A fun fact about Discord is that no matter what server you join, you would automatically be assumed as a male user. If you try to convince the members otherwise, you’d be labelled a predator living in your parents’ basement. Using ‘uwu’ as part of your vocabulary or having a female anime profile picture (pfp) won’t help your case either. In other instances, you’d be hit up with declarations like “then you’re definitely a femboy.” Heck, on some servers you’d even be banned for identifying as a ‘femboy’ alongside furries.
So what exactly is a femboy? Why do people on social media platforms like Discord either hate or fetishise them—with absolutely no in-between? Are they just feminine soft boys? Let’s set the record straight, once and for all.
Also known as ‘roseboy’ and ‘otokonoko’, a femboy is a young, cisgender male with feminine gender presentation. Typically under the age of 30, this person may present himself in a very feminine manner either part of the time or all of the time. According to Urban Dictionary, femboys are not to be confused with ladyboys: a term used to describe male to female transgender people in Asia, particularly in Thailand.
“Femboys are also different from cross-dressers,” a top entry on the platform goes on to read. “Despite being feminine, femboys do not necessarily wear clothing designed for females, but this is very common.” It is also important to note that being a femboy says nothing about one’s sexuality. One can identify anywhere on the spectrum and call themselves a femboy. In short, context is crucial before you start throwing the term around to label absolutely anyone in a skirt.
“Femboys are basically feminine men, just like there are feminine girls and masculine girls,” TikTok influencer Seann Altman told SCREENSHOT. “So when you use the word ‘feminine man’ to explain a femboy, it gives people a better idea that he’s just a boy—who’s also feminine.”
‘Femboy’ first emerged in the 1990s as a derogatory term for men who didn’t adhere to the traditional norms of masculinity. The term was synonymous with ‘sissy’ or ‘wimp’, until the internet picked it up and redefined it in a positive light. In 2001, femboys created their first online community called ‘Boi Fancy’, and today, the term is adopted as a self-descriptor for males who prefer a mix of feminine and masculine traits—complete with their own subreddits and Discord servers.
While there’s no particular accessory or clothing on the femboy must-have list, Amazon believes cat-eared hoodies, skater skirts, leather chokers and striped thigh-high socks are the way to go. Not to mention… maid outfits. A quick scroll through the results for ‘femboy’ on the e-commerce website will plop you into the frilly land of “Lolita maid costumes” with dedicated gloves, headwear and neck straps.
Initially popular among cosplayers, the outfit in question boomed in interest after it was trialed on Raymond, a popular Animal Crossing character. Since then, femboys on TikTok (close to two billion views and counting) have become synonymous with maid costumes, catering to an increasing fan base with demands along the lines of “bless us with some maid content, senpai!”
“As a feminine male, I dress more feminine. Sometimes I wear skirts or dresses and even put on makeup because it makes me feel good and it’s fun,” Altman admitted. “Sometimes I don’t feel like dressing up and I’m in my pyjamas all day, but that doesn’t make me any less of a feminine man.”
However, the influencer mentioned that labelling a person by their appearance is extremely problematic in itself. “The belief that heterosexuality is the ‘holy’ sexuality has impacted how we view gender now. You can’t tell what someone identifies by just looking at them. The only way to really know someone’s identity is to ask them personally.”
Though this entire section can be summarised by stating Rule 34 also known as ‘if it exists, there will be porn of it’, I’ll still go ahead and attempt to explain the problematic roots of femboy fetishisation.
PornHub introduced ‘femboy’ as a searchable category in 2013 surrounding a string of sexual fantasies relating to the term at the time. Fast forward nine years, the genre currently features slender, curvy and often cross-dressing men in leather—claiming to be “the ultimate cure to incels.” In fact, femboys are also popular on the platform’s ‘furry sex’ genre. Did I mention all the hentai based on the lifestyle preference?
Further fetishisation stems from the concept of ‘Femboy Hooters,’ a femboy rendition of the popular American restaurant chain, Hooters. Because who’d have guessed otherwise?
“Hooters but it’s staffed entirely by femboys” is all it took for a tweet to blow up the internet, leaving subreddits, Discord servers and a petition on change.org to “make dreams come true” in its wake. Femboy Hooters essentially fetishises scantily-clad feminine males staffing the restaurant chain, and just like everything else on the internet, Rule 34 applied—garnering it a genre of its own on PornHub.
“Everything is sexualised, what’s different about me?,” Altman said, highlighting how there’s a difference between being sexualised versus being fetishised. “Fetishisation is a power dynamic between the sex object and the consumer. The fetishiser seeks out a specific type of person to fulfil a fantasy they may have.” According to the California State University graduate, however, being fetishised to the point where a minority is specifically sought out for only sexual purposes is wrong.
“For example, there are a lot of forums on Reddit for femboys where some men go like ‘I would never be in a relationship with a femboy but I would have sex with one’. Even though the conversation is on the down-low, it’s wrong. We are all people and shouldn’t be treated like we are just objects of sex.”
Despite the negative ‘Fap or Trap’ connotations the lifestyle preference has been subjected to, femboys on TikTok have had a massive impact on the conversation based around toxic masculinity. “My advice would be to stop being afraid of yourself and literally be who you are because it is the most liberating thing to do,” Altman summed up. “Explore your feminine traits and explore your masculine ones too. We all have a little of both. No one has to fit into this box or societal standard of what it means to be a boy or a girl.”