Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is delighted to host author Alex A. Akira today. The author’s guest post on Yaoi, M/M romance and the History of the Bishounen is sure to be a highlight of the month.
Guest Post by Author Alex A Akira
YAOI, M/M ROMANCE AND THE HISTORY OF THE BISHOUNEN
While researching my yaoi romance novel, Dojo Boys: Dragon & Crow, I was as astounded at the depth of history relating to romanticized sex between males, which led to Japan’s current yaoi empire. I was also struck by how the development of yaoi and male-male romance in the East and West appeared to reflect the liberation of women in both cultures. What is now a rapidly growing group of females who read, write and relish in romantic tales of homoerotic sex between men, may in fact have started as women’s quiet rebellion against each society’s antiquated ideals of females. The Japanese history of the bishōunen and of romanticized sex between men who are not necessarily homosexual is vast and during the five- week blog hop of Dojo Boys: Dragon and Crow, I’ll be sharing some of what I learned through a series of posts. I hope you’ll join me on this fascinating journey.
PART SEVEN: THE ROUGHNECK AND THE SMOOTHIE:
In my last post I wrote of how the collapse of the Japanese feudal system and the influence of the West drove Japan’s ambition for modernization, resulting in the Meiji Restoration. The new government’s reforms to adopt the West’s “morality and civilization” ideal, set out to modify a ten-century long tradition in which male-male eroticism was not only acceptable, but was thought of as a virtuous masculine pursuit. Social class may had been legally abolished, but regional and political views still differed as each citizen sought to find their place in this new Japan. By the 1870’s education, especially that of post-primary school students became the topic of much public discourse. As symbols of the new Japan and its future inheritors, male students in particular became the focus for much discussion and male-male sexuality proved to be a key topic of such dialogue.
As the general populace fought to find its place in new Japan, the new dichotomy of male sexuality fought itself out in the schools. With standardized education an integral part of the Meiji government’s “Westernization” process, close relationships between seniors and juniors at schools, military academies and universities began to develop. School dormitory systems that housed younger and older boys together coupled with the still-fresh remnants of the samurai bushidō code created a lively reinvigoration of same sex practice. While school authorities did not endorse the practice of senior students storming the freshmen sleeping quarters after lights out, the punishments for those caught were not harsh. Older students would generally have two to three younger students as lovers and offered their “guidance and protection” for the duration of the sexual relationship.
By the 1880’s male students were divided into two classifications of masculinity: the nanpa or “smoothies”, boys interested in fashion and women, and the koha or “roughnecks”, male students who idolized military figures, liked sports and rejected women under the credo that association with females endangered one’s masculinity. These two styles of masculinity encompassed all aspects of each sector’s behavior including apparel, mannerism, past-times and speech. Smoothies tried to over win women by dandifying themselves, wearing kimonos and white socks, and personified the new intellectual elite. Roughnecks wore coarse garments, rolled up their sleeves and tended to swagger in an overt declaration of masculinity that emulated the samurai ideal… and they pursued bishounen students.
The bishounen or beautiful boy was still viewed as the objectified beautiful boy, neither male nor female; simply a symbol of the idyllic beauty and the student body accepted that as such he would be pursued. In truth, in the early fight for the new vision of masculinity within Japanese schools, the entire student body acknowledged that the koha displayed the proper attitude of masculinity. As the nanpa with the help of social reforms, began to gain ground as the new face of masculinity, regional prejudice came into effect with allusions that most roughnecks were from the southwestern regions. The Satsuma domain, (Kagoshima) the province of the Satsuma Rebellion (1877) was one such region, and bigotry about the Satsuma populace reared its ugly head as aggression against powerful Satsuma government officials grew. The Satsuma Rebellion deserves its own post, but for the purposes of this post: Saigō Takamori was the leader of this “last” attempt to find a place for the unemployed samurai in Japan’s new civilization; the movie, The Last Samurai, is loosely based on his story.
But another powerful work came from the Satsuma region in the form of the book Shizu no odamaki (The Humble Man’s Bobbin). This romantic tale details the story of two 16th-century warriors, one younger, one older, who fall in love and engage in nanshoku (eroticism between adolescent and adult males). In the story their romantic bond provides them the will to heroically wage battle after battle until they die in each other’s arms in a great final rebellion. The contents of Shizu no odamaki illustrate the proper way of engaging nanshoku according to the samurai code of conduct, and swiftly became a cult favorite for roughnecks and others who were slow to let go of the samurai honored traditions. No one is certain who penned what came to be a rare treasure that pays homage to Japan’s practice of nanshoku, but it is rumored that it’s author may have been a female. Here’s a lovely bit of this early BL tale that soothed a nation on the rise:
“As the shadows lengthened, the night sky was bathed in a gentle rainstorm and the air perfumed with the fragrance of spring flowers. No longer able to restrain himself, Daizō clasped Sangorō’s sleeve, As raindrops pattered outside the window, Daizō pledged his love anew with each caress of Sangorō’s snow white skin”
With their avid pursuit of young bishounen the roughnecks became the subject of much attention and brought a new interpretation to the practice of shudō. Same-sex fever swept through the schools and into the cities and writers of the period seized upon the exploits of roughnecks to captivate their readership. Turn of the century newspapers provide numerous stories of gangs of roughnecks and teenage juvenile delinquents prowling the streets of Tokyo seeking out bishounen, preferably from upper class families to abduct and rape. Roughneck fights and showdowns were attributed to rivalries over beautiful boys. Sensationalistic accounts of student misbehavior served to confirm existing anxieties over the period’s youth culture, but also amplified them. Young bishounen were taught stay home after dusk and a warning whistle system was implemented; upon hearing a whistle a few streets away, bishounen would rush to find safety. Moral panic erupted when the roughneck’s gang behavior appeared to have a vampire affect; once indoctrinated into an organization, the new recruit would set out to ensnare his own beautiful prey. By late 19th- and early 20th-century scandal-rags reported nearly weekly on sensationalized stories of attempted kidnappings, gang fights and other crimes all laid at the feet of adolescent nanshoku-enthusiasts, whipping up a decades-long moral panic.
Join me in my next post ARE WE NOT MEN? Where I reveal the quelling of the panic and the rise of the bishounen with the publishing of propaganda fiction, forerunner to modern Boys Love.
Tour schedule – see below.
Alex A. Akira is the author of the yaoi romance series Dojo Boys, racy tales of young, male martial artists navigating some unorthodox and adventurous paths to find love. The prequel of the e-book series, The First Misunderstanding and the first two-volume box set of Dragon and Crow are available at Amazon:
- DOJO BOYS: THE FIRST MISUNDERSTANDING
- DOJO BOYS: DRAGON AND CROW
About Dragon and Crow
Title: Dragon and Crow – Deluxe 2 Volume Set
Series: Dojo Boys
Author: Alex A Akira
Publisher: Triple A Press
Cover Artist: Alex A Akira
Length: Volume 1 – 275 Pages; Volume 2 – 390 Pages
Release Date: 25th May, 2015
Blurb: Twenty-three-year-old, Native American, Michael Black’s well-ordered life is disrupted one evening when he is ambushed at the dojo he frequents by a mysterious Japanese youth who goes by the name of Kiyoshi.
Soon circumstances have the gorgeous teen staying with Michael at his apartment. The gifted nineteen-year-old is an intriguing mix of angst, innocence and crafty intelligence, but Michael is honor bound by a promise to his sensei to keep his distance. Michael tries to keep his desire in check, but what can he do if the exquisite teen keeps kissing him?
Volume two finds Michael in deep water when, in trying to help Kiyoshi, he is persuaded by his sensei to participate in a joint government undercover operation to bring down a Yakuza lord.
Before long Michael is immersed in beautiful men, martial arts and espionage all to gain the trust and love of Kiyoshi. Secrets, lies, sex and action combine in this racy, romantic, adventure of two men, Michael Black and his sensei, Ichiro Kimura, navigating a dangerous path for true love.
Michael groped for the light switch, a smile of triumph playing at his lips. Damn, I did it! I beat him! Flicking the switch, he turned, eager to view his skilled opponent and to bask in the accolades that he was sure to receive from Sensei Kimura.
His triumph descended to dismay in a flash. Who the hell is this?
A slight figure lay crumpled at the center of the practice room. Cautiously approaching the limp form, Michael’s heart sank even further. Lying unconscious on the gleaming bamboo floor was a Japanese boy. He looked to be about five-foot-seven, was very pale, and quite young.
“A kid? I beat up a kid?” Quickening his pace, Michael knelt beside the slim figure. Jesus, he’s like fourteen, fifteen? Beautiful. He looks like Ichiro. Better, actually, Michael admitted, surprised at his internal betrayal of his long-held crush on his sensei. He continued to stare down at the slight, fragile boy, eyeing the long blue-black hair that trailed sensuously around the figure’s unfamiliar gray karategi.
Who the hell is he? Why would they have me beat up a kid for my test? Puzzled, he glanced around the room, noting that he and the boy were alone. Ignoring his impending alarm, he gazed back to the unconscious figure.
The youth’s face was truly beautiful. Michael’s inner artist drank in the smooth, pearly skin, the long, sooty lashes, and the pale apricot color blushed across the boy’s delicate cheekbones. God… An aching hunger preceded the lurch of Michael’s cock, which nudged his lower abdomen telegraphing its interest. Get it together. He’s like … twelve! Suddenly realizing that the boy showed no sign of regaining consciousness, Michael snapped from his trance and shook his opponent’s shoulder.
“Hey!” He leaned over the placid body, hand stretching toward the longish neck for a pulse. The telltale thump throbbed beneath his fingers, but his proximity to the boy’s face had him pausing to stare at the youth’s sculpted lips. Christ, get away from him before you do something you’ll regret. Frowning, he started to shift upright when a relentless grip clutched his hair.
Caught off guard, Michael fumbled helplessly as his head was tugged abruptly toward the face beneath him. The beautiful mouth claimed his lips, stealing his breath and muffling his gasp as a hot tongue invaded his mouth. The agile member eagerly caressed its counterpart, igniting Michael’s senses. The tantalizing scent of ripe apricots surrounded him, dizzying him with sensual promises, and urging him to surrender.
Alex A. Akira is the author of the yaoi romance series Dojo Boys, racy tales of young, male martial artists navigating some unorthodox and adventurous paths to find love. The Deluxe two-volume box set of Dojo Boys: Dragon and Crow are available at Amazon:
Author Links –
Three Winners get $25 Amazon Gift Card each.
Seven Runners-up get a free e-copy of the prequel to this series – DOJO BOYS: The First Misunderstanding.
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