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Eda, one of Taiwan's most revered female dojinshi artists4 commented on the fact that many dojinshi artists and fans (who attend comic markets dressed as their favorite manga, anime, computer game, and movie characters) lead double lives (personal communication, May 8, 2002). Their parents are unaware of their immersion in the dojinshi subculture. For example, one of Taiwan's most well known dojinshi artists is an elementary school teacher; her students and school colleagues do not even know that she creates dojinshi; she believes that knowledge of her "other life" would harm her teaching career. Dojinshi groups take names such as Secret Society. The clandestine "double-life" which characterizes many members of the dojinshi subculture could be a metaphor for what yaoi and boys' love signify.

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The traditional binary forces of positive or negative, black or white, above or below, hard or soft may point to a deeper cultural phenomenon, Taoism and yin and yang. However, the coexisting spectrum of shades of gray, the-somewhere-between-positive-and-negative, and the either and neither-above-or-below point to instability, transition, reformulation, and change. Yaoi may signify a dissatisfaction, an uneasiness, with traditional female identities and the desire to experiment with new identities and new power relationships. Nevertheless, the precise character of the new conceptions of male and female, such as the "dual" feminine and masculine "personalities" posited by Takemiya (personal communication, January 22, 2003 are difficult if not impossible to fix. The perspectives, positions, tastes, and orientations seem to exist in a frightening rhizomatic flux. Yaoi appears to reinforce conservative gender roles while simultaneously providing models for liberating roles. The choices are there and the readers and writers may, consciously or unconsciously, choose this, or that, or the other model--or their combinations.

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The yaoi/boys' love phenomenon is a spectrum of signification which is sometimes highly complicated. We are left to wonder about the consequences of creators and readers of yaoi and boys' love choosing multiple oppositional or contradictory identities from the spectrum of possibilities. What are the consequences of being double-minded, playing with double-edged-ness, possessing double-pleasures, double-troubles? Perhaps this is an instance about which Jacques Lacan writes--of "the incessant sliding of the signified under the signifier" (Lacan 1977, 154). He claimed that no anchoring of particular signifiers to particular signifieds is possible. Like Lacan, Derrida refers to the free-play of signifiers which point beyond themselves to other signifiers in an "indefinite referral of signifier to signified" (Derrida 1978, 25). We believe that the range of double-duty disengaged signifiers permit the creators and consumers of yaoi and boys' love to be as-I-am-now while symbolically having as-I-might-be identities posited by the "other" who just happens to appear in the form of others' [male] bodies. The slippery less-known [to the female] male body provides a nearly-blank slate on which to scrawl, scrub-out, and sometime even with an elegant line draw new forms of femininity.

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The implicit assumption underlying yaoi stories is that the love between males is superior to ordinary forms of love than exist between males and females. This assumption may result from young Japanese females' beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, about their male-dominated society in which many women believe that once married romance will disappear, replaced by the duties of wife, mother, and housekeeper. In thousands of ways mere male friendships, and sometimes improbable or taboo relationships--say between brothers, are transformed into romantic relationships. This ideal romantic love is never thwarted by little things such as petty jealousies. This supposed superior love, although ostensibly between males, displays distinctly feminine qualities. The characters in yaoi parodies, for example, combine delicate almost feminine physical features with physical strength. Indeed most of the males are slender, physically beautiful, fragile, sensitive, and in many instances they appear androgynous. Before yaoi emerged, female fans associated with June magazine were enamored with tanbi which implies refined aesthetic taste and an obsession for beautiful things (Sagawa, personal communication, June 6, 2002). This obsession pervades boys' love narratives. Curiously, even in the case of rape or rough sex, a gentleness characterizes many yaoi stories.

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Prior to the mid-seventies, most of the young people who participated in the comic markets belonged to high school or university manga clubs and they ceased to create dojinshi when they graduated. With the arrival of comic markets, however, these amateur artists had a growing number of options for presenting their dojinshi. Consequently, they continued as members of dojinshi groups after their graduation from high school or college. More importantly the markets provided an opportunity for any young person, whether in college or not, to present his or her dojinshi to an enthusiastic and growing audience of readers. The markets attracted fans, fans encouraged the production of dojinshi, and the number of dojinshi groups outside schools and colleges mushroomed. The markets also made it possible for individual artists, who called themselves dojinshi even if they were not members of groups, to participate in the comic markets (Yonezawa, personal communication, August 17, 2000). Now comic markets have spread from Japan to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, and even the Chinese Mainland and the United States. Dojinshi is becoming an increasingly potent force whose consequences are little understood even by the creators and consumers of this unprecedented visual sub-culture.

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The elegance with which many of the dojinshi are designed and drawn is another dimension of beauty to which we must refer. Indeed it is impossible for yaoi artists to explore an obsession for beautiful bodies if the figures are crudely drawn. Yaoi and boys' love stories and characters are generally exquisitely designed; both the draftsmanship and composition of dojinshi far exceeds the work of amateur comic artists in the United States. We have provided possible explanations for the generally high level of graphic skill found among East Asian children and teenagers, factors such as the practiced perceptual skill and facility required to produce thousands of written Japanese or Chinese characters, the vast number of graphic manga and anime images upon which young people may model their own drawing, and, perhaps, also the national curricula in countries such as Japan and Taiwan where figure drawing is generally approached more systematically and rigorously than in the West (Toku, 2001b, Wilson, 1997a).