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Females as males? (Objectifying "males")

Jul 31, 2007

    1. A trend I've noticed in the BJD hobby is the popularity of "girly boy" characters, or characters that are in almost every way female aside from genitalia - sometimes to the point of having a female body with male parts added on, sometimes to the point of merely having the breasts removed and the lower body left unmodified.

      The topics of girly boys and crossdresser have been done to death... but I think there are a lot of interesting topics surrounding this. For example, most of these feminized males are highly sexualized (in very female ways). Often they are posed like female pin-ups... spread legs, revealing clothes, etc. Sometimes their backstories elements are often traditionally "female" - such as rape or molestation. They are frequently sexualized and objectified in ways that would be fairly offensive if the dolls in question had been female.

      I guess my question is this: Why is it "okay" to sexualize and objectify male characters/dolls? (Is it okay?) Is objectifiying a feminized male different from objectifying a female? And where does the influence and desire to do so come from?
    2. That's an interesting question you're asking here.. and I'll try to reply with my poor english XD (I'd really like to participate in this debate, but please pardon my language 'cuz I'm French).

      I can think of some answers but I can't decide which one seems to me the better explanation. First, I think not it is "okay" nor "not okay", for it is to the owner of the doll to decide what he wants to do with his doll.
      I think transforming female into males may be a kind of phantasm, a way to melt the strenght of a male while keeping the sensuality of a female.. or to make a male with the fragility of a female, I don't know. A kind of try to concretise the ultimate paradox between both genus ?
      People changing sex of their dolls may surely like the ambiguity, the beauty of a creature that does not belong to any kind : nor male, nor female, or both.
      Regarding the psychanalism (don't throw me tomatoes), I don't want to talk about people mirroring their desires in their dolls, that's not what I want to say (transsexualism is another debate). Perhaps crossing the genus of dolls may reveal a kind of fear toward the other sex ? By melting male characterization with female, the fear of a completely sexualized and virile male may be attenuated and "tamed" ? Or maybe cancelled ?
      Remember Ancient Greek Platon's Banquet (collection of legends) : when creating the Man, Zeus (leader of the Greek gods) made them as double androgynous creatures attached by the back. There were female/male, but also female/female and male/male. After they tried to climb the Olympus Mons and meet the gods, Zeus decided to punish them and separated them from their other half, which they are desperately longing for from this moment. An androgyn was as the "perfect" and "complete" human for the Ancient Greek, and maybe we're repeating this story.

      But there is other questions to be asked : BJD are an asian phenomena from the start, and we know by reading manga, watching anime (and movies) from Japan or Korea that the question of transsexualism or "androgynism" is a huge debate out there. How many manga characters are crossdressed, females hiding their genus or male acting as females (Angel Sanctuary, Ayashi no Ceres, even Sailor Moon..) ? I think it's more "cultural" for asian people than US or European, maybe we are only "copying" this phenomena without a complete understanding of it. Is there any Asian people here who can try to explain ? I'd really like to know the whereabouts of this question, and if I'm completely wrong or what..
    3. I have to preface this with, I am male, so I cannot speak from a female point of view. Most of the dolls that are referred to are owned by females. I have wondered if there is an almost disdain for the feminine from some people? They can only accept femininity if it is embodied in the masculine.
    4. Or perhaps they can only accept masculinity if it is embodied in the feminine?
    5. It certainly has something to do with how someone can imagine either gender and the revealed and hidden sexuality of both. The casual refrain we oftentimes hear from these collectors is that "they just like it" and we're supposed to accept that as full explanation. I'm not saying that anyone "owes" anyone else an explanation, but rather that there is more to the attraction of the female-to-male than just digging it. It does seem as though the male gender is being examined through the lens of classic female objectification...

      And it is not exclusive to anime or manga. "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things" is a perfect literary example of a similar mindset. The story of a brutally objectified male protagonist who feminizes himself and whom we, as the reader, are told is a biographical re-telling of the life of the author...who is then revealed to be a female.
    6. Um.. I think girls are just freaks!!! @_@ And maybe it is imbedded in our brains, like guys, we may be somewhat attracted two guys together, but not so graphical because we are an emotional bunch.
      Maybe it is because males can appear feminine and beautiful more effectively, whereas females appear masculine and not as appealing?

      Or maybe, it is an internal desire to deify gender and be everything like Lorelei said.

      I don’t have any transgender characters in mind, but I have made some effeminate males. (and one just goes crazy when he is drunk!)

      (40 posts! yay now i can go to the marketplace! it took such a long time, i am so excited!)
    7. I do not think it is accepted, but more like it's tolerated. The reasons behind it I am unsure of. I can only speak for myself, so here it goes!

      I've always liked feminine males and feminine females (from an aesthetic perspective). I find the human body truly beautiful. I don't think that a feminine man should have to be sexualized. In fact, I disdain when a man is put into a highly sexualized situation akin to that typically assigned to females. I also can't stand females in that position.

      Why is it done? I make male dolls pretty because I find it aesthetically pleasing. I don't put them in sexual situations, though. Their backstories are just like any other guy's.
    8. I don't know XD all my well my boy doll Takeru has a girl body but with a chest replacement...but I want him as a boy plus he does have an asexual body but with a guy chest so he is a guy so...yah...>_> but he is a guy goll I don't make him girly or anything...>_>
    9. I agree with Lorelei. It seems to me like an attempt of taming the opposite gender by bringing or creating into it what is familiar to one's own gender, or even taming one's own gender by rejecting it into another, stranger body. This is helped by the dolls themselves to begin with, as many are somewhat genderless if you forget their given bodies. I have a Shirou turned into a girl (though I just bought her a female body instead of modding a boy one) and I know some very feminine dolls (Araki's for example) that have been turned into boys with rather big mods.

      For me, it's just that I like some male molds but can't have a 'correct' male at home for the moment - Shirou does a great female nevertheless. I was almost sick with a male F-16 lurking from above my bed XD (poor boy, he was just sitting and did nothing but looking lost in a girl room with girl dolls...)

      It may also be a way to prone some freedom from a restricted social background. People with unusual sexual behaviour, who are not secretive about it because they feel proud, aren't that common. Dolls may incarnate a certain freedom of feeling, acting, living that their owners may not know themselves. Most of these dolls' characters are open-minded, demostrative and generally cool because they are in harmony with themselves. They are gay? They like pretty and colourful clothes instead of strict working outfits? Then what? Don't we want to be that free of thinking, doing what we want?

      Also isn't it a good way to test others' reactions? I've met a girl with a rather restricted religious background holding a boy clothed in a very provocative way (right, let's say "clothed like a prostitute"). That girl has shocked many people in an important doll meeting - including myself. Not because of herself, but because of the contrast between her doll and herself.

      Of course, most dolls with unuasual backgrounds aren't supposed to make others react that strongly, weither it's in a good or a bad way. Most people share their dolls with chosen friends who have similar interests. It's then more playful, more like a discovery, I think.

      I don't know exactly where I'm heading XD But to me, what people are looking in untraditional characters in dolls is both an experience of their own limits and of others'. I also think that's more tolerated than accepted, in the sense that most dolls of this kind may be considered as something offensive, consciously or not.
    10. I've been devouring fanfiction for the last decade (and writing some myself) so I've seen a lot of this de-masculinizing already, and read some interesting essays/rants about it. I can't find the reference at the moment, but you can find de-masculinization in fanfic (and fanfic-esque original fic) dating back for decades. It crosses all fandoms and all types of writers, I have found de-masculinized Kirk and straight male authors who de-masculinize their characters (usually the only thing to do at work is surf the internet). And I expect the primary reason boils down to "Because I can." For some it may be making characters safe, or making a male character suffer classic women's tortures, etc, but most I expect are simply experimenting with how far they can push limits before someone goes "WTF?" There's also the issue of Mary Sue/Gary Stu, which is way too much to go into here, but a lot of the doll characters that seem to me likely to be the inspiration for this thread would probably score quite high on a Mary Sue test.

      Some interesting essays and such:
      http://www.strangeplaces.net/torch/ Flambeau's essays on characterization touch on this issue, and are just well written
      http://missy.reimer.com/library/guide.html Dr. Merlin's original essay about writing, including Mary Sues
      http://www.onlyfiction.net/marysue2.html A test for whether your character is a Mary Sue :lol:

      Personally, for the majority of my characters, and all my dolls/planned dolls are from characters I've been working on writing for years, I've generally tried to either keep the character with something about them that is firmly matched to their physical gender, or they are quite clearly and unrepentantly gender queer. I am hoping to never have to gender change a doll, but fear that getting some siblings to the right relative heights will require it. So far, the highest score I've gotten on the Mary Sue tests was for a giant hamster in a Gatchaman/FFVII cross-over (that thankfully will probably never be seen by anyone else's eyes).

      Oh, and I'd love more butch girls! Butch girls are hot!:wiggle

      Now, working up the nerve to actually post this...
    11. (Pops out of academia-related lurkerdom)

      Hmm... this topic is very very interesting. Well, first of all, as a (former?) yaoi fangirl, I'd say that the trend of the femme boy who is also made into a pin-up figure corresponds to the aesthetic to the said group of people. I believe that a certain majority says yes to the yaoi aesthetic, yes? This would actually make a rather interesting research paper. Well, to parallel this occurence with other media, yaoi manga and doujinshi also have highly sexualized feminized males.

      To slip into the academic perspective...

      (Ack. Forgive the techinicalities ^_^; The Literature major in me is rearing its happy head. This topic is making me feel academically giddy.)

      I believe the feminized male has the "tough" facade of the male archetype and the "softness" of the female archetype on the inside. Somehow, I'd like to think that this androgyny is like a modern statement of beauty. If women can be portrayed as strong-willed girls, dominant ladies or even tomboys, why can't we have boys who are gentle, submissive and coy? Perhaps, we can say that this gender-blurring is what drives this aesthetic. Well, I won't deny that I'd like a femme-boy, too. I actually find the idea alluring.

      As for the idea of giving femme-boys a backstory that would be "objectifiable" if given to a female, I believe this is where we could look into gender studies here. Perhaps, this use of "objectifiable to females" backstories on femme-boys are like vents, maybe? Not to offend those who do these said backstories, but maybe using these kinds of backstories "mellows" out the feeling versus if it was used on a female. Ack. I believe that sentence was very awkward.

      Anyway, if majority of the BJD community is female, then perhaps that dictates the ideas of gender or the views on gender regarding dolls. Perhaps because we are mostly females, we find the raped femme-boy more acceptable than the raped female.

      Although, I'd like to ask: what would you all think would move you more (either offensively or sympathetically)? The story of a raped femme-boy or a raped female? A picture of a pin-up femme-boy or a pin-up girl?

      Personally, I'm moved by both stories and find both pictures aesthetically pleasing if and only if done tastefully :D Anything done in bad taste, no matter what gender is just not right for me.
    12. I know I can be quite dense - but I'm just not understanding this question at all. NO rape is acceptable - the gender makes no difference. What is it you're trying to ask?
    13. I think what they are trying to ask is more from a literary stand point no a real life stand point. I think everyone here can agree that actual rape is horrible for anyone. I think the question is more how does it make you feel when you read about a rape of a male as opposed to a female do you feel more or less sympathetic etc.?
    14. Thank you, Globalsea, for getting my point across before I could reply with my crap-for-net :) Sorry for the vague question up there.
    15. The whole creation of the yaoi-relationship "bishonen" in Japanese popular culture was the specific creation of a real-life impossibly elegant, refined male creature, without the "grossness" of real life (and a safe outlet for the feverish emotions of teen girls, side-stepping the possible dangers of depicting relationships so similar to real life ones.)

      And as Thothep says, there is a long history in fanfic of feminizing relationships, and cutsifying the toughest male characters (I personally can't get rid of the images from a Man from UNCLE zine that involved Napoleon Solo and a kitchen apron--).

      As far as the sexualizing -- well, it's interesting that a young, highly sexually expressive female can have a bunch of really nasty, condemning words applied to her -- and in real life, often does -- but there are no comparable lists of disdainful words to apply to a highly sexually-active male. At least none that are applied with cruel nastiness rather than a "oh well, he's a man" shrug and mindset. Only among some gay guys I know are the female terms used, however, often as a rueful or prideful badge of accomplishment!

      The tortured, assaulted backgrounds -- I think, given a lack of actual experience in these areas by many people, assault and torture have a similar unreality, and it's not so much the actual physical details that matter to them, but the event's existence as the reason for the character to have felt utter helplessness. Now, the meaning of that, to use some (possibly now ancient) fanfic references, depends on whether you're intending a wallow (savoring the helplessnes itself, like people enjoying a horror flick), or a breakthrough scenario (all the norms and stiff-upper-lips disappear and people who actually care get to relate to each other without barriers), or hurt-comfort (you go through hell and everyone else gets to express their true appreciation of you), or basic tortured character development (it's a lot easier and shorter to explain a cool, mysterious, non-mundane-acting character as the result of some concrete traumatic experiences rather than a lifetime of enduring crappy jobs and the slow grind and disinterest of mundania).
    16. One thing that is fascinating to me – not specifically related to the feminization of the male, but rather the amazingly myopic viewpoint that is continually being referenced in this thread. Perspective is vital to understanding the myriad aspects of the subject being discussed. Feminization of the Male IS NOT something new to the world of art or culture – it IS NOT something just recently unveiled by the yaoi/anime/fanfic experience. If one has only been exposed to Feminization of the Male through anime/fanfiction then it is probably advisable to spend some time researching back through all matter of civilization, art and culture in order to give breadth and depth to this dialogue. Focusing narrowly on yaoi will unbalance the discussion rather than centering it.

      And I honestly, no matter how hard I squint, am not seeing how "acceptable rape" in regards to gender has much to do with this discussion...unless, we are going to psychologically categorize collectors who feminize the male doll as wanting to violate the opposite gender...for reasons far more complex than this discussion could ever possibly allow.
    17. Well, I believe the reason for this narrowed approach is because of the initial audience of the BJD hobby. Well... I don't know if there are any people here who would use the idea of men-loving-men in the ancient world as signifying a lover of knowledge or maybe the idea of Apollo loving Hyacinthus and other references outside the realm of anime/manga/Japanese culture as an initial reason behind their effeminizing their male dolls...

      But if there is, well then, voila! We have the ancient world to look to, and also modern day gender politics! Huzzah! :lol:

      Um, backtrack to my now edited first post here :lol: I edited the question so I'm hoping my point is clearer. I'm currently dissecting this discussion from a literary viewpoint and not really from a moralistic standing. I'm looking at the "rape story" as a device for conflict within the persona's story. The question refers to the reaction of the audience to the conflict with regards to the gender of the persona.

      I'm not for rape or anything, but I'm all for the Significant Human Experiences. Heheh.
    18. I am really enjoying this discussion. This is realted to dolls themselves, and not in the psychology behind doll characterization. In my expierience on this board, and other BJD boards, female dolls have much less "worth" than male dolls.

      Girl dolls are dismissed, where male dolls are celebrated. When BJDs first started there were no boy dolls. There were 5 female dolls. How did it switch so that 90% of the BJDs out there are male.

      Edit to add: I am not saying there is anything wrong with the switch in doll gender preferences. I just think that it's odd that it happened.
    19. Woah.
      I don't think the previous posts were centering on yaoi as a recent occurrence for all feminization, but rather citing it as an example for
      predominant themes in recent, popular culture. D:
    20. Lots of great responses to this!

      One of the doujinshi artists I knew told me that part of boy's love manga is about being loved as an equal... and an easy way to do that was by having two men. I'm not sure if it has the same meaning in the US, where it's been plucked from it's social context and dropped into a completely different one. Interesting, either way! :)

      Another interesting angle to consider is that while it's largely the yaoi-influenced girls doing this, there doesn't seem to be as much of this pin-up sexualization on Japanese or Korean doll websites. In addition, crossdressing in manga seems to usually be used for comedic effect rather than sexiness. ;) I think a lot of this is a non-Asian creation, despite some of the recent history being rooted in yaoi/shonen-ai.

      I agree there... rape is, of course, never acceptable. But I think that it's easier for women to stomach an objectionable background on a male character because there is a degree of separation provided by the difference in gender.

      It might be a "safer" way to examine fears of sex or rape by removing it from the sphere of possible experience. A woman can relate, but it may not hit as close to home because the creator will probably never be a man. (Also adding in the statistic that only about 10% of rape victims are male, making this even further removed from possible realities.)

      Thanks for being nervy and thanks for the links. :)

      The Mary Sue aspect is another really interesting way to look at it... sexualizing and objectifying that is really different from yourself is probably emotionally safer... and maybe "less transparent" as a Mary Sue. ;) Everyone can still love the Gary Stu and comfort him when she's been hurt, but since it's male, there's still that distance.

      That's a beautiful way to think of it... and I wonder if there is something about the type of person who is drawn to these dolls that makes them feel this way, or sort of strive for this ideal.

      Hobbywhelmed, your whole post was amazing and a great read.
      I really agree with a lot of what you said.

      The first paragraph quoted above is really interesting as well - in addition to being emotionally safer, it's also easier to remove the creator from some judgement. If it had been a female character, it could possibly reflect on the owner. But a male character is distanced, and also... yeah, "men love sex!" How much easier is it to have a sexy male being sexy, because society says that's what men do. Who'd judge an owner for making him natural? ;)

      I think it also makes it easier to tie in rape fantasy because it's easier to add in the idea that he "really secretly wanted it." Because again, men love sex, right?

      These two posts together make a really interesting and pretty awesome thought. :)

      ...Which is an angle I hadn't even thought of!