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The use of yaoi to denote those works with explicit scenes sometimes clashes with use of the word to describe the genre as a whole, creating confusion between Japanese and Western writers or between Western fans who insist on proper usage of the Japanese terms and those who use the Westernized versions.
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.
Aleardo Zanghellini suggests that the martial arts terms have special significance to a Japanese audience, as an archetype of the gay male relationship in Japan includes same-sex love between samurai and their companions.
Another way the seme and uke characters are shown is through who is dominant in the relationship - a character can take the uke role even if he is not presented as feminine, simply by being juxtaposed against and pursued by a more dominant, more masculine, character.
By the end of the 1970s, magazines devoted to the nascent genre started to appear, and in the 1990s the term boys' love or BL would be invented and would become the dominant term used for the genre in Japan.
Although yaoi derives from girl's and women's manga and still targets the shōjo and josei demographics, it is currently considered a separate category.
Although seme and uke roles are already used in some manga to describe which member of the relationship is more dominant and which member is more passive, there are just as many manga novels which subtly or overtly differentiate between the two.
A gay male who asks out another male can initiate the relationship but also enjoy the sensation of being a bottom in anal sex.
Although not the same, a yaoi construct similar to seme and uke is the concept of tachi and neko.
This archetypal pairing is referenced more often in older yaoi volumes - in modern yaoi, this pairing is often seen as already encompassed by seme and uke or simply unnecessary to address.
Shōnen-ai challenged young readers, who were often only able to understand the references and deeper themes as they grew older and instead were initially drawn to the figure of the male protagonist.
The terms yaoi and shōnen-ai are sometimes used by Western fans to differentiate between two variants of the genre.
Yaoi derives from two sources; in the early 1970s, shōjo manga magazines published tanbi (aesthetic) stories, also known as shōnen ai (boy love), featuring platonic relationships between young boys.