A Yaoi paddle is a short canoe or boating paddle that has been converted into a recreational spanking implement sold at anime conventions. It was first introduced in 2002 at Otakon, a convention held in Baltimore, Maryland focusing on Asian popular culture (primarily anime, manga, music, and cinema).
Origin of "Yaoi"
The word "yaoi" is derived from the first syllables of each word in the Japanese expression "Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi." (やまなし、おちなし、いみなし。) which means "no peak, no point, no meaning," and originally referred to badly drawn self-published fan comics (doujinshi). Later, it came to be used for doujinshi with sexual pairings between two males.
In Japan today, the term yaoi is mainly used to point to the sex scenes of a manga or to doujinshi with male/male content. But in the West, yaoi has become a catchall term to indicate any story that includes a male/male relationship and is linked to Japan, be it commercial manga, anime, games, English-language fan fiction, fan art, etc. Unlike "bara" manga aimed at homosexual men, the idealized homosexual relationships depicted in yaoi are aimed at women.
Eventually, "yaoi" came to be used as a generic term for female-oriented manga, anime, novels and dōjinshi featuring idealized homosexual male relationships.
The paddle and its purpose
The Yaoi paddle itself is little more than a short boat paddle (around 25 inches (64 cm) long) with a few words printed across the blade. "Yaoi" is written on both sides, usually in large black letters. One side is marked "Softcore Side", which is meant to be used softly. The reverse reads "Hardcore Side" for those who choose to receive a harder paddling.
This was introduced as a novelty item at anime conventions, starting with Otakon in 2002. It was originally intended for female attendees (aka fangirls) who would playfully submit to ritual paddlings to prove their devotion to anime. (In essence, quite similar to a fraternity and sorority spanking initiation.)
But it wasn't long before male attendees also got into the act, both as victims and spankers. Things got so out of hand with people being randomly swatted that Otakon banned the paddle from future events. However, many other anime conventions now sell the paddle (the average price is around $35). As a result, it has become a common sight for fans, mostly dressed up in Cosplay outfits, to cavort with the paddle at these public events.
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