An Analysis of Yaoi Fandom
by Jared Griego (jared @ scarlet-rhapsody.com)
Fandom is a funny thing, it makes even the best of people act like idiots sometimes. One of the running trends in anime fandom is the abrasive yaoi fandom. Yaoi is a genre of anime that features gay sex between male characters, however some fans have used that fandom as an excuse to act immaturely. Everyone is allowed to like whatever aspect of anime they like, but that does not give anyone the right to push their fandom upon anyone else. Yaoi fandom has become very abrasive with the fans harassing cosplayers, screaming rude things at voice actors, and generally behaving like crazy people. There is nothing wrong with enjoying something like yaoi, but that does not give anyone the right to act like a lunatic.
The cosplay community has had to deal with many different issues at conventions and events. However, one of the complaints that most cosplayers have is with girls yelling at them or commenting to them about doing yaoi acts for their entertainment. This is a strange phenomenon because if you switched the gender the guys who asked the two female cosplayers to do something yuri would be kicked out of the convention for harassing other attendees. It does not matter what gender a cosplayer is the yaoi fans should understand that you do not ask people to act like that in public.
Another complaint that is more cosplay centric is the disruption of cosplay gatherings at conventions. Often a gathering is disrupted by yaoi fans who request pictures that are yaoi themed. Not only is this embarrassing for cosplayers, but it can ruin events for those who wanted to get some shots with other people who cosplay from their series. There is no problem with requesting different kinds of shots, but if you are going to request a picture that could be embarrassing ask the people privately and do not yell it out in front of everyone,. That makes both the cosplayers and the photographers all feel uncomfortable. A little courtesy could go a long way with making cosplay gatherings much more enjoyable for everyone.
Beyond the harassment of cosplayers there is also the harassment of guests. Many voice actors have had to answer very insulting question or requests. As they are the guest of the convention they should be treated with more respect. Many fans would like to know more about their training, experience, and anecdotes, which is often disrupted by yaoi fans asking rude questions. Very few people in the audience want to hear those questions and asking them of a guest who took time out of his busy schedule to visit a convention makes all fans look bad. The guests of a convention should be treated with respect and the yaoi fans need to learn that you do not ask insulting questions of a guest.
Beyond rude comments and question there is also violence. The most dangerous thing at any convention is the fans. The proof of this is the yaoi paddle; a paddle that is sold at some conventions that many yaoi fans purchase and carry around. Many fans feel that if they own one they have the right to paddle anyone they want. This boarders on assault and thus these paddles have been banned from many conventions. That does not eliminate the fact that many gals used those paddles to hit people at conventions. It is surprising to think that someone would act in such a manner and act violently because of a simple piece of wood. Behaving like this defies logic. If you are a fan of something why would you hit the representation of your fandom? Moreover if you want others to support your fandom carrying something dangerous often does not win people to your cause.
Another problematic element of the yaoi fans is that they can be very disruptive at events. There is no other group that runs around screaming and yelling disrupting events the way that yaoi fans do. Running around a dealer hall shouting and being disruptive is not funny or entertaining, it just bothers people. Whether this is an attempt at humor or a way of showing love for your fandom it does not get the point across. It merely makes the people causing the disruption look immature. Also it is a danger to people walking around because there could be a collision.
Such behavior is considered rude, immature, and problematic. However, this cannot be consistent behavior for yaoi fans. Thus there must be a reason why the fans would act in such a way at conventions. Not all fans of yaoi act in such ways, but some find it to be reasonable to act like a maniac at events. It is likely that this is a form of herd mentality; a psychological phenomenon wherein normal people get drawn into behavioral patterns that match the behavior of a mass group. This is mainly due a desire to be part of the group and to be accepted. In terms of the fandom it would be set with a small portion acting one way and individuals who are easily influenced or seek mass approval follow these behavior patterns. Since the improper behavioral patterns do not encompass all fans this must be mostly set on people with low self esteem or identity issues, which makes thing much more complicated.
There are two things that need to be done to solve these problems. The first is removing the trend setters and the second is helping those with esteem issues. To deal with the first factor can be handled by the conventions themselves. Having convention staff punish attendees who act in a disruptive or dangerous manner could be very effective in halting such behaviors. This is already done for attendees who wave around weapons and it is often done to men who sexually harass female attendees. However, rarely is a yaoi fan punished for acting in an inappropriate manner. Much of what is done is a form of sexual harassment and thus females who act in such a way should be punished just as severely as males.
Dealing with emotional and personal identity issues is much more complicated than enforcing rules. It is something that only a qualified professional should be allowed to do, however there are things that friends can do for friends with those types of issues. Most people seek acceptance of a group. Drawing people into your group and giving them acceptable behavior patterns to mimic could lead to people feeling good for being themselves. This would give them group acceptance which could go a long way toward removing the herd mentality of the yaoi fans. It must be noted that many of these people probably need professional help, but to quote the Beatles “I get by with a little help from my friends”. Sometimes friends can be the best influence a person can receive.
The analysis of this behavioral pattern brings up another important point. What factor brings in so many easily influenced people to such a fandom? There is nothing wrong with enjoying the sight of two men kissing or having sex. Just as there is nothing wrong with most sexual fetishes, as long as they cause no harm. It does seem odd that yaoi has become popular with females as males tend to be more visually turned on than females. It is far more common for females to need an emotional turn on rather than a purely visual turn on. This is not the uniting factor of this fetish, merely a curiosity that comes from this fetish.
The main uniting factor for any fetish is personality type or history. Usually certain personality types or personal histories tend to fall into similar fetish groups with a consideration to gender in some cases. Thus there is a contingent of females with low self esteem that are in the anime community and flock to this fetish in order to find acceptance. Under this hypothesis it is likely that many yaoi fans do not like yaoi at all, but join in the fandom for a feeling of belonging. This is merely conjecture, but it does go along with the observable behavior patterns of the yaoi fans.
The strangest aspect of the fandom is a group within the group who claim to be lesbians, but enjoy yaoi. By definition a lesbian does not get turned on by watching men and any true lesbian would support that claim. Thus if a female wants to watch gay males and be with a female there are obviously identity issues involved with that person. These behaviors support the main theory, but they cannot be easily explained. Identity issues can come from personal trauma while growing up. Once again this can only be solved by a professional. The only other solution would be for that person to find a clear identity and resolve the issues that caused the identity crisis.
Maturity comes to all people as they grow older. Of course there are always new immature people to replace those who have grown up. There is no excuse for the bad behavior of the yaoi fans, especially since it reflects poorly upon all fans. There is sympathy for the mature yaoi fan, but they do little to make their fandom respectable. Everyone must work together to regulate fandom. Only fans can really influence the course of fandom and the anime community needs that now more than ever. Hoping that things will change may be too much to ask for, but it is something we can strive for as a community.