Bodyline and Rape Culture in Lolita Fashion

First of all, in case it’s not obvious in the title, this post will talk about sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape, though it will generally be in the abstract and non-explicit.

Most lolita are familiar with Bodyline, and many are familiar with Mr. Yan, the owner of bodyline who is on a quest to acquire more waifus.

If you google “Mr. Yan” you get memes like this:

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A selection of YouTube Videos like “Leave Mr. Yan Alone!“, a video of a lolita teaching him to Tango when he was touring the world, and multiple unboxings of his Body pillow.

And of course there is the infamous body pillow, which sold out and was recently re-released:

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And as I mentioned above, he did a world tour where young women met with him while dressed up in lolita and flirted with him and joked around about him.

Recently, at rufflecon there was a panel called “Mr. Yan’s Next Top Waifu (18+)” where someone wore a Mr. Yan costume and held a fake wife contest. I didn’t attend, but the line was quite long. 

Before I go any farther, I want to say that this is simply an explorational piece and I am not calling attention to the people who used these memes, own these body pillows, made these videos, hosted or attended these panels in an attempt to condemn or shame them. Instead, I’d like to take an abstract look at the meme of “Mr. Yan” inside the lolita community. I encourage readers to draw their own conclusions and determine on their own how they feel about these things.

That said, let’s look into the history of the Meme of Mr. Yan. For starters, the first exposure the western lolita community really had to Mr. Yan was through cheesy images and videos used by the Bodyline site to promote sales. Most people who viewed these images and videos found them funny, and thought very little of it at the time. Though there were already mentions of him being a bit of a creep.

It wasn’t until later that it came out that the Mr. Yan so furious sale, which involved him breaking a mirror on camera because he was so mad, lined up with a model contest winner refusing to marry him, and Bodyline trying to force her to pay them back for her free trip because she wouldn’t marry the owner. Looking at this in the abstract, the contest was borderline human trafficking. Had the girl not had the money to pay her way out of it, she could have been trapped in Japan. This was back in 2009. There were also some rumors of Model Contest Winner Nadia (Yes, the love Nadia print is named after her) being hit on as well, and even back then there was chatter about Mr. Yan being a creep. In 2010 a Facebook fan club was set up. In 2012, Yoshiko left bodyline and had issues getting bodyline to mail her back her things. And in 2013, there was the whole thing with Venus which may or may not be exaggerated / staged; it’s hard to tell as her mother was pushing her as a reality entertainment personality. I don’t want to make light of her situation or imply that it’s ok to question accusations of harassment, but I also am not sure how credible her accounts are, given that we know her mother is not a credible source. In 2014, there was the sexy Mr. Yan body pillow which has it’s own fan page, and was literally made because over 100 people pre-ordered it after people asked Bodyline to make it.

Ok, so now we have set the scene a bit. Mr. Yan is a middle aged man who owns bodyline, he’s a pervert who likes to try to touch young women without permission, asks them to go to love hotels and/or marry him, and it’s funny.

It’s funny.

Right?

Funny.

Except, it’s kind of not funny.

So what is Rape Culture? “Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.” [x]

It’s been a bit of a buzz word in the news lately in the US, but at it’s core, I think it’s an interesting, and valuable sociological concept to look at. In this particular case we have unwanted male attention being given to young women who are models. So they are coming into a job, where the payment is a trip to Japan, and the company owner is sexually harassing them, and if they refuse his advances, he’s violent. That’s quite a scary situation for most young women.

When we make a joke out of it, and laugh about it happening, this normalizes that behavior. It says to other people “I care more about this joke being funny, than I do about the fact that a young woman being hurt in real life was the punch line”. And that’s a dangerous slope. Because, if and when he has another contest for a model, and if we jokingly called it a waifu contest, and young women who are fairly new to lolita enter because to them it’s always been an abstract joke, and one of them gets hurt… what do we tell her then. Is it still funny? Is it still a joke? And is it respectful to those girls in the past who have been mistreated by Mr. Yan to joke about their sexual harassment?

If someone else comes into the community and flirts and jokes, and touches young women inappropriately, are we going to write it off as ok? What if they are cosplaying Mr. Yan, does it become ok?

The last batch of pillow cases were $21 each, and they made at least 100 of them. The new batch is $3.33. Let’s assume that at least $10 of the $21 was profit. That means Mr. Yan made at least $1,000 USD off of selling himself as someone who sexually harasses young women.

Is that something we as a community should laugh about, should joke about, should encourage?

Just… think about it.

…and as always feel free to tell me your thoughts in the comments.