The internet can be quite deceiving at times. This is probably because most articles on Google were researched using Google—the essence of the topic eventually lost among citations. Femboys, for starters, are one of the latest misinterpreted ‘internet phenomenon’ and here at Screen Shot, we believe it is time to bust myths regarding their lifestyle.
As an attempt, we spoke to Seann Altman, a TikTok influencer famous for his fashionable shoots and transformational edits. Freshly graduated from CSUF in musical theatre, Altman was quick to find his place in the pandemic-hit fashion world with a support system he swears by. Amassing over 2.8 million likes to his credit, Altman admits to having grown up loving Hello Kitty and everything feminine to a point where he felt isolated among his male friends who talked girls and football. Fast-forwarding to a time which believes femboys are a new ‘phenomenon’, Altman pledges to set things right with the lifestyle, once and for all.
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A femboy is a feminine man—a person who identifies as a man and who has multiple feminine attributes that can be expressed in how he acts, dresses, and lives his life. There have been different thoughts about femboys on the internet. For example, when I say the words ‘femboy’ and ‘feminine man’, two different images pop up in your head. Femboys are basically feminine men, just like there are feminine girls and masculine girls. 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.
There is no specific way to visually identify a femboy just like there is no specific way to visually identify someone who is gay or straight. 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 is fun. Sometimes I don’t feel like dressing up and I’m in my pajamas all day, but that doesn’t make me any less of a feminine man. I have always been very feminine. I grew up playing with dolls and always playing with toys that were ‘made for girls’. Being feminine is a part of who I am and sometimes I express that feminine part of myself in the way I dress. But how I dress is not the only feminine attribute I have. I am just a feminine person. Just like how some girls are more feminine than others. You could say I am just more feminine than most men.
Trying to label someone by their appearance is extremely problematic in itself. Gender is a social construct that developed from western religion and countries that colonised societies where only two genders were permitted. The belief that heterosexuality is the ‘holy’ sexuality impacted how we view sexuality and gender now. You can’t tell what someone identifies as just by looking at them. The only way to really know someone’s identity is to ask them personally.
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Everything is sexualised, what’s different about me? Sex is all over the media. Look everywhere and you will see everyone being sexualised. Sex sells. That’s how the entertainment industry makes a lot of their money. I don’t see any negative connotation about ‘femboy Hooters’. If anything, it’s more positive because it’s being more inclusive of other communities of people. Why should ‘Hooters’ exist only to sexualise women? That is what is problematic. We are all allowed to be considered beautiful and sexual beings.
However, there is 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 fulfill a fantasy they may have. Being fetishised to the point where one 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. Sex is by human nature, natural, and people will have their personal preferences, but there is always a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
The existence of femboys is not some new phenomenon. Feminine men have always been around. In social media recently the femboy ‘idea’ has been appropriated by cis-gendered straight men when it originated in the LGBTQ+ community. For example, a lot of cishet men have been wearing skirts and dresses on TikTok and on social media to gain ‘clout’ and have received much praise. For gay and other queer folks, it is a lifestyle that endangers them when they live their truth in a world that does not accept them. This is not to say that cishet men cannot be feminine, but it is problematic to paint them as pioneers in a ‘movement’ when it was not invented for or by them in the first place.
They are not a ‘new rendition’ of masculinity either. There is masculine and feminine energy and then you can have a mix of the two. Toxic masculinity is a learned practice through patriarchal systems. It is upheld by heterosexuality and is ultimately tied to western religion and colonisation. Not one community is at the forefront of toxic masculinity either. The LGBTQ+ community, feminists among others have been trying to dismantle it for years.
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For the most part, I get a lot of positive feedback. Many people are kind and leave sweet comments expressing their support and love of my sense of style or my personality.
Some people are confused. They might ask “Why are you wearing a dress?” or “If you are a man why are you dressed like a girl?” And just to put it out there, it is okay to dress and express yourself however you want. There is no rule that says I can’t wear clothing generally made for women if I so choose, just because I identify as male. I also get some negative and hateful comments from homophobic people. These hate comments might try to force their religion on me and my life choices. Some comments are really mean and express their disgust and hatred of the way I choose to express myself.
I just brush off the hate I get online. Those who don’t like me can leave. I’m going to live my life the way I want. And to all my supporters, I appreciate you all so much. The positive comments and support I get from the media I post online really helps me block out the haters and encourages me to continue being myself and sharing it with the world.
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. 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. Being a feminine man is a part of who someone is. It is a lifestyle and it’s always been a part of me, but I wasn’t always able to fully express that feminine side of myself until more recently when I let go of my inhibitions. I felt entrapped by the social norms that were placed upon me and it wasn’t until I stopped caring about what other people thought of me that I grew into the person I am today.
I hate labels and ‘femboy’ is just another label for people to consume. But labels aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. It’s how society applies identity to people, places, and pretty much everything. So I identify as a gay man who dresses feminine, that’s it. If that means I am a femboy then so be it. Just be yourself and dress however you want without worrying about anyone else but yourself.
This myth-busting session with Altman truly has been an enriching one. What we thought we knew about the lifestyle from the internet is far from reality. And as Altman believes, labels aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. So let’s know everything there is about one and use it in the right context, starting now.
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.”