Sexualized Saturdays: Girl-Bashing in Yaoi Fics

Disclaimer: Hello, Ace here! Tsunderin and I wrote this post about fanfiction a while back, and for our content we like to pull quotes to help strengthen the arguments we make. Previously, we named both the authors and the fanfics in question that we used for the sake of honesty. We wholeheartedly believe that when something is published, it is subject to criticism. However, it should be noted that fanfiction writers are often young, and that fanfiction is done solely for fun. Critiquing a fanfic is not the same as critiquing a published novel. As such, I left out links in order to discourage our readers from going to those people’s pages—not because we believe ourselves exempt from criticism or backlash or that we don’t want the original authors to know what we say about them, but because we want to discourage any form of harassment against those authors.

Recently, we had a reader go to the site of one our our example authors and leave them a review. We are sure that this person was well intentioned, but this ended up being an upsetting experience for the original author and an eye-opening experience for us. The names of authors and fanfic titles have now been removed from this post as a result and we send our deepest apologies to the original authors.

This blog currently has over 3000 entries on it, and I am certain that we have other posts I’ve forgotten about that also give negative critiques on fanfiction work. We absolutely discourage everyone from going to pages of individual fan authors. Critiquing can be harsh, and having a negative review on top of finding out your years-old fic was used as an example for internalized misogyny on another website can easily feel like an attack. For now, this post is remaining up, although it is possible it might be removed in the near future. We apologize to everyone we have hurt with our insensitive words and will try to do better in the future.

tumblr_leo5unPJjL1qzb8r6o1_500MadameAce: I love fanfiction. Don’t you? Fanfiction has created a wonderful community where people can share their interpretations of a story. Share how they perceive the characters. Offer new insights into the narrative. Represent sexualities that don’t otherwise get represented. Fanfiction is a realm where people who are otherwise oppressed can come out freely through pre-written characters. There are very few places more sexually liberated than fanfiction. Fanfiction is wonderful.

Unless of course, you’re a female character in a typical yaoi or slash story.

As many of you long-time followers of our blog know, Rin and I run a series called Fanfiction Follies, in which we find terribly written fics with problematic themes. Many of these bad trends transcend just about every genre of fanfiction, but there’s one lately that’s been grinding my gears. Despite the fact that most of these fics are written by women and young girls, they seem like they’re not too fond of their female characters. In fact, they sometimes loathe their female characters to the point of shaming them by mocking their womanhood.

More often than not, this internalized-misogynistic attitude presents itself in slash fics—fics that feature a male homosexual pairing. This shaming can come about in many different forms, and these stories progress in a lot of different fashions. However, the misogyny is there all the same. Normally, the two male characters will hook up, and the female character—sometimes a canon love interest for one of the males—is made out to be a jealous, manipulative excuse for a human being, so the story, author, and readers can feel justified when she is righteously cut down for daring to get in the way of the lovers. To be clear, this doesn’t just happen in yaoi fics; I’ve seen it happen in fics that feature original female characters hooking up with a canon female character’s partner. The damning message is still the same regardless.

There are many reasons fanfic authors may have for slut-shaming, name-calling, etc. these female characters. Lady Geek Girl touched briefly on some of these reasons as well awhile back—here and here—and like her, Rin and I aren’t very forgiving of them.

Tsunderin: There’s a difference in making a character seem horrible because they’re legitimately terrible—or at least terrible from the point of view from the character that is speaking—and stretching beyond the scope of believability for misplaced wish fulfillment. This is stereotypically what the yaoi genre in particular is: wish fulfillment for female authors and consumers. Wish fulfillment in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it’s almost nonsensical how toxic it becomes, especially when fandom becomes involved.

Yaoi’s rise in popularity happened due in part to—though not entirely because of—misogyny, but not in the manner in which it currently manifests (it is popular for a lot of reasons). This genre isn’t a response to high tempo action of shonen or the more serious themes of seinen. Rather, it’s a direct response to the unsatisfied female audience of shoujo manga. For as much as I love shoujo, it does inherently run on sexist (and heterosexist) themes. Of course, there are manga that break or try to break from these tropes.

However, nine times out of ten, a shoujo follows the plot of a young girl who falls in love with a boy and is rescued by him on several occasions while also making a conscious effort to better herself for him. When it’s put like that, yes, there is something incredibly lacking in this scene of manga. The fact that response to that dissatisfaction has become as large and genre-changing as it has leads me to believe that there is a strong community that believes in a more complex, less restrictive meaning of romance.

Just, you know, not involving other women. In any way.

So what is it that leads the women and girls that participate in this genre to veer toward woman-bashing ways comparable to the gamer culture? There’s a part of me that believes it’s due to the birthing process of yaoi itself. Since it stems from a place where it can be interpreted that since shoujo is flawed and unsatisfying, then so too are the heterosexual relationships within. Not only that, but since the female characters of shoujo can most typically be considered ditzy, weak, clingy, or annoying, the appeal of including them in an idealized romance is severely lessened. However, there’s also a part of me that believes it’s because the authors tend to write about the characters that they themselves have the most attachment to. In doing so, they feel that no woman would be good enough for the male character: no one can live up to the standards that the author has created from spending so much time in the male character’s head. It’s much less threatening to pair them with a character that has something that the author couldn’t offer them, even if that only amounts to a penis.

Unfortunately, there’s also a part of me that knows that a certain subset of authors are adverse against women because they idolize and fetishize gay relationships over all others, and next to those idolizations a woman would never be able to stand up. So it seems as though we have a dangerous mix of internalized misogyny and idealism with a dash of defensiveness.

MadameAce: Just to be clear, the unfortunate nature of this is that it is not just limited to anime and manga. Different mediums have encouraged this bashing in different ways, some more subtly than others, but with the rise of the internet and fics for all fandoms being within easy reach, it has spread over everything. There’s never going to be a clear answer as to why this bashing came about. I’d say it’s also partly in due to jealously and competition; girls are taught from an early age to want a man and that they have to fight other girls to get him. They are taught that it’s okay to play dirty, to name call, to undermine. It comes as no surprise that women hate fictional women. This is so bad and prevalent that, should the story have live-action, sometimes these authors even hate the actresses. The cast of Supernatural for instance: their wives receive hate mail and death threats constantly. People hate Kristen Stewart because Bella’s mean to Edward, among other reasons. I’ve even seen people slut-shame and demonize Daenerys from Game of Thrones because she didn’t save her abusive brother’s life.

Here’s the thing, I can think of plenty of female characters who I don’t like for whatever reason. Maybe I’ll think they’re useless damsels, maybe I’ll find them annoying, or maybe I just generally think of them as bad people. I don’t necessarily hate them because they’re women. I’ll even admit that I have engaged in name-calling other girls when I was less aware and educated about the subject. In my very first post on this blog, I called Sif a bitch, when I shouldn’t have. But nowadays, I know better.

There is a way to bash a female character you don’t like without resorting to demeaning statements on their gender. I wrote a post awhile back, in which I complained and hated on Lori Grimes; someone read that and accused me of being sexist. I complained about her without calling her a whore, a slut, or any of the normal derogatory terms. (To be clear, I also complain about male characters a lot too.) So I get why people may hate a character who happens to be female. I really do. However, I have to question whether or not a fanfic author has some internalized form of misogyny when I come across something like this:

Spinning around, the young teen promptly slashed it across Kagome’s neck. After decapitating her, the whore’s head roll on the ground as her body fell to floor with a thud.

In this story, which will be unnamed, Kagome is an evil tyrant who took over Inu no Taisho’s kingdom and sold Inuyasha into slavery, prompting Sesshoumaru to get revenge on Kagome while searching for his brother. Inuyasha meanwhile was bought up by Miroku and they fall in love and have a baby together. This fic is so terribly mean to Kagome’s character. She’s just the evil bitch, because why not? Because evil female characters are just bitches. Furthermore, despite the fact that in the fic Kagome doesn’t even engage in any sexual acts, it slut-shames her by calling her a whore.

This fic is not an exception to a rule. There are literally thousands of stories just like this one. Lord knows, Rin and I certainly suffered enough of them this past week.

Tsunderin: Don’t worry, we’re not going to make you suffer through all of them.

Like Ace previously mentioned, though this trope is stereotypically linked to series from anime and manga, literature is not exempt from the pointless bashing of its female characters. It also shows up in other series, like Harry Potter. In one of the fics we found we have a forlorn Harry Potter pining after his best friend, Ron Weasley, who just so happens to be in a serious relationship with their other best friend, Hermione. It’s not set in an AU, there’s not even any magic at play here; it’s just a study of repressed affection which is a good basis for a story. Hell, even interesting. We have Harry in an unfulfilling relationship with Ginny, his longing tearing them apart until it reaches a boiling point when Ron announces that Hermione is pregnant. After this moment, Harry tries to shove his feelings aside in a desperate attempt to regain some affection for his girlfriend, but it doesn’t work for either of them. The passion is gone, and they both have a very adult discussion about what to do next.

Ahaha, no, I’m joking. Harry calls out Ron’s name while they’re having sex and Ginny goes off on a homophobic tirade.

“Oh shut up you fucking faggot,” Ginny growled, “and get the fuck out of my house.”

Yes, because this is the Ginny that we’ve all come to know through the Harry Potter series. Not to mention that Hermione is pregnant with a child that isn’t Ron’s. Ron seems moderately okay with this, (a little sad, but that’s to be expected in such a situation) but takes it upon himself to make clear his displeasure with Hermione’s infidelity at a moment where it would be the most embarrassing for her: their engagement party.

As to be expected, Harry and Ron are both made out to be the martyrs of the situation, presenting it almost as though they’re both abused—granted, Harry is being verbally abused by Ginny, but Ron doesn’t have anything like that going on. Both of the boys can do no wrong and the girls (though Ginny has the brunt of this) are vilified to almost ridiculous levels to make it clear that the relationship between Harry and Ron is the “right” one, rather than making the relationships and the conflicts in character interesting.

This fic also exhibits one of the tropes of yaoi that has by this point become a joke: the seme and uke relationship. In short, seme is the dominant of the relationship while uke is the more submissive. There are fics where the lines of seme and uke are pathetically drawn and this story is not the worst offender, but it does ignore Harry’s canon traits to make him seem weaker than Ron. Harry is not a weak character, especially when it comes to romantic relationships, so why not take advantage of that? What’s the point outside of magnifying Ginny’s villainy?

There’s not one.

MadameAce: The use of seme and uke in these stories just makes the bashing of female characters all the worse. Essentially, many of these yaoi stories do not so much as feature a homosexual pairing, but pseudo-hetereosexual one. The one male character is given the stereotypical emotional and mental traits typical of a woman—and sometimes the reproductive traits as well—and thus the female characters have nothing else to do in the story. They exist either to support or to get in the way of the relationship. When they support the relationship, at best they come across as caricatures free of personalities and self-motivations, because all the notable motivation in the story is put into the relationship, which they are not part of. When they get in the way of the relationship, it doesn’t matter what terrible thing eventually happens to them, because they’re evil hags who deserve their comeuppance.

In some ways, these kinds of stories actually give the oppression homosexuals face to hetereosexuals, and that is not okay. It is one thing to write a story that represents homosexuality. It is another to write a story that says male-female relationships are a blight against humanity.

This also continues to undermine femininity and womanhood because women no longer have a place. Not only do these fics enforce gender stereotypes, they remove women from the equation all together and say that male characters can do it better. This is even worse in mpreg fics. And not only do they say men are better than women, this gives leeway to cut women down.

I remember when I first got into fanfiction and started reading yaoi. One of the main reasons I got turned off to it was because these kinds of fics were so prevalent, and they all left me feeling as if I should be ashamed of my womanhood. That I would never have a complete relationship, and that if I ever did something wrong, it would be okay and even justified to maliciously attack me based on no other reason than that I have a vagina and not a penis, which is infinitely superior.

The sad part is that fanfiction is a reflection on how people view the world. And when these kinds of stories are constantly put out there, they only serve to enforce harmful misogynistic attitudes, internalized or otherwise.

7 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: Girl-Bashing in Yaoi Fics

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  6. *claps* bravo! Thank GOD someone said it. I hope you don’t mind I’d like to give out a full response to this. *clears throat* When I was young, I often questioned yaoi as to why there were no female characters in yaoi. In fact, I’ve even done research on the subject. Currently, I am working on a yaoi fanfiction and wanted to make it more realistic. I even added at least one main female without resorting her to being a love interest (since the point of the story IS yaoi) and actually has her own developed backstory. However, in the past, I was gonna try it earlier but because I mentioned the idea publicly, I suffered extreme misogyny by the yaoi fangirls and told to go to hell and that I’m a slut. So I had to hold it off out of fear it’d get worse. To get to the point faster, this actually made me remember an article and some more on tumblr that explained why it was okay to not include women, to show heterosexual themes in yaoi, and even add rape. I do agree with one post, which was also the same argument as yours: the fact that the media presents women in a shitty light and portrays heterosexual relationships as shitty, stereotypical negative relationship and that message can bring harm. It’s male dominated and women were unable to explore sexuality because they’re taught sexuality is harmful to women. They’re taught women can’t be friends with other women or men. However, another argument I’ve seen is they said something like this: why the heterosexual themes is all right in yaoi, why women should be excluded in yaoi or presented in a negative light, and why rape is okay in yaoi. Now I agree with what you said. I just want to bring in some arguments as examples. For the heterosexual themes, it’s because the yaoi is targeted for the female audience and women can explore sexuality, a way for women to fight patriarchy. For excluding women or making them look back, it’s a mockery how the mainstream media presents women and making fun of how patriarchy presents women. For the rape, it’s because it’s not the woman suffering it like in mainstream media, you can’t feel sorry for the guy bc he’s not a girl and it’s a way to explore it without triggering ppl, and it’s not a girl suffering or represented or the male gaze. But to be honest, I don’t necessarily find these arguments the best. I truly do believe what you said is on point. In fact, yaoi may be considered feminist, but I feel like it’s more harmful when yaoi is presented in a negative way toward women. In fact, men CAN suffer rape and it’s already harmful when it’s presented in yaoi as some kind of kink instead of consensual sex. How they are described, it sounds like people believe homosexual men can’t be hurt and aren’t oppressed. Gay men actually suffer bullying and harassment as it is, so it is offensive they’re portrayed with heterosexual themes just so one group can get off. I don’t see how that’s helping us reach equality if it’s fighting fire with fire. The lgbt is hurt as well by this because it assumes they’re just there for laughs and a way to get off for heterosexual girls. To get to the point, I guess I’m trying to say not only does it bring harm to lgbt men, but to exclude women all together just sounds like they’re giving up on them. Instead of waiting for a positive female character to be made, it’s like people just gave up on women all together. Sorry ^^; thought I’d bring up other arguments and lgbt but it came out longer than it should. I’m just saying not only are women reading yaoi, but lgbt community or everyone else reads it as well because we also have a lack of gay characters in mainstream except to confirm stereotypes in the mainstream. I just find it sad women aren’t even allowed to be developed in yaoi as a third party or support or developed because we’re taught to hate other women or they’re seen as a joke. I’m just a type that can’t wait anymore and want to help bring women to light instead of being seen as negative objects. Same goes to portraying gay men better instead of just a placement for female fantasy. I do hope making realistic yaoi and adding some friends for the cast who have their own stories can bring things to light. In fact, this article and more points you made had helped me go on with it. So I thank you for this 🙂

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