Laurie and Debbie say:
It’s not like the Japanese phenomenon of yaoi invented the idea of women reading, writing, and getting off on “boys’ love.” Joanna Russ first publicized the phenomenon of women writing hot sexy fiction based on male characters from stories and TV shows (at that time it was mostly James Kirk and Spock from Star Trek in the 1980s). In the intervening decades, “slash” fiction (from the slash in the phrase Kirk/Spock) has grown phenomenally, and the Internet has fueled that growth to the point where hundreds of slash sites publish thousands upon thousands of stories, mostly (but not all) sexual, some (but not most) homosexual, most (but not all) written by women, featuring every fictional character you can imagine (and some real-life characters as well). In the contemporary slash scene, you may well find President Bartlett from The West Wing having graphically described sex with Snape from Harry Potter, and one or both of them could be impregnated as a result. On a nearby site, you might find a pastoral story with no sex at all, featuring Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here’s one of many sites as an example.
Because many television producers and authors don’t like the idea of their characters being reused at all without oversight, and also because the explicit sex in a lot of slash is something the authors would rather keep private, slash is generally written about either in general sociological terms, and virtually all slash is self-published on the Internet (previously in hand-mimeographed zines sold only in certain contexts), yaoi is among the first slash-like fictional forms to be found in bookstores, and discussed in respectable media like Publishers Weekly , (the leading trade journal for the publishing industry).
Tina Anderson, interviewed at the link above, has a clear understanding of what yaoi, which she writes, means to her:
Get the books, read the books. And if you still don’t get what it’s all about, then ask me.
The brain is the sexual organ here. … When I see a woman in a sexual way in straight media, I do too much self-examination. If I don’t, then I feel guilty. With yaoi, there’s no woman in there at all. When I look at it, it’s something hot, sexy, fun, and I don’t have to feel guilty about it. … Yaoi allows for that kind of enjoymentÃ¢â‚¬â€for visual [sexual] recreation without the self-examination. That’s what’s so beautiful about it. Women don’t have to think about being the ones used and abused and played with.
We see yaoi and slash both as avenues which allow people (again mostly women) to explore themselves on their own terms. So it’s very satisfying to see yaoi coming into its own in the comic stores and the bookstores, and garnering the attention of the U.S. publishing industry.
Thanks to Literaticat for the link.