Feminized Seme: Reflecting and Resignifying Femininity in Chinese Commercialized Danmei Novels

Conference: The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2022)
Title: Feminized Seme: Reflecting and Resignifying Femininity in Chinese Commercialized Danmei Novels
Stream: Gender, Sexuality and Culture
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Lin Zheng, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong


Feminized seme, which used to be a niche character setting in Danmei novels, has become popular recently. In this sub-genre, the seme(top) is assigned many feminine roles, behaviors, personalities, appearances, and nicknames usually given to uke(bottom) in male-male intimacy and eroticism. However, the roles of seme and uke still maintain strictly irreversible.

Danmei novels, which focus on romantic or homoerotic male-male intimacy, are considered by most of their writers, readers, and scholars to be primarily by women and for women. So the configuration of masculinity and femininity in male-male romance and eroticism is usually considered to relate to female self-empowerment and subjectivity. However, most previous studies either spoke about androgynous gender fluidity or focused disproportionately on the femininity of uke(bottom). In addition, the researcher always interprets femininity in male characters as a passive trait that needs to be wrapped by masculinity to express safely and without guilt. But the energy and significance of seme's femininity have rarely been explored seriously.

By analyzing the writing strategies and audience acceptance of three typical novels belonging to the feminized seme sub-genre(My Archrival Clings to Me Every Day, Non-human Workplace Promotion Guidelines, and Mark Me), this paper illustrates how women satisfy love desire and construct imagined subjectivity through reflecting and resignifying femininity in Danmei novels. I argue that showing femininity to one's lover is interpreted as the expression of sincerity to love, the preference for one's lover, and the confidence of subjectivity by Danmei readers.

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