BL Roundtable Sidebar: The Mirror of Male-Love Love

Posted by on June 10th, 2010 at 12:01 AM


We also need to finally learn to forgive each other for being fucking monkeys, and start understanding and celebrating it instead.

That last bit is probably the most important, and it’s the central deficiency of Boys’ Love Manga as a whole work. Don’t believe me? Then consider this: In a 200+ page collection of essays devoted to the study of red-hot homoerotic stories written and drawn by and for women, one word never appears in any form or variation, a word that one would think would be essential to such a book if one didn’t know any better.

The word in question is “masturbate.”

Oh, stop blushing. I’m serious. The idea that some yaoi fan, somewhere, might possibly be rubbing one out to these tales of androgynous boys giving it to each other up the ass — let alone that one or two of these stories might actually have been created for just that purpose — is entirely absent from the book in question. It’s implied in the argument over whether or not yaoi constitutes porn, but at no point does a single author ever dare to speak its name out loud. Not once. Not with any euphemism, not with any coded language. The “Calamus” section of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass confronted its subject more directly in the 1860s than does Boys’ Love Manga 150 years later.

That’s just bizarre, isn’t it? Women do masturbate, right? Yeah, of course it’s a rhetorical question — Hell, I’m a big ol’ homo, and even I know better than to ask — but you’d never know that they do from this gutless, cowardly wisp of a book. And biology surely must affect how women react to sexual fantasy — and how they react to thoughts of beautiful guys getting it on — for reasons that stretch far beyond simple masturbation.

Since I’ve just brought up the apparently uncomfortable topic of female sexual biology, which of course as a gay dude I am eminently qualified to discuss, why not stop for a minute or 30 and ponder its implications, shall we? Let’s throw this fucker into overdrive, mix our metaphors and get our hands nice and dirty. Let’s get everything dirty.


A bottom explains how he wants it in this sequence from the second chapter of “A Sex Therapist”; originally published in Ism #2, scanlated by Hochuuami, and created by and ©2006 Kazuma Kodaka.


But first: gay sex.

As I mentioned a few pages back, when my high-school boyfriend and I used to make the Beast With Two Backs some 20 years ago, I was invariably the one taking it up the butt. Yes, I was the uke. Indeed, to this day, if given the choice between pitcher and catcher — and so long as I could be assured that whomever I was sleeping with was experienced in the fine art of fucking — I’d be on my back with my heels in the air in a heartbeat. I am a gay bottom. Oh, I can top, if that’s what circumstances require. I’m quite good at it, actually, but the reason that I’m good at it is precisely because I am a bottom, and therefore I know what a bottom wants from sexual intercourse.

Let me tell you a bit about what a bottom wants… no, scratch that. Let me tell you entirely too much about what a bottom wants.

Once upon a time, the biggest secret that a cock-loving nancyboy carried in his head, the one thing that would have been guaranteed to blow a straight man’s mind, was the fact that the anus isn’t just a sexual organ, but the one with potentially the most capacity for male pleasure. The reason for this? The prostate gland. For a quick introduction to this fascinating organ of the male body, we turn once again to Wikipedia:

The function of the prostate is to store and secrete a slightly alkaline (pH 7.29) fluid, milky or white in appearance, that usually constitutes 25-30% of the volume of the semen along with spermatozoa and seminal vesicle fluid. The alkalinity of semen helps neutralize the acidity of the vaginal tract, prolonging the lifespan of sperm. The alkalinization of semen is primarily accomplished through secretion from the seminal vesicles. The prostatic fluid is expelled in the first ejaculate fractions together with most of the spermatozoa. In comparison with the few spermatozoa expelled together with mainly seminal vesicular fluid those expelled in prostatic fluid have better motility, longer survival and better protection of the genetic material (DNA).

The prostate also contains some smooth muscles that help expel semen during ejaculation.

So: The prostate gland is where the male body stores the fluid in which semen swims when ejaculation occurs. Basically, it’s an internal sexual organ. Yes, men have such things. And because it’s a sexual organ, it’s loaded with the same sort of pleasure-oriented nerve endings as are the penis and testicles. It’s astonishingly sensitive — you can give a man a small rush of pleasure just by inserting a finger into his anus and rubbing it for a few seconds. Provide more stimulation, and the pleasure that you give him is correspondingly greater.

If he’s receptive to it, you can even use this technique to give him an orgasm.

Pay attention to that word, “receptive”: It’s important. Bottoming is a far more complex and subtle art than that of a top. One has to be relaxed, and one has to be in the mood, or it won’t work nearly as well. The anus is sensitive, and if it isn’t properly relaxed and lubricated, penetration can hurt like a motherfucker. Even then, it helps if you go slow. Furthermore, the anal canal is comparatively easy to tear if you aren’t careful and don’t know what you’re doing. And just sticking a penis up there and bouncing it back and forth for a few minutes isn’t necessarily going to produce the pleasurable sensations that the guy on bottom craves — technique and staying power are essential if you’re going to make a guy quiver with uncontrollable pleasure by fucking him. There’s an age-old saying in the gay community: “A good top is hard to find.” This is why.

Then there’s the orgasm —

(No really, this will lead back to yaoi in a bit, but right now I need you to be patient: We have to spend a bit more time talking about gay men having sex first.)

— then there’s the orgasm. It’s important to note that a prostate orgasm is very different than one produced merely through stimulation of the penis. In their book Human Sexual Response, the physicians Masters and Johnson noted four stages on the road to orgasm: arousal, plateau, orgasm and resolution. (Or to put in terms that a man who’s actually had sex will understand: initial interest, gettin’ there, ejaculation and afterglow.) A traditional male orgasm is very… what’s the term? Oh, yes: phallocentric. Very direct and easy to second-guess… you know, like men themselves. Arousal is basically understood as whatever gives one an erection, and since men are hardwired to respond to the simplest sensory stimuli, then barring some sort of sexual disfunction, the object of his desire generally needs do little more than show a bit of flesh and maybe offer a kiss or two. When in doubt, use porn. That almost always works. If he’s a gentleman rather than a total jerk, then the object of his concentration during the plateau phase will be to prolong said phase for as long as possible, since he’ll be trying to make his partner’s plateau phase as enjoyable as possible, since it’s entirely possible that he’d like to have sex with said partner again at some point. Again, unless he’s a total jerk, at which point, all bets are off. Now, for any stray female readers still following along, I should note that this is more difficult than it sounds, because his body‘s first instinct is to to get it over with and eject the sperm into the womb as quickly as possible. (Did you go all the way with a boyfriend when you were a teenager? Yeah, that.) Making intercourse last awhile is a learned skill for a male of the species, and should always be respected as such.


This image and next: Gravitation creator Maki Murakami has created explicit dojinshi of her own series. This is from Gravitation Remix 10, scanlated by Liquid Passion, and created by and ©1996 Maki Murakami.


Finally, the orgasm. While the state of orgasm can vary psychologically from guy to guy, the actual physical sensations are usually centered almost (if not entirely) on the penis itself — it becomes sort of like a little light-saber of pure pleasure, basically, and all his attention is going to be concentrated on that don’t-call-it-little length of meat for as long as he’s experiencing the orgasm. It usually lasts around 20-30 seconds (and sometimes not even that long), at which point there’s a period of afterglow generally lasting anywhere from 5-10 minutes… 15 minutes or more isn’t unheard-of, but usually intoxicants are involved at that point.

For a man on the receiving end of anal sex, however virtually everything about the process is quite different. Arousal isn’t so simple as getting a stiffy — as I said, he has to be in a relaxed state, which can mean anything from the mood of the room to maybe a drink or two, but definitely involves foreplay. You may also need to loosen him up with a well-lubed finger or two, but not always. Once he’s actually in the mood and you’ve successfully gotten yourself inside his ass, things tend to get a bit weird for him: There isn’t the same distinction between plateau and orgasm for the guy on bottom as there is for the guy on top. The sensations are far more fluid and can seem to slide almost imperceptably from one to the other at a moment’s notice. Moreover, if you leave the penis alone and don’t induce an actual ejaculation, you can make said sensations last for almost as long as you can keep him in the mood and focused on the act — I was once kept in a state of neo-orgasmic bliss for over an hour, although I should confess that my hands were tied behind my back at the time. Sooner or later, he’ll beg for release, will do practically anything to achieve that release, and while you can tease it out for a while, eventually the sensation becomes almost as much torture as pleasure. If he’s lucky.

Which leads us (again!) to the orgasm. It can be quite different than a traditional male orgasm, depending on how you’ve played him up until that point. Bad sex can result in an inferior orgasm, but good sex is quite another matter. Remember what I said about the light-saber thing? A prostate orgasm, like the plateau state, runs throughout the body in more diffuse fashion, starting in the abdomen and then spreading out to the rest of the body. In theory, the actual sensation is a bit less intense than a traditional male orgasm, but it lasts much longer and because it flows more smoothly from the plateau state, the effect is more cumulative and far-reaching. I’ve felt such orgasms in my fingers, and by that time my eyes had rolled back into my head and I was moaning and begging like a I was faking it for a porn film or something. It’s difficult to describe.

The afterglow can be intense, and usually lasts far longer than that from a traditional male orgasm — again, longer still if intoxicants are involved. I’ve stumbled back home and found myself weak-kneed and unable to concentrate a full hour and a half after a really good night out.

(Disclaimer: While some of what I’ve just described is based upon observation, most of it is my own personal experience, which can obviously be different from guy to guy. Your Mileage May Vary, and all that.)



Okay, assuming I haven’t bored every last reader senseless, a question for the ladies: Which of the above two descriptions of sex sounds more familiar to you? Obviously, I can’t say for sure, having never been female myself, but I’ve talked sex with more than my fair share of female friends over the years, and invariably when I’m discussing the mechanics and sensations of bottoming, I’ll hear some variation on “That sounds a bit like the female orgasm” from whomever I’ve engaged in conversation. While I doubt that the sensations are interchangeable, I’ve heard that enough times to be left with the suspicion that they’re at least somewhat similar. Moreover, I’ve been at this long enough now to have noticed how the act itself has changed the way that I perceive sexuality. My experiences as a bottom are so radically different from what you might call the traditional male experience that it basically involves an entirely different mindset. I’m not sure that this gives me enough perspective for actual male/female triangulation, but barring actual brain-transfer surgery — or at least considerable improvements in gender-reassignment operations — I’m as close as you’re going to get.

With that in mind, may I be forgiven a few observations and (at least possibly) semi-informed speculations? Here’s what I think:

  • Actually, let’s start with what I actually know: The stakes for the receptive partner in penetrative sex are very, very different from the stakes for the penetrator. Take disease, for example: The person on bottom is essentially the jizz jar — Buddy Bradley reference added at no cost! — and is therefore obviously likelier to catch something from the guy on top than is said guy from whomever he’s, ummm, jizzing. Scientists and researchers disagree wildly in estimating how wide the differing threat risks in transmission actually are between genders engaged in heterosexual activity, but most if not all seem to be in agreement that there is a difference.
  • And if that’s true of disease, then it’s certainly true where pregnancy is concerned. I’ll respect your intelligence and assume that I don’t have to elaborate.
  • Moreover: Even if you take disease and pregnancy out of the equation, women almost certainly still have more at stake than men when it comes to the heterosexual sex act. For a man, the proposition’s fairly straightforward: Stick it in, bounce it around a bit and presto! An orgasm. Unless lubrication’s a factor, he’s been at it so long as to rub it raw or she’s stuck broken glass up her cooch, a man isn’t going to worry about damaging his junk by sticking it inside a woman.
  • By contrast, I’ve had inept lovers leave me in discomfort, pain and/or bleeding on several occasions after trying to poke me. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and assume that this is also a consideration that women have to deal with, as well.
  • It takes more skill and technique to make a woman come during penetrative sex than it does the man on top of her. I’ve heard enough anecdotal evidence on the subject that I’m not even going to bother equivocating on this point. Hell, as I’ve said before, it’s true for me, and I have a difficult time believing that it’s less true for someone with a vagina.
  • Finally, the sexual process and variety of sensations are far, far easier for me to articulate as a top than as a bottom. The former is an “A+B=C” kind of thing, while the latter can be all over the map. I find it reasonable to assume that sexual response can likewise be more difficult for a straight woman to articulate and define, as well. That said, if there were no perceived rewards to be gained from the act, sane women wouldn’t do it. The desire is clearly there, even if there are more reasons for a woman to be cautious about sex than there are for men.

Do the physical circumstances surrounding the sex act affect how women perceive erotic desire? I have a very difficult time believing that the answer is no. The questions therefore become, “How, exactly? How does this affect their sexual fantasies, and how might these issues be ameliorated or enhanced by removing women from the equation altogether and fantasizing about homosexual men?”

I can’t even pretend to know the answers. I certainly didn’t learn anything from Boys’ Love Manga that might have given me a clue. And that’s a pretty big fucking oversight, if you ask me.

As I said above, my speculations are semi-informed at best, and the room for error is immense. Furthermore, if there’s one thing that my own encounters with sex have taught me, it’s that life is wilder, weirder and woolier than anything we can imagine. Experiences aren’t even necessarily the same from person-to-person within genders, let alone from one gender to the other. Second-guessing the world is a sucker’s game — and each of us carries a whole world within us. This planet contains billions of them. I don’t know your world, and despite all I’ve told you in this essay, you don’t really know mine, either. Hell, I’m not at all convinced that I know it myself. After all, I’ve been wrong before.

This is why I trust those who question and listen over those who explain. It’s also why we should give each other as much latitude as possible where our dreams, fantasies, fears and desires are concerned. There’s nothing more important than the stories we tell ourselves. I hope that your stories give you hope and comfort, and I hope they give you pleasure, and if they get you a little hot and bothered too, well, so much the better. Why they do so is for you to decide, and for you alone to decode. It’s okay: It’s your head, after all. Anything you do in there is fine, whether you’re a man fantasizing about lesbians in bondage, or a woman with the same fantasies about men. When I first began experimenting with yaoi manga, my reaction turned out to be all kinds of wrong: That’s not really my face at all, ma’am. It’s yours. You can do whatever you like with it, and don’t ever let the explainers tell you differently. I’ve been down that road once before, and I assure you: That way lies madness.

Be Sociable, Share!

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “BL Roundtable Sidebar: The Mirror of Male-Love Love”

  1. Dirk Deppey says:

    I should note that when this piece was posted, I hadn’t noticed that an important part of a quotation from Antonia Levi’s introduction (located at the top of page one) seemed to have mysteriously vanished during the editing process. I have no idea why this occurred, but as it was an important part of the resulting rebuttal, I have re-inserted the missing text.

  2. J. Ryo says:

    With all respect, I am from Indonesia and I’m interested in Yamila Abraham’s essay about yaoi in Indonesia. Perhaps it is asking too much but can I ask for its transcript since I cannot justify importing a not-so-good book for an essay that may or may not be worthwhile. Perhaps I can shed some light about the correctness of it.

    As far as I know though, while properties with pretty boys like Black Butler is very popular among teenager girls here, yaoi fandom is not visible even through any large forums. There are some artists that do BL stuff, but it seems that they are not connected though any specialized community. Also, perhaps knowing the conservative nature of our country, some of them actually released their BL-themed work in USA (OEL) and not here.

  3. IraeNicole says:

    Thats a nice piece of trans erasure you have regarding third gender cultures and two spirit peoples.