Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - (Re)Shaping BL in Singapore: Mediating between State and Market

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

In Singapore, homosexuality remains illegal through section 377A of the penal code. Despite the government’s claim to not take a proactive approach in enforcing this law, the state cites conservative societal values as the cause for not repealing 377A. This stance has also been reflected in the state’s censorship of media related to homosexuality on several grounds. Yet, at the same time, with the growing demand for boys love (BL), a genre centered on the romance between men, there is an increasing number of fan artists who create BL art.
This paper provides an overview of the production of BL in Singapore, illustrating how artists produce their work under the influence of increasing demand for BL while keeping within the confines of the state’s restrictions on media related to homosexuality. Based on preliminary interviews conducted with five local artists and an event organizer, this paper illustrates a process of BL production in Singapore shaped both by what local artists imagine consumers want, and by what they assume they can get away with under the state’s regulation regarding homosexual media. Namely, without exacting definitions given by the censorship regulatory body — the Media Development Authority — these artists can only imagine what the boundaries of “acceptable art” is, and apply these imagined boundaries to their art. Thus, despite the government’s insistence on rejecting homosexuality as part of the body politic, it is playing a significant role, alongside fan desires, in the shaping of BL narratives in Singapore.

Aerin Lai

Ochanomizu University, Japan

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