19 lis 2011

In Japan, a very popular manga genre is called ‘boys' love’ or yaoi. The latter name is the acronym of YAma nashi, Ochi nashi, Imi nashi, which stands for: no climax, no point, no meaning (Welker 2006). This term reflects the specificity of the narratives – their plot is only a pretext for showing sex between two men, usually very young, and the picture could be well identified as pornographic (the sub-genre of yaoi, the so-called rorikon which shows young boys in sexual intercourse is also quite popular) (McLelland 2000).

These are not at all comic books targeted at the homosexual minority; the recipients are heterosexual women, including teenage girls. This ought not to surprise one since in the Land of the Cherry Blossom the industry has long been producing pornography targeted at women. This issue looks quite different in the USA or Europe, where the recipients of 'adult films' are men. Additionally, in the West, it is unthinkable that the films be targeted at teenagers; they are to be protected against erotic content. An average Japanese citizen manifests a different standpoint. Sharon Kinsella (2000: 136) noted that pornography fails to be stigmatised in this country; and although censorship does exist, it is extremely specific – it prohibits ostensible showing of genitals, but disregards the overall context (hence the films for adult viewers, so frequent on Japanese TV, show the intimate parts of the body covered). The highly liberal attitude to sex, rooted in the culture, results in that comic authors of porn manga may feel free to express their ideas. The law regarding child pornography is also interesting – it is forbidden to show 'real' children, but nobody can question comic characters. The liberal approach to erotics results in the fact that yaoi is created not only by professionals but also by fans – as it may easily be guessed, they are women, both adult and teenage girls, who print they own magazines, share their drawings via the Internet or, more frequently, distribute them during fan conventions.

Mark McLelland (2005) in his article The World of Yaoi argued that at present we are witnessing the development of a global fandom of this manga genre. For this author, it is evidenced by the emergence of virtual communities in which fans from various parts of the world share their favourite texts. Are we actually observing such a global community? The fact that there are local groups of fans forming all around the world should not come as a surprise if one takes into account that it is a product of global pop culture – however, the perception is not everywhere the same. In the countries of the West, the versions of yaoi that are imported and translated, are highly censored – the characters are re-drawn in a way as to make them look like adult men and not boys (it has to be added that the ‘boys' love’ genre is imported definitely more rarely than the more conventional comics). The youngest readers are excluded from the consumption of these picture narratives – mangas are labelled accordingly by the censors to prevent their sale to persons under the defined age. 

Obviously, there is no obstacle for fans-Internet users in the West to download the porn comic from Japanese sites. However, if a western fans wanted to engage in the amateur yaoi, they would expose themselves to ostracism or labels. ‘Boys' love’ would instantly be associated with paedophilia, and the author with a perversive person, one who may have not yet abused children but surely is able to do this. They would be treated as persons of pathological tendencies and interests which exceed the 'healthy' sexuality. Such a thesis may easily be verified – it has been mentioned that yaoi enters the global pop-culture and attracts its fans also in the English speaking countries. The websites for such fans function in a completely different way than the Japanese ones, though – the pornography is disguised – to reach it, one has to go through sites with warnings against explicit content and statements by the authors denying their being homosexual. It is frequent that the authors give explanations, or quite the opposite – assume the label of a deviant and voluntarily accept it (McLelland 2001).

The least interesting is the situation of Australian female fans willing to involve in comics on gay relationships between young people (McLelland 2005). Yaoi may be considered under the local legislation as publications within the category of sexual abuse of minors. The issue is even harder due to the mentioned focus in mangas on sex exclusively, since this does not allow to classify the narratives as pornography used for artistic purposes, which could be a solution for those wanting to read and draw them. Under Australian law, production, distribution or even downloading ‘boys' love’ from the Internet is illegal and prohibited under penalty – additionally, the fact that yaoi shows homosexual relations, which promotes accusations of pederasty, worsens the situation even more. Moreover, in opposition to Japan, pornography includes not only feature films, but also any written texts and animations. In this area, the legislation follows the policy of zero tolerance that enables evasion of the right to freedom of speech or privacy (Diamond 2010; Elliot, Beech 2009). According to this policy, even the erotic communication between teenagers is a crime – it is quite possible that a fifteen-year-old boy who writes in his blog about his first sexual experiences be taken for a producer and owner of child pornography, which carries a penalty of up to ten years imprisonment (in Australia, persons under the age of 18 are given little freedom in the area of erotic expression). It has to be mentioned that fans who create comics presenting homosexual relations are subject to legal sanctions in many countries where pornography is illegal, for example in Iceland, Ukraine, in some countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa, China or the Muslim countries of Africa and Asia.

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