Girls who love boys’ love: Japanese homoerotic manga as trans-national Taiwan culture
ABSTRACT Based on interviews with 30 female readers of BL (‘boys’ love’) manga conducted in Taipei in 2005, this paper analyses the BL scene in Taiwan from the perspective of its social utility as a discursive arena enabling women collectively to think through transforming social ideologies around gender and sexuality. This form of participatory pop culture is most interesting, I argue, not because of any unilateral subversiveness vis-à-vis culturally dominant understandings of (feminine) gender or (homo)sexuality – although it does often contest such dominant understandings. Rather, it is important in providing a space for the collective articulation of young women’s in-process thinking on these questions. The paper also engages with the Japaneseness of the genre as consumed in Taiwan in order to consider the imaginative function that its perceived cultural ‘otherness’ performs.
KEYWORDS: Manga, BL, Taiwan, women’s public sphere, pop culture, anti-censorship
Fran Martin has published widely on gender, sexuality and popular and media cultures in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong. Recent publications include Backward Glances: Contemporary Chinese Cultures and the Female Homoerotic Imaginary (Duke University Press, 2010 and, co-edited with Peter Jackson, Mark McLelland and Audrey Yue, AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities (U. of Illinois Press, 2008). Her current collaborative research project focuses on life-advice television in Asia, with a focus on 'women’s TV' in Taiwan. She is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia.