Second opinion

There was some interesting back and forth about the content of Fumi (Antique Bakery) Yoshinaga’s Gerard and Jacques, which prompted a great e-mail from Kate De Groot. Kate was kind enough to allow me to post it here, as I’m always interested in multiple perspectives. (Kate’s e-mail contains some general spoilers for G&J and some slightly more specific ones for Kizuna.)

Anyway, take it away, Kate:

Hi David–

I have been reading your blog for a few weeks and really enjoying it. I wanted to send you a comment on the recent “Gerard & Jacques” discussion, but I’m too lazy to set up an account to do it. 8-)

I reread the books last night because I like Fumi Yoshinaga’s work and was a little bothered by what some others were saying on your comments page. Disclaimer: I don’t read Japanese well. But I think I read it well enough to say that there is no non-consensual sex involving the younger partner (Jacques) in this story. One can certainly (if one is being *very* serious about the social impact of yaoi) debate the validity of consent in a situation that is so imbalanced from a power perspective. There is without question an unequal relationship between these two in many respects. But in this story that doesn’t bother me such a lot because–after the initial encounter–the majority of the plot (a bittersweet comedy, like much of Yoshinaga’s work) revolves around the older man, Gerard, refusing to sleep with Jacques again, and Jacques’ frustration and pursuit of Gerard. And Jacques doesn’t start doing the pursuing until he is truly an adult, several years after the initial scene.

In short, this is not a “Kizuna” type situation where the seme throws down the uke and flat-out rapes him, and afterwards the uke says, “I love you” while the reader is thinking “Is that position even possible?” and “Oh my GOD, that’s gotta hurt.” (Much as I love “Kizuna,” that opening story…well.)

You may have set your e-mail to block attachments, but in the event you can view it, I have attached a .jpg of the cover of volume 2 (from the jpqueen website) to illustrate how Jacques matures into his early twenties as the story progresses.

My apologies for butting in, but I thought that if you were going to skip this one because it featured a “rapist master,” then maybe another perspective might be worthwhile…

Best,Kate

One Response to Second opinion

  1. Mely says:

    Kate is right about the later dynamic in the series, but I still hold by my account–and my disturbance. Gerard goes to a brothel and purchases the services of Jacques, a young aristocrat who has been sold to pay off his family’s debt. I forget Jacques’ exact age at this point, but I suspect it’s 14, which is the age of consent in Japan; Jacques is drawn as a child, pubescent but barely. Gerard has sex with him, which starts off painful and becomes pleasurable; Jacques protests but acquiesces resentfully. This is a typical rape fantasy encounter–the het version would be Hot Gimmick–but it just piles on too many inequities of power (Jacques’ age, his family circumstances, his lack of money, his inability to enforce his refusal) for me to enjoy the fantasy here — in fact, if anything, the realism of the characterizations makes me even more deeply uncomfortable with how Jacques grows to desire and love his “seducer” or “assaulter.” The storyline seems to reinforce the idea that what Gerard did is okay–because Jacques felt pleasure, because Gerard paid for it, because Jacques grows up to love and desire Gerard–and this strikes much too close to home about real-life ideas about rape and molestation for me to enjoy any of the storylines.

    The relationship of fantasy to reality is a complex one, and becomes even more so when you add in any discussion of sex and power. So I’ll add, just to make myself clear, that I don’t think people who enjoy Gerard et Jacques are justifying rape in real life. But this particular story is outside my comfort zone.

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