On the Subject of the Male Gaze in Yuri Anime

There’s an preoccupation with men when it comes to yuri. That much is evident if one notes one particularly common term.

The aforementioned phrase would be the “male gaze,” which is frequently used to criticize shows featuring sexualized female characters, yuri or not.

At first glance, the phrase appears to only refer to erotic depictions of girls through particular camera angles and focus shots in an attempt to visually appeal to heterosexual male viewers.

However, the male gaze also represents objectification of women since female characters are seemingly reduced to being little more than voiced and animated centerfold models. Their personalities, motivations, and other decidedly less physical distinctions are momentarily given less priority to meet the quota of panty shots and the like.

Yuri anime as well as titles which are likened to yuri are also accused of pandering to the male gaze. But detractors might fail to consider that some creators behind anime series or original source materials are actually female, as with the directors. By claiming that a show revolves around the male gaze, one in turn is attempting to discredit the efforts of female creators and directors who are explicitly not men.

Perhaps dissenters might concede on that point, but they would then point out that such series still do include suggestive camera pans and shots and that the creators and/or directors are still accommodating to the male gaze, female or not.

There are certainly males gazing at a woozy Hikari here, but I wouldn’t consider this scene to be particularly objectifying even with context.

That is indeed a fair point to make. In doing so, however, these naysayers are assuming that the target demographic of yuri titles are predominantly heterosexual males. There is certainly a male audience when it comes to yuri and such moments may appeal to such viewers. Be that as it may, there are also a significant amount of female viewers who enjoy yuri anime. Furthermore, a considerable portion of female yuri anime fans actually enjoy the on-screen fanservice and consider such scenes to be titillating.

Of course, there are female yuri fans who are notably uncomfortable with overly intrusive and objectifying depictions of female characters, but there are also male yuri fans who share similar sentiments. So to dismiss what’s shown on the screen as pandering to male viewers is to actually deny the probability that female yuri fans can appreciate said moments altogether and to falsely assert that all male yuri fans universally enjoy aforementioned scenes. Such a statement comes across as both exclusionary and presumptuous as a result.

With that being said, the fact remains there are a sizable amount of yuri shows which do include scenes that can be described as objectifying. Without spreading misinformation due to lacking hard numbers, a flimsy statement that could be considered to qualify as whataboutism is all that can be offered in response.

Essentially, there are many, many series of many different genres which feature moments that can qualify as being objectifying. At this rate, this is a trend that could almost be considered an unavoidable evil due to its prevalence in numbers. With that being said, there are series which can tastefully convey sexuality and/or intimacy without being overly forward. Those are the type of shows more series should strive to imitate, according to the author of this particular article. However, this is clearly easier said than done.

As a final reminder, please remember to exercise thought and care whenever using the term, “male gaze,” as it makes assumptions on a target demographic’s orientation and gender. Minding nuance may be prove to be comparatively more cumbersome when it comes to discussion, but to do otherwise might make for disingenuous and shallow conversation which would be a shame.

Thank you for reading.

This was written with the editing help of Irina who runs drunkenanimeblog.com. Check out her lovely blog, please! You won’t regret it.

19 thoughts on “On the Subject of the Male Gaze in Yuri Anime

  1. I know several women of varying sexual preferences who enjoyed Queen’s Blade, Valkyrie Drive and/or Seven Mortal Sins as much or more than they enjoyed Aoi Hana or Utena.

    There’s also the lesbian whose life was saved by Katsuragi. Point being “male gaze” is an excuse to trash ecchi anime. Of course these shows’ initial draw are the sexy babes but for critics of them to say “only men like this trash” or they’re made solely for men to have wet dreams over while indulging in them is an exaggeration/ludicrous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Glad to hear we agree about this.

      Yeah, it was just um alarming to hear a well-know aniblogging site dismiss Love Live! as pandering to horny dudes and the male gaze. Not sure what their agenda was.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another thing about criticizing “male gaze” is that sometimes it’s important to take the context into account. Sure, there are times when a male gaze angle is only there to titillate the viewer. But there are also times when a director could have a legitimate reason to employ it. A good example is episode 11.5 of Hyouka, AKA the Pool Episode. There are several “male gaze” looks at Chitanda in her bikini in that episode, but the way they’re framed, it’s obvious that we’re really seeing her in those scenes through Oreki’s eyes, as a teenage boy who’s totally smitten with her. Personally, I don’t call that fanservice, I call it good storytelling – you know, “show don’t tell” and all that good stuff (even moreso with a character like Oreki who isn’t the type to verbalize those kind of feelings anyway).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent point. It wasn’t pandering the audience but it was showing things from his perspective, which makes for some great framing and remains consistent with his character.


  3. I feel that the “male view” really does play to everyone. I find myself watching yuri anime. I don’t mind a little fan service! Obviously I don’t enjoy it when it turns into the entire point of the show, I still want a proper story line! But, fan service never hurt anyone. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow – this post got even better. It’s a great subject that bears discussion. One of the somewhat insulting aspects of the notion of a male gaze – is the assumption the “males” all have a singular gaze. Now I know the definition is that characters are shown purely from the male’S PoV (the male in question being either the director, audience or even another character) but that still presuposes that somehow we can know for sure what the male character’s/audience’s vision of a situation is and that it will appeal to every other man in the audience.
    I went on a tangent…Great post Rem!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Iri!

      Noooo that isn’t a tangent at all. Good point on how the perspective is meant to be coming from a male, but it doesn’t mean what is shown will appeal to every male in the audience. Wish I had touched upon that. Thanks once again!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In my experience, accusations of “male gaze” are more often than not levelled by people who actually mean “I am uncomfortable with looking at this and how it makes me feel, but don’t want to say that, so I’m going to position it as a broader societal problem”. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this argument used, only for a little probing to reveal that the person in question actually has spent little to no time actually engaging with the work they’re criticising.

    My go-to example for this is always Senran Kagura. Strong yuri undertones, heavy sexualisation, fanservice out the wazoo… but also deep characterisation, touching personal stories, excellent writing and a wonderful cast. The series has a *significant* female following, particularly among homosexual women, who enjoy the former aspects just as much as the latter. Do you think those latter aspects are ever mentioned by people just wanting to vomit up a quick and dirty article? Are they balls.

    Ah well. All you can really do in that situation is get the correct information out there, and point people in its direction when this sort of thing comes up.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s all we really can do in the face of people who prefer condemning series while overlooking positive traits and hiding personal bias. It sucks!

      Also it turns out that my inbox isn’t receiving notice when you post so I’m now like 2 weeks behind on your posts. Will try to fix during the weekend.


  6. Males gotta do what they gotta do. They see naked women, they look. I have yet to see ‘men’ look away in guilt when they come across real cases of naked women accidents!

    Well, you certainly have included a Yuri element so I’m impressed. You save me from going riot, for now!
    Yes. This is a threat.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Nicely put! even as a lady who consumes yuri media & KNOWS a lot of other ladies are consuming it, too, I still forget sometimes that the genre is predominantly targeted towards women and not men. It’s strange, though, because there are a lot of works written by men who write under a female pen name, so it really is hard to determine how many male vs female authors there are, but either way, just because a guy writes/creates it doesn’t inherently mean it will cater to the “””male gaze.””” But then it’s tricky too, because I think even female creators can pander and objectify their characters…anyways I’ll cut my ramble & say I agree that the sexual aspect is way, waaaaaay more nuanced than most people give yuri credit for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nooo you weren’t rambling and you’ve brought up tons of great points here. I can definitely ageee with everything you’re saying including the closing statement. Yuri is deep! Or can be, at least!

      Liked by 1 person

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