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TOS

Why Girls Love “Boys’ Love”: A Look into K-Pop Fanfiction

Imagine you’re a male idol. You’re in danger. It’s chasing you. It? Them? You’re not even sure anymore. You just keep running. You could run forever, but that still wouldn’t be enough to lose… Wait, that noise. The incessant giggling coming from the shadows acts as an ominous, omnipresent susurrus that penetrates the air. You dodge down an alleyway, panting, but it’s no use. It’s everywhere by now. Finally, you reach a dead end, and you’re struck with fear. Your eyes are locked on a girl, a fangirl, and in her hands is a smartphone as she types furiously, chuckling like a maniac, drooling. Then she looks at you, and she opens her mouth. You beg her not to say it. But the words come out, each and every syllable like a poisonous arrow: “Fan-fic-tion.”

That’s totally how I perceive the simultaneously magical and S&M based world that fanfiction writers must inhabit, so far as K-Pop is concerned.

Why is fanfiction seriously this popular among women, specifically the apparently, outrageously, horny fangirls of K-Pop? Why here? Why in South Korea? And why are they all so adamant about the culture that it comes to the point where companies push their male idols to fuel said fanfictions with fanservice – displays of bromance, skinship, and fake/genuine affection between the male members of boy groups? The answer is surprisingly simple: this fan culture offers women what they really want, which – according to The Canterbury Tales* – is power over their men and lovers. The power to choose something for themselves. Yaoi – I mean WOW! Totally meant wow, but since you bring it up. Ahem.

Yaoi is a Japanese term for “boys’ love,” which is fictional media generated by women for women featuring homoerotic or homoromantic stories and characters. How does this factor in to K-Pop? Well, do names like HunHan, JongTae, and G-Ri ring any bells? You can find just about any pairings of male idols like these in groups of two to three, to too many, on the Internet. They’re usually in the dark seedy corners of the interwebs, mind you, but any OTP your heart guiltily desires is attainable. Lord knows what you’ll get if you search for them directly, and God bless you if you do…well…actually, let’s do exactly that! If only to further complete the picture of what this fanfiction world is all about.

I don’t know why I can’t take my eyes off of this Nyungtory fanfic. I just…can’t…stop…clicking…”next.” Ooo! This one’s kind of meta-fanfiction and about Donghae jacking off to EunHae fanart! And what do we have here? EXO‘s Kris and…his alpaca? Now when you have a piece of fiction about your bias and his pet toy, you gotta wonder. Is this even for sexual pleasure anymore? I mean no judgement, to each his own, but really are you getting off on that or is it just because you can? I think it’s the latter, and Noah Berlatsky at The Atlantic magazine seems to agree with me. He writes:

“The genre of boys’ love, in other words, allows readers to place themselves in a position of power and aggrandizement that is rare for women—as the distanced, masterful position, letting his (or her) eyes roam across variegated objects of desire.”

The source of this quote is an article that analyzes a Japanese manga called The Heart of Thomas by a woman named Hagio Moto. The action is set in an all-boys, German boarding school. It immediately kicks off with the suicide of the eponymous boy named Thomas, who jumps off a bridge due to an unrequited love affair with another student at his school named Juli. The repercussions of his action absolutely rock the lives of the entire student body, especially Juli who more or less feels the guilt of this boy’s death on his hands. So when the entire cast start moving on finally, it’s to their shock, horror, and twisted excitement that a new boy named Eric is transferred to their school. What’s positively ghoulish is the fact that Eric looks exactly like Thomas, launching all kinds of melodrama, exploring the romantic, tragic, and even restorative properties of the story’s eschatological nature.

The book was one of the trendsetters of the yaoi movement, and interviews with the author provide truly enlightening insights and evidence as to why fangirls in general go crazy to complete the sexually perverse cycle their male idols start onstage. It explains why they are so gungho for Junho when he pops and flaunts his butt for attention or that special feeling when the Shisus feels up Kyuhyun, or when T.O.P and Daesung hold onto each other a little too long when they hug. Moto says that it offered her a chance to escape and tell stories, unchained from the burden of how Japanese girls must act in society. The article goes on to echo these sentiments. “The boys’ love genre, then, freed Hagio and her audience to cross and recross boundaries of identity, sexuality, and gender. The reader can be both sexual aggressor and victim; both self and other; both gay and straight; both male and female.” Yaoi! I mean, Wow! Dammit!

With that, my lovely One Shots readers, I have a confession to make…I have a soft spot for yaoi. So, ya know…titles like Takumi-kun? Antique Bakery? Gravitation? Yes. I know and love them accordingly…but only for the story obviously. Even after knowing all this, I still cannot comprehend or enjoy or have the want to be near the world of purely written fan fiction – some things just weren’t meant to be imagined and cannot be unseen. But in all seriousness, some of these authors do have legitimate talent, which instantly validates and sheds new light on Eunji’s character in Reply 1997. Fanfiction does have its place in the world, helping the absolutely, sexually frustrated fangirls (and boys) of K-Pop. Gotta say that it makes me wonder if it is objectification or the imbalance of it that’s the wrong thing to do?

*The Canterbury Tales is a piece of classic, English fiction that many Western students are forced to read in school. The part referenced here is from a tale called “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” in which the plot revolves around a knight in search of the answer to the question, “What do women want most?”

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(The Atlantic)

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    • Judy
      Appalled by the lack of YunJae. That shit is canon. It’s also a ship that sails itself.
    • mi
      I agree largely with this article in that homosexual fanfic is often written to
      satisfy certain desires of empowerment and control women may not find
      in heterosexual relationships, but I would also say that not ALL fans
      write fanfiction because of that reason. There are dozens of reasons for why women write homosexual fanfiction, that is rarely addressed beyond the stereotypes (Sexual repression! projecting fantasies onto objectified boys! because we don’t want them to have girlfriends!) Some may be using boys’ romance as part of broader fanfic encompassing different genres. Some may genuinely be trying to explore the nuances of a
      relationship that they see chemistry in or believe is ‘real’. Yes, most popular ‘ships’ are probably a result of carefully crafted
      fanservice and the fans’ overzealous imaginations, and are sustained
      because the company knows it sells. 99% of it is probably just that. However, I would also urge that ‘crazy fanfic writers and shippers’ does not become the reason to automatically dismiss the possibility of gay/bisexual idols. South Korea’s
      extreme prejudice towards homosexuality would make it difficult – if
      impossible – for any idol to come out of the closet. That doesn’t mean gay/bisexual idols don’t exist. LGBT people are real people. I’m not saying that shipping is real or that a ship may be starcrossed lovers – just that the speculation that an idol is gay/bisexual shouldn’t be any more offensive or unusual as assuming they’re heterosexual (though, honestly, no one has any business trying to speculate about anyone’s sexuality). It would be nice for fans who genuinely believe in a ship to not be automatically dismissed as ‘crazy’ or ‘delusional’, as long as they’re not shoving those beliefs down other people’s throats. (unfortunately, many extreme fans do, and give the rest of fandom a bad name).
    • Pingback: Korean Gender Reader, 2-8 Feb. | The Grand Narrative

    • SakiVI
      I must be the only kpop fangirl who wants her biases marrying happily and producing little versions of themselves for future kpop bands and Appa Odiga episodes…

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