Getting into trouble with “trap”

This isn't a post about Prunus Girl...unfortunately.

The Great Strike Witches Re-posting reminded me that, given some contexts, I have a fondness for the term “trap.”

Well and good? I don’t know. Every once in a great while I come across an expression of outrage at that term. “Trap,” say these commenters, is insensitive toward transgendered people, or at least dedicated transvestites.

Barring irreconcilable ridiculousness, I’m inclined to concede to offended parties. Whatever anyone’s intention, they were offended. Someone felt bad, and that’s bad, I guess. And I get the criticism. The term might imply that a man dressed as a woman (or a boy dressed as a girl, as is most often the case when we’re talking about moonstuff) is somehow out to catch heteronormative males in his web. Which…yeah. You can see the problem.

I’m going to ask for your help on this one, blogotrons. I know how I define “trap” — it is, in my mind, a trope present in anime and manga (et al.) that’s so far removed from reality that it has no real-world analogue, and thus doesn’t comment directly upon anyone’s experience. I wouldn’t call Shuichi Nitori from Houro Musuko a “trap;” he’s too plausible. He has problems. But Know Your Meme disagrees with my usage. Oh, and I’m a straight white male. Enfranchisement helps my material situation, but it means I’m not the best person to ask about these things.

Give me some definitions of “trap.” Whether you’re outraged at the term or you regularly encounter crossdressing shotas in your porn (or both?), tell me how traps make you feel.

Leave a comment


  1. A Day Without Me

     /  13 July 2012

    You’ve basically got it right, at least from my own perspective – although the term and the trope “trap” are problematic, it would be more troublesome to call a trap character “trans” because of the fact that a trap is a walking fetish. As you said, Nitori is not a trap… nor is, for example, the lead from OtoBoku a trans character.

    But then you run into characters which are in a greyer area, who tend to be presented as traps, but then get some more development, enough that it doesn’t seem entirely fair to call them a “trap”, even as it doesn’t seem quite accurate to cal them “trans”. And hell if I know how to talk about these characters properly!

    • Right, it seems somehow more insulting to talk about trap characters in the same terms we use for people in the real world. It’s problematic in a way, sure, but I don’t think the trap trope is dangerous. As long as we keep it separate from reality.

      I’m also at a loss as to how to deal with gray-area characters. Though I suppose every character is necessarily a simplification or facsimile of a person, however much they seem to reflect what we know.

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