Yaoi: Boys’ Love and the Women Who Love Them- Part 2


Yaoi Manga  
                             Courtesy: Danny Choo                                   https://www.flickr.com/photos/dannychoo/8276325511


Yaoi/ BL (Boys’ Love) is not without criticism. Not all these stories are happy and rosy. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms of BL is that they are often tragedies. When looking for reviews one of the first things viewers ask is, “Does it have a happy ending?” More than half the time the answer is no.

Personally, I find them to be still worth watching because the stories are just so touching. When I need a good cry, nothing does it better than a good Yaoi love story. Yesterday I took the plunge and started watching the Thai drama special, Grey Rainbow. In terms of cinematography and acting, its probably the best I have seen in BL. But I am preparing myself for the tears.

Rape and other violent sexual acts are not uncommon in BL works. The Chinese drama/ novel Addicted is a good example of violence in relationships. As a society, we consider this unacceptable behavior, yet Addicted is one of the most popular BL dramas out there.

I think this is because aggressive behavior among 2 men is easier to accept for many people. It has to do with the power dynamics. You have 2 men considered to have  equal amounts of  power. In the case of a heterosexual relationship, the distribution is not balance and the woman is often considered “weaker.” This allows women to further distance themselves from the violence and see it as slightly less disturbing than when the aggressive behavior is directed towards a woman, like themselves.

If BL involves such aggressive and almost violent themes, why is it still appealing to so many? BL is definitely targeted towards women and is therefore written to appeal to their ideas of love and relationships. BL works tend to follow the, “I-hurt-you-only-because-I-love-you” trope. Despite being an aggressive individual, the seme (“top”) is often portrayed as being actually kind and caring towards his partner. I know that I keep citing Addicted as an example but this is another case where it is a good example.

In order to cater to this fantasy of a loving relationship, we are often provided with plenty of fan-service in the form of happy and fun BTS scenes. Viewers can continue their fantasies, often “shipping” the actors in real life. There is also plenty of fan fiction written about the most popular BL couples.

There might be plenty of “deep” psychological reasons that women enjoy BL but as I see it, at the core, its a form of light erotica. Its no wonder that it appeals to women when most of the porn out there is definitely not made for them. Sometimes the viewer just wants to watch 2 guys get it on. As one viewer said “The sex is just hotter.”

Not all BL works include sex scenes. Very often all you get is one kiss scene. But the more intense the scenes, the more popular the shows tend to be. Any BL story you find on YouTube will have associated, fan-made, “hot scenes” videos to go with it. I will admit that I have watched such videos multiple times and enjoyed them.

I am sure there are many more reasons out there for the popularity of  Yaoi/ BL. Whatever one’s reasons for enjoying them are, there are others who share your thoughts. I find the BL lovers community to be pretty open and inviting much like any K-Pop fandoms. The growing popularity and increased output of BL works shows that this genre is here to stay. And as a BL lover, that’s good news because the quality keeps improving.

This was not an easy piece to write considering that many of us hide the fact that we even like Yaoi/ BL. But I am a curious person and I want to know more. Share your thoughts. Why do you like BL?


Yaoi: Boys’ Love and the Women Who Love Them- Part 1


“Yaoi, primarily known as Boys’ Love (BL) in Japan, is a Japanese genre of fictional media focusing on romantic or sexual relationships between male characters, typically marketed for a female audience and usually created by female authors.”

Let me start off by clarifying that I am a fan of Yaoi/ BL works. They have given me some of sweetest romances (Lovesick- The Series) and most realistic portrayals of relationships (Gay OK Bangkok 1 & 2). Lately I have been on a BL spree. I set aside all my other dramas and K-Pop to devote all my free time to reading and watching BL works; everything from Chinese novel translations to movies and dramas.

I am not new to the BL fandom. I started with the Thai drama Lovesick a few years ago and could not get enough of that show. As I consumed more BL works I started to wonder, “Why do I love this stuff?” And it wasn’t just me. There seemed to be a whole community that loved this sub-genre of Asian entertainment and I wanted to know why.

I had some ideas about why I enjoyed it but there had to more to it. I took to the internet to find some ideas. It seems like I am not the only one thinking about why women are drawn to Yaoi and BL works. There is even academic interest in the matter. What started as a niche market in Japan is now popular among (mostly) heterosexual females around the world.

Here I wanted to share my personal experience with Boys’ Love and some of the other opinions I found particularly compelling. These are just popular opinions and I know there are many more out there that I haven’t touched upon. This is a very complex question so I will have to split my post into 2 parts.

The most common reason people gave for enjoying BL is that they can enjoy unique plot-lines. Many Asian drama viewers found the romance to get repetitive after watching quite a few dramas (non-BL). As a person who has watched over 150 Asian dramas, I could not agree more. BL provides diversity within the romance genre.

I watch romance to fulfill my, true-love-conquers-all, fantasy and in the typical rom-com there wasn’t much to “conquer” in order to get to the happily every after. Disapproving parents, evil second-leads, and amnesia got old. By now I have a good idea of how these challenges are going to be overcome. I needed something more exciting.

Compared to a typical drama couple, the homosexual couple seem to have much bigger challenges. Characters have a lot of struggles as they try to come to terms with their sexuality. And even after that they have to deal with a society that their relationship forbidden. As a person who enjoys watching the internal conflict within characters, I tend to be a fan of most taboo drama tropes; be it age-gap relationships or affairs. BL works give me exactly what I am looking for. The bigger the challenges, the more satisfying a happy ending is.

Let’s talk about the BL characters. It is almost expected that the main leads in a Yaoi story are good looking. Why settle for one cute guy when you can get double the eye-candy in a BL drama or movie?

While a BL story gives you 2 hot men, it also takes away the, often annoying, female lead. I, for one, find myself unable to relate to most drama heroines because of their nonsensical behavior. I am sure there are other viewers that feel the same.  For others, who relate to the female lead, they tend to constantly compare themselves to her. Their fantasy bubble bursts when they realize that the “knight in shining armor” is only going to fall for the unrealistic heroine. You take out that female lead and replace it with another male; problem solved.

Yaoi distances the female viewer from the on-screen relationship and they become a third party watching the romance happen. After all if the leads are only going to fall for men, you cannot compare or compete. This does not mean the viewer has to be completely detached. BL stories often have a seme (“top”) and an uke (“bottom”) and allows the viewer an option to be drawn to one or the other.

To Be Contin-ewed…

If you watch Yaoi/ BL and want to share your experience, please do so in the comments. I want to know more.