The problem with rape culture in Shojo Manga
« When a girl says no, her heart is actually saying ok »
Hot Gimmick, Vol. 2
This sentence alone is the best reason why I gave up finishing Hot Gimmick back in 2007. The male lead Ryoki constant abuse of the main character, Hatsumi’s as well as her stupidity which is truly out of this world, was too much for me.
I started reading mangas when I was a kid and jumped into shoujo manga at 12. I never really understood why it was not ok for Koichiro to harass, humiliate and forces himself with Natsumi in Oroberu Knife (by Georges Asakura), or how Gin has the habit to rape Kirara in Love Celeb (by Mayu Shinjo) and then everyone pretending that was fine ?
Rape culture is defined by Geek Feminism as a the normalization of sexual assault in a society, »… a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women and gender diverse peoples ) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.”
It frequently includes objectifying women or portraying social relations as a “war of the sexes”, both of which lead to dehumanization . Dehumanization, in turn, leads to sexual violence against victims being condoned as they are mentally considered “objects” instead of “a fellow human” .
Shoji Manga are targeted to young girls, who often are they first experience of love and lust through the books. For girls who don’t know any better, how are they supposed to set boundaries for themselves and distinguish between a loving relationship and an abusive one if the only example that is celebrated is the one where a boy forces himself to a girl?
Unfortunately, they are already bombarded by messages in the media telling them that they are objects and they best bet to be desirable is by fulfilling men’s desires. And shojo mangas are in no way different by massively glorifying unhealthy relationships and by pretending that abuse is love.
I remember being disturbed as a young girl. i knew these things weren’t okay, but it was the only example of love I saw in my real life, but the fact that it was lauded as « desirable » made me accept some questionable things when I was younger.
Thankfully, even if most mainstream shojo mangas are problematic in that aspect, many others are able to show healthier relationships, such as Fruits Baskets (Natsuk Takuya) Cat Street by Yôkô Kamio or Lovely Complex by Aya Nakahara, or simply woman characters standing up for themselves, like Yukari in Paradise Kiss (Ai Yazawa) or Rika in X-Day (Sedona Mizushiro).
However, it’s time to call out the mangakas and their publishers on that issue.