So You Want To/Write a Good Yaoi

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As you are no doubt very highly aware, there is no shortage of yaoi out there. Some of it is good, and some of it... well, not so much. This will hopefully help you avoid pitfalls and write better yaoi, whether you're writing Fan Fiction or playing around with your own original characters. Please note that this article contains NSFW content.

The Characters[edit | hide | hide all]

Barring a Tenchi Solution, there are two main characters: the Seme and the Uke.

  • The Seme is the active/penetrative partner, and frequently has a more dominant personality in general. He is usually taller and more masculine-looking.
  • The Uke is the passive/receptive partner. He's usually shorter, and usually more of a Bishounen or even an outright Dude Looks Like a Lady.

Note that you don't have to follow traditional dynamics. If you were to survey real gay couples, you would notice that very few do, in fact, follow this setup. Your characters can take turns "topping" and "bottoming" in the bedroom, and share a more-or-less equal partnership outside of it. They can be switch, which means they enjoy both dominant and submissive roles in the bedroom and equal outside, or they can have what is called a Total Power Exchange relationship, which means one is strongly dominant and one is strongly submissive but that the couple has previously negotiated and agreed to the idea.

Even in "traditional" BL, you might have a dominant uke and a henpecked seme. Your uke can be the one that looks very tall and masculine, while your seme might be a Bishounen. They can be both uke-like, or both seme-like. See Boys Love Notes for some common BL relationship types, or make up your own.

Try to avoid Wimpification. It's been done to death. (It also carries Unfortunate Implications.) Again, don't feel like you have to be restricted to just one character type or behavior, just because it's Tradition!!! If you desire a more "traditional" uke, there's no need to turn him into a whining, sniveling mess. (Nor is there a need to turn your seme into a Bastard Boyfriend.) Men and women are socialized to act and react differently to various situations, so try to make it clear that your uke is a man, and not a stereotypical schoolgirl with a penis. (Unless, of course, you deliberately want to write a character who doesn't respond in traditionally-masculine ways.)

Oh, speaking of penises... (Anatomy of Mansex)[edit | hide]

Anatomy. Dear God, anatomy. It is one of the major pitfalls in yaoi. This is because a lot of it is Hollywood Sex, IKEA Erotica, shoehorned in just for the sake of having a Lemon, and/or written by virginal 13-year-old fangirls. So, without further ado...

1. The anus is not self-lubricating. Vaginas self-lubricate. Anuses don't. Period. No ifs, ands, or butts about it. What little mucus earns that sphincter its place as a mucus membrane isn't enough for penetrative sex for the vast majority of people, and there shouldn't be any other slippery liquids involved. You Should Know This Already, even if you are a virgin 13-year-old Yaoi Fangirl. (I won't tell your parents.) Have your characters use a good-quality water-based or silicone-based lubricant, or else your uke will be in far more pain than pleasure (and I don't think it would be much fun for the seme either).

2. Very few things make good lube. Soap and most shampoos, for example, dries out sensitive membranes and can cause cracked skin; using it as a lubricant down there might result in both parties walking funny for a week. Sticky substances should be avoided, as should sugary or alcohol-containing substances. Actual lube's usually the safest option, and the easiest to sell to the audience.

3. Lube is useful for more than just penetrative sex. Handjobs, in particular, benefit a lot from a couple dabs of slippery stuff. This is especially so if the uke is circumcised. The seme might have dry hands or go too hard and chafe him! And that's not fun for any of the parties concerned.

4. The anus contains no hymen. OK, so you want to make it clear that your uke is a pure, unspoiled virgin. That's all well and good, but this is not the way to do it. For one thing, there is no hymen there. (Going to the bathroom would be very unpleasant if there was!) Secondly, even if there was, the presence (or absence) of a hymen is not a reliable indicator of a virgin; some girls/women break it in ways other than sex, or are born without one, and some retain theirs even after having sex many times. (And there exists surgery to reconstruct one.) We attach far too much cultural significance to a thin membrane of skin that really means nothing, but that's a whole separate issue. If your uke does bleed (and it happens), it's not because of a hymen. Rather, it means your seme is going too fast and/or that there isn't enough lubrication. (And as anyone who has even so much has attempted anal sex will tell you, that situation is unpleasant for all concerned!)

5. The average penis is not a foot long. Try about half that. Of course, there are men who are larger than that, and smaller than that, but 5-6 inches long is the average. Note that the prostate is typically less than three inches inside, and prostate message and the nerve clusters near the anus are usually the most stimulating parts for the 'bottom'. While some men do focus on how much they can take, a sufficiently large Gag Penis will cause serious injury.

6. There is no such thing as the O-Ring Orifice. Stretching too much will cause tearing and bleeding. If that's not Fan Disservice, we don't know what is!

7. The male body is not designed to carry or birth a fetus. There are some well-written Mister Seahorse stories out there. But if accuracy is even slightly what you're going for, leave this out. They are not equipped for it. ("Where's the fetus going to gestate?! Are you going to keep it in a box?!").

8. Anal sex and related activities generally require time and preparation. While the details of such are a bit squicky and NSFW for here, it's generally not a good idea (unless you're just glossing over the preparation, which is generally a good idea) to use it as the first go-to choice for sudden or public sex. Grinding, hands, and mouths tend to be better for this, as well as more realistic if you're going for realism - a couple, say, having a sudden heat of the moment fling in a bar bathroom probably won't even have lube on hand.

OK, that should just about cover anatomy. If you want more info, look up male anatomy on The Other Wiki, or check out anatomy books. If you need Brain Bleach after that little discussion, feel free to go get it.

Are you OK, then? Good. Moving on.

A Lemon Is Not Necessary[edit | hide]

Don't shoehorn a lemon in just for the sake of having one. Sure, you want to see hot Ho Yay action, but if it doesn't make sense with the plotline, you're not doing any favors by cramming one in anyway. Some of the best works out there focus on the relationship and the plotline more than sex.

If you can't write sex (too embarrassed, afraid of it falling into the wrong hands, not enough experience, trouble transposing the sex act into words, what have you) there's no need to feel embarrassed. You can use a Sexy Discretion Shot; merely imply that your characters had sex. Sex is not the be-all and end-all of Boys Love. Or Girls Love. Or het, for that matter. In fact, most readers would rather you fade to black or focus on someone/something else than suffer through badly written IKEA Erotica.

Penetration Is Not Necessary[edit | hide]

Gay sex doesn't have to include penetration, and in Real Life a lot of it isn't. As well as masturbating each other, and blowjobs, there is passionate making out, and toys, and as a good way to show an equal relationship there is also grinding (the partners are rubbing their penises together). Heck, you can have them fully clothed and it can still be genuinely for adults.

The point being, that nobody has to be face-down; it can be just as hot with a scene dedicated to them making out on the couch.

Avoid Cliches Like The Plague[edit | hide]

Victim Falls For Rapist: OK, you know how it goes: BIG, HULKING Seme rapes sweet, innocent, virginal, little Uke, uke falls in love with seme anyway. No. It's been done to death, and let's not even get into all the Unfortunate Implications. Yes, the very terms Seme and Uke connote a power dynamic. And, yes, Japan is big on the Rape Fantasy genre. But that doesn't mean you have to Follow the Leader and do it too.

For some fans, the Uke is an Audience Surrogate. In a World where "good girls don't," the female reader may be trying to wash her hands of the situation by saying, "Oh, it wasn't me with [Insert Bishounen of Choice Here], it was [Insert Uke's Name Here]". And even if it was, it's not like that person "wanted it." (Of course, for other fangirls it's the fantasy of having the helpless little uke at your mercy, but the result comes out about the same for the reader.)

Having sexual desires and urges does not make you a bad person, or a slut, or undesirable, or dirty, or anything else. (And that goes equally for both men and women, are we clear?) It means you're human. Since Most Writers Are Human (and by extension most readers, too), there should be no need to polish that halo. Some of the hottest yaoi erotica involves an uke who desires sex -- and lets the seme know that. It also involves a seme who treats his uke like a lover and not a victim. Furthermore, using rape to titillate is not only cliche, but also frequently causes Squick -- and that's not even mentioning the trigger factor for those who have actually had this crime happen to them. You don't want to alienate your readers.

Porn Without Plot: If it's well-written and tasteful, it can be good. But if it's poorly-written and crass, why bother with it? If you can't come up with even a slight semblance of plotline or relationship, at least put effort into your sex scene. Though the story will hold the audience's attention better if there's something besides sex for them to focus on--something that ultimately makes the sex even sexier.

BL is not Hentai: Some new (Western) writers tend to take the "the uke is the girl" thing way too literally, and have him be the seme's sex-toy in a way similar to the way women are treated in hentai. In general, BL sex is about the uke, and the goal for many readers is to watch the uke get off. The seme's job is to do whatever is necessary to accomplish that (and he'll enjoy doing it, too). This applies to oral, handjobs, etc. just as much as anal; the seme should "service" the uke as much or more as the uke "services" him. (This is also the opposite of the stereotypical gay porn trope that the "top" is always and only insertive.)

Hurt/Comfort: It's been overused. Why not try a relationship in which no one needs to be rescued? Or where the characters help each other learn and grow, but subtly (and not because of Angst)? It may not be as dramatic, but if you do it right, it can be one big Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.

Foe Yay: At the risk of being an absolute Hypocrite (see below), I will say this: Foe Yay isn't bad in the sense that it's "bad" to write or to like the characters. But ask yourself, "How in the world would two characters who can't stand one another make a good couple?"

Be Respectful of Others' Pairings[edit | hide]

OK, I've seen my share of crack pairings. People put on their Shipping Goggles, and sometimes they'll see a pairing you don't like. Or a pairing that you like but not as a couple. So it goes. Rather than having a Flame War over whether it should be (let's say) Heero x Duo, Heero x Relena, etc., why not just agree to disagree? Enjoy the fics for what they are: fiction. Focus on the quality of the story and writing, not the pairing. The Fandom will be a lot more peaceful, and thus more enjoyable, for all concerned.