Yaoi is a type of Japanese manga. Manga is the term commonly used for comic books and printed cartoons that are created in Japan. There are subcategories in manga, just as there are subcategories in almost every genre of communication. Yaoi is one of these subcategories. With Yaoi manga, the story is always about at least two male main characters. These characters are often in homosexual relationships and the mangas are usually full of sexual scenes and discussion. Another form of manga known as shōnen-ai, is similar in that it too deals with at least two male characters who love each other. The main difference between the two is that shōnen-ai tends to deal more with feelings, while yaoi deals much more with sex.
Often the two main characters are known as seme and uke. Seme is Japanese for attacker and uke is Japanese for receiver. Both terms originally came from Japanese martial arts, but have now become known more for their manga references than for anything else. In yaoi, the seme is considered to be the dominant person in the relationship. He may also be referred to as the topper or the butch member of the duo. Uke is, of course, the opposite. It is the submissive man in the relationship.
The seme is almost always taller than the uke. He is usually more masculine and often is older than his partner. The uke is always shorter than the seme. There are some mangas where the seme starts out shorter, at first, but ends up transforming due to time or magic. The uke is also usually portrayed much more childish and feminine looking than the seme is. Some yaoi fans do not like the idea of having the characters be so sexist, but generally most are used to, and have come to expect, to find one masculine partner and one effeminate one.
The word Yaoi has been coined to be a backronym for: yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi. In English this generally translates to “no climax, no punch line, no meaning”. Americans have given the world another backronym by using the Japanese phrase: “Yamete! Oshiri ga itai!” This literally translates to, “Stop! My butt hurts!” Yaoi is not used to refer to anything other than this specific type of manga.
There has been a lot of talk about yaoi being written by women, for women, even though it is about two male characters involved in sexual relationships. Most of the popular yaoi writers are, in fact male. The fan base tends to be female as well. This may be because the story centers on how the characters feel about each other, rather than on action or fighting.
American women have even begun writing, and finding a fan base, for yaoi. Off*beat is a yaoi manga written by Jennifer Lee Quick. The story is about a fifteen year old boy who becomes obsessed with a new neighbor. The boy tries to find out everything he can about his teenaged, male neighbor and eventually falls in love with him.