Kabedon, an act of romance or dominance?

When you are reading a shoujo manga (Japanese comics) there are certain things, lets term them phenomenon, that are common and becomes a rage over a period of time. Kabedon is one such phenomenon and went on to become much more than that.

What is kabedon? Let me explain you with a scene.

Recently I read a shoujo romance manga (no surprise there), quite a good one at that. The male protagonist, a high school student, lets name him Kazuma, corners his love interest Sakura to the wall with his arms. She is flustered, her cheeks red and mouth quivering. Without any further notice, he kisses her passionately and leaves. All because he could not stand his love interest talking to another boy. He was jealous, frustrated and angry.

This is how you do a kabedon. Corner the heroine (mostly not restricted. Sometimes the role is reversed) to the wall with your hands. This is pretty popular in the manga world. It has its origins in Japan, where kabe means wall and don is the thud of someone hitting it and the phenomenon has its origin from shoujo manga (predominantly).

It is so popular that it has spread across mediums from manga to mainstream media and even retail, according to an article in Grazia. There is apparently a kabedon cafe in Harajuku district in Tokyo, where male waiter dolls seduce women customers with their kabedon movies. Domino’s Pizza in Japan offered kabedon coupons, a 25% off on pizza if they pound on the wall when they get the delivery. Apparently in East Asian countries you could see hoarding ads with kabedon moves. 

Why is kabedon so popular? Some could argue that it is to cater to women’s wild fantasies. Bad-ass men have attracted women across cultures since ages. The virility that they wear as the badge and oozing sexiness had always kindled women’s desire to possess the bad boys.

As you dig deeper you realise that it goes beyond a mere fantasy. According to the Grazia article, the term should be looked at in context of ‘fashionable male’ trends that preceded kabedon. The article states that the Asian men were usually categorised as ‘herbivore man’ (otherwise known as ‘grasshoppers’), who were cultured and stylish, but lacking in brute sexiness and romantic impulse.

In a survey, around 60% of the Japanese men in their twenties and thirties considered themselves ‘herbivores’. In Korea, self-proclaimed grasshopper characters soon became a mainstay of TV dramas and films.

The ‘grasshopper phenomenon’ lead to the trend of wanting aggressive manly men among Asian women, said Sujin Chun, a reporter for Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, in the Grazia story.

“Whether it’s the socially-inept nerd or the repressed sexual inadequate, the stereotype of East Asian men has frequently been equally unflattering in Asia and the West. Given all that, it seems almost inevitable that a trend like kabedon would appear soon or later,” the article stated.

Though the idea of domination sounds romantic and even arousing to many, it is an undeniable act of domination and submissiveness expected from the women.

We have seen this not only manga but cinemas across different cultures even in South Indians cinemas. The first movie that comes to my mind is Sethu. In the movie, the male protagonist Sethu often does a kabedon in a bid to make his love interest Abitha fall in love him. As he becomes desperate, he kidnaps her and pins her to a huge rock in a deserted place. For all the innocent love he possesses, he just forced his love on Abitha who was scared and would have nodded for anything he says.

Suddenly what seemed romantic and manly takes on a twisted view that women needs to be frightened and dominated to make her see what she wants. The fine line the phenomenon treads, between the exciting and flirtatious exchange to the one of fear and anger, could well be broken.

When that happens, as it does more often than not, it will not be long before it stops being the fantasy women dream of and one of dread and submission.

We women can do without both!


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