The Guest
A still from Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water shows the main character underwater with a humanoid yet amphibious creature, the two of them totally about to make out.


This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #176. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


A guest in foreign queer spaces.


When you are a guest in someone else’s home, you approach that situation differently than when you’re at your own home. You take off your shoes at the front door, or bring a gift. You do not stumble in drunk, turn on the TV to the trashiest show on Disney-Discovery-Plus-Netflix and eat Cheetos on the white couch.

When you are a guest in someone else’s fandom – another culture’s fandom – you behave similarly. You tread with respect. You do your research. You listen when others speak.

As a white queer from Kentucky looking into queer Asian media, that’s how I want to approach this column.

* * *

What happens when you look into the void, and the void doesn’t just look back, but loves you?

An increasingly pervasive venture in fiction is the monsterfucking trope. While certainly not new – you simply have to look at Greek myths where women are seduced by Gods in the guise of bulls or swans or golden rainstorms – the trope has grown substantially in the last few years of micro-blogging readers who love to make twisted faces while holding up a Kindle with the cover of a polyamorous romance novel of a woman sleeping with two balloon animals. There’s variety, of course. Sincere and sexy monsterfucking of people sleeping with everything from sentient piles of goo to the Mothman, but monsterfucking persists in the realm of strange sexuality – a walk on the wild side. Guillermo del Toro writing love stories to the Creature of the Black Lagoon. Forbidden romance.

A quick note – as the monsterfucker trope has grown in popularity and therefore monetary value, the definition has been expanded. But someone who wants to fuck a vampire or werewolf is not a monsterfucker. Those are conventionally attractive monsters. If you can introduce your monster to grandma so he can talk about the Civil War to her DAR chapter, you are not a monsterfucker. A true monsterfucker attraction is what someone will admit four beers deep and 10 years of relationship in, where they start the sentence with “hear me out.”

When we examine the concept of monsterfucking, it is typically under the guise of cissexual heterosexual relationships. The popular books of the genre fill TikTok and Instagram with images of a romance novel heroine involved in a relationship with a minotaur or a giant blue alien. But monsterfucking at its heart is about monstrous love realized monstrously. In this, queer romances are frankly a better way to engaging with the source materials since an interesting monsterfucker relationship is one about challenging society and norms.

A sepia-toned photograph of Bosie Douglas wearing an open-collared white shirt and looking real wistful.

Historically and narratively, we have many examples of monsterfucking as a queer text. Perhaps too harshly, we can point to the story of Oscar Wilde and his love for Bosie Douglas. As Bad Gays puts it, Bosie was a “terrible young man,” and their love and relationship – Bosie’s prodding for Wilde to fight the sodomy charges put forth by the young man’s father, the ninth Marquess of Queensbery – the kind of thing that demolishes legacies and good standing. “A love that drove him close to madness and sprouted the wildfire of events that led to his ruin” is a love toxic enough to lend credence to its own monstrosity. Even after his pivotal role in the downfall of an icon, Bosie went on to a life of ignoble ruin, an anti-Semitic “evil twink” whose “life left a wake of destruction,” and who was so unliked that it seemed plausible to report that only two people attended his funeral (the actual number of 20 does not imply a much more loved man).

In real life, monstrosity comes in the guise of a beautiful boy. A man who will bring you to ruin, and live on. Monstrosity in spirit, rather than form, because nature is unwilling to give evil twinks massive horns and satyr legs. Fiction, however, is more willing to make the jump.

Monsterfucking in queer manga is its own specific beast. In texts like MADK, the monstrosity is clear, visceral and detailed. Makoto is a young Japanese man with an alien and horrific desire: he wants to consume the flesh of a demon, but he also wants to be sexually defiled through consumption and gore. Realizing his dream of sexual conquest by quite literally losing his virginity to a demon’s entrails, he exchanges his soul and is brought to Hell to serve under his lover, the Archduke of Hell J. Love is foreign here, the downfall of many a great demon. A weapon.

On a different coin, you have something like Monster and the Beast, which comparatively is practically fluff. In this series, Cavo is a giant forest monster who saves a slight, middle-aged man in the woods. But Virgiliam is not exactly a damsel in distress, and is the greater monster between the two of them. In both manga series, the trick is that the real monster is not the one that starts the story as the hideous thing. It is the difference between of monstrosity of form and the monstrosity of spirit. Who is the real monsterfucker? Virgiliam, who everyone desires, or Cavo, who loves Virgiliam despite the fact that he has murdered many, many people.

In games of love and gore, who is the monsterfucker?

In the manga’s MADK and Monster and the Beast, you see the stories of humans* and their demon counterparts, about the fight for love which is at its core the fight for acceptance. The fight to be seen. In their article for the Daily Drunk, Laura Andrea writes “I can’t be the only one who equated seeing someone with loving them.” The mortifying ordeal of being known.

The cover of the first volume of Monster and the Beast, featuring a well-dressed blonde man being cradled by an absolutely massive beast with the longest, silkiest hair imaginable.

To be seen is to be loved, and to be perceived is a form of acceptance. We see this in Monster and the Beast. Cavo’s devotion for Virgiliam is immediate, because Cavo is a reject from society. Everyone who sees him screams and hides. Virgiliam does not, perhaps due to his own, more hidden monstrosity, but instead, he is not scared. He is the first person, the only person, who sees Cavo and does not react in fear but instead in understanding. In a level of appreciation. Virgiliam may view Cavo as a tool (more on that later) but it is a tool he looks on with fondness, not with fear. The plot of the series actually shows the inverse. We see that underneath Virgiliam’s hedonistic desires he’s got his own fears: “I’m a beast, and much more a monster than you. Aren’t you afraid of me?”

In their article “I know what you are.” “Say it.” “Monsterfucker.” Laura Andrea writes that monsterfucking is about the way that the monster holds up a mirror to the romantic partner: “The way we understand the world is through our own experiences and if we recognize a monster then that monstrosity must live within us.” The monstrosity of our more human-like characters is directly reflected in the monstrous forms of their partners.

Ultimately, the reveal of both Monster and the Beast and MADK is that the human-like characters – for neither is human by the end – are more twisted than their monstrous counterparts. They likely always were. Makoto is a dark creature whom other demons are quick to fear because he is quick to destroy, quick to twist into inhuman characteristics. In “Monsters, desire, and the creative queer body,” Stacy Holmes Jones writes:

“Frankenstein’s monster is rejected and damaged not by his innate difference or inhumanity, but by his inability to belong in a society that reinforces his outsider status, despite his emotional similarity to the humans around him.”

Makoto is outcast from human society because of his innate differences. He collects roadkill. He wants to commit acts of vore, of violence and sexual destruction. By contrast, a character like Cavo from Monster and the Beast, is fundamentally sweet and naive. It is his physical presence that separates him from the rest of civilization, that makes him a creature of actual and real shadows.

In both cases, because love functions as a mirror of internalized desires versus external attractiveness, we see the attractive character be accepted on some surface level of society (Virgiliam as they travel is readily accepted by everyone he meets, Makoto becomes a beloved if feared figure of the demonic realm) while the more physically monstrous character is relegated to the shadows or exile.

Virgiliam is a near sociopathic doll oriented solely towards hedonism as defined by his initial, unknown-to-him creation – capable of extreme and complete destruction of his foes. Cavo, who cannot allow himself to be seen by humanity lest they literally seek for his death, represents a conscious and the kindness that Virgiliam cannot.

Makoto rises through the ranks of demonic society, from brothel worker to Archduke of Hell himself, with fawning creatures who obey and seem to (in a sense) love him. But his counterpart J is driven toward being forgotten. By the end, Makoto has isolated his mentor and lover for 100 years, guaranteeing that no one sees or speaks of him, not even visiting him. J’s destruction is inevitable simply by virtue of him being so forgotten – like Peter Pan’s fairies, demons are destroyed when no one believes or fears them.

The cover of volume 1 of MADK shows a man leaning back in ecstasy as a horned, winged creature tenderly kisses his neck, their limbs so entangled that it's hard to tell whose arms are whose.

This is one of the critical differences between the monsterfucking narratives of MADK and Monster and the Beast. While Virgiliam is incapable of loving Cavo, incapable of loving anyone, the narrative movement of the manga series is of him coming to appreciate Cavo in the only way he knows how – first as a tool, and then as a traveling companion. “I simply wanted to eat good food and enjoy myself living as I pleased. That’s the only emotion I have” – Virgiliam tells him in the final volume, explaining his own inability to truly realize and return Cavo’s clear and obvious devotion. But there is consideration for Cavo’s feelings.

In MADK, being seen and known is the ultimate, but perverse desire. “The relief of knowing it is okay to let go. But at the same time…the disgust of being so thoroughly understood.” A demon is more powerful the harder it is to say their name aloud. At the start of the series, J is known by only his initial – an incredibly powerful demon whose name isn’t just unsaid but is forgotten by time and himself. The quest through the series, one that J encourages even though it will ultimately kill him, is for Makoto to learn his name.

In contrast with Monster and the Beast, Makoto and J are both mutually and destructively obsessed with each other. This is one of the aspects that truly makes them monstrous. For demons, love is an act that will ultimately lead to ruin. In Hell, as represented in MADK, love is perverse and abnormal. The madness of love makes them monsters; the obsession and desire to control and destroy one another is effectively Makoto’s only narrative drive. J encourages this, because he loves him. Their mutual desire for J’s inevitable destruction is their love. It is a weakness, and it is their power.

The key defining feature of these monsterfucking queer manga’s is that they are about the question of perversity in relation to normalized human relationships. They are about the love that exists on the margins. Monsterfucking is about showing a mirror to the monstrosity within – both in terms of society and in terms of the relationships between the parties involved. What does society demand of romance? What do we?

What happens when you stare into the void? And the void does not simply stare back, but sees you? Understands you? Loves you?


Amanda Hudgins is an occasional writer, former rugby player and wearer of incredibly tall shoes.


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