Op-ed: Heteronormative culture means guys aren’t “supposed” to like boy bands. But gender shouldn’t dictate our interests

Beatrice Villaflor
  • Young men should feel free to enjoy K-pop groups like BTS and Monsta X, or groups like Backstreet Boys and One Direction
  • Social media has started to diminish the stigma, but there is still some way to go
Beatrice Villaflor |

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Boys aren't 'supposed' to like boy bands like BTS - but man bands are fine. Photo: AFP PHOTO / MTV

I’ll admit it. I love boy bands. From the Backstreet Boys to One Direction, I’m a fan. But I can’t help but feel sheepish when male friends grimace at my music taste.

It perplexes me how they could denounce the humble boy band, while praising acts such as Led Zeppelin and Queen – aren’t they technically “boy” bands, since they are comprised of male members?

It made me wonder, why do boys hate boy bands, and is it more than “bad music”?

According to the PBS documentary Origin of Everything, the boy band differs from a “man” band due to their factory-produced nature and tendency to create simpler songs based on romantic themes.

Boy band members usually do not write or compose the group’s songs. This could make the music feel less authentic for listeners who feel production is just as important as performance.

One simple answer as to why boys dislike boy bands is because people expect them to. Search for photos for any boy band and the word “fans”, and photos of screaming teenage girls are often the first ones to appear. “Fandom” culture often emphasises the consumption of boy band content by “boy-crazy” girls – alienating boys and men who do not want to appear “boy crazy” themselves.

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Heteronormative culture – that based on the idea that heterosexuality is the norm and that men and women have naturally different roles – also restricts men’s capability to enjoy “feminine” content, further contributing to the stigma that boy bands are for girls who do not appreciate “real music”, and that snubbing boy bands is the correct, “masculine” approach.

However, as marketing shifts from demographic-based decisions to trend-driven ones, it is important to recognise that some boys do like boy bands – and adult men and women do, too!

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This shift can be seen with the unparalleled rise of K-pop groups such as BTS, whose “Army” includes

both men and women. By furthering the trend-driven marketing of such bands, boys liking boy bands is more normalised than ever.

Social media also plays a huge part in diminishing the stigma of boys liking boy bands. Fans can now connect with each other from wherever they are in the world, allowing less represented fan groups – such as boys – to have a forum to gather and exchange ideas freely.

What should we, as consumers, do about the expansion of the boy band trend? I believe that we should wholeheartedly pursue our interests, regardless of what is expected of us in terms of gender, age or status. Don’t shy away from them; delight in them, no matter who you are.

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