Some consider yaoi and slash to be equivalent, but I don't. Slash is primarily fannish; yaoi, though it started out as fannish, is not. While there is still a lot of fannish content, yaoi/BL as a genre is not equivalent with fannishness the way slash is. Slash is named after the slash (/) placed between character names -- the name in itself presupposes that the characters already exist. So I consider "original slash" a horrible misnomer: not all gay love stories are slash.
Yaoi can be presented in many media, but for the purposes of this post, I'm talking specifically about yaoi manga, since I can't read Japanese well enough to tackle novels, and I have not yet come across a translated yaoi novel that I actually wanted to read.
So here is a laundry list of my Thoughts on Yaoi™ in no particular order.
I like the art. Bishounens, chibis, bring it on.
Because slash is fannish, the tropes that emerge will often have more to do with the specific fandom than with the general idea of homosexual sex and romance, whereas yaoi tropes are universal. Tropes do emerge in yaoi fanworks, too, but those exist alongside "general" tropes rather than replace them.
For the most part I find yaoi to be formulaic and heteronormative. The characters in the main pairing fall into stereotypical feminine and masculine roles -- you have your waiflike, neurotic, feminine-acting, submissive uke (bottom) and your tall, assertive, masculine, dominant seme (top) -- this is practically law in yaoi; very, very few titles break from this mold. It's like a very extreme version of the top/bottom dichotomy in slash fandom.
In theory yaoi is supposed to be about a relationship *without* heterosexual power dynamics, but there are not that many stories where one partner isn't crowbarred into a feminine role.
One notable title that's an exception to the above in many respects is 春を抱いていた (Haru o daiteita) by Youka Nitta -- it even deals with being openly gay in a gay-unfriendly society. Not to say it's super-realistic, but it's better in that respect than, say, お金がないっ (Okane ga nai) or 純情ロマンチカ (Junjou Romantica), which are two popular titles oozing genre tropes at every page-turn.
Every once in a while, there will be a compelling story or a powerful emotional arc, but these are rare. A lot of the time I will flip through yaoi manga without bothering to read the speech bubbles because I know after 3 pages it's going to be more of the same "boy meets boy, there is a Stupid Misunderstanding™, someone gets raped, there are copious bodily fluids (usually including tears), everyone lives happily ever after".
Yaoi is like aff.net-brand slashfic in that it basically swaps unrealistic portrayals of female sexuality that we see in straight porn/hentai to unrealistic portrayals of male sexuality.
Lube? What's that? Condoms? Fuggedaboudit. Making the uke come, then immediately fucking him up the arse? Sure, why not?
"I'm not gay; I'm just deeply in love with this one man." I hate this. It is prevalent in both slash and yaoi, but yaoi makes it explicit much more often than slash does. We could talk about love and sex not being the same thing at all, but let's not. We may draw the line in the sand between yaoi and BL all we want, but both genres remains primarily focused on sexual (i.e. sexually charged, sex-based) relationships -- the only difference is that BL does not depict the sex itself. It could be argued that since yaoi is marketed to women and produced predominantly by women, it shouldn't matter how homosexuality is portrayed since "everyone understands" that it's pure fiction and not at all representative of reality. Except no, not everyone understands that.
It's like any other fiction (fan or pro): amid the reams of crap, there is an occasional great story.
I have liked a lot of Naono Bohra's and Miyamoto Kano's work. I like Naono's willingness to draw and create characters outside of the twink mould, and while I'm not a huge fan of Miyamoto's plotting or art, I like her character concepts.
The idea of "I raped you because I couldn't resist temptation" is rampant in yaoi. The idea is that an alpha male's sexual desires are so important that they outweigh all else (including the wishes of his sexual partner, male or female). Some have argued that since yaoi rape is about passion and desire rather than power, that makes it "fantasy rape" and therefore okay. I think the very existence of "fantasy rape" or "rape fantasy" is a product of rape culture and I don't tolerate rape fantasy in what I read no matter what part of the world it comes from.
It bothers me that yaoi manga is sometimes displayed prominently in bookshops (I have seen this at a local suburban mall and boggled) while queer lit almost never is.
I find it astonishingly ironic that the minute someone criticises yaoi, yaoi fans tend to jump in with "but hentai's even WORSE!". Uh, yeah, so what? Murder is worse than inflicting grievous bodily harm, too; that doesn't mean inflicting grievous bodily harm is somehow OKAY. -_-;;
Lastly, please be aware I'm not saying "you shouldn't enjoy yaoi and here's why". I am explaining reasons *I* often don't enjoy it. You can do whatever the hell you like.
"thoughts on yaoi" jokes are strongly discouraged, as I am well aware of the irony already, thanks; I don't need any help with that. XP