The Issues with the Concept of “Traps”

Recently, the terms “trap” and conversely “reverse trap” have come to the forefront of the anime community. A trap is “a boy who looks so convincingly like a female, that by the time you realize you have made a mistake, it’s already too late.” A reverse trap is the same concept but “a girl who looks very convincingly male.” While these character tropes have existed in anime for longer than these terms have been around, only somewhat recently have they gained substance and backing as a category. I want to discuss how inherently awful and degrading this “trap” idea is.

[Here is a commonly-known trap (Danganronpa SPOILERS) and reverse trap (Ouran High School Host Club SPOILERS) for reference]

As we read in the Lorber and Butler articles, sex and gender are not the same; sex refers to the category given to a person based on their biological characteristics, usually genitalia, while gender is a category focused on psychological identity that the individual chooses for themselves. The idea behind traps and trapping is that the person’s physical appearance and gendered behavior is equal to their sex assigned at birth. Since we have read last week’s articles, we know that sex does not equal gender, and even that gender does not equal physical appearance or gendered behavior since those are both performativities that do not necessarily have to equate to an identity.

Continuing, forcing the term “trap” onto characters is problematic for several reasons. This concept establishes the notion that there are only two options for people: male/man/masculine/has a penis, or female/woman/feminine/has a vagina. There is so much more than these two inaccurate catch-all categories, shown by the gender spectrum, intersex individuals, nonbinary individuals, and transgender individuals. Continuing this idea, “trap” is not an identity in the first place. Since it was created by others/society to characterize people in a way that they do not want to be characterized, it is degrading use it towards anyone. The use of the term trap in anime communities has led to a wide use of it as a slur to trans people who pass well. This derogatory nature of the term has led some individuals to try and reclaim the term “trap” just as the LGBT community has reclaimed the word “queer,” but this will be an arduous process.

tl;dr – please stop calling people and characters traps/reverse traps!!

I hope this was informational for everyone, and I’m definitely willing to discuss this further if anyone is interested.

One thought on “The Issues with the Concept of “Traps”

  1. Hi Arcadia,

    Thank you for this informative blog post– I was not familiar with the terms “trap” or “reverse trap” before I read your post. I also particularly appreciated your usage of links to provide more context. Just a few questions–why do you think it is popular to use this term in (I’m assuming) American anime communities? Does this usage extend to Japanese anime communities? Is this changing, or do you think that consumers will continue to employ these terms? I am also curious about how you might read movies of the 1990s such as The Crying Game and Boys Don’t Cry.

    Cheers,
    Amanda

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