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Yaoi and Boys Love in the Formation of Fans’ Sexual Subjectivities in Southeast Asia

Sun, June 26, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 108


In this paper, I explore the ways in which the global circulation and underground consumption of Yaoi and Boys Love (BL) in Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia, contribute to the formation of fans’ attitudes towards their own bodily passions, and a reworking of their moral sensitivities concerning non-heteronormative sexualities.

Using data gathered from key informant interviews of self-identified Yaoi and BL fans from Manila and Jakarta, I ultimately aim to raise the following points. First, these young women consume Yaoi and BL primarily for entertainment and titillation, serving as a non-threatening medium through which they are able to explore and positively confront their own sexual desires. However, fan engagement with Yaoi and BL does not necessarily lead to a full rejection of society’s heterosexist norms and an acceptance of homosexuality as a valid mode of sexuality and gender identity. Instead, fans attempt to negotiate their personal stand on homosexuality in order to accommodate the strong but morally conflicting interest that they developed for these genres. While Indonesian and Filipino fans all eventually develop at least an open or permissive attitude towards non-heteronormative sexualities, issues on homosexuality and LGBT rights are merely a secondary concern for them. In other words, the popularity and attraction of Yaoi and BL speak less about fans’ interest in homosexuality, but more about women’s desires to achieve erotic fantasies and pleasures that they are restricted from having outside the framework of marital, reproductive sexuality.