Boy’s Love and female camaraderie

Recently over at The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker, the question was raised as to why women judge other women. The discussion seeks to explore ways in which patriarchy contributes to women being competitive towards each other and why it’s difficult for some women to form friendships with other women. It can be argued that this isn’t something gender specific, both men and women can have a difficult time developing and maintaining friendships with the same sex. However, at times I can’t help but to feel that since we live in a mostly patriarchal world, there’s some truth as to why it seems harder for women to develop friendships with each other.

In American culture, for the most part, we’re constantly told women aren’t capable of being friends with each other, because we’re too bitchy, too catty, easily prone to getting jealous and host of other stereotypes. Specifically within the Africa American community, I have actually encountered women who were proud they didn’t get along with women and have no “female friends.” When I inquire about the reasons, they usually give answers that are laden with typical gender stereotypes. However, there are examples of women bonding in the media. Sex and The City is one example, as well as the movie The Women.

Then I was fortunate enough to come across an academic thesis as to why women enjoy yaoi, It’s the not the typical theories about women not feeling threatened by another female character, but women who enjoy yaoi form a certain bond because of this interest. The thesis is titled Boy’s Love and Female Friendships: The Subculture of Yaoi as a Social Bond Between Women by Amy Ann O’Brien. Since I’m a nerd I took the time to read through the entire thesis, and I’m going to discuss the parts that stood out to me.

O’Brien has essentially said everything I’ve been thinking about since I’ve been apart of the yaoi subculture, especially the issue of viewing yaoi as “deviant” and “transgressive.” Many yaoi fans will equate their liking of yaoi with perversion. I was also pleased when the issue of how yaoi relates to women’s sexuality was discussed. After all, women are viewed as being more interested in emotions and romance. However, with yaoi (especially the smut type) women have often admitted to enjoying the sex scenes. Like O’Brien, she feels yaoi should be considered a form of erotica. What I found intriguing about O’Brien’s thesis is she feels the view of yaoi being “gay porn for women” as ethnocentric. Like most yaoi fans (including myself) I don’t view it that way.

From a personal standpoint, there’s a young woman who works at the nearby bookstore I frequent, knows I have an interest in yaoi. One day while shopping for some new manga, I asked her about the selection of yaoi manga. She admitted to being was an expert on the subject. Since then, I always go to her to inquire about any yaoi manga that has come in. I don’t know this young woman personally, but it’s nice to encounter someone (not online) that has an interest in yaoi. The interesting thing, is the female friends I have now, I met through through the otaku culture. For some reason, it’s harder for me to make friends outside of it.

Overall, this is true for many subcultures, because you share a particular interest, it does allow for friendships to form. It seems like these days, creating long lasting friendships is no longer important. I do feel being apart of the yaoi subculture is a form of female bonding.

You can read the thesis here.

Leave a comment


  1. When I meet fellow a yaoi or just anime/manga fangirls we gab like old friends, I haven’t been able to find too many fellow African-American fangirls, though >_>

  2. RenKiss

     /  April 7, 2011

    Oh I know the feeling. I want to see more women of color who are into yaoi. :)

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