Something I’ve discussed a lot on this blog is my interest in series that feature homosexual relationships, especially BL series. Something I’ve encountered multiple times while expressing my interests in certain shows with others is, ‘Well, what’s the appeal of two men/women going at it?’ A rather crude question, but I didn’t think anything of it when I first received the question. Whenever I got this question though the answer was simple, “I just like it!” and it was left at that, but now that I’m older and am once again receiving the question from friends I got to thinking about it. What exactly makes BL and GL series so appealing to those who engage in them?
When you think about it that is a rather silly question. Obviously it depends on the person, right? There are also multiple other factors that can apply towards someone liking something. If we’re talking specifically manga, it could be the art, it could be the particular characters or it could be that one specific story line. If we’re talking anime, there is all those things listed before that apply and how the animation flows and looks, the soundtrack and the character’s voices that can add to how well you enjoy immersing yourself within the work. Even just how ‘exciting’ the sexual content is can apply to enjoyment. It can be hard to pinpoint an exact answer entirely, but throughout my anime watching ‘life’ I have kept within the company of those who enjoy BL and GL series. While most of them are women and despite that they all cite different reasons for liking the series, there is one common preference that watchers seem to have among themselves: the characters are the same.
Well what does that mean exactly? Does that mean same as in the sense they’re the same sex? Same as in they’re the same type of person? Possibly, but not really. Same in this context means that they are on the same standing in life. People may not want to admit it, but when it comes specifically to heterosexual pairings there is this whole ‘I’m a man and you’re a woman and we’re going to perform our roles as expected!’ ordeal. With homosexual pairings, that is almost non-existent. There may be some issues with submission and dominance in the bedroom, but when it comes to outside of that and their expected roles there is no issue because the two are both exactly on the same standing. They are both men, or they are both women, and because of that the characters are allowed to act outside of certain gender expectations and are faced with the same social standings as the other.
Despite what we’d like to admit, when it comes to the romantic atmosphere of heterosexuals in most cultures it is considered that the woman is underneath the man and is submissive to him and his desires. While in some places in the world this has changed drastically from older times, this mind set still has not been completely eradicated. With BL and GL series, however, this mind set doesn’t even come into play. The story is two men or two women who are on the same plane and exist in the same social standing. Power play dynamics may enter when the bedroom scenes roll around, but outside of that the two characters are given the same power within the relationship. One of the men’s opinions is not worth more because he is the ‘man’, because both of them are men and just as important. Same with the women, neither one is less than the other because they stereotypical power dynamics within heterosexual couples don’t apply to them. There is no ‘man’ and there is no ‘woman’ in the relationship. There is just two men or two women. That right there is the main appeal to so many readers. They cannot stand the crappy power dynamics that has to be played at by so many heterosexual couples. Not to say that BL and GL cannot be incredibly hetero normative, especially in the aspect of sexual escapades, but for the most part these series do provide an escape from the confines their heterosexual counterparts have.
Of course I’m sure some people who read this will roll their eyes and think something that I’m just trying to make gay porn sound like something it isn’t, but that’s not what I’m doing at all. Most BL/GL series do feature sex, but that is not the main appeal and that is certainly not always the main point of the stories. Also, just because a story features sexual acts doesn’t really mean that is actually shows it. Many series show the foreplay, but then cut away from the actual act. Now, there is a lot of porn within BL and GL series, there’s a lot of porn of anything regardless, but that doesn’t mean it is all porn and that does not mean that there aren’t many works with wonderful stories that can capture your heart! That and it’s not like sex detracts from a story. Sex can enhance a relationship and emphasize just how passionate and deeply the couple care for one another.
Basically, what is is that makes BL and GL series so much more appealing to its readers than Het romances is the fact that they’re different relationships. The characters do not have strict gender roles applied to them, they do not act out their male and female assigned roles, and they are free to face their challenges together within the same social contexts. They’re not confined like heterosexual couples, and that is hat makes BL and GL stand out.