Problematizing heteronormativity: Performativity, resignification and A/B/O fiction in Chinese danmei literature

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The literary form of danmei, in which male‐male romance and/or erotica is portrayed, is a flourishing genre in China which has received significant attention from academia in recent years. This article focuses on a notorious subgenre of danmei, A/B/O fiction, which introduces three additional sexes, alpha, beta and omega, into mankind, alongside the male/female binary sex/gender system. By focusing on a popular but atypical example of this subgenre, this study aims to contribute to the understanding of how female danmei writers constantly question the hierarchical and heteronormative system in the A/B/O world and interrogate the fixed identities of gender, sexuality and class, by imagining love, sex and intimacy among male protagonists. Drawing on Judith Butler’s gender performative theory and resignification politics, this article suggests that the behaviour of the characters in these texts engenders reciprocal and equal relationships, reverses the various heteropatriarchal norms through the employment of technology, and questions the compulsory regulatory power embodied in the biological pheromone in A/B/O. Simultaneously, this study also identifies the notion of ‘love’ itself as a limiting factor of this genre of male‐male romantic and/or erotic writing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-254
Number of pages14
JournalEast Asian Journal of Popular Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


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