Women can enjoy watching an anime about horny lesbians too

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There’s been a bit of controversy over Sakura Trick, as some insist that it fetishes and objectifies the lesbians portrayed within it for the amusement of men. As a lesbian myself though, I disagree with a lot of these complaints against the show. The show is explicit and frank about it’s depiction of lesbian sexuality, something you don’t often see anywhere let alone have a whole show revolve around it.

The first problem I have with a lot of these complaints is that they assume that sexualization equals objectification, which isn’t necessarily true. There’s a distinct difference between showing off a character’s breasts and treating them like an object, and the fanservice in Sakura Trick is far from what I’d call objectifying. You could say that the characters are a bit shallow, sure, but there’s more to them than just providing titillation for the audience.

The other, slightly more perplexing problem is the insistence that this is somehow a show intended only for men to watch. I disagree with this notion, but I believe there are two reasons why some would think this. For one, the director and creative staff of the series are men, which of course means that they’re not lesbians. Secondly, the show features a generous amount of breast jiggling and explicit instances of groping of and kissing among the characters, which according to some people gives off the vibe that this is “fanservice for men.” So to rephrase, the alleged issue is that this is an anime about lesbians, created by men, for men.

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This comes with some troublesome implications though, especially with the latter accusation of the fanservice only being for men. See, with idealistic portrayals of lesbians, the sexual aspect of it is often downplayed in favor of portraying “the purest kind of love,” playing into unhealthy ideals of female purity. To say that an anime with kissing and breast jiggles is something only men would enjoy, implies that it’s not normal for an actual lesbian to enjoy watching such things as well.

Which is simply wrong. It’s just girls kissing and groping each—simple, sexual acts; something that can be pleasing to both men and women to watch. It’s honestly a little infuriating that some lesbians are making such generalizations as this, speaking on behalf of all lesbians on why this wouldn’t be appealing to them.

Now concerning the issue of this being created by men. First of all, I’m one that would argue that cinema needs more women directors, and that that’s a much more important issue than how many “strong female characters” are present in the media. So I certainly agree that the perspective of the creators is important. But, that doesn’t mean that just because something is made by a man it automatically makes it more sexist. And for that matter, something isn’t automatically less sexist if it’s made by a woman.

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Here’s a quick thought experiment. Imagine if the Sakura Trick manga was made by a woman (which it might be; I’m not sure what the author’s gender is,) and that this anime adaption was also made by lesbian women. The fanservice wouldn’t necessarily be different, since as I said lesbian women can be into the same fanservice that’s typically targeted towards men. Would there really be anything problematic about this? Would people still insist that it’s being made “for men”? No, probably not.

So that’s why the complaint of this being a show made by men, for men, doesn’t hold up for me. It’s just a bunch of girls kissing each other. In this case at least, the fact that the anime is created by men is irrelevant. And I’ll be clear that I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong to dislike this show because of the fanservice, and I’m certainly not trying to silence the voices of those who did feel legitimately uncomfortable watching this. I’m just explaining why I disagree with the notion that this show objectifies lesbians.

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19 Responses to Women can enjoy watching an anime about horny lesbians too

  1. A few things.
    -The thought experiment does make the ‘OBJECTIFICATION!’ claim sound less valid, but there is the objection! that people raise about this that even females can objectify females (or even themselves). So, while, say, Beyonce isn’t usually being controlled by anyone, but because of the existence of a culture of objectification, she objectifies herself in music and film. Granted, this applies a relatively less to mangaka, but yuri sells and mangaka know that. Even the women.

    -This does make me think about sth. really weird: Fanservice exists, by nature, for fans, so it is necessarily objectification because in providing fanservice, a show treats it’s characters as means to ends. This should also mean that a show can objectify men for women, women for women, and men for men as well(Let’s keep lolicons out of this). On a purely theoretical level, there should be no moral difference between female fanservice for men, and female fanservice for lesbians; they both objectify. There may be a qualitative difference I’m not considering here. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Yes, women can objectify themselves and other women, but men can also do fanservice without treating women like objects in the process. The point I was trying to make was that I don’t think there’s anything bad about the fanservice in Sakura Trick, and that people might just be calling it sexist because the creative staff are men.

      I suppose fanservice could indeed be considered inherently objectifying, but it depends on how you look at it. It’s showing off the body of a character for the enjoyment of fans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the character is being treated purely as a sex object. It depends on what the creators of doing with the character overall. You can have an anime flash off a character’s T&A while still creating a “strong female character,” and you can even make it empowering for the character if they’re the ones showing off they’re T&A in the first place. (Kill la Kill is a good example of a recent show that tries to play around with the objectification and empowerment involved with fanservice.)

      On a purely theoretical level there certainly is no difference between female fanservice for men and women. But there’s a reason why the former tends to be more squicky for people that’s important to consider. In reality women tend to be objectified by men quite a lot—as in literally being treated like objects, not sexualized—and there’s a whole system of oppression in place which allows this. The dreaded patriarchy that feminists complain about all the time.

      So when women are objectifying other women, there at least isn’t any of that systematic oppression at hand. This is also why no one bats an eye at Free! for it’s male fanservice; men aren’t systematically oppressed on nearly the same level as women, so it’s not a big deal when they’re objectified.

    • leetailor says:

      >yuri sells and mangaka know that.

      That’s not entirely true. Yuri does indeed have a market, but it’s so niche that mangaka who just want to get paid would be foolish to aim for yuri. It is probably even less lucrative to draw yuri than yaoi. So you can assume that most mangaka who draw yuri do it because they’re passionate about it or it gets their rocks off, and not because it is the most financially attractive option.

  2. Overlord-G says:

    Here are some of the reasons why I did not take the claim about ST being objectification of lesbians seriously.
    1: So what they’re saying is: Shows with lesbian characters, animated or live action, with content where the women cuddle, touch and kiss each other, is considered objectifying. Where were these people during the premiere episode of The L Word or certain parts of Lost Girl? Oh, one of these shows is Rated R so it’s not bad. I’ve seen plenty of PG-13 media with fanservice, both 2D and 3D.

    2: What exactly about Haruka and Yuu’s developing relationship is so wrong or objectifying? They’re just two female childhood friends who slowly begin to fall in love with each other. They start of as “Friends with benefits” and become closer and closer as time passes. That’s it. I’m guessing the other two couples on the show will be similar.

    3: The only reason people are making such a big deal out of this is, fanservice aside, it got a lot of attention.

    4: Can someone explain the difference between regular fanservice and lesbian fanservice? I do not see what makes the two so different. Both involve women and men showing off their flesh or getting into sexual acts for the sake of turning viewers of both genders on, depending what they are into.

    5: I get people being upset about the fanservice, Not everyone can tolerate it. It’s fine. Other than that though, what else did the premiere do wrong? It’s no different than any other comedy I’ve seen with an all-female cast. These girls just happen to be gay for each other. Also, with the body measurements Haruka, Kotone and even Yuzu have, I am surprised people reacted the way they did as if the writers taking advantage of this opportunity was something never thought of before. It’s business as usual in anime with attractive 2D women.

    In the end, I think it all boils down to the point Sorrows Neptune made: Naysayers are making a big deal out of this because they believe it’s a show written by men, for men and supposedly women are to be appalled by this. Tell that to the lady who wrote Dragon Age 2’s script.

    • I would love to see some of these detractors try to describe what they think “lesbian fanservice” is supposed to be like. There seems to be an implication that it wouldn’t be sexual for some reason, like one of those awful “Porn for women” books that are just a bunch of pictures of men doing house chores.

      • Overlord-G says:

        That book you described sounds very discriminatory and more egotistical than drool worthy. It’s like that hilarious “Pro-Feminist” flash game where the housewife is engaged in mortal combat against cleaning utensils.

        I take these detractors as seriously as the people who complained about the way some of Dragon’s Crown’s busty female characters are drawn.
        Although they do have SOME valid points to criticize the way the women are drawn, it still ends up meaning little because this debate is as old as time itself really.

  3. Pingback: Sakura Trick – Perspective Is Relative | Terminal Anime

  4. Lucas Magnus says:

    What bothers me the most is that people are still stuck with assigning labels to people of the same group. Saying that men making lesbian-themed works only do it because they find girl-on-girl hot is prejudice. Who knows what ran through the minds of the staff when they made this? What of the female voice actresses who genuinely enjoyed being a part of Sakura Trick? I know for a fact that girls can also enjoy this kind of show, and guys may not enjoy it for different reasons. It’s not about gender or sexual orientation. It’s simply about what things you enjoy.

    • Totally. I scarcely ever feel genuinely offended by something, but it really is infuriating to see so many lesbians make these generalizations about how all men who like yuri are perverts, and that no lesbian would like Sakura Trick because it’s too “objectifying” or only portrays “the most basic of lesbian relationships.”

      It makes me worry if any show about lesbians will be unfairly scrutinized by the lesbian community, but I’ll just hope that this controversy was an unfortunate anomaly.

  5. Pingback: Why I’m Not Against Fanservice and Sexual Objectification in the Media (And Why the Focus Should Be Different) | Phoenix Factory

  6. Ysionris says:

    I would like to let you know that I very much agree with what you have said, and that you – alongside other bloggers who have commented on this subject – have put such an argument in an eloquent, sensitive, and fair-minded manner. I would also like to let you know that I have, in passing, linked to this blog post in positing my views in a broader discussion about fanservice here (https://phoenixfactory.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/why-im-not-against-fanservice-and-sexual-objectification-in-the-media-and-why-the-focus-should-be-different/#more-278), and I hope you would not mind this.

    Thank you very much.

    • Nah, it’s always nice when other blogs link back to me!

      Funny, I happen to be working on another essay which goes into more detail about my thoughts on fanservice, and it basically presents the same arguments that you do. e.g., the problem isn’t that fanservice exists, but that it’s so pervasive and only targeted towards cishet men.

      I-I’m not stealing your arguments, I swear!

      • Ysionris says:

        I’d say brilliant minds think alike, but that implies I’m brilliant. So let’s just go with “tsundere minds think alike”? You’re more than welcome to use my post for reference, though, and please give me a shout when you’ve written that~ ^_^

  7. Pingback: On Fanservice | Anime Is Dead

  8. mariondelgado says:

    As a straight man who (I guess) isn’t probably opposed to fan service in general, I did find the endless closeups on butts/hips and also jiggling breasts (and those bizarre did you spill water on your uniform non-breasts hidamari-sketch style animation produces) really, really stupid. I thought the same of the overly long (after the first episode) butt and breast-jiggling opening song. Even the closing song is too long but at least it’s not mindless jiggle. I end up in the “don’t mind” faction because I know the manga. What were the animators to do? They set themselves a schedule of 2 manga episodes per anime episode. That’s not a lot of material. They needed to pad it, basically, and they did so with the moronic fan service to gain audience. If there was a 2nd season of sakura trick I’d be praising them.

    After 1 episode I literally didn’t see it, I was so moved by the actual show. I think the only anime I found more moving than this one (especially episode 8, sakura wedding/sakura xmas) was maria-sama ga miteru. Haruka looking all grown up and telling sad little Yuu that every kiss they have is their wedding day kiss is one of the greatest scenes ever.

    If I ran pony canyon or whoever does this, I would have done one extra show for their summer vacation, and in place of the bizarre cutaway T&A I would have a bunch of omake.

    Thanks for this article and it’s great to see people recognizing this show as a pioneer.

    • Yeah, there’s no denying that the fanservice is there to keep the attention of the male audience, and I’m not even a big fan of it in this show either, or a big fan of Sakura Trick in general. It’s just the people who insist “it’s sexist because it’s made by men and no lesbian would ever like this” that irk me to no end.

      I don’t know if I’d call it a pioneer (I still haven’t bothered to watch past the first six episodes actually,) but I would hope it leads to more yuri getting made.

  9. mariondelgado says:

    I thought the plot was pioneer because it started off with the 2 couples getting or gotten together and was all about what happens after that.

    I would recommend watching on – in the end I really loved this show to pieces. 7-B on, and ESPECIALLY 8 the show becomes almost a different show. A lot more serious basically the fan-service stops after episode 7 Part A which as the farewell-to-fan-service episode is actually called Swimsuit FanService. Episodes 8 and 12 are really touching, and everything I found annoying got completely tied up.

    your main point is really, really good. It’s no good synthetically deducing something is bad, first determine it’s bad, then do a post mortem.

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