Yami: Yugi, you look like a bondage slave.
Yugi: Perfect. Girls love bondage slaves! ...Don't they?
Violence as Pleasure 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.
Again, trigger warning here for sexual assault, rape, sexualization of minors, and related fetishes.
Given the unsettingly strong presence of rape in yaoi, violence and sexuality are often intertwined. Throw in sadistically cute hurt/comfort themes and some violent fanart, and the pot boils over with violence as pleasure. These representations of violence are an entire universe away from much of the cartoon violence that 4Kids censored. Romantic childhood steers clear of violence because it’s… violent. But in some fantexts, violence aims to suit the readers’ kinky needs, and the bodies of textual children endure violence in order to fulfill that craving.
One brand of fandom sadism is called hurt/comfort (H/C or HC), in which one character takes injury, and another goes to comfort him/her. Hurt/comfort varies in extremity. In small dosages, it might pass as disgustingly cute. In the heartwarming “In Sickness and In Health,” a car collision lands Yami Yuugi in the hospital; Kaiba bestows him with teddy bears and balloons, snarky company, and a personal wheelchair trademark Kaiba Corp. Their love is corn-syrupy sweet—but no matter how touching their post-trauma flirting, some uke was harmed in the making of this fantasy. Even if it the car-accident-to-blame is not depicted outright (it’s impact is only detailed in Yuugi’s passing dialogue) violence is critical to the fanfic’s entertainment value. We’d never get to see the fluffy love bloom if Yami had never been run over. Despite the somewhat unnerving sadist elements of hurt/comfort, such fics tend to draw a large crowd. “In Sickness and In Health” has a whopping 84 reviews (a high ratio for a one-chapter fic).
More common hurt/comfort plot bunnies are sick days. In “Fever,” Ryou is down with the nasty, and Malik arrives to take care of him. Readers ingest ample detail of Ryou’s suffering— “Heat radiated through his body, a thin sheen of sweat on his clammy skin”—followed by the soothing notion that help is on the way: “‘I'm not leaving,’ Malik assured, ‘…I'm staying here all night.’” Again, uke harmed, with the violence climbing to a greater degree. While a car accident may sound much more dangerous than a simple sick day, the true violent potential in hurt/comfort is unleashed through the details—the sheer amount of text devoted in thrashing the uke victim. So, despite the fact that Yami Yuugi got pwned by a car, that car accident totaled to about a mere handful of words. In contrast, Ryou spends the whole miserable fic rasping and wheezing—definitely more violent.
And the violence level can climb. Extreme character torture? Sexual assault and excruciating pain? In “Tainted Heart,” the evil Marik kidnaps, rapes, and then brands Yami Yuugi. Cue detailed torture scene in which Marik carves a dragon tattoo into Yami’s back and then sets it on fire. Fortunately for Yami Yuugi, Yami Bakura arrives in the next chapter to rescue him. Bakura carries Yami out of his ordeal “bridal style” (a typical sight in heroic-seme-saves-distressed-uke scenarios), while crying in empathy over his lover’s suffering. The fic is brutal, but at least there’s a happy ending. In other fics, sadism is the only pleasure. The comfort comes too late. In “Just Like You,” Kaiba is afraid of touching Jounouchi because he is afraid of sullying him; Jounouchi takes matters into his own hands by attempting to lose his virginity elsewhere, but ends up getting violently gang-raped. The only comforting moment is when Kaiba arrives to find Jounouchi in his battered state. Writers can go as far as character-death: In “Crimson Regret,” Yami goes as far as to accidentally kill Yuugi in his assault. Still, some feelings of sympathy rescue these darker fics from falling into simplistic sexualized hack n’ slash. The emotional intensity—the angst, the pain, the danger—and the ultimately cathartic conclusion continually draw many fans to these stories.
Violence and its emotional baggage is the main attraction of hurt/comfort. To the fans of this subgenre, “it is enjoyable to hurt a fictional character” (Renae). The ever-innocent uke is the perfect victim; his “beautiful suffering” has the power to draw forth the reader’s fullest potential for both sadism and compassion. Renae, a fanessayist, confesses and celebrates her H/C kink:
A word about Hurt/Comfort. I love it. I love it for all the wrong reasons. I don't only use it to make the stoic types more vulnerable; I adore taking the most open character (who is usually my favorite) and trashing him until he is a devastated, whimpering wreck. I can get into trashing the stoic one, too, but he's usually my second helping.