Boys Love (Danmei) Fiction: A Critical Content Analysis of Heteronormativity and Performativity

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Reece, Mckenzee Niquole
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Middle Tennessee State University
Danmei is a Chinese fiction genre depicting male-male romance and erotica that is widely accessible across the internet (Feng, 2009; Madill & Zhao, 2021; Yu, 2021). Researchers are divided on whether the Danmei genre is a form of women’s empowerment (Feng, 2009; Madill & Zhao, 2021; Zhang, 2017; Yu, 2021), queer literature (Ge, 2021), or a combination of both (Zhou, Bryant & Sherman, 2018). This research explores and analyzes aspects of heteronormative standards as well as deviations from traditional Chinese gender norms within the male-male romance depicted within these novels. This research is significant due to the current negative social climate within Mainland China regarding the LGBTQ+ community despite Danmei novels’ focus on MxM romantic relationships. Several themes identified from the data gathered from twenty Danmei novels suggest that heteronormative standards as well as traditional Chinese gender norms are widespread throughout the main characters’ romance despite both partners being male. Of the few deviations from traditional norms, the majority were regarding the submissive partner. Results are further analyzed using Judith Butler’s (2015) theory of performativity for further discussion on social implications for the Danmei genre, its authors, and the queer community in Mainland China.
BL, Danmei, Heteronormativity, Performativity, Sociology, Women's studies, Gender studies