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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.