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A comment below reminded me that in fact, bishounen characters are not necessarily gay; that the term does mean "pretty boy" and is applied to pretty, androgynous male characters whatever their orientation. A little searching found a good introduction to the yaoi genre, which is m/m manga created by women for women at the website for Yaoi-Con 2003. (According to their site, in Japan yaoi is specifically fan-fic, but in the west it's applied to pro and amatuer work in the genre.) But for an incredibly in-depth exploration of the subject, we turn to Aestheticism.com's "Definitions from Japan", which asserts that homoeroticism in shoujo and "Lady's" (yes, that's a genre) manga is completely meaningless and just a standard part of the vocabulary. The "BL" genre (formerly "June") is where the real yaoi action is. (Their example of a shoujo fan being turned off by BL explains our WIRED 16-year old, I think.) BL still is strictly m/m work by and for women, however. (btw, the Aestheticism site will keep you busy for hours if you start reading...their range of faqs and resources is amazing.) Further commentary on the cultural aspects of the whole thing (including some in-depth history) can be found in this article, "Why Are Japanese Girls’ Comics full of Boys Bonking?" (and again, the assertion that they're not gay, they're men who love each other; as well as a comment that m/m manga by and for men is limited to appearing in gay magazines). And finally an expert opinion from Matt Thorn who explores the phenomenon and offers some of the theories on its cause and meaning, but judges it too complex to easily explain. (Sorry these links are a little haphazard and thrown up here but it's 3:30 am, I'm supposed to be working and, well, you try googling for "gay manga".)

Actually, I had this whole other manga-related entry I was starting, but I wanted to get these links up while I was thinking about it. Now, back to work! (Um, that's directed at me, not you, you don't have to work at all if you don't want to. I give you permission!)


LOL! I can't stop giggling! I love the "you try googling gay manga" comment. It's especially funny to me since last night my husband was trying to explain "cos play" videos from Japan to me. Crazy!
I am so interested in the whole Japanese culture of sexuality.

Geez, Sarah. When I'm awake at three in the morning, I usually just have warm milk. But to each their own I guess.

Ah, shut it, Joe!! ^_^