Subverting masculinity, misogyny, and reproductive technology in SEX PISTOLS

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Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto


Superficial readings of works in the yaoi (also called ‘boys love’) genre outside of Japan often condemn or dismiss the genre as (more) misogynist, (more) homophobic, and occasionally (more) racist (than works in a similar ‘Western’ genre called slash). The yaoi genre is seen as ideologically inferior to its ‘Western’ counterpart, and the root or cause of this inferiority is often ascribed to its creators living in and being shaped by what is seen as a (relatively more) sexually oppressive society, contemporary Japan. In this paper I suggest that superficial and antagonistic readings of the fairly small amount of translated works may be missing the subversive and satirical elements inherent in the genre.

These elements are very visible in SEX PISTOLS, (LOVE PISTOLS in English translation because of intellectual property rights issues with a band by the same name) a manga in the yaoi genre written and drawn by Kotobuki Tarako and published as six consecutive volumes between 2004 and 2010. The work is well known both to Japanese and foreign fans of yaoi. Rich with subplots, Kotobuki puts unusual spins on tired old tropes like how (female) attractiveness depends on fertility, stalking is true love, and women will trick men into getting them pregnant to trap them. The phenomenon of pregnancy itself is drawn as parasitic and alien to the body, and characters are literally conceived as animals. I will examine how within the pictotext of SEX PISTOLS the oppressive -isms mentioned above are explored, satirized, subverted, but also, and necessarily, reproduced.

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Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto

Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto is Associate Professor at Kyoto Seika University, Faculty of Manga, Department of Manga Production.