Yuri, Male Gaze, and Gushing Over Magical Girls


Soooo, heard about that new ecchi yuri anime? The one with the bdsm and the uncensored nipples that just barely avoids the hentai label by some kind of miracle?

(Note: this video is not meant for children in case you haven't taken the hint yet. Also I'm not trying too hard to avoid spoilers so those too.)

I've been keeping up with this manga since pretty soon after it first released and I'm pretty happy with how they're adapting it! But it has understandably started some discourse in the anime community. Discourse that got me thinking huh, wouldn't it be fun to roll this around in my head? On a reread there's certainly a lot of fun bits to grip onto, but those are currently all loose threads in my brain only vaguely starting to look like a coherent thought. No, the thought that i was able to manifest into a hopefully coherent video was thinking about all the accusations of "male gaze" and how it's the perfect example of.

Y'all do not know what that means or the proper contexts to use it and it's beginning to grind my gears as a lesbian who experiences sexual attraction.

Now, the subject of this video has much and many more offputting elements than being horny for women don't get me wrong, but there's a pattern here. The complaints over the ages and the sexual assault make sense. Being squicked out by that stuff means you are normal, congratulations. There are legions of people who agree with you, have fun and please don't watch something that will hurt you. In fact, there's probably interesting analyses you could make with regards to how it fits into the wider atmosphere of portrayal of sexual assault in anime or something like that.

But very often in the case of both this series and many other yuri porn stories people throw around terms like "male gaze" or otherwise point to some inherent maleness in the act of liking women in ways that aren't immediately palatable to straight women. But first a statement:


I am a utilitarian, greatest pleasure for least suffering type. This doesn't effect my interpretation of male gaze, but if you wanna make me feel bad about liking this show it's not gonna work. I figure there's always worth in dissecting stories whether you like them or not, however liking or disliking stories isn't inherently good or bad. I haven't seen any substantial good come out of policing people's taste in fiction, and it always backfires. It can mildly influence your perspective, but things like niche smut that hits on taboo subjects without directly hurting real people is a drop in the bucket. Best thing you can do to avoid being influenced is actually to pick apart the stories that seem the most harmless, in my opinion. Since that's the influences you aren't already aware of and counteracting. If you're a virtue ethics type and "practicing" things that aren't virtuous makes you a bad person, I'm not here to change your mind. I just don't really believe in good or bad people, and that discussion would be a whole other video I'm not doing right now.


With that out of the way, let me explain my point about how male gaze is getting used.

Somewhere in the infinite telephone game of the internet someone saw a tweet about an article written by someone who heard their friend talking about a lindsay ellis video about male gaze and now male gaze just means stories that are horny for women and don't dance around it. If the horny makes you, a woman, feel uncomfortable it's male gaze. If it feels non-threatening then it isn't.

The problem with this mangled take on the original theory is that "feelings" are extremely biased actually and sometimes the things that make us uncomfortable come from a bigoted place and not some divine guidance. And the issue with this feelings based definition is less obvious in mainstream media (due to the rampant misogyny), but when it comes to lesbian stories (and yuri as my specialty) it's glaringly obvious.

Obvious... that the majority of women are straight and extremely uncomfortable with the idea lesbians might feel sexual attraction not unlike a man's. Even some queer women seem to have internalized a sanitized idea of their own sexuality, and I know this because I did that for a while.

I never really internalized homophobia, lucky me, but I did internalize the idea there was some way of attraction that girls just wouldn't feel. That everyone is right and men are actually the only ones who could ever like to see bouncing boobs and unabashed porn. Which I somehow managed to believe while still finding all those things extremely appealing.

Hell I'd been following this damn manga for a while already before internalizing this stuff and had to actively resist catching up during this phase. I just thought I had something wrong with me in the back of my mind until one day I woke up and realized how stupid that was and caught up on all the mochi au lait manga I'd missed.

If you have to suppress yourself to fit the "natural order", then you're probably being lied to about what is natural! Certainly, not all sapphics are allosexual nor do we all like kink. But I'd assume the average person who thinks about things sometimes could figure out that sapphics usually do, in fact, enjoy looking at women sexually.

Apparently not though, because we get people calling shit like Asumi-chan "male gaze" because Asumi likes sex and singlehandedly funds her local brothel.

And I think Gushing Over Magical Girls, hereforth referred to as MahouAko, is a perfect example to dissect BECAUSE it so thoroughly offends this mangled definition while, I argue, still never entering the realm of actual male gaze.

Despite all the sexual assault, the supposedly 14 year olds in skimpy outfits, the way it goes through the kink dictionary like a checklist, it's still never male gaze. In fact, it tries its absolute hardest to be the opposite.

Intentionally or not, I'm not besties with akihiro ononaka and I'm not his lawyer, just a lesbian who read Mulvey's essay.

Mulvey's essay and how it relates to GOMG

Mulvey's original theory of male gaze was about how cinema treats men as the subjects of their stories. The essay is only like 20 pages and available free on the internet archive so i really recommend checking it out yourself.

In it she describes the difference in how cinema treats it's male and female characters. Men look, and project their desires onto the plot. They are active participants in the plot and how they themselves are viewed.

While women are passive, they are to be looked at and displayed. If she has influence over the plot, it is because of how she effects the male protagonist, not from any agency of her own.

Men move the plot forward, while women screech it to a halt. Men DO, while women exist for the pleasure of being looked at.

Mulvey describes 3 separate gazes involved in a film all of which get used to reinforce male dominance and the male default. There is the gaze of the characters, the gaze of the camera, and the gaze of the (presumed male) audience.

The gaze of the camera exists to blur the line between the male protagonist and the male audience, and invoke the pleasure of looking. She also refers to Freud's idea of women symbolizing a fear of castration for men, and while Freud is eww the idea used this way easily translates out of Freud speak.

Many men don't like seeing women outside of their control, and the joining of their gaze with the male protagonist's gaze allows them to gain control and enact "their" will on a woman. As a film maker prioritizing male gaze, the goal is to ensure a safe distance between a female character and a male spectator, to ensure he never has to engage with her as a character instead of a landscape.

So she is confined to the view of the male protagonist and not allowed to be more than a lamp. Even when the control the audience is intended to feel is in the "voyeuristic" sense rather than the "sadistic" sense, there is still usually some kind of male viewpoint to attach yourself to.


However, this isn't a framework that works on yuri.

Yeah there's male characters in a lot of yuri, but most aren't important. Even when they are important they're mostly side characters who exist to push the girls together for a couple chapters. And then, the niche within a niche, the yuri where male characters are created as an audience insert and consistently drive plot are supremely rare in my experience as a yuri fan for nearly a decade now.

Stuff like abo or futa porn can repackage misogyny into a single gender world, but without men they still don't really embody male gaze. Just bioessentialism and transmisogyny, a lot of the time.

But MahouAko doesn't fit either of these niches. All plot relevant characters are female or ambiguous, so there is no male subject.

In fact, it's questionable whether men even exist in this universe.

MahouAko lives and breathes female default. The faceless crowds? In skirts. Generic mannequins? Vaguely feminine.

There are a couple masculine mobs but they always die before the fun starts and *never* appear again past the first couple chapters.

The mascot character? To be honest I don't have a definitive answer for that one.

I've seen a few different pronouns used for it in different translations, and looking at the raws with my amateur japanese skills I think it does use "boku" to refer to itself. While I'm no expert, a quick google search shows that boku is mostly used by men.

However, in fiction there's a decent number of women who also use it. Some to be tomboyish, but others to be cutesy, which would make sense for a mascot. And while adult women don't seem to use boku much in reality, if the first few results i got searching about this topic aren't lying (which they very well could be) it's very commonly used by girls up to middle school age, hence the cutesiness.

It's complicated and since no one else in the cast is a boy i don't know why I'd assume it's a boy.

And finally, as a brave pixiv diver i only found 1 fanart with male venalita versus at least 5 separate plushie fuckers who gave it a vagina so it seems to be androgynous leaning feminine to a Japanese audience.

Yet the official english manga translation assumes the plush toy is a guy for some reason. And a lot of english viewers too despite the fact i don't think it's recieved a single gendered pronoun in the anime yet. Despite the otherwise total lack of men in the series, if it isn't pink with tits and a skirt we still assume it's male.

I can't assume author intent and am not here to do that, but fact is the female default this series operates under only gets more explicit as it goes. It's like the series realizes that if you make a stick figure, it's treated as a "he" by everyone reading so to be explicitly clear that no the default ISN'T male you have to give every stick figure a skirt.

Because when given the slightest leeway to assume maleness in a character we take it, so you have to be clear when you're operating on a different default.


But that's only 1 gaze of the bunch, while the characters are all women what about the audience? Or the camera?

Well, Mulvey's essay focuses on the camera as a tool to unite the audience and the character, so that's done. But for the audience, well it's not particularly catering to straight men in the gaze sense.

Is it trying to shake them? Not at all, but looking just at the text and how it unites audience and character gaze, it is certainly not coddling them.

For example, they recently put out an official magia baiser ASMR video on youtube, and despite the opportunity to add a little gender ambiguity the tweet is still like. Magia baiser pranks a magical girl with an ASMR monster! Then follows it up with a manga chapter about teasing the tres magia with ASMR.

If you're going to insert yourself in this story, we will remind you that only girls exist here. If you want to insert yourself as a man into the story, it's not coming on a silver platter.

And besides that the whole story has all the trappings of a lesbian self-insert harem story.

Yes, Utena is more than a blank slate but being a blank slate isn't the only way to be a self-insert. There's also being relatable and living the kind of life people would wanna self-insert into. Specifically, she's a self-insert for all the girls who ever got weird feelings when the heroes get tied up in morning cartoons.

I know i did, and as such when the manga started coming out i actually felt kind of connected to Utena. I was close to the same age as her when i found the first chapters, and it was just really nice to see a girl who felt the same things and could actually act on it.

Getting a girlfriend was completely out of the question for my autistic ass, sex even moreso, and kinky sex some far off pipe dream. So it was nice seeing girls getting to experiment so much and even form a friend group thanks to their kinky antics.

Outside of my own anecdotes, we can also compare her to other, similar self inserts in yuri manga.

Sorry, but I'm not into Yuri is basically MahouAko but the MC's a sub instead. Also no magical girls, but yeah. Itsumi is a pathetic girl fail whose bratty antics get her passed around by various lesbians, all while losing grip on the frayed string that is her heterosexuality.

In Asumi-chan is interested in lesbian brothels, Asumi starts out only going to the brothels to find her childhood crush, but she soon finds herself enjoying the process very much. And while the prostitutes don't necessarily fall in love with her, they are certainly intrigued and she does catch the heart of a kouhai on the side.

There's a lot more i could mention, but basically MahouAko fits well into a trend of yuri featuring MCs you are clearly supposed to identify with in order to fully enjoy the power fantasy. Maybe self insert is a strong word for it, but it's certainly the same process.

(Also note, both those stories are written by women and so are a lot of the yuri i mention. Since i know people will ask.)

It also uses my favorite visual representation of everything wrong with using the rhetorical tool of male gaze on this kind of yuri.

Ah yes, the male gaze. When there's a girl on top of me and as I'm ogling her I see my own boobs. Truly the straight male perspective.

Even the actual audience insert character is comedically hostile to joining male audience and character. This bitch has double D's and an ojou-sama vibe, she is not easing men into a comfortable pov.

Technically you could argue venalita, but again it seems to be gender ambiguous, maybe even a little feminine. And while you're reading it is quickly made clear it's keeping too many secrets to really identify with.

While that is highly subject to personal bias in reading, I'm also someone who can surf reddit type areas online and waifu types also don't seem to identify with it much. It gets treated more like utena's machiavellian little shoulder devil who pops in to give her bad ideas.

It encourages utena into villainy, but once utena is in the groove it's all her. And when utena gets more comfortable with her role as villain, venalita becomes more mysterious and untrustworthy.

Utena and the rest of the main cast are the subjects of the story, they're the ones who want things and fight to get them. Vena is just a schemer who exists on the side to act suspicious and pop in with some information it omitted occasionally.


Now I'm not forgetting about the male author and being in a seinen magazine here, I'm laying a framework. Because consider, for a moment, the fact that male gaze is even a thing at all.

Why is that? Well, men don't tend to like having to empathize with women at all, including to enjoy a story. But then why is an author who seems to be a man writing a lesbian self insert story?

First off, lots of authors and especially mangaka prefer to stay entirely anonymous and i think we should respect that, so judging solely on author gender is very rude even if they're more open.

Second, cis men (especially ones who write lesbian stories) can easily be trans women who haven't realized it, and i don't think it's nice to base so much on a label subject to change.

Because regardless of his gender and relationship with it, he's writing a yuri manga before he's writing seinen, and the yuri demographic is just anyone who will tune in.

Usually about 50/50 on the gender split, see my first video for more in depth analysis, and although I don't know the demographics specifically reading this manga or the magazine it's in, I know I can look at the other stories published alongside it and get a feel for what their readers are reading.

And well would you look at that, that's a lot of lesbians for a seinen magazine. For reference, look at Young Champion, another seinen magazine.

Counting it up, Young Champion only has a single yuri manga according to anime planet despite having like a hundred series (betcha didn't realize that Fed up Office Lady wants to serve the Villainess was seinen) compared to Storia Dash, which has 12.

Out of 31. And a couple of the non yuri still seem to be yuri adjacent slice of life.

Note that this is a cursory look at what I can find them publishing by looking at english websites, so it's biased by what english speaking readers are reading. However the Young Champion lineup is also biased by the same things, and doesn't have such a ridiculously large percentage of yuri.

And the yuri in this magazine fills a pretty wide array of styles and genres, from 1 manga that's more questionable than MahouAko (Onee-san wa Joshi Shougakusei ni Kyoumi ga Arimasu) to manga I've seen called shoujo or josei.

For example, Failed Princesses is published here and is a pretty sexless high school drama about an otaku girl getting a makeover from a gyaru, falling in love with each other, and the way it messes up the dynamics of the school cliques.

Another example, Minna watashi no hara no naka, follows an adult woman in love with her roommate but trying to live a "normal" life, so she hides both her love of food and sapphicness while going marriage hunting.

So we can guess that they're attracting yuri fans and banking on not scaring their other readers away. And with that yuri readership comes a more evenly split gender demographic. While i can't guarantee how many of the women here are reading MahouAko, I do know that sapphics who like yuri have enjoyed similar stuff in the past.

From the Maser thesis in my first video, we saw that shoujo sect was in the top 5 of yuri anime non-het women said was a favorite, with 10% of them choosing it (compared to 15% among het men). Shoujo sect for reference, while it does feature high schoolers instead of 9th graders also has sexual assault, more porn, less budget, and the added taboos of blood related incest and student teacher relationships.

And it was also written by probably a man, and sexualized girl's schools instead of magical girls.

Now that was ten years ago, but women in yuri fandom are still writing and enjoying a lot of taboo yuri so it doesn't seem like much has changed other than the amount available. And i know I've caught a few of the yuri authors I follow (who seem to be women from available information) in the likes, reblogs, and follows of various MahouAko related twitter accounts. Occasionally even fanarts.

And to really drive in how useless it is to moralize which yuri is in which magazine of which demographic, consider for a minute, who would be easier to convince to publish yuri? A publisher for a magazine aimed at straight men, or one aimed at straight women?

Because that's what shounen and shoujo are. They're aimed at the average boys and girls of Japan, and the average is straight. The assumption of how a straight man would react to yuri in his seinen magazine is very different than how it's assumed a straight woman would react, and much more profitable.

And if you're a mangaka trying to sell your yuri are you going to swim upstream trying to find a shoujosei magazine to take you if there's already a seinen mag that wants it? Probably not.

The demographics listed on yuri manga are essentially decorative, because when they're published they're usually alongside a bajillion other yuri manga only connected by being yuri. Then the gendered manga they're published alongside in the magazine is where the demographic actually effects much, because the yuri is there to attract yuri fans and maybe some of the other readers might read a couple.

And a lot of yuri i see called shoujosei come from yuri dedicated magazines which publish equally as eclectic mixes of yuri as the gendered magazines. Comic Yuri Hime is essentially THE yuri magazine, and a lot of yuri labelled shoujosei comes from them. And well, the full lineup doesn't look too much different from storia dash's yuri, just larger. Even ignoring the manga that started in their shounen sister magazine, there are still a lot of manga getting published there that is equally as taboo as MahouAko, often moreso.

Comic yuri hime published shoujosei yuri darlings like Doughnuts under a Crescent Moon, The Summer you were There, Throw away the suit together, and Days of Love at Seagull Villa.

But they also published Kitanai kimi ga ichiban kawaii, following high school girls who have a dubiously consensual bdsm relationship and drag each other into hellish suffering over it.

And Ayame 14, about a 14 year old girl who is extremely horny about everything ever and her friends who go along with it. (it's been a while since i read it, i need a refresher. But it's similar to MahouAko in many ways outside of magic i know that much)

And It's a detached relationship, about a teacher and a high school student from a different school being fuck buddies.

And the onee-loli yuri anthology which is self explanatory.

And you know what the questionable manga i listed have in common? Written by women (or having female authors participate, i see you itou hachi). So no, not even the questionable parts of MahouAko actually signal a male exclusive audience.

Yes women can play to the male gaze, but if they aren't playing to any aspect of male gaze are they really writing to the male gaze? Or do you just not like seeing there are women who like this stuff?

Because the male gaze is about agency, not being horny for women. Calling every instance of lesbian porn you don't vibe with "male gaze" is just homophobic. If the taboo involved disgusts you say that, just don't call sapphics men.


Now I'm not trying to be a hater, recently shoujosei magazines seem to be publishing more yuri which is great. Just, people need to realize that as far as yuri is concerned the demographic tag is often vestigial.

While shoujosei yuri tend to have commonalities within themselves, ungendered or male magazine yuri can still hit the same beats, just with a little more leeway to be dumb and horny. I think it's an issue that'll go away with time as it already slowly is, but pedestalizing shoujosei yuri over all other yuri really forgets that regressive tropes like class S started in shoujo yuri.

And that being able to be unabashedly horny over women from a lesbian perspective is actually progress. Yes the author of MahouAko seems to be a man, but a very large number of other horny yuri authors aren't. And i know you guys can't tell the difference just by looking at the manga, female yuri authors also get called men constantly.

Certainly there's plenty of ways yuri authors are getting censored and held back by magazines of all demographics, but it's not as easy as "shounen yuri bad".

Like while i was researching for this video it really smacked me in the face a couple times learning that x manga was actually y demographic.

JS-san to OL-san is a josei for some ungodly reason. I got no idea there.

Hanamonogatari, the refreshing old woman yuri about the widowed elderly woman is a seinen.

Multiple morinaga milk manga were published in the same seinen magazine, Girl Friends in particular is a name many of us know.

You cannot guess much just by seeing the author is x gender and the manga is y demographic. I don't know how it is for other genres, but yuri is just yuri. The demographic is "anyone who likes yuri", and that's fine.


As for the men who are enjoying it AND still somehow centering their maleness in the stories that reject them, who I am in fact well aware of, consider this:

Touhou project, k-on, my little pony.

The men who can enjoy stories that completely exclude them at all points will not be stopped by any amount of sexlessness. My little pony is a literal children's show, but 4chan made it about waifus. So what could your "wholesome, sapphic-gaze" porn ever do to stop the waifuists?

Sure you can have trans characters, black characters, fat characters, etc. but that won't stop everyone. Hell, if you try too hard it could have a streisand effect. And every kind of minority has a dedicated porn tag you might accidentally find yourself in. And of course publishers aren't fond of too much diversity so what gets published can't go very far in that direction.

Trying to sanitize stories about female characters until het guys would never enjoy it is pointless. The het guys who can empathize with women are usually fine, and the ones who can't you aren't going to be stopping. The male gaze is a tool to coddle men and assure them they aren't even risking empathizing with a woman to get their visual pleasure, but lots of men can just do that on their own y'know.

They've been coddled to enjoy stories while completely disregarding female characters. And many learn how to enjoy stories without even engaging with the men beyond their potential in bringing about horny situations. So it's not *that* hard for them to enjoy a story that by all means shouldn't be enjoyable without empathy for women. Because that's all stories are to a surprising amount of people.

A slideshow of pleasurable images.

No matter how hard you try to make your sapphic horny not "male gaze", if there is anything that is visually pleasurable it can be grabbed. So there are greatly diminishing returns the harder you try, and it will destroy your vision if you obsess too much over it.

As a sapphic, you have to reckon with the fact that if you want to read and write stories about women, there will be men who make it about themselves. You can never stop this completely, so are you going to run like a coward and only ever read stories about men, or reckon with it and accept that sometimes you just have to ignore idiots?

Instead of burying your artistic vision and nitpicking every expression of your sexuality in order to not look like one of those straight guys writing lesbian porn, why don't you just write what you want to? Don't watch shows while nitpicking every moment that maybe a straight guy thought was hot therefore you shouldn't, just enjoy the damn show!

There's other rhetorical tools, learn to apply them and for the love of god stop applying male gaze to everything like it's fucking peanut butter!

Well that's a lot off my chest! Still got a lot of video ideas but this one randomly popped into my head and motivated me into writing so it's what you get. I've given up guessing which topic I'll do next, so no warning here.

Mulvey's essay