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Having looked at what women want in superhero comics, let’s examine their attitudes toward poop jokes.
Sean Michael Wilson, the editor of the alt-manga anthology AX, didn’t do a scientific survey, but he did read the reviews of his book and noticed something interesting:
However, one aspect has surprised both myself and Asakawa, the Japanese editor – quite a few female American reviewers have taken issue with the large amount of scatalogical toilet humour and also the sexual content of the collection. Somehow they seem to find it offensive, or unpleasant, or immature. It was surprising to me to see this kind of reaction, as it never occurred to me at all – as a British person – that these could be seen as negative.
It was surprising to me that Sean would find this surprising, but maybe that’s because I’m a female American comics reviewer, and I have always regarded potty humor as the purview of seven-year-old boys. I haven’t been to Scotland since I was six years old; now I’m beginning to wonder what I’m missing. Do sophisticated people there stand around at gallery openings sipping Cabernet and cracking fart jokes?
I have paged through AX but I haven’t sat down and read it cover to cover. That’s partly because of the issue Sean addresses—I have a pretty high threshold, but I still found some of it distasteful. That wouldn’t stop me from reading it, though. I don’t mind being challenged by good literature. What stopped me was the crudeness of the art. Sexual content in a comic is fine—no, it’s awesome—if it’s done well, but that wasn’t what I saw, at least not at first glance. You can give it a French name and call it a style if you like, but it’s still bad drawing, and bad drawing is no fun to look at. (Don’t get me wrong—there’s a lot of good drawing, too, but the crudeness of the drawing seems to scale directly with the crudeness of the content.)
I know Sean thinks he has stumbled onto a cultural phenomenon here; he notes that only “North American ladies” objected to the sexual and scatological content, implying that men and non-North Americans had no problem with it. While it’s true that I can’t recall ever hearing a man complain about toilet humor, I think painting the ladies as prudes with regard to sexual content is too much of a stretch. Read a cross-section of reviews by North American women, as I do every morning, and you will see these same writers giving two thumbs up to some mighty sexy manga. It’s just that we like a little style with our smut.