I, personally, was never all that interested in anime, manga, or the zapanimation craze that swept through the early 2000’s, but I had many friends who were.  Thus, I was familiar with the vocabulary and the concepts of yaoi, yuri, and slash fictions, which inevitably came up in conversation, giggled about with girlish intensity.

I won’t use this blog as a platform for speculating about my high school friends’ sexual proclivities, but I will say that I did not understand yaoi or slash fiction at the time.  I had seen one or two books at Borders or in the library, tucked harmlessly into the comic book sections, but they never struck my fancy.  I certainly didn’t understand the connection between them and porn.  Which is why, in retrospect, I find this article by Heartbreak Nympho fascinating as insight into the way teens that don’t consuming “traditional” porn explore their sexual interests.

Although it personally doesn’t suit my tastes, I love yaoi and yuri as examples of the multitude of media outlets that help teach teens and young adults who don’t have access to good resources on sex and sexuality.  Yaoi, as the article explains, features relationships that resonate with a certain aesthetic– they depict beautiful, generally slender men going to extreme lengths to be with each other and show their devotion.  They are heart rending and sexy.  I’m happy that they exist for the men and women who read them that feel, perhaps, that there is not enough context, emotion, or commitment in traditional porn to satisfy them.

For me, sexual awakening was different.  When I was first stumbled across material that was sexual in nature, it was a set of descriptive

If your movie has no good slash pairings, no stars for you!

paragraphs advertising “adult hypno-tapes”: they came in standard fantasies, but could also be customized, and I read them over and over, internalizing these scenarios. In my early teens, this was perfect for me.  It was literary, rather than pictorial, which was less threatening.  It was mysterious, because of the emphasis on hypnosis, and it was completely separate from myself (for I hardly considered myself a sexual being at the time, having no interest in a relationship for purposes other than kissing and cuddling; I was also overweight and had bad body image, but that’s another story completely).

So for my middle school and early high school cohorts, yaoi was their hynotapes.  It was safe, it was literary, it was engaging, it was private.  It could have been a million things, but what’s important was that it worked for them.   I make the same argument for why porn is beneficial: this form of literature allows hundreds of thousands of  people to come to better terms with what they know and want from sex and sexuality as a whole, and that is a large debt that we owe to a highly under-appreciated subset of media.  So for that, I say thank you yaoi.  Thank you Japan, and thank you to the publishers who first made this new market available in the US.

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