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Society for Intercultural Studies


Authenticities East and West
March 30 - April 1, 2001

Pornography or Therapy? Japanese Girls Creating the Yaoi Phenomenon
Kazuko Suzuki (
Department of Sociology, Princeton University

Comics, 'manga' in Japanese, are a mass media greatly contributing to the construction of contemporary Japanese culture. If popular literature is a reflection of the time, girls' comics are perhaps unparalleled vehicles in which to probe the Zeitgeist. Girls' comics, which are varied and have developed over the last few decades under the influence of feminism, are an appropriate material with which to investigate girls' psychological conflicts and their desires in a sexist society.

The purpose of this study is to illuminate how today's Japanese girls, by using comics as a means of self expression, are developing new rhetorical forms which resist sexism and which depict the pursuit of ideal relationships of equality between individuals 'beyond sex'. In particular, this paper explores the factors underlying Japanese girls' general fascination with male homosexual love stories and pornographic sexual descriptions in girls' comics. The Yaoi method of depicting male homosexual love in comics is given detailed examination. The earliest works employing the Yaoi method reveal that male homosexual comics were written by girls to take revenge on the male sex in general. What supports the latter development of Yaoi comics, however, is girls' strong desire to affirm, for themselves, their socially denied gender, which for many girls found rhetorical form in the depiction of unconditional, mutually affirming love affairs between male homosexuals.

By drawing upon studies which examine similar phenomenon in the United States, I also place my findings within a broader context. The study concludes that male homosexual love stories, read by many girls and young women in developed countries, grow out of their despair of ever achieving equal relationships with men in a sexist society and their quest for ideal human relationships.

Kazuko Suzuki is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at Princeton, concentrating on immigration and ethnic relations of Japan and the United States. Her dissertation is a comparative study of the Korean diaspora in Japan and in the U.S.

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