If you know about manga, maybe you know about "yaoi" and/or "boy's love" comics. I'll admit right up front that my own dealings with them are pretty sparse, since the subject matter (gay love) isn't something I'm really all that interested in when selecting my reading material. But for the sake of research, I've done a bit of looking around, read some stuff posted online. This is what it looks like to me:
- "Boy's Love" and "Yaoi" are more or less the same thing, only the latter is more explicitly erotic and less story-oriented than the other.
- The main characters in such stories are very stylized, often to the point of being very very pretty. Some artists depict them with very girlish faces.
- Most reaction I've read coming from actual gay guys to these stories is a kind of bemused, "Well, that isn't very realistic at all, at least not from my experience."
- The actual number of gay readers of this stuff (at least in the States, as near as I can tell) is pretty small; the primary audience for these works is heterosexual women, and of the artists who create it, a large portion are themselves women.
(If Mad Thinker Scott is out there and has any thoughts on yaoi, feel free to chime in.) So what we have here are creators of one gender creating characters of the opposite gender, with highly idealized (and sometimes impossible) body types, performing in ways which are very unlike how sensible real people act, and a large portion of this artistic creation is for not much more purpose than the titillation of its primary target audience, which is not the gender of the aforementioned characters.
Now, why shouldn't I get worked up into an indignant froth over how men are depicted in yaoi comics? I suppose I could rationalize a whole heap of outrage on behalf of my own gender over yaoi and how it depicts men and the unrealistic expectations such stories might implant in the minds of young girl-perverts. I could consider the waif-like pretty-boys normally found in these stories to be an insult to real men, and if I were gay I could probably be livid over the liberties yaoi takes with the dynamics (and mechanics) of gay relationships.
But I don't, I'm not.
[I was just about to write "and I suspect most other men wouldn't care all that much, either," except, hell, I dunno, maybe there is some sort of male-based anti-yaoi movement out there I'm unaware of. Certainly real homosexual existence is plagued enough with doofuses, prejudice and crusades that some of that may spill over into a specialized branch of comics; I'd like to think it'd be more based on prejudice and homophobia than anything else, and I'd hope it'd be in the minority. But then again, people are often stupid.]
If you took the title of this entry seriously [and if you really did take it seriously, I advise counseling], you might think I would be about to launch into a tirade about how all this yaoi is "co-opting" my sexuality, by jerking around a bunch of characters on paper to the tune of what some women find sexy instead of what men are really like.
But that would assume that my sexuality is linked to other men's sexuality, and by extension to the fictional sexuality depicted using fictional men. I don't feel either to be the case. Other men's sexuality is their business, not mine. And I understand that the characters in yaoi comics are primarily created for women's fantasies, often (mostly?) by women.
Not only is a yaoi character unrelated to my sexuality in particular, it is entirely unrelated to male sexuality, being a product of female sexuality and the fantasies that beings forth.
In other words, it is impossible to "co-opt" something that never really belonged to me in the first place.
Your assignment: Now go off somewhere and think about Catwoman for a little while.