Chinese gay men pursuing online fame: erotic reputation and internet celebrity economies

Shuaishuai Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article examines Chinese gay men pursuing fame and money (gifts and payments made online) on livestreaming apps. In online discourse, such men have come to be known as wanghong (internet celebrity) or mingyuan (socialite). By performing their sexual desirability to viewers, Chinese gay streamers generate erotic reputations that mix attraction with stigma (promiscuity and perceived femininity in that they become financially dependent on viewers). These practices invite censorship, with homosexuality classified as pornographic, obscene, and vulgar content in state regulations enforced since 1988. Drawing on interviews with 13 gay men who livestream on two Chinese apps, Blued and Aloha, I investigate how gay streamers negotiate their online fame in the face of slut/feminine-shaming while seeking monetary rewards. Whereas some gay streamers attempt to downplay the stigma associated with online fame, others strategize stigmatized behavior, both to enhance their sexual desirability and to defy China’s heterosexual-patriarchal norms as articulated through sexual censorship. I argue that Blued and Aloha invest in the production of gay celebrities to make financial returns. Although such marketing activities perpetuate inequalities that favor gay men with erotic capital, it also provides a feasible pathway to gay visibility in China’s otherwise heavily censored cyberspace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-564
Number of pages17
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Volume20
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Censorship
  • China
  • gay
  • internet celebrity
  • livestreaming

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