“Indulge in beauty.” What better phrase to describe the homoerotic works of literature that are sweeping online forums in China, otherwise known as “danmei.”
The New York Times recently described these steamy stories as involving: “sexual relations, often between celebrities, politicians, sports figures, actors and film characters, with key themes including the humiliation of powerful men in gay relationships, father-son incest, even superheroes having sex.”
The fact that websites dedicated to this type of stories are accumulating million of page views a day is due to the fact that they have found an unintended but passionate audience: young, straight women in China.
Chinese culture has not been kind to embrace (or even acknowledge) female sexual expression, and many women are driven to cultivate a hidden erotic fantasy life online. By projecting these fantasies onto the gay male “other,” women can explore and toy with sexual expression in a safe space. It’s perhaps China’s first sexual revolution led by feminist principles.
Danmei fantasies involving the sexual dominance of a son over his father serve as a metaphor for change in the patriarchal structure, a political and social revolt of the norm.
It’s no surprise that the conservative Chinese government is weary of the swelling popularity of these subversive works. Currently, China is undergoing a crackdown of pornography, and many danmei websites have been shut down.
p.s. I wonder if these straight female writers in China have conquered Edmund White’s problem with gay erotica.