chapter  5
31 Pages

Gay Men as Women’s Best Friends and Ideal Marriage Partners

So far I have suggested that women’s idealised depictions of gay men comes from the common assumption that they are woman-like. I have argued that the image of the feminine male is positively received by women for two main reasons: firstly, the feminine man is not a dangerous enemy but a comforting

friend, and secondly, women identify with the feminine man who possesses all the attractive features associated with female gender while able to move with the freedom associated with male sex. When women fantasize ideal men, these representations contradict in every way the ‘real’ men depicted in men’s media. In this chapter, I look at a variety of media discourses taken from magazines, movies and books which go one step further and actually present gay men as women’s ideal partners. In order to understand how this construction is possible, it is necessary to first look at the various meanings structuring the marital relationship in present-day Japan

The contested meaning of marriage in modern Japan

The nature of marriage and the family in Japan has been analysed by western and Japanese researchers including sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists. It has been argued by many western researchers including Hendry (1981), Dalby (1985), Buckley (1991), Brinton (1992), Allison (1996), Jolivet (1997) and Robertson (1998) and as well as Japanese writers such as Iwao (1993), Mori Yōko (1994), Takada (1994) and Ueno (1997) that the various meanings surrounding marriage in Japan are structured in terms other than those of ‘romantic love.’ That marriage and romantic love are considered to be separate has been clearly vocalised in Japanese culture since the Tokugawa period and is still frequently heard today. An NHK family drama which I viewed in Japan in March 1998 contained just such a discussion arising from a young bride’s refusal to go through with the marriage ceremony when she discovered her prospective husband was still seeing his previous girlfriend (whom he really loved but who was an unsuitable marriage partner). The popular short-story writer and essayist Mori Yōko also discusses a (fictive) case in her article, The Fish she Let Get Away Was Big which was first published in the women’s magazine AnAn in 1991 (reproduced in Ashby 1994).