The truth about Danmei

A Chinese teengirl craze for homoerotic comic books is giving gender and sexuality theorists something to talk about. Lingxiao Song, who was a teenage girl in China, digs into the trend

The truth about Danmei
24 September 2012

Danmei, gay fiction graphic novels, are huge in China right now. Girls in high school are reading them. Girls in college are reading them. Girls working in office are reading them.

Often featuring explicit sexual encounters between men, Danmei has an enormous fangirl readership.

And as well as reading them, young women are writing the homoerotic literature. In April, a Danmei website was shutdown because it was deemed pornographic, and most of the 30 writers for the site were found to be teenage girls.

‘It’s interesting. It’s beautiful. It’s sentimental. It’s heart-breaking. That’s why I love Danmei,’ Jia Xiao, an 18-year-old high school student told Gay Star News. She said stories of homosexual love appeal because girls are tired of reading traditional heterosexual love stories.

Back in the mid-1990s, Japanese comic books flooded into China’s comic market. Some of these, like Keguiyinuo and Tokyo Babylon, had homoerotic content aimed at young women. Called Yaoi or Boys’ Love in Japan, the genre was named Danmei in China and was first popular in southern costal areas. As access to the internet spread all over China, fangirls set up Danmei sites and shared comics and stories. Now those who grew-up reading Danmei are writing comics for specialist publishers.

Characters in Danmei are always handsome, passionate and daring. The stories often have exciting plots and exotic settings. For young people growing up in China today, the stories satisfy a lust for adventure their parents don’t understand.

Does Danmei’s popularity mean these fangirls are homosexual or bisexual themselves? Are they concerned about LGBT people at all? Most of Danmei fans are straight, but we spoke to one bisexual girl.

Disappointingly, most fans do not care much about LGBT people in real life. Some barely know what does each letter in ‘LGBT’ means. The fans we spoke to do not particularly care about improving LGBT rights.

‘It’s probably hard for LGBT people to find their standing in China,’ said Hong Yan, a 21-year-old college student. ‘Maybe fangirls support them, but I don’t have personal opinion them.’

Most of the fangirls we spoke to said LGBT rights were none of their business. The few who said they do support gay rights said they would not go to a Pride event.

Although Danmei fans do not have a much awareness of LGBT issues, it is still a positive step that at least now they know gay men exist.

However, two girls we spoke to said they worry where the open-mindedness of Danmei might lead.

Mo Fei, a 22-year-old college student said:

‘Fans just want to try new things, so they imitate the books and have one-night stands, sex without protection. They don’t think about the consequences.’  

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