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June 1, 2011
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(Contains: sexual themes)
Warning: I talk explicitly about sex in this article.  I assume that if you're old enough to deal with yaoi, you're old enough to deal with talking about the acts that happen in them.  If you don't feel comfortable with that, now's your chance to go.

Yaoi is a genre that many people can enjoy for various reasons.  However, there is one thing about the genre that I think some people don't realize: it's fantasy.  It's not real.  It does not reflect real life or real relationships any more than superheroes reflect real physics, and furthermore, it's not meant to.

Yaoi can be fun, but reading it as an instruction manual on men who have sex with men, or how relationships between them can work, is about as fruitful as reading steampunk to learn about history.  Some of you may already know that.  Great!  You can go read something else.  For those of you who perhaps are less aware of the differences, here are a few lessons.


1. Uke and seme are not roles set in stone.

A lot of yaoi has very clearly delineated rules of semes and ukes.  The uke tends to be smaller, slighter, younger, more innocent or oblivious, and he also tends to be the one getting the penis stuck in him.  The seme is larger, more aggressive, less emotive, and tends to be the one sticking the penis into something.

Some people may enjoy playing seme and uke roles in real-life, but many don't.  If you think about it, it's actually pretty messed up to assume something as basic as appearance says something about your masculinity, your personality, and your sexual preferences.  Height is just genetics and good nutrition; it doesn't say anything else about a person.


2. Rape should be left purely as a fantasy.

Don't ever assume that the kind of behavior that occurs in yaoi is okay in real life.  When you grab someone who is sobbing, screaming, "No, no!  Stop!" and have sex with them when it hasn't been carefully negotiated first, that's rape.

Rape or resistance fantasies can be played out safely for the fun of all players, but it involves an immense amount of trust, clear communication, and a way to bring everything to a halt before someone gets hurt.  A lot of yaoi doesn't depict that kind of relationship.  There is no communication over what's okay and what's not, the uke doesn't really have any way to communicate the difference between, "I am resisting and I want this" and "I am resisting and I don't want this," and as long as everyone comes in the end, it's portrayed as okay.

It's not.  Erections and orgasms don't equal consent; a penis is not a rational entity capable of making decisions.  People have to actually talk about it first and discuss what they are and aren't okay with.

Men have a reputation for being less communicative, but they are more than capable of sitting down and having an honest conversation about their preferences and limits in sex.


3. There are more kinds of sex than anal sex.

Yaoi is far from the only genre that assumes penetrative sex is the only "real" sex, but it's an obnoxious myth anyway.  People have sex in all kinds of different ways, and queer men are no exception.  Anal sex isn't the be-all, end-all of the universe.  Some people love it, some people don't care for it, some people wouldn't do it if you paid them.

And that's okay.  No form of sex is intrinsically better or more pleasurable than any other kind.


4. Sticking your dick in someone doesn't make you a Manly Man, or the Boss.

In a similar vein, if you do enjoy anal sex, it means jack all about gender role or how dominating or submissive you are.  There are feminine women who like wearing strap-ons and using them on their happy macho boyfriends.  There are people of all sorts of genders and gender expressions who like having sex their own special way.

On its own, sex is just an act; it's the people performing it who make it dominant or submissive, feminine or masculine.  There are people who can be tied up, spanked, and still be completely, utterly the boss of everyone and everything.  It's in the personality, not the parts.


5. Men are individuals.

This one might seem obvious.  Of course men are individuals, right?  It's not like they're all Manclones of the Manborg or something!

However, a lot of people will get caught up in whether Character X acts like "a man," and not whether he's actually acting like Character X!  For some men, it's totally normal to cry easily; for others, it's not.  Some men enjoy talking about their feelings; some would rather eat lava.  People have far more differences as individuals as they do as genders.

So worry less about whether a character is properly "manly" or "yaoi" or not, and more about whether the character is consistent or not.


Yaoi can be something enjoyed by people of all genders and sexual orientations, but it's best to be mindful of what it portrays, and what it actually means.  Think about yaoi and what it means for you, and also what it means to other people.
I can't believe I had to write this. Next thing you know, I'll be writing about how to be kinky safely and happily.

Ro told me this might be against DA's policy, but come on, people. If you're old enough to read comics about pretty boys raping each other, you're old enough to read how to actually play safe.

--Mac
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:iconpeteysforest:
PeteysForest Featured By Owner Edited Nov 25, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well, while I agree wholly with this post, I will probably always love yaoi :clap: there are always those few I come across that really hit home--no rape, but mutual sex (if that's where we're going here), their distresses concerning sexual orientation expressed clearly throughout the book, even wonderful plots that keep the pages turning! I'm glad that you don't bash yaoi as a whole in this post, but instead aim to distinguish it from reality. I really hate generalizations, and to say all yaoi is rape, that all of it is cold-hearted, is very very untrue. I've read enough of it in my day to say so. But thank you :clap: you were very true in this post.
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:iconendlessvox:
EndlessVox Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2011
True, violent yaoi and rape yaoi always made me feel REALLY sad/uncomfortable. I prefer Shonen-Ai and Barra to yaoi. It should also be noted that yaoi is written by straight females for straight females (sort of like lesbian sex scenes written by straight men without ANY idea about actual lesbianism works specificaly for male viewers.).
And barra is written by gay men for gay men, it's usually pretty erotic/sexualy explicit. But it's more close to reality and some can give some good insight as to what it's actually like to be a gay man in Japan.
I'm unsure if there's a female equivalent to barra, or if it's been swept under the yuri title without much thought.
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:iconcereus-cactus:
cereus-cactus Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2013
Josei is a word that is used to refer to manga written for young adult women (or sometimes adult women in general). I've found that Yuri that is also called Josei is often more realistic about lesbian relationships. This is a generalization though, but it might help you search.
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:iconmeeresbande:
Meeresbande Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2011
The first time I ever read Manga (I was quite young) I had a hard time understanding what was going on because I was just not used to this art style, everything was black and white and all the characters looked the same. Then one boy/young man rapes another, apparantly because he loves him so much. I was like "You're not serious about this, are you?!" and kept on reading just because I did not want to believe that they would continue throughout the books (it was a series) to show his behaviour as understandable and somehow right. It was so clear to me that that was rape and it was just so disturbing to see it depicted as acceptable or even in some warped way necessary because otherwise the uke would never have entered a sexual relationship with the rapist and that would have been a bad thing. Of course he forgives him and is incapable of managing his own life and relationships and "needs" the rapist. At some point I realized that it was just getting more disturbing instead of less and I stopped reading it. I had been so sure that they would make it clear at some point that rape is not OK. Silly me.
I never read any manga after that. And by this rant you can probably tell that even after years I am still disturbed and upset about it.
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:iconbaaingtree:
BaaingTree Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2011
Despite my many complaints about yaoi, please don't discount an entire country's worth of comics because of the creepy conventions (which are also sometimes subverted by their creators) of one sub-genre. There are many brilliant masterpieces that have come from Japanese manga, and the output is actually much more varied than USA comics.

--Rogan, who knows way too much about comics in general
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:iconmeeresbande:
Meeresbande Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2013
Sorry for the late, late reply!
And also, you're totally right, we shouldn't do that. We try not to. We've gotten better, I hope.
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:iconandgreenmyo-os:
andgreenmyo-os Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2011
Very well said. Honestly, I've pretty much stopped reading yaoi, because I got so sick of the unrealistic premises... now I mostly just flip through them for the art. As someone who not only is gay, but who is a long-time lover of quality queer lit, I just can't stand it. ESPECIALLY the rape, since it seemed no story I read was complete without some really random non-con.

One I remember really pissing me off (which had a title I've now forgotten) had some sexy bearded seme, and your standard uke. Well, I like me some beard, so I was all down for that. Then randomly the uke gets raped by some creepy guy who was like, stalking him or trying to get revenge on something, and his reaction is to not only forgive the guy WHILE HE'S BEING RAPED, but also to make him his royal advisor or something because he thinks the rapist needs some kind of confidence boost. I was stunned. And I'm a guy who's all for trying to work through/accept/eventually be at peace with tragic/disturbing events in life. I have had friends and relatives with PTSD, though, and it isn't something that goes away in a second. The idea that on one page he's crying and begging for it to stop, and then on the next page, is like 'Oh I see why you're doing this... you're emotionally insecure. Well that makes it ok them.,' sets up ridiculous expectations to anyone who's ever gone through anything that emotionally and physically violating. It wasn't entertaining, it sure as feck wasn't necessary to the plot, since it was just thrown in. I stopped reading then and there, and haven't been able to enjoy the genre the same way since.

Wow. I'm rant-y and bitter today, apparently. :/ Sorry 'bout that. I feel sheepish. >.>'

tldr, I love this piece of writing. Thanks for so clearly pointing out why it's not like real life.

Cheers,
- Siegfried
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:iconbaaingtree:
BaaingTree Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2011
Yaoi is generally not my thing; Mir reads a bit of it every once in a while. In my case, the rape just is not for me. Some people who've been raped might be able to enjoy that, but I'm not one of them. I just keep reading it as rape apologism and get angry.

--Rogan
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:iconandgreenmyo-os:
andgreenmyo-os Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2011
I totally agree.
Take care,
- Siegfried
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:iconfey-janeward:
fey-janeward Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2011
I am going to find you some kind of horrid sparkly cowgirl outfit thing to show my thanks, man, because you are so much more articulate in this article than I could ever have been.
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:iconbaaingtree:
BaaingTree Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2011
I will be sure to show off my thighs in it for you. :kiss:

--Mac
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:iconzeiphex:
Zeiphex Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Amen to that. I'd have also have liked to see some elaboration on the differences between Shounen-Ai and Yaoi. A lot of fangirls use the term "Yaoi" way too lightly. Two boys kissing is not Yaoi :|
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:iconbaaingtree:
BaaingTree Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011
Hrm, that I don't feel I can really speak on effectively, since we haven't really read much shounen-ai and aren't incredibly clear on the difference ourself. (Sex vs. romance, right?)

Honestly, if that's the difference, I think it might be more an issue that people think gay romance is intrinsically more sexual or edgy than straight.

--Rogan
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:iconzeiphex:
Zeiphex Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Shounen-Ai, as I'm sure you are aware, directly translates to "boy-love". Yaoi, on the other hand, is explicit, and is pornographic in nature. If it's not pornographic, it's generally a more explicit shounen-ai. It just bugs me that a lot of fangirls go around saying that they love yaoi, when they really just like the idea of boy on boy romance. A lot of the time these fangirls have no real concept of what yaoi really is (many of them would probably run in terror if they knew that it was a lot more explicit in nature than what they seem to think). Shounen-ai, as far as I'm aware, can have sex scenes but the focus is more on the relationship and romance than on out and out, explicit sex. Yaoi, on the other hand, focuses almost exclusively on the sex scenes, which are pornographic in nature. Yeah, it's late here, and I'm not sure how much sense I'm making :giggle: Think Junjou Romantica, Loveless, or Gravitation (shounen-ai) vs Boku no Pico (shota-con yaoi).
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:iconbaaingtree:
BaaingTree Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011
Ahaha, no, the comments that drove us to post this were DEFINITELY about yaoi. And I think just about all the things we wrote about in the piece here were applicable to yaoi.

Urgh. Shota. No comment.

--Rogan
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:iconzeiphex:
Zeiphex Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, well good :D I prefer Shounen-Ai to yaoi, but I'll watch yaoi too if the characters are sexy :iconufufufuplz: Yeah, shota disturbs me. It's just wrong on so many levels D: Only reason I used Boku no Pico as an example is because it's a recent series that's been getting a fair amount of exposure of late.
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:iconcereus-cactus:
cereus-cactus Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2013
Yeah, Shounen-Ai is not the exact same thing as Yaoi! But it isn't free of sketchy messages either. For example, in Gravitation (Shounen-Ai) there's no rape in the relationship (because it's basically PG) but there's a lot of the two main characters treating eachother badly. And then the one character constantly saying he really doesn't want to be in a relationship with, or even interact at all with the other. And then after that, character 2 showing up at character 1's apartment uninvited.

And I just want to hug him and say "relationships don't have to be like that".

And I have found some lovely, non-rapey yaoi. It's just a bit of a search - which it shouldn't have to be.
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:iconvictoria-elwatts:
victoria-elwatts Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011
This is great! Nice job on writing this.
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:iconlilacknight:
LilacKnight Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Rational yaoi fangirl here saying "Thank you." as well as hoping some irrational ones will come and read this.
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:iconbaaingtree:
BaaingTree Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011
Unfortunately, I don't hang around yaoi communities that often, so I'm not sure where to spread it.

--Rogan
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:iconlilacknight:
LilacKnight Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Damn... oh well. DA's frontpage is a good start and that was where I found it...
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:icontormented-fragments:
Tormented-Fragments Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011
^_^ We always enjoy hearing from you guys... ...and the topic being about pretty boys with dicks in hole A is no exception.

Nice work, Mac, again.
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:iconkanpeki-na:
Kanpeki-na Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2011
Beautifully written. I agree on the "I can't believe it had to be written" vein.

I don't think it's against the policy, especially if you're using it for teaching purposes.

Now, excuse me while I laugh at the necessary word "teaching" in the above sentence.

-Zack
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:iconbaaingtree:
BaaingTree Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011
Argh. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, teenagers these days are getting short-shafted on all sorts of sex ed these days, but I'm still horrified that people need to have it explained to them that rape isn't cute.

--Mac
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:iconkanpeki-na:
Kanpeki-na Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011
Yes. :\ I'm never gonna understand it.
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:icondemonic-chick43:
demonic-chick43 Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2011
Jesus Christ. Every day I am amazed at the stupidity of people.
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:iconbaaingtree:
BaaingTree Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011
I try to stay calm about it, but for God's sake, my husband was raped! How can I watch people giggle over it in comics and NOT be horrified?

--Mac
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:icondemonic-chick43:
demonic-chick43 Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011
It's not cool. It really bugs me when people take it so lightly.
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:iconbaaingtree:
BaaingTree Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011
*snrk* Well, I just got told I'd always be girly to someone who KNEW me yesterday; I'd rather it be from a stranger.

--Rogan
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:icondemonic-chick43:
demonic-chick43 Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011
I get that all the time, it fucking sucks. It just completely flies in the face of your identity and who you are as a transperson, and people don't realize how hurtful it really is.

I totally agree, I'd rather it be a stranger.
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