So you've stumbled across this page and perhaps you're wondering, "why yaoi?" And it is a matter I've given some thought to, both in general, and in a "why me and yaoi?" sense.
How often does someone feel the need to justify a kink? Do you go around justifying your penchant for cable TV? It's on a different level, but it's the same thing -- it's a hobby, it's what I spend my time on. Of course, anime and manga are less prevalent than cable TV but they're becoming popular in their own right.
So why yaoi? It's twisted, it's sick, it's perverted, it's gross, it's gay...why, just...why?...I've heard all of those things. I disagree with them, but I have heard them.
A friend tipped me off to a quote by Susie Bright: "Scientists, sex researchers, psychotherapists -- none of them know why we have the fantasies we do. That's right, they don't know, and most of them admit that in public."
Would you ask a guy why he gets turned on by two lesbians getting it on? You would? Well, read on, then.
If we're going to talk "why yaoi?" we should define yaoi, in the Japanese sense and what I perceive to be the Western sense of the word. Believe it or not, they're two different things.
I'm not going to give a recap of the entire history, but it's commonly acknowledged that yaoi is a contraction of the phrase "'yama-nashi, ochi-nashi, imi-nashi," which roughly translated means no peak, no point, no meaning. It comes from the Japanese concept of the male-male relationship, which meant that whatever happened, it was all in fun, or it had no purpose (them being two boys and all), or essentially no plot -- it was only about sex and nothing more.
Then came "shounen ai," known as boy-love. This was taken to be the more emotional and tender side of male/male relations; the two boys went through levels of emotional involvement and both partners were usually in their teens.
I'm condensing massively. Forgive me, history sticklers.
In the nineties, yaoi developed a female following in the West which grew ever larger and more popular. When I first got into yaoi, it was 1998 and it was a relatively small and clique-ish fandom. There was Aestheticism, the first incarnation of the Yaoi-Slash Mailing list, the Noirage archive, and that was about it, aside from a small flotilla of individual fan websites that had some or all yaoi fanfiction content.
To me, yaoi means the whole of the Western male/male fanfiction fandom. I have very limited experience or exposure with what anyone would call "authentic" Japanese yaoi...in fact, I'm told it isn't even called "yaoi" anymore, not the mass body of male/male animanga fandom.
There's a key phrase up there, which I apply to my own involvement in yaoi, if not fandom in general. It's all in fun.
Let's look at it from an aesthetic viewpoint, now. Whether they're androgynous or just plain gorgeous, hot guys are a wonderful thing. Two hot guys together are just exponentially beautiful. Two hot guys, whether it be in the dynamic tension of an explosive relationship, or the touching uncertainty of first love, makes my heart wibble.
Yes, I said "wibble."
Yaoi is not gay erotica or gay porn. This isn't the real deal. For the most part, yaoi deals in how women view the male-male relationship, because whether it's a Japanese mangaka or an American fanfic writer, chances are your artist is a woman, or a girl. Yaoi is looking at the dynamic of two men together through the silk veil of a woman's prose.
As a result, in addition to focusing on the sexual aspect (just like Harlequin romance, women read yaoi for the erotic bits) there's an added layer of emotional and romantic involvement between the two males. They think, they feel, they interact. A huge distinction between gay erotica and yaoi (trust me, I've read them both) is that it's not all about the
Quality-wise, I prefer yaoi to gay erotica. Women tend to write with greater attention to their prose, and less coarseness. Of course, there are exceptions, such as the wonderful author Jim Grimsley. Note this is personal opinion.
Why do some women like yaoi? Bisexual, straight, or lesbian, a lot of women are into it. There are a lot of theories floating around out there. Let me tell you the main thing my psychology degree taught me: every single one of those theories is subjective. There's not any one reason for any one person, or a body of people.
I like yaoi. I like the thought of two boys (or men) getting it on. It's my kink, my cup of tea, my barrel o'fun, my shits and giggles, my pastime, my hobby, my bag, baby, yeah.
Some people have a foot fetish. I have a gay fetish. It's a harmless hobby, I'm not disturbing anyone...except, perhaps, for other peoples' peace of mind.
I got into the fandom when it was a teeny, tiny sub-growth of that weird sub-culture known as "Japanimation." This was back when anime was not precisely an underground movement, but it wasn't being shown on Cartoon Network and WB and sold in Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com, either.
For me, the progression from typical college student to working professional by day, yaoi fanfic author by nights-and-weekends was a gradual, but not unnatural one. I've always been a writer; I started writing when I was ten years old and it involved poetry and the first draft of my first novel. I finished my first novel by the time I was thirteen, and I had produced two others (albeit fairly crappy ones) by the time I was eighteen, along with a slew of original stories and a couple of essays -- one locally published, one nationally.
I've always been very imaginative, a reader, and I loved my morning cartoons. When I was a child I would wake up at six in the morning to watch Captain Planet. When I was in grade school my two top favorites were Voltron and the Thundercats. I liked anime before I knew it was anime. I read voraciously from age ten onwards, chewing through Anne McCaffrey and Piers Anthony and Frank Herbert and Mercedes Lackey and ElfQuest and more.
Falling in love with anime was part of that natural progression. I loved Sailormoon before I was ever introduced to the concept of anime...back when I didn't even know enough to call it "Japanese animation." A college friend of mine showed us some Ranma 1/2 and I liked it a great deal. The following semester, another college friend began taking me to weekly showings at JAC - the Japanese Animation Club -- and I was hooked. It was
Sailor Moon, Marmalade Boy, Escaflowne, and more...I loved shoujo, then Shaun showed me "Fushigi Yuugi," which he called the "crack of the anime world." 52 episodes which he doled out sparingly over two semesters.
It was Fushigi Yuugi which led me into yaoi, believe it or not...it was the first time I got online to look for information on a series. I stumbled across an untitled Hotohori/Nuriko (our favorite gay seishi gives the emperor a hand job) and was disturbed...yet strangely, not in a bad way. The following day I looked it up again, and found the infamous "Plot? What Plot?" by Lorelei.
By that time I had already begun writing fanfiction for Fushigi Yuugi, most of which we will not speak, but my "twins" collaboration with Nellie Chiang was actually fairly decent.
Like my accelerated interest in anime, I acquired a taste for yaoi and went back for more. A lot more. Back in the day, there was actually not much to go on...the Noirage archive, a handful of yaoi fanfiction author sites, and that was about it. I consumed it all. I signed onto the two yaoi mailing lists I could find, the YSML and the GW-fic mailing list. And then...I began to write.
I can't speak for the quality of those days, but boy, I turned out quantity. To date, the highest volume of fanfic I've written for a given series is Gundam Wing fanfiction, the bulk of which can be found on the Gundam Wing Addiction site (not mine). I also wrote Yu Yu Hakusho. Those were the main yaoi fandoms back in the day; everything else was dabbling.
Most of my friends found out that I wrote gay anime erotica (yaoi) when I created a website and put my yaoi drabblings on college webspace. Some of them were amused, some vaguely horrified but willing to ignore it, and some didn't get it at all and blocked it out. I don't think I lost any friends over yaoi...
Yaoi enabled me to discover within myself that I was bisexual. This was not a new thing; I had been in denial since puberty, reasoning that since I was attracted to guys I couldn't be gay. I'm not gay. I'm bisexual. Why limit myself to half the human race? I could be rejected by ALL of them!
I came out to my friends, but my family still remains ignorant. This is helped along by the fact that my girlfriend, for religious reasons, prefers not to come out to her own family because it would destroy family ties. I've had three failed relationships with young men; this time around I found a compatible girl and we're very happy four years later.
I got tangential! I began writing yaoi...I'm not even sure how long ago. I think it was early 1998. I wrote more and more, and submitted my fanfic to all sorts of archives. As the yaoi fandom grew explosively, so did I as a fanfic writer. I went from a UIUC website to a FortuneCity website to a Geocities website to an Adult.dencity website to an Envy.nu website to my current host, koanju.com. ( Koanju and I have been friends since my early fandom days on the Fushigi Yuugi mailing list...I went to my first convention with her!) People began to write me about my stories. People knew my name. (My pseudonym.) It was glorious, and thrilling, and I wrote more, read more, posted more, just plain interacted with this amazing, growing community.
Today I have over a hundred fanfics, and my fandoms have branched out a lot more, spanning console games such as Final Fantasy and Suikoden clear over to shounen anime such as Flame of Recca and Gundam Wing to fluffy shoujo series such as Card Captor Sakura and Fruits Basket to...even yaoi. I have one well-hidden Kizuna fanfic. (REAL yaoi-slash writers find slash in CANON GAY!)
Today you can find yaoi available in the U.S. commercially, from the explicit Level C, which I purchased at my local video store, to the reasonably tame FAKE, released both on DVD and as part of Tokyo Pop's authentic manga line. It's a wonderful time.
In 2000 I began to branch out into original fiction, starting with "The Willow Key" as part of the Keyfic Project. It spawned a sequel, a prequel I'm currently writing, and an entire alternate universe rich with original-works potential and an awful lot of incidental gay.
Incidental gay has something of a history in published science fiction/fantasy works, and you bet your ass I've been observing that trend. I observed the trend before I knew it was a trend, with my interest in Mercedes Lackey (apparently a formative influence of many languishing young yaoi fangirls). Some day, my goal is to become one of those published fantasy or fiction writers, but I plan to use more than incidental gay.
Yaoi wasn't just about writing or reading it. It became an interactive hobby. I met other yaoi fangirls. I enjoyed fangirling with them over the gay. I met tons of people online, followed my favorite authors, wrote them and developed relationships with many of them -- WhiteCat, Shirin, Kuwabara no Miko, Tzigane, Yoiko, Utopian Trunks, Brightangel. After the advent of the mailing list came the advent of the blog. I met even MORE people, many of whom I'd followed or noticed in the yaoi scene but had always been too painfully shy to e-mail before -- Rahaeli, Tenshi no Korin and Llamajoy (llamaten), Sahari, Rose Argent, Pluto, Katsu, and much more!
I've only been to four conventions so far. Two of them were Anime Central, '98 and '99, and the other was Yaoicon '01 and '02. I don't remember which convention it was, but I had my first "OMG YOU'RE TALYA FIREDANCER!" experience, which really chuffed me -- at the same time it made me acutely self-conscious. At conventions I am painfully shy and awkward if I'm not bouncing and excited and gabbling a mile a minute with my friends. I experienced the concept of "having fans." I said to myself, "this is strange and weird." I underwent the odd experience of people taking my photograph. At Yaoicon 2001 a group of girls asked for my autograph and that was painfully awkward, but they were all very nice and polite and I couldn't say no. I definitely like getting hugs.
With five years under my belt I've been called a "Big Name Fan," although after some examination I don't think I really qualify under the true meaning of the term. My girlfriend calls me "A Name" and makes disparaging noises when I tell her in the morning I got thirty e-mails overnight. (Qualifier: Usually from livejournal, spam, or e-mail. I wish I got thirty feedbacky e-mails a day. I WISH.) I just call me "Talya Firedancer." My friends call me "tay." The use of the "-sama" honorific makes me really uncomfortable. I'm a fanfiction author. I like to write, and writing is my primary interaction with fandom, be it web-published stories or mailing lists or blogging on livejournal.
That's me and yaoi.