The Complexity of Yaoi (the good and the bad)

So yesterday Star covered the very important and very lovely topic of Yuri. But today, today it’s all about something I love and have lots of thoughts about—Yaoi. The forbidden boys love genre whose fanbase is LOUD. And I mean really, really loud. But yaoi, to me is both a enjoyable, but complicated, genre…that a lot of pretty boys. Like a lot a lot of pretty boys.

Now first off let’s start at the beginning with what is yaoi? Well, its basically a boys love with or without hentai involved. The stories are normally aimed at women, mainly older women, and they are usually filled with absolute eye candy of characters—the pretty boys. There are, naturally, other subgenres within the broad category of yaoi and these range from bara to omegaverse to everything in between. But regardless of how many flavors it comes in, I mostly want to talk about the content. The stories found in BL and yaoi…are actually some of the most dramatic and unique as I’ve seen—and they are just as good as any shoujo out there. Sometimes their romance plot lines are even better.

I feel like yaoi gets a bad rep for being a fanservice genre that’s more kink than substance and while I can’t deny that a portion of the yaoi genre fits the bill, I often find myself drawn to stories that hold emotional significance. For example, one of my favorite Yaoi’s of all time is “I can hear the sunspot” which is about a near deaf boy who meets another boy that he can actually hear and understand and they fall in love. It’s a slow burn, focusing at first on their relationships as friends before blooming into something more. It’s a story that, if told with a hetero-normal couple, might be pretty epic. It’s also a yaoi that doesn’t necessarily include sex in it—the most it depicts is kissing. It, along with other titles like Given, or Doukyuusei, are labeled as yaoi/boys love but they depict nothing more scandalous than a josei or ecchi. And these are just some examples of great storytelling that tend to focus more on the central relationship than getting their characters naked. Of course, there are some yaoi that are much more scandalous but still tell heartwarming, heartbreaking, or emotionally moving stories and use the story itself as an anchor, and the actual sex as an afterthought. Examples of this include the classic movie titled simply Boys Love, Hitorijime my Hero, and Only the Flowers Knows. There are honestly just so many titles that prove yaoi is more than just whose top and whose bottom and that the genre of yaoi can provide stories that are captivating and soft.

But naturally, for every coin there are two sides. While there are a lot of yaoi out there who don’t fall into tropes, there are just as many that do. And while many find these tropes “hot” or “exciting”…they can also be very troubling. Take, for instance, the all goo common theme of a predatory love interest. And what I mean by this is that at the start only one of the romantic interests are gay. They then “turn” the other or have them have a sexual awakening. In a way, this kind of storyline almost has basis in homophobia. Which is…not the best. Take for example the classic The Tyrant Falls in love. This manga is EXTREMELY troublesome for its depiction of the two main characters relationship at the start but also fairly popular. I also find more often than not, yaoi is much more violent than other romance genres and depicts sexual violence towards men as well as more extreme and kink forms of love like BDSM, hate/love relationships, incest, omegaverse, and so many more that I won’t name and it’s this part of the yaoi fandom that is the loudest, which is why I think the entire genre gets a pretty bad rep. Instead of people shouting to normies how amazing The Stranger by the Beach or Goshujin-sama to Kedama is, we hear about popular series popping up like Yarichin Bitch Club, Killing Stalking, Caste Heaven, or Papa to Kiss in the Dark. Not exactly the best representations of the genre as a whole…but I get it. I do want to make it clear that this increased violence in the genre doesn’t necessarily make these stories bad, they just make them more extreme and a little harder to get on board with.

Yaoi itself…is just a genre of romance. Nothing really more and nothing really less. I think when you compare it to Yuri, it is certainly the ‘darker’ side of fandom, as I often find Yuri to be sweet. Yaoi is complicated, a little crazy, just as sweet, but also dark, and occasionally a little spicier. Both genres have their merits, and just like regular shoujo (or hentai for that matter I guess), they consist of many subgenres that make them up as a whole.

So basically, next time you read that something is a yaoi. Don’t fully dismiss it. There was a time in my youth that I would’ve said “HELL NO” to reading a yaoi. But then look what happened. I watched a sweet and dramatic one, and then one day became leader of a yaoi fan guild on Gaia (please don’t follow my example).

Thanks for listening to my Ted Talk (I’m going to start calling these Weeb Talks). What are your thoughts on Yaoi? Love it? Hate it? Never thought about it twice? I’d love to hear your views in the comments below.

Stay Weebstastic!

xoxo

Luna

P. S. “one guild, under other guys, fluff or hard-core, with no judgment and acceptance for all.”