On Yaoi Merchandise: A Blurring of Gender Roles and Desires

It’s pretty rare to find dakimakuras depicting males in compromising positions.


For a very long time, I’ve been wondering why it has been really hard for me to get yaoi merchandise that I really want. Whenever I make my way towards anime conventions (I live in the East so we have quite a bit of official Japan imported anime merchandise sold here), I usually find accessories or nit-nats such as files, pencils, pens, mugs whereas what I really do want to buy are specially drawn dakimakura (bolster) covers, picture books, t-shirts etc.

I got a ruddy Junjou/Sekaiichi exclusive pen for instance… What I really want are ARTBOOKS or DAKIS

According to an anime industry insider, “It is not so much a matter if there are more otaku males or females, or which of the two is more deeply involved in otaku culture; the difference is in the ‘quality’ of their obsession.  For instance, a guy will spend over 9000 yen (about $110) on a cute anime girl hug pillow because they prefer expensive, high-quality material. If the same kind of pillow is made from a  cheaper polyester material, it won’t sell.”

“Women are realists,” says the insider, “the most they will spend is 3000 to 4000 yen ($36 to $48)  on something like CDs. 300 yen ($3.60) clear plastic folders with characters on them are best-sellers. Female otaku like to buy a number of small things at once.”

Of course, you do see certain variations nowadays. For instance, I’ve seen 2 yaoi dakimakuras sold out completely in the past two years: The No.6 dakimakura (pic above) was wiped out completely at the Animate Girls Festival 2012 within the FIRST HOUR and was resold at yahoo auctions for the sick price of 38000yen. (452.92 USD)

The second yaoi dakimakura I’ve seen is from Hadaka Shitsuji (Naked Butler) exclusively sold in toranoana stores: 

But then, Hadaka Shitsuji is more than just yaoi; in many ways it’s closer to bara and the whole game design and creation was done by a (presumably gay) male so in many ways, it has a male target audience as well. It’s also highly popular and was sold out in a matter of weeks.

I’m not too sure what are the sociological implications of this. I can only speculate and I think that there are two possibilities. What is defined strictly as “feminine” or “masculine” interests or merchandise is slowly becoming more and more diffused and amorphous. The rise of selling erotic anime goods towards a predominant female crowd could be attributed towards Japanese women becoming more open about their sexuality and sexual desires which may not be the case 10 years ago. Or, there could be an increase in fudanshi numbers in recent years which suggest the high sales of such goods which were traditionally aimed at male customers.