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Pistilverse (피스틸버스) is a trope popular in South Korean fandoms, wherein humans are divided in groups with botanic-inspired names according to the sexual characteristics assigned to them during puberty. Its creation is credited to Naver blogger lee, and the earliest references to it online are dated to 2014.
In 2016, it rose in popularity thanks to a number of fanworks created in BTS fandom, and has spread to other K-pop fandoms, even making an appearance in some commercial works. Fans have added to Pistilverse lore with additional worldbuilding, tropes and headcanons as its popularity has spread.
Pistilverse was created by Naver user "lee" (username "ywtvxq93") as early as 29 August 2014: this is the date when the earliest reference to it was posted online (more specifically on Twitter). The OP links this Naver blog post by lee as their source, like other users do in the same period. While lee's original post has been deleted, it was reposted here with their permission; the reposter states "I think it's a worldview the blogger [lee] created themselves".
The earliest reference found by Naver is this question dated 9 October 2014 where a user says, "I know a bit about omegaverse, pistilverse, nameverse, sentinelverse, puppetverse and pistolverse, but if you know any other worldviews, please explain!". The earliest reference found by Google Search is this Tistory post by Mellow Summer dated 22 October 2014, titled "I want to see Pistilverse" and centered on HongNKen, the pairing of Hongbin, N and Ken of K-Pop group VIXX. Mellow Summer writes:
Venom Stamen Hongbin, Pistil Hakyeon [N], and Anti Stamen Jaehwan [Ken]. I want to see Pistilverse as HongNKen..... Someone please write it for me..... ㅠㅅㅠ But if you put flowers on Hakyeon's long neck like that in the photo, it would be very sexy...ㅎㅁㅎ♥
Ever since 2016, the trope has been popular in the Korean BTS fandom, with several stories posted on Twitter, Naver and Tistory. It also reached other K-Pop fandoms, as well as commercial works, like the 2019 BL webnovel Toxic Herbs: Engraving (독초: 아로새기다) by Yoon Ah-ryun. Moonlight Garden (월야화원), an F/F 2017 webtoon by Kang Unnie, seems partially indebted to pistilverse, despite not using its terminology.
Summarized explanations of pistilverse in English can be found in the end notes of Garden Of Loneliness, Archived version by JamlessGenius and Be Your Flower, Archived version by ninamonday, while a comprehensive overview (in Korean) was given in one of the earliest references to pistilverse, this primer on tropes on Naver, dated 2 November 2014. The one that follows is the pistilverse worldview as it was conceived by its creator, lee.
In this universe, humans are born as Calyxes and they live as such until their menarche (first menstrual cycle) or first nocturnal emission (wet dream). Afterwards, they will "awake" and turn into a Pistil, signalled by a mark similar to a tattoo. The mark looks like a barren tree, branch or vine on their back, growing along the spine, from the tailbone up to the shoulder blade. There are slight differences in color from person to person, but they are mainly auburn and chestnut. The tree takes about 15 days to grow, and the process is called "awakening". During this process, some experience pain, and there is a rare chance that they die without being able to complete it. About 30% of Calyxes experience an abnormal awakening and turn into Stamens, while some adults never awake and stay as Calyxes until their death.
A Stamen's mark is a specific flower, and once a Stamen and a Pistil sleep together, the Stamen's flower blooms on the Pistil's tree like a permanent tattoo. The number of flowers is proportional to that of the Stamens they had sex with, and they can have more flowers of the same type if they had sex with Stamens carrying the same flower mark. Pistils with flowers of different colors on their backs are treated like prostitutes. A Pistil whose back is so full that there's no more room for flowers will experience a "second awakening" that lasts five days or more: during this period, tree branches will appear on their hips, shoulders, and arms, allowing more flowers to bloom on their bodies. In the rare cases when flowers cover the entire skin, including the face and genitals, they will wither one by one, ultimately leading to the Pistil's death.
Pistils can bear children when they receive a Stamen's seed, and some Stamens (called Pistil+Stamens) can conceive from another Stamen as well.
About 4% of Stamens have poison and are called Venom Stamens; accordingly, their mark is a poisonous plant like poppies and marianne. They can communicate venom to a Pistil during sex, "bonding" with them. "Bonding" prevents Pistils from forming a relationship with a different Stamen forever. If they break this rule and sleep with another Stamen, poison spreads through their blood vessels and Pistils die of poisoning within 3 days. Stamens who have sex with a bonded Pistil will also die of poisoning.
While Stamens tend to be superior, this doesn't mean that Pistils are considered inferior, because the two share traits and Stamens could also be considered a sub-group of Pistils.
The following pistilverse elements aren't included in lee's original post, but are mentioned in later pistilverse sources. They could possibly be variations and additions that emerged as the genre spread through fandoms.
- Anti Stamens (about 1% of total Stamens) have the mark of a scentless flower and can "cure" the venom both in Pistils and in Venom Stamens, turning the latter ones into regular Stamens. Anti Stamens are listed as part of pistilverse as early as 22 October 2014.
- Stamens usually smell like flowers, while in some settings, Pistils are odorless and spray perfume so that Stamens don't detect them.
- A 2015 source has expanded on Pistilverse bedroom dynamics, stating that Pistils will receive their Stamen partner's flower mark only when they bottom; accordingly, nothing happens when two Pistils sleep together, or when a Pistil tops and a Stamen bottoms. Moreover, a bottom Stamen will receive the flower mark from the top Stamen on their back when two Stamens have sex.
- An explanation to Calyxes' missed awakening as Pistils could be the fear of bonding with a Venon Stamen.
Depending on the fic and the author's worldbuilding choices, there might be different physical consequences of marks, venom, or anti-venom. Many pistilverse fics explore the medicalization of sex or other social consequences of sex.
- Some users added to Venom Stamens' lore. One suggested that bonding is a Venom Stamen's choice, and that sometimes their poisonous marks disguise as ordinary flowers, so Venom Stamens may not know they aren't regular Stamens until they have sex. Another added that, when Venom Stamens die, the bond with their Pistils is broken and the effect of the toxin disappears, but the flower already engraved stays.
- Elaborating on pregnancies, Naver user Nuneo (youngi2360) stated that Pistils have a 24-hour-long fertile period once every two months, signalled by green leaves appearing on their branch. If they have sex that day, the chance of pregnancy is 100%, and the flowers they'll receive will be 1.5 times larger than usual and more vivid in color. The leaves will disappear the next day.
"I will bloom in the deepest part of you." --Joara's tagline for Pistilverse
On December 28, 2022, there were 18 pistilverse fan fictions on AO3, 10 of which are in the BTS fandom, and half of them had been posted in 2022.
- Effloresce, Archived version by neurxtic: The earliest pistilverse work (and possibly the first one in English) hosted on Archive of Our Own (dated 25 April 2015 and cross-posted on AsianFanFics). It's a work of real person fiction centered on the pairing of Jin (Kim Seokjin) and V (Kim Taehyung) of the K-Pop group BTS.
- Carve Your Flower On My Skin, Archived version by LapisLazuli13 is the earliest example of a Pistilverse AU featuring a non-Korean fandom on the Ao3 (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, 2018 - ?)
- Thornbush (가시 덤불) by Offer (in Korean): A BTS fanfiction posted on Naver Blog since 2019 that introduces three further, very rare classes: Dominant Stamens, Recessive Stamens and Anti Pistils. Dominant Stamens are results of the "second awakening" of Stamens and account for 0.99% of the Stamens population, but there's only a 0.19% chance to survive the awakening; they're poisonous, but their toxicity depends on their feelings: negative emotions increase it, while positive emotions decrease it. Recessive Stamens are also results of the "second awakening" of Stamens, but their percentage is lower (0.01%); they leave faint flower marks that get erased by regular Stamens' marks. Anti Pistils (0.1% of Pistils) can cure the venom both in Venom Stamens and Dominant Stamens, turning them into regular Stamens.
- art by hgowff on tumblr, Archived version Artist's comment: 'When I’m not feeling great about my art I revert to semi-realism. Timeskip Hinata + pistilverse, have fun figuring out what the flowers are and who they belong to.' (November 20, 2021)
- My Own PistilVerse [2022 edition], Archived version by LapisLazuli13 (first uploaded 2018, revised version 2022)
- ^ Halfmoon00. 피스틸버스 세계관, posted to Tistory on 3 January 2016. (Accessed on 13 April 2022.)
- ^ Mellow Summer. 피스틸버스 보고싶다, posted to Tistory on 22 October 2014. (Accessed on 24 July 2022.)
- ^ 동인 세계관 - 피스틸버스, Namuwiki, last edited 3 April 2022. (Accessed on 14 April 2022.)
- ^ Anisarangv. Pistilverse, posted to Tistory on 26 September 2015. (Accessed 13 April 2022.)
- ^ a b Joara. (조아라, 당신이 몰랐던 세계) '피스틸버스' : 화려한 꽃들의 전쟁, posted to Naver on 21 January 2016. (Accessed on 13 April 2022.)
- ^ ㅇㅇ, ㅈㅇㅁㅇ ㅃ하게 피스틸버스로 우시오이 bgsd, posted to DC Inside on 3 October 2014. (Accessed on 4 January 2023.)
- ^ Bbyo, 달성표 08. 오이이와 조각 (피스틸버스 au), posted to Tistory on 25 September 2014. (Accessed on 4 January 2023)
- ^ Nuneo, [세준/세훈준면] 피스틸버스 썰 A, posted to Naver on 14 December 2014. (Accessed on 4 January 2023.)
- ^ There are 18 pistilverse fics on AO3 now (10 in the BTS fandom😂), and half of them were posted in 2022. So happy to see its growth., Archived version
- ^ Please note that in their explanation, Offer asks not to use their headcanon without permission.
- ^ See also: Alternate Universe - Pistil Stamen and Pistil/Stamen/Calyx AU. A couple more results can be found searching for "pistil" in the tags: results.