The new fairy tale romance, male-to-male relationships a red-hot topic among young Chinese

By Zhang Yihua Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/27 22:13:39

Some fans of boy's love escape the harsh realities of life by slipping into the world of male-male romance. Photo: IC

Christina Yang, a 27-year-old accountant based in Beijing, was very happy when she saw the news that Lord Ivar, cousin to the Queen of England, had come out as gay several days ago.

"It was quite unexpected; yet it's great," Yang said with a big smile.

It was not the first time that she applauded two men being together. She was also very pleased when American actors Wentworth Miller and Jim Parsons came out several years ago.

"I couldn't help but feel cheerful when I saw their pictures with their boyfriends," she said.

Yang likes male-male romance in real life, and finds male-male romance works intriguing.

"I will never forget the day when a new world was opened to me as I read my very first boys' love (BL) novel. I was a 15-year-old high school student," she said. "I still remember the indescribable joy I felt when I read the lines depicting the two central characters' affectionate glance and kiss."

From then on, Yang became a funü or "rotten girl" (the Chinese word for the Japanese fujoshi, which means a female fan of male-male romance) - a term she often ascribes to herself.

Yang is an active member of a BL fan club on Baidu Tieba, a Chinese online communication platform. The club has attracted more than two million followers.

Always up to date on the latest news about the genre, Yang has recently been caught up in the buzz over a hit drama named Shiru Bushiding. The show features BL and has been creating a stir among Chinese Net users since its September 12 launch online.

On September 24, less than two weeks after it debuted on the Internet, the drama got over 100 million hits online and was a hot topic on Sina Weibo where it has been read by more than a billion people, according to news portal

Yang believes that the popularity of the drama and the group shows that many Chinese are interested in BL. "Among my friends, three out of 10 are BL fans."

According to Liu Bo, a Beijing-based psychologist, fearing that something is wrong with them because of their attraction to male-male romance, some BL fans would seek the help of psychologists in the early stages of fandom. According to him, the number of people who have sought his advice about their attraction has been increasing, and many of them are girls in their adolescence. There has also been an uptick in the number of male fans of BL who come to see him.

Liu said that many people become fans of BL for emotional and psychological reasons. A lack of interaction with men during childhood and adolescence and the absence of sex education are among the main reasons some women are attracted to this genre.


Boy's love fan groups help its fans feel a greater sense of identity and inclusion as they laugh and cry among like-minded friends. Photos: IC

Bridging fantasy and reality

Yang said the main reason she became a fan of BL is that it helps bridge the gap between fantasy and reality.

Being shy and not very confident, Yang lacks the courage to pursue guys that she likes. Since high school, she has fallen in love with two boys, both of whom are tall, handsome and smart, but she never worked up enough courage to tell either of them.

"I'm just an ordinary girl, not very pretty or intelligent. There's no way they would ever notice me," she said. "And I dared not pursue them. It felt like there's no possibility that we could be together in real life."

At first heartbroken, Yang later began to think how wonderful it would be if the two boys became a couple. "Although the thought itself was crazy in some ways, I felt content picturing them holding hands, hugging and kissing in my head," she said.

Yang was later introduced to BL novels by a friend and discovered that she enjoyed reading them a lot.

 "It felt like, through the words in the book, my fantasy became real and no longer existed only in my head," she explained.

During her remaining three years at high school and four years at university, Yang read more than 100 BL-related novels and comics.

While she was thrilled to have found BL, Yang was somewhat worried that her parents and peers would find out her secret. In their eyes, she had always been a well-behaved girl. "If my parents were to find out that I have a huge collection of BL novels and comics and that I drool over scenes with two boys hugging, they wouldn't believe it's me."

Yang felt tortured. She began to wonder if there was something wrong with her.

Male fans of BL

Gao Xiao, a Beijing-based sales manager in his 30s, has a different reason for becoming a fan of BL.

Gao started to lose faith in male-female relationships after his two relationships with women went bust.

He started to wonder whether getting involved with a man could be the solution, but he dared not try to get a boyfriend because his parents are against homosexuality. "I grew up in a small village, and for most of the people, including my parents, homosexuality is a taboo," he said. "If they found out that I have a boyfriend, they would kill me or kill themselves."

Since trying a relationship with a man was not a viable option, Gao shifted his interests to literary works featuring relationships between men, such as BL novels, comics, dramas and movies.

Among the early male followers to become interested in the topic, Gao confided that he was once worried about his attraction to depictions of male-male relationships. "I was afraid that there was something wrong with me when I realized that lines depicting two men hugging passionately could make my heart race," he said.

But as more of his male friends started following the genre after similar run-ins with women, he grew less worried.

Gao said that most male fans of BL are gay, and they like depictions of romance between two men because they empathize with the characters in BL fictions. He said there are also men, like himself, who are afraid of pursuing homosexuality in real life because they fear social stigma and explore their attraction through BL literary works.

Curious and searching for answers

According to research Liu had done in China several years ago, one out of six men would have their kids live with them when they get divorced, resulting in the majority of the young boys with divorced parents growing up without a father figure in their life.

He said a lack of interaction with men makes them especially interested in men as a group, and therefore, it is easier for them to be drawn to literary works that feature a romance between men.

The absence of adequate sex education in China is also one of the main reasons people become fans of BL, Liu said. He explained that in many places in China, sex education lags behind other subjects and people are curious about sex, including sex between two men, but they cannot get the information from education. So, many of them turn to BL fiction or comics to get some insight.

What's more, he said, because BL literary works depict things with a touch of beauty, many people see it as a way to escape the real world, where things can sometimes be ugly. It also explains why adolescent girls have become a noticeable subgroup of the genre, he said. According to him, they are at an age where they are likely to crazily pursue things that are beautiful and thus are particularly drawn to the world presented in BL.

Another reason many adolescent girls becoming interested in BL is a lot of them fantasize about love, and BL, which features pure love, is very appealing to them.

People are also drawn to the genre because of its ability to relieve pain, Liu said. "Experiencing beauty is a way to get away from pain. When people are immersed in beauty, they manage to forget the pain," he said.

Liu said acknowledging that they have developed a liking for BL also helps fans build their identity and learn more about themselves. And as more people sharing the same identity begin to gather, it encourages other fans to stop keeping their attraction to the genre a secret.

"Doesn't it feel great to share your thoughts openly?" said Liu.

Realizing that there is nothing wrong with being a fan of BL, Yang is relieved. She admits that she has received very little sex education and BL is a nice way for her to learn more.

"I am not sure whether my parents and most of my peers can understand me," she said. "But I do believe that as BL gets incredibly popular, it will be more possible that more people would hold a positive attitude toward it."

Newspaper headline: Fans of ‘boy’s love’

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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