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I Love Rape in BL and I’m Not Ashamed of It. Here’s Why.

Sexy and steamy romance but darker.

Rape is one of the hallmarks of BL and I am part of the great mass of fans who love it.

Fantasy Rape, Not Rape

First, let’s make this clear: this post addresses fantasy rape portrayed in fictional yaoi/Boys Love materials, specifically, novels, dramas, manga, and anime. Rape in the real world is wrong, and arguably one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed against someone, especially women and girls, who make up the majority of victims of sex crimes.

This article does not condone rape or any other kind of violence. In relationships, in the real world, consent is always a must. Always. And when someone says no, it means no. Period.

What this article does is delve into the underlying reasons why many women (and men) enjoy narratives that eroticize and romanticize non-consensual sex acts, and why that is okay.

The Rape Trope in BL

Imagine the following: A man pinned against a wall in a dark alley, being ravished. The ravisher is so lost in his insatiable craving for this particular man that he can’t stop himself. So, he goes astray, violating all social norms to seize his would-be lover. The victim, sensing himself as the sole object of his attacker’s desire, is intoxicated by his own unwarranted lust and, ultimately, submits.

Take as an example the Japanese movie Dangerous Drugs of Sex, released in 2020. Adapted from the manga Sei No Gekiyaku, it tells the story of Katsuragi, an elite salaryman, who suddenly sees his perfect life crumbling after a series of unfortunate events In despair, he drunkenly tries to commit suicide by jumping off a building, but a mysterious stranger by the name of Yoda saves him. With demons of his own, Yoda holds Katsuragi captive and shows him the meaning of life through sexual torment. Needless to say, Katsuragi ends up falling in love with Yoda, his kidnapper and abuser.

I loved this movie, but I can understand they may be triggering to sensitive viewers, who don’t understand the female tendency to wallow in rape as a canonical form of romance.

But here’s the thing: rape in BL is not about power or domination, but about desire and the culmination of love. 

Uncontrollable Feelings

The attacker, also known as the seme or top, is characterized by his relentless quest for his chosen lover also known as the uke or bottom in the relationship. The top’s steadfast pursuit and the bottom’s resistance to his advances define many plots in Boys Love stories. This cat and mouse dynamic engages the viewers and readers in an exciting, intense venture for love and passion. The top’s feelings are so raw and instinctive that he is trapped in his pursuit of his intended lover and in a moment of uncontrollable and aggressive assertion of love, he passionately violates the bottom.

The seme’s aggression is justified by his unrestrained feelings and the exclusive nature of his sexuality, which revolves entirely around the uke. This means that he is unable to control himself and express his feelings more appropriately for the man, the only man, he desires. Thus, the rape is portrayed as resulting from a crazed affection and vicious desire of the seme for the uke. 

Other narratives involve the coercion of the bottom into having sex with the top through blackmail or harassment. Common to these narratives is the absence of consent and downplay of any potential psychological, emotional, and physical injuries resulting from the assault. 

In most cases, the rape results in a haunting guilty pleasure for the uke, who can’t stop himself from reveling in the memories of the violent but gratifying assault. The seme rarely admits to any wrongdoing, since the uke is often portrayed as the one who incited the assault by unknowingly seducing him. 

Essentially, rape in BL serves as a literal climax and a plot device to further the leads’ relationship and unite them.

The Paradox of Rape Fantasies

The paradox of sexual fantasies involving rape is that women who indulge in this kind of fantasy feel in control.

In fact, one of the most prevalent sexual fantasies among women is being raped – over 90% of women have sexual fantasies and one to two-thirds of these involve fantasies about rape and other forms of sexual assault. But (huge emphasis on the BUT!) it does not mean that they actually would want or enjoy being raped in reality.

Rape scenes in BL are (mostly) designed by female creators to kindle the illusion of danger, where the bottom experiences his rawest and unconstrained sexuality at the hands of the passionate top. And while it appears that the bottom has been deprived of control, paradoxically, he asserts his power through images of bewitching the top. In turn, the top is irredeemably consumed by a craving to possess the bottom (only him!) in every way possible.

Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

Rape Fantasies Are Liberating

Patriarchy and sexism still permeate societies worldwide, limiting the way women perceive themselves as sexual beings.

Women are often shamed for their kinks and sexual fantasies. When women openly express their sexual desires, they are often tagged as ‘sluts’ and harshly held to standards of ‘purity’ and ‘decency’ that men are not. Additionally, women’s sexuality in modern societies is still very much expressed from the male perspective, as the object from which men derive pleasure. 

BL Challenges the Objectification of Women in Mainstream Media & Pornography

Essentially, women in porn have no value except for satisfying the male gaze and men’s fantasies. Because of this, many women have mixed opinions about pornography and prefer to indulge in alternative genres like BL that better satisfy their erotic imaginings.

In BL, the uke is seldom degraded and dehumanized in this way. Citing the scholar Andrea Wood, the role of the uke in BL  is not “visually infused with negative or disempowering connotations” but rather “depicted in a state of ecstasy, while his partner is more focused on giving him pleasure than on simply taking it for himself.” 

In contrast to the one-sided understanding of pleasure in mainstream heterosexual media and pornography, in which the orgasm of the penetrating partner is paramount and represents the culmination of the sexual act, in BL the interest lies in “illustrating both partner’s erotic fulfillment and gratification.”

BL is a Safe Place for Sexual Explorations

Through BL narratives, women can explore their sexuality freely, away from societal expectations and taboos. These expectations often place women in submissive positions with little to no potential for exploration of alternative forms of sexualities and subversion of power relations. 

Alternatively, BL can be a refuge where women find acceptance and validation of their kinks, fantasies, and sexual desires without judgment, eluding the constraints imposed by societal sexism.

Criticism of Rape in BL

The most common concerns regarding rape fantasies in BL are the normalization of sexual violence and the objectification of gay men. The arguments supporting this position are nestled in claims that 1) rape should never be used as an expression of love, 2) the romanticization of rape dismisses the traumatic experiences of rape victims, and 3) that it gravely misrepresents gay men’s experiences. 

Normalization of Rape

It is never enough to highlight that BL rape narratives are created and consumed for the enjoyment of fictional scenarios where fear and judgment are removed from the experience. This includes any material consequences in the real world since everything happens in the realm of imagination.

Virtually anyone who revels in rape fantasies will agree that these romantic and erotic expressions of non-consensual pleasure take place exclusively in the world of fantasies. (Unless we’re talking about role-playing with the full consent of the parties involved). 

Rape in BL happens in an imaginary universe, where the consequences do not reflect reality: emotions and reactions – everything is idealized and meant to be purely fictional. BL normalizes rape fantasies, NOT rape. 

Therefore, BL creators or BL fans of stories depicting rape can still be advocates against sexual violence. BL and the romanticization of sexual assault do not reflect the political positions or social attitudes of its creators and fandom.

Objectification of Gay Men

Again, BL has little to do with reality or the experiences of actual gay men. 

BL is not the gay version of the Real Housewives, nor it is the opposite of lesbian porn, which is mainly created by straight men for the sexual enjoyment of other straight men. Similarly, it’s hard to think of an industry that objectifies gay men more than gay porn, designed by men for gay men.

As mentioned earlier, BL is a safe place for women to explore their sexuality. The fact that the protagonists are men assists women in distancing themselves and their experiences from the story and enjoying it without judgment. 

BL is a place where women can fantasize about and even critically question sexual dominance and submission without the sexist and misogynistic oppression of heterosexual representations in porn and mainstream media. 

Historically, BL/yaoi was created to cater to women’s desires. It was (and still is, mostly) about what women want, except the experiences are lived through the lenses of male characters. (This is not to say that men don’t create or enjoy BL. The point is that BL is still mainly created by women, with a female audience in mind. 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Rape in BL: My Take on It

Whatever the reason for someone to indulge in rape fantasies, the shaming or judgment should stop. If we can’t explore the darkest sides of our fantasies in our minds and in fiction, no matter how dark or twisted they seem, then where else can we do it?  

Dark romance (yes, there’s a name for it) is a literary genre involving romance stories with darker themes, such as abduction and imprisonment, rape, torture, and other potentially triggering narratives. Dark romance is pretty popular as a romance subgenre, and it is not exclusive to BL stories. 

Regardless of how immoral or outrageous some sexual fantasies sound, including the ones portrayed and romanticized in BL narratives, we should remember that sexuality is a spectrum, and its definition is purely socially constructed. There shouldn’t be anything forbidden, as long as there are no real victims involved. 

Otherwise, what would be the alternative? Can we place a limit on what people can think about? Dream about? Fantasize about? And if so, who draws the line? 

The reality is that in fantasy, including in BL fiction, everything is allowed, and nothing is wrong because it happens only in the minds of those who create them and those who indulge in them. 

A fantasy is just that, fantasy

Do you agree? Drop us a comment below and let us know your thoughts.

What do you think?

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