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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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03/13/2005 Archived Entry: "Yaoi review: Desire"

Story by Maki Kazumi
Art by Yukine Honami
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing

Review by Ginger Mayerson

Yet again why older women should read yaoi manga.

This review contains information that could be considered spoilers. Please take this into consideration and continue at your own risk.

I like the art in "Desire," but the sex bothers me. It's the old, "your lips say no but your eyes say yes," or "your whole body, except your dick says no, but I'm only listening to dicks now" or "quiet! you came, now I get to fuck you" deal that bothers me. In two sex scenes, Toru repeatedly begs Ryoji to stop and is repeatedly ignored. Eventually Toru just gives up and let's Ryoji do what he wants with his body. It's all very well drawn and not offensive... until you think about it.

I've said this elsewhere, so I'll say it here: I think this kind of thing would confuse the hell out of a young woman (ages 14 18 to, oh, 30), which is the market yaoi is aimed at. I don't know what that says about our society or what the fall-out will be, if any. I also don't know any women in that age group, so if you read this stuff and still know that no, means no, please speak up. On the other hand, you might know that no, means no, but do the men in your lives respect that? I'm just asking because I was young once... and it was not a picnic.

I dunno. I guess once you're over forty no, means no, your situation awareness is really working, and rape (date or other) is not as much of an issue. So, I could enjoy this manga without getting too into it. It is, as my colleague at Sequential Tart, Margaret O'Connell, wrote in her essay on "Kizuna: Bonds of Love, Volume 1" that the yaoi bodice ripper trope is very much like our romance novel and daytime TV bodice ripper trope from the Sweet Savage Love era of 1970s. O'Connell's writing on this is top drawer and I highly recommend her essay.

So, younger women, clue me in here: What is the attraction to forced gay unprotected sex in yaoi? I mean, I guess we get a happy ending: the hero ends up with his, um, with the guy he didn't want to have sex with and now does, and... um... WTF?

Okay, and here's one last thing that bothers me a little: At the end of my rather well-thumbed copy of Desire, author Maki Kazumi, on the "Maki Kazumi Side," writes, referring to the artwork: "There were some scenes that made my heart pound, for example, take a look at the part where Toru is looking down showing his back after sleeping with Ryoji for the first time. That was so sexy, wasn't it?"

Actually, no, not for me. I thought it was painful because Toru's humiliation in that scene was palpable. But I've never understood the turn-on in humiliation, although I do understand it's quite popular. Not that any of this interfered with my enjoyment of this manga, but it does make me wonder what else the author considers sexy. There were plenty of things in this manga I thought were sexy, without anyone being humiliated or suffering.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this manga was how Ryoji comes around and stops being such a jerk. I also enjoyed wishing Toru had given the other guy more of a chance to make him happy, but I'm on the sentimental side, I guess.

Digital Manga Publishing puts out a superior product. The glossy color dustcovers, strong bindings and nice clean reproductions make these books a joy to behold and handle. Content aside for a moment, I'm impressed by the care and thought DMP has put into these books and I hope their list flourishes. They have several lines of manga, a series on how to draw and write manga, and an agreement with Dark Horse, so they'll probably be just fine.

I'm giving "Desire" high marks because I, personally, liked it. I can read and enjoy limited amounts of this stuff as melodrama and critique it as someone else's rather well drawn fantasy. I just hope everyone sees it that way.

Oh, and by the way, the publisher now has the Girls Only Sanctuary. Fall by and give it a look. Sadly, for me, when I see the word "Sancturay," I can't stop thinking about Temple Drake. Weird, I know, but c'est moi.

(A version of this review originally appeared in the January 2005 issue of Sequential Tart.)

EDIT: Hey there, yaoi lovers, don't miss the fabulous Lene Taylor's wonderful podcast on Desire. It's an eye, sorry, ear-opener! She said great things about Only the Ring Finger Knows in her first podcast.

Replies: 10 comments

a lot of girls like yaoi. ive just turned 14 and me and my friend are obsessed (yes, we are straight). i dont understand y guys wouldnt like it

Posted by Avarice @ 04/03/2005 11:16 AM PST

I like yaoi or at least I can accept it, and it's not all that bad. No this doesn't mean I'm WEIRD. Besides most of it is just fiction, so I don't think it's that offensive.

Posted by Krystal @ 07/09/2005 06:50 PM PST

I LOVE Yaoi and Shonen-ai!! But because I'm only 15 I try to stick with the soft-core more fluffy stuff (so cute!!-^^-) rather than the hardcore sex/erotica stuff Lol ~___^-

Posted by Destini @ 07/18/2005 03:00 AM PST

I'm 25 and I've recently been getting into Yaoi and Shonenai. In fact, I even made a gay character for one of my role-playing games. (YOu know, like D&D?)

I understand the Japanese like Yaoi because women think it is so tragic that the love is taboo.

I just think its hot, and I don't know why! There is just something about beautiful, naked men, I suppose. And gay men are so wonderful and nonthreatening!(Er, to ME.)

Yeah, I would prefer it not be about rape. I am sure there is some that isn't about rape. But it is kind of hot when one of the characters denies his desires for a while, ne?

Posted by Carolyn @ 08/08/2005 11:53 PM PST

As a demograhic rarity among yaoi readers (42 year old gay male), I love reading romance comics where the main characters are gay youth. It's a representation of queer sexuality that I wish I had had access to in my own teen years.

The non-con nature of the yaoi stories can probably be seen metaphorically as young gay men breaking through their inhibitions. True, it's a bad example of how to love someone but, like het romance stories, the tacititurn will eventually learn to say "I love you" and the cold will turn warm.

And gay boys will walk into the sunset hand in hand.

Posted by Talktooloose @ 08/22/2005 01:57 PM PST

Yaoi is so beautiful and forbidden... especially when theres a wee bit if insest... man im weird...

i have alot of male guy friends ad there ALWAYS stealing my yaoi... so its not only for women although me being female is buying it... heh heh...

the thing im bothered by is that its hard to find and like to flick through the books before i buy them *shrug*...

this book sounds really nice though... shape about the slight rape aspect...

Posted by leviathan @ 10/16/2005 09:50 AM PST

I'm an 18 year old girl just getting into yaoi. The main reason is it's one of the only areas of manga where the focus is on the gorgeous bishonen I love! Still, there are lots of other manga genres which are also great if you can't really enjoy yaoi.

Posted by Kat @ 11/17/2005 11:59 AM PST

I like to read yaoi and I'm only 13. I think that gay guys are sexy and at least they wont harm me.

Posted by Lissa @ 12/09/2005 08:42 AM PST

after i read this yaoi book i became hooked to guy on guy action so thats why i draw it now THank You yaoi ceartors!! X3

Posted by Tomoyo KInomoto @ 12/19/2005 04:36 PM PST

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Posted by Editor @ 01/19/2006 03:34 AM PST

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