|Bishonen - beautiful boys|
The Japanese word ‘bishōnen’ (also 'bishounen') literally means beautiful boy and most often refers to a certain way of representing young male celebrities or fictional characters. Bishōnen are typically depicted as heroic and powerful while at the same time aesthetically beautiful and delicate in appearance (hence they transcend the typical gender characteristics). It is a mass phenomenon especially in East Asia – meaning that most young male celebrities or fictional heros have some bishōnen characteristics.
Here I want to look at the bishōnen phenomenon as a whole rather than just its appearance in East Asian culture and manga. I'll attempt to place it in the context of beauty and humanity in general.
Women love feminine boys
Its an undeniable fact that many women adore Bishōnen. Admiring the beauty and strength of the bishōnen is understandable but most of these women and girls are also physically attracted to these feminine boys - not just a little bit. Just look at some of the many forums on the topic and you'll see a majority of comments/posts from girls going crazy over their favourite pretty boy.
Why?Here are the currently popular explanations (unordered):
None of these explanations are good enough to account for the bishōnen love as a whole but, for most women, at least one of them is true.
Male Beauty vs Female Beauty
When a woman is exceptionally beautiful, then it is not only a blessing as you might think but it can also be a curse, to her as well as her surroundings. Jealousy (among other women) as well as sexual desirability (among men) can make her life more than just a little difficult. Most of all, female beauty is a very powerful force in society, one that can (and sometimes is) abused. Bottom line: female beauty is power and power always creates or attracts conflict. This is quite different with men and boys. There is no inherent sexual attraction in a feminine man or a pretty boy. It does not typically provoke jealousy from rivals, nor does it have remotely the power that beautiful women can have (unless a woman is naturally attracted to beautiful feminine men). So male beauty is an innocent beauty that exists in a world of its own - outside the usual human quarrels and never ending territorial conflicts.
This is why bishōnen are often associated with unearthly, unachievable beings - like angels and fairies in the west and the heroic manga characters in the east. They are a human ideal that represents the best of both masculine and feminine characteristics.