Monday, July 17, 2017

Thoughts on Captive Prince, Volume 3: Some Criticisms

I should state immediately that I am a huge fan of this series. Not only do I admire the characterizations and the plotting, I admire the writing. It is smooth, unpretentious, intelligent.

By "writing," I am referring to plotting but also to style: the sentences flow; the dialog is quick and non-clunky; the exposition is evocative yet not heavy-handed.

I am equally a fan of C.S. Pacat's short stories, which avoid the longwindedness and lack of cohesion of so many novel writers' "stories" plus Pacat's stories have arcs! This is so remarkable it bears emphasis: good short story writing is an art.

Having said all the above, I was puzzled by Captive Prince, Kings Rising. The first half is similar in tone and pacing to Prince's Gambit, Volume 2. The middle section is entirely not. The final confrontation and pay-off match the first half.

It is almost as if Pacat merged two books into one.

*Slight Multiple Spoilers*

The change in approach is understandable. Prince's Gambit's plot is concise and complex; it is also highly stressful. Although there are a few lively and entertaining moments, the overall tone is serious. Laurent is carefully, cleverly, and desperately plotting how to survive his uncle's inevitable countermoves. Reading Prince's Gambit is rather like reading Hamlet, only this Hamlet spends way less time wandering around graveyards and pontificating about the meaning of life. Laurent is far too responsible to waste time--he has to make new friends whilst arranging his pawns and capturing his enemies. His mental and physical landscape is a chess match.

Pacat has the ability to write delightful comedy--in particular, to show Laurent and Damen enjoying themselves on merry (though important) romps (for an excellent example check out her short story "The Adventures of Charls the Veretian Cloth Merchant": great pay-off and fantastic final line!). Having a merry romp in the middle of Volume 3 is understandable but confusing. Soooo gathering the army and making political peace between Damen and Laurent's troops turned out to be...unnecessary? (Okay, okay, I know it wasn't, but still...)

However--and I hate to admit this--my biggest problem is the baby.

I simply don't believe that these men in these cultures would alter all their plans for the sake of a baby. That sounds awful. But it sounds awful because of how us moderns think.

It isn't that ancient or medieval people (the cultures from which Laurent's and Damen's derive) didn't love their babies, as Antonio Fraser successfully illustrates. The problem is that babies didn't have the same meaning as "people" as they do now.

Granted, Drarry Fanart's Laurent, Damen, and baby
are adorable . . .
Neither Laurent nor Damen show the slightest interest in babies throughout Volumes 1 and 2, a characterization that I find utterly believable. Damen never wonders if he has fathered any bastards (and it is highly unlikely that there wouldn't be more than the one). Laurent, coming from a culture with such a low opinion of bastards, seems to consider their existence as unlikely as him wanting to produce one.

Both men do show concern for teens, the age at which both of them suffered extreme loss. Adolescents and prepubescents are real to them in a way that babies and toddlers are not. Should Damen have fathered a child in his late teens, know of that child and be paying for its maintenance (entirely typical behavior in his culture), the use of that older boy by the usurpers would bother him and Laurent in the extreme.

An unmet, practically imaginary baby of doubtful origin? Not so much. 

. . . still, I think Damen would behave more like Jamal
towards Effendi: Okay, kid, time for the adults to talk.
In any case, I'm not sure a baby/child was even necessary. I found it entirely likely that Damen and Laurent would take the conclusory "trial" as an opportunity to end the conflict without bloodshed. They could use the army to get to the capital in order to attend the trial, turning it from a kangaroo court to an opportunity to present legitimate evidence.

Consequently, I classify this volume as containing coincidences that I can ignore because the outcome would have occurred anyway.

And in all honesty, the merry romp in the second half is fun.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wife as a Respectable Occupation in History and Manga

A typical comment in yaoi is that the "bottom" is a "wife" or wants to be treated like a "woman."

These comments are often considered sexist by some readers--and in some contexts, unsophisticated "bad" characters will intend such comments as criticisms. But there is another side:

Being the "woman" entails a high level of satisfaction.

Being the "wife" is a badge of honor.

Manga/Japanese attitudes towards the "wife" remind me of Himmelfarb's discussion of the wife/mother in Victorian England. In a discussion of the Victorian working class, she summarizes
Thanks to Eugene for sending me
the quote that led me to this book.
a series of interviews performed by another researcher, Elizabeth Roberts. Elizabeth Roberts began her project assuming that the interviews' commonalities would lead her to "investigate patriarchy or male oppression." Being a honest researcher, when she discovered no such commonalities, she changed her approach.

Roberts discovered what I discovered--at third hand--whilst teaching a course on working women in America: people's primary viewpoint in any given moment is the world that they occupy. Even our sci-fi is brushed with present concerns, as is our activism. Hindsight may be 20/20; it is also entirely incapable of comprehending what the "moment" actually feels like.

In the moment (1890-1940), working class women in England placed a high premium on motherhood and housewifery. Marriage was a partnership; women were household managers; they almost always kept the household accounts (as they did in medieval households). Working class women in many ways had more power than middle class women (who handed off their authority and responsibilities to servants and nannies). Abusive husbands were regarded negatively within the working class culture; the neighborhood as well as the courts often found in favor of an abused wife. Although some of the women interviewed regretted being kept in the dark on sexual matters (courtship was rigorously supervised as much at the working class level as at the middle class level), they almost all paid tribute to their housewife mothers as strong powerhouses rather than domineered weaklings.

This is exactly the way women are portrayed in Japanese manga. In What Did You Eat Yesterday, Shiro and his cooking buddy Kayoko agree that their fathers would have a harder time living alone than their mothers--their fathers don't even know how to use an ATM!

In Honey Darling, the "wife" (21-year-old male) Chihiro helps out in the house and in the animal clinic downstairs. His day is exceedingly busy and absolutely necessary to the smooth running of both the clinic and the home he shares with his "husband."

All of this dovetails with the amazing willingness of Japanese celebrities and career women to give up their work for marriage and home life.  There's no perceived loss of power for the women*, so why should there be for their yaoi counterparts?

The cat's point of view. See, Ed, cats
can be kids!

*At the end of Honey Darling, the mangaka--in one of those bemusing afterwards found in manga where the supposedly shy artiste confesses things that most people wouldn't even confess to a therapist--admits that she was "aiming for a 'wife' manga [since] it'd be nice to be a wife, but please don't think that Chihiro is supposed to be me."

She notes that, actually, the work turned into a "cat manga."


Friday, July 7, 2017

Collection Review: Dengeki Daisy

Time for a shojo review!

Kyousuke Motomi's Denjeki Daisy (of which I own one volume out of sixteen) is a natural follow-up to Just Around the Corner since it involves another adult/high-schooler relationship. The age difference is not as great as in other manga (16/17 to 23/24 rather than 17/18 to 27/28). And the adult is a blond-haired custodian/hacker rather than a teacher. Yet the difference in age is a commented-on factor.

Numerous people refer to the male protagonist, Kurosaki, as having a "Lolita complex"--while yet encouraging him to maintain his relationship with high-schooler Teru. Likewise, one of Teru's frenemies is a high schooler engaged to a much older man; the other teens consider this weird, yet the young woman's parents are utterly okay with the situation. The issue is not social stigma but the young woman's personal freedom (and being able to finish school with good grades).

The plot is an extreme variation on Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan's marvelous You've Got Mail, a story about a relationship bound up in both email and face-to-face meetings, where one character doesn't know that the other character knows the first character's identity.

Granted, Dengeki Daisy has WAY more angst what with dead brothers/mentors and computer viruses and investigations and whatnot. But the beginning volumes, at least, take place in everyday life where the characters are occupied with everyday emotions/problems.

The final volumes are downright confusing. I still can't figure out what was supposed to have taken place. Why did the existence of the one character have anything to do with the virus code? Why did they go to the island? If the one character is directly linked to the virus code, why would a physical location even be necessary?

I hate to say this but I didn't get the impression that the ending volumes were confusing as in "you need to read this several times to catch the clues" but confusing as in "I don't think the writer knew how to end this series."

Long manga series depend so much on continuous action/ongoing problems and plots, they sometimes fall to pieces at the end when the mangaka has to tie everything together. Dengeki Daisy could be one.

Or not! If I ever figure it out, I will post again. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Thoughts on Captive Prince, Volume 2: Why Yaoi Continued

I argue in Why Yaoi Reason 2 that yaoi takes gender roles off the table. I address this reason again in my Star Trek fan-fiction.

A sub-reason to Reason 2 is that women are tired of being linked to victim rhetoric.


The attractive quality of much yaoi as well as potential-slash relationships like Kirk/Spock, Sam/Dean (hilariously spoofed in "The Monster at the End of the Book") is that the male characters are allowed to argue, even physically fight without the relationship instantly entering the realm of "bad message" fiction: "But that teaches women it's okay to be dominated and abused!"

This does not mean that abuse doesn't exist in same-sex relationships. And it doesn't mean that there aren't yaoi relationships where the power imbalance makes my skin crawl.

The issue here is something that Kate Roiphe contemplatively, David Denby bemusedly and Camille Paglia caustically discuss in their various writings: the tendency for a certain type of feminism to reduce women to little-girls-being-looked-after-by-the-protective-male-institution, to push women into a manufactured and ongoing powerlessness, to imply and sometimes outright state that the "little woman" on the pseudo-Victorian hearth was the right approach. At least she was safe. (Truth: the Victorian woman was never that powerless or naive.)

The issue leaves the table with yaoi--not only that, it doesn't require that a relationship where two characters roughhouse must contain a tough, butch female. There's nothing wrong with a butch character--except the unfortunate implication that a woman cannot get into a fight with a man unless she has the build/aspect of a man.

In Honey, Darling, Chihiro is "wife" to bear "husband"
Kumazawa, an issue I will address in a later post.

In the Captive Prince series, Laurent is the "cat" while Damen is the "bear" (see manga images). Laurent fights with more wiles than strength, a characterization well-used in the series. He also takes a labyrinthine approach to problems. Damen is not stupid by any means; he is genius-level intelligent. That doesn't mean that he thinks like Laurent or anticipates Laurent's thought process.

The difference is excellently shown (Pacat is a master of show-don't-tell) in Volume 2, Prince's Gambit, specifically in the town scenes. Damen's solution to a room without instant egress is to take the window out of the wall, a solution that bemuses a stymied Laurent. On the other hand, Damen's protest that Laurent will be instantly recognized by his hair is countered when Laurent reveals the cap that he deliberately procured in a tavern gambling game nearly a chapter earlier. (This is also the point where Damen tumbles headlong into love, a fact he refuses to acknowledged to himself for several chapters.)

Laurent is Laurent, not a female in disguise. By being Laurent, he can grapple with Damen directly. Their Sam/Dean-like tendency to take physical action when upset does not mean that Laurent is being abused or Damen misused or anybody dominated (outside of the obvious "slave/pet" issues)*. We trust that Laurent knows what he is doing. That he is no victim. Both men would refuse that label anyway.

Cat "wife" Chihiro
When Laurent later relies on Damen to handle a dangerous situation alone, yet follows as quickly as possible, we trust that (1) Laurent has faith in Damen; (2) Laurent cares about Damen; (3) Laurent knows Damen's abilities--without any of these points being reduced to the gendered assumption that one or other protagonist is (1) incapable to taking care of himself; (2) that caring is a weakness; (3) that anybody needs to prove that he is not an inherent victim or inherently weak; (4) that anybody needs to prove that he appreciates that the other person isn't an inherent victim or inherently weak.

Gendered assumptions of this type may exist within gay relationships--one reason why some gay literary critics argue that yaoi (and some gay literature) is not about gays. Whatever one calls this literature, it is enormously refreshing. It presents an image of a world where gendered typing and assumptions ("the sweet little woman," "the bully") is not the default for relationships.

One could argue that in the meantime, the assumptions have to be dealt with (after all, the ongoing mistaken assumption that girls don't fight as much as boys doesn't help high school administrators). But the ideal image of a world without such assumptions is much like the ideal image of a world with perfect justice (all those closed cases on television mystery shows!). Without the ideal, how would we know what to strive for?

And without the literature, how would readers ever be able to escape the pressures of being a "particular way" in the real world?

*Damen deals with his victim-hood in a totally believable way. When Laurent later addresses the abuse/belittlement Damen underwent in captivity (see "The Summer Palace"), Damen realizes that he never thinks of those days in those terms. As the text shows, he simply thought about surviving/getting through the moment. He didn't theorize/label his own experience.

We don't know we are in history while we are in it. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Who Rusty Needs: Thoughts on Major Crimes, Season 5

So Season 5 of Major Crimes is over. I was tentatively prepared to dismiss the posts and spoilers that Rusty and Gus broke up based on how such posts described the breakup. (Truthfully, even now, the relationship could turn itself around.)

However, although Rusty was goaded into arguing with Aidan, Gus's boss, about Gus's future, I believe he made his decision re: Gus before that confrontation. In the world of the thematic application of life lessons (i.e. television), the cases Rusty worked on with Andrea Hobbs all revolved around people trying to force others to live the lives they want. Rusty takes application-of-life-lessons seriously: he doesn't want to be like that. His decision to let Gus go at the end of Season 5 was handled with maturity and pained acceptance.

And there were other hints. I was/am a fan of Rusty-Gus, yet I couldn't help agreeing with Sharon Raydor's insightful statement at the beginning of the season: "They found each other too soon." Rusty needs time and space to work through his rollercoaster 21 years. Although Gus was better for Rusty than, say, T.J., Gus was looking for something more than time-and-space.

So even before I hit "Shockwave, Part 2," I'd started pondering what kind of relationship would work for Rusty.

The answer I came up with is Sean Anderson from the Journey movies.

Okay, not Sean Anderson exactly, of course, since the character is straight. But that type of character.

First off, Graham Patrick Martin and Josh Hutcherson are the same height (5'7") and nearly the same age; they are also close to the same build, which is best described as sexy scrawny stockiness. Johnny Lee Miller has it too. (It's the look in Hollywood these days!)

Looks are not enough, of course. The Sean Anderson character has something that Rusty's boyfriends so far have not had: a sense of irony.

In fact, one of my favorite clips of all-time is the Brendan Fraser-Josh Hutcherson exchange from Journey to the Center of the Earth: where are all the vowels?!

That deadpan bemusement? That's what Rusty needs.

Rusty by nature and by experience rides the sardonic line. He is also fairly brilliant, not in an IQ heavy way but in a sharp-edge-against-the-world way. It is hardly surprising that he has chosen to become a lawyer, and it is heavily implied in Season 5 that one day he will bring his sardonic edge, ability to see around corners, and questioning mind to a judgeship.

This makes him tense, impatient, passionate, and work-oriented. He is high maintenance. He is also not really a relationship-oriented kind of guy, and may never be. Some people aren't.

Which doesn't mean he (and they) can't have a relationship.

It does mean that Rusty needs someone who has the absolute security and sense of bemusement to accept what he brings to the table, be happy for it, and let the rest be. That person would need to be absolutely loyal (as Rusty would be) yet something of an independent loner. Someone with a sense of irony. And someone who can match Rusty's wit.

Though not someone who will argue with him.

Rusty has the ability to be deadpan himself--a trait that
usually comes out with Provenza rather than Flynn or Sharon.
Take a note from Sharon, future special someones: arguing with Rusty is a waste of time. She doesn't. She tells him to do something and walks away.

Likewise, though Provenza argues with Rusty, he never gives up his position--whatever stubborn, grumpy old guy position that might be. Like Sharon, he rarely lets Rusty pull him into speculative "what ifs."

"What ifs" make Rusty clever and ready to master the world. They are also the kind of thing that can pull an argument completely off-kilter, frustrating a friend, relative, or lover into a shouting match.

The best way to deal with Rusty is not to argue with him OR talk down to him; it is to give him facts (not ultimatums), then walk away.

It occurred to me, too, that a Sean Anderson-type personality would be more likely to say, "Yeah, I get it. Whatever. Let's wrestle." And no, I'm not being euphemistic--physicality without an agenda would be good for Rusty. PDA is not on his top-ten list, especially if he suspects manipulation or role-playing. Gus had the right energy and generous affection, yet not always the self-assurance to approach Rusty unself-consciously. An easy, confident arm around the shoulders while declaiming about dirt-bikes or football or Icelandic place names would be much more Rusty's style.

So, yes, okay, basically Rusty needs a younger version of Dr. Joe. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Collection Review: Just Around the Corner and the Student-Teacher Romance in Manga

The teacher-student romance is a common trope in shojo and yaoi manga. Although it has become increasingly stigmatized in American television and literature, it is still alive and well in Japanese manga.

Frankly, the American attitude is bizarre. Not because teacher-student relationships are a good idea.  But because the stigma rests on a proposition that is unsettling in the extreme: namely, that any teenager before the age of 18 is the equivalent of a child.

Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth indicate distinct differences between 14/15-year-olds and 17-year-olds (16-year-olds occupy an uneasy middle ground). To provide a few examples:
(1) younger teens are far more ambivalent about having sex than 16, 17, and 18-year-olds;
(2) on the other hand, younger teens are more likely to consider getting pregnant a positive event than older teens;
(3) nearly all teens' first sexual encounter is with a partner 1-3 years older than the teen;
(4) the average age for teens to have sex is 17;
(5) older teens are more likely to use contraception during their first sexual encounter--over 50% of all teens use contraception, no matter the age;
(6) teen girls and teen boys who abstain cite religion/morals (culture) rather than worries about STDs as their primary reason--this reason is consistent across the ages;
(7) teens having sex has dropped since 1983, substantially for young men;
(8) teens in general are more likely to believe that it is okay for 18-year-olds to have sex than for 16-year-olds to have sex;
(9) teens' interest in having sex increases by 14% for young women from 14 to 17; for young men, it remains steady across the teens, only decreasing at 18/19-years-old (due, it appears, to worries about college, future jobs, etc.).
(10) types of sex that teens engage in increases with age.
The point: the idea that teens remain little girls and little boys until they turned 18 is stupid and damaging beyond belief. Maturation is more consistent, inevitable, and individual than this perception allows for.

Despite the Edgar R. Burroughs look--
or because of it--I like this cover!
I'm no fan of Twilight but the attitude that "those thoughts" don't belong in a teenage girl's repertoire is ostrich-like in its silliness.

I have always considered teacher-student fantasies a "safe" haven (much like reading vampire literature) for feelings, thoughts, questions, and concerns that American culture is reluctant to address. For me, the story wasn't about vampires or teachers; it was Orson Scott Card's Wyrms. The female protagonist fights strong sexual urges coming from an outside source--by all means, blame the aliens! But her awareness is natural and relatable--a huge relief to my teenage self.

Japanese fiction (manga/anime) likewise seems both more free and less panicked than much American discourse. Considering that Japanese teens have the lowest pregnancy rate worldwide (and a low abortion rate), the literature cannot be blamed for inflaming their sensibilities. Whatever is being worked out in the literature doesn't translate into actual social problems.

From a literary point of view, of course, the lack of social disintegration doesn't mean that all teacher-student stories are good. Toko Kawai's Just Around the Corner is.

The premise: Kiriya and Yuuya have a chance meeting. Kiriya believes Yuuya is 19 (because he looks that old and because he fails to admit the truth), only to discover he is a 17-year-old high school student when Kiriya begins subbing at Yuuya's high school. Kiriya attempts to end the relationship, then resigns himself to its inevitability. Ultimately, their relationship is discovered and the lovers are separated. Yuuya works hard to get into the university to which Kiriya has transferred, and the lovers are reunited at the end of the manga.

An unpretentious, straightforward tale--not particularly unique except for the non-depressing ending. Its uniqueness comes from the characters' realistic reactions and behaviors. Yuuya thinks he is ready for the change in his relationship with Kiriya--we will date but never go out as a couple, or out at all since then someone would guess we are together--but finds it is more unsettling than he anticipated. Kiriya is amused by Yuuya's occasional attempts to make him jealous rather than angered. However, Kiriya worries that Yuuya is trying too hard to be mature around him--not enjoying his youth.

Kiriya still insists on the proper honorific.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Merpeople in Star Trek: Why Yaoi, Continued

The first story I got published was
about mermaids in New England
In Reason 4 for "Why Yaoi," I mention that it "is also easier for me to come up with extensions to a yaoi story than to a paperback romance (although I've created extensions to those as well) . . . yaoi allows for greater objectivity. I have come up with complex, creative, and uncertain relationship storylines simply because I wasn't worried about gender issues--which is extremely difficult to avoid doing when one writes and reads any other type of romance."

One of my favorite creative endeavors is to imagine new aliens for the Star Trek Universe, replete with complicated cultural rituals: "Amok Time" gone, well, amok.

One of my favorite species is a species of merpeople--because, well, merpeople are awesome!

I have created several stories around this very cool planet (for all I know, Star Trek already invented a species like this, but since Star Trek has a tendency to invent multiple species with deceptively similar names, I figured I could do the same). The story below is less tied to the alien nature of the secondary protagonist or the alien-aspect of the planet though its problem originates there.

* * *

Character 1 is Liam, a human male. He lives on Earth, where, of course, there's no poverty, etc. etc. etc. But people are still people, so Liam is a high school dropout with no parents, who doesn't know what he wants to do with his life--except he loves the ocean. He works as a lifeguard and is saving his money (or credits or honor points or whatever) to take a single visit off-planet. The one place Liam absolutely wants to go, no question, is Pechea (based on the French word for "fishing" and yes, there's an actual place in Romania called Pechea, but coming up with alien names is hard).
Liam's ideas about merpeople are
founded in Earth books and lore, 
like the wonderful Narnia series,
which is still being read in the future.

In typical fan-boy manner, Liam has read everything about Pechea and merpeople he can get his hands on. But he isn't a scholar and he is only eighteen, so his understanding of Pechea has been filtered entirely through his human imagination. This is not a bad way to learn about something new but it gets him in trouble later.

He finally manages to get on-board a space-trip to Pechea by claiming to be a student. This is a relatively harmless deception but again, gets him in trouble later. Despite required "cultural appreciation" lectures whilst on-board ship, on planet he gets pulled into the activities of a group of thoughtless, dumb students who think it is fun to light things on fire (with the equivalent of gasoline) and throw them into the ocean.

This is bad, of course, on any planet. On Pechea, they might as well be trampling all over people's rooftops. As punishment, the college students are sequestered. However, the insightful judge realizes that Liam's reasons were less dumb callousness and more ignorant enjoyment and hands him over for Pechean "punishment" or reconciliation.

Inner Pechean homes have direct access to the water--
like this, only less tacky.
He is sent to live with one of the Pecheans who was above water during the incident and got hurt. The young man, Enjeru, was burnt, losing sight in one eye. This is the future and Federation medicine is available, so his sight will be restored and the burnt skin repaired. However, it is being mended in stages, so when Liam arrives, the wound is still noticeable.

By the way, Pecheans have tails in the ocean and legs on land, the reverse of E. Nesbit. Their buildings have upper levels that descend below the water. They also have buildings entirely underwater. Liam is staying at Enjeru's parents' home which is partly above water--with lots of open pools. 

This is a hate-at-first-sight relationship. Sort of. Liam is not even vaguely hate-filled and feels terrible about the whole throwing-fire-in-people's-living-space thing. He also loves Pechea as much as he thought he would--it's a dream come true and he would like to stay there forever. Enjeru rapidly figures out the type of person Liam truly is and is able to forgive him and move on. They become close friends, possibly closer . . .

Except politicians are being noisome. The families of the college students have protested their treatment (they are being held in a facility and not allowed to wander about or leave the planet). The Federation arranges for the students to be released, but the malefactors have to (1) leave the planet; (2) never return to the planet. Some well-meaning if clueless soul realizes that Liam was part of this group and arranges for him to also be "released," something that neither Liam nor, at this point, Enjeru, wish.

Once Liam is removed, his deception--papers claiming to be a college student--is discovered. He is given a third stipulation: (3) banned from space travel. Devastated, Liam returns to Earth where he finds it difficult to get hired to do anything involving interesting work (after all, a culture where no one commits crime would likely be more critical of its aberrant members than less).

Approximately three years later, however, a Federation committee investigating the reasons for off-planet diplomatic crises (i.e., why do aliens behave so badly on each others' planets?) looks into the Pechea incident. One of the committee members interviews Liam, takes a liking to him, realizes he was merely young and stupid, not deranged, and acting as loco parentis, gets him a decent job at the Earth Aquarium--where he thrives. He loves taking people on tours, loves talking about the ocean, has friends, and shows an ability to come up with interesting displays.

In the meantime, in an effort to reunite with Liam, Enjeru enters Starfleet where he discovers, much to his surprise--since he never saw himself working in space--that he loves the environment and the work. He's a blue-shirted officer and works most of his time collecting and examining biological specimens. In the world of Star Trek: The Next Generation, he would be one of the crew-members to figure out why the tricyanate contamination in "The Most Toys" wasn't an actual tricyanate contamination. (Note: Pechean crew members have deep narrow pools in their cabins, so they can sleep--as they prefer--underwater.)

Eventually, the star ship to which Enjeru is posted comes to Earth and he tracks down Liam while on shore-leave. Liam is thrilled to see him and perfectly willing to go along with Enjeru's impetuous suggestion that they get married; they return to the ship with a paper marriage certificate before the digital version enters the Starfleet database, which means that Liam's restrictions about interplanetary travel aren't noted until he and Enjeru have left the planet. Eventually, the "cheat" is realized but their friends come to bat for them, and the matter is cleared up. The couple is allowed to remain together.

That is not the problem.
Vulcan does have seas.

The problem is that a planet lover married a space lover. They may adore each other, but their lifestyles are fundamentally incompatible. Liam tries to adjust by using the ship's holodeck to create sea tours for the school-age children (like on Enterprise, Enjeru is posted to a ship with families). But he kind of hates living only on ship. And he kind of loved his life on Earth although he didn't realize how much he loved it until he left.

When Liam's ability to plan in-depth and interesting exhibits regarding ocean environments becomes known, he begins to get offers from actual planets--like Vulcan--to come and put on shows at their planetary museums. And he takes the commissions, simply to get off ship and onto "real ground." These exhibits take him anywhere from 2-4 months to plan and install. He then rejoins the ship, which isn't always easy depending on its location.

Miles and Keiko--or the "fighting
O'Briens" as Nitpicker, Phil Farrand
sometimes calls them--do make it.
Enjeru supports Liam's career, and Liam supports Enjeru's. Yet as one would imagine, their time apart destabilizes their relationship. Absence makes the heart grow fonder; it also gives rise to stress, doubt, and loneliness--as we Star Trek fans saw with Miles and Keiko O'Brien on Deep Space Nine.

Here's where yaoi becomes useful. When I asked myself, "How do I solve this relationship's problem?" I didn't have to worry about two specifically gendered arguments (that I have heard throughout my life):

(1) "A good wife would stay with her husband and support his career; after all, if he cheated while she was away or because she refused to go with him, it would be her own darn fault. He comes first!"

(2) "A wife should never settle for being 'barefoot in the kitchen.' Any good husband would understand and support her decision to find a great job; otherwise, he would be a domineering, controlling, and possibly abusive jerk."

Regarding this story, I simply had to keep the marriage together.

Actually, first I had to figure out if my characters would want to keep their marriage together. And they did. (Big sigh of relief.) They get along and always have; they don't really want to be with anyone else; they find comfort in each other; and they admire each other. It's the lifestyles they hate, not the people. (The other cool thing about yaoi is that it presents an opposing view to the Western romantic ideal that love should overcome everything; yaoi, which dovetails quite nicely with early nineteenth century English literature, acknowledges that love is not always enough; the lives people lead and want to lead matter too.)

For Liam and Enjeru to make it, something somewhere was going to have to give. First, I had Enjeru delete a program he'd created of Liam on the holodeck to keep him company while Liam was away--à la Barclay. I know a program like this would upset a woman. I imagine a man might shrug his shoulders, as Liam does, yet not be entirely thrilled at being substituted for with a "perfect" version.

When I first saw the Stargate: Atlantis pilot, I wanted
the city to stay underwater.
Learning that Enjeru deleted the program, Liam then does some of his outside-the-box thinking (both men are quite perceptive; Enjeru is Spock-observation-perceptive although with a somewhat different personality from the good Vulcan; Liam is McCoy/Neelix perceptive in his willingness to go WAY off base to find a solution).

Liam contacts his parental figure from the committee (who also helped him after he got married) and together they get Liam assigned to the Federation's diplomatic corps. It helps that at this point, this once-delinquent has Vulcan, Trill, Ferengi (regarding a profitable exhibit, naturally), and Bajor clients/contacts. By joining the corps, Liam now gets to go down to nearly every planet the star ship encounters, rather than wait for shore leave. And he gets to help with introducing "our" (Federation/Earth) culture to new planets. So he gains a team, which he needs as an reserved extrovert, and a purpose and access to "real ground" as often as he needs it.

He and Enjeru split their vacations between Earth and Pechea (so that restriction is lifted as well).

I find this type of solution far more satisfactory than (1) the couple breaking up; (2) the couple sacrificing endlessly for each other.

It is possible to figure out this type of solution with any kind of romance. Gender pressures don't dictate how individual writers solve the individual problems of their individual couples any more than such pressures do in real life. Despite what sociologists may believe, gender arguments are not the default for relationship discussions--people's personalities do rise to the fore.

But it is quite frankly easier for a writer, at least, to solve problems when gender issues are left off the table entirely.

Image result for copyright Katherine Woodbury