I’ve made it no secret that I’m not a fan of harem anime. This might sound hypocritical because I am a sucker for a good reverse harem. But there is a very big difference between harem and reverse harem. They represent two very different ideas and cater to opposite ends of the spectrum. And while I don’t blame anime on a whole for this, shows like Rent-A-Girlfriend (Rental Girlfriend) is revealing an underbelly of fandom culture that showcases how delusional some fans can get. Enough to think that renting girlfriends is possible in real life.
In a way, it is. Sure, you can use ‘rental girlfriend’, but it isn’t some innocent service where your client falls in a cute romance. It’s called an ‘escort service’ and I can’t believe I need to explain sex work to show that harems don’t exist in real life. But that’s the exact issue with harems promising a lifestyle like that, which is just simply not sustainable. It can’t exist without one party treating the other as an object vs an actual autonomous human.
By this, I don’t mean anime glamorizes sex work. Nor do I mean to demonize the field because, in the end, it’s just a job like any other. After all, it’s different strokes for different folks. But there is something to be said about how harems are portrayed in anime and how they lead to the objectification of women outside of it. That’s not an opinion, it is fact.
And there is an argument to be had about preferring reverse harem to actual harem because both technically wish fulfillments. But the wishes one promises are vastly different in intent from the other. This is one of the more uncomfortable pieces I have written so far but it’s something that we need to talk about. So, let’s discuss how, no, you can’t rent true love but how anime has still perpetuated a culture where some fans believe they can through rental girlfriend services.
Women In A Harem Anime Aren’t Real
So, women in anime aren’t always an accurate representation of women in real life. And women in harem anime are definitely not real.
Sure, they may share attributes and some habits, but women aren’t a checklist of predictable stereotypes. You can’t place expectations like that on an individual and pretend they love you for it. Humans, in general, are multi-faceted. They are complex beings who encompass a whole host of qualities and quirks. And not all of those behaviors fit inside a neat little box.
Women are not starved for affection like in harems, where the smallest act by a male character means instant love at first sight. They aren’t pretending to be a certain way to gain a person’s attention. Like if they say ‘no’ to someone’s advances, they probably mean it. And that’s some harems sometimes fail to distinguish between.
Harem anime waifus are just that: Waifus AKA a fictional representation of an ideal partner. Perfect soulmates aren’t a thing in reality. So, finding them through rental girlfriend services won’t yield anything.
You Can’t Rent A Girlfriend And Expect True Love:
Believe it or not, there are services where you can rent a partner for company like a real-life Rent-A-Girlfriend. And here’s the deal: those services have always been a thing. It isn’t the oldest profession in the world for nothing.
But that’s the thing: It’s a profession. It’s a transaction where you pay for a product and get exactly that, no more, no less. To expect it to grow into anything more is simply delusional, and it sells this idea that you can just pay for the perfect partner to grovel at your feet. To think that would be a sincere form of affection is unhealthy and toxic.
Women won’t flock to you just because you have money or good looks or even a cool attitude. And they aren’t playing hard to get either. Especially not the partners you pay for.
Why Reverse Harem Doesn’t End Up Promoting The Same Toxicity
So, remember how I said reverse harem is different in what it showcases to the audience? The reason for that is that a lot of reverse harems don’t cater to the male gaze. Which is a prevalent issue in harem anime on a whole.
Like, take something like Ouran High School Host Club. Sure, there was romance but each character in Haruhi’s supposed harem was made up of full-fledged individuals, with motivations and character arcs. They weren’t sexy caricatures of how teenage boys act. They were exaggerated, perhaps, but it was their emotion that the anime focused on.
The emotional bonds are the highlight in most reverse harem anime, rather than the collecting of various waifus. Fruit’s Basket shows this even better, where the two main love interests for Tohru show growth and character development which is independent of their desire to impress her.
In reverse harems, the love interests aren’t objects to be coveted or bought. They are individuals with autonomy and personality. Which, sadly, isn’t the same for harem targeted at men.
So to sum it all up. Yes, rental girlfriend services do exist, but they’re not something you should look deeper into as an anime fan since the reality is incomparably different from a rental girlfriend in anime.