Audience and Genre: Yaoi and Yuri

Homo…genized milk.

Yeah, I dunno, I couldn’t think of any one-liner to stick up there that wasn’t thoroughly asinine…

Originally, I wasn’t going to write this post tonight – I’m kind of tired and was just going to continue to re-watch Digimon Tamers for half the night (I had forgotten how much sheer cuteness was in that show). But, I found myself reading this post and, quite frankly, wanted to bash my face against the nearest flat surface.

I tried to put it nicely, but there really was no other way; there’s a lot that’s is just flat-out wrong with the ‘factual’ information the post presents. However, my original motivation for this post was 2DT’s post here talking about yuri.

Although 21stcenturydigitalboy cites eroge demographic data to argue that males don’t watch yuri, that’s an incorrect assumption – males don’t really play yuri eroge (which are pretty rare anyway), but they are the large bulk of the readership for yuri manga and the viewership for yuri TV shows. But allow me to meander around a bit, because I’ll get to this later.

First, yaoi. Heterosexual women read yaoi. Homosexual men? Wrong. Homosexual men have their own subset of manga which they read, which is actual gay manga made by gay guys for other gay guys. This is why BL and yaoi contain so many wispy, wispy types and shit-tons of flower petals. It is also why they are dominated by high school-aged or, less often, college-aged boys. Purely for the set that is reading shoujo-style manga to begin with. If you flip open a gay manga, on the other hand, you’ll quickly be struck by the difference in art style – the men here be beefy. And often are older, as in, salaryman older. The two occupy entirely different universes.

On the other hand, though, there isn’t the same divide for lesbian manga versus yuri manga; to some extent, the two exist within one space, for better or worse, or when a story involving women in love with one another is delineated separately, the genre specification is hazy. This boils down to there not being a strongly enough defined separate genre, as it wouldn’t feature so many different descriptive terms if there was actually a single popular term to utilize.

However, I digress – because of this confusion, even if a manga-ka designates her work as being under a term meant to imply that it is by lesbians for lesbians, it usually off-handedly gets categorized as ‘yuri’. This is unfortunate, because the vast majority of yuri is of the kind intended for… heterosexual men. It is made by men, for men. Lesbians? There are a few here and there in the creative process, and a few works are for them, but these are the rarities, not the norm. Why do you think there’s such a propensity for school girls and moe?

I know, I know – look at those eroge numbers! The problem with citing eroge numbers is that the eroge has a much more limited audience to begin with than do either anime or manga. (And, just for the record, anime has a much more limited audience, generally, than does manga; obviously, this doesn’t apply to things like Doraemon or Sazae-san, but these are exceptions, not rules.) (Also, unrelated, but that analysis of eroge audience percentages isn’t really all that great anyway, since it assumes that the 27% figure doesn’t include BL games; I don’t understand how this assumption got made, since it really makes no sense to just automatically think that it doesn’t include BL games. The link itself is broken, so I can’t even check the original post.)

The male audience for yuri is also why you see much more yuri in anime or yuri anime than you do of BL characters or anime. The people who spend money on anime and its related merchandise are mostly men. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to buy manga. There are various reasons for this, such as men having more disposable income to more generalized social mores regarding who is and isn’t supposed to be chowing down on anime (manga is more acceptable, as demonstrated most aptly by the amount of people who read it during their commutes). BL and yaoi sell decently enough in manga form, but don’t play out as well economically when animated (which is why things like Ikoku Irokoi Romantan and Close the Last Door get their production halted before completion – when was the last time you heard of yuri being treated similarly? even shit like ICE gets finished!).

I would like to take a moment to say, though, that there is some female audience for yuri. In fact, some women who like women even read yuri! This, however, does not at all alter the fact that it is written by men and for men, and, if anything, speaks to the desperate thirst these women have to find stories that they can relate to or enjoy. Its kind of like how I’ll watch the worst BL in the universe simply because its at least BL (this explains why I’ve suffered through crap like Fish in the Trap, Papa to Kiss in the Dark, and Angel’s Feather), even if it isn’t all that good. Often, something bad is better than nothing at all (its better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?).

Is yaoi an exploitative genre? Hell yes. Is yuri? Yep. It’s in both of their very natures; they are not for the entertainment of homosexuals, but are meant to titilate a heterosexual audience. This exotification is purely for the sake of heterosexual audiences, homosexuals themselves actually be damned. However, I do not mean to suggest that it is done intentionally to snub homosexuals or homosexual audiences; hardly, publishers and studios just happen to be going after the yen, as is to be expected. So I don’t at all think its some mass conspiracy to be mean to the gays.

Honestly, a lot of this has already been hashed over in The Fin’s post on the topic, at least as relates to the notion of yaoi and yuri as being exploitative. I tend to agree with a lot of what is said there, although I’m not nearly of such a harsh opinion on the matter, as I generally think that familiarization is the best first step toward getting acceptance of gays and gay rights. On the other hand, though, I do smell a latter-day orientalism in the proceedings, so don’t go thinking I’m claiming that BL and yuri is going to save the world for gays (I think of the lovely girls who were shrieking with yaoi paddles in hand who told me they thought gay marriage was gross when I asked them what they thought about real life gays – cognitive dissonance much?).

On the other hand, though, yuri is showing a tiny, teensy little bit of progress toward also encompassing actual, real-life lesbians, as evidenced by things such as Octave and Girl Friends. Girl Friends still has a shit-ton of the genre tropes (schoolgirls? check. all-girls’ school? check. tendency for random dress-up sequences? check.), but is leaps and bounds ahead of most yuri. Octave merrily misses a ton of the more fanservice-oriented tropes in part simply by being about *GASP!* adults!

I’m sure that there are many of you who simply don’t believe me when I point to the fact that yuri is a genre for men. Never mind that MariMite’s manga ran in a magazine that was mostly bought by men or that yuri magazines like Yuri Shimai are patronized mostly by men. Look, consider this – of all the yuri fans you know, how many of them are female? Why do you think this is so hugely different from Japan?

*sighs* Anyway, regardless of that, if you don’t believe me, feel free to consult Okazu, which is the go-to English-language yuri blog. Erica Friedman knows more than anyone else speaking English does about yuri. (Directly on the genre itself: “In Japan “Yuri” still means women having sex drawn by men for men, despite the growing number of women who draw lesbian narratives.”)

EDIT: In looking back over this, I realize it might not be as jelled together as I’d like; I kept getting distracted by the cat, who keeps making valiant assaults upon the Christmas tree my dad and I put up earlier. Damn cat.

Also – damn all of you! I’ve been meaning to boost my number of BL posts so its more on par with my yuri posts, and you guys go and make me have to wreck that goal! *fumes*

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28 Responses to Audience and Genre: Yaoi and Yuri

  1. kluxorious says:

    I always thought that yuri was made for heterosexual male just like yaoi was made for us heterosexual females. Guess I was being ignorant of the facts all along =\

    As a fan of yaoi, and being females, I do prefer reading the manga instead of watching the anime. They were badly made to begin with so why bother? But once in a while we do have a good yaoi anime. Very rare occasion indeed.

    btw, Ikoku Irokoi Romantan was completed.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Was Ikoku Irokoi Romantan actually completed? It ended where it could be finished, but I thought it was originally slated for three episodes, not two. I could be wrong, though.

      Yuri is made for heterosexual males, so, yes, you’ve been right all along. Maybe my writing unclear on that point?

      • kluxorious says:

        maybe I’m just stupid or my head wasn’t screwed right when I got up this morning. The way I read it, it is as if women is generally the audience for yuri and I can’t stand yuri.

        Like I said, I must have not been right in the head when I read it.

        Also, as far as I know Ikoku Irokoi Romantan has only 2 episodes. I’m not too sure of the facts though.

  2. chii says:

    wow great points! i actually agree with you

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Thanks, I was anticipating that most people were going to start shrieking, jumping up and down, and calling me a liar.

  3. i just don’t see it, yo. I’m looking at every yuri manga I know and seeing all these female authors (Milk Morinaga who claims to write ‘for girls’ as stated herself, manga no tsukurikatta is written by a woman, and aoi hana is written by a woman, those off the top of my head) and seeing how they are all done with uber-shoujo art (I can’t name a yuri manga that isn’t done with shoujo art.) Erica Friendman is funny to be pulling that quote from since she is a lesbian women running a yuri publication that she claims is for lesbian women.

    I mean, I’ve been to these ‘yuri communities’ and it’s all either females or men pretending to be women.

    Is the bulk of yuri being viewed probably being viewed by men? Yes. Does that make a community? no. Does that make commercial viability? No. I think you may have missed the big picture I was emphasizing in my post. this is the birth of yuri that appeals to the yuri community, and the yuri community is mostly women and wannabe-women. This post does nothing to disprove that…

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Using a shoujo art-style doesn’t necessarily mean its for girls, though, and I think you’re confusing moe-style art with shoujo art, as well; cute doesn’t equal shoujo, after all. As regards Milk Morinaga, she’s an exception, not a rule, and even in most of her publications the girls involved never make an explicit claim to homosexuality – they just happen to like this one girl, but that doesn’t mean they’re gay! This is something pretty common in these sorts of stories, which kind of tells you who they’re meant for; they clearly aren’t meant for lesbians.

      As for Erica Friedman, claiming her as bogus because she’s a lesbian running a lesbian publication makes absolutely no sense simply by dint of the fact that she herself isn’t Japanese. Secondarily, though, it doesn’t make sense to accuse her of making false claims only because she’s a lesbian running a lesbian publication, because she’s only one instance of it anyway.

      Anyway, the idea that my post was intended mainly to speak to your claims is to had mis-read this; originally, my post was in response to 2DT’s post on Sasameki Koto and its specific thing about the ‘yuri ghetto’ and the genre as being possibly exploitative. As such, I wasn;t even thinking about this “yuri community” you seem to have defined of your own accord. I don’t care what overseas fans are doing in regards to yuri, because yuri isn’t created for them to begin with, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation or what have you.

      Now, let’s grant you something for a small second – let’s pretend that yuri is mostly consumed by women. Now, pretend for a moment that you’re a lesbian. You’re reading yuri, but something keeps popping up – these girls in the stories keep pointing out that they aren’t gay, they just happen to like so-and-so! Is that really something as a lesbian you’d want to read, a repudiation of the sexual identity you possess? A lot of yuri still occupies that Class S space, in that we are meant to essentially see it as a passing fancy that these girls like one another. Some day, they’ll just finally grow up, become mature, and marry guys just like they’re supposed to! Then they’ll have a family.

      Also, you’re flat-out wrong about yuri not being commercially viable – why the hell do you see it so often in other genres? Because it sells. Why do yuri manga get adapted into animation much more than yaoi ones do? Because it sells. If it didn’t sell, you wouldn’t see it.

      I don’t know why I’m bothering to argue with you, though, because I doubt you’re going to change your mind. But if there’s one genre I know well, its yuri.

      • But I DON’T see it. That’s the entire point of my post – I never see yuti until it popped up this year all of a sudden.

        I can’t really follow your points – I haven’t seen all of these girls who claim not to be lesbians and ‘just like one girl’ – I seem to be missing where this comes from. And if you try to say lesbians wouldn’t like it ,you are still dodging the fact I pointed out that there are whole communities of lesbians who LOVE IT.

      • And then, even if most yuri IS like you say, you’re still ignoring the main point of my post which is that we are having new stuff coming out that isn’t bullshit – that’s my whole purpose in celebrating Kanamemo, Sasameki Koto, etc.

      • adaywithoutme says:

        Ok, again – the main intent of my post? Not to respond to your post. Instead, it just happened that a post I’d been turning over in my head in response to 2DT also encompassed a few of the things in your post.

        As for yuri not popping up until this year – Kannadzuki no Miko, Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora, Strawberry Panic, Simoun, Maria-sama ga Miteru (1st, 2nd, and 3rd seasons), Candy Boy, ICE, Iono-sama Fanatics, Kashimashi, Yami to Boshi to Hon no Tabibito, Blue Drop… and these are all only shows that are wholly yuri. If we expand it to include shows that have yuri elements, the list balloons. And I didn’t even mention older shows like Oniisama e… or Battle Athletes Victory. Yes, the prevalence of yuri shows has gone up in the past five years or so, but its disingenuous to allege that it just started up this year.

        Even assuming you can show me grand masses of lesbians who are absolutely kerrrr-azy about yuri, it really doesn’t matter because, as I said, I’m speaking of the Japanese audiences… y’know, the folks they actually make anime for? Even if there actually are HUGE lesbian communities in the English-speaking world who LOVEEE all the yuri shows you do, it still doesn’t mean squat since no one was thinking of them to begin with when, say, they threw Shizuru into Mai-HiME. I’m fairly certain I addressed this in my last comment when I pointed out that I don’t really care what the non-Japanese fans are doing, but maybe I was explicit enough on that matter.

        Also – Kanamemo isn’t bullshit? News to me. But, hey, maybe I’m just stupid and don’t see how moe-lolicon yuri is any good.

      • If you weren’t going to make a post in reply to my post, you shouldn’t hae linked it back to my post, otherwise it’s just confusing. Your first paragraph undeniably makes it sound like you were meant to be replying to me, and most of the post wouldn’t make sense as a reply just to 2DT.

        You listed all the same shows I listed in my own post, so I don’t really get the point you’re trying to make – my point having been that all of those shows were either bullshit or tragic, which is once again the whole reason I’m celebrating the new trend.

        I want to know where you are getting this information that the Japanese audience is so different from the American one. I think it makes more sense to say that their audience wouldn’t be different than our than to baselessly claim that they are totally different. In other words, sauce or gtfo.

      • adaywithoutme says:

        You don’t cite any hard numbers yourself, so I hardly see why I would have to – you just keep talking about these GIGANTIC yuri communities that you know of. Evidence? I see none in your statements.

        Why shouldn’t I link you if my post ends up encompassing some of the stuff yours does as well? I originally was going to be speaking of yuri as exploitation, which ultimately was going to include a discussion of audience. Your post made many statements about audience, so it made sense to link to yours; I would’ve talked about audience even had I not linked to yours.

        As for listing the same shows as you – I was only responding to the notion that yuri is this magical new thing. Yuri’s prototype first appeared waaaay back in the early 1900’s. In fact, it was so popular, it got banned in 1936 by the government. Before it was banned, most of the stuff simply wasn’t tragic in tone; the tragedy you see in yuri came about later, in the 1970’s and 1980’s in works like Claudine. If you see happier stories, its because the pendulum is swinging back in their favor. Also – the stories being happy doesn’t mean they’re legit or any more so than something like, say, Maya’s Funeral Procession. All it means is that there’s been a switch in tone, although I would make the argument that in the case of the schoolgirl-focused stories, you still have a strong element of it being a phase hanging in the background.

        Also, for the record, Rose of Versailles isn’t yuri. Oscar is never involved with either Antoinette or Rosalie, both of whom fans are happy to pair her with. She doesn’t have romantic feelings for either as well – the only characters Oscar has feelings for are both men. Crossdressing doesn’t equate with homosexuality. Its a title that’s always been popular with yuri fans, but when you get down to it, it doesn’t contain any actual yuri. (And, interestingly enough, the one character you could make the strongest case for having yuri-ish feelings got written out of the manga because the readership hated her.)

      • adaywithoutme says:

        If you’re wondering what yuri that’s actually for lesbians looks like, you should look for stuff that ran in Mist, Anise, of Phyrne. These were lesbian magazines that did run manga in them as part of their other content. Lililicious has scanlated stuff from these and other places where the point was to reach and please a lesbian audience, some of which you can find here, here, and here.

      • 2DT says:

        Class S! I can’t believe I forgot to mention that. It’s ironic that the Class S-yuri connection developed basically as a way for Japanese lesbian lit to avoid getting canned by the censors, only to have become its own monster that doesn’t reference real lesbianism much at all.

        If we’re going to equate categories, Class S is the closet and yuri is the ghetto. So, I wonder, what’s next?

  4. ikk says:

    MariMite manga was for girls, the anime was for boys. The books are really popular and are read by both.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      MariMite manga was made with an eye to girls, but ran in a magazine that had a primarily male audience.

  5. Shance says:

    Let’s face it: There are, and will be, times where women will lose respect and use for men, and attempt to live romantic lives without them. Of course, it’s not the matter of coitus and pleasure, but at least they’re trying.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I’m not entirely sure what relevance this even has to the post itself, but homosexuality isn’t about women losing respect for men. Lesbians had no use for them (romantically and sexually speaking, of course) in the first place; similarly, gay men had no use for women in the first place.

  6. Aorii says:

    Lol nicely put, would hate to have the misconceptions get out of hand. And yeah Girl Friends is years ahead of most yuri d(^_^).

    It does put into perspective the part I never understood on why Moe Yuri has a higher tendency to get animated than the more Shoujo Yuri, or at least getting more moeified during the process of animation (cough Strawberry Panic) and results in alteration of the artstyle. So the part that men consumes Yuri anime (and manga which gets turned into anime) while women focuses on the Yuri manga makes a lot of sense.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Interestingly enough, even most of the more shoujo-style yuri is largely consumed by a male audience. But there are definitely more women reading yuri than are watching it since the stuff that gets the TV treatment is invariably the stuff that doesn’t attract women at all. This is why I was absolutely floored when Aoi Hana’s TV series got announced – I never in a million years thought it’d get the TV treatment! I’m crossing my fingers and praying that maybe Girl Friends can somehow get a similar deal. It’d make me realllly happy.

      Strawberry Panic actually did a decent job of cutting down on the moe for the TV adaptation, shockingly enough, although they kind of made Shizuma look ridiculous – her hair was stupidly long and thick, and her boobs were gigantic. Small price to pay for the rest of the cast actually looking somewhat their age (Kagome was absurd, though).

      If you liked Girl Friends, you’d probably like Morinaga’s Nana and Hitomi series. It was a series of a few one-shots that all appear in her volume Lips, Sigh, and Cherryblossoms Pink. It seems like a proto-type of Girl Friends.

  7. glothelegend says:

    I am a heterosexual male. I enjoy yuri. That is all I say now.

    I like the new layout, it’s crazy good.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Thanks – I wasn’t sure originally that the header was going to work with the theme, since the original header had a white background, but I got struck with inspiration and was pretty happy with the result.

      Bonus points – what anime is the header image from?

  8. Baka-Raptor says:

    Japanese men are very feminine. That explains everything.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      So… then why do you like yuri? Are you feminine as well?

      • Mokuren says:

        I like yuri because it’s about girls. And I like girls.

        Then I think I’m also one of the not many heterosexual men that like yaoi. Granted, I find the related sex scenes… Less than interesting to my tastes, but as long as there’s good characters and a nice story, I don’t care if it’s about gay men.

        But hey, I’m also the one that complains about how most of the yuri stuff that airs or gets published is totally spoiled by being ridden with fanservice or blatantly aimed for boys with voyeurism fetishes.

  9. Pingback: Searching for the Happiness within Yuri | zanaikin | Major Arcana

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