Femboy

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A femboy

Femboy (/ˈfɛmbɔɪ/ ), also spelled femboi, is a slang term for a male or non-binary individual who expresses themselves with traditionally feminine behaviours. As an internet aesthetic, this may be through the use of jewellery, wearing feminine clothing and makeup, or expressing feminine behavioural qualities. Femboy can be used as both a sexual and non-sexual term; it does not denote a specific sexual orientation or gender role, but instead marks a form of gender variance.

The term originated in the 1990s. It has since been popularised through internet forums and social media like TikTok, where trends such as "#femboyfriday" have received attention in the media. In gender studies, the term has been used as an identifier for transgender individuals; in porn studies, the term has been seen as an identifier for a submissive role in intercourse, and as exhibiting elements of sexual fantasy.

Usage

Etymology

The term femboy originated in the 1990s and is a compound from the words fem (an abbreviation of feminine and femme) and boy.[1][2] The variant femboi uses the LGBT term boi,[1] which had come to denote "a young, attractive gay man" by 2000.[3]

Definitions

Femboy refers to a male or non-binary person using aesthetically and culturally female elements to express a more feminine side of the traditional male appearance;[4][5] Collins English Dictionary defines femboy as, "a male whose appearance and behavioural traits are regarded as conventionally feminine".[6] According to Dictionary.com, the variant femboi may refer to "softer" individuals, such as young trans men or butch lesbians.[1] Originally, the term was used as a pejorative against non-masculine men; it has since been reappropriated,[4] although it may still be used as a slur against trans women.[5] Femboy is a term of gender expression, and does not define the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual.[5]

Along with terms like sissy, femboy is not used in a purely pornographic sense – it may be used to refer to a male involved in non-sexual cross-dressing or in transvestic fetishism.[7] The label femboy is used on platforms such as Tumblr to signify a gay sex role similar to that of a female in Western culture; it is related to terms such as boywife and pussyboy in its usage to denote "self-identified effeminate androphilic males who exclusively seek to be penetrated by dominant, masculine men". Richard Vytniorgu argues that this sort of label "enables these bloggers to join together their sex-object choice and sex role in a form of subjectivity that others can identify with" and sees individuals using these labels as sharing a "bottom identity" with non-Western homosexuals.[8] Femboys have been fetishised, and femboy groups have been seen to be exclusionary in who they allow to participate, forming in-groups and out-groups.[9]

Attributes

F1NN5TER, a gender-fluid Twitch streamer, identified as a femboy at the time of this photo.

A 2022 analysis of the most followed male creators on TikTok identified the presence of typically feminine attributes, such as the use of hair dye and jewellery, as popular. The paper found that the platform's top creators were "quite homogeneous... almost exclusively white, toned, and young, with perfect or near perfect facial symmetry and considerable bodily adornment", seeing that the muscularity of femboys as differentiating them from the labels of effeminate or gay.[10]

A femboy may engage in cross-dressing[7] – garments associated with the femboy aesthetic include skirts, dresses, and knee-high socks.[4][11] Jules Joanne Gleeson identifies 4chan femboys as "[o]ften but not always assisted by HRT"; the idealisation of a feminine form with a flat chest leads to some attempting gender transition with treatments such as bicalutamide. The element of youth associated with femboys has raised questions over the longevity of femboy status; in relation to male-to-female transgender people identifying as femboys, being a femboy can be a way to avoid the medical difficulties of transition. Gleeson also proposes the existence of the femboy as a method to escape both internal and external transphobia, alongside "the unique stigma" experienced by transgender women. She sees the femboy as a "self-made effeminate phenomenon" opposing traditional medical practice surrounding gender transition, and as an example of "the erratic state of contemporary gender relations".[12]

Femboy is similar to the term shemale in that they both refer to individuals exhibiting masculinity and femininity simultaneously; they express femininity in a dainty manner without the presence of elements of the sexualised female body, such as large breasts. Emerald Vaught sees femboys as encompassing both effeminate cisgender men, but also, despite this lack of corporeal femininity, bottoming transgender women. In pornography, she sees the femboy as sharing the idea of a "youthful appearance" with twinks and as "represent[ing] an element of sexual fantasy" of transgender femininity.[7]

Presence

A proposed femboy pride flag

Femboy culture began to take shape in the United States in the 1990s. After the term was appropriated on the Internet, femboy communities began to form. Around 2018, the term femboy was found almost exclusively on 4chan, especially on the /lgbt/ forum. It later became popular on platforms such as Reddit and TikTok.[12][4] Reddit has hosted both sexual and non-sexual femboy content: r/feminineboys was started in 2012 and has two hundred fifty one thousand members by February 2024; the site also contains the pornographic r/FemBoys.[9][13] TikTok has been said to be a safe space in allowing freedom of gender expression.[14] The femboy aesthetic has been compared with figures popular culture such as Harry Styles;[10] viral trends such as "#FemboyFriday" and memes such as "Femboy Hooters" have helped to popularise the aesthetic.[4][13] An unofficial femboy pride flag exists, which uses seven horizontal stripes, with the colours pink, light pink, blue, and white: these represent the feminine aesthetic, feminine behaviour, masculinity, and non-binary identities respectively.[15]

According to Aye Lei Tun, femboy culture was present in Myanmar's Spring Revolution, protesting against the ruling military junta imposed after the 2021 coup d'état. In the protests, femboy outfits were used to gain exposure, with gender-nonconforming outfits being worn by non-femboy protestors; Tun sees the introduction of femboy culture, which was previously unfamiliar to Myanmar, as being a tactic to lead towards a "social and cultural ideological revolution".[16] A 2021 publication by the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute described femboy activity against the junta as causing "subversion of its assertion of rule", drawing comparison to opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War and the "make love, not war" slogan.[17]

Reception

The femboy aesthetic has been praised for "breaking traditional norms of masculinity" and seen as demonstrating that "oppressive gender norms are slowly breaking down"[4][14] – on TikTok, the aesthetic has enjoyed popularity, although creators of femboy-style posts may receive homophobic comments and violent threats.[14]

Critics have seen femboys as perpetuating male dominance and disregarding existing discourse on gender identity.[10][18] An article by Marissa Lee in Mission criticised straight femboys for "claim[ing] responsibility for breaking such boundaries": "do[ing] next to nothing for the conversation surrounding gender fluidity. If anything, it [the existence of femboys] emphasises the all-encompassing maleness."[18] The "femboy aesthetic" of the most popular content creators on TikTok has been called "reenforc[ing] extant patterns of gender inequality" due to the masculine boundaries it breaks relying on the sexualisation of women:[10]

When and if men cross gender boundaries, they do so while alluding to masculinities' hegemonic qualities, paring their behaviours with lyrics and physical gestures that sexualise women and re-assert men's virility, bravado, and strength as a form of heterosexual recuperation.

The alt-right have deemed the emergence of the femboy a result of the LGBT chemicals conspiracy theory, alongside "the existence of gender-morphing frogs"; figures such as Guillaume Faye have called the "effeminisation" of society an example of European societal decay.[19]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "What Is A "Femboy"?". Dictionary.com. 2021-01-26. Retrieved 2023-12-18.
  2. ^ "Fem". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  3. ^ Urquhart, Evan (2020-10-21). "Mad About the Boi". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2023-12-18.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Patston, Manning (2022-07-29). "Femboy is the TikTok trend shaking up gender norms". Happy Mag. Retrieved 2023-12-18.
  5. ^ a b c Cristalli, Beatrice (2021-01-07). "Parlare della fluidità di genere" [Talking about gender fluidity]. Treccani (in Italian). Retrieved 2023-12-18.
  6. ^ "Femboy". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 2023-12-18.
  7. ^ a b c Vaught, Emerald (2023-12-12). "Saturated femininities: trans women in porn beyond the shemale". Porn Studies: 11. doi:10.1080/23268743.2023.2267603. ISSN 2326-8743. S2CID 266298941.
  8. ^ Vytniorgu, Richard (2023-08-24). "Effeminate Gay Bottoms in the West: Narratives of Pussyboys and Boiwives on Tumblr". Journal of Homosexuality. 70 (10): 2124. doi:10.1080/00918369.2022.2048167. hdl:10871/129588. ISSN 0091-8369. PMID 35285776.
  9. ^ a b En, Boka; En, Michael; Griffiths, David (2013-08-08). "Gay Stuff and Guy Stuff: The Construction of Sexual Identities in Sidebars on Reddit". Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network. 6 (1): 11. doi:10.31165/nk.2013.61.293. ISSN 1755-9944.
  10. ^ a b c d Foster, Jordan; Baker, Jayne (July 2022). "Muscles, Makeup, and Femboys: Analyzing TikTok's "Radical" Masculinities". Social Media + Society. 8 (3). doi:10.1177/20563051221126040. ISSN 2056-3051.
  11. ^ Cidral, Mariáh (2020-09-15). "Femboys: o Movimento Que Vai das Semanas de Moda ao TikTok" [Femboys: the Movement That Goes From Fashion Weeks to TikTok]. FFW (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  12. ^ a b Gleeson, Jules Joannne (2018-02-03). "An Anatomy of the Soy Boy". New Socialist. Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  13. ^ a b Hills, Megan C. (2020-09-14). "Why #FemboyFriday is more than just a trend". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  14. ^ a b c Ran, Dani (2020-08-13). "Introducing the 'Femboys' Taking TikTok By Storm". Vice. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
  15. ^ (anonymous) (2022-06-25). "All about the Femboy Pride Flag". Queerty. Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  16. ^ Tun, Aye Lei (June 2023). "Deconstructing and Reinforcing Gender Norms and Cultural Taboos in Myanmar's Spring Revolution". Journal of Burma Studies. 27 (1): 39, 48–49. doi:10.1353/jbs.2023.0001. ISSN 2010-314X. S2CID 258307859.
  17. ^ Jordt, Ingrid; Than, Tharaphi; Ye Lin, Sue (2021). How Generation Z Galvanized a Revolutionary Movement Against Myanmar's 2021 Military Coup (PDF). Trends in Southeast Asia. ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. pp. 14–15.
  18. ^ a b Lee, Marissa. "The Gender-Fluid Femboy Phenomenon: What it All Means". Mission. Retrieved 2023-12-18.
  19. ^ del Campo, Felix (July 2023). "New Culture Wars: Tradwives, Bodybuilders and the Neoliberalism of the Far-Right". Critical Sociology. 49 (4–5): 689–706. doi:10.1177/08969205221109169. ISSN 0896-9205.

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