Under enormous discrimination and marginalisation from heteronormativity-dominated Confucian society, Chinese gay men heavily depend on digital space as a safe social space, where heteronormativity, hierarchy, and exclusion have not been erased but replicated and even enhanced, and among these, the intragroup discrimination on queer dating platform is a prominent issue.
Though there is abundant research on this issue, however, the reasons behind different strengths and frequencies of discrimination are still underexplored. This study manages to fill in this gap by comparing discriminative expressions in user profiles of two gay dating sites in China, Blued and Douban Group, via the theoretical framework of the sexual field and dramaturgy. Specifically, I sought to explore how the preconfigured attributes and marketing strategies of Blued and Douban Group contribute to various kinds of hierarchies and inequalities, so that certain types of intragroup discriminations in different frequencies are to be mitigated, reproduced, or amplified. Starting with quantitative content analysis, I first identified the existence of differences in intragroup discrimination between these two sites, and then using digital ethnography and in-depth interviews, I established a push-pull framework to account for the reasons. Specifically, the attributes and marketing promotion of Blued, overwhelmingly put emphasis on sexual capital with hegemonic masculinity as the dominant currency, which leads to a rigid structure of desire, where discrimination would occur more harshly without many constraints. And given the huge heterogeneity of its users and the pre-set feature of real-time interaction, people would use discriminative expressions more frequently as a “converse filtering”.
Zihao Zhou, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong