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Male Desires and Hopes to “Become” Fudanshi (“rotten men”): Heterosexual Male Readings of Male-Male Romance Fiction

Sun, June 26, 8:30 to 10:20am, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 119


The BL (Boys’ Love) genre, which features male-male romance narratives and eroticism mainly targeted at female readers, has been widely acknowledged, both in Japan and abroad, as a significant component of Japanese popular culture. Though previous BL studies have often concluded that BL works are mostly produced by and for women, as I have suggested elsewhere (Nagaike, 2015), in Japan there are also many male BL readers (termed fudanshi, or “rotten men”), including self-identified heterosexuals. This necessitates a recognition of the discursive queerness entailed in heterosexual male readings of male homosexual narratives such as BL. Based primarily on ethnographic research concerning Japanese heterosexual BL readers’ communities and communications, this paper attempts to unveil both the psychological orientation of fudanshi, as well as their physicality (e.g. genital-arousal, masturbation, physical relationship with others) in relation to the consumption of BL narratives. I will demonstrate a psychological (subconscious) male desire for self-feminization, aligned with a temptation felt by many men to subvert or negate the construction of a strong, masculine ego. An analysis of these fudanshi’s reading practices also contributes to the critical discussion concerning the ways in which such aspects of male physicality relate to the components of men’s “real” lives, as well as to prevalent social constructions of masculinity. Hence, how and why self-identified heterosexual male readers of BL subvert the established idealization of “successful masculine salaryman” (Dasgupta, 2013) should be analyzed as a means to encompass the individuality of desire within contemporary Japanese socio-cultural contexts.