A Relational Equality Bias: Women’s Narrative Engagement in Reading Chinese BL
Boys’ Love stories (BL) are a genre of male-male homosexual romance in China. The readers of BL typically are heterosexual young women. BL readers usually argue that they are fighting against traditional gender roles and at the same time promoting liberal social attitudes toward gay men. Some gay men and LGBT scholars criticize BL for reinforcing stereotypes. The current experiment assigned women participants to read either BL or heterosexual romances with identical plots and then self-report their reading experiences. Results suggest that women have a pro-BL bias, meaning they believe BL naturally depict more relationally equal romantic relationships than heterosexual romances. This bias leads to greater identification with characters and ultimately increases the narrative engagement with BL. These findings have important implications for understanding the effects of BL on stereotypical perceptions of gay men in Chinese society.