Masculinity in contemporary China can be embodied by myriads of works featuring male-male same-sex intimacy and eroticism, which fall into a genre dubbed as danmei ‘addicted to beauty; indulgence in beauty’, aka Boys Love (BL). As a marginalised yet increasingly visible subculture, danmei writing has attracted legions of female producers/consumers, who are (self-)referred to as ‘rotten girls’. The female-oriented fiction is overwhelmingly marked by a conspicuous dichotomy differentiating seme (top) from uke (bottom) roles, and a prodigious amount of narratives concern feminisation of uke characters, motivated by the prevailing ‘soft masculinity’. Nonetheless, readers also delight in a subcategory of danmei featured by shaonü gong ‘maiden/adolescent-girl seme’ manifesting epicene demeanour and conducting sajiao which denotes playing cute/winsome/petulant or performing pettishness/coquettish. The sajiao acts of semes indicate authorial personae and the ‘cuteness’ youth culture, especially the ‘paradoxical cuteness’ integrating masculinity and femininity as well as cross-dressing and cross-gender performance. Furthermore, seme characterisation entailing enfeebled virility enables female readers to challenge heteropatriarchal and heteronormative zeitgeist, and it mitigates women’s dread and anxiety concerning sexual violence, exploitation, and oppression in real-world contexts.
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