A male idol becoming a girl? Nisu fans' sexual fantasy about male stars


  • Tingting Hu Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University
  • Chenchen Zou London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Erika Ningxin Wang King’s College London




China, Fandom, Female, Heterosexual, Subculture


The emergent movement of reverse Sue (Nisu) in China refers to the practice of (especially female) fans imagining themselves as having a strong male role to their idols' weak female role. In this process, female fans take on a powerful, active role to protect and look after their male idols in female form. Examining how Nisu fans interact with other types of fans and negotiate a mainstream gender discourse dominated by traditional heterosexual norms reveals how, as a burgeoning subcultural group, female Nisu fans express their subversive potential by seeking the power of an imaginary phallus to defy male hegemony. However, their internal divergence and self-contradiction might weaken this defiance.

Author Biographies

Tingting Hu, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University

Tingting Hu is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Media and Communication, Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University. Her research interest lies in the articulation of film, media and cultural studies with feminist theories, transmedia studies in various social and cultural contexts. Her recent publications appear in Media, Culture & Society, Television & New Media and Journal of Contemporary China.

Chenchen Zou, London School of Economics and Political Science

Chenchen Zou is working toward the MSc degree in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interests lie in fan culture, particularly in its relationship to media, public opinion, and gender. She is also studying the comparison and analysis of news discourses in the digital context.

Erika Ningxin Wang, King’s College London

Erika Ningxin Wang is a PhD candidate in Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London. Her doctoral project focuses on the contemporary development of fan culture in East Asia, especially the gender, power, and politics of fan communities. She is also active in studying media anthropology, audience and consumer, social media, platforms and governance. She used to be a visiting scholar at Taiwan Academia Sinica and has obtained an MSc in Social Anthropology at Oxford University and an MPhil in Global Creative Industries at Hong Kong University.