A Very Straight Gay Man: Reading Masculinities in YOI

As part of our commitment as a media partner of Born to Make History: A Yuri on Ice Fan Gathering, Girls Got Game is publishing transcripts of some of the panel discussions. These articles are designed to follow the flow of the PowerPoint Presentations used by the speakers. The first installment entitled “Girls Got Game Queerwhatsitmaybes On Ice: Yuri On Ice, Boys’ Love & Gendercoding”, features our very own EIC Pamela.

Here then, is Paolo Tiausas’ panel on Yuri!!! on ICE and how it redefines intersections between the male body, the gay identity, and its varying masculinities.

EDIT: The admin of Girls Got Game would like to apologize for gross oversight. We forgot to place a caveat on this article, on behalf of our transgender readers – this article (and the panel discussion it came from) was delivered from the perspective of a heterosexual man trying to understand something outside of his field of reference. We are all for productive, meaningful viewpoints aimed towards inclusivity and discourse, and we only ask for comments to come from a point of kindness and compassion. Any hate speech and doxxing will be deleted.


masculinity yuri on ice

In heterosexual relationships, love happens between two biologically different configurations of bodies.

While we tend to see this as “normal”, this bodily and genital difference appears as some kind of hurdle. There is a stark difference. In a way, we base our binaries and heteronormative beliefs on this difference. The bodies are different, so we say: men are like this, women are like this. Interestingly, the same hurdle becomes the primary impetus to our cultures’ greatest and most universal love stories.

We always hear of “love that wants to love despite”, in spite of not knowing everything there is to know. We frame it as a romantic journey. And say things like “I want to get to know you better throughout the rest of my life”. Or even: “I may not understand, but I’m willing to spend the rest of my life trying”.

masculinity yuri on ice

That is why the prospect of Yuuri and Yuuko was, at least in the start, alluring for me. They held different lives, and the reconciliation could be nothing but glorious.

But underneath these tropes is the scathing inflexibility of heterosexual relationships: I can love you as you are, know you as much as I can, but I will never completely know. I can rationally understand the female body, but I cannot live in it. I can try to communicate the male body, but words will never suffice. After all, in heterosexual relationships, gender is tangible and inscribed on the body.

“I am the man, she is the woman.” Two separate worlds.

While I might talk about male bodies, let me be clear:

Viktor and Yuuri are clearly gay identities in male bodies; within a functioning gay relationship. I am drawn to reading Viktor and Yuuri as a homosexual couple who explicitly do not resemble the framework of heterosexual relationships.

masculinities in yuri on ice

What I mean is this: there is no role-playing here as the man or as the woman. I do not detect the seme/uke or top/bottom dynamic. Even if at times, I find the temptation great, or even seemingly correct. Our running imaginary of gay relationships, especially in the anime and manga community, is dominated by established categories. And I must admit, that some days I find myself leaning towards determining which one dominates and which one submits. In more romantic terms, which one gives and which one takes.

Viktor and Yuuri, however, confuse me. Make no mistake: Viktor and Yuuri are homosexuals. But the gay masculinities that they bring to the relationship is unusual, strange, radical. This is not the BL or Yaoi or slash that I am used to seeing. It is not even the belligerent sexual tension usually detected in sports anime; where obviously straight males unknowingly love each other, even as they wrestle each other to the ground after a difficult loss.

Viktor and Yuuri are different. Or at the very least: they are unflinchingly new. Especially to unfortunately straight me. When Viktor’s male body loves Yuuri’s male body, I feel a dart sinking into my heart.

masculinities in yuri on ice

Seeing a male body loving a male body feels nostalgic—in a way, it is coming home.

The lover and the beloved share a similar shell. And since the contours of the lover/the beloved’s body are familiar, there is a glimpse wherein complete knowing is possible. When the lover says “I feel this,” the beloved can say, “I know exactly how you feel”. And it will be true.

When a friend told me that eros also translated as “to know”, the image of Viktor and Yuuri hugging each other before each pressure-filled program appeared in my mind. Comically enough, the hug to me was anything but heterosexual. There was no hurdle to cross. When the best male figure skater body hugs the aspiring male figure skater’s body, it is a moment of complete unity; a mirror. It is complete eros—completely knowing the other.

masculinities in yuri on ice

Sociologist RW Connell defines hegemonic maculinity as “the masculinity that occupies the hegemonic position in a given pattern of gender relations”.

While it is obvious that this standard damages groups that have spoken up against it (specifically the feminist and LGBTQIA movement), even its own constituents feel the brunt of its pressures.

We tend to see the space occupied by the male as the default. That which is normalized to the extent that there is no other way but to break it. With the patriarchy being a solid expression of that power, there exist lapses and synapses in the system of maleness and masculinity.

Usually the patriarchy is that large and obnoxious homogenizing power—the hegemonic position. Yet, even those who are expressive of male power are not exactly neatly placed into this program of sex and gender. This ranges from those who are cast into powerful positions in the hierarchy of labor, to the powerless one wielding misogyny as a last attempt at dominance. There are different intensities and exceptions.

masculinities in yuri on ice

In the series, even the bravado and machismo of JJ Leroy succumbs to the pressures of this idealized masculine life. The markedly male success indicators of being a champion, a king, the partner of a world-famous rock band; and most importantly, winning a hand in marriage. All of a sudden, they become too heavy a burden.

JJ’s implacable invulnerability is suddenly breached. The standard is next to impossible to obtain. It is the fallout of that lack, however, that causes those who fail at it to start exercising other modes of compensation. Simply: they start to find other ways to cope with that lack.

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Paolo Tiausas

11 comments

  1. This article is so sexist and homophobic, I am shocked it even exists. You deserve an award for most ridiculous and daft article ever written. Congratulations.

  2. You are viewing this in a very backward way of thinking where a couple needs to be “a man and a woman”, may it be in appearance, or by affection or whatever. AND also a very egoistic way of point of view that points out that men are/needs to be “masculine” and “dominant.”

    I cannot blame you for thinking like this, because this is how society, in general, thinks and/or mold us to think. We always need to follow a certain template that society dictates for us.

    In general, when people are in a relationship, you don’t really need talk about who needs to hold the dick. In a gay couple, for example, one of them doesn’t really need to wear female clothes or act the female part for it for it to work. There’s no “role-playing as a man and woman” in a homosexual relationship. It’s simply “we both have the same gender, and we love each other, so who the fuck cares.”

    The dominance (seme/uke) all depends on the couple’s personality, and other factors, and is a case-to-case basis, but this is only my opinion. For example, Yuri Plisetsky could in general be an uke, but his personality is very dominant or seme, hence, tsundere.

  3. Would you please consider taking down this homophobic and transphobic article? Its just been upsetting people and as a filipina, I find it shameful. As a bisexual woman, I believe that it would be inconsiderate and hurtful to keep this article up.

  4. I can feel the sincerity of the author through this piece. I’m glad YOI has had such a positive impact on his life.

  5. (Why is this article convoluted as all hell? I barely understand what this man is trying to say?)
    For anyone who doesn’t wanna read this bs:
    these two men are normal guys. Not “stereotypical gay” characters. They love each other. The end.

  6. Good for you to realize this. But it isn’t news to me at all. Guys can be gays or straight without falling into their societal stereotypes. Even if it’s a very masculine sport. It all depends on their personalities.

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