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Although the yaoi genre is also called Boys' Love (commonly abbreviated as BL), the characters may be of any age above puberty, including adults.Works featuring prepubescent boys are labelled shotacon and seen as a distinct genre.The main characters in yaoi usually conform to the formula of the seme (the "top", or dominant figure) who pursues the uke (the "bottom", or passive figure).Material classified as yaoi typically depicts gay relationships between male characters and may include homoerotic content.The word was originally used to describe an author's distinctive style, for example, the styles of Yukio Mishima and Jun'ichirō Tanizaki.
The other influence began in the dōjinshi (fan fiction) markets of Japan in the late 1970s as yaoi, a sexualized parody of popular shōnen manga and anime stories.Zanghellini notes that illustrations of anal sex almost always position the characters to face each other, rather than in the 'doggy style.' Zanghellini also notes that the uke rarely fellates the seme, but instead receives the sexual and romantic attentions of the seme.The possibility of switching roles is often a source of playful teasing and sexual excitement for the characters, indicating an interest among many genre authors in exploring the "performative nature" of the roles.In the late 1970s, shōjo magazines devoted to the new genre began to appear; and, in the 1990s, the wasei-eigo term boys' love or BL was invented for the genre, which replaced earlier terms such as tanbi, shōnen ai and juné in Japanese usage.
In Japan, the term yaoi continues to refer mainly to parody dōjinshi; among Western fans, however, yaoi is used as a generic term for female-oriented manga, anime, dating sims, novels and fan fiction works featuring idealized gay male relationships.
The tachi partner is conceptualized as the member of the relationship who pursues the more passive partner, the latter of whom is referred to as the neko.