Dear Editor of the Tumblr ********-bara,Thank you for getting in...



Dear Editor of the Tumblr ********-bara,

Thank you for getting in touch with me, it’s good to start a dialogue. I’ve seen your site before and felt immense sadness and frustration that many of my favorite artists’ bodies of work are available on your Tumblr for free. I had decided to let it go (because what can I really do? I’m powerless to stop this in any meaningful sense), but the fact that you’re reaching out to me indicates that you haven’t quite thought through the ethical ramifications of what you’re doing. So if you’ll humor me for a minute, I’d like to walk you through it. You messaged me to ask where you can find a book that you’d like to buy (a single copy of), scan, and then disseminate for free. How are you okay with that?

Is it because it’s erotic art that you feel entitled to do this? Or, do you think the creator of said book (Go Fujimoto) makes so much money that he doesn’t need any more? Because he’s famous to you, do you picture him like Rick Ross, driving a Maybach around Okinawa and making it rain at the gay bar? I’m sorry to say that’s not even remotely the case. It would be amazing if gay mangaka were rewarded so handsomely for their incredible stories, their rarified artistic skills, their brazen courage to create homoerotic fantasies in the face of censorship and social stigma—that they didn’t have to worry about things like making the rent and keeping the heat on. I WISH a career in gay manga could pay artists the same amount of money that their more famous, heterosexual mangaka counterparts make.

Or even beyond that, imagine if Gengoroh Tagame or Jiraiya were rewarded for their labors – their hundreds of hours of work every month – with the kind of money that renowned contemporary artists make. I’m talking Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst money. Those fools make hundreds of millions of dollars for gold-plated, diamond-bedazzled turds churned out by anonymous assistants. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the artists we loved and respected made that kind of money? If Damien Hirst ever makes a comic book, by all means, you should bootleg that shit.

Unfortunately, Seizoh Ebisubashi does not have enough money to buy a small island. In fact, I’m not totally sure he has enough money for a vacation to a small island. But he works hard every day to keep churning out the artwork you love. He even posts free excerpts and work in progress on Tumblr.  And then when he finishes a manga, he humbly posts a link to where you can spend a few dollars to legally download the work he spent weeks putting together. That’s apparently not enough for you. You have posted entire long-form works by him that took months or years for him to make, but are instantly devalued their free availability on Tumblr. Why buy the book when they’re right there on the screen?

Someone asked you recently how long you’ve been making this “amazing work.” Maybe they were confused because they’d never seen it before, and their only point of access to the life’s work of Gengoroh Tagame, Jiraiya, Seizoh Ebisubashi, Satoru Sugajima, Takeshi Matsu, and the others you’ve pirated, came through the filter of your bootleg scans. You responded: “Oh, Although I am an artist I haven’t posted any of my art work on my tumblr. The credit for the Manga that i post goes to the respected artist who I put in the description and the hastags.” The artists are not benefiting in any way from you “crediting” them in the hashtags. You’re only making it easier for their work to be found on Google and through Tumblr, be reblogged, and further devalue the worth of their books.

If you care about these artists as much as it seems like you do, because you spend a lot of time neatly organizing and sharing their work, you’ll stop what you’re doing. Remove the hundreds of unauthorized images of their work from your Tumblr. I encourage you to read the book I co-edited, Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It, and listen to the voices of the artists you’re bootlegging describe with passion and frustration how difficult it is to continue on with their careers in a world where their work is consistently devalued by sites like yours. (Also, they don’t use the term “bara” to describe their work, but that’s a whole other can of worms).

I’m not saying things are perfect – there are hundreds of gay manga out there that need to be made more readily available through authorized translations not only in English, but many other languages as well. It’s slow work, but we’re making incremental progress and soon we’ll be walking instead of crawling, and then we’ll be running instead of walking. I know that’s frustrating when everything can (and sometimes seems like it should) be made instantly accessible with a few clicks. But that’s a shortcut that harms the artists and the fragile industry that supports them.

If you like gay manga and want to see more of it, there’s a simple way you can help that happen. You don’t even need to spend any money—Just don’t reblog. It’s as simple as that. Don’t post and don’t repost the bootleg manga you will inevitably come across on this endlessly expansive Internet, and you’ll become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. I know this may involve some cognitive dissonance, but you’re going to have to divorce in your mind the act of bootlegging a Michael Bay blockbuster or a Taylor Swift album from the act of bootlegging a gay manga made by an artist struggling to meet deadlines in a one room apartment. At MASSIVE, we’re trying to foster an environment that can support the creation of new works, that can reward the artists the way they deserve to be rewarded. You can be a part of building that, too, simply by doing nothing! And that’s what you’ll do if you care about this work at all.  

With love and respect,
Graham

P.S. How about instead, you post your own artwork that you mentioned? It seems like you have good taste, so maybe people who like what you’re bootlegging will appreciate the work you’re actually making. And then some day you can put it in a book! And hopefully people will buy it and you can make a living off your art. Wouldn’t you like to live in a world where that’s possible?


UPDATE: So, I’m pleasantly surprised to have heard back from the editor of the above-mentioned Tumblr. They responded thoughtfully and pledged to remove the bootleg scans from their blog. Sometimes talking about these issues really works! Thank you, editor, and sorry to single you out. It’s a widespread problem but one that we can each do something about, simply by posting responsibly. 

Dear Editor of the Tumblr ********-bara,Thank you for getting in...



Dear Editor of the Tumblr ********-bara,

Thank you for getting in touch with me, it’s good to start a dialogue. I’ve seen your site before and felt immense sadness and frustration that many of my favorite artists’ bodies of work are available on your Tumblr for free. I had decided to let it go (because what can I really do? I’m powerless to stop this in any meaningful sense), but the fact that you’re reaching out to me indicates that you haven’t quite thought through the ethical ramifications of what you’re doing. So if you’ll humor me for a minute, I’d like to walk you through it. You messaged me to ask where you can find a book that you’d like to buy (a single copy of), scan, and then disseminate for free. How are you okay with that?

Is it because it’s erotic art that you feel entitled to do this? Or, do you think the creator of said book (Go Fujimoto) makes so much money that he doesn’t need any more? Because he’s famous to you, do you picture him like Rick Ross, driving a Maybach around Okinawa and making it rain at the gay bar? I’m sorry to say that’s not even remotely the case. It would be amazing if gay mangaka were rewarded so handsomely for their incredible stories, their rarified artistic skills, their brazen courage to create homoerotic fantasies in the face of censorship and social stigma—that they didn’t have to worry about things like making the rent and keeping the heat on. I WISH a career in gay manga could pay artists the same amount of money that their more famous, heterosexual mangaka counterparts make.

Or even beyond that, imagine if Gengoroh Tagame or Jiraiya were rewarded for their labors – their hundreds of hours of work every month – with the kind of money that renowned contemporary artists make. I’m talking Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst money. Those fools make hundreds of millions of dollars for gold-plated, diamond-bedazzled turds churned out by anonymous assistants. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the artists we loved and respected made that kind of money? If Damien Hirst ever makes a comic book, by all means, you should bootleg that shit.

Unfortunately, Seizoh Ebisubashi does not have enough money to buy a small island. In fact, I’m not totally sure he has enough money for a vacation to a small island. But he works hard every day to keep churning out the artwork you love. He even posts free excerpts and work in progress on Tumblr.  And then when he finishes a manga, he humbly posts a link to where you can spend a few dollars to legally download the work he spent weeks putting together. That’s apparently not enough for you. You have posted entire long-form works by him that took months or years for him to make, but are instantly devalued their free availability on Tumblr. Why buy the book when they’re right there on the screen?

Someone asked you recently how long you’ve been making this “amazing work.” Maybe they were confused because they’d never seen it before, and their only point of access to the life’s work of Gengoroh Tagame, Jiraiya, Seizoh Ebisubashi, Satoru Sugajima, Takeshi Matsu, and the others you’ve pirated, came through the filter of your bootleg scans. You responded: “Oh, Although I am an artist I haven’t posted any of my art work on my tumblr. The credit for the Manga that i post goes to the respected artist who I put in the description and the hastags.” The artists are not benefiting in any way from you “crediting” them in the hashtags. You’re only making it easier for their work to be found on Google and through Tumblr, be reblogged, and further devalue the worth of their books.

If you care about these artists as much as it seems like you do, because you spend a lot of time neatly organizing and sharing their work, you’ll stop what you’re doing. Remove the hundreds of unauthorized images of their work from your Tumblr. I encourage you to read the book I co-edited, Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It, and listen to the voices of the artists you’re bootlegging describe with passion and frustration how difficult it is to continue on with their careers in a world where their work is consistently devalued by sites like yours. (Also, they don’t use the term “bara” to describe their work, but that’s a whole other can of worms).

I’m not saying things are perfect – there are hundreds of gay manga out there that need to be made more readily available through authorized translations not only in English, but many other languages as well. It’s slow work, but we’re making incremental progress and soon we’ll be walking instead of crawling, and then we’ll be running instead of walking. I know that’s frustrating when everything can (and sometimes seems like it should) be made instantly accessible with a few clicks. But that’s a shortcut that harms the artists and the fragile industry that supports them.

If you like gay manga and want to see more of it, there’s a simple way you can help that happen. You don’t even need to spend any money—Just don’t reblog. It’s as simple as that. Don’t post and don’t repost the bootleg manga you will inevitably come across on this endlessly expansive Internet, and you’ll become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. I know this may involve some cognitive dissonance, but you’re going to have to divorce in your mind the act of bootlegging a Michael Bay blockbuster or a Taylor Swift album from the act of bootlegging a gay manga made by an artist struggling to meet deadlines in a one room apartment. At MASSIVE, we’re trying to foster an environment that can support the creation of new works, that can reward the artists the way they deserve to be rewarded. You can be a part of building that, too, simply by doing nothing! And that’s what you’ll do if you care about this work at all.  

With love and respect,
Graham

P.S. How about instead, you post your own artwork that you mentioned? It seems like you have good taste, so maybe people who like what you’re bootlegging will appreciate the work you’re actually making. And then some day you can put it in a book! And hopefully people will buy it and you can make a living off your art. Wouldn’t you like to live in a world where that’s possible?


UPDATE: So, I’m pleasantly surprised to have heard back from the editor of the above-mentioned Tumblr. They responded thoughtfully and pledged to remove the bootleg scans from their blog. Sometimes talking about these issues really works! Thank you, editor, and sorry to single you out. It’s a widespread problem but one that we can each do something about, simply by posting responsibly. 

tagagen: My old friend sent me a vintage Japanese members-only...







tagagen:

My old friend sent me a vintage Japanese members-only homosexual magazine 薔薇 Bara (rose), issue 13 (July 1965). I could find some marvelous drawings of 大川辰次 Tatsuji Ôkawa and 船山三四 Sanshi Funayama on it.

More drawings of these Japanese master gay artists who I deeply respect are included the book what I wrote and compiled in 2003, 日本のゲイ・エロティック・アート vol.1(ゲイ雑誌創生期の作家たち) Gay Erotic Art in Japan vol.1 (Artists From the Time of the Birth of Gay Magazines). More detail about the book, please see this page.

The incredibly rare private circulation magazine Bara (薔薇), July 1965 
Photos by Gengoroh Tagame (田亀源五郎)

Bara magazine was a successor to the “hentai zasshi” (perverse magazines) of the 1950s, and one of the forebears to the first mass-market gay magazine in Japan, 1971's Barazoku (薔薇族), or “rose tribe." It’s fascinating to see how Bara was so discreetly bound like an office file with no image on its cover. 

An aside about the history of the term "bara”: Literally meaning “rose,” bara once held power as a pejorative term used primarily by heterosexuals to slander homosexuals. These magazines of the ‘60s and '70s radically co-opted the term in their titles. “It was very shocking and sensational to publish something in the jargon of the hetero sort of nomenclature for gays, exactly like the word 'pansy’ in English,” Gengoroh Tagame told us when Anne and I interviewed him in Tokyo. 

“Whereas gays probably don’t call each other 'pansies’– it’s not a good thing– but to re-appropriate 'bara’ was a big deal. But by the time I was getting bigger as an artist, that word was almost obsolete and we don’t use that word anymore. It was important for us to call ourselves 'gays' and 'homosexual’ rather than 'bara,’ which is just for hetero people to call us. Amongst ourselves, we don’t use that word, but people from outside will still use that word to call out gay people.”

The Internet, as it tends to do, complicated matters. Just as the word was becoming obsolete in Japanese parlance in the early '90s, “bara” found new life internationally through online message boards. “The organizers and the service providers and the people running these forums were straight, so they called the gay board the 'bara’ board,” recalls Tagame. “A 'bara’ chat room or a 'bara’ board. The Internet conversations that were taking place about gay content were shaped by straight people, and then of course the Internet is how foreigners discovered our work. They saw that this whole section was called 'bara,’ so that’s how I believe foreigners started to use and appropriate that word. And the word has come back to life, unfortunately, and I have to say personally, I’m sort of against it. I don’t call my own work 'bara’ and I don’t like it being called 'bara’ because it’s a very negative word that comes with bad connotations.”

The ever-shifting term means a variety of things to a variety of people these days, so I would say there’s no one right way to feel about “bara.” When we inquired with with the mangaka Kumada Poohsuke on the subject, he says he almost never hears the term used in Japan, but it doesn’t bother him if Americans use it. “Frankly, for Japanese people, if anything, you talk about 'beefy’ manga or 'big guys’ or 'fat guy’ manga, or gay manga or homo manga—but not really 'bara’ manga. On top of which: obviously my content is gay, but I don’t like to fix myself into [sexual] categories. You know, it’s not problematic really, it’s just that we don’t use the word. Americans can use it, and if it means something and immediately signifies something, that’s great. Keep using that word." 

Over the past two decades, a plethora of new meanings have been ascribed to "bara” online, as it’s come to describe the masculine aesthetic styles and bigger body types frequently found in gay manga. It has been used in various places by various people to refer not only to gay manga, but all kinds of “2D” erotica, sometimes including BL, furry art, Western gay cartoons, video game fan art, and even occasionally photographic gay erotica.

In today’s “bara” communities, images of gay manga circulate alongside artwork from populist online communities like Pixiv, DeviantArt, and FurAffinity. Wikipedia has a page for “bara” with a definition pieced together from various concepts mostly relating to the term’s Western useage as a synonym for gay manga. I’d like to improve that Wikipedia page some day, but I don’t even know where to start. The point is, “bara” is a charged, complex term that eludes simple definition. While I appreciate the way “bara” has unified Western fans of Japanese gay art in recent years, after speaking to a number of the artists on this subject, I personally avoid it out of respect for the artists’ agency and freedom to self-identify.

See also: Is “Bara” Problematic?Tatsuji Okawa, Sanshi Funyama, Barazoku, Tagame's Gay Erotic Art in Japan

tagagen: My old friend sent me a vintage Japanese members-only...







tagagen:

My old friend sent me a vintage Japanese members-only homosexual magazine 薔薇 Bara (rose), issue 13 (July 1965). I could find some marvelous drawings of 大川辰次 Tatsuji Ôkawa and 船山三四 Sanshi Funayama on it.

More drawings of these Japanese master gay artists who I deeply respect are included the book what I wrote and compiled in 2003, 日本のゲイ・エロティック・アート vol.1(ゲイ雑誌創生期の作家たち) Gay Erotic Art in Japan vol.1 (Artists From the Time of the Birth of Gay Magazines). More detail about the book, please see this page.

The incredibly rare private circulation magazine Bara (薔薇), July 1965 
Photos by Gengoroh Tagame (
田亀源五郎)

Bara magazine was a successor to the “hentai zasshi” (perverse magazines) of the 1950s, and one of the forebears to the first mass-market gay magazine in Japan, 1971's Barazoku (薔薇族), or “rose tribe." It’s fascinating to see how Bara was so discreetly bound like an office file with no image on its cover. 

An aside about the history of the term "bara”: Literally meaning “rose,” bara once held power as a pejorative term used primarily by heterosexuals to slander homosexuals. These magazines of the ‘60s and '70s radically co-opted the term in their titles. “It was very shocking and sensational to publish something in the jargon of the hetero sort of nomenclature for gays, exactly like the word 'pansy’ in English,” Gengoroh Tagame told us when Anne and I interviewed him in Tokyo. 

“Whereas gays probably don’t call each other 'pansies’– it’s not a good thing– but to re-appropriate 'bara’ was a big deal. But by the time I was getting bigger as an artist, that word was almost obsolete and we don’t use that word anymore. It was important for us to call ourselves 'gays' and 'homosexual’ rather than 'bara,’ which is just for hetero people to call us. Amongst ourselves, we don’t use that word, but people from outside will still use that word to call out gay people.”

The Internet, as it tends to do, complicated matters. Just as the word was becoming obsolete in Japanese parlance in the early '90s, “bara” found new life internationally through online message boards. “The organizers and the service providers and the people running these forums were straight, so they called the gay board the 'bara’ board,” recalls Tagame. “A 'bara’ chat room or a 'bara’ board. The Internet conversations that were taking place about gay content were shaped by straight people, and then of course the Internet is how foreigners discovered our work. They saw that this whole section was called 'bara,’ so that’s how I believe foreigners started to use and appropriate that word. And the word has come back to life, unfortunately, and I have to say personally, I’m sort of against it. I don’t call my own work 'bara’ and I don’t like it being called 'bara’ because it’s a very negative word that comes with bad connotations.”

The ever-shifting term means a variety of things to a variety of people these days, so I would say there’s no one right way to feel about “bara.” When we inquired with with the mangaka Kumada Poohsuke on the subject, he says he almost never hears the term used in Japan, but it doesn’t bother him if Americans use it. “Frankly, for Japanese people, if anything, you talk about 'beefy’ manga or 'big guys’ or 'fat guy’ manga, or gay manga or homo manga—but not really 'bara’ manga. On top of which: obviously my content is gay, but I don’t like to fix myself into [sexual] categories. You know, it’s not problematic really, it’s just that we don’t use the word. Americans can use it, and if it means something and immediately signifies something, that’s great. Keep using that word.” 

Over the past two decades, a plethora of new meanings have been ascribed to “bara” online, as it’s come to describe the masculine aesthetic styles and bigger body types frequently found in gay manga. It has been used in various places by various people to refer not only to gay manga, but all kinds of “2D” erotica, sometimes including BL, furry art, Western gay cartoons, video game fan art, and even occasionally photographic gay erotica.

In today’s “bara” communities, images of gay manga circulate alongside artwork from populist online communities like Pixiv, DeviantArt, and FurAffinity. Wikipedia has a page for “bara” with a definition pieced together from various concepts mostly relating to the term’s Western useage as a synonym for gay manga. I’d like to improve that Wikipedia page some day, but I don’t even know where to start. The point is, “bara” is a charged, complex term that eludes simple definition. While I appreciate the way “bara” has unified Western fans of Japanese gay art in recent years, after speaking to a number of the artists on this subject, I personally avoid it out of respect for the artists’ agency and freedom to self-identify.

See also: Is “Bara” Problematic?Tatsuji Okawa, Sanshi Funyama, Barazoku, Tagame's Gay Erotic Art in Japan