More Bottoms than Tops? Transmediated Sexual Roles and Masculinity Assemblage in Chinese Gay Communities

Benson Zhou, CSCC Postdoctoral Fellow

12:30pm - 1:45pm | CSCC Conference Room, 133 S. 36th St, Room 418

This talk addresses the production, circulation, and implications of the discourse “there are more 0s (bottoms) than 1s (tops)” in gay communities. It explores why many Chinese gay men perceive it as a “sexual truth.” Based on ethnographic research from 2017 to 2021, my findings demonstrate that gay men do not simply follow the sexual scripts of media representations to fixate on a sexual role; instead, their sexual roles are dispersed and episodic, destabilizing this seemingly statistical statement as truth. This study shows that this popular discourse is produced by the higher threshold to qualify as a 1 than a 0, which the author conceptualizes as integrated masculinity and fractional masculinity respectively. One must meet a series of masculine norms to develop integrated masculinity, which prevents many men from self-identifying as a 1. More importantly, this discourse is generated in mediated interactions, as many gay men are denied the identity of a 1, regardless of how they self-identify. In addition, the proliferation of this popular discourse across social media platforms results in a hierarchy of men’s desirability, reflecting ubiquitous masculine anxiety, as well as effeminophobia, in Chinese gay communities.

This event will be held on-site in the CSCC conference room, but with a Zoom option.

To attend in person, please use this link to RSVP for this event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/more-bottoms-than-tops-tickets-329908002717

You must be a Penn Card holder. Please indicate in the RSVP link that you plan to attend in person. Under the university’s current COVID-19 protocols, we must limit on-site attendance at our events to Penn card holders and, to comply with contact-tracing requirements, we must have a record of who attends our in-person events. Therefore, we are asking that you RSVP is you plan to attend in person. If you do not RSVP and still wish to attend, you are still welcome to show up, but will need to sign in on arrival. Although social distancing is not required under current university rules, we will be limiting the number of people in our conference room to somewhat less than our past highest turnout events.

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