Why I’m A Fujoshi Who Hates Yaoi (and BL)

When someone mentions yaoi, BL, or slash shipping, what are the first things that come to mind for you? Probably something like this:

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Here we have Yaoi Hands™ on a classic pretty boy character. I don’t know what series this is from, but I’m guessing it’s from some high school love story or a sports manga. This is essentially the full yaoi stereotype embodied in one manga panel. Yikes.

Many fandoms have an abundance of M/M ships. Why? Since many fandoms are heavily dominated by primarily male casts, finding well-written female characters to ship is very difficult, so M/M pairings are typically easier to find due to the number of likable male characters compared to female ones. It also partly explains the lack of F/F pairings and the unpopularity they tend to have.

There can also be a lot of straight-bashing in fandoms, especially targeted at female characters who are “getting in the way” of M/M pairings. The confusing part about this is that 90% of the people saying these things are straight women! It makes no sense. I believe that heterosexual pairings are often shunned in fandoms due to poorly written canon heterosexual romances, especially when the “romantic chemistry” has little support in the canon due to shoddily written friendships and romances. It makes sense: poorly written female characters with weak romance plots are repulsive at best.  Nobody wants to be excited about a baseless M/F romance just because it’s canon when there are better relationships written between two well-developed male characters. This doesn’t make the anti-het attitude any more correct, but it does help to understand where it comes from.

The simple answer would be to just ship M/M pairings. Problem solved, right? Not quite.

Taking a look at the M/M ships, it quickly becomes apparent that many of them are pretty awful as well. Men are frequently feminized to an insulting level and relationship dynamics can all too often be based on unhealthy grounds such as abuse and disrespect. I’ve heard horror stories of numerous yaoi animes and mangas involving rape scenes as the start of a relationship. Immediately, I’m repulsed and will run as far away from it as I can. I can’t fathom why anyone would deem this to be acceptable, let alone enjoy it. Even without abuse involved, many M/M ships turn into same-sex romances with heterosexual relationship dynamics that aren’t accurate. It’s also a really insulting portrayal of the LGBT community, doing a terrible job of depicting these relationships.  While M/M ships are not be created with the intent to be representative, they do still reflect on real people, as just about all forms of media do. It’s not helping to shed a positive light on an already marginalized population.

To make matters worse, we often have main characters in yaoi (or BL in general) that follow the “we’re not gay, we just love each other” trope. This also continues to be true in some areas of fandom. The characters are seldom depicted as actually being gay, let alone seeing this trait being used to support an already well-developed character. The lack of representation in media can cause people in the LGBT community to feel ignored by mainstream culture, so making a point of ensuring a character isn’t read as gay can be damaging. Considering our modern age, there’s no excuse for this avoidance. It would probably be easier for writers to write their characters as gay rather than spending so much time explaining why they’re straight but don’t act like it.

And if it couldn’t get worse, it does. A lot of ships I see are what I would call “hate ships”. The characters in question are mortal enemies or generally bicker but somehow get along long enough (in the eyes of the fans) to kiss, get in bed, etc. (As someone who avoids NSFW content like the plague, it makes it much harder to find actual relationships rather than just porn that I don’t want to see). It’s really frustrating and I hate how these stereotypes have become the default in fandoms. It shouldn’t be a rare occurrence to come across a relationship built on genuine love and mutual respect.

Occasionally, I find a gem among the trash where there are two masculine men that genuinely care for each other in canon, most often as friends. Even if these ships are never confirmed, these pairings make me happy because it breaks the stereotypes. No hate, no over-feminization. It’s even better when the fandom actually headcanons the characters in question as gay, even when the canon evidence may be lacking.

An example of this distinction would be Heavy/Medic in comparison to Sniper/Spy from TF2. Unlike the frenemy “hate ship” relationship Sniper and Spy have, Heavy and Medic are shown throughout the canon to genuinely care for one another and to work well as a pair in battle. There’s a healthy basis for their friendship that could lead to a healthy romance. Neither of them are effeminate, either (and it bothers me when fans sometimes try to force Medic into the “girl” role of the relationship because it’s incredibly inaccurate and insulting to his character). There’s room to possibly interpret them as being gay (not just for each other) and, at the same time, being badasses who wouldn’t take anyone’s crap. Neither of them looks like a pretty boy; they’re also middle-age, which is hardly standard in M/M pairings. Heavy/Medic breaks all the “rules” of slash (and yaoi or BL), making it the perfect ship for me. I like the similar dynamic in Junkrat/Roadhog in Overwatch, because it essentially does the same thing a bit differently. Roadhog is not young and neither of them are what many would consider to be traditionally handsome. They’re crazed criminals and partners in crime who, in my opinion, would do anything to defend each other if they needed to. Again, considering Overwatch already has Tracer/Emily, it is very well possible that this ship could be confirmed in the future, let alone headcanoning them as gay in fandom only. These pairings are a refreshing change of pace from the others.

I would list other examples of good M/M pairings… if I had any. I know others exist, but these are some of the few that truly stand apart from the rest in my opinion. So few manage to do what Heavy/Medic and Junkrat/Roadhog does to break the stereotypes in the best ways possible. It’s sad to see that the stereotypes perpetuated by fandoms and the canons they come from have failed to make many M/M ships any good. I adore my ships but I tend to despise others, and it’s not always because it would break up my OTP.

It may never happen, but I long for the day when fandoms will realize that these harmful stereotypes around slash, BL, and yaoi need to change. While I may find Yaoi Hands™ very amusing, I tire of the constant hate ships and emasculation of male characters in the name of shipping. It’s easy to see that change is needed, and fast. Until that day, I’ll do my part to create fanworks that support healthy M/M pairings and to seek media that does this well. No matter what you ship, we all deserve better than what the stereotypes allow for. That’s why I’m a fujoshi who hates yaoi.

 

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