported their age as under 18
(note my cautious phrasing!), the results can be considered indicative, but
their biases need to be acknowledged. The data are almost certainly slanted
to an internet-savvy population, with all the correlations about social
class, etc., implied by that. I’m enheartened, however, by the fact that the
demographics and overall responses didn’t differ wildly from the Italian
survey — except for age. Given that, I believe it’s a reasonably valid
snapshot of (online) non-Asian BL readership a few years ago. Of course, its
imperfections and blind spots open the field to many questions that could be
resolved with different surveys or alternate methodologies. It’s only a
first stab at describing BL fandom outside of Japan on a large scale; I hope
others will be motivated by it to conduct their own work on BL and its
readers.

Thank you, Dr. Pagliassotti, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to respond — and for undertaking this survey in the first place. :-)

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About the Author: Filmmaker by day, yaoi creator by night, Alex has dedicated himself to helping cute guys fight evil and find love.

RSSComments (19)

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  1. gynocrat says:

    Sadly, I don't care enough about who reads yaoi from Japan to care about this survey. :/ I suppose it could be of use to a company as a marketing tool– but that being said, I still feel that the audience is just too diverse in why they do what they do, to really pinpoint any form of pie-chart indicating who's buying what and why.

    Nice breakdown though, I think I took more interest in your take on the survey, then I actually did on the survey.

  2. @gynocrat

    I hear you, Tina. Personally I would be curious to know more about the demographics re: who is buying yaoi — and would also be curious to know if there is any significant difference between those who buy translated yaoi from Japan and those who buy GloBL. And yes, from a marketing perspective it would certainly be useful — always nice to know more about who your audience is, IMHO.

    Thanks for the props re: my breakdown. I was afraid that my discussion of selection bias would come off as super-boring, but that kind of critique is really important for me. Truth is, I’m totally gay for the scientific method… ;-)

  3. artdjmaster says:

    Hey Alex, long time no read!

    I think that even with the possible inaccuracy of the survey, it’s still close to being the right numbers (lotsa female readers, some male) but I thought I read somewhere that 50% of the readers in Italy were male, not 13%. And in the ‘contributing to the BL community’ section, I was surprised there wasn’t ‘reviewing BL titles’ and ‘online discussion’ categories. That certainly is contributing to the BL community, is it not?

    As for some male readers being hetero (what is their problem, shonen not delivering? ;), I do believe that because I remember being at my comic shop once and a guy picked up a Yaoi GN and said “I just like like the art” to his friend (heh heh, yeah freakin’ right!!).

    And fans are so at the mercy of the publishers, I mean I haven’t been buying any new Yaoi for like 4 months. All the good stuff has been published by Be Beautiful and DQ, with lots more just waiting to be released. Pubs probably get 100s of recommendations a day, but they still come out with forgetful anthology after forgetful anthology. But even with Tran’s comments on only choosing titles they want, I still consider them the most fan-friendly publisher (because they published a lot of fan-favourites in fan-favourite binding).

    And even though I’m not collecting a lot of Yaoi as I used to, I still like to read your discussions and contributions on this genre. I like to read more Shoujo now because I find I relate to the female characters even more than the males in Yaoi (hey, I ain’t no bumbling Uke, and definitely not a controlling Seme). I think it’s because I don’t find competition with female characters as I do with Yaoi males (damn, their worlds are SO perfect).

    As for that survey, my thoughts are whatever on it because I think I used to be interested in stuff like that. Like the previous poster-person, I much rather prefer your discussion.

    PS: You must have heard about Class Comics, right? Have you thought about contributing some stuff to them?

  4. @artdjmaster

    Howdy Oliver :-)

    I thought I read somewhere that 50% of the readers in Italy were male, not 13%.

    Hmm. I’m not sure where you read that but the table “Basic Demographics” in this study lists the percentage of male readers at “13%” for the “Italian language survey.” A couple of percentage points more than the English-language survey, but still reporting as mostly female.

    And in the ‘contributing to the BL community’ section, I was surprised there wasn’t ‘reviewing BL titles’ and ‘online discussion’ categories. That certainly is contributing to the BL community, is it not?

    Well, as special as we reviewers are, I think we still comprise a tiny minority of the BL readership. I don’t blame Dr. Pagliassotti for not including us. ;-) As for online discussion, under the heading “Interacting With Other Readers” you’ll find this paragraph:

    In the English-language survey, 22% reported that they most often discuss BL “online in boys’ love fan message boards,” 17% reported using text messaging, and under 10% each reported communicating with other readers at conventions, in email, or in chatrooms. In the Italian-language survey, the second-favorite methods of communication were somewhat different, with 26% communicating “on the internet, in a forum” (but not necessarily a BL forum) and 15% in chat. In both surveys, many respondents wrote in that they discuss BL over a variety of media.

    As for some male readers being hetero (what is their problem, shonen not delivering? ;), I do believe that because I remember being at my comic shop once and a guy picked up a Yaoi GN and said “I just like like the art” to his friend (heh heh, yeah freakin’ right!!).

    Yes, interestingly three of the survey respondents listed themselves as “heterosexual male”. Maybe they are just in denial — and I like your story — but personally, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, my favorite comics love story is the heterosexual True Story, Swear To God and one of my favorite films of all time is the lesbian film-noir Bound, and they don’t get much more gay than me. If some straight guy likes to read yaoi for the art, I say “You go, boy!” Especially, if the art they like happens to be in my comics… ;-)

    And fans are so at the mercy of the publishers…

    Interesting. Yeah, I think you’re right that while BL fans might have more influence over licensing selections than for other genres, ultimately, like all fans, they are still at the mercy of the publishers — and those publishers’ mistakes.

    I think it’s because I don’t find competition with female characters as I do with Yaoi males (damn, their worlds are SO perfect).

    That’s really interesting. It reminds me of the claim that is often made about why het women like to read yaoi — that they want “romantic fantasy without competition from other females.”

    You must have heard about Class Comics, right? Have you thought about contributing some stuff to them?

    Yes, I have heard about them. :-) And as I said in that post, in general the style of the comics they publish (both in terms of art and writing) doesn’t do a whole lot for me. Even if I were interested in contributing to other publishers — which currently I’m not — I don’t think I’d be a great fit for them with my plot-driven stories of regular looking guys having sweet romance. In fact, a lot of what Yaoi 911™ is about is providing an alternative to that kind of hyper-muscular, hyper-sexed aesthetic.

    But I also understand that there’s a reason Class has had success — there must be a large market for that kind of work. And I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone who likes that style. Just not my cup of tea is all.

    Anyway, good to hear from you Oliver. Glad to hear you’re finding manga that you’re enjoying reading. Thank you for commenting — and for sticking with us, even as your tastes are expanding… :-D

  5. artdjmaster says:

    Yeah I guess Class Comics isn’t the desired publisher to do a more meaningful type of work, would it? Oops! And yeah, I guess reviewers do make up a tiny portion of contribution to Yaoi fandom.

    I think I got that 50% male readers in Italy thing when I was reading an article about Yaoi Press because some of their works (like Love Circles) are from Italy.

    And with Shoujo, it’s not totally different from Yaoi ’cause there are a lot of cute men that you just want to cuddle :) But yeah, the Shoujo heroine does make an easier reading experience. And you’re welcome, I always love to be active in your discussions!

  6. Dee says:

    Huh… okay, something to say about straight males reading yaoi. I believe that's because some find plenty of shounen and seinen way too draggy, stereotypical, etc. Also, I know some crave the kinda characterisation found only in select seinen/shounen titles but more often in BL(the good titles that is): that men/males aren't perfect or highly stereotypical creatures and are capable of being emotional without crossing the line of cliched melodrama.

    Well, those are likely just some of the many reasons why some straight males like BL. *shrugs*

  7. Dee says:

    Oh and to add on to my previous comment, it seems the number is rising though if you asked me for the exact figures, I wouldn't know. After all, not all men are brave enough to step into a bookstore full of giggling yaoi fangirls or to admit that they read BL. They'd rather swipe it from someone they know or obtain it discreetly. :)

  8. artdjmaster says:

    @Yuri21

    You're straight? Sure… lol! Just kidding, but that's interesting what you said about characterization. I mean, to prefer Yaoi characterization over Shounen is certainly sayin' somethin' but the characterization is more girly, so what does that say about you? Do you feel like a stronger male in comparison to the ones you're reading about? Curious.

    Not to knock your comment or anything, but when I walk into the comic book store, I'M the squeeing fanboy, and there's never any girls in the Yaoi section when I'm there. If there is, I don't care, I'll wait 'til she moves aside so I can get to the good stuff! I'm not afraid to pick up a Yaoi book when others are around, I mean, all the store employees know I do and they're so nice to me, including the dozen of cats!

  9. Dee says:

    No I'm female but I happen to know quite a few straight males who do read that stuff. And some belong to rather conservative countries or states or families so it's not like they can be that open about it. Or they're utterly afraid of being teased as they've yet to come to terms with their reading of BL among other things.

    Girly? Hmm… I dunno. Some titles, yes but in others, they just act like how men behave.

    A long explanation about my comments: in quite a few shounen and seinen, the males are incredibly "tough" and often show little emotions or empathy. And when someone gets maimed, raped(doesn't have to be a woman) or murdered, they're the ones who committed the act, or could care less who died or enjoy watching it.

    That or the story/plot is chocked full of stereotypes on how a "man" and "woman" should behave and behaving otherwise is considered grounds for punishment like humiliation, torture, rape, murder, etc. Sometimes, the acts are committed by the main cast and sometimes by others. Or just sometimes, such acts are being committed but they're considered okay as long as the main cast is fashionable, cool, etc.

    I suppose many of such titles don't or won't make it to other countries but there seem to be enough of such stuff to push plenty of males into other kinds of seinen or even into josei or shoujo. Also, not everyone reads the English or localised version but the japanese version so these're more likely to encounter such titles. And I've known some males got highly truamatised after reading such titles and they're now very wary when selecting manga.

    Short note: By the way, I said that there's quite a bit of seinen and shounen which fall onto that line. Well, sad to say, some shoujo and josei is kinda similar as in telling the female that being raped or sexually harassed is okay and that they should learn to accept it. And it's not fantasy rape like in hentai but much closer to real-life rape.

  10. @Yuri21

    An interesting observation. Now, off the top of my head I can think of a bunch of yaoi books which would NOT be good for the kind of straight guy you're talking about (for example, this one…)

    But now I'm curious, what yaoi books have you found to be most appealing to the straight guys you know?

  11. Dee says:

    Sorry for the lengthy posts and oops… I updated my nick.

    Hmmm okay, I don't remember too many titles as a lot are in japanese and I forgot the rest but here're a few examples(English and Japanese titles given or author names, if I don't know which specific titles they're talking about):

    a) Little Butterfly and other titles by Hinako Takanaga

    b) A few didn't even mind this series:

    愛で痴れる夜の純情 by Itsuki Kaname(not published in English) and some author. I think the English title is Mede something.

    c) The Judged by Akira Honma.

    d) その唇に夜の露 . Pretty dark with a lot of rape going on… the ones who read it, said it was pretty psychological. *shrugs*

    e) Some of the better works by Miyamato Kano

    f) Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida

    g) Some didn't mind the first few volumes of Haru wo Daite Ita though most found the later volumes to be too melodramatic and soap-operaish.

    h) Some of the titles by Suguira Shiho like Silver Diamond and Koori no Mamono no Monogatari.

    I guess most simply saw the characters in BL as humans falling in love, instead of obsessing over the "boundaries" and "definitions" regarding gender stereotypes and behaviours.

    And many of these guys first started off reading shounen like Naruto and Bleach and slowly delved into other demographics. Now, almost all read from many genres/demographics and shy away from Naruto and plenty of shounen, complaining about the angst and melodrama level, saying that almost all Shounen Jump series tend to dip in quality after a while and that almost all new shounen series are cookie-cutter plots. They also tend to dislike series which have too many volumes unless they're really good.

    A lot of them also started out by reading BL scanlations or by filching a copy from somewhere 'cos they were not about to ask their classmates, girlfriends, sisters or even mothers. And definitely so if their mom was a living copy of Kurokawa’s mother from Challengers. It'd be really hard trying to convince her that they're straight if she's fixated on finding a right partner for them. :p

    Although, all of them now buy their own BL but make sure to find out through reviews, etc. on how good the plot/story/characterisation is.

    Most are now accustomed to the level of sex in a lot of BL but some still are… well, kinda squeamish about it. I guess it's just like how I used to freak out at yuri.

    Phew… that was a long comment. :)

  12. Dee says:

    Oh and b) is supposedly about 2 characters who were sold off to a brothel and their daily "life" in it.

  13. Dee says:

    And to add on to the list:

    i) Future Lovers by Kunieda Saika

  14. @Dee

    Very interesting. Little Butterfly makes sense – it's something I recommend to new readers – and I've always heard that Banana Fish had cross-over appeal…

    Thanks for sharing, Dee! :-)

    P.S. Maybe you can guide some of them to Yaoi 911, hm? We might have enough action-adventure to make the reading about the sex worth it… ;-)

  15. JRBrown says:

    Commenting on Dee's post:

    b) is (in romaji for easier Googling) Mede Shireru Yoru no Junjou ("innocent steps" or something like that), by Suzuki Ami (story) and Itsuki Kaname (art) – not licensed in English but has been scanlated.

    d) is Sono Kuchibiru ni Yoru no Tsuyu ("the dew on those lips"), by Fukai Youki – ditto.

    g) is Embracing Love by Youka Nitta, published by Be Beautiful but currently under a cloud due to some visual plagiarism issues.

    The Judged, several works by Miyamato Kano (more usually spelled Miyamoto), Banana Fish, Future Lovers and the Silver Diamond series are all licensed in English.

  16. JRBrown says:

    Hey Alex;

    I just ran across another similar online study by Antonia Levi ("North American Reactions to Yaoi", in the recently-published book The Japanification of Children's Popular Culture, edited by Mark West); it was conducted a bit earlier (2003) but the demographic results are surprisingly similar: 86% female (58% of whom categorized themselves as heterosexual) vs 9% male (12% heterosexual), mostly teens/twenties, etc. (Male + female don't add up to 100% because 4% of respondents listed their sex as "other". Not sure what to make of that…)

    The more interesting part of the article is the questionnaire addressing why the respondents read yaoi (although it appears men and women saw a different set of questions). Both male and female respondents responded favorably to statements suggesting (paraphrased) "lack of socially-determined gender roles" and "nurturing, sensitive men" as attractions while generally disagreeing with "it's just porn". Write-in responses also mentioned the appeal of good stories and character development (women also cited attractive and/or androgynous men).

    The one explanation that seems to have gotten a significant gender split was "exploration of kinky sex" (the question mentioned BDSM, rape, incest, shota, etc), which women generally agreed with but men somewhat less so.

    Women also had a generally favorable view of "two hot guys for the price of one", "identify with either partner", and "frighteningly intense sexual or emotional relationships", while largely rejecting "safe fantasies of same-sex relationships" and "safe exploration of traumatic experiences" (men either did not see these questions or their responses are not reported).

    Men strongly agreed with "more romance and emotional intensity than most gay porn" and "more relationships and bonding than most gay porn". Write-in responses also mention lack of homophobia and social disapproval.

    The only question addressing reality vs. fantasy as such was (direct quote because weirdly-phrased): "Yaoi and/or shonen-ai is hysterically funny because it is so totally unrealistic; I do not take it seriously at all, not as a sexual fantasy, a dream of a gentler male, or any of that." Both men and women disagreed strongly with this statement, although write-in responses from readers of both sexes indicated that they did not think yaoi had a particularly accurate representation of gay men.

    This survey happened pretty much in the barest infancy of yaoi in the US (I think the same year the first translated yaoi manga were released) and the amount and diversity of yaoi in English has increased immensely since; it would be interesting to compare an up-to-date version to see what, if anything, has changed. (Having just read an article on a Medieval English poem and another on 17th century Japanese homoerotic prints, it's weird to be discussing a narrative genre where something five years old is practically paleolithic…)

  17. artdjmaster says:

    @JRBrown

    Thank-you for that information. It's interesting to find out why people read Yaoi. It kinda inspires me to go back to reading it.

  18. Dee says:

    @JRBrown:

    Very fascinating, indeed. :) It's always interesting to read about surveys like these.

  19. rusymptote says:

    This study, with all its flaws, supports what we fans have known all along–that in its appeal BL transcends gender and orientation in a way that American GLBT comics have not done. I think this is so because the latter showcase the specific and often unique experiences of sexual minority groups in our culture and are published *for* those groups, while BL presents the universal themes of attraction, love, rejection, and struggles that result. It's absurd to say that only straight women would relate to these normal aspects of life.

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