06
Dec
07

Incest in Yaoi

The newsletter went out yesterday. We’ve been posing questions to subscribers and then including their answers in future newsletters. Last time the question was, ‘Is the yaoi market beginning to seem flooded?’ There were several interesting responses included.

This newsletter the question was: ‘What do you think of incest themes in yaoi?’

So far the responses have all been different versions of, ‘I love it.’ It’s clear that everyone has a distinct line between fantasy incest and reality incest. The latter is disgusting, even between distant cousins. I always get an instant revulsion when I hear of marriages still going on between first cousins. I worked with a middle eastern man in London who was engaged to his first cousin. This was when I was in my early 20s, and loved to debate. I remember how I spent my lunch hour arguing with him about how wrong it was. I can’t develop a cultural sensitivity to that practice. They’re going to have children.

One reader made a good point regarding yaoi incest: There is no chance of pregnancy. This reminded me of another old debate I had, this time during an anthropology class. A very popular, good-looking, and unexpectedly friendly jock was defending sibling incest. “As long as they don’t have children there’s really nothing wrong with it.”

What? Of course there’s something wrong with it. It’s disgusting.

“What if you were separated from your sibling and met for the first time as adults? It’s not like a real brother or sister who you have a natural aversion to being romantic with. The only way it would be wrong is if you had kids.”

I know in reality that no sane person would be happy to be romantic with their sibling, whether or not they were raised with them or if children were even a possibility. There are urban legends of adopted people unknowingly falling in love with their siblings. To find out the truth is always a horror.

If you don’t think about this in real world situations, however, the argument holds true. Yaoi fans can accept incest as part of the fantasy because there is no chance of children. Yaoi is already in the realm of taboo and social stigma (arguably). This aspect is what attracts some of the readers. The accepted boy meets girl love story has been replaced with an edgier kind of romance. Other edgey themes can work in yaoi too.

Or so I hope, because these themes are a large part of my personal passion for yaoi. I was never able to embrace the taboos I was drawn to in the past. I was scared that uncorking my darkest bottle of pathos might have repercussions. I’m not so brave to keep publishing what stirs me if it leads to reader outcry. I’ve always felt, however, that many yaoi fans are drawn towards the same dark matter.

I’m extremely comfortable giving presentations to audiences of yaoi fans. I feel they’re my peers. Those peers giggled and smiled when I would joke about how I liked the idea of two brothers from a certain anime becoming lovers. A few clapped.

I blame them for validating me. And the cosplayer at the first Yaoi Con in 2001 who walked around the hotel with a sign that said, ‘Don’t You Love Twincest?’ The squeals around her answered, ‘We do!’

I’m friends with several publishers and editors. I know many who publish yaoi because they also have a passion for it. I also know of at least three who publish it because it’s good business. I sat on a panel with a publisher who has just about frontiered yaoi manga publishing in the USA. The question was, ‘What sort of material will you not license for the USA?’ He listed a few taboo subjects. I’m not sure if I remember them all, but among them were shota-con, religious themes, and incest.

The same question was posed to me. This was the first time I was sitting on a panel outside my comfort zone. The audience was not comprised of yaoi fans, but was a ‘press only’ industry session at the largest anime show in North America.

Now I’m going to defend not only gay romance to non-yaoi fans, but gay incest also? I was in a corner even if I wanted to avoid the topic. If I didn’t list incest as one of the topics we avoid I would immediately be asked, “What about incest?” Even if the audience was not my peers, my peers would be reading the articles and listening to the podcasts from the panel. Add to that the fact that we had already published work with incest themes at the time of the panel.

If I wanted to weasel out of it I could have said, ‘No comment.’ But no, of course, I gave a truthful answer. We publish incest yaoi.

A woman in the audience cried, ‘Yes!’ and did a fist pump. That made me happy.

I was scared to indicate uncle/nephew incest in Dark Prince 1. It’s confirmed in the second volume. I’m not as scared as I once was. Having such beautiful art work makes it hard for readers to turn away, no matter how twisted the story.

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2 Responses to “Incest in Yaoi”


  1. 1 Akasha
    December 7, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    Im not big on incest, but I know that it is a current trend in the yaoi market these days. Im not certain what the drive behind it is (not even the ‘they cant have children is a deterent…there is always MPREG though that doesnt happen often in yaoi…).

    Though I dont bash on anyone who likes it. In the LOTR fandom there are a lot of twincest and incest pairings going on so its not that uncommon…do I critize them? No, its their thing and its not real, so I guess that is what keeps me from being to squicked out by it. I guess it has to more with the story that makes the content barebale and thus far, you have yet to publish something that is a disappointment. So I will continue reading…incest or not.

    Akasha ^V ^

  2. 2 integra
    December 7, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    The incest taboo arose out of very practical consideration – the observations of the product of consanguinous blood relations – offsping with obvious defects. Cultures then set up very strong social prohibitions to the practice, that is what people remember and not the biological need for them.

    I don’t have a problem with incest in BL. Is anyone having children? It’s a fantasy anyway.


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