About a year ago I wrote a post wondering about the “NTR” (essentially cuckolding) genre of porn in anime and manga, and in it I had a small aside in the introduction where I mentioned the English-speaking anti-NTR fanbase that has developed in response, people who will proudly and adamantly proclaim their love of “vanilla.” At the time, I referred to these vanilla fans and their fervor as if they were an extreme response to the popularity of NTR because the intense championing of very conventional depictions of sex seemed odd (though understandable). Upon thinking about this subject again recently, however, I realized that I had overlooked something, and that one of the reasons there seems to be this contingent of vanilla supporters is that the definition of “vanilla porn,” at least according to certain fans of anime and manga, is quite a bit broader than how people would normally define it.
In general usage, vanilla (used for sex or otherwise) implies something that is ordinary and simple, and if one is being negative, bland and boring. In depictions of sex, this generally means something along the lines of missionary position between a couple. But when you look at the categories used in English to describe specific works of erotic anime and manga, you’ll sometimes get tag combinations such as “BDSM HAREM INCEST VANILLA.” I’m not making a value judgment on those other categories by any means, but I think that everyone can agree that, typically, those things don’t go hand in hand with “vanilla.”
What this has me realizing is that the ardent support for “vanilla” may be an even more direct response to NTR than I had first thought, because it ends up being defined by fans as essentially “not-NTR,” though to be more accurate it would probably be “anything that is not gay, rape, or NTR.” Given this definition-by-negation, it would seem that the most vital aspect of “vanilla” is loyalty. In this conception of vanilla, the relationships can be polygamous, they can be extreme in one way or another, but if there is a sense of betrayal or if feelings are hurt through sex, then it falls to the other side.