UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Female authorship and implicit power in women's erotica : Japanese "ladies' comics" and Fifty Shades of Grey Eshghi, Shirin


Can female readers perceive empowerment through sexually explicit, fictional stories that feature depictions of misogynistic relationships or encounters? In this thesis, I will attempt to answer this question by examining English- and Japanese-language examples of sexual writing for women, specifically the genre of women’s erotica (erotic fiction for a female audience). I will describe how women’s erotica in both languages is predominantly populated by female authors, and will argue that this allows readers to perceive sexual empowerment even when encountering storylines that feature female protagonists disempowered by male characters. The knowledge that the author is a woman perpetuates a belief on the side of the reader that the female protagonist is safe, and that she will enjoy the sexual acts that take place within the story. To illustrate this point, I will compare the recently-published Fifty Shades of Grey with Toraware no yoru (Captive night), a 1990s example of “ladies’ comics” (sexually explicit Japanese manga created for a female readership), which was re-published in e-format in 2009. I will demonstrate how the female sex of the authors enables readers to feel in control and empowered despite the often submissive role of the stories’ protagonists. I will also argue that both works have been marketed and framed in a manner that alludes to Japanese- and English-language autobiographical sexual writing that developed from the early 20th Century. I will establish how the confessional nature of these works helped construct a shared reality between reader and author in regards to sex and womanhood. The solicitation of stories from ladies’ comics readers and the emergence of Fifty Shades of Grey from the fan fiction community re-enforces the perception of a women-only space where text is influenced solely by a dialogue between female author and female reader. Although this female-centred space may in itself be a source of empowerment, the sustainability of such a space is precarious in the virtual environment, where the gender of author and reader cannot be guaranteed.

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