BL versus real gay life

A lot of times people will not understand what the difference is between BL and real gay life. I am going to include a few links to videos on YouTube which are movies which relate to real gay life and real issues. Then I will point out some of the differences. Also, there is a debate in academic communities about whether BL is good for the gay community or is negative.

This series set in Bangkok deals in a humorous way with the various issues of gay life. Some of the comical elements are over the top, but these are generally real gay people. These aren’t sanitized gays.

This series from Singapore is good in that they also incorporate issues of interracial dating, that is between Chinese, Indians, and Malays. All the usual issues of gay urban life are explored. These aren’t sanitized gays.

This series from Indonesia is really good and a real gay drama.

So what are the real differences.

  1. Straight guys don’t have sexual relations with gay men. It doesn’t happen. One of the basis things you learn from your peers when you are young is that having a crush over a straight guy is a road to heartbreak. You won’t have much sympathy from your peers if you do decided to pursue it and then meet the usual result. Straight boys are heartbreak.

In BL straight guys are doing it all the time. BL audiences are beginning to realize that straight guys don’t have sex with men and so writers are starting to have their protagonists be pansexual. I posted link to a Tonhon Chonlatee episode where a character says he is pansexual in an East Asian Academic study group knowing that they would find it amusing.

  1. In a BL series they don’t finally get around to having sex until maybe the 8th or 14th episode. In real life there would be a concern that the individual needed to see a doctor for some medical problem. In real gay life sex happens rather soon. It could be that you met someone at a club, bathhouse, or “alternate venue,” like a park and had sex first and talking afterwards the relation would build. Sex and love are to a large degree two different things. People sometimes get to know each other and the relation grows to being a romance, or they had sex first and got to know each other. However, healthy gay men have sexual drives and they are getting laid. Of course there are some gays whose lives are somewhat like a BL novel, maybe they would have sex by the 3rd episode.

  2. Imitating straight life isn’t the objective of every gay couple. Some are exclusive, some aren’t. Some are entirely exogamous. I knew a white gay couple that moved to San Francisco. When they got there they both desired Asian men. They still purchased a house together and they had relations with Asian men, but they are likely still together. Some gay couples occasionally have 3-somes. BL novels like to have a marriage ceremony at the end where they live heteronormatively forever after. There are some gays like that, and good for them.

GOOD OR BAD FOR THE GAYS.

  1. The rape thing is really bad. One of the most frequently used defenses in U.S. Courts when a gay person is attacked is that the attacker will says he feared that he was going to be raped. Also, straight guy’s homophobic fears do often relate to the fear that you might hit on them the same way they hit on women.

  2. However, one school of academic thought is that it allows a large segment of the public to be somewhat familiar with the idea of men having sex with men and romances and results in an acceptance. I have some scholars that hold to this.

  3. However, there are other scholars that besides the rape thing, that it doesn’t really change attitudes that much. It is the old thing about a parent being okay with someone else’s children being gay but when it is their child they have a different attitudes.

Years ago my friends and I did the Gay Asian contingent in the first Gay Day parades starting in 1977. I was told later by a former SF student that his class, in the SF School system, with a high percentage of Asians, was watching a film about gays, and generally being indifferent, when the gay Asian contingent showed up he said the Asian students gasped. Again, they really didn’t care if others were gay, but the Gay Asian contingent suggested that it was in their community. Though this is 40 years ago.

It has always been understood in the gay community that straight people can talk and say one thing or another, but when it is their child sometimes it turns out that the prior talk was just talk.

So this is some perspectives. I will talk about how gay men watch BL some other time.

Thanks for sharing your perspective and info on the differences between BL and actual real gay life. Much appreciated. I enjoy romance dramas of all types, but do not like the non consent/sexual violence/rape that is in many of the BL dramas, so I have only completely watched a few. I also do not like the fetishization of gay men that happens in many of the BL dramas, personified by that one girl character who sqees over the guys. I think they call those characters the “fujioshis?” Not a fan. I did some research into the BL genre and found that it has its roots in the Japanese manga yaoi genre, which are written by straight women for straight women, which helped explain a lot. Once I understood that these dramas were based on straight women’s sexual fantasies ( or the fantasies of some straight women), and not trying to explore the experiences or lives of gay men in Asian countries, the tropes made more sense.

Is BL dramas a positive thing for the Gay Community?
You pose a very interesting question. I would be curious to find out what the gay community thinks. Where I live, the gay community has fought long and hard for the society to consider gay people just the same as straight people, people who want to live together, get married, and have children. Also that loving someone of the same sex is not “bad” or “perverted”, but acceptable. I woud think that dramas that showcase gay love as normal would be a positive. That being said, I see some mixed messages in many of the BL dramas. Often one (or both) of the main leads identifies as straight, and when they fall for each other there’s a denial that they are even gay. “I don’t like men, I only like you”. Often homosexuality is seen as a conscious choice that the character can make. In my country, the gay community has been fighting attitudes like this, stressing that it is not something that can be chosen, turned on or off at will, or “cured”. So I’m not sure if BL dramas are helpful when so many of them perpetuate this viewpoint. Another issue is the prevalence of sexual assault/rape being romanticised. Not good for anyone, really.
I keep hoping that eventually there will be some gay themed dramas that are more just like regular dramas, only with main leads who just happen to be gay.
I’ve only seen 2 dramas here at Viki that I felt tried tio meet that standard. And only 1 drama where I felt that it was really trying to reflect a more realistic view of the lives of gay men in Asian countries.
I’ll definitely be interested to read your post on gay men watching BL dramas. To be honest, I would think that gay men wouldn’t be too interested in BL dramas since the target audience for these dramas is straight women, so your statement surprised me.

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Some of the BL dramas are acceptable, but others are not. SOTUS was really obnoxious, but others are not so much, but a little bit overly romantic. For those which aren’t offensive there is after all handsome men and a romance.

I am in an online Facebook group of scholars studying East Asian LGBTQ. I announced recently that a BL series used the concept of pansexuality to avoid using the idea of straight guys falling in love and having sex. I tend to regard pansexuality something some people adopt to avoid having a gay identity or to position themselves are superior to desire. I mentioned the use of the concept of pansexuality in BL as a means to make fun of pansexuality. I do think it does show that straight women have wised up to the fact that straight guys don’t have sex with each other and that this idea holds the genre up to ridicule so they have adopted the idea of pansexuality.

I won’t watch Untamed, I did watch Guardian. The BL novels that cave into mainland Chinese censorship I am considered not watching any of them.

I am not sure when I will do some writing on the dramas. I am currently writing on gay affairs as well as I am a writing regarding Landscape Reparations in the United States.

One of the reasons I watch East Asian movies is that when you are constantly writing on really dreadful things you need to escape. I escape to East Asia.

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There are definitely a few BL dramas that are interesting out there. The quality of the dramas varies, just like any drama (mainstream or not). A drama with romance and good looking actors, you say?- That’s just my cup of tea! Hopefully, the script and the acting is good.
I had not realized that the new BL dramas were incorporating pansexual characters. I’ll agree with you that it seems like this choice is to avoid having to deal with characters having to accept that they are gay. It also allows the writers to keep writing scripts that use the same formula/ tropes but now making the setup more believable to the audience. Although I think many BL fans don’t really care too much about the realities that vast majority of straight men are not falling for gay men, so the traditional set up probably still works for them. I fault the writers that they are still perpetuating this type of setup rather than writing scripts having the characters deal with the fact that they are gay. But I guess that would be too much “reality” for these fantasies.
I don’t know if having a pansexual character is an improvement or not. On the one hand, the character does accept that they can be sexually attracted to men. But on the other hand, for me it still perpetuates the idea that homosexuality is a conscious choice, since a pansexual person is attracted to both men and women. It feels like a cop out so the writers don’t have to deal with things.
I haven’t seen any of the dramas you mentioned. I’m not that interested in the sci-fi or wuxia genres, so I didn’t watch The Untamed or Guardian. However, I understand where you are coming from when you say you are not interested in watching the censored BL novel drama adaptations.

I’ll look forward to your post on gay men watching BL dramas when you have the time. I totally understand about having a busy real life.

For sure, watching Asian dramas is a way to escape the pressures of daily life. I also watch dramas to escape the harsh realities and relax. That’s why rom com is my favorite genre!

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Does that make it a choice, though? :thinking:
Maybe the character could “choose” to marry someone of the opposite sex, start a family, etc. … And yet, still long for that person that is off-limits.
And that “choice” might be based on circumstances rather than on what the character really wants.

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Yes, I will agree that a person could be with someone else through circumstance and actually long for/be in love with a different person. This type of situation isn’t limited to gay people. Straight people could experience this situation.

What I meant by my comment was that some people believe that a person’s sexual orientation is under their control, and because of that, a person can change their sexual orientation at will. Therefore if a person is gay it is because they have chosen to be gay and so they can choose to stop being gay and choose to be heterosexual. Of course, a person’s sexual orientation is intrinscially a part of them and not something that is controlled. It just is.
But a person watching a BL drama with a pansexual character might say that this gives their belief some support because the character can like both boys and girls.
As you pointed out in your comment, even if a person agrees to pursue a heterosexual lifestyle, it does not change their homosexual sexual orientation.

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What do you mean by that? Having sex with the opposite gender but in fact being homosexual? That’ll be bisexual then, or not?

The amount of bisexuals is way higher than people might think (there are different scientific studies about that including statistic calculations).

One popular moderator here said in an interview a few years ago he had to pretend to be gay instead of bi because otherwise the gay community would have kicked him out because they tend not to accept bisexuals (always being afraid a bi could run away with a woman) but since he was ‘old enough’ now and not driven by sexual desires like in a younger age he felt finally free to be really himself and admits in public that he’s been attracted by both, females and males, his whole life.

So if someone says being pansexual it probably just means not wanting to be pushed into a box no matter what kind of box but instead have the individual choice whom to love and to have sex with.

Besides, there is also a difference between the ‘gay community’ or gays, lesbians who are not identifying themselves just by that.

I met a couple of gays and lesbians in my life and some said explicit that they are not part of ‘that’ community. Also, the desire for being loved is not bound to a specific sexual orientation. There are straight people who are just on the hunt for having anonymous sex or just sex without a relationship at all, so I somehow feel that reducing gays (and maybe other non-straight people too) only to the sexual aspect is kinda mean.

Of course BL as a genre is just fictional in the same way as the straight counterpart is unreal as well.

What is called BL today was originally a manga/anime genre in Japan and during the past ~20 years it spreads world-wide, including into Western areas. The Japanese stories that spread into the West used to be clearly divided into yaoi (sex focus) and shōnen ai (romantic focus). A shōnen ai (literally boys love) story might include a kiss, but I never saw a rape scene in a shōnen ai story while yaoi stories mostly include rape or forced sex and often have such things in the beginning but might end in a way that the victim ‘loves’ the rapist.

The Western girlish anime fan scene was full of that, including all the fan fictions; also about characters from neither shōnen ai nor yaoi stories. Most of the fan fictions at that time were written by underage teenage girls who - for whatever reason - loved that violence and torturing aspect; maybe because the straight stories also rarely showed equal relationships and the female part in straight stories tend to be the dominated weak part.

Back at that time, within some anime & manga fan scene communities, some male fans complained about this aspect of being gay-y-fied (because every character was turned into a gay character in fan fictions written by the girls).

Couple of the fan fiction writers or anime/manga yaoi/shōnen ai lovers of the past became gay story writers now; sometimes in a more mature way (in regard that rape is not what a gay character really wants), but some keep this style and create own gay stories that follow a similar pattern as the yaoi manga/anime.

So in the end it is about someone’s awareness if something is a fictional created genre or not and not expecting reality to be like entertainment stories although unreal created stuff can influence and affect real life behaviour as well (it is already proved that those who consume porn all the time from young age later think that’s a normal behaviour of real people; but I didn’t see a scientific study yet in the aspect of how shōnen ai or yaoi might have affected the real life of gays by others).

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What I meant by my comment was that if you are a gay person “in the closet”, living as a heterosexual, it does not change the fact of your sexual orientation as a homosexual. Yes, having sex with the opposite gender is not going to automatically make your sexual orientation change. A person who is gay, that is sexually attracted to people of the same gender is still going to be sexually attracted to the same gender even if they have sex with someone of the opposite gender. Their sexual orientation is not going to change. I was agreeing with @mirjam_465
point.
The world has changed so that not as many people feel the need to deny their homosexuality and live “in the closet”, pretending to be heterosexual, but I dare say it probably still happens in Asian countries where many people still have very conservative attitudes and are often hostile to gay people.

Anyway, for me a bisexual person is someone who is sexually attracted to people of both the same gender and the opposite gender, Their sexual orientation is to be attracted to both genders. This is not the same to me as a homosexual person.

I’ll agree with you that there are probably more bisexual people out there that we think that there are. I appreciate your insights into the bisexual community and agree that it is often very difficult for bisexuals because they often can feel isolated. Thanks for your information about the history and background of the BL stories genre in the manga & anime, and where the tropes are coming from that we see in many of these dramas.

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Although I don’t agree with all your points, I’ll say I’m happy we are having this conversation since it is important to have it and I’ve thought about this for a long time now.

I think that talking about whether it’s better to have a pansexual/bisexual character or a gay character is a bit misleading. My problem is that sometimes the audience is supposed to assume that the character is pan/bi if he ever had sex or been in a relationship with a woman. There are gay men who have been with women before and that doesn’t make them less gay, this just feels like the male equivalent of a goldstar lesbian. It’s problematic since this is why men in general feel like they can’t experiment like women can.
It’s funny because if a straight man says that he once had sex with a man, says “it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t for me”, he’s labelled bi even tho he identifies as straight and, on the other hand, a lesbian has sex with a guy once and she spends the rest of her life trying to prove to others she is a lesbian.
It’s important to understand how much society’s expectations can force heterosexuality onto people.

Also, regardless of if they are assumed to be bi/pan or they actually are bi/pan, it’s often portrayed as if he either fell in love with just this ONE guy and all other guys are just bros to him, or as if he would rather be with a woman but it’s just that this guy is very special (and not in the “my life would be better if I presented as straight” kinda way but in the “being straight is better than being gay” kinda way)

Another problem I have is with the asexual and aromantic representation, or lack thereof. I watched Run On” on Netflix and a secondary character is canonically ace. I thought that was pretty cool but then they meet their “true love” and they are “cured”. That’s not how it works but okay :confused:

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Also Color Rush had one the straightest gay kisses of all time and Strong Woman Do Bong Soon is lowkey homophobic and transphobic, just sayin.