At the end of January, the futekiya team published our third Community Survey about how readers use (or don’t use!) the terms “seme” and “uke.” We also asked readers how important “seme” and “uke” roles are and how these views change depending on the type of Boys’ Love (BL) content.
The English equivalents of “seme” and “uke” is “top” and “bottom,” respectively, and often used when discussing couple dynamics.
While in Japan these words have a history and meaning, we wanted to see how BL fans around the world use “seme” and “uke.” Our goal as always is to understand and start a respectful conversation about BL culture outside of Japan. To ensure respondents had a chance to voice their opinions, we welcomed written responses and have included some of these submissions in this report.
Where do you currently reside?
We received 234 responses from 38 different countries. Our team categorized the countries in the chart below by United Nations geographic divisions. Almost half of the respondents at 49.1% reside in Northern America with the second largest population of 10.3% residing in Southeastern Asia. Respondents in Western Asia account for less than 1% of the population.
What is your age?
A little less than half of our respondents are between the ages of 18 to 24 years old. The number of respondents per age bracket consecutively decreases as the age bracket increases. Those aged 18 to 30 years old are almost 80% of the population and those 31 years and up constitute the remaining 20%.
Do you know what “seme” and “uke” mean?
We asked whether respondents knew the meanings of the terms “seme” and “uke.” 97.9% responded “Yes” while 2.1% of users said “No.”
Do you use the term “seme”?
We proceeded to ask whether respondents used the term “seme.” We first asked the use of the term when talking about original Boys’ Love (BL) manga, which excludes fan works, fan art, fan fiction, etc. Then, we asked the same question but in regards to fan works, fan art, fan fiction, etc.
Comparing the results, we find that over half of the respondents are more inclined to use the term “seme” when talking about original BL manga but not so much when discussing fan works. Several responses were somewhere in between and were categorized as “Sometimes” and “It depends.”
Some explained that it depends on the language and only say “seme” when using Japanese. Another factor was whether the other person was familiar with the term. Many respondents explained that they used different terms such as “top” or “tachi.” The N/As were those that answered that they do not know the meaning of “seme” and “uke” in the previous question.
Do you use the term “uke”?
The next question asked whether the respondents use the term “uke,” again separated by the type of content – fan works or original BL manga.
As explained in the previous question, the N/As are respondents that answered that they do not know what the terms “seme” and “uke” mean. All N/As in the following questions are the same.
The pattern is the same as the previous question; over half of the respondents use the term “uke” when talking about original BL manga but not as much when talking about fan works.
Those who responded “It depends” listed similar reasons as with the use of the term “seme” and some respondents explained that they use different terms like “bottom” or “neko.”
Is the existence of a set and unchanging “seme” and “uke” in a story important for you?
In this question, we asked whether it was important to have unchanging “seme” and “uke” characters in fanworks and in original BL manga.
Almost 80% of respondents said “No” in each type. However, as some users pointed out, preferences for fan works are more fixed. Therefore, perhaps the existence of these roles may partially influence the choice of which fan works to read. Although we cannot say for sure whether deciding factors differ based on the type of content, our findings show that 17.9% of respondents find the existence of unchanging roles important in fan works whereas 14.5% of respondents said the same for original BL manga.
On the other hand, it was expressed that the existence of these roles in the first place is unnecessary. It limits character development and runs the risk of resulting in a relationship that lacks depth.
On a final note, we would like to mention that we now understand your affinity for switch couples and switch characters. 🙂
What do you think?
What do you think of these responses? What do you think of the terms “seme” and “uke? Is it necessary to define these roles and can they ever change? Those who want to elaborate on their response or those who did not get the chance to fill out the survey, let us know what you think on Twitter!
We will be back soon with another Community Survey. In the meantime, be sure to swing by the futekiya Library if you want to read BL manga and support artists!
About futekiya: BL manga subscription
In 2018, futekiya began as a Boys’ Love manga news and culture website operated by FANTASISTA, INC., a CG/VR production studio based in Tokyo, Japan. futekiya transformed into a budding global distributor of officially licensed BL manga in 2019.
futekiya launched as an online subscription service for officially licensed BL manga on July 8, 2019. Determined to connect fans around the world with English-translated BL legally and conveniently, futekiya empowers readers to support creators and the manga industry.
Readers who subscribe to futekiya and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. To subscribe, please go to read.futekiya.com and create an account. More information is in our guide.