Yaoi (; Japanese: やおい [ja.o.i]), also known by the wasei-eigo construction boys' love (ボーイズ ラブ, bōizu rabu) and its abbreviation BL (ビーエル, bīeru), is a genre of fictional media originating in Japan that features homoerotic relationships between male characters. Though it is typically created by women for women and is distinct from homoerotic media marketed to gay men, it attracts a male audience and can be produced by male creators. It spans a wide range of media, including manga, anime, drama CDs, novels, video games, television series, films, and fan works. "Boys' love" and "BL" are the generic terms for this kind of media in Japan and much of Asia; though the terms are used by some fans and commentators in the West, yaoi remains more generally prevalent in English.
The genre originated in the 1970s as a subgenre of shōjo manga, or comics for girls. Several terms were used for the new genre, including shōnen-ai (少年愛, lit. "boy love"), tanbi (耽美, lit. "aestheticism"), and June (ジュネ, [d͡ʑu͍ ne]). The term yaoi emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the context of dōjinshi (同人誌, self-published works) culture as a portmanteau of yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi ("no climax, no point, no meaning"), where it was used in a self-deprecating manner to refer to amateur fan works that focused on sex to the exclusion of plot and character development, and that often parodied mainstream manga and anime by depicting male characters from popular series in sexual scenarios. "Boys' love" was later adopted by Japanese publications in the 1990s as an umbrella term for male-male romance media marketed to women.
Concepts and themes associated with yaoi include androgynous men known as bishōnen; diminished female characters; narratives that emphasize homosociality and de-emphasize socio-cultural homophobia; and depictions of rape. A defining characteristic of yaoi is the practice of pairing characters in relationships according to the roles of seme, the sexual top or active pursuer, and uke, the sexual bottom or passive pursued. Yaoi has a robust global presence, having spread since the 1990s through international licensing and distribution, as well as through unlicensed circulation of works by yaoi fans online. Yaoi works, culture, and fandom have been studied and discussed by scholars and journalists worldwide.
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