Emotional Survival: A Drive for Boys' Love Fans in Japan

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Dachgeschoss (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Shintaro KONO, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
Boys’ love (BL) is an emerging genre of popular leisure culture in Japan (e.g., cartoons, comics, novels) mostly produced by women for female consumers. Its central theme is romantic and sexual relationships among male characters. Although the genre has recently received academic attention (e.g., Levi, McHarry, & Pagliasotti, 2010), the existent research is limited to non-normative gender and sexuality aspects of BL products. Voices of BL fans have not been heard. The present study aimed at filling this gap by exploring “why Japanese fans consume BL products.”

The constructivist grounded theory approach was employed (Charmaz, 2014). A recruitment letter was posted on a website that provided BL-related information (e.g., new titles, reviews). Nine semi-structured interviews (103 minutes, on average) were conducted via Skype, except for one case where an online instant messenger was used. Immediately after transcribing audio-recordings of the interviews, initial line-by-line coding was conducted, followed by more theoretical focused coding within and across emergent categories. Memos were written throughout this simultaneous data collection and analysis process to advance and leave the records of analysis.

For the Japanese fans across varying commitment levels, their BL pursuits were a strategy to maintain emotional well-being and survive their daily lives. They felt gradually and constantly “worn out” – sometimes because of their stressful jobs or their non-normative views and gender identities. They were well aware that homo-erotic stories in BL products are often sanitized and romanticized. This was why these stories served as fantasy that was in a sharp contrast to their real lives where the emotional wearing out occurred. Through reading the stories, they regained emotional energy – the process described as “healing,” which helped them re-engage with their actual lives. The findings are discussed in light of serious leisure (Stebbins, 2007) and gender and sexuality issues in Japanese society.