VI. A. The Uke--Innocence as Sexy in Yu-Gi-Oh! Fantexts
***UPDATE: This page has been updated as of 5/18/2021, mostly for tone and better citations. You can still find the original page here.
Trigger Warnings: Sexual violence, rape, sexualization of minors and other marginalized groups of people
Yaoi in the Yu-Gi-Oh! fanfiction community plays a large part in how fans escape social compulsions towards a sexless Romantic childhood (or even more obvious mandates like compulsory heterosexuality). Ironically, the seme/uke relationship often depicts the uke’s innocence—a key element of Romantic childhood—as sexually desirable. In many a fanfic, the uke is cast as enduringly (and endearingly) innocent. Meanwhile, his pure character arouses the desires of the seme. In the aptly named fanfic “Innocence,” uke-Ryou turns pink, babbles, and rushes away upon encountering seme-Bakura’s shirtless-ness. On the other hand, Bakura muses over how this is the quality that he desires in Ryou the most, and even wishes to take it for himself. Similarly, in vampire yaoi fic “Blood and Wine,” Kaiba (seme) wants to keep Yami Yuugi (uke) as a toy because his blood is “the purest he’s ever tasted,” and is excited by the possibility that Yami is a virgin. Same trend in “Dark Game”: Yami Yuugi’s (seme) lustful instincts compel him to “take sweet, innocent, naïve, pure, beautiful, little Yugi…” Innocent uke, and the seme who lust after them, are sexually appealing to fanfiction’s 90% female writing body (Archive of Our Own identifies 6% of its writers being genderqueer with another 4% being male (Grady))—or of yaoi texts at large. Common responses to this seme/uke dynamic is “positively adorable,” or that the seme’s possessiveness or lust for such an innocent character plays to their own pleasure. Such portrayals of sexual innocence turns Romantic childhood on its head, as the exact qualities exalted by Romantic childhood are transformed into the very thing it attempts to avoid.
To further express his innocence, the uke is often depicted as naive or inexperienced in sexual matters, leaving the seme to lead the way: a curious Yami Yuugi asks what love is, believing that it is purely sentimental. Kaiba simply laughs at him, and matters quickly dissolve into sex (“What’s Love Got To Do With It?”). Even if the uke is experienced, he can be so innately virtuous that his purity persists despite his own sexual prowess: on their first date, the “innocence in Ryou's eyes overwhelm[s] Malik,” who quickly compliments Ryo as “’so pure.’” As their relationship deepens, Ryou demonstrates unexpected command in bed; still, he remains a pure character in Malik’s eyes, who says, “’for such innocence, I was surprised’” (“Delivery Boy”). And, yes, there’s blushing involved in these fics too.
On the polar side of the relationship, the seme is (re)characterized with varying degrees of kindness, indifference, aggression, or complete depravity. Rough seme are often combined with sweet or naïve uke in order to emphasize the latter’s innocent qualities, and seme’s violence can reach troubling points. Seme can be bold to the point of violently assaulting the uke, who futilely attempts to resist. In “Possessive,” Kaiba kisses Yuugi without his consent, and continues despite Yuugi’s adamant objections. Here, the uke’s innocence manifests in his protests; his resistance to the sexual advances signifies his pure nature. At the same time, however, Yuugi’s resistance, and the sexual abuse itself, is coded as sexy: Yuugi complains throughout the entire story—never eliciting a single positive comment—but also moans in pleasure several times.
Rape in yaoi is unsettlingly prevalent. Part of its popularity stems from its ability to free the uke from responsibility of sex while simultaneously sexualizing his innocent nature. Furthermore, rather than being tainted, a uke who is raped by his lover is “imbued with innocence” (Kee 142), possibly making him even more desirable. Many of these fics follow the predictable narrative of 1) seme wants uke, 2) seme rapes uke, 3) some sort of emotional conclusion. However, this conclusion more-oft involves the uke falling in love with his rapist, who—in the yaoi genre—is often depicted as committing the act out of his overwhelming love (142). In another aptly titled fanfic also named “Innocence,” Yuugi is moved by Bakura’s love confession... despite just being raped by him. Tears drip down Yuugi’s cheeks as he acknowledges his own love, and he even apologizes for resisting Bakura before drifting off to sleep in the other’s arms. This forgiveness&love!trope is frequent in the yaoi genre (Kee 141-2) and demonstrates the uke’s continual capability to love, empathize, and forgive—a testament to his deeply virtuous nature. (The problematic representations of rape in yaoi is discussed by fans and scholars alike. More on that soon.)
Some fics portray the abuse of innocence as sexy. In “Innocence That Makes You Perfect,” Bakura drops a knife in the sink so Ryou can cut himself. Bakura then licks the blood off his uke’s fingers and mulls over how Ryou’s innocence “made him just perfect,” and that he had to “torture the innocence without breaking it.” The Danger&Sadism!appeal is part of the fic’s entertainment value, and while the character who embodies innocence is being abused, he is in no danger of losing the quality that makes him so appealing. In certain fics, the complete loss of innocence would be ruinous. A complete turn off! However, in other fics, violation is cast as gratifying. The ever-innocent uke is the perfect victim, and draws forth the reader’s full sympathy while stirring her/or his desires. Such dynamics can be found in fics in which the uke is brutally defiled (“Crimson Regret”), and sexual violence culminates in the tragic death of innocence (“Just Like You”).
Most yaoi writers and readers would be appalled by real-life molestation, abuse, and/or rape. Just because fans fantasize about rape doesn’t mean they want to be raped themselves or wish it upon any other person in real life (Kee 142). According to multiple accounts of research, many female fans feel safe fantasizing about rape through yaoi due to the fact that there are two men involved, distancing the scenario from a reality in which women make up the majority of rape victims (Kee 140, Levi 164). However, these attitudes don’t de-problematize the violence of the rape. Thus, violent fanfics can be taken as Romantic innocence gone wrong. To repeat, Higonnet writes:
Romantic innocence puts all children at a kind or risk… Innocence suggests violation. Innocence suggests whatever adults want to imagine. If childhood is understood as a blank slate, then adults can freely project their own fantasies onto children, whatever those fantasies might be. (Higonnet 38)