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Reading Too Much Yaoi

I've been spending the majority of my downtime lately reading Japanese manga. If I were a more dedicated writer I would read actual books, but books are harder to read and frankly, I don't like most of the ones out there (hence, the compulsion to write my own).

However, the problem with manga is that Japanese ideals are pretty darned sexist. Their gender roles, as expressed in fiction, are close to what you see in western Gothic romances from the 1800s. Ninety-nine percent of female manga characters are spineless, brainless, teary-eyed ingenues who cling to cold, selfish jerks. If I read the stories aimed at schoolgirls (shoujo) or the ones aimed at young women (josei), I get treated to suave heroes with gallant lines like, "No matter how strong you act, in a real emergency you're as helpless as any girl." *Swoon*.

My remedy? Skip the girly stuff and head to yaoi and shounen ai—a.k.a. "boys' love" (BL). Similar stories, similar art, but with two male leads. The uke taking the "woman's role" often adapts some of the traditionally feminine traits, but overall the two protagonists are much more equal. I just ignore the bits where one of the men gets mad at his partner for being overly protective and says, "I can take care of myself—I'm not a girl!"

But now I'm thinking I've been reading too much of it. Last night, I dreamed I was reading a BL novel.

The dream consisted half of printed words in the paperback and half of images of the story itself. The novel starred a pretty teenage boy caught between two love interests. One was a standoffish top student his age, and the other was an older childhood friend with a kindly heart despite his tragic past in a broken home. The top student was thin with long trendy boy-band hair, and the childhood friend was muscular with cropped spiky hair.

First he dated the classmate. Then they broke up due to misunderstandings fueled by the classmate's stubborn pride, and he accepted the advances of the childhood friend. I got aggravated with the character for waffling between romance interests instead of just picking one. So I skipped over the middle half of the book, skimming the intermediary scenes (they visited the childhood friend's family and resolved some of his lingering issues, apparently). I slowed down at the narrative climax: a Halloween party where the standoffish classmate made an effort to loosen up and show the main character he'd changed by wearing an Edo-style kimono and a comically long blond wig. They all ended up having a threesome while the main character was drunk, and he came to his senses halfway through and got mad at both of them.

I have no idea who he ended up with, because at this point I rolled my eyes and skipped to the Acknowledgements. The author thanked her editor for her guidance and her friends and family for their support in a fake-humble giggly tone that made me even more aggravated. I slammed the book shut thinking, "Egads, that was cheap. I could do so much better."

Then I woke up.

Long story short: methinks I should slow down on the yaoi consumption for a while.

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