By David Cabrera
#55 - Anime Convention Black History: The Yaoi Paddle
In the previous article on the word “Glomp” I painted the open floor of the anime convention as a place where one runs the risk-- however small-- of being tackled to the ground by a complete stranger, perhaps as they scream “kawaii~!” at you.
There's actually something worse that could happen, something even less likely. You could get hit with the Yaoi Paddle.
I understand the “Free Hugs” sign. I understand the glomp. Otaku have so much enthusiasm bottled up in them that it goes flying all over the place. But I don't understand the paddle.
Imagine a wooden oar, about the size of a tennis racket, with the word “YAOI” printed on it in big letters. The idea is that you're getting smacked on the butt with yaoi, which, you know... is very concerned with the butt.
That's all there is to it. It's been a huge seller at dealer's rooms since it was first invented. Sadly, I can't find that article I was reading about the origins of the paddle anywhere: I only remember that it involved a regretful woodworker.
Now as much as I'd love to say that American anime conventions are a vicious battleground upon which fans beat each other bloody with wooden bludgeons bearing the name of their favorite genre of pornography... that's not actually the case. People carry them around openly, hold them aloft, but even otaku aren't so divorced with reality that they're going to seriously clobber total strangers with heavy wooden slabs, right?
...Well, conventions around the country have wound up having to ban the paddle (along with the Free Hugs sign). And that means that yes, somebody somewhere definitely caused some trouble with the thing. Did someone get hurt? I hope not. Those things are heavy. It's just very likely that they did.
Unlike the signs, whose effects are easily visible first-hand, I have never seen somebody actually being randomly assaulted by a fan with a yaoi paddle. I've heard stories, yes, and I'm sure if you ask a few convention staffers they'll have some amazing tales to tell... but I've never seen it happen, and I don't know a lot of people who have. That said, it doesn't really take very many assaults with a blunt object to get a ban going nationwide.
Of course, the paddles are still popular items, and they probably will be for as long as yaoi is... so forever, really.
Maybe a male-otaku moe version of the yaoi paddle will one day arise from the American convention scene. Will it be those brain-operated cat ears? But you can't assault someone with those. Guys definitely pay too much for dakimakura to risk their safety in a pillow fight.
I suppose they should just engrave Yui's head into a slab of wood and see how it goes.