Perverse Lesbianism : BDSM, Rape, and Incest in Cyber Chinese Girls’ Love (GL) Fiction

Research output: Conference PapersRGC 33 - Other conference paperpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPresented - 5 Oct 2023


TitleSex in Contemporary Media: An Interdisciplinary Conference
LocationZoom & The University of Warwick
PlaceUnited Kingdom
Period4 - 6 October 2023


Along with the popularization of Internet use in China since 2001, writings about gender and sexual minorities by women and for women have flourished in Chinese cyberspace. The articulation of previously “unrepresentable” voices and desires of Chinese women in the print media age has been largely enabled and encouraged through producing, circulating, consuming, and rewriting online fiction featuring unconventionally gendered and sexualized stories. In the past two decades, a growing amount of academic attention has been given to one of the most prominent forms of such cyber-Chinese literature——boys’ love (BL; also known as danmei), a literary subgenre of male same-sex romance and eroticism. Yet, the complexities of the rising online Chinese girls’ love (GL) literature that focuses on female same-sex romance and (sexual) practices remain largely underexplored, if not intentionally dismissed. To fill this gap, this research pays particular attention to plots of BDSM, rape, and incest that are prevalent in several sensational GL works in post-2000 Chinese cyberspace.

Presenting a queer-feminist analysis of the torture, rape, and incestuous sequences in some popular online Chinese GL novels, I discuss the sex roles, gendered subjectivities, and power dynamics during the narrated unconventional lesbian sexual encounters. While these tropes resist the alleged legitimacy and centrality of heterosexual sexual patterns in mainstream Chinese culture, they have also been heavily and persistently negotiating with multivalent constructions of lesbianism, including dominant hetero-patriarchal cultural imaginaries of female sex, gender, sexuality, desire, and pleasure. My analysis also contextualizes the emergence of GL in related discourses on media censorship of lesbian and pornographic content, the social struggles and pressure faced by Chinese queer women, gender-nonnormative representations and celebrity images in contemporary Chinese entertainment industries, and the recent boom of online queer female fandom in China. The graphic depictions of women’s radical sex and/or non-consensual sexual relationships in the fiction, in this sense, can be understood as sophisticated writing tactics through which the writers discursively create, legitimize, and even dramatize lesbian stories set in a still largely heteronormative Chinese sociocultural environment.

Citation Format(s)

Perverse Lesbianism: BDSM, Rape, and Incest in Cyber Chinese Girls’ Love (GL) Fiction. / Zhao, Jamie J.
2023. Sex in Contemporary Media: An Interdisciplinary Conference, Coventry , United Kingdom.

Research output: Conference PapersRGC 33 - Other conference paperpeer-review