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「Dearest Japan」Is the "Boys' Love" genre considered porn?

One of the perks of having a degree in Japanese Studies is that you are constantly exposed to the weirdness that is Japan, alongside with several eccentric BL-loving accomplices that join you on your daily rambling about gay 2D men... as well as start a new series titled "Dearest Japan", for you to ask all your pressing questions regarding Japan and for me to do some research!
While the most debatable question remains as "why do you even ship men together?" which is most likely targeted at fujoshi who ships every man in a room together to form complicated relationship trees, I am not one of them and neither are the fujoshi I personally know. We love to stay close to our OTPs, thank you very much.

But jokes aside, let's begin with a little background context and some content from academic sources!
   
The genre for BL is created by women, for women's consumption, and this genre took shape from as early as 1970s in post-war Japan and appeared as a sub-genre in Shoujo manga. As incredible as this sounds now, the works started out rather platonic and lived off the basis of it being a "passionate friendship). 

It was only in the late 1970-80s that sexual content started to be incorporated into the genre. Hence, BL moved  from only encompassing the platonic relationships between two men to a larger scale, where it takes sexual relationships between two men into consideration as well. Around this time, magazines devoted to this particular genre started appearing in the market too.
The term Yaoi was coined in late 1970s and was an acronym for 「山なし、落ちなし、意味なし」suggesting that there was no peak, no fall and no meaning to the genre. Yaoi is, by default, only used to refer to works that primarily focuses on the (explicit) sexual escapades between two men. This holds true even in modern days when we think about all the porn without plot (PWP) fanfiction on the internet.

On the other hand, the term shounen-ai depicts the romantic and loving relationship, typically omitting sexual content. 

Take down notes here so you won't get your terms mixed up when speaking to a fujoshi. Most wouldn't mind but I'm sure you don't want to appear (too) stupid when you call root beer as coca-cola just because they are all grouped under "soft drinks", do you?
So now that you know that the different terms mean, let's move on the most possible reason why BL was even created. And that brings us to the long historical partnership Japan has with homosexuality.

I hope that you know that Edo Japan (1603-1868) had its own fair share of homosexual men and same-sex relationships were celebrated in some ways back then.
These male/male relationships typically consist of a younger beautiful man, wakashu, and an older influential man and the status of the older man is somewhat "elevated" with a wakashu at his disposal while his wife, who is considered a older woman, would be lacking in the looks department in comparison (shaved eyebrows after marriage).
Fast forward to the Taisho period, schoolgirls were enrolled into girl-schools where platonic relationships between an upperclassman and a junior were tolerated and viewed as a passing phase where the junior was "practicing" before graduation when she will then be married and be in a proper heterosexual relationship. They were also expected to stay pure (virgins) until marriage, and women were still oppressed in Japanese society then.

Hence, it is actually concluded by extension that the BL genre came about to help women cope with the stress of being a part of this oppressive society. BL became an empowering tool whereby it gave women an outlet for their sexual urges (porn for women?). Using the male main character, they were able to engage in sexual fantasies without having the guilt that they were sullying their own purity. They were also able to get away from the weaknesses that come with being a female, such as rape.

Thus in a way, BL and especially yaoi was created to be a form of "porn material" for women back in the 1970-80s. In fact, some academic papers actually claim that most early BL works can serve to liberate women and popular works typically feature androgynous main characters (example below) for these women to imagine and empathize with the main character. 

Due to the works being written by women, they also have an added shoujo-manga flair to it which does not encapsulate what gay men and relationships are in real life.

What I personally think is the starting point of BL really strikes me as being made as porn material for women when I look from the perspective of the women as well as the authors of the academic papers I've read through. However, I think that it is also crucial to note that most works nowadays do not usually feature androgynous characters anymore. 
Popular works like Junjou Romantica, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi and 10 Count all have both the seme and uke designed such that we can clearly identify them as male... so perhaps the dynamics of how BL serves as porn for women has changed (because we all know that yes, yaoi still is a thing.)?

So, what do you think? Should BL really be considered porn for women in the past? How about now?

~ Reina-rin

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